Introduction to Sri Aurobindo’s The Ideal of Human Unity


The Ideal of Human Unity was written by Sri Aurobindo serially during the period from 1915 through 1918, essentially while the world was struggling with the “war to end all wars”, World War I.  Interestingly, he undertook to update the text in the 1930’s during the run up to World War II, and then put a brief update and postscript on it after the conclusion of the second World War.  This subject was therefore of continual focus and interest for Sri Aurobindo.

Some may wonder what relationship the social and political framework of human civilisation has to do with the practice of Yoga.  Sri Aurobindo recognized and described in The Life Divine an “omnipresent reality” that incorporated the individual, the universal and the transcendent aspects of existence.  All existence represents the manifestation of the Divine Will through Time, Space and Circumstance, and thus, the principle of Oneness holds that the individual is not separate from the universal and the universal is not separate from the transcendent.

In The Synthesis of Yoga he described the universal “Yoga of Nature” that systematically evolves levels of consciousness from the involved inconscient of Matter to the highest supramental realms of total awareness of the Divine knowledge and will.  He also described the interchange and interaction between the universal and the individual and the role of each.  The universal play of forces has a constant impact on the spiritual development of any individual and thus, cannot be dismissed.

It is within this general context that the question of human unity arises.  The boundaries set up by the physical manifestation, the aggressive self-aggrandisement of the vital consciousness, and the fragmented view of the mental level ensure that there will be a struggle and disharmony until such time as an integrated, higher perspective can put everything into a coherent whole of mutual interchange.  For the practitioner of Yoga, therefore, working on the inner self-development, at a certain stage, requires the seeker to address the larger questions of harmony and oneness.

In The Life Divine, Sri Aurobindo indicates that “…all problems of existence are essentially problems of harmony.  They arise from the perception of an unsolved discord and the instinct of an undiscovered agreement or unity.”  and he goes on to state “The greater the apparent disorder of the materials offered or the apparent disparateness, even to irreconcilable opposition, of the elements that have to be utilised, the stronger is the spur, and it drives towards a more subtle and puissant order than can normally be the result of a less difficult endeavour.”  (Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, Chapter 1, pg. 5)

We can see all around us the difficulty of achieving human unity and resolving the apparent contradictions of physical, vital and mental demands and desires.  It may also be seen that the larger concerns of all humanity, as one universal being, such as the integrity of the environment that sustains us, puts added pressure on our attempt to achieve human unity.

It is with this background that we take up the subject of human unity in the systematic way that Sri Aurobindo has viewed it.  It is not isolated from the practice of Yoga, but an essential element of the yogic process.

All chapter numbers and titles are from Sri Aurobindo’s The Ideal of Human Unity.  All individual post titles are independently developed for these posts.  Page numbers referenced are from the USA editions of Sri Aurobindo’s major writings, published by Lotus Press.



Sri Aurobindo, The Ideal of Human Unity


Sri Aurobindo’s and Related Writings on Apple iTunes for IPhone and IPad:


Sri Aurobindo’s and Related Writings on Apple iTunes for IPhone and IPad:

We continue to add more titles to this list on an ongoing basis, so please check back regularly for additional titles.  We also supply a large number of titles for Amazon Kindle and Google Play which are listed separately.  Below find the links to the e-book versions available at this time on Apple iTunes:

By Sri Aurobindo:

Bases of Yoga                                      Bases of Yoga

 Essays on the Gita                              Essays on the Gita

 The Mother                                        The Mother

 Savitri: A Legend and a Symbol         Savitri: A Legend and a Symbol

 By The Mother:

 Commentaries on the Dhammapada  Commentaries on the Dhammapada

 By Sri M. P. Pandit:

 An Early Chapter in The Mother’s Life   Early Chapter in The Mother’s Life

 Art of Living                                        Art of Living

 Bases of Tantra Sadhana                   Bases of Tantra Sadhana

 Commentaries on Sri Aurobindo’s Thought, V. 1  Commentaries Sri Aurobindo’s Thought, V. 1

 Dhyana                                               Dhyana

 Heart of Sadhana                               Heart of Sadhana

 How Do I Proceed?                             How Do I Proceed?

