Understanding the Key Principles of the Typal Phase of Human Societal Development

The symbolic stage begins to take a form or shape that creates various activities and roles in society.  This eventually transitions to what has been termed the “typal” stage.   Just as there are “ages” of humanity that undergo change and transition and then represent certain characteristics on a macro-level, human society also goes through similar transitions from symbolic to typal, from typal to conventional, etc.

The primary characteristics of the typal stage begin to set the roles played by certain segments of society into a more formalized form, and take on an independence from the living interaction with the divine Reality that defines the symbolic stage.

Sri Aurobindo describes the typal stage with respect to the four primary aspects described in the symbolic stage:  “This typal stage creates the great social ideals which remain impressed upon the human mind even when the stage itself is passed.  The principal active contribution it leaves behind when it is dead is the idea of social honour; the honour of the Brahmin which resides in purity, in piety, in a high reverence for the things of the mind and spirit and a disinterested possession and exclusive pursuit of learning and knowledge; the honour of the Kshatriya which lives in courage, chivalry, strength, a certain proud self-restraint and self-mastery, nobility of character and the obligations of that nobility; the honour of the Vaishya which maintains itself by rectitude of dealing, mercantile fidelity, sound production, order, liberality and philanthropy; the honour of the Shudra which gives itself in obedience, subordination, faithful service, a disinterested attachment.  But these more and more cease to have a living root in the clear psychological idea or to spring naturally out of the inner life of the man; they become a convention, though the most noble of conventions.  In the end they remain more as a tradition in the thought and on the lips than a reality of the life.”

It should be noted that these psychological types are not necessarily tied, in the original sense, to family, clan or birth; rather, they are an expression that may relate to an individual regardless of birth family or class.  The development of a rigid and fixed societal class system does not actually do justice to the original root of these distinctions in symbolic expression and psychological development of the individual, and in fact, in many instances, disregarded clear capacity and character traits expressed in an individual simply because of outer circumstances.  Historically the texts provide examples that show that individuals could overcome the limitations of “birth caste” and express their varying capacities.  In the modern age we are even seeing that individuals actually have within themselves the capacity for each of the four major character types and expressions and an integrated development may eventually create a balanced individual who can express the highest and best of each of the psychological types within his own being.

Sri Aurobindo, in his book The Mother  describes these psychological capacities as the four powers of the Mother and implies that each of them can and should find expression in individuals undertaking a conscious inner evolution through the yogic process.

Sri Aurobindo, The Human Cycle: The Psychology of Social Development, Chapter 1, The Cycle of Society, pg. 11


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