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Aju Mukhopadhyay

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On the Ideal of Human Unity
by Aju Mukhopadhyay   
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Last edited: Monday, October 01, 2007
Posted: Saturday, April 28, 2007

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Man is destined to unite for a collective progress and victory for peace and for maintenance of civilisation. but it always eludes him. Sri Aurobindo has suggested that the path of spiritualism is the only path that can lead mankind toward the goal.

In his treatise, The Human Cycle, Sri Aurobindo has described the growth and development of human society through different ages like symbolic, subjective, etc. envisaging the full growth of it in the spiritual age to which, as per its law, the human society is eventually moving. In his The Ideal of Human Unity he dealt with the subject of human unity. According to him the trend of nature in human society is to make larger and larger aggregations it can not fail to arrive at a measurable time. The principle under which different types of unions are possible, leading to the final goal through various possible alternative means, with reference to the history of human development, have been discussed in detail in the voluminous book, of which a summary was given at the end of the book by the author.
The working of nature depends on two forces for its means of fulfilment. One such force is increasing closeness of common interest in larger and yet larger circles. In the process, divisions, clashes, invasions, victory and other obstacles toward achieving its goals become inevitable; victor has to pay too heavy a price for his gains as war becomes more complex and disastrous. An increasing perception of this common interest begets man’s willingness to avoid all clashes, collisions and ruinous struggles. This leads toward a closer union. But if the incoherence is too great for the trend of unification to triumph, nature will have other means such as war and conquest or the temporary domination of the powerful state or empire, which will compel those threatened to adopt a closer system of union. In his words, ‘It is these means and this force of outward necessity which she used to create Nation units and National empires andhowever modified in the circumstances and workings, it is at bottom the same force and the same means which she is using to drive mankind towards international unification.’(Sri Aurobindo. The Ideal of Human Unity. SABCL. Pondicherry, 1972. V.15.p.549). We know foreign dominations brought her different parts together, toward a cohesive unity giving birth to a modern Indian nation.
Secondly, there is a force of common uniting sentiment which may come as an originating or contributing cause or it may come as a cementing result. This sentiment may spring up in smaller divided units to grow into a larger unit and they may seek a form for that. In earlier ages this took crude form of war invasion and possession, domination of the weak by the strong. But later on a clear picture, a political idea of unity gained the sentiment which at times was preceded by common struggle for liberty or fight against a common enemy. Such was the cause for the birth USA, Italy, Germany and more perceptibly, South African and Australian federations. There is a sentiment of international world organization stimulated by a cosmopolitan, international sentiment which may be helped by outward circumstances but a mechanical unity may eventually fail in the long run. Experience has also shown that a mere necessity of convenience is also not enough to endure.
Thirdly, the author visualized that there is also a more powerful psychological force, a sort of intellectual humanity, felt by a few elite who aspired to replace the different religions by a single religion of humanity in a single nation of mankind. Sri Aurobindo predicted, if the then continuing unsatisfactory international relation continued, it would lead to a series of cataclysms. If the human reason can not find a way out, he said, ‘Nature herself is sure to shape these upheavals in such a way as to bring about her end. Therefore . . . whether brought about by its own growing sentiment of unity, stimulated by common interests and convenience, or by the evolutionary pressure of circumstances, an eventual unification or at least some formal organization of human life on earth is, the incalculable being always allowed for, practically inevitable.’ (ibid. p.551)
Unity may take the form of a centralized World State or a centralized Socialistic State. Alternatively, a close federation or loose confederation may lead to formation of a better continuing organization. In a federal system some variations, freedom are allowed but that is insufficient. And loose confederation may lead to the rise of centrifugal forces. It may lead to a rigid and close centralization or it may end in a break up of the loose unity achieved. The reason for break up in case of World State or a centralized Socialist State is, according to Sri Aurobindo, ‘The mechanical tendency is one to which the logical reason of man, itself a precise machine, is easily addicted and its operations are obviously the easiest to manage and the most ready to hand, its full evolution may seem to the reason desirable, necessary, inevitable but its end is predestined.’ (op. cit. p.553) It chokes individual freedom and free variation which leads to anarchism, revolt from within to bring its end, he said.
