The State Lacks a Soul to Provide Guidance and Direction

An individual may develop conscience, self-awareness, and moral principles by which to guide his actions.  Whether through the self-direction of such inner development, or through the structures of society to keep the individual within a framework of acceptable behavior, we can identify the ability of the individual to restrain his or her actions, willingly or unwillingly, as the case may be, and to take into account the needs, wishes, desires and requirements of others with whom he interacts.

The State, however, does not translate this type of internal guidance to the machinery of governing the society.  There may be an overarching direction or focus, but the state becomes, by its very nature, a soulless machinery that exercises power and control and undertakes activities of defense and aggrandisement, without the kind of internal or external restraints that keep the individual from undertaking extremely aggressive or harmful acts, for the most part.  The State wields a power of its own which becomes all-consuming and self-effectuating.  We thus see the exercise of authority, whether police authority, or military authority, as an outcome of the growth of the State’s power and awareness of its own existence.  This is an amoral power, that seeks to perpetuate itself, but does not necessarily care about the specific means utilized or the impacts on the individuals who must undergo the exercise of that power and authority.

Sri Aurobindo observes:  “The organised State is neither the best mind of the nation nor is it even the sum of the communal energies.  It leaves out of its organised action and suppresses or unduly depresses the working force and thinking mind of important minorities, often of those which represent that which is best in the present and that which is developing for the future.  It is a collective egoism much inferior to the best of which the community is capable.  What that egoism is in its relation to other collective egoisms we know, and its ugliness has recently been forced upon the vision and the conscience of mankind.”

“But the State is an entity which, with the greatest amount of power, is the least hampered by internal scruples or external checks.  It has no soul or only a rudimentary one.  It is a military, political and economic force; but it is only in a slight and undeveloped degree, if at all, an intellectual and ethical being.  And unfortunately the chief use it makes of its undeveloped intellect is to blunt by fictions, catchwords and recently by State philosophies, its ill-developed ethical conscience.  Man within the community is now at least a half-civilised creature, but his international existence is still primitive.  Until recently the organised nation in its relations with other nations was only a huge beast of prey with appetites which sometimes slept when gorged or discouraged by events, but were always its chief reason for existence. … At the present day there is no essential improvement; there is only a greater difficulty in devouring.  … There is only the fear of defeat and the fear, recently, of a disastrous economic disorganisation; but experience after experience has shown that these checks are ineffective.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Ideal of Human Unity, Part I, Chapter 4, The Inadequacy of the State Idea, pp. 28-29