 Introducing The Life Divine               Introducing The Life Divine

 Introducing Savitri                             Introducing Savitri

 Japa                                                    Japa

Kundalini Yoga                                   Kundalini Yoga

Readings in Savitri, V. 1                     Readings in Savitri, V. 1

 Readings in Savitri, V. 2                     Readings in Savitri, V. 2

 Readings in Savitri, V. 3                     Readings in Savitri, V. 3

 Readings in Savitri, V. 4                     Readings in Savitri, V. 4

 Readings in Savitri, V. 5                     Readings in Savitri, V. 5

 Readings in Savitri, V. 7                     Readings in Savitri, V. 7

 Readings in Savitri, V. 8                     Readings in Savitri, V. 8

Readings in Savitri, V. 9                     Readings in Savitri, V. 9

 Sri Aurobindo and His Yoga               Sri Aurobindo and His Yoga

 A Summary of Savitri                         A Summary of Savitri

 Talks on The Life Divine, V. 1             Talks on The Life Divine, V. 1

 Teachings of Sri Aurobindo               Teachings of Sri Aurobindo

Thoughts on the Gita                         Thoughts on the Gita

 By Santosh Krinsky:

Readings in Sri Aurobindo’s The Life Divine, Vol. 1  Readings in Sri Aurobindo’s Life Divine,V. 1

Readings in Sri Aurobindo’s The Life Divine, Vol. 2 Readings in Sri Aurobindo’s Life Divine, V. 2

Readings in Sri Aurobindo’s The Life Divine, Vol. 3 Readings in Sri Aurobindo’s Life Divine, V. 3

Readings in The Mother by Sri Aurobindo:               Readings in The Mother by Sri Aurobindo

Readings in Sri Aurobindo’s Rebirth and Karma:   Readings in Sri Aurobindo’s Rebirth &  Karma

Readings in Sri Aurobindo’s Essays on the Gita,V.1 Readings in Sri Aurobindo’s Essays on the Gita, V.1

Readings in Sri Aurobindo’s Essays on the Gita, V. 2 Readings in Sri Aurobindo’s Essays on the Gita, V.2

Readings in Sri Aurobindo’s The Synthesis of Yoga, V. 1  Readings in Sri Aurobindo’s Synthesis of Yoga, V. 1

Readings in Sri Aurobindo’s The Synthesis of Yoga, V. 2  Readings in Sri Aurobindo’s Synthesis of Yoga, V. 2

Readings in Sri Aurobindo’s The Synthesis of Yoga, V. 3  Readings in Sri Aurobindo’s Synthesis of Yoga, V. 3

 By Rand Hicks:

A Savitri Dictionary                            A Savitri Dictionary

Rev. 6/11/17

Sri Aurobindo’s Writings Available as E-Books for Amazon Kindle Readers or App


The Amazon Kindle is perhaps the most popular e-book reader in the world, and the APP works on desktop computers, laptops, android phones, tablets etc. The APP can be downloaded free from We are systematically making Sri Aurobindo’s writings available for the Kindle App and Readers. Here are a few of them, with more links to be provided soon:

