The ability of the human individual to grow and attain to new and higher states of consciousness has been at the center of the human aspiration perhaps since the beginning of humanity. This ideal has taken the form of the Shaman who could contact, mitigate or call forth the higher powers to act, and eventually developed into the seeking for God-men, individuals who could embody a higher divine principle. This has taken both forms of light and forms of darkness, depending on how this self-exceeding of the human powers was envisioned and presented. In some cases we see the ideal of the vital dominating “superman” of Nietzsche and in others, a governance of society by the Philosopher-Sages of Plato. In ancient India, this quest generally took the form of an individual who undertook a spiritual discipline or practice and thereby acquired powers. If the seeking were primarily vital in nature, it led to the asuric or demonic expression; but the highest ideal has always been the self-exceeding that led to a divinisation of the human individual, the raising up of the human to a higher level of consciousness who could then express a higher standard rather than simply aggrandise himself for the benefit of the ego and the fulfillment of desire.
It should be noted that this individual discipline, and the subsequent fulfillment, was not intended to minimize or do away with the needs of the social order and the need for individuals to participate and support that social order in general. Sri Aurobindo describes the Gita’s position on this point: “An Indian system of thought like the Gita’s cannot possibly fail to put first the development of the individual, the highest need of the individual, his claim to discover and exercise his largest spiritual freedom, greatness, splendour, royalty,–his aim to develop into the illumined seerdom and kingship, which was the first great charter of the ideal humanity promulgated by the ancient Vedic sages.”
In order to achieve this aim, while avoiding simply the accentuation of various human powers, for good or ill, it was necessary for the individual to transcend the bounds of the ego and the impulsion of desire in the seeking. The rule here is “…that of the man whose whole personality has been offered up into the being, nature and consciousness of the one transcendent and universal Divinity and by loss of the smaller self has found its greater self, has been divinised.”
Sri Aurobindo, Essays on the Gita, First Series, Chapter 14, The Principle of Divine Works, pg. 129