From what we can determine from historical record, the rise of the individual separate from the group is a relatively recent progression, which has come about through the increasing impact of the evolution of the higher mentality into the material life. A study of civilisations and their development, as well as societal organization, also supports this view. The increase of urbanization, combined with the freeing up of a certain amount of leisure time, and the development of broad-based educational institutions have all contributed to the development of the individual as a self-aware, self-standing individual. The development of art, music, literature, philosophy contributed to the view that the individual can and should have his own personal fulfillment.
Sri Aurobindo observes: “Originally, we may suppose, man was altogether gregarious, association his first necessity for survival; since survival is the first necessity of all being, the individual could be nothing but an instrument for the strength and safety of the group, and if we add to strength and safety growth, efficiency, self-assertion as well as self-preservation, this is still the dominant idea of all collectivism. This turn is a necessity born of circumstance and environment. Looking more into fundamental things we perceive that in Matter uniformity is the sign of the group; free variation and individual development progress with the growth of Life and Mind. If we then suppose man to be an evolution of mental being in Matter and out of Matter, we must assume that he begins with uniformity and subservience of the individual and proceeds towards variety and freedom of the individual. The necessity of circumstance and environment and the inevitable law of his fundamental principles of being would then point to the same conclusion, the same process of his historic and prehistoric evolution.”
Sri Aurobindo, The Ideal of Human Unity, Part I, Chapter 3, The Group and the Individual, pg. 21