Bhagavad Gita and Its Message Bhagavad Gita and Its Message
Dictionary of Sri Aurobindo’s Yoga (compiled by M P Pandit) Dictionary of Sri Aurobindo’s Yoga
Essays on the Gita Essays on the Gita
The Future Evolution of Man The Future Evolution of Man
Hidden Forces of Life (compiled by AS Dalal from writings of Sri Aurobindo and The Mother Hidden Forces of Life
The Human Cycle: The Psychology of Social Development The Human Cycle: The Psychology of Social Development
The Ideal of Human Unity The Ideal of Human Unity
Integral Yoga: Sri Aurobindo’s Teaching and Method of Practice Integral Yoga
The Life Divine The Life Divine
Looking from Within (compiled by AS Dalal from writings of Sri Aurobindo and The Mother Looking from Within
The Mind of Light The Mind of Light (The Supramental Manifestation on Earth)
The Mother The Mother
Our Many Selves (compiled by AS Dalal from writings of Sri Aurobindo and The Mother Our Many Selves
Powers Within (compiled by AS Dalal from writings of Sri Aurobindo and The Mother Powers Within
The Psychic Being (compiled by AS Dalal from writings of Sri Aurobindo and The Mother Psychic Being
Rebirth and Karma Rebirth and Karma
Savitri: A Legend and a Symbol Savitri: A Legend and a Symbol
Secret of the Veda Secret of the Veda
Sri Aurobindo on the Tantra (compiled by M P Pandit) Sri Aurobindo on the Tantra
The Synthesis of Yoga The Synthesis of Yoga
The Upanishads The Upanishads
Vedic Symbolism (compiled by M P Pandit) Vedic Symbolism
Yoga of Sleep and Dreams (compiled by AS Dalal from writings of Sri Aurobindo and The Mother Yoga of Sleep and Dreams

By Sri M P Pandit:
Sri Aurobindo and His Yoga Sri Aurobindo and His Yoga
Teaching of Sri Aurobindo Teaching of Sri Aurobindo



Bases of Yoga BASES OF YOGA
Essays on the Gita ESSAYS ON THE GITA
The Human Cycle: Psychology of Social Development The Human Cycle: The Psychology of Social Development
Ideal of Human Unity IDEAL OF HUMAN UNITY
The Mind of Light THE MIND OF LIGHT
Savitri: A Legend and a Symbol  Savitri: A Legend and a Symbol
Sri Aurobindo on the Tantra SRI AUROBINDO ON THE TANTRA
The Synthesis of Yoga THE SYNTHESIS OF YOGA

For Android Phones, Tablets, and E-Readers

Sri Aurobindo Studies


Sri Aurobindo’s integral yoga has enormous implications for the time we find ourselves in.  As we systematically destroy the basis of life on the planet, and wall off one another through ultimate fragmentation, we are left with the stark contrast of choosing between survival and destruction, life and death, growth or decline.  Sri Aurobindo recognizes the necessity of the individual within the context of the collectivity, universality and the transcendent consciousness of Oneness.  The individual is the nexus or hub of the evolutionary urge, but not separate from nor at the expense of the life of the cosmic whole.

We also have a daily twitter feed on Sri Aurobindo’s studies at

We have systematically worked our way through The Life Divine as well as The Mother , Essays on the Gita and Rebirth and Karma.  The newest posts appear near the top.  If you want to start at the beginning, go to the oldest post and roll forward until you reach the final posts in July 2012.

Another option is to “search” for the chapter you would like to study and see all posts relating to that chapter. You may have to ask for “older posts” once you have the search results if you are looking for one of the earlier chapters.

We have separated the posts relating to each book into their own folder as an additional organisational tool.

Similarly you can use the search box to find specific concepts, terms or issues you are interested in. The results will show all posts that address those concepts or terms. You may have to click on “older posts” to find all the references here as well.

The next book we are taking up is The Synthesis of Yoga by Sri Aurobindo, following a similar format to that we have utilised for The Life Divine , The Mother, Essays on the Gita and Rebirth and Karma.

You may also want to visit our information site for Sri Aurobindo at Sri-Aurobindo.Com

Sri Aurobindo’s major writings are published in the US by Lotus Press.

The systematic studies on this blog have also been published as self-standing books by Lotus Press and are available in both printed formats and as e-books. There are 3 volumes encompassing Readings in Sri Aurobindo’s The Life Divine, 2 volumes encompassing Readings in Sri Aurobindo’s Essays on the Gita, as well as 1 volume for Readings in The Mother by Sri Aurobindo, and Readings in Sri Aurobindo’s Rebirth and Karma., and 1 volume currently for the first section of The Synthesis of Yoga titled Readings In Sri Aurobindo’s The Synthesis of Yoga, Vol. 1 Introduction and Yoga of Divine Works

