We try to understand the organization and meaning of human social interactions, institutions and systems of governance or economics through an analysis of the salient facts of the past or present that appear to our surface vision. We pick out leaders, heroes, warriors, religious founders, great scientists or philosophers and attempt to judge their impact on the development of our society and its values, actions and limitations. We categorize movements of thought and action within the framework of a series of organized religions or a philosophy of economy or governance, which appear under the various “ism’s” such as capitalism, communism, socialism, imperialism, Catholicism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Protestantism, etc. We focus on events such as the French Revolution, the Russian Revolution, the American Revolution, and on the actions of individuals such as Alexander the Great, Genghis Khan, Napoleon, Caesar, etc.
We amass a dizzying amount of detail, and use our ability to memorize these facts and the stories that accompany them, as evidence of our “understanding” of human history and the development of our civilisation.
We become attached to any of these systems, ideas or philosophical or religious directions and use them to divide us, one from another, and create barriers. Eventually we begin to learn that each of these directions has its positive aspects and its negative aspects, and the solution does not seem to lie solely within the framework of any of these. Further, we learn that human life and development does not fit neatly into the patterns espoused in the ideal forms of these various structures.
Sri Aurobindo therefore concludes that all of these lines of understanding essentially are based on the surfaces of life and do not reach down into the depths or up to the heights where the powers that throw up all these variations actually reside and guide the development of human understanding: “…all this happens because our whole thought and action with regard to our collective life is shallow and empirical; it does not seek for, it does not base itself on a firm, profound and complete knowledge. The moral is not the vanity of human life, of its ardours and enthusiasms and of the ideals it pursues, but the necessity of a wiser, larger, more patient search after its true law and aim.”
Sri Aurobindo, The Ideal of Human Unity, Part I, Chapter 1, The Turn towards Unity: Its Necessity and Dangers, pp. 9-10