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Overall then, the first symbolic stage of evolution is predominantly religious and spiritual, with other elements – economic, psychological, ethical – subordinated to it. The second, typal stage that follows creates the social ideals that remain impressed on the human mind, even when the stage itself is past. In its dynamic symbolic-typal phase of "emergence", in our terms, such a phase may be associated with the development of "archetypal" images.

As these cease to have a living root in the idea, or to spring out of the inner life of man, they become a convention. This conventional stage is born when the external supports -that is the outward expressions of the spirit or the ideal – become more important than the ideal itself. The tendency of the conventional age of society is to fix, to arrange firmly, to formalize, to erect a system of grades and hierarchies, to bind education to a traditional and unchangeable form, to subject thought to infallible authorities. In this conventional period there is much that is helpful to human progress, but it is still a copper age, as it were, and not the truly golden; this is the age when the Truth we strive to arrive at is not realized, not accomplished. The form prevails and spirit recedes.


A Revolt against a Petrified Type

An individualistic and emancipatory age of human society, thirdly, comes as a result of the corruption and failure of the conventional, as a revolt against the reign of the petrified typal figure. The individualism of the new age is an attempt to return from conventionalism to some solid bedrock of real and tangible Truth. And it is necessarily individualistic, because the old moral standards have become bankrupt and can no longer give any inner help; it is therefore the individual who has to become a discoverer, a pioneer, a navigator.

It is in Europe, for Aurobindo writing early in the 20th century, that the age of individualism had exercised its full sway. Yet the truths that Europe found covered only the first, more obvious physical and outward facts of life. If its rationalistic civilization had swept so triumphantly over the world, it was because it found no deeper and more powerful truth to confront it; for the rest of humanity was still in the inactivity of the dark hours of the conventional age. The individualistic age of Europe, then, was in its 20th-century culmination a triumphal progress of physical science.

Limits to Modernity

In the modern era, however, there are in operation forces which seem likely to frustrate or modify development before it reaches its consummation. In the first place, rationalistic and physical science has over-passed itself and must before long be overtaken by a mounting flood of psychological and psychic knowledge which cannot fail to compel quite a new view of human being and open a new vista before mankind. At the same time the Age of Reason is visibly drawing to an end; novel ideas are sweeping over the world and are being accepted with a significant rapidity, ideas subversive of any merely economic rationality.

Secondly, the West in its conquest of the world has awakened a slumbering East. Some believe, Aurobindo having been one, that Asia will reproduce Europe's Age of Reason with all its materialism and secularist individualism while Europe will be pushing forward into new forms and ideas. However, if the East follows its own bent and evolves a novel social tendency and culture, that is bound to have an enormous effect on the direction of the world's civilization. It now seems that social development and well-being is not merely a flourishing of a bourgeois class, or the mass. In addition there is the deeper truth that individualism has discovered, the individual not being merely a social unit, not merely a member of the human pack. He is something in himself, a soul, a being who has to fulfil his own individual truth and law, his own part in the truth and law of collective existence.

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