The religion of humanity seems to be the growing force, a psychological factor which accepts natural human grouping and individual freedom. But this too is a mental idea. ‘A new idea with another turn of the logical machine revolts against it and breaks up the machinery, but only to substitute it in the end another mechanical system, another credo, formula and practice.’ (op. cit. p.554) Even the idea of a universal religion as it depends upon intellectual belief, dogma and outward rite, is not enough to unite.
What is needed is spiritual religion: ‘A religion of humanity means the growing realization that there is a secret spirit, a divine Reality, in which we are all one, that humanity is its highest present vehicle on earth, that the human race and the human being are the means by which it will progressively reveal itself here.’ (ibid.)
With the growth of this spirit within us, a growing spirit of oneness will be the guiding principle: ‘There must be the realization by the individual that only in the life of his fellowmen is his own life complete. ‘There must be the realization by the race that only on the free and full life of the individual can its own perfection and permanent happiness be founded, in this direction lies the eventual road.’ (op. cit., pp.554-‘55)
A spiritual oneness of life not bound up with its mechanical means of unification but ready always to enrich its secure unity by a free inner variation and various outer expressions, that is the basis of higher type of human existence. If it is the truth of our being, Sri Aurobindo says, it must be moving toward that goal but until it is achieved a unity through mechanical means must precede. ‘Hope of humanity lies in the growing number of men who will realize that mechanical solutions are all temporary and disappointing. . . the truth of the spirit may step in and lead humanity to the path of its highest possible happiness and perfection.’ (op. cit., p.555)
The Ideal of Human Unity was written from September 1915 to July 1918 in the pages of the magazine, Arya, edited by him. A postscript chapter was written as was considered necessary by the author in 1950, after the Second World War, to record the developments up to that time, to review the theory and ideas already expressed on the subject and to come to a conclusion about his ideal of human unity.
In the P.S. chapter he wrote, it was in the nature of things that the League of Nations was born after the First World War to bring forth an order in the world. But it was not happy in its formation and it was not destined to continue for long though it was a momentous beginning in the right direction. It was an event of great importance.
Eventually it disappeared but was replaced by the United Nations Organisation. In spite of all adversities and short comings of human nature a new start with UNO was the desired result. The League of Nations was in fact an oligarchy of big powers, each drawing behind it a retinue of small states, using the general body for the furtherance of its own policy. Although attempts were made to reverse the situation while forming the UNO, ‘A strong surviving element of oligarchy remained in the preponderant place assigned to the five great powers in the Security Council and was clinched by the device of veto. . .’ (op. cit., p.559) Sri Aurobindo observed.
Two devastating wars have swept over the globe and ‘A third still more disastrous war with a prospect of the use of weapons and other scientific means of destruction far more fatal and of wider reach than any yet invented . . . looms in prospect: the constant apprehension of it weighs upon the mind of the nations and stimulates them towards further preparations for war and creates an atmosphere of prolonged antagonism, if not yet of conflict, extending to what is called “Cold War” even in time of peace.’ (op. cit., p.557)
As the League of Nations and United Nations Organisation were brought about by the First and the Second World War, so after the third such conflict which many think as inevitable, the outcome may be a further step towards this great world endeavour, the tendency to unite, he opined. ‘Nature uses such means, apparently opposed and dangerous to her intended purpose, to bring about the fruition of that purpose’, (ibid), he said and added that in spite of the defects in the formation of the two world bodies, there was no reason for pessimism.