Many of the major writings of Sri Aurobindo are now also accessible on the Amazon Kindle Platform as well as Apple itunes, google play, kobo, and Barnes & Noble nook as well.  Kindle e-book reader program is also available for PC, Laptop, iPad, Blackberry, Android, iPhone and many other platforms from Amazon without charge. You can find the current list of titles available by going to , go to the “kindle store” and type in “Aurobindo” New titles are being added as they can be made ready. Many of the major books are already accessible by the Kindle Reader.  You can follow a similar procedure for the other platforms we now support for Sri Aurobindo’s writings, I-tunes, Barnes & Noble, Google Play, and KOBO.

The Secret of Life Lies in the Harmony Between Unity and Diversity

The mental consciousness is limited and works generally with a fixed framework for its action.  Nature appears to support almost limitless variety and differentiation, as we see in the insect, plant and animal kingdoms.  Even among human beings, we find a certain amount of variation around the general theme.  Tracing back through our biological roots, we can even see that human beings share a very considerable amount of common background with amphibians, fish, and animals.  Research done by the Indian scientist Jagdish Chandra Bose even showed that plants share a considerable aspect of life with animals, and are able to respond with signs of intelligence to vital stimuli.  Within humanity, experiments with “inbreeding” within communities has shown a weakening of the strain across multiple generations, leading to the banning of marriage between close relations, and conscious attempts to reach outside a small community, whether peacefully or through warfare, to broaden the genetic pool.  All of these things show us that Nature prefers and insists upon wide diversity, even within an overall unity of life.

Sri Aurobindo observes:  “…the real aim of Nature is a true unity supporting a rich diversity.  Her secret is clear enough from the fact that though she moulds on one general plan, she insists always on an infinite variation.  The plan of the human form is one, yet no two human beings are precisely alike in their physical characteristics…. All life is one in its essential plan and principle; even the plant is a recognizable brother of the animal; but the unity of life admits and encourages an infinite variety of types.”

Similarly one can see that each human societal grouping, while following essential basic principles of aggregation in society, nevertheless has its own uniqueness.  “…each develops its own character, variant principle, natural law.  This variation and fundamental following of its own separate law is necessary to its life, but it is equally necessary to the healthy total life of mankind.  For the principle of variation does not prevent free interchange, does not oppose the enrichment of all from a common stock and of the common stock by all which we have seen to be the ideal principle of existence; on the contrary, without a secure variation such interchange and mutual assimilation would be out of the question.  There we see that in this harmony between our unity and our diversity lies the secret of life; Nature insists equally in all her works upon unity and upon variation.  We shall find that a real spiritual and psychological unity can allow a free diversity and dispense with all but the minimum of uniformity which is sufficient to embody the community of nature and of essential principle.  Until we can arrive at that perfection, the method of uniformity has to be applied, but we must not over-apply it on peril of discouraging life in the very sources of its power, richness and sane natural self-unfolding.”


Sri Aurobindo, The Ideal of Human Unity, Part Two, Chapter 17, Nature’s Law in our Progress — Unity in Diversity, Law and Liberty, pp. 154-155

The Essential Nature of Freedom and Diversity

There is a strong and unrelenting tendency in the human mind to attempt the achievement of unity through strict regulation and uniformity.  Certainly there are superficial benefits to uniformity to the extent that it can help create efficiency in the organization of society and thereby free the time and attention to address other needs or areas of development.  But in the end, uniformity is sterile and cannot solve the deeper issues of life.

Sri Aurobindo observes:  “But freedom is as necessary to life as law and regime; diversity is as necessary as unity to our true completeness.  Existence is one only in its essence and totality, in its play it is necessarily multiform.  Absolute uniformity would mean the cessation of life, while on the other hand the vigour of the pulse of life may be measured by the richness of the diversities which it creates.  At the same time, while diversity is essential for power and fruitfulness of life, unity is necessary for its order, arrangement and stability.  Unity we must create, but necessarily uniformity.  If man could realise a perfect spiritual unity, no sort of uniformity would be necessary; for the utmost play of diversity would be securely possible on that foundation.  If again he could realise a secure, clear, firmly-held unity in the principle, a rich, even an unlimited diversity in its application might be possible without any fear of disorder, confusion or strife.”

