Societal Progress and Nature’s Intention

Upon observation of the process of Nature, we find that progress, human growth, tends to take place initially in individuals, and over time, the pressure and influence of that progress may spread itself more broadly across the society.  Generally there are certain individuals who appear to be more receptive to the pressure of the Time-Spirit and they embody the principles either of progress, or resistance to progress, that the time calls for.  Certain individuals tend toward more experimental or forward-looking opportunities, while others tend toward a conservative view that seeks to maintain the status quo, or revert to a former status when there was less pressure of change.  In many cases, after a period of intensive development, we find a retrogression occurs to take back some of the apparent gains shown in one segment of society, but not shared generally as of yet.  Regardless of whether the movement is forward or back, we tend to see individuals at the center of the movement, giving it shape and voice.

For this basic reason, we find that the movement towards unity is always faced with obstacles that arise due to the different segments of the society, or the differing developmental stages or needs of various aggregated units that are trying to unify on any basis.  Within a society we find class differentiation and the results in terms of access to the wealth of the society and the levers of power as a major cause of division.  Societies also go through patterned changes as different groups or classes come to the fore to meet the needs of a specific time, whether forward-looking or to pull back a too-fast forward movement.

Sri Aurobindo formulates a basic rule to take into account for the progress towards human unity:  “The perfection of the individual in a perfected society or eventually in a perfected humanity — understanding perfection always in a relative and progressive sense — is the inevitable aim of Nature.  But the progress of all the individuals in a society does not proceed pari passu, with an equal and equable march.  Some advance, others remain stationary — absolutely or relatively, — others fall back.  Consequently the emergence of a dominant class is inevitable within the aggregate itself, just as in the constant clash between the aggregates the emergence of dominant nations is inevitable.  That class will predominate which develops most perfectly the type Nature needs at the time for her progress or, it may be, for her retrogression.  If she demands power and strength of character, a dominant aristocracy emerges; if knowledge and science, a dominant literary or savant class; if practical ability, ingenuity, economy and efficient organisation, a dominant bourgeoisie or Vaishya class, usually with the lawyer at the head; if diffusion rather than concentration of general well-being and a close organisation of toil, then even the domination of an artisan class is not impossible.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Ideal of Human Unity, Part I, Chapter 2, The Imperfection of Past Aggregates, pp. 16-17