“Sri Aurobindo’s Philosophy of the Ideal of Human Unity” – Kireet Joshi

I

Globalisation is an attractive word; for it evokes in us a noble sentiment of “one earth” and of humankind as one race born of one common Mother Earth; it raises in us a dream of the ideal of human unity and of universal fraternity. But when we examine the current phenomenon of globalisation, we find that it is a growing network spreading over the whole globe in which the old forces of competition and resultant asymmetrical relations constitute the central forum of action and reaction. Here globality is the globality of market forces that are free to develop hegemony of dominant and rich nations. We do not find here global relations of cooperation, even of friendliness. This is no manifestation of global consciousness in which unity and oneness predominate.

At its root, contemporary globalisation is a result of the material circumstances where scientific discoveries have made our earth so small that its vastest kingdoms seem now no more than the provinces of a single country. Considering also that the human intellect has at present been so mechanised that it is likely to push forward the tide of globalisation through mechanical means and through social and political adjustments. This is where we can foresee the perils of the coming day, unless the normative consciousness of humanity intervenes in a decisive way.

Globalisation can not be arrested; mechanical means for their operations and rapid advancements have been set to work, and there is no agency of wisdom which has yet come to the surface to control and to guide; and, in reality, wisdom can not become mechanical and can not translate itself into any artificial agency. If, therefore, perils of globalisation are to be avoided, efforts have to be made to effect a great change in the heart and mind of the human race; people have to awake to wisdom in time and accept the difficult process of inner change, even though external adjustments will also need to be effected. The truth behind globalisation is, indeed, that of the ideal unity of the human race, but to bring forth that truth and to make it operative, we seem to be in need of a deeper study of the issues and of a greater opening to profounder means and remedies.

At this juncture, we are impelled to think afresh of globality, global consciousness and the ideal of human unity. For globalisation can be turned into a favourable circumstance if we consciously strive at the concrete manifestation of unity of the human race, which has always been latent and secretly operative. It can even be said that the ideal of human unity seems to be making its way to the front of our consciousness because this is the opportune moment when that ideal can be actualised.

II

Four factors have combined together to generate the present phenomenon of globalisation. Firstly, there is the amazing triumph of science and technology which have been applied on a large scale to the production of services and goods and their transportation across the globe. Secondly, social, political, commercial and industrial institutions have tended towards standardisation, mechanisation and even dehumanisation in the processes of management, governance and even in human relationships. Thirdly, there has been a grim battle between the ideals of capitalism, socialism and communism which stand today at a point of disequilibrium that tilts heavily towards privatisation and capitalistic forces which favour the growth of multinationals and expansions of markets that promote multiplication of physical and vital wants, consumerism and motivations of economic security, competitive methods of enrichment, and profit-making. And, fourthly, science and philosophy, the two great magnets that uplift the powers of Reason towards greater heights of truth, beauty and goodness, have tended towards the denials that emerge from materialism resulting in refusals to inquire into claims of ethical and spiritual domains. The general climate that rules the globe today is that of the pull of humanity downward towards confinement to the demands of physical and vital life.

In terms of the history of civilisation, humankind is turning more and more decisively and globally, not only towards philistinism but even a kind of barbarism where the barbarian can roam about the world taking full advantages of the civilisation that has been created so far by the past achievements of culture, of reason, ethics, aesthetics and religious and spiritual pursuits. This is a kind of invasion of barbarism that aims at physical stability in what seems to be a hostile world. In the past, history has witnessed the floods of the overpowering invasions that have devastated the cultures that had reached some kind of climactic points of achievements. In the present stage of history, on account of the fact that science has reached such a triumph of knowledge and its application that the invasion of the barbarians from outside, except in terms of terrorism and allied forms, may become impossible. But the peril is that of the invasion of the barbarian from within, from the circle of the civilised world itself. And this peril, — the peril of the monstrous barbarian controlling the civilised world on a global scale, needs to be combated if the future is to be saved from the suffocations and sufferings that afflict the inner spirit when it is denied its natural upward urge towards its highest cultural fulfilment.

