Historical Instances of the Attempt to Integrate Smaller and Larger Aggregations of Humanity

We may identify numerous examples throughout history of the attempt of smaller aggregations to unify into a larger whole.  Even those who share a considerable background of culture, language, religion find it difficult to create a living, working unity that functions harmoniously and effectively.  In many cases, the very closeness brings about acrimonious disputes based on relatively minor doctrinal or seemingly superficial differences.  Even attempts to join a number of tribes into a larger existence, a state or nation, have been frequently foiled by division and eventual separation.  Modern day examples such as the attempt to create a European Union or the experiment of the United States, show the stress and the weaknesses that remain and create a centrifugal force to try to break up the union that was created.  While the external form tries to hold these unions together, internal differences remain strong and threaten the fabric of the greater formation in a number of challenging ways.  This creates animosity, gridlock, and attempts to divide into smaller groups once again, unless and until the interaction between the different segments reaches its state of balance.    We see therefore that Nature frequently turns to the need to face an external threat, or brings in an overarching power to assimilate the smaller units.  For modern-day life, we could look upon the threats of climate change, polllution, inequality of resource allocation, and the global impact of wars with modern weaponry as the kind of external threats that Nature eventually relies upon to overcome relatively superficial differences.

Sri Aurobindo describes a number of examples that highlight the process of Nature in attempting to bring about larger unions while addressing the diversity and differences that remain in the smaller aggregates:  “We see the struggle towards the aggregation of tribes among the Semitic nations, Jew and Arab, surmounted in the one after a scission into two kingdoms which remained a permanent source of weakness to the Jewish nation, overcome only temporarily in the other by the sudden unifying force of Islam.”

“We see the failure of the city states and small regional peoples to fuse themselves in the history of Greece, the signal success of a similar struggle of Nature in the development of Roman Italy.”

“The whole past of India or the last two thousand years and more has been the attempt, unavailing in spite of many approximations to success, to overcome the centrifugal tendency of an extraordinary number and variety of disparate elements, the family, the commune, the clan, the caste, the small regional state or people, the large linguistic unit, the religious community, the nation within the nation.  We may perhaps say that here Nature tried an experiment of unparalleled complexity and potential richness, accumulating all possible difficulties in order to arrive at the most opulent result.  But int he end the problem proved insoluble or, at least, was not solved and Nature had to resort to her usual deus ex machina denoument, the instrumentality of a foreign rule.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Ideal of Human Unity, Part I, Chapter 2, The Imperfection of Past Aggregates, pg. 16


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