The first attempts by humanity, rooted in our mental being, to embody an idea or ideal, such as liberty, equality or fraternity, are based in our outer surface being, and tend to develop outer solutions such as the way we organise our societal institutions, the rules or laws we make to govern our lives, or the economic systems that we develop. It is of course an important step forward for us to attempt to improve human life even at this outer level; however, it is insufficient to bring about the inner truth behind these ideals. That can only come with an inner change that opens us to the spiritual truths behind these concepts.
Sri Aurobindo notes: “But though these aims are of great importance in their own field, they are not the central thing; they can only be secure when founded upon a change of the inner human nature and inner way of living; they are themselves of importance only as a means for giving a greater scope and a better field for man’s development towards that change and, when it is once achieved, as an outward expression of the larger inward life. Freedom, equality, brotherhood are three godheads of the soul; they cannot be really achieved through the external machinery of society or by man so long as he lives only in the individual and the communal ego. When the ego claims liberty, it arrives at competitive individualism. When it asserts equality, it arrives first at strife, then at an attempt to ignore the variations of Nature, and, as the sole way of doing that successfully, it constructs an artificial and machine-made society. A society that pursues liberty as its ideal is unable to achieve equality; a society that aims at equality will be obliged to sacrifice liberty. For the ego to speak of fraternity is for it to speak of something contrary to its nature. All that it knows is association for the pursuit of common egoistic ends and the utmost that it can arrive at is a closer organisation for the equal distribution of labour, production, consumption and enjoyment.”
Sri Aurobindo, The Ideal of Human Unity, Part Two, Chapter 34, The Religion of Humanity, pg. 299