When we reflect on the difficulties involved with both the transformation of the individual to a spiritual, gnostic consciousness and the need for this individual change to proliferate and transform society, it becomes necessary to focus on what the transitional phase or steps might be and how this might be effected. It is not sufficient, obviously, for an individual here or there to undergo this transformation in isolation. And inasmuch as the individual must interact with the world at large, it is not even easily feasible to overcome the drag of the normal physical, vital and mental life independent of any corresponding change in the society at large.
This challenge has led, in the past, to the development of focused spiritual communities as protected, focused environments within which, in theory, the spiritual effort could take place among a number of individuals working together for the common ideal. Sri Aurobindo posits that such a protected situation may be required during this transitional phase to effectuate the complete transformation of human nature and human life he has envisaged.
“At a certain stage it might be necessary to follow the age-long device of the separate community, but with a double purpose, first to provide a secure atmosphere, a place and life apart, in which the consciousness of the individual might concentrate on its evolution in surroundings where all was turned and centred towards the one endeavor and, next, when things were ready, to formulate and develop the new life in those surroundings and in this prepared spiritual atmosphere.”
One enormous challenge, which has hindered spiritual communities in the past, is that such enclosed environments can tend to magnify the difficulties in a certain sense, as the individuals bring with them, not only their spiritual potentialities, but all of the difficulties and obstacles of the normal human nature to be dealt with and resolved, and this can create an enormous “concentration” of these obstacles within the community. Sri Aurobindo points out that it is just this issue that has eventually undermined past efforts to build spiritual community.
Past failure, however, does not imply future failure, particularly if the pressure of the evolutionary forces in the Earth-Nature has now prepared the field and the time is right for this transformation to move forward.
“…if Nature is ready and has taken her evolutionary decision or if the power of the Spirit descending from the higher planes is sufficiently strong, the difficulty would be overcome and a first evolutionary formation or formations would be possible.”
Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, Book 2, Part 2, Chapter 28, “The Divine Life”, pg. 1061-1062