The Harnessing of the Intellect by the Will-to-Power in a Time of Transition

Sri Aurobindo sees the clashes of the First and Second World Wars arising from the transition from the age of individualism and reason to an attempt to bring about a new age of subjectivism which  was intended to return human life to its deeper, inner sense and overturn the superficial material conventional focus that was stifling humanity.  Philosophers such as Nietzsche and Bergson enunciated the need to go beyond the intellectual formulation, through gaining direct contact with and expressing the vital life-force in its pure sense.  What resulted was this vital power rising up and taking hold of and harnessing the powers of the intellect to achieve its domination in life.  This first reaching out to break the hold of the mechanical conventional thinking that was ruling life was uninformed, and developed tendencies that could be clearly seen to be destructive.  After the end of the 2nd World War, however, the horror that humanity experienced  was recognized and steps were taken to try to find a more stable basis going forward, with the development of the United Nations and the beginning of a more collaborative spirit in world affairs.  Even the intense competition of the Cold War did not result in another massive attempt at human domination through world war.

Sri Aurobindo notes:  “The dominant activities of the world, the great recent events such as the enormous clash of nations in Europe and the stirrings and changes within the nations which preceded and followed it, were rather the result of a confused half struggle half effort at accommodation between the old intellectual and materialistic and the new still superficial subjective and vitalistic impulses in the West.  The latter unenlightened by a true inner growth of the soul were necessarily impelled to seize upon the former and utilise them for their unbridled demand upon life; the world was moving towards a monstrously perfect organisation of the Will-to-live and the Will-to-power and it was this that threw itself out in the clash of War and has now found or is finding new forms of life for itself which show better its governing idea and motive.  The Asuric or even Rakshasic character of the recent world-collision was due to this formidable combination of a falsely enlightened vitalistic motive-power with a great force of servile intelligence and reasoning contrivance subjected to it as instrument and the genius of an accomplished materialistic Science as its Djinn, its giant worker of huge, gross and soulless miracles.  The War was the bursting of the explosive force so created and, even though it strewed the world with ruins, its after results may well have prepared the collapse, as they have certainly produced a disintegrating chaos or at least poignant disorder, of the monstrous combination which produced it, and by that salutary ruin are emptying the field of human life of the principal obstacles to a truer development towards a higher goal.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Human Cycle: The Psychology of Social Development, Chapter 3, The Coming of the Subjective Age, pp. 31-32