“While the life-power in man demands diversity, his reason favours uniformity.  It prefers it because uniformity gives him a strong and ready illusion of unity in place of the real oneness at which it is so much more difficult to arrive.  It prefers it, secondly, because uniformity makes easy for him the otherwise difficult business of law, order and regimentation.  It prefers it too because the impulse of the mind in man is to make every considerable diversity an excuse for strife and separation and therefore uniformity seems to him the one secure and easy way to unification.  Moreover, uniformity in any one direction or department of life helps him to economise his energies for development in other directions.”

“Even here, however, the complex unity of existence asserts its truth: in the end man’s total intellectual and cultural growth suffers by social immobility, — by any restriction or poverty of his economic life; the spiritual existence of the race, if it attains to remote heights, weakens at last in its richness and continued sources of vivacity when it depends on a too standardized and regimented society; the inertia from below rises and touches even the summits.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Ideal of Human Unity, Part Two, Chapter 17, Nature’s Law in our Progress — Unity in Diversity, Law and Liberty, pp. 153-154



Conflict or Cooperation: Two Models for Human Development

Those who view the evolutionary direction of Nature through human development identify an eventual model of cooperation between individuals, societal groupings and mankind as a whole.  This is not the present state of things, which is based on competition, conflict and mutual devouring to a great degree.

Sri Aurobindo observes:  “There is a struggle, an opposition of ideas, impulses and interests, an attempt of each to profit by various kinds of war on the others, by a kind of intellectual, vital, physical robbery and theft or even by the suppression, devouring, digestion of its fellows rather than by a free and rich interchange.”

The present reality, however, does not limit or prevent another mode of inter-relations from developing in the future.  The three terms which Sri Aurobindo defines, individual, community and mankind as a whole can adopt new relations based on mutual support and cooperation to enhance the progress of all without suppressing or denying the essential truth of any of these terms:

“The united progress of mankind would thus be realized by a general principle of interchange and assimilation between individual and individual and again between individual and community, between community and community and again between the smaller commonalty and the totality of mankind, between the common life and consciousness of mankind and its freely developing communal and individual constituents.”

Humanity has not yet sorted out the methodology required to achieve this new status.  The human mentality, with its predilection for making one-sided and extreme conditions, tries to bring about unity through suppression of individual or community freedom, and thus, tries to impose uniformity as a solution to the divisions between individuals, communities and the greater needs of humanity.

“To remove freedom in order to get rid of disorder, strife and waste, to remove diversity in order to get rid of separatism and jarring complexities is the impulse of order and regimentation by which the arbitrary rigidity of the intellectual reason seeks to substitute its straight line for the difficult curves of the process of Nature.”



Sri Aurobindo, The Ideal of Human Unity, Part Two, Chapter 17, Nature’s Law in our Progress — Unity in Diversity, Law and Liberty, pp. 152-153

Diversity in Unity: An Essential Principle of Nature

Sri Aurobindo examines the processes of Nature to identify certain principles or natural laws by which Nature carries out its secret intentions.  “She starts from the visible manifestation of the one and the many, from the totality and its constituent units and creates intermediary unities between the two without which there can be no full development either of the totality or of the units.”

He identifies this principle in the creation of “…the three terms of genus, species and individual.”   The evolutionary stage of the animal creation does not go beyond this, but when Nature reaches the human stage of development, the pressure increases to find and develop the unity of all subgroups and individuals of humanity.  “Man’s communities are formed not so much by the instinctive herding together of a number of individuals of the same genus  or species as by local association, community of interests and community of ideas; and these limits tend always to be overcome in the widening of human thoughts and sympathies brought about by the closer intermingling of races, nations, interests, ideas, cultures.”

