Individual spiritual development takes place constantly. Individuals experience life-transforming revelations, undertake spiritual quests, take up yoga, meditation, vision quests, seek isolation in the desert, the forest, on the mountain-top or in the cloister or monastery, as they try to fulfill the aspiration or drive towards fulfilling their spiritual yearnings. Occasionally some major new breakthrough occurs in human understanding as a result of the actions of individuals who are ready to grow, and we find that a new inspiring leader, Jesus, Moses, Mohammed, Krishna, Buddha or other spiritual personality comes forward to represent the new understanding. The teachings they bring forward find humanity partially prepared to accept and implement them, partially resistant or bound to habitual ways of seeing and acting in life. Sri Aurobindo observes that individual progress is necessary, but for the transformation of society, there must also be a readiness on the part of humanity to be able to adopt the new spiritual outlook and understanding.
“There must be the individual and the individuals who are able to see, to develop, to re-create themselves in the image of the Spirit and to communicate both their idea and its power to the mass. And there must be at the same time a mass, a society, a communal mind or at the least the constituents of a group-body, the possibility of a group-soul which is capable of receiving and effectively assimilating, ready to follow and effectively arrive, not compelled by its own inherent deficiencies, its defect of preparation to stop on the way or fall back before the decisive change is made. Such a simultaneity has never yet happened, although the appearance of it has sometimes been created by the ardour of a moment. That the combination must happen some day is a certainty, but none can tell how many attempts will have to be made and how many sediments of spiritual experience will have to be accumulated in the subconscient mentality of the communal human being before the soil is ready. For the chances of success are always less powerful in a difficult upward effort affecting the very roots of our nature than the numerous possibilities of failure. The initiator himself may be imperfect, may not have waited to become entirely the thing that he has seen. Even the few who have the apostolate in their charge may not have perfectly assimilated and shaped it in themselves and may hand on the power of the Spirit still farther diminished to the many who will come after them. The society may be intellectually, vitally, ethically, temperamentally unready, with the result that the final acceptance of the spiritual idea by the society may be also the beginning of its debasement and distortion and of the consequent departure or diminution of the Spirit. Any or all of these things may happen, and the result will be, as has so often happened in the past, that even though some progress is made and an important change effected, it will not be the decisive change which can alone re-create humanity in a diviner image.”
Sri Aurobindo, The Human Cycle: The Psychology of Social Development, Chapter 23, Conditions for the Coming of a Spiritual Age, pp. 247-248