The Role of German Subjective Growth in the Rise of the Subjective Age of Nations

Germany during the early 20th Century was seen as the cause and precipitating factor behind the First World War, and the enormous destruction and suffering that resulted therefrom.  Sri Aurobindo, with a deeper and broader vision, was able to appreciate the underlying force that spurred Germany’s rise to self-awareness, and the deformations that caused this self-awareness to take a wrong turn into brute force and attempts to impose itself on others around the world.

It was the very power of Germany’s action that spurred other nations to gain their own forms of self-awareness and develop a strong core of resistance from that awareness.  We may see this as one of the by-products of the cataclysms that occurred.

Sri Aurobindo notes:  “The great determining force has been the example and the aggression of Germany; the example, because no other nation has so self-consciously, so methodically, so intelligently, and from the external point of view so successfully sought to find, to dynamise, to live itself and make the most of its power of being; its aggression, because the very nature and declared watchwords of the attack have tended to arouse a defensive self-consciousness in the assailed and forced them to perceive too that they themselves must seek consciously an answering strength in that same deeper source.  Germany was for the time the most remarkable present instance of a nation preparing for the subjective stage because it had, in the first place, a certain kind of vision — unfortunately intellectual rather than illuminated — and the courage to follow it — unfortunately again a vital and intellectual rather than a spiritual hardihood, — and, secondly, being master of its destinies, was able to order its own life so as to express its self-vision.  We must not be misled by appearances into thinking that the strength of Germany was created by Bismarck or directed by the Kaiser Wilhelm II.  Rather the appearance of Bismarck was in many respects a misfortune for the growing nation because his rude and powerful hand precipitated its subjectivity into form and action at too early a stage; a longer period of incubation might have produced results less disastrous to itself, if less violently stimulative to humanity.  The real source of this great subjective force which has been so much disfigured in its objective action, was not in Germany’s statesmen and soldiers — for the most part poor enough types of men — but came from her great philosophers, Kant, Hegel, Fichte, Nietzsche, from her great thinker and poet Goethe, from her great musicians Beethoven and Wagner, and from all in the German soul and temperament which they represented.  A nation whose master achievement has lain almost entirely in the two spheres of philosophy and music, is clearly predestined to lead in the turn to subjectivism and to produce a profound result for good or evil on the beginnings of a subjective age.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Human Cycle: The Psychology of Social Development, Chapter 4, The Discovery of the Nation-Soul, pp. 40-41


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