For the awakening individual in the time of fixed conventions, the fossilized forms into which the understanding of mankind is bound must be broken down in order to discover or rediscover the truth of life and the purpose of one’s existence. Some are guided to find the ancient sources and ancient truths and bring them back to life; others recognise that humanity cannot recapture some glorious past but must build on the platform of the present and continue moving forward, growing, expanding and widening the understanding of the truth in more complete and comprehensive ways. Sri Aurobindo reminds us that looking backward may well open us to those ancient truths, but the pattern already built within humanity would then tend to take us down the same path to the dead conventionalized forms that had to be overcome in the first place.
“It would seem at first that the shortest way would be to return to the original ideas themselves for light, to rescue the kernel of their truth from the shell of convention in which it has become incrusted. But to this course there is a great practical obstacle; and there is another which reaches beyond the surface of things, nearer to the deeper principles of the development of the soul in human society. The recovery of the old original ideas now travestied by convention is open to the practical disadvantage that it tends after a time to restore force to the conventions with the Time-Spirit is seeking to outgrow and, if or when the deeper truth-seeking tendency slackens in its impulse, the conventions re-establish their sway. They revive, modified, no doubt, but still powerful; a new incrustation sets in, the truth of things is overlaid by a more complex falsity. And even if it were otherwise, the need of a developing humanity is not to return always to its old ideas. Its need is to progress to a larger fulfilment in which, if the old is taken up, it must be transformed and exceeded. For the underlying truth of things is constant and eternal, but its mental figures, its life forms, its physical embodiments call constantly for growth and change.”
Sri Aurobindo, The Human Cycle: The Psychology of Social Development, Chapter 3, The Coming of the Subjective Age, pg. 26