Steps and Complications Along the Path Towards Human Unity

It was clear to Sri Aurobindo in the 2nd decade of the 20th Century, that major changes in the world’s political, economic and social systems were in motion, with the impetus of the First World War working to break down some of the entrenched interests and raise up many who were previously without a real voice in society.  He foresaw the power of the workers’ movement and the development of the women’s movement, as well as, on the national scale, the development of State Socialism as a powerful alternative system to the capitalistic and imperialistic models.  He recognised, at the same time, that none of these movements occurs in a vacuum, and there are resurgences of old ideas that can set back any of these directions for a time, as well as the development of new and potentially higher ideals to move humanity further along the lines of progress; thus, one could expect competing interests to battle for supremacy and control as any new direction gained strength.  The subsequent history bears out both sides of his prediction.

With regard to the movement towards human unity that he saw as inevitable within this framework, he declared “We can see on what lines it is likely to work itself out, if at all,–at first by a sort of understanding and initial union for the most pressing common needs, arrangements of commerce, arrangements of peace and war, arrangements for the common arbitration of disputes, arrangements for the policing of the world.  These crude initial arrangements, once accepted, will naturally develop by the pressure of the governing idea and the inherent need into a closer unity and even perhaps in the long end into a common supreme government which may endure till the defects of the system established and the rise of other ideals and tendencies inconsistent with its maintenance lead either to a new radical change or to its entire dissolution into its natural elements and constituents.”

The old colonial order had to give way for these tendencies to push themselves forward, and indeed, we saw the rise during the 20th century of many dozens of new nations, independent of their former colonial rulers, and now having an active voice on the world stage.

He also foresaw that the pressure for equality would eventually recognise the need to treat women as equals in society, “…with an internal arrangement of society and an administrative mould progressing rapidly towards a rigorous State socialism and equality by which the woman and the worker will chiefly profit.”

The rise of the concepts of State Socialism, however, when carried to more pervasive and extreme lengths, would also spur a reaction:  “We know not what surprises of the great human drama, what violent resurgence of the old nation-idea, what collisions, failures, unexpected results in the working out of the new social tendencies, what revolt of the human spirit against a burdensome and mechanical State collectivism, what growth and power perhaps of a gospel of philosophic anarchism missioned to reassert man’s ineradicable yearning for individual liberty and free self-fulfilment, what unforeseen religious and spiritual revolutions may not intervene in the very course of this present movement of mankind and divert it to quite another denouement.”


Sri Aurobindo, The Ideal of Human Unity, Part I, Chapter 11, The Small Free Unit and the Larger Concentrated Unity, pp. 85-86