Indeed, there are behind the contemporary globalisation higher and nobler motives at work, the most important of which is the drive towards the fulfilment of the dream of humanity to arrive at a form of organisation that would foster a united family of humanity in a state of perpetual progress, prosperity and multi-layered happiness that comes from constant ascension from height to greater heights. These nobler and higher motives that have inspired the ideal of human unity and brought about the birth of noble and momentous institutions such as those of the United Nations and its international agencies do not, however, seem to be strong enough to meet the present perilous situation that confronts us today. We need to study the reasons for this so that we may arrive at better propositions of solution than what have been offered to us so far. This study will lead us to the consideration of the problems of centralisation and decentralisation, of the relationship between the individual and the collectivity, the drift of history at the present juncture, and the possibilities of the future in the light of the nature of the human situation in its horizontal and vertical possibilities.

Human history may, in a sense, be perceived as a multilayered and complex struggle to harmonise the claims of the individual and those of the collectivity. The development of this struggle seems to be cyclic or spiral rather than linear in character. This has also to be seen in terms of the evolution of the human species and the laws of that evolution. For these laws follow the curve of the development of the faculties of the body, life and mind in which the concern for the physical base and infusion of the developing and developed powers of life and mind in a very zigzag swinging curve of advance appears to be predominant. There are, what we may call, the laws of ascent and integration, as a result of which the relationships between the individual and the collectivity are being built up in such a way that as soon as lower elements of achievement reach a point of maturity they tend to higher grades of achievement in a gradual manner so as to interweave the lower and the higher in a complex series of harmony of conflicting claims. If we study these laws, we find that evolution is a continuous process and humanity is one of the crucial links in the process that seems to lead it to levels of progression that in turn lead the development of the mind to that which lies beyond the mind and even higher grades of consciousness which are appropriate to the spirit, and its wider, deeper and higher domains.

The evolutionary study of humanity has its origin in our times in the Darwinian theory, but it has found developments in the writings of philosophers like Bergson, Alexander, Smutts, Whitehead and Teillard de Chardin. But the most elaborate and comprehensive study is to be found in the writings of Sri Aurobindo, particularly, in his The Life Divine, The Synthesis of Yoga, The Human Cycle and The Ideal of Human Unity. In one of the important passages, Sri Aurobindo states:

The animal is a living laboratory in which Nature has, it is said, worked out man. Man himself may well be a thinking and living laboratory in whom and with whose conscious cooperation she wills to work out the superman, the god. Or shall we not say, rather, to manifest God? For if evolution is the progressive manifestation by Nature of that which slept or worked in her, involved, it is also the overt realisation of that which she secretly is. We cannot, then, bid her pause at a given stage of her evolution, nor have we the right to condemn with the religionist as perverse and presumptuous or with the rationalist as a disease or hallucination any intention she may evince or effort she may make to go beyond. If it be true that Spirit is involved in Matter and apparent Nature is secret God, then the manifestation of the divine in himself and the realisation of God within and without are the highest and most legitimate aim possible to man upon earth.1

According to Sri Aurobindo, the evolution of the human being in regard to the development of human faculties and those that are beyond human limitations is conducted, firstly, by a conscious effort of the human mind, and it is not confined to an unconscious progression of Nature. Secondly, this evolution takes into account the sense of freedom that emerges along with the development of self- consciousness, and with the process of a rational and normative consciousness. The evolutionary process is, therefore, marked by alternative possibilities which can even be perilous, as in any great adventure. Evolution, as conceived by Sri Aurobindo, is a great adventure of consciousness, in which the operation of free will is a necessary component.

It is against this background that the conflict between the individual and the collectivity needs to be understood.

