As humanity begins to recognise that the moral and ethical rules formed by the mind are insufficient, an aspiration arises to develop something that is eternal and perfected as a rule of action. This led to the development of scriptures that represented the wisdom of their time. Sri Aurobindo points out that inevitably they included a certain number of precepts that were bound to the time and culture within which they arose, while at the same time, they began to express what could be recognised as universal truths. “But two of the elements are evolutionary and valid for a time, mental constructions, human readings of the will of the Eternal; the third, attached and subdued to certain social and moral formulas, had to share the fortunes of its form.” This leads either to a rigidity that dooms that particular teaching or scripture to obsolescence or else it remains so narrowly formulated as to suppress the individual evolutionary urge. This represents a step beyond the moral and ethical rules, but it does not yet exhibit the freedom and plasticity required.
As with all progress, the change begins with the individual who then communicates the force of the idea or emotion to the society, which struggles over time to widen itself and adapt itself to a new insight. For this to occur, the individual must have a certain amount of unrestrained freedom. “The unrestrained indulgence of his outer impulses leads to anarchy and dissolution, but the suppression and coercion of his soul’s freedom by a fixed and mechanical rule spells stagnation or an inner death. Not this coercion or determination from outside, but the free discovery of his highest spirit and the truth of an eternal movement is the supreme thing that he has to discover.”
The pattern of individual discovery followed by extension to the society also takes place with respect to the spiritual law. “The supreme law also must be discovered by the individual in his spirit. Then only, through a spiritual influence and not by the mental idea, can it be extended to others. A moral law can be imposed as a rule or an ideal on numbers of men who have not attained that level of consciousness or that fineness of mind and will and psychic sense in which it can become a reality to them and a living force. As an ideal it can be revered without any need of practice. As a rule it can be observed in its outsides even if the inner sense is missed altogether. The supramental and spiritual life cannot be mechanised in this way; it cannot be turned into a mental ideal or an external rule. It has its own great lines, but these must be made real, must be the workings of an active Power felt in the individual’s consciousness and the transcriptions of an eternal Truth powerful to transform mind, life and body.”
It is this spiritual force which can bring about true change in the individual and the society. “Only by our coming into constant touch with the divine Consciousness and its absolute Truth can some form of the conscious Divine, the dynamic Absolute, take up our earth-existence and transform its strife, stumbling, sufferings and falsities into an image of the supreme Light, Power and Ananda.”
And it is this power alone that can resolve the disharmony and opposition of principles that we see in the earlier stages of the ethical and moral evolution of the race. “in that universality and unity alone can we find the supreme law of the divine manifestation in the life of the embodied spirit; in that alone can we discover the supreme motion and right play of our individual nature. In that alone can all these lower discords resolve themselves into a victorious harmony of the true relations between manifested beings who are portions of the one Godhead and children of one universal Mother.”
Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part One: The Yoga of Divine Works, Chapter 7, Standards of Conduct and Spiritual Freedom, pp. 192-193