Friedrich Nietzsche wrote that certain individuals, by virtue of their innate status as superior beings, could not be bound by social rules or morality or ethics. While the implication may be understood to apply to those who have evolved beyond the ‘need’ for such contextual social rules, the actual understanding and application of his philosophy has made it clear that social norms were able to be trampled underfoot by those who declared themselves to be superior. We thus witness the rise of Hitler and the Nazi regime which treated others, not members of their specific clique or, at the very least, their racial origins, as “subhuman” and thus, could be despised, controlled, enslaved, tortured and exterminated.

Dostoevsky explored this theme in Crime and Punishment. A college student, Raskolnikov explored in his mind (and in a paper he wrote and had published), whether a superior man could act with impunity and commit acts which would be constrained in the normal social sense. Such a superior man could justify the act as being the price of the higher benefit such a man could bring to society. He then determined to carry out a theft in order to maintain his ability to continue his education and make such a contribution as a ‘superior man’ beyond social conventions. In the course of the theft he murdered two people. The course of the book shows how he remained bound, in his mind, and in his being, to the social conventions, and therefore did not fit his own definition of the superior man. He was caught and tried for his crime as a result. He also gained the opportunity for reflection about his misplaced ideas of superiority.

Clearly, those individuals who arrogate to themselves a superior status that need not abide by the moral and social code of the society within which they live, face a real test of whether they are doing so by following a true higher law, of whether they are doing it as an excuse to carry out acts that lower the consciousness and demean their status in the human scale.

As the Mother points out, however, an even more difficult case in terms of spiritual growth and development lies in those who are extremely conscientious about their adherence to those social and moral codes, and reflect the arrogance of the ego in their outward superiority. They remain rigid and bound by that framework, and thus are not generally ready for, nor receptive to, the path of spiritual growth to move upward beyond the limits of their current level of understanding and knowledge.

The Mother notes: “Now, I may put you on your guard against something… about people who live in their vital consciousness and say, ‘I am above moral laws, I follow a higher law, I am free from all moral laws.’ And they say this because they want to indulge in all irregularities. These people, then, have a double impurity: they have spiritual impurity and in addition social impurity. And these usually have a very good opinion of themselves, and they assert their wish to live their life with an unequalled impudence.”

“Yet usually the people whom I have found most difficult to convert are very respectable people. I am sorry, but I have had much more difficulty with respectable people than with those who were not so, for they had such a good opinion of themselves that it was impossible to open them. But the true thing is difficult. That is to say, one must be very vigilant and very self-controlled, very patient, and have a never-failing goodwill. One must not neglect having a small dose of humility, a sufficient one, and one must never be satisfied with the sincerity one has. One must always want more.”

Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, Growing Within: The Psychology of Inner Development, Chapter IV Growth of Consciousness First Steps and Foundation, pg. 66

Author's Bio: 

Santosh has been studying Sri Aurobindo's writings since 1971 and has a daily blog at and podcast at He is author of 17 books and is editor-in-chief at Lotus Press. He is president of Institute for Wholistic Education, a non-profit focused on integrating spirituality into daily life.