He observes, however, that the increasing force of unity at the level of the totality does not mean the obliteration of the separate sub-groupings of humanity and their role to create diversity and the resultant developmental process achieved through the inter-relationships of these separate sub-groups.  “Therefore it would seem that the ideal or ultimate aim of Nature must be to develop the individual and all individuals to their full capacity, to develop the community and all communities to the full expression of that many-sided existence and potentiality which their differences were created to express, and to evolve the united life of mankind to its full common capacity and satisfaction, not by suppression of the fullness of life of the individual or the smaller commonality, but by full advantage taken of the diversity which they develop.  This would seem the soundest way to increase the total riches of mankind and throw them into a fund of common possession and enjoyment.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Ideal of Human Unity, Part Two, Chapter 17, Nature’s Law in our Progress — Unity in Diversity, Law and Liberty, pp. 151-152

The Inter-Relations Between Individual, Community and the Totality of Mankind

Sri Aurobindo observes:  “The social evolution of the human race is necessarily a development of the relations between three constant factors, individuals, communities of various sorts and mankind.  Each seeks its own fulfilment and satisfaction, but each is compelled to develop them not independently but in relation to the others.”

Most people focus on one or another of these three terms and by so doing, they tend to overlook the importance of the others.  Thus, those who seek individual fulfillment do not at the same time generally work for the benefit of their community or for the entirety of the human race; while those who see the community as supreme will tend to suppress the liberty of the individuals and treat them as more or less cogs in a machine.  Similarly, those who seek a solution for mankind may underestimate the essential nature of the individual and of the natural groupings which bind people together.

“The first natural aim of the individual must be his own inner growth and fullness and its expression in his outer life; but this he can only accomplish through his relations with other individuals, to the various kinds of community religious, social, cultural and political to which he belongs and to the idea and need of humanity at large.  The community must seek its own fulfilment, but, whatever its strength of mass consciousness and collective organization, can accomplish its growth only through its individuals under the stress of the circumstances set for it by its environment and subject to the conditions imposed by its relations to other communities and individuals and to humanity at large.  Mankind as a whole has at present no consciously organized common life; it has only an inchoate organization determined much more by circumstances than by human intelligence and will.  And yet the idea and the fact of our common human existence, nature, destiny has always exercised its strong influence on human thought and action.”

Since the time that Sri Aurobindo wrote this, the development of world-concerns that must necessarily involve all humanity, such as pollution, climate change, weapons of mass destruction and inequality in access to resources which breeds unrest throughout the world, combined with the development of instantaneous news media and communications, has begun to form a greater sense of humanity as one larger being, and the birth and development of the United Nations and the various world bodies and agencies to tackle global issues has begun to make this larger humanity something more real and concrete.

“The pressure of the large movements and fluctuations of the race has always affected the destinies of its separate communities, and there has been a constant return-pressure of separate communities social, cultural, political, religious to expand and include, if it might be, the totality of the race.  And if or when the whole of humanity arrives at an organized common life and seeks a common fulfilment and satisfaction, it can only do it by means of the relation of this whole to its parts and by the aid of the expanding life of individual human beings and of the communities whose progress constitutes the larger terms of the life of the race.”


Sri Aurobindo, The Ideal of Human Unity, Part Two, Chapter 17, Nature’s Law in our Progress — Unity in Diversity, Law and Liberty, pg. 151

The Working of Nature Through the Instrumentality of Human Mentality

The human mentality represents a transitional stage of awareness.  As we become self-aware, we attempt to understand life, Nature and the meaning of our lives through the use of the mental consciousness.  Yet this consciousness is limited in its powers and in its scope, and thus, tends to focus on one principle or idea or factor at a time in a fragmented fashion.  This leads to the type of mental conflict we see between varying ideas or concepts which appear to be opposed to one another.  We erect philosophies, religions, laws, regulations, and guidelines based on this imperfect and incomplete understanding of Nature, and then we set about to defend our view and fight with those who have seized upon some other aspect of life or Nature as their guiding principle.  The physical and vital levels of existence, without this active mentality, simply carry out Nature’s dictates, and there are those who thus blame the very fact of mentality as being a diversion or falling off from our harmony with Nature.  Sri Aurobindo reminds us that the mind is also an expression of Nature and the phase of development that is limited and imperfect is nevertheless still carrying out Nature’s intention.

