The Need for a Predominant Secular or Combined Secular-Religious Leadership to Achieve a Strong National Unit

In his Thoughts and Aphorisms, Sri Aurobindo observes that a tool or method necessary at one stage of progress can become an obstruction at the next stage.  In a similar way, he describes the role that the strict hierarchical organisation of societal tasks plays in the first stage of development of the psychological unity of a societal aggregate, while acknowledging that the second stage of development, to achieve the nation-unit, must modify this strict hierarchy in order to achieve its goal.

“In other words, the institution of a fixed social hierarchy, while it seems to have been a necessary stage for the first tendencies of national formation, needed to modify itself and prepare its own dissolution if the later stages were to be rendered possible.  An instrument good for a certain work and set of conditions, if it is still retained when other work has to be done and conditions change, becomes necessarily an obstacle.  The direction needed was a change from the spiritual authority of one class and the political authority of another to a centralisation of the common life of the evolving nation under a secular rather than a religious head or, if the religious tendency in the people be too strong to separate things spiritual and temporal, under a national head who shall be the fountain of authority in both departments.  Especially was it necessary for the creation of a political self-consciousness, without which no separate nation-unit can be successfully formed, that the sentiments, activities, instruments proper to its creation should for a time take the lead and all others stand behind and support them.”

The focus and goals of the religious class are not generally focused on the he political and administrative needs of the state and its citizens; thus, until a clearly secular leadership emerges, the nation-unit is unable to fully form itself.  In the example provided by India, “It is only now after the advent of European civilisation when the Brahmin caste has not only lost the best part of its exclusive hold on the national life but has largely secularised itself, that political and secular considerations have come into the forefront, a pervading political self-consciousness has been awakened and the organised unity of the nation, as distinct from a spiritual and cultural oneness, made possible in fact and not only as an unshaped subconscious tendency.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Ideal of Human Unity, Part One, Chapter 13, The Formation of the Nation-Unit — The Three Stages, pp. 107-108

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