With the advent of the human being and the mental consciousness, a certain amount of understanding and flexibility in action appears, as a new capability not found in the physical world of Matter or plants or animals. All of these earlier forms are very much limited by the habits and instincts that are built into them. Animals of course can, as they exhibit higher forms of mental activity, already begin to act with a certain amount of planning and coordination, yet the full power of what we tend to call “free will” and “reason”, only come to fruition in the full development of the mental consciousness. This very capacity for insight, freedom and flexibility, exhibited through specific individuals of the race, guides us to the understanding of the importance of the role of the individual. The individual of course is subject to the Divine Will in the manifestation, the environment within which he is called upon to act, and the process of interaction with others; nevertheless, there is a capacity of growth and development here that ensures that we take account of the individual and not treat him simply as a member of the group consciousness of society.
Sri Aurobindo notes: “for this end man has become an individual soul, that the One may find and manifest Himself in each human being. That end is not indeed achieved by the individual human being in his unaided mental force. He needs the help of the secret Divine above his mentality in his superconscient self; he needs the help also of the secret Divine around him in Nature and in his fellow-men. Everything in Nature is an occasion for him to develop his divine potentiality, an occasion which he has a certain relative freedom to use or misuse, although in the end both his use and misuse of his materials are overruled in their results by the universal Will so as to assist eventually the development of his law of being and his destiny. All life around him is a help towards the divine purpose in him; every human being is his fellow-worker and assists him whether by association and union or by strife and opposition. Nor does he achieve his destiny as the individual Man for the sake of the individual soul alone, — a lonely salvation is not his complete ideal, — but for the world also or rather for God in the world, for God in all as well as above all and not for God solely and separately in one. And he achieves it by the stress, not really of his separate individual Will, but of the universal Will in its movement towards the goal of its cycles.”
Sri Aurobindo, The Human Cycle: The Psychology of Social Development, Chapter 7, The Ideal Law of Social Development, pg. 65