The Development of Larger and More Complex Unities of Societal Development

At each level of development, a somewhat similar process repeats itself, with larger size units and more complexity involved.   Families gathered into clans, clans into tribes, tribes into villages, etc.  Each time there came about eventually, after the physical and vital unification took place, a process of developing a psychological unity, which looked inward toward achieving an internal harmony, and looked outward to see other similarly situated groups outside who were perceived as “outsiders” and potentially hostile to the vital interests of the particular group.  Over time, however, as the drive toward larger unities continued, these “outsiders” became part of a larger community that led to the next larger form of unity, and the process repeated itself, until eventually there were nation-states who are today struggling to find ways to develop some kind of unified response to the challenges that face all of us on a planet-wide basis.  Each level posed the issue of developing an internal psychological unity and finding ways to interface with, coexist with and (eventually) find a way to join with other neighboring units.

Sri Aurobindo explains:  “The contained units are larger and more complex than before, the containing unity is also larger and more complex than before, but the essential position is the same and a similar problem presents itself for solution.  Thus in the beginning there was the phenomenon of city states and regional peoples coexisting as disunited parts of a loose geographical and cultural unity, Italy or Hellas, and there was the problem of creating the Hellenic or Italian nation.  Afterwards there came instead the phenomenon of nation-units formed or in formation coexisting as disunited parts of the loose geographical and cultural unity, first, of Christendom, then, of Europe, and with it the problem of the union of this Christendom or of this Europe which, though more than once conceived by individual statesmen or political thinkers, was never achieved nor even the first steps attempted.  Before its difficulties could be solved, the modern movement with its unifying forces has presented to us the new and more complex phenomenon of a number of nation-units and empire-units embedded in the loose, but growing life-interdependence and commercial close-connection of mankind, and the attendant problem of the unification of mankind already overshadows the unfulfilled dream of the unification of Europe.”

As we have seen, even while the drive towards a larger unification of humanity has been accentuated by the global issues of climate change, weapons of mass destruction, pollution, resource allocation and unequal access to resources (and more), there is still movement on the smaller unities which includes things like the development of the European Union, and the creation of other regional cooperative arrangements and trade or mutual defense alliances.  Multiple different levels are thus active concurrently, each trying to resolve obstacles to the development of a larger unification of mankind.

Sri Aurobindo, The Ideal of Human Unity, Part One, Chapter 12, The Ancient Cycle of Prenational Empire-Building–The Modern Cycle of Nation-Building, pg. 97