“Our mentality represents the conscious part of the movement of Nature in this progressive self-realization and self-fulfilment of the values and potentialities of her human way of living.  If that mentality were perfect, it would be one in its knowledge and will with the totality of the secret Knowledge and Will which she is trying to bring to the surface and there would be no mental conflict.”

“A superhuman life would reach consciously this perfection, make the secret Knowledge and Will in things its own and fulfil itself through Nature by her free, spontaneous and harmonious movement unhasting, unresting, towards that full development which is her inherent and therefore her predestined aim.  Actually, because our mentality is imperfect, we catch only a glimpse of her tendencies and objects and each glimpse we get we erect into an absolute principle or ideal theory of our life and conduct; we see only one side of her process and put that forward as the whole and perfect system which must govern our ordering of our life.  Working through the imperfect individual and still more imperfect collective mind, she raises up the facts and powers of our existence as opposing principles and forces to which we attach ourselves through our intellect and emotions, and favouring and depressing now this and now another she leads them in the mind of man through struggle and conflict towards a mutual knowledge and the sense of their mutual necessity and towards a progressively right relation and synthesis of their potentialities which is represented in an increasing harmony and combination of realized powers in the elastic potentiality of human life.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Ideal of Human Unity, Part Two, Chapter 17, Nature’s Law in our Progress — Unity in Diversity, Law and Liberty, pp. 149-150

Implications of an Evolutionary View of Nature and Life

A static view of life leads us to conclude that what we see as the reality of our lives defines who and what we are.  In such a view we need to adhere to the role that Nature has granted to us within our scope of life.  If we fall away or fail to achieve the possibilities offered us by Nature, we convict ourselves of failure.  Adherence to the guidelines we have extracted from our life experience and reflection will allow us to achieve success in life or hereafter.  Those who believe that life is here as a field of growth and experience tend to look at some ideal construct as the aim of life and they tend to measure themselves and others on the yardstick of that ideal.  In either case, there are limitations to the viewpoint which put people into two opposing camps, conservatives who do not recognize the need or benefits associated with change or progress, and progressives who are dissatisfied with the present status and who want to push for change.

Sri Aurobindo applies an integral logic to these two opposites by introducing an evolutionary perspective.  In this perspective, the present represents the current state of human evolution but not its end point; and the future potential represents a further stage in the evolutionary progression.  In neither case, does the idea of sin or failure adhere.  They are steps along the way, each one having its own rationale and rightness in its proper place, but not an end unto themselves.

“Both what is and what may be are expressions of the same constant facts of existence and forces or powers of our Nature from which we cannot and are not meant to escape, since all life is Nature fulfilling itself and not Nature destroying or denying itself; but we may raise and we are intended to raise, change and widen the forms, arrangements and values of these constant facts and forces of our nature and existence, and in the course of our progress the change and perfectioning may amount to what seems a radical transformation, although nothing essential is altered.  Our actualities are the form and value or power of expression to which our nature and life have attained, their norm or law is the fixed arrangement and process proper to that stage of evolution.  Our potentialities point us to a new form, value, power of expression with their new and appropriate arrangement and process which is their proper law and norm.  Standing thus between the actual and the possible, our intellect tends to mistake present law and form for the eternal law of our nature and existence and regard any change as a deviation and fall or else, on the contrary, to mistake some future and potential law and form for our ideal rule of life and all actual deviation from that as an error or sin of our nature.  In reality, only that is eternal which is constant through all changes and our ideal can be no more than a progressive expression of it.  Only the utmost limit of height, wideness and fullness of self-expression possible to man, if any such limit there be, could be regarded, did we know of it, — and as yet we do not know our utmost possibilities, — as the eternal ideal.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Ideal of Human Unity, Part Two, Chapter 17, Nature’s Law in our Progress — Unity in Diversity, Law and Liberty, pg. 149