For a long period of time, humanity has been primarily governed by the action of Tamas and Rajas, with only a modicum of Sattwa. This implies that humanity is therefore primarily driven by desires, ambition, and the attendant reactions of greed, rage, anger, hatred and ruthlessness that have been such factors in the constant fight for survival, the attempts to dominate and control and the virtually endless warfare that humanity has experienced (fruits of Rajas in action); and by seeking for comfort and insulation from harm, and the attendant reactions of fear, panic, weakness and unwillingness to act, attempt new things or intervene positively in situations (fruits of Tamas in action). However, over time we see the development of a more enlightened and balanced type of action take place as humanity increases its ability to accept and utilize the quality of Sattwa.
Sri Aurobindo explains what this means: “There is possible a reception and reaction with clear comprehension, poise and balance. This way of natural being has the power that, because it understands, sympathises; it fathoms and controls and develops Nature’s urge and her ways: it has an intelligence that penetrates her processes and her significances and can assimilate and utilise; there is a lucid response that is not overpowered but adjusts, corrects, harmonises, elicits the best in all things. This is the mode of Sattwa, the turn of Nature that is full of light and poise, directed to good, to knowledge, to delight and beauty, to happiness, right understanding, right equilibrium, riht order: its temperament is the opulence of a bright clearness of knowledge and a lucent warmth of sympathy and closeness. A fineness and enlightenment, a governed energy, an accomplished harmony and poise of the whole being is the consummate achievement of the sattwic nature.”
We see the rise of the sattwic temperament and nature as the mind and heart develops, in the image of the saint, the sage, the seer, the philosopher or scientist. This does not imply a total conversion to a sattwic nature, as each individual has a mixture in the action of the Gunas, but as the balance moves more towards Sattwa, there develops an occasional or more general sense of light, comprehension, and harmony that radiates from the person who has developed in this direction.
Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part One: The Yoga of Divine Works, Chapter 10, The Three Modes of Nature, pg. 222