We see that when an individual or small group of individuals develops the powers of the mind or the spirit in a society based, in the main, in the infrarational, vital and physical domains of life, those individuals are frequently pressured or harassed by the mass that feels threatened by the new powers and ideas that come to play. Such individuals are frequently scapegoated as ideas, disruptive of the way of life of that society as constituted, come into vogue. We see the martyrdom of Socrates, or of Jesus, as examples of a society rejecting new ideas or directions that threatened the status quo.
Yet the evolutionary direction of Nature appears to be to bring about an ever-increasing force of reason and spirituality, and this involves a process of development. What starts with some individuals eventually has to capture a good portion of a society and eventually must become the guiding force of a civilisation. We then can point to periods in history when such new powers were clearly at work, for instance, the time of ancient Greece or the Vedic period of India. Just as we see with individuals however, these societies are surrounded by others that either do not understand, or which try to gain control of the more developed society by use of the greater willingness to use brute force and the size of the mass of undeveloped humanity that can be brought to bear. With evolutionary development we see a general weakening of the vital-physical force that allows such a result to occur. It then takes considerable time and effort to bring this new, wider society into the new direction.
Sri Aurobindo observes: “…while she (Nature) originally developed thought and reason and spirituality by exceptional individuals, now she develops them in the mass by exceptional communities or nations, — at least in the relative sense of a nation governed, led and progressively formed and educated by its intellectually or spiritually cultured class or classes. But the exceptional nation touched on its higher levels by a developed reason or spirituality or both, as were Greece and later Rome in ancient Europe, India, China and Persia in ancient Asia, is surrounded or neighbored by enormous masses of the old infrarational humanity and endangered by this proximity; for until a developed science comes in to redress the balance, the barbarian has always a greater physical force and unexhausted native power of aggression than the cultured peoples. At this stage the light and power of civilisation always collapses in the end before the attack of the outer darkness. Then ascending Nature has to train the conquerors more or less slowly, with long difficulty and much loss and delay to develop among themselves what their incursion has temporarily destroyed or impaired. In the end humanity gains by the process; a greater mass of the nations is brought in, a larger and more living force of progress is applied, a starting-point is reached from which it can move to richer and more varied gains. But a certain loss is always the price of this advance.”
Sri Aurobindo, The Human Cycle: The Psychology of Social Development, Chapter 18, The Infrarational Age of the Cycle, pp. 189-190