Consciousness develops in man from its earliest impulsions of desire and satisfaction of the demands of the ego, through an ever-widening appreciation of the larger context and framework within which the individual ego exists. We move to concern for others, for meeting needs of family, community, society, and eventually a recognition of universal and divine Powers and Principles, and an increasing understanding of universal Nature and the inter-relationship of all beings in a biosphere and ecosphere where we begin to understand that each one of us is part of that larger whole, and what we do affects that whole, and that the health of that whole affects the health of each one of us.
Sri Aurobindo provides an overview of this process: “Only when the individual being begins to perceive and acknowledge in his acts the value of the self in others as well as the power and needs of his own ego, begins to perceive universal Nature behind his own workings and through the cosmic godheads gets some glimpse of the One and the Infinite, is he on his way to the transcendence of his limitation by the ego and the discovery of his soul.”
There comes a point where we see the development of codes of ethics, morality and religion, all of which are attempts to codify a larger and more inclusive sense of Oneness transcending the desire mind of the individual ego. “He begins to give more value to the claims of the self in others and less to the claims of his ego; he admits the strife between egoism and altruism and by the increase of his altruistic tendencies he prepares the enlargement of his own consciousness and being.”
There also comes an awareness of the action of greater powers of Nature and an attempt to contact and relate to those powers, which brings about a further widening and a recognition of our dependence on Nature for everything in our lives. “…he learns that only by increasing their presence and their greatness in his thought and will and life can he himself increase his powers, knowledge, right action and the satisfactions which these things bring to him. Thus he adds the religious and supraphysical to the material and egoistic sense of life and prepares himself to rise through the finite to the Infinite.”
Sri Aurobindo, Essays on the Gita, First Series, Chapter 13, The Lord of the Sacrifice, pg. 120