The First Danger of the Development of the Subjective Age is Fixation on the Ego Rather than the True Self

The transition from an age of individualism to an age of subjectivism holds great promise for the deeper fulfillment of the evolutionary purpose of Nature in the universe.  At the same time, for the people undergoing this transition, there can also be considerable danger, first and foremost due to the misidentification of the ego, which was built up during the individualistic development with the Self.  What we then have is an aggrandisement of the ego which can create enormous distortions both for the individual and for the nation or societal entity seeking for its Soul.

Sri Aurobindo observes:  “…the first enormous stumble has accordingly been to transform the error of individualistic egoism into the more momentous error of a great communal egoism.  The individual seeking for the law of his being can only find it safely if he regards clearly two great psychological truths and lives in that clear vision.  First, the ego is not the self; there is one self of all and the soul is a portion of that universal Divinity.  The fulfilment of the individual is not the utmost development of his egoistic intellect, vital force, physical well-being and the utmost satisfaction of his mental, emotional, physical cravings, but the flowering of the divine in him to its utmost capacity of wisdom, power, love and universality and through this flowering his utmost realisation of all the possible beauty and delight of existence.”

“The will to be, the will to power, the will to know are perfectly legitimate, their satisfaction the true law of our existence and to discourage and repress them improperly is to mutilate our being and dry up or diminish the sources of life and growth.  But their satisfaction must not be egoistic, — not for any other reason moral or religious, but simply because they cannot so be satisfied.  The attempt always leads to an eternal struggle with other egoisms, a mutual wounding and hampering, even a mutual destruction in which if we are conquerors today, we are the conquered or the slain tomorrow; for we exhaust ourselves and corrupt ourselves in the dangerous attempt to live by the destruction and exploitation of others.  Only that which lives in its own self-existence can endure.  And generally, to devour others is to register oneself also as a subject and predestined victim of Death.”

What is true for the individual is equally true for the societal grouping, whether community, religious institution, nation or empire.  The attempt to conquer and acquire and control at the expense of others is the error of egoism at the societal level and leads to similar destruction, suffering, and death.  When the individual realises the Self, he becomes aware of the Oneness of all creation.  Similarly, when the nation realises its deeper Self, it recognises that all societal groupings are part of the Oneness of all creation as well.  From this insight come the various formulations for moral teachings such as “do unto others as you would have them do unto you”.  By harming others, a nation creates a vicious cycle whereby it is itself harmed.

Sri Aurobindo, The Human Cycle: The Psychology of Social Development, Chapter 5, True and False Subjectivism, pp. 45-46

3 thoughts on “The First Danger of the Development of the Subjective Age is Fixation on the Ego Rather than the True Self

  1. Reblogged this on The Chrysalis and commented:
    This is another clear and impressive statement from Aurobindo on what is meant by the Age of Subjectivity. His remarks here also call to mind the Buddhist sociologist David Loy’s writings on the “Ego” and the “Wego”, and then Aurobindo continues here to distinguish a false individualism or collectivism from authentic individuation, and in, I think, a very clear way. Again, I would refer you to Jill Bolte-Taylor’s TED talk on her “Stroke of Insight” for a living example that, and of what Aurobindo also describes in this passage.

  2. Aurobindo applied his wisdom in great swaths (often matched with sentences hundreds of words long), but what bugs me in this sermon is the all too common throwing around of undefined concepts of self, ego, egoism, societal ego, Soul, societal Soul, Self, not to mention not-self and no-self. Will the True Self stand up? (If it can)
    I have my doubts as to whether we can define these terms with assurance, but as I found in the previous posts regarding dissolution in our culture, we try to synthesize various perspectives that use different terms to find out the truth of what is really going on? The concepts are dense and we wonder if we are working with apples and oranges or not. Maybe the juggling of concepts could eventuate in cultural redirection, I would hope so.
    I am more interested in what the reality is behind Aurobindo’s self, Self, Soul, etc. What is real and what is reification? We know what subjective is, but what is objective? In that respect, I suggest a YouTube talk: Consciousness, The Pinnacle of Non-Dual Understanding by Rupert Spira, based on a work by 13th century Sufi Awhad al-din Balyani.

    • you raise very good questions. all of these terms are addressed and clearly defined, and the methods to direct experience addressed, in other writings of Sri Aurobindo, such as The Life Divine and The Synthesis of Yoga. The current work, focused on the cycles of evolution at the level of society, is not intended to go over this same ground once again. I can appreciate that for someone who is not grounded in these other primary works on the issues of consciousness, and existence, the use of the terms here may be mystifying. Thanks for your thoughts on this matter!

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