Human history may be considered as a long story of the sway of the developing consciousness between three preoccupations of human idealism,  the complete single development of the human being himself, the perfectibility of the individual, a full development of the collective being, the perfectibility of the society, and, more pragmatically restricted, the perfect or best possible relation of individual with individual and society or of community with community. Hence, we find in history that sometimes an exclusive or dominant emphasis is laid on the individual, sometimes on the collectivity and society, sometimes on a right and balanced relations between the individual and the collective human whole. According to one ideal, freedom and growth of perfection of the individual is to be held up as a true objective of our existence. This ideal is sometimes conceived as that of a mere free self-expression of the personal being or as a self-governed whole of complete mind, fine and ample life and perfect body, or a spiritual perfection and liberation. In the perspective of this view, the society is conceived only as a field of activity and growth for the individual mind and serves best its function when it gives as far as possible a wide room, ample means, a sufficient freedom or guidance of development to his thought, his action, his growth, his possibility of fullness of being. The opposite ideal gives the collective life the first or sole importance; the existence, the growth of the race is of the highest value in this view; the individual is expected to live for the society or for mankind or even, he is considered only a cell of the society, and he has no other use or purpose of birth, no other meaning of his presence in Nature, no other foundation. Or, it is sometimes held that the nation, the society, the community is a collective being, revealing its soul in its culture, power of life, ideals, institutions, or its ways of self-expression. In this context, the individual life has to cast itself in the social mould, serving the power of its life, consent only to exist as an instrument for the maintenance and efficient existence of the society. In a third ideal, the perfection of man lies in his ethical and social relations with other human beings, his social being and his love for society, for others, for his utility to the race. In this view, society exists for the service of all, to give them their right framework of relations, education, training, economical opportunity, right frame of life.

Sri Aurobindo points out that in the ancient cultures, the greatest emphasis was laid on the community and a fitting of the individual into the community. Even then, however, there grew up an ideal of a perfect individual and it is found that the idea of the spiritual individual was dominant in ancient India, although the society was of extreme importance and the individual had to pass first to the social states of the physical, vital, mental being with satisfaction of interest, desire, pursuit of knowledge and right living – kama, artha and dharma – before he could reach fitness for the truer state of free spiritual existence (moksha). In contrast to this, Sri Aurobindo finds that in recent times the whole stress has fallen on the life of the race, to search for a perfect society, and the right organisation and scientific mechanisation of the life of mankind as a whole. Under this circumstance, the individual now tends to be regarded only as a member of the collectivity, a unit of the race whose existence must be subordinated to the common aims and total interest of the organised society, and much less or not at all as a mental or spiritual being with his own right and power of existence. Again, under the same circumstances, the modern State erects its godhead and demands his obedience, subjugation, and self-immolation. The individual is then required to affirm, against this exorbitant claim, the rights of his ideals, his ideas, his personality.

The conflict between the individual and the collectivity seems at this stage to have reached, according to Sri Aurobindo, the stage of an acute conflict of standards, which presses us towards a search for a unifying and harmonising knowledge, and even integrality of knowledge. The individual in Sri Aurobindo’s view, is the key of the evolutionary movement; for it is the individual who finds himself and becomes conscious of the Reality and its relationship with the collectivity. According to this vision, the individual does not owe his allegiance, either to the State which is a machine or to the community which is part of life and not the whole of life; his allegiance to use Sri Aurobindo’s own words,

must be to the Truth, the Self, the Spirit, the Divine which is in him and in all; not to subordinate or lose himself in the mass, but to find and express that truth of being in himself and help the community and humanity in its seeking for its own truth and fullness of being must be his real object of existence.2

Indeed, Sri Aurobindo acknowledges that so long as human being is undeveloped, he has to subordinate in many ways his undeveloped self to whatever is greater than it. As he develops, he moves towards a spiritual freedom, but this freedom is not something entirely separate from all existence. As he moves towards the spiritual freedom, he moves also towards spiritual oneness. In the words of Sri Aurobindo:

