The Hero and the Godhead

The strong and charismatic leader, the brilliant intellect, the pre-eminent in any field have always held the fascination of people throughout the world. As with any truth, it is important to recognize both the right place and the correct balance for looking to the leaders among humankind without turning this into a worship of naked power or domination that oppresses more than it leads. History tends to fixate on these powerful leaders, Alexander the Great, Napoleon, Charlemagne, Julius Caesar, but also Krishna and Rama, Jesus Christ, Buddha, Moses, Beethoven, and Leonardo da Vinci, to name a few. We certainly can see that blind obedience or worship of the great leaders of history can bring about many issues, and modern-day humanity is rightly skeptical of this type of hero-worship if it has devolved into a focus on the human leader rather than the truth that the Gita has tried to bring out, the reality of the manifestation of the Godhead through these powerful forms and beings to break out of the limitations and advance our progress to the next evolutionary level.

The Gita’s view, which is a confirmation of the meaning of the Vibhuti, is explained by Sri Aurobindo: “It must be based on the recognition of the divine self in all men and all creatures; it must be consistent with an equal heart to the great and the small, the eminent and the obscure manifestation. God must be seen and loved in the ignorant, the humble, the weak, the vile, the outcast. In the Vibhuti himself it is not, except as a symbol, the outward individual that is to be thus recognised and set high, but the one Godhead who displays himself in the power.”

“Each great being, each great achievement is a sign of her power of self-exceeding and a promise of the final, the supreme exceeding. Man himself is a superior degree of natural manifestation to the beast and reptile, though in both there is the one equal Brahman. But man has not reached his own highest heights of self-exceeding and meanwhile every hint of a great power of the Will-to-be in him must be recognised as a promise and an indication. Respect for the divinity in man, in all men, is not diminished, but heightened and given a richer significance by lifting our eyes to the trail of the great Pioneers who lead or point him by whatever step of attainment towards supermanhood.”

This is a vastly different vision than the Nietzschean “superman” that, through his will-to-power has the right to control, dominate and even oppress. It puts before us the guidance, the leadership, the possibility and even the certainty of a greater future for all humanity.

Sri Aurobindo, Essays on the Gita, Second Series, Part I, Chapter 9, The Theory of the Vibhuti, pp. 360-361

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3 thoughts on “The Hero and the Godhead

  1. Neitzsche’s superman concept is not as you have described. The original concept was merely the idea that a human being is constantly evolving toward ever higher states of being. Unfortunately the idea has been misinterpreted and abused throughout history, especially by the Nazis and Eugenicists.

    • there is a lot of debate about what Nietzsche actually meant in some of his statements, but there is no doubt that there are elements that led to the overly extreme misinterpretations and abuses you refer to . Unfortunately, whatever Nietzsche may have really meant or intended, the legacy that followed has “defined” the Nietzschean “superman” concept. There are clearly elements of amoral superiority that come through his writings, and elements that imply that those who adopt the position of being “superior” are not bound by the rules of society, as they have gone “beyond good and evil”. I appreciate that Nietzsche may have tried to modulate or finesse some of these issues in certain of his statements, but the over-arching impact that has come through does not treat this as some kind of general evolutionary goal, but as something that an exceptional human being, putting aside the “weakness” of the Christian morality, can claim for himself.

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