The Deliberate Steps of Nature’s Advance Toward Human Unity

Nature has developed several levels of human societal aggregates, from the small, local to the nation-state to the imperial unit imposing itself over both of the smaller stages.  In each case, there we find certain advantages as well as disadvantages–the perfect balance has not yet been determined.  We see therefore, through history, examples of the attempt made by Nature in one direction or another, and then a retreat and circling back to a different formulation that can take advantage of the lessons learned in the prior phase.  The fall of the Roman Empire occurred as part of Nature’s method to overcome the overbearing force exercised by the core of the empire on the dynamism of the separate parts.  The phase that followed was a period of nation building on a smaller scale, with yet smaller localized groups amalgamated into the national groupings.

Sri Aurobindo observes:  “…in Nature there are no errors but only the deliberate measure of her paces traced and retraced in a prefigured rhythm, of which each step has a meaning and its place in the action and reaction of her gradual advance.  The crushing domination of Roman uniformity was a device, not to kill out permanently, but to discourage in their excessive separative vitality the old smaller units, so that when they revived again they might not present an insuperable obstacle to the growth of a true national unity.  What the mere nation-unity may lose by not passing through this cruel discipline … is shown in the example of India where the Maurya, Gupta, Andra, Moghul empires, huge and powerful and well-organised as they were, never succeeded in passing a steam-roller over the too strongly independent life of the subordinate unities from the village community to the regional or linguistic area.  In has needed the pressure of a rule neither indigenous in origin nor locally centred, the dominance of a foreign nation entirely alien in culture and morally armoured against the sympathies and attractions of India’s cultural atmosphere to do in a century this work which two thousand years of a looser imperialism had failed to accomplish.  Such a process implies necessarily a cruel and often dangerous pressure and breaking up of old institutions; for Nature tired of the obstinate immobility of an age-long resistance seems to care little how many beautiful and valuable things are destroyed so long as her main end is accomplished: but we may be sure that if destruction is done, it is because for that end the destruction was indispensable.”


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. 99