The real danger, he observed at that time, remained in the division of the peoples into two camps which tended to be natural opponents and enemies irreconcilable. In his opinion communism of Bolshevik Russia came to birth not as a result of rapid evolution but a fierce and prolonged revolution, sanguinary in the extreme that created an autocratic, intolerant state of the proletariat. It was a narrow but all powerful police state, intolerant not only for its own continuance but for its spread and domination, destroying the old order, imposing its idea and regime over others throughout the world. Sri Aurobindo believed that ‘This condition of things might change, loose its acrimony and full consequence as it has done to some degree, with the arrival of security and the cessation of the first ferocity. . . ‘(op. cit., p.561)
It may come to terms with capitalism, he visualized and said further that ‘Both could keep their own institutions and sit in a common assembly. . . a single world union on this foundation would not be impossible. This development is indeed the final outcome, which the foundation of the UNO presupposes; for the present organization can not be itself final, it is only an imperfect beginning useful and necessary as a primary nucleus of that larger institution in which all peoples of earth can meet each other in a single international unity: the creation of a World State is a movement of this kind, the one logical and inevitable ultimate outcome.’ (op. cit., 561-’62) - done up to this-
Man will surpass all difficulties in achieving this goal of Nature as ‘Mankind has a habit of surviving the worst catastrophes created by its own errors or by the violent turn of the Nature and it must be so if there is a meaning in its existence. . . ‘(op. cit. p.562)
‘The indwelling deity who presides over the destiny of the race has raised in man’s mind and heart the idea, the hope of a new order. . . which will in the end have a reasonable chance of establishing permanent peace and well being.’ (op. cit. p.563)
While analyzing the events that were enacted in the world’s stage after writing the book till the year 1950, Sri Aurobindo observed that man has a tendency to expand to the extent of forming empire state like the Roman Empire as it was the idea of the communist countries headed by Soviet Russia to bring other countries under its control. He remembered the incidence of such coalescing of culture as it happened in the case of Greco-Roman unity, which might intervene, but the tendency to engage in conflict and subjugate by aggressive military action with the help of science, technology and developed modern weapons is still continuing and the effort to restrain the use of such weapons have not been totally successful with nature of mankind remaining unchanged.
One of the possibilities suggested was the growth of the continental agglomerates such as united Europe, unites Asia or united America but Sri Aurobindo said that such dangerous possibilities, particularly the possibility of a united Asia under the leadership of Japan could be averted. China and Russia were trying to impose their hegemony over large part of Asia, Eastern Europe and Latin America by partly military, partly forceful means. ‘In Asia a more perilous situation has arisen, standing sharply across the way to any possibility of a continental unity of the peoples of this part of the world, in the emergence of Communist China. This creates a gigantic bloc which could easily englobe the whole of Northern Asia in a combination between two enormous Communist powers, Russia and China, and would overshadow with a threat of absorption of South Western Asia and Tibet and might be pushed to overrun all up to the whole frontier of India, menacing her security and that of Western Asia with the possibility of an invasion and overrunning and subjection by penetration or even by overwhelming military force to an unwanted ideology, political and social institutions and dominance of this militant mass of Communism whose push might easily prove irresistible.’ (op.cit. p.567)
While analyzing the situation he said that at one time it was regarded that socialism would spread so thoroughly that in the name of internationalism a unity would be established but under certain stress it has been proved that ‘Its international tendency might not survive its coming into power in separate national states. . . . also there might not be or not for a long time to come an inevitable tide of the spread of socialism to all the peoples of the earth: other forces might arise. . . ‘(op. cit., p.568)
In America there is an attachment towards capitalism and individualism and apathy toward socialism. There is no possibility of socialism spreading everywhere. At the same time, Sri Aurobindo observed that socialism could very well spread outside the groove of Marxism. And there could be fulfillment of the individual and perfect harmony of the collective beings within the principles of communism. What actually developed was not communism but state-socialism. ‘A division of the earth between two systems, capitalistic and socialistic, seems for the present a more likely issue.’ (op. cit. p.569) He observed.
A successful accommodation needs to be made towards the creation of a third body that would function in the same line as the earlier League of Nations or the UNO, which will resolve conflicts, disputes between nations. This third body would exist by the same imperative utility as in the case of continued existence of UNO in spite of differences between countries.
Sri Aurobindo, after reviewing the international relations and the world order after some 34-35 years of writing the book, The Ideal of Human Unity, came to the conclusion that ‘The thesis we have undertaken to establish of the drive of Nature towards larger agglomerations and the final establishment of the largest of all and the Ultimate union of world’s peoples still remains unaltered.’ (op. cit. p.570)
To confirm the point he further wrote, ‘This is a mutable world and uncertainties and dangers might assail or trouble for a time, the formed structure might be subjected to revolutionary tendencies as new ideas and forces emerged and produced their effect on the general mind of humanity, but the essential step would have been taken and the future of the race assured. . .’
