Significance of the Upanishad
The Veda and the initiates who were admitted to the secret of the Veda represented a lofty and consummate achievement secured by means of an intense and rapid cultivation of intuitive and suprarational capacities and faculties. But the general mass of people in the midst of which this great and surprising Vedic phenomenon took place were evidently primitive and infra-rational, dominated by the needs of the body and limited to the engrossing demands of the physical mind. What was important for this mass of people was the Vedic ritualism, its ceremonies and the institution of sacrifice. In due course of time, this ritualism grew and developed 'into an elaborate and complicated system. It over-burdened the inner core of the Vedic secret, and it became increasingly difficult to penetrate through the crust of the outer ceremonies and acts to reach the inner heart of the true and living Vedic knowledge.
The inner Vedic knowledge was a kind of a synthesis of the spiritual and the physical, and this provided a fine balance and a graded ladder connecting the material and spiritual poles of existence. In this scheme, the outer ritual and ceremonies reflected the sunshine of the highest and profundest spiritual knowledge, and thus they were not a mere artifice or a misleading or imprisoning super-structure. They provided, on the contrary, a meaningful gate of entry for the physical mind of man to undertake the long journey of a true and balanced spiritual-material culture. The great achievement of the Vedic period was indeed the marvellous training that it provided to the physical mentality to admit the impress upon it of the brilliant rays of the spiritual light and to look upon men and the universe as a symbol of some deeper realities intensely worthy of adoration and worship.
But there is in the constitution of man, between the two extreme poles of the spiritual and the material, a gradation of powers and faculties of the vital and mental with their multiple seekings, motivations and aspirations, and a time must come in the development