The spiritually realised, the liberated man is preoccupied, says the Gita, with the good of all beings; Buddha discovering the way of Nirvana must turn back to open that way to those who are still under the delusion of their constructive instead of their real being – or non-being; Vivekananda, drawn by the Absolute also feels the call of the disguised Godhead in humanity and most the call of the fallen and the suffering, the call of the self to the self in the obscure body of the universe. For the awakened individual the realisation of his truth of being and his inner liberation and perfection must be his primary seeking, first, because that is the call of the Spirit within him, but also because it is only by liberation and perfection and realisation of the truth of being that man can arrive at truth of living. A perfected community also can exist only by the perfection of its individuals, and perfection can come only by the discovery and affirmation in life by each of his own spiritual being and the discovery by all of their spiritual unity and a resultant life of unity. There can be no real perfection for us except by our inner self and truth of spiritual existence taking up all truth of the instrumental existence into itself and giving to it oneness, integration, harmony. As our only real freedom is the discovery and disengagement of the spiritual Reality within us, so our only means of true perfection is the sovereignty and self-effectuation of the spiritual Reality in all the elements of our nature.3

In the light of this larger vision, when Sri Aurobindo examines, in his book The Ideal of Human Unity, interesting periods of human life, he finds that the scenes in which life was most richly lived and has left behind it the most precious fruits are to be seen in those periods, and in those countries in which humanity was able to organise itself in small independent centres, but infused into a single unity. Sri Aurobindo marks out particularly three such moments in human history to which modern Europe owes two-third of its civilisation. The first of these moments is to be found in the religious life of tribes in Israel; the second moment was that of the many-sided life of the small Greek city states; and the third was the smaller, though more restricted artistic and intellectual life of medieval Italy. Similarly, as far as Asia is concerned, no age was so rich in energy, so well worth living in, so productive of the best and the most enduring fruits as the heroic period of India when she was divided into small kingdoms, many of them no larger than a modern district. The second best period of India, according to Sri Aurobindo, came afterwards in larger, but still comparatively small, nations and kingdoms like those of Pallavas, Chalukyas, Pandyas, Cholas and Cheras.

Again, Sri Aurobindo finds that even when there developed the organisation of nations, kingdoms and empires, it was groupments of smaller nations which have had the most intense life and not the huge States and colossal empires. His conclusion is that collective life, when it diffuses itself in very vast spaces, seems to lose intensity and productiveness. As illustrations, he points out that Europe has lived in England, France, Netherlands, Spain, Italy, the small states of Germany, not in the huge mass of the Holy Roman or the Russian Empire. He also notices that in the organisation of nations and kingdoms, those which have had the most vigorous life have gained it by a sort of artificial concentration of the vitality into some head, centre or capital, London, Paris, Rome. Sri Aurobindo sees in these examples the basic argument in favour of decentralisation and this favourable argument derives a special force from the fact that it is in the climate of decentralisation that the individual gains greater freedom from his subordination to the group or the community. On the other hand, in such examples as that of the Roman Empire, Sri Aurobindo finds that the individual freedom is greatly subordinated to the needs of the forces of centralisation which tend towards uniformity rather than towards freedom and diversity. Considering, however, that there is today a turn towards the formation of the larger human aggregate encompassing the whole world, Sri Aurobindo analyses the example of the Roman Empire from the point of view of the theme of freedom and the conditions under which the individual can attain through freedom his self-realisation and fullness. That Empire provides a historical illustration of advantages of organisation, peace, widespread security, order, and material well-being. But the disadvantages arose from its tendency to centralise, to impose union, and as a result the individual, the city, the region had to sacrifice their independent life and they became mechanical parts – a machine. As Sri Aurobindo remarks, the organisation was great and admirable, but the individual dwindled and life lost its colour, richness, variety, freedom, and victorious impulse towards creation. Eventually, therefore, the Roman Empire declined and failed; the huge mechanism of centralisation and union brought about smallness and feebleness of the individual; mechanisation prevailed and the Empire lost even its conservative vitality and died of an increasing stagnation.

