Tendencies of the Conventional Stage of Societal Development

The conventional phase of societal development places primary importance on the forms and modes, rather than on the originating inner sense or spirit.  Rules, customs, traditions, fixed ways of action and pre-defined roles for people based on outer criteria are the norm.  This phase works to create a society in which there should be little social friction as everything stays in its own place and the rules keep things functioning without disruption.  In such a society, those who attempt to create some new direction or relationship within society are generally avoided, scorned or suppressed, as they represent a threat to the established order.

Sri Aurobindo observes:  “The conventional period of society has its golden age when the spirit and thought that inspired its forms are confined but yet living, not yet altogether walled in, not yet stifled to death and petrified by the growing hardness of the structure in which they are cased.  That golden age is often very beautiful and attractive to the distant view of posterity by its precise order, symmetry, fine social architecture, the admirable subordination of its parts to a general and noble plan.  Thus at one time the modern litterateur, artist or thinker looked back often with admiration and with something like longing to the mediaeval age of Europe; he forgot in its distant appearance of poetry, nobility, spirituality the much folly, ignorance, iniquity, cruelty and oppression of those harsh ages, the suffering and revolt that simmered below these fine surfaces, the misery and squalor that was hidden behind that splendid facade.  So too the Hindu orthodox idealist looks back to a perfectly regulated society devoutly obedient to the wise yoke of the Shastra, and that is his golden age, — a nobler one than the European in which the apparent gold was mostly hard burnished copper with a thin gold-leaf covering it, but still of an alloyed metal, not the true Satya Yuga.  In these conventional periods of society there is much indeed that is really find and sound and helpful to human progress, but still they are its copper age and not the true golden; they are the age when the Truth we strive to arrive at is not yet realised, nor accomplished, but the exiguity of it eked out or its full appearance imitated by an artistic form, and what we have of the reality has begun to fossilise and is doomed to be lost in a  hard mass of rule and order and convention.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Human Cycle: The Psychology of Social Development, Chapter 1, The Cycle of Society, pg. 13