Introduction to Sri Aurobindo’s The Human Cycle: The Psychology of Social Development

Philosophers and historians have attempted to develop an understanding of the stages or cycles through which human civilisation passes through time.  These cyclical patterns have primarily focused on how government forms evolve based on circumstances that arise in the preceding stage.

Sri Aurobindo develops the overview of mankind’s evolution to show that societies go through a series of stages, starting from the “symbolic”, moving to the “typal and conventional”, evolving to the “individualist” and finally ending in the “subjective”.  Each of these stages has characteristic elements as to how mankind aspires and builds its social structures and relationships, and how individuals view their own purpose and activity in life.  It is based upon this understanding that Sri Aurobindo reviews the history of humanity and its various societies and then provides us a platform for the coming new age of humanity, an age based on the principle of spirituality as the fulfillment of the subjective stage of human development.

The coming of a spiritual age of humanity is the fulfillment of the seeking of all religious and philosophical leaders of the ages.  The spiritual age of humanity differs from earlier ages in that it is based on a subjective foundation that retains the freedom and diversity of true inner growth rather than tying down this impulse within a fixed series of formulae or conventional definitions to which all people must conform.

Within this framework, the role of the individual will be reconciled with the needs of society, such that both can find their utmost fulfillment without the suppression of  the values embodied by the other.  Sri Aurobindo puts before us a goal that is at once sublime and uplifting:

“The ascent of man into heaven is not the key, but rather his ascent into the spirit and the descent of the Spirit into his normal humanity and transformation of this earthly nature.  For that and not some post mortem salvation is the real new birth for which humanity waits as the crowning movement of its long obscure and painful course.” (The Human Cycle, pg. 250)

Sri Aurobindo, The Human Cycle: The Psychology of Social Development

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