The problems of the individual and the collectivity, of centralisation and decentralisation, of freedom and diversity and consequent richness and vigour of life without which the community cannot prolong its health and cohesion, these problems are extremely important, and Sri Aurobindo formulates an ideal law of social development that needs to be applied, if the world is to be united and which is yet to provide to the individual the needed freedom for his growth, self-discovery, self-realisation and self-perfection. Sri Aurobindo states this law in the following words:

Thus the law for the individual is to perfect his individuality by free development from within, but to respect and to aid and be aided by the same free development in others. His law is to harmonise his life with the life of the social aggregate and to pour himself out as a force for growth and perfection on humanity. The law for the community or nation is equally to perfect its corporate existence by a free development from within, aiding and taking full advantage of that of the individual, but to respect and to aid and be aided by the same free development of other communities and nations. Its law is to harmonise its life with that of the human aggregate and to pour itself out as a force for growth and perfection on humanity. The law for humanity is to pursue its upward evolution towards the finding and expression of the Divine in the type of mankind, taking full advantage of the free development and gains of all individuals and nations and groupings of men, to work towards the day when mankind may be really and not only ideally one divine family, but even then, when it has succeeded in unifying itself, to respect, aid and be aided by the free growth and activity of its individuals and constituent aggregates.4

Sri Aurobindo acknowledges that this ideal law has never become operative in the imperfect states through which humankind has so far travelled, and it may be very long before that law can be attained. But Sri Aurobindo maintains that the present is the stage of what he calls the subjective age of humanity, when knowledge is increasing and diffusing itself with an unprecedented rapidity, when individuals, societies and nations are attempting to discover their potentialities and their inner subjective states and selves, when capacity is generating itself, when men and nations are drawn close together, and this is the time when we can justifiably develop a conscious hope to arrive at a conscious discovery of that ideal law of social development and its conscious application. He finds that the present moment is opportune for an upward march, particularly when people of the entire globe are getting united, although partially and in an inextricable entanglement of chaotic unity. For this is the moment where we are being compelled to know each other and impelled to know more profoundly ourselves, humankind, and the world, and when the idea of self-realisation for ourselves and nations is coming consciously to the upper and outer surface. This is the time, according to Sri Aurobindo, for the human being in particular to know himself, to find the ideal law of his being and his development and to hold that law before him and to find out gradually the way by which it can become more and more the moulding principle of the individual and social existence.

IV

At the same time, Sri Aurobindo regards the present moment of human history as a moment of acute crisis. For the process of self-realisation, both for the individual and the collectivity is always difficult and it is marked by an acute struggle of groping in the darkness and in the welter of conflicts and uncertain alternatives. In Sri Aurobindo’s analysis of the psychology of the process of maturation of self-finding, Sri Aurobindo examines the psychology of barbarism, philistinism, and of the rational, ethical and aesthetic culture, and examines also the means by which the society manages to arrive at some kind of cohesion at different stages of development, namely, through symbolism and later by typal thought, conventional thought and by subjective self-awakening both of the individual and collectivity. In the subjective age, which is marked by preponderance of Reason as also by a revolt against conventions, customs and traditions, Sri Aurobindo perceives the possibility of a true flowering of the inner spirit, which can harmonise the individual good, and the social good and in the context of which a form of world unity could be invented whereby human beings of the entire globe can live together in durable peace and progressive harmony as in one united family. In this context, Sri Aurobindo finds the three great ideals that were put forward explicitly and forcefully during the French Revolution to be most significant, namely the ideals of liberty, equality and fraternity. He finds that these three ideals served the purpose of motivating the great experiments that humankind conducted during the curve of the Rational Age, the Age which was ushered in by the Renaissance in Europe, the age through which humankind is at present passing, and which has now reached a kind of an end and which has the possibility of opening the gates of a beginning of a new age, which he calls the Spiritual Age. It is when Reason explores its possibilities and brings into operation its capabilities that the human race can arrive at a critical point of its self-realisation and self-perfection. For it is then, as it has now become clearer, that it is found that the role of Reason is not to govern but to become a medium and an intermediate power that can lift human life from the levels of blind impulse to the realms of light of the Spirit. For the real governor can be only that light and knowledge, which is integral and which unites the individual with the universal without requiring the individual to be abolished and which shows both to the individual and to the universal that their source is in the same transcendental that is the foundation of oneness and unity of existence.