In spite of all catastrophic possibilities, ’We may rely, if on nothing else, on the evolutionary urge and, if on no other greater hidden power, on the manifest working and drift of intention in the world Energy we call Nature to carry mankind at least as far as the necessary next step to be taken, a self preserving next step. . . there is nothing that need alter the view we have taken of the necessity and inevitability of some kind of world-union. . . . The ultimate result must be the formation of a world state and the most desirable form of it would be a federation of free nationalities in which all subjection or forced inequality and subordination of one to another would have disappeared and. . . all would have an equal status. . . a federal order would then be most desirable.’ (op.cit. pp.570-71)
Sri Aurobindo concluded, ‘The ideal of human unity would be no longer an unfulfilled ideal but an accomplished fact and its preservation given into the charge of the united human peoples. Its future destiny would lie on the knees of the gods and, if the gods have a use for the continued existence of the race, may be left to lie there safe.’ (op.cit., p.571)
The basis of Sri Aurobindo’s ideal of human unity is a strong faith about the ultimate unity of the peoples of the world in spite of all the obstacles created by themselves or by the Nature. In the process there may come many unforeseen changes but the changes and the turns of the wheel in the course of time, as Sri Aurobindo had predicted came to be true in many respects. It may be apposite to take a view of the scenario up to our time after Sri Aurobindo had reviewed his theory in 1950.
We have seen how the communist world have been broken to pieces, how the state- dictatorship could not hold together the heterogeneous parts of the body of the erstwhile USSR, Yugoslavia and such other countries. Tibet remained aloof at the top of the world for many centuries, self contained with their own couture and occult practices. It was necessary perhaps that they joined the main stream of the peoples of the world. They remained aloof but the human urge towards unity could not remain inactive. It took a different form as in earlier barbaric ages. Communist China took full opportunity of the isolation of a small neighbour like Tibet having immense strategic and locative importance between India and China. With pseudo sympathy for the proletariat of Tibet and a claim of a Motherland, China invaded and possessed Tibet and later entered into India with a superior military force disputing a vast border land in 1962. It was a move foreseen by Sri Aurobindo long before the incident, which startled the then US President.
In spite of some consolidation and some temporary improvement, the communist movement in Europe and elsewhere not only broke up but the communist governments have been constantly adjusting themselves to the capitalistic system and other ways of life to remain in power. Liberalization and privatization in those countries have surpassed the relative achievement of their neighboring countries.
Jim Rohwer in his article, Asia Rising, wrote that 70 per cent of the workers in the organized sector in India got their salaries from the government while in China it was not more a bare 40 per cent (The Statesman, Dated, 6. 12.1995). In Beijing democratic uprising and its repression continued in full swing. Report was that Tienanmen square was not unique. Uprising and demonstrations took place perhaps in hundred other locations, as reported with lists by various Human Right Organizations. Amidst all-round crime and corruption leaders like Li Peng and President Jiang Zemin warned about the possible break down of the communist party. Many things are happening behind the dark curtain but one thing is sure that adjustments galore are made and the country is fast moving along the capitalist path. Peoples of none of the countries, viz. Hong Kong, Taiwan and Tibet really want to remain under the dictatorship of China. None of them rejoice the idea of joining a Motherland. While Tibet is already under their occupation and Hong Kong has ceased to be under British colonial rule, so under the overall sovereignty of China, Taiwan’s future is still unknown. Internal conflict in communist countries and their constant adjustment with other systems of Governments for their own survival was also foreseen by Sri Aurobindo.
Friction continues in many other areas. Anarchism and terrorism are often exported to destabilize other country’s internal system. Because of human weakness nuclear non-proliferation treaty has not gained acceptance by all the countries, though highly desirable. Thos who possess wants to keep atomic weapons as a matter of right while it remains a threat to others. Big countries do not practise what they preach and expect others to follow their sermon. France conducted nuclear weapon tests at Mururoa Atoll amidst wide international protests. Sri Aurobindo’s prediction about the division of the world in two power blocks with continuing cold war came to be true and in spite of a break down of Soviet power cold war continues. Now the two superpowers are United States of America, which often shows strength against weaker countries, violating the norms and disregarding the UNO, as their recent invasion of Iraq and China. They often meet to keep their superpower positions with better understanding between them. While China repeats its request that the USA should keep its promise to oppose Taiwanese independence move, United States reiterates its demand that China should expand religious, social and political freedom to its own people. During a meeting of the Presidents of the two countries on 20.11.2005, Hu Jintao, the Chinese President, said that China would build up democracy in its own characteristic ways and improve human rights in their own country. It is a matter of time when they will come to terms with democracy.
