Learning To Live In the Liberty of the Spirit

Evolutionary progress tends to follow certain defined stages. There is first an ascent to the new knowledge that needs to be brought into our lives. This stage is accomplished by individuals who, for whatever reason, experience either dissatisfaction with the limitations of the existing framework in society, or else, who have an extraordinary experience which guides them to a new order of knowledge, or some combination of the two. The next stage is one of assimilation, both by the individual and by the society, and the third is one of consolidation, in which the knowledge is organized, disseminated, and solidified in society. At some point, the formulation tends to become ossified and a new cycle of ascent begins, which helps to advance the progress and remove the limitations of the current stage.

By the nature of the process, the ascent is carried out by individuals. The societal framework represents the conservative principle and is subject to slower change after the new principle has been tested and vetted by numerous individuals. Thus we see each new religion based on the experience and teaching of an inspired individual, Christ, Buddha, Moses, Muhammad, etc., each of whom tries to communicate the essence of the experience and the realisation that uplifts and transforms the codified systems of belief that preceded them.

Whenever an individual departs from the strictures of the societal framework of the Law, the previously recognized and formulated expression of an earlier truth, there is the possibility that the individual is a forerunner bringing out the higher light that needs to be experienced and implemented; there is also the danger that this departure represents an aggrandisement of the ego, of course. Sri Aurobindo makes it clear that this danger is better than a rigid, tamasic adherence to a form that has lost its inner life and vibrancy. Rajas at least has the possibility of development.

“And in effect this movement is usually an attempt to lay hold on some forgotten truth or to move on to a yet undiscovered or unlived truth of our being. It is not a mere licentious movement of the unregulated nature; it has its spiritual justification and is a necessity of our spiritual progress. And even if the Shastra is still a living thing and the best rule for the human average, the exceptional man, spiritual, inwardly developed, is not bound by that standard. he is called upon to go beyond the fixed line of the Shastra. For this is a rule for the guidance, control and relative perfection of the normal imperfect man and he has to go on to a more absolute perfection: this is a system of fixed Dharmas and he has to learn to live in the liberty of the Spirit.”

Sri Aurobindo, Essays on the Gita, Second Series, Part II, Chapter 18, The Gunas, Faith and Works, pp. 463-464

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