The age of Reason, according to Sri Aurobindo, has shown that when the ideal of liberty is emphasised and sought to be implemented, the ideal of equality is required to be sacrificed; and when the ideal of equality is emphasised and sought to be implemented, the ideal of liberty is required to be strangulated. Towards the end of the Age of Reason, there emerges therefore the ideal of anarchism and the question arises whether anarchist thought can any more successfully find a satisfying social principle. Sri Aurobindo points out that the anarchist thought, although it is not yet formed in its assured form, cannot develop any appropriate basis or form of harmony as long as it relies on the powers of the intellect. He points out that a rational satisfaction cannot give to humanity safety from the pull from below nor deliver it from the attraction from above. It is true that the more the outer law is replaced by the inner law, the nearer will man be to his natural perfection, and the perfect State must be one in which governmental compulsion is abolished and man is able to live with his fellowmen by a free agreement and cooperation. But this can truly be secured by a power greater than that of reason. According to Sri Aurobindo, it is not intellectual anarchism but a spiritual or spiritualised anarchism that will bring us nearer to the solution or at least touch something of it from afar. In the words of Sri Aurobindo:

It is a spiritual, an inner freedom that can alone create a perfect human order. It is a spiritual, a greater than the rational enlightenment that can alone illumine the vital nature of man and impose harmony on its self-seekings, antagonisms and discords. A deeper brotherhood, a yet unfound law of love is the only sure foundation possible for a perfect social evolution, no other can replace it. But this brotherhood and love will not proceed by the vital instincts or the reason where they can be met, baffled or deflected by opposite reasonings and other discordant instincts. Nor will it found itself in the natural heart of man where there are plenty of other passions to combat it. It is in the soul that it must find its roots; the love which is founded upon a deeper truth of our being, the brotherhood or, let us say, for this is another feeling than any vital or mental sense of brotherhood, a calmer more durable motive-force, – the spiritual comradeship which is the expression of an inner realisation of oneness. For so only can egoism disappear and the true individualism of the unique godhead in each man found itself on the true communism of the equal godhead in the race; for the Spirit, the inmost Self, the universal Godhead in every being is that whose very nature of diverse oneness it is to realise the perfection of its individual life and nature in the existence of all, in the universal life and nature.5

According to Sri Aurobindo, the present stage of human development can become a gate for the arrival of a spiritual age in which the ideal of brotherhood can come to be practised and it is only in that condition that a new form of human unity can be forged in which the individual and the collectivity, even on a global scale or organisation, can come to be harmonised. In the meantime, however, the transition from the end of the curve of Reason to the advent and progress of the spiritual age is a stage of crisis, which needs to be examined in a greater depth, since it is the crisis which has become accentuated today by the latest developments with which we are besieged today.

V

Sri Aurobindo considers the present stage of crisis as an evolutionary crisis in which the human will is called upon to make a free choice. This is the crisis where evolution of human Reason is required to make a choice under the pressure that impels the creation of a life of universalised rule of economic barbarism. At the same time, Reason is increasingly obliged also to exercise its role in lifting up humanity to create a life of unity, mutuality and harmony born of a deeper and wider truth of our being. For there are three forces that work today upon humanity. On the one hand, there is a force that is striving to assert the barbarism within the civilised man. For it is possible to utilise the present scientific and technical knowledge to create an order of existence in which physical and vital wants of the human being can greatly, if not fully be satisfied, and this order of existence can be maintained by mechanical devices and application of the power of machines that can imprison the human spirit. There is also a second alternative in which human reason can continue to spin into larger or narrower circles propounding great dreams but never fulfilling them. And there is a third alternative in which the human being consents to rise to the higher levels than those of the Reason and consents to be spiritualised. The question, therefore, is whether the human being will choose to remain arrested in some kind of intermediary typal perfection like earlier animal kinds, or whether he will consent to rise to a higher level of evolution. The necessity to make the choice has created a state of a crisis, since the choice to pursue a higher level is not only difficult but appears at first sight to be almost impossible. Sri Aurobindo describes this crisis as follows:

