The Vital and Physical Underpinnings of Societal Development

The developed mental intelligence tries to look at situations and opportunities, facts and forces at work on those facts, and then work out a plan and expect to be able to implement that plan.  This intelligence, when it looks at the needs of a societal organisation, would recognise certain priorities and fundamental needs and would expect those to be developed first and foremost in any structure that develops.  However, the vast majority of life, including human life, has developed based on the physical and vital levels, not the planning intelligence of the most highly advanced, and thus, one can see societal evolution as occurring almost in an opposite manner to what the planner would consider optimal.

Sri Aurobindo observes:  “Logically, one would suppose that the conscious and organised determination of its own rules of life should be the first business of a society from which all others should derive and on which they should be dependent and therefore it would naturally be the earliest to develop.  But life develops in obedience to its own law and the pressure of forces and not according to the law and the logic of the self-conscious mind; its first course is determined by the subconscient and is only secondarily and derivatively self-conscious.  The development of human society has been no exception to the rule; for man, though in the essence of his nature a mental being, has practically started with a largely mechanical mentality as the conscious living being, Nature’s human animal, and only afterwards can he be the self-conscious living being, the self-perfecting Manu.  That is the course the individual has had to follow; the group-man follows in the wake of the individual and is always far behind the highest individual development.  Therefore, the development of the society as an organism consciously and entirely legislating for its own needs, which should be by the logic of reason the first necessary step, is actually in the logic of life the last and culminative step.  It enables the society at last to perfect consciously by means of the State the whole organisation of its life, military, political, administrative, economic, social, cultural.  The completeness of the process depends on the completeness of the development by which the State and society become, as far as that may be, synonymous.  That is the importance of democracy; that is the importance also of socialism.  They are the sign that the society is getting ready to be an entirely self-conscious and therefore a freely and consciously self-regulating organism.  But it must be remarked that modern democracy and modern socialism are only a first crude and bungling attempt at that consummation, an inefficient hint and not a freely intelligent realisation.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Ideal of Human Unity, Part Two, Chapter 20, The Drive towards Economic Centralisation, pp. 175-176