An Individualistic Age Needs to Address the Requirement for Some Verifiable Truths and a Stable Societal Framework

The advent of an individualistic age is a reaction to a social order that is hide-bound in conventions that no longer speak to the inner spirit that led to their development originally.  It takes the curiosity and motivation of individuals to take on the task of breaking down these conventional ways and finding new ways that have an inner life and spirit.  Yet there is also the danger that individuals, without a framework or method of external verification, will develop new directions which are in reality fulfillment of egoistic desire and with enough different approaches, it is difficult to sift out those that represent a truth to be cherished from those that must eventually be discarded.

Additionally, the breakdown of conventional systems leaves the society in an uncertain position as individuals, looking to their own fulfillment or desires to determine how to interact within society, may not regard the importance of fulfilling a societal role or order as highly as may be needed to ensure a stable basis for societal interaction.

These two issues, then, are areas of focus to be addressed during any age of individualism.

Sri Aurobindo observes:  “Manifestly, the unrestrained use of individual illumination or judgment without either any outer standard or any generally recognisable source of truth is a perilous experiment for our imperfect race.  it is likely to lead rather to a continual fluctuation and disorder of opinion than to a progressive unfolding of the truth of things.  No less, the pursuit of social justice through the stark assertion of individual rights or class interests and desires must be a source of continual struggle and revolution and may end in an exaggerated assertion of the will in each to live his own life and to satisfy his own ideas and desires which will produce a serious malaise or a radical trouble in the social body.”

“Therefore on every individualistic age of mankind there is imperative the search for two supreme desiderata.  It must find a general standard of Truth to which the individual judgment of all will be inwardly compelled to subscribe without physical constraint or imposition of irrational authority.  And it must reach too some principle of social order which shall be equally founded on a universally recognisable truth of things; an order is needed that will put a rein on desire and interest by providing at least some intellectual and moral test which these two powerful and dangerous forces must satisfy before they can feel justified in asserting their claims on life.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Human Cycle: The Psychology of Social Development, Chapter 2, the Age of Individualism and Reason, pp. 19-20