At present mankind is undergoing an evolutionary crisis in which is concealed a choice of its destiny; for a stage has been reached in which the human mind has achieved in certain directions an enormous development while in others it stands arrested and bewildered and can no longer find its way. A structure of the external life has been raised up by man’s ever-active mind and life-will, a structure of an unmanageable hugeness and complexity, for the service of his mental, vital, physical claims and urges, a complex political, social, administrative, economic, cultural machinery, an organised collective means for his intellectual, aesthetic and material satisfaction. Man has created a system of civilisation which has become too big for his limited mental capacity and understanding and his still more limited spiritual and moral capacity to utilise and manage, a too dangerous servant of his blundering ego and its appetites. …A greater whole-being, whole-knowledge, whole-power is needed to weld all into a grater unity of whole-life.6

VI

As a part of this crisis, and as an aid to the higher choice that can be made by humanity, Sri Aurobindo perceives two important phenomena of the modern world which present a great sign of hope. These two phenomena are those of internationalism and of religion of humanity. But these two phenomena need to be understood in their inner implications. For internationalism seems to oppose the truth and force of nationalism, and this opposition can be fatal to a harmonious transition to a new world of harmony. There is today a sentiment helped and stimulated by the trend of forces that favours the creation of an international world organisation that may ultimately result in a possible form of unification. This sentiment is a cosmopolitan and international sentiment. At one stage, it came to be presented concretely in the conception of the League of Nations. As Sri Aurobindo points out, this conception was not well inspired in its form or destined to have a considerable longevity or a supremely successful career. But the very fact that this idea was presented and even manifested in a concrete form, even though for a short term, was in itself an event of capital importance and meant the ushering in of a new era in world history. Sri Aurobindo points out that even though it failed, it could not be allowed to remain without a sequel. Accordingly, the League of Nations was replaced by the United Nations Organisation which now stands in the forefront of the world and struggles towards some kind of secure permanence and success in the great far reaching endeavour on which depends the world’s future. Emphasising the importance of the United Nations Organisation, Sri Aurobindo wrote in 1949 (in a Postscript Chapter to his The Ideal of Human Unity) the following:

This is the capital event, the crucial and decisive outcome of the world-wide tendencies which Nature has set in motion for her destined purpose. In spite of the constant shortcomings of human effort and its stumbling mentality, in spite of adverse possibilities that may baulk or delay for a time the success of this great adventure, it is in this event that lies the determination of what must be. All the catastrophes that have attended this course of events and seem to arise of purpose in order to prevent the working out of her intention have not prevented, and even further catastrophes will not prevent, the successful emergence and development of an enterprise which has become a necessity for the progress and perhaps the very existence of the race.7

Following the idea of the United Nations Organisation, Sri Aurobindo foresees the development of a World-State without exclusions and on a principle of equality into which consideration of size and strength would not enter. Indeed, Sri Aurobindo raises the question of the freedom of the individual and of the nations in the context of the emergence of the World-State. And in this context, Sri Aurobindo considers it necessary that a profounder spiritual ideal of the individual and of the nation should emerge and vivify the world organisation in such a way that the spirit of the individual and the spirit of the nation, the freedom of the individual and the freedom of the nation are not only maintained but respected and perfected. Sri Aurobindo, therefore, speaks of a union of free people which could open the prospect of a sound and lasting order.