There was no communist revolution in our country. Rather those youngsters who wanted to revolt were brutally suppressed by the communist government and its party. They too, like any other party talk democracy and take part in elections. Time is taking them to the same platform. It is human evolution towards unity and peace.
Resurgence of Asia and Africa and grouping of third-world countries is a living fact, as Sri Aurobindo hoped. He also hoped man to finally surmount all obstacles and to proceed in the realm of consciousness toward spiritual awakening when unity amongst mankind would be established without sacrificing varieties of life. A harmonious unity without unhealthy competition would ensue. But until the advent of spiritual age, man will be united through various associations, federations, groups, Sri Aurobindo expected. We find that men are coming closer for mutual interests as well as to fulfill, even not knowing, the evolutionary urge of Nature which to Sri Aurobindo is world energy, part of Divine Consciousness moving to fulfill its promise.
With the downfall of communism gradually spreading everywhere, some newer possibilities are emerging in the international arena. One is that of western democratic capitalism with its technological force it will have its sway under the leadership of America. With the disunion and detachment of the central Muslim countries from the powerful control of the erstwhile USSR, there is the possibility of Muslim fundamentalism raising its head there in collaboration with other Muslim nations of the world. But all such things will not help toward the establishment of better human relationship and unity.
But Sri Aurobindo points toward spiritual regeneration of mankind for a lasting union. ‘A spiritual religion of humanity is the hope of the future. . . . A religion of humanity means the growing realization that there is a secret spirit, a divine Reality, in which we are all one, that humanity is the highest present vehicle on earth. . . .’( 0p.cit. p.554) He wrote.
Sri Aurobindo thought that India is in the right position to lead the world in this respect. In consonance with his ideas, the Mother of the Sri Aurobindo Ashram on 8.6.1967 said, ’India ought to be the spiritual leader of the world. Inside she has the capacity, but outside . . . for the moment there is still much to do for her to become actually the spiritual leader of the world.’ (The Mother. India and her destiny. Pondicherry, 1977. Sri Aurobindo’s Action. P.9)
Sri Aurobindo expressed the idea that natural groupings of small but free and independent nations would pave the way toward forming a World Union. The countries under the erstwhile USSR have formed Commonwealth of Independent States like the now independent States of the erstwhile British Colonies forming a Commonwealth.
Formation of NATO, SEATO, EEC, EU, GATT, WTO, SAARC, CENTO, SAF and groups of some States seems to be part of the same movement. Peace in Israel, Palestine, Afghanistan and other areas has to some extent been established. Efforts are on to establish it in other regions like Iraq. UNO celebrated the Golden Jubilee of its worldly existence on 24 October 1995. All these indicate the human urge and efforts of human society toward unity.
On the eve of Indian independence on 15 August 1947, which happened to be the 75th birth anniversary of Sri Aurobindo, he issued a message which was broadcast through All India Radio, Tiruchirapally. There he spoke about his five dreams which were on their way to fulfillment. The second dream was ‘The resurgence and liberation of the peoples of Asia and her great role in the progress of human civilization.’ And his third dream was, ‘A world-union forming the outer basis of a fairer, brighter and nobler life for all mankind.’ His fourth dream was, ’The spiritual gift of India to the world has already begun. India’s spirituality is entering Europe and America in an ever increasing measure. That movement will grow; amid the disasters of time more and more eyes are turning towards her with hope and there is even an increasing resort not only to her teachings, but to her psychic and spiritual practice.’
He concluded with the words, ’Such is the content which I put into this date of India’s liberation; whether or how far this hope will be justified depends upon the new and free India.’
He had foreseen many things, many of which have come to be true . He hoped many things the fruition of which depends on the world body. India has a great role to play. With the rise of India there will be the regeneration of the Asia. India’s role is becoming more and more pronounced. Unlike USSR India has been united in spirit, though not politically, since time immemorial. In spirit India may lead the world. It depends on her, as Sri Aurobindo said.

* * * * *
© Aju Mukhopadhyay, 2005


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Reviewed by Mary Coe 6/26/2007
Good article. Good write. Very informative.
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