Sri Aurobindo has identified three primary stages or phases of human development, applicable both to the individuals and the society. These represent an instinctive vital phase based on the promptings of physical needs and vital desires, a rational mental phase where the mind comes to the forefront and begins to gain a certain amount of ascendency and control over the impulsive vital nature, as it begins to shape higher goals and aspirations for the life of the individual and the formation of society, and finally a spiritual stage wherein both the vital and mental powers become supporters and aids to the realization and manifestation of the higher spiritual dimensions of a divine life on earth.
Sri Aurobindo observes: “Our evolution starts with an infrarational stage in which men have not yet learned to refer their life an action in its principles and its forms to the judgment of the clarified intelligence; for they still act principally out of their instincts, impulses, spontaneous ideas, vital intuitions or obey a customary response to desire, need and circumstance, — it is these things that are canalised or crystallised in their social institutions. Man proceeds by various stages out of these beginnings towards a rational age in which his intelligent will more or less developed becomes the judge, arbiter and presiding motive of his thought, feeling and action, the moulder, destroyer and recreator of his leading ideas, aims and intuitions. Finally, if our analysis and forecast are correct, the human evolution must move through a subjective towards a suprarational or spiritual age in which he will develop progressively a greater spiritual, supra-intellectual and intuitive, perhaps in the end a more than intuitive, a gnostic consciousness. He will be able to perceive a higher divine end, a divine sanction, a divine light of guidance for all he seeks to be, think, feel and do, and able, too, more and more to obey and live in this larger light and power. That will not be done by any rule of infrarational religious impulse and ecstasy, such as characterised or rather darkly illumined the obscure confusion and brute violence of the Middle Ages, but by a higher spiritual living for which the clarities of the reason are a necessary preparation and into which they too will be taken up, transformed, brought to their invisible source.”
Sri Aurobindo, The Human Cycle: The Psychology of Social Development, Chapter 18, The Infrarational Age of the Cycle, pg. 184