The Objective Viewpoint on the Subjective Aspect of the Nation

The tenor of modern civilisation has been characterised by the dominance of the intellect and the insistence on the external facts of life organised by the scientific method.  History has fixated on externalities; yet to the extent that it has begun to recognise that there is a deeper, subjective aspect to the development of the nation, it has continued to focus on aspects such as the mental character of a nation, or the temperament, folkways or customs that express the uniqueness of that nation, without taking the next step and going even deeper to the roots that bring about these characteristics on the surface, and the overall impulsion that makes all of this occur.

Sri Aurobindo observes:  “Certainly, there is always a vague sense of this subjective existence at work even on the surface of the communal mentality.  But so far as this vague sense becomes at all definite, it concerns itself mostly with details and unessentials, national idiosyncrasies, habits, prejudices, marked mental tendencies.  It is, so to speak, an objective sense of subjectivity.  As man has been accustomed to look on himself as a body and a life, the physical animal with a certain moral or immoral temperament, and the things of the mind have been regarded as a fine flower and attainment of the physical life rather than themselves anything essential or the sign of something essential, so and much more has the community regarded that small part of its subjective self of which it becomes aware.  It clings indeed always to its idiosyncrasies, habits, prejudices, but in a blind objective fashion, insisting on their most external aspect and not at all going behind them to that for which they stand, that which they try blindly to express.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Human Cycle: The Psychology of Social Development, Chapter 4, The Discovery of the Nation-Soul, pg. 37