The Complex and Experimental Nature of Human Growth and Development

A major challenge for human growth and self-realisation lies in the complexity of the being and the disparate tendencies of the various parts of the nature.  Yet it is not simply the differing motivations of the physical being from the vital nature from the mental being, from the emotional responses.  Within each of these there are also contradictory and opposing tendencies which makes the achievement of a harmonious result even more difficult.  Sri Aurobindo describes it thus:

“In this ethics he is divided by different moral tendencies, justice and charity, self-help and altruism, self-increase and self-abnegation, the tendencies of strength and the tendencies of love, the moral rule of activism and the moral rule of quietism.  His emotions are necessary to his development and their indulgence essential to the outflowering of his rich humanity; yet is he constantly called upon to coerce and deny them, nor is there any sure rule to guide him the perplexity of this twofold need.  His hedonistic impulse is called many ways by different fields, objects, ideals of self-satisfaction.  His aesthetic enjoyment, his aesthetic creation forms for itself under the stress of the intelligence different laws and forms; each seeks to impose itself as the best and the standard, yet each, if its claims were allowed, would by its unjust victory impoverish and imprison his faculty and his felicity in its exercise.  His politics and society are a series of adventures and experiments among various possibilities of autocracy, monarchism, military aristocracy, mercantile oligarchy, open or veiled plutocracy, pseudo-democracy of various kinds, bourgeois or proletarian, individualistic or collectivist or bureaucratic, socialism awaiting him, anarchism looming beyond it; and all these correspond to some truth of his social being, some need of his complex social nature, some instinct or force in it which demands that form for its effectuation.  Mankind works out these difficulties under the stress of the spirit within it by throwing out a constant variation of types, types of character and temperament, types of practical activity, aesthetic creation, polity, society, ethical order, intellectual system, which vary from the pure to the mixed, from the simple harmony to the complex; each and all of these are so many experiments of individual and collective self-formation in the light of a progressive and increasing knowledge.  That knowledge is governed by a number of conflicting ideas and ideals around which these experiments group themselves; each of them is gradually pushed as far as possible in its purity and again mixed and combined as much as possible with others so that there may be a more complex form and an enriched action.  Each type has to be broken in turn to yield place to new types and each combination has to give way to the possibility of a new combination.  Through it all there is growing an accumulating stock of self-experience and self-actualisation of which the ordinary man accepts some current formulation conventionally as if it were an absolute law and truth, — often enough he even thinks it to be that, — but which the more developed human being seeks always either to break or to enlarge and make more profound or subtle in order to increase or make room for an increase of human capacity, perfectibility, happiness.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Human Cycle: The Psychology of Social Development, Chapter 12,  The Office and Limitations of the Reason, pp. 117-119