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THE DISCOVERY OF THE NATION-SOUL

FROM INDIVIDUAL TO GROUP SOUL

The primal law and purpose of a society, community or nation, for Aurobindo then, is to seek its own self-fulfilment; it strives rightly to find itself, to become aware within itself of the law and power of its own being and to fulfil it as perfectly as possible, to realize all its potentialities, to live its own self-revealing life. The nation or society, like the individual, has a body, an organic life, a moral and aesthetic temperament, a developing mind and soul for the sake of which it exists. There is only this difference between individual and society, that the group-soul is much more complex.

At first, for this very reason, it seems more crude, primitive and artificial in the forms it takes; for it has a more difficult task before it, needs a longer time to find itself, it is more fluid and less easily organic. When it does succeed in getting out of the stage of vaguely conscious self-formation, its first definite self-consciousness is more objective than subjective. And so far as it is subjective, it is loosely and vaguely so. Yet potentially, in its inner self, there lies a great corporate soul with all the dangers and possibilities that go with it.

Moreover it is necessary, if the subjective age of humanity is to produce its best fruits, that the nations should become conscious not only of each other's souls and learn to respect, to help and to profit, not only economically and intellectually, but subjectively and spiritually, each other. How have such ideas been born out, for Aurobindo then, in Ancient Indian culture?

THE THEORY OF ANCIENT INDIAN CULTURE

Our spiritual evolution, then, ascends from the relative to the absolute, through the finite to the infinite, through all divisions to oneness. Man in his spiritual realization begins to find and seize hold of the satisfying intensities of the absolute in the relative, discovers the reconciling law of a perfect unity in all divisions and differences. The limitations of reason, moreover, become very strikingly naked when confronted with the great order of psychological truths and experiences we have hitherto kept in the background – in the religious life.

The unaided intellectual reason faced with the phenomena of the religious life is naturally apt to adopt one of two attitudes: either it views the whole thing as a mass of superstition, or it patronizes religion, getting rid of it by explaining it away, in material terms. Religion is judged in terms of its externalities, just like an ignorant foreigner trying to judge a civilization by its dress, outward colour of life and social manners of the inhabitants. The deepest heart, the inmost essence of religion, apart from its outward machinery of creed, cult, ceremony and symbol, is the search for God, the Absolute, the One. That has been the work of spiritual philosophy in the East and (much more crudely for Aurobindo) of theology in the West.

The widest spirituality does not exclude or discourage any essential human activity or faculty, but works rather to lift all of them up out of their imperfection and groping ignorance, transforms them by its touch and makes them the instrument of the light, power and joy of their divine being. At this point Aurobindo returns to the central theme of his book, the "human cycle".

CONCLUSION: THE CURVE OF THE RATIONAL AGE

INDIVIDUALISM OPENS THE WAY

The present age of mankind, for Aurobindo in conclusion, may be characterized from the point of view of a graded psychological evolution of the race as a more and more rapidly accelerated attempt to discover and work out the right principle and secure foundations of a rational system of society. The modern age has resolved itself into a constant series of radical progressions. A principle of society, put forward by the thinker, seizes on the general mind and becomes a social gospel; brought immediately or by rapid stages into practice, it dethrones the preceding principle and takes its place as the foundation of the community's social or political life. We have already seen that it is individualism which opens the way to the age of reason and that it gets its impulse and its chance of development because it follows upon an age of dominant conventionalism.

It is not as if in the pre-individualistic, pre-rational ages there were no thinkers upon society and the communal life of man; but they did not think in the characteristic method of the logical reasoning, critical, all-observing, all-questioning way. Moreover they did not proceed on the constructive side by the carefully mechanizing methods of the highly rationalized intelligence when it passes from the reasoned perception of a truth to the endeavour after its pure, perfect and universal orderly application. Their thought and their building of life were much less logical than spontaneously organic and intuitive.

But reason seeks to understand and interpret life by one kind of symbol only, the idea; it generalizes the facts of life according to its own strongly cut conceptions so that it may be able to master and arrange them. Having then taken hold of an idea it looks for its largest general application. And in order that these ideas may not be a mere abstraction divorced from the realized or realizable truth of things, it has to be constantly comparing them with facts. It has to be always questioning facts so that it may find the ideas by which they can be more and more adequately explained, ordered and managed. It has always to be questioning ideas in order, first, to see whether they square with actual facts and, secondly, whether there are not new facts to suit, by which they must be modified or enlarged, or which can be evolved out of them. Of course such rationality has its great advantages, as well as its disadvantages.

 
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