The Subjective Stage of Human Development: Significance and Dangers

Each successive stage of human development has its significance and its dangers.  The typal and conventional stage represents a conservative step for humanity.  Progress is slow, hemmed in by rules, customs and traditions, but people experience safety and comfort in what is known and habitual.  The individual stage breaks free of the conventions and habits of the past, but has then the risk of significant error in a too egoistic view of life and a rash unwillingness to accept even those things that are meritorious in the past.  Similarly, the subjective stage has its role and dangers, as explained by Sri Aurobindo:

“The subjective stage of human development is that critical juncture in which, having gone forward from symbols, types, conventions, having turned its gaze superficially on the individual being to discover his truth and right law of action and its relation to the superficial and external truth and law of the universe, our race begins to gaze deeper, to see and feel what is behind the outside and below the surface and therefore to live from within.  It is a step towards self-knowledge and towards living in and from the self, away from knowledge of things as the not-self and from the living according to this objective idea of life and the universe.  Everything depends on how that step is taken, to what kind of subjectivity we arrive and how far we go in self-knowledge; for here the dangers of error are as great and far-reaching as the results of right seeking.  The symbolic, the typal, the conventional age avoid these dangers by building a wall of self-limitation against them; and it is because this wall becomes in the end a prison of self-ignorance that it has to be broken down and the perilous but fruitful adventure of subjectivism undertaken.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Human Cycle: The Psychology of Social Development, Chapter 5, True and False Subjectivism, pg. 44