Historically, as a spiritual vision leads to the development of a formalized religion, with its own dogmas, creeds, rituals and protocols, the focus has shifted from the transformation of the individual inwardly, and then the society through the pressure of this inward change,to an attempt to impose that particular religious viewpoint on others, through peer pressure, social benefits tied to religious adoption, or even, in various cases, through violent conversions or suppression of other ways. While the watchword of spiritual growth is freedom, the impulse toward control and suppression seems to take the upper hand eventually. Additionally, once a religion recognizes that changing basic human nature and the institutions that operate the society is difficult, if not virtually impossible, through the methods they are using, they shift their focus to achieving the goals of the religion in some other world or other life and defer the “benefits” of the religion for another time and place. There is no doubt that transforming human nature through a slow, evolutionary process means that progress is in many cases very hard to see, and both patience and persistence in that process are put to the test.
Sri Aurobindo notes: “The ambition of a particular religious belief and form to universalise and impose itself is contrary to the variety of human nature and to at least one essential character of the Spirit. For the nature of the Spirit is a spacious inner freedom and a large unity into which each man must be allowed to grow according to his own nature. Again — and this is yet another source of inevitable failure — the usual tendency of these credal religions is to turn towards an afterworld and to make the regeneration of the earthly life a secondary motive; this tendency grows in proportion as the original hope of a present universal regeneration of mankind becomes more and more feeble. Therefore while many new spiritual waves with their strong special motives and disciplines must necessarily be the forerunners of a spiritual age, yet their claims must be subordinated in the general mind of the race and of its spiritual leaders to the recognition that all motives and disciplines are valid and yet none entirely valid since they are mans and not the one thing to be done. The one thing essential must take precedence, the conversion of the whole life of the human being to the lead of the spirit. The ascent of man into heaven is not the key, but rather his ascent here into the spirit and the descent also of the spirit into his normal humanity and the transformation of this earthly nature. For that and not some post mortem salvation is the real new birth for which humanity waits as the crowning movement of its long obscure and painful course.”
Sri Aurobindo, The Human Cycle: The Psychology of Social Development, Chapter 24, The Advent and Progress of the Spiritual Age, pp. 264-265