In this context, the emergence of a religion of humanity is of a greater significance, although he finds its present intellectual form hardly sufficient. Sri Aurobindo, therefore, advocates the emergence of a spiritual religion of humanity and explains that he does not mean by it what is called a universal religion, a system, a creed of intellectual principle and dogma and outward rite. For Sri Aurobindo emphasises the growth of the realisation that there is a secret spirit, a divine Reality, in which we are one, that humanity is its highest representation in the world, that the human being is the means by which it will progressively reveal itself here. There must be, according to Sri Aurobindo, the realisation by the individual that only in the life of his fellowmen is his own life complete. There must be, he adds, the realisation by the race that only on the free and fullness of the individual can its own perfection and happiness be founded. Finally, Sri Aurobindo points out the need of the discipline and the way by which each individual can be developed in accordance with his or her line of development towards integrality and an all-embracing perfection. In defining the spiritual religion of humanity in which the ideals of liberty, equality and fraternity can be harmonised, Sri Aurobindo states:

Yet is brotherhood the real key to the triple gospel of the idea of humanity. The union of liberty and equality can only be achieved by the power of human brotherhood and it cannot be founded on anything else. But brotherhood exists only in the soul and by the soul; it can exist by nothing else. For this brotherhood is not a matter either of physical kinship or of vital association or of intellectual agreement. When the soul claims freedom, it is the freedom of its self-development, the self-development of the divine in man in all his being. When it claims equality, what it is claiming is that freedom equally for all and the recognition of the same soul, the same godhead in all human beings. When it strives for brotherhood, it is founding that equal freedom of self-development on a common aim, a common life, a unity of mind and feeling founded upon the recognition of this inner spiritual unity. These three things are in fact the nature of the soul; for freedom, equality, unity are the eternal attributes of the Spirit. It is the practical recognition of this truth, it is the awakening of the soul in man and the attempt to get him to live from his soul and not from his ego which is the inner meaning of religion, and it is that to which the religion of humanity also must arrive before it can fulfil itself in the life of the race.8

In spite of the difficulties and critical trials through which humanity may be required to pass, Sri Aurobindo underlines the need of understanding the inevitability of the spiritual solution. Indeed, in presenting this solution, Sri Aurobindo is aware that it may be objected that it puts off the consummation of a better human society to a far off date in the future evolution of the race. But Sri Aurobindo affirms forcefully:

… if this is not the solution, then there is no solution; if this is not the way, then there is no way for the human kind. Then the terrestrial evolution must pass beyond man as it has passed beyond the animal and a greater race must come that will be capable of the spiritual change, a form of life must be born that is nearer to the divine. After all there is no logical necessity for the conclusion that the change cannot begin at all because its perfection is not immediately possible. A decisive turn of mankind to the spiritual ideal, the beginning of a constant ascent and guidance towards the heights may not be altogether impossible, even if the summits are attainable at first only by the pioneer few and far-off to the tread of the race. And that beginning may mean the descent of an influence that will alter at once the whole life of mankind in its orientation and enlarge for ever as did the development of his reason and more than any development of the reason, its potentialities and all its structure.9

According to Sri Aurobindo, the world is a mutable world and uncertainties and dangers cannot be avoided. But he places before us a vision of the way in which a World-Union could come into being that would ensure the freedom and perfection of the individual and the freedom of nationalities could be ensured in a world federation. Perils are on the way, but Sri Aurobindo maintains that the ideal of human unity will no more remain an unfulfilled ideal but an accomplished fact and its preservation come into charge of the united human peoples. Much will depend, according to Sri Aurobindo, on the intellectual and moral capacity of humanity to carry out what is evidently the one thing needful, namely, a concentrated effort at the spiritual change that can sustain a global and united human family.

1 Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, American Edition, pp. 5-6
2 Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, American Edition, page 930
3 Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, American Edition, pp. 930-31
4 Sri Aurobindo: The Human Cycle, Centenary Edition, Volume 15, pp. 63-4
5 Sri Aurobindo: The Human Cycle, Centenary Edition, Volume 15, pp.206-7
6 Sri Aurobindo: The Life Divine, American Edition, pp.933-34
7 Sri Aurobindo: The Ideal of Human Unity, Centenary Edition, Volume 15, pp.556-57.
8 Sri Aurobindo: The Ideal of Human Unity, Centenary Edition, Volume 15, pp.546-7
9 Ibid., page 207


The above essay has originally appeared in a book “Philosophy and Yoga of Sri Aurobindo and Other Essays”, 2003, pp. 111-135, which contains many other essays worth reading.

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