The Rationale and Limitations of the Ruling Elite Attempting to Set the Society’s Dharma

The evolution of consciousness in society follows a similar path to the development of conscious awareness in the human being.  The most common development of mind in humanity starts from the basis of the physical world and the vital being in the physical world.  It organises itself around successfully manipulating the physical things and vital forces in the human environment.  The achievements in the form of providing food, shelter, warmth, and then the ability to direct and guide the form and shape of the material world and the beings that populate it, were the result of this development.  Subsequently, the drive and the power to manipulate the events and objects in the world was turned on other human beings, and there developed highly powerful emotional, mental and vital tools to guide human individuals into the paths and directions sought by those who exercised this planning and controlling function.  The next step, then, was to attempt to manipulate the entire society along lines envisioned by what can now be seen as a ruling elite, under whatever name it has been called through time and history.  The problem here is that the specific direction and goals of this ruling elite, colored as they tend to be by the ambitions, desires and limitations of vision that it embodies, cannot possibly embrace and embody the complex development, focus and dharma of that society.

Sri Aurobindo observes, noting the attempt of such an elite to try to master the direction and development of the society was inevitable:  “It was inevitable because this transitional instrument represented the first idea of the human reason and will seizing on the group-life to fashion, mould and arrange it according to its own pleasure and power and intelligent choice, to govern Nature in the human mass as it has already learned partly to govern it in the human individual.  And since the mass is unenlightened and incapable of such an intelligent effort, who can do this for it, if not the capable individual or a body of intelligent and capable individuals?  That is the whole rationale of absolutism, aristocracy and theocracy.  Its idea is false or only a half-truth or temporary truth, because the real business of the advanced class or individual is progressively to enlighten and train the whole body consciously to do for itself its own work and not eternally to do things for it.  … The difficulty was that the ruling man or class could take up the more mechanical part of the life of society, but all that represented its more intimate being eluded their grasp; they could not lay hands on its soul.  Still, unless they could do so, they must remain unfulfilled in their trend and insecure in their possession. since at any time they might be replaced by more adequate powers that must inevitably rise up from the larger mind of humanity to oust them and occupy their throne.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Ideal of Human Unity, Part Two, Chapter 21, The Drive towards Legislative and Social Centralisation and Uniformity, pp. 188-189


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