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III. CULTURAL AND SPIRITUAL ORIENTATION: EASTERN POLITY

SPIRITUAL GROUNDING: INDIA'S HUMAN CYCLE

The idea that India possessed a priceless, spiritually superior civilization was a welcome salve to the injured pride of a people that had been taught for some two hundred years to regard everything English as superior. In Nehru's words, Gandhi wrought in the consciousness of India a psychological change, almost as if some expert in psychoanalytic methods had probed deep into the patient's past, found out the origins of his complexes, exposed them to his view, and rid him of a burden.

Jonathan Schell,

Unconquerable World: Peaceful Protest is Stronger than War

INTRODUCTION: NATURE/COMMUNITY TO CULTURE/SPIRITUALITY

A DIVINE POWER IS BEHIND THE MOVEMENT

As we turn from the South to the East, generally, and from Africa to India, specifically, the whole tone changes, along the way towards Integral Polity, from nature and community to culture and, more emphatically, spirituality. Ironically today, as China and India, in particular, lead the contemporary "Eastern" economic charge, such an archetypally Eastern, spiritual emphasis, is lost. Yet, to the extent that we ground ourselves in the work of the great 20th-century Indian sage, Sri Aurobindo (1), we find such definitive "Eastern" origination:

• there is the ineffable Divine;

• this Divine has a Purpose for man;

• the purpose is progressive, All Round development;

• the State is an agent for the Facilitation of such development;

• this facilitation cannot be forced, but Individuals and Groups will take Society and the state to the next stage of its Development;

• society participates in this Integral adventure.

THE SPIRITUAL AND POLITICAL MISSION OF AUROBINDO

Aurobindo Ghose (2) was born in Calcutta in India in 1872, and received his early education in Britain, at a private school and then at King's College, Cambridge. In 1907, Sri Aurobindo led the Nationalist Party in Bengal, stressing the need for independence. At the same time he felt India had a mission to perform in the community of nations:

A divine power is behind the movement. The Zeit-Geist is at work to bring about a mighty movement of which the world at the present juncture has need. That movement is the resurgence of Asia and the resurgence of India as not only a necessary part of the larger movement but its central need. India is the key-stone of the arch, the chief inheritress of the common Asiatic destiny.

This was Aurobindo's vision of a free India. In the period 1908/1909 he was placed in jail, and a decisive change came over him during that period. He decided to get away from political life, in the conventional sense, to immerse himself in Yogic selfeducation and to prepare himself for the task of broadcasting the "eternal message" of India. His commitment now was India and laying the basis through it for the future of mankind.

INVOLUTION AND EVOLUTION

As such, Aurobindo sought to heal the divide between Matter and Spirit by advocating a theory of Evolution, which has two processes: the process of ascent and the process of descent. While the former is called Evolution (Matter to Spirit), the latter is termed Involution (Spirit to Matter).

The individual and the universal, meanwhile, are two poles of one and the same Reality. Individual transformation will be followed by universal transformation, thus giving rise to a new race of human beings, capable of an upward evolution of consciousness. Psychic awakening is a major milestone in the life of an individual. It is awakening to one's uniqueness. It is becoming a unique integer.

For Aurobindo moreover, the individual lives in society and by society. It is only in harmony with the society that he can realize his best self. The individual, as such, is neither an epi-phenomenon of Matter or Energy nor a mere social animal. He is not a Lockean being who enters into contractual relationship with other individuals to realize economic goals. He is not the dumb driven brute of Hobbes, who surrenders himself to the mighty Leviathan or State. He is also not the Rousseauean "innocent" who merges his unique personality into the generalized people of the General Will. The individual, for Aurobindo, is a divine "soul", a self-expression of the universal.

The individual, then, is not only the manifestation of the Eternal Spirit but he is also the key to evolutionary progression. In other words, he is to grow to the divine in the world, in society; and he has to grow in accordance with his nature, because each individual is unique in himself. So in the final analysis society, economic systems and political arrangements are evaluated to the extent that they promote such individual realization. If society gets in the way of such, the society has to be changed. Society moreover, like the individual, has an "inner self", a group soul, and a subjective power of the divine spirit. The nation or society, like the individual then, has a body, an organic life, moral and aesthetic temperament, a developing mind and soul. It represents a collective being, a collective reason and a collective will. By this collective action it attains self-consciousness and self-distinctiveness.

In the ancient Hellenic and Roman societies, according to Aurobindo, the rational, ethical and aesthetic aspects of life were emphasized. In the old cultures of Asia, though, these were considered stepping stones to spiritual consummation. Thus while Greece and Rome were proud of their art, poetry and philosophy, and cherished these even more than their political liberty, Asia exalted saints, religious thinkers and spiritual heroes. Modern societies, on the other hand, exalt economic organization, political liberty and the comfort of their social life. They acknowledge only two gods, life and science.

A NEW WORLD ORDER

Sri Aurobindo's World Order, then, is not an exercise in fantasy. He sees it as part of the progressive evolution of man. He tells us that for tens of thousands of years man remained primitive. When he stepped into the age of reason he freed himself from totem and taboo, making tremendous strides forward in the arts and sciences, giving birth to modern consciousness. Man had become rational in science and technology, but was still subject to the tragic influences of the previous infra-rational age.

According to Aurobindo, liberal democracy cherished liberty, but this liberty becomes laissez-faire. It creates disparities and inequalities and this leads to socialism. Socialism proceeds to regimented society and again deprives man of his liberty. So for his New World Order Aurobindo is satisfied with neither democracy nor socialism. He seeks a new fraternity where the individual will be free to form groups – economic, social, educational, religious, philosophical – on a voluntary, spontaneous basis. This new order, then, will be based on liberty, equality and most especially fraternity. Liberty, as such, is the attribute of the soul. It is the entelechy through which the individual's soul realizes itself according to the laws of development. The pursuit of liberty, however, runs counter to equality. In the absence of such equality liberty becomes meaningless and empty. So equality must put a check on liberty. They cannot be harmonized in the absence of fraternity.

The ideal way for large aggregates to emerge, as such, is through evolutionary co-operation. Aurobindo suggest, then, that the Asiatic and the African and the European nation-states can form one or two larger aggregates on the basis of race, language, religion or shared ethos. These in time will confederate for purposes of the all-round economic, social, cultural development of mankind. Psychologically, mankind is becoming increasingly conscious of the usefulness of the larger aggregates. Advance in the field of science and technology has diminished distances and facilitated the circulation of ideas. The diffusion of different cultures and the interaction thereof has loosened parochial bonds of loyalty and given rise to experiments in international co-operation in the fields of education, health, science, culture, labour, food and agriculture. Metaphysically, the unity of mankind is, for Aurobindo, a part of nature's eventual intention.

The nation-states must therefore become conscious of their "souls" in which alone they can find unity with other nations in a common aspiration towards the truth of the Spirit. This can then circumvent national egoism that stands in the way of the unity of mankind. In other words, a new religion of humanity must evolve. A deeper brotherhood, a yet unfound law of love is the only sure foundation possible for a perfect social evolution. It is in the soul that it must find its roots. This political thought is a synthesis of the spiritual insights of the East and the theoretical generalizations of the West. The specific means to that end Sri Aurobindo has lodged within what he termed The Human Cycle.

 
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