The Internal and the External Implications of the German Experiment of the 20th Century

Sri Aurobindo analyzes the implementation of the ideas that Germany accepted during the early 20th Century by looking at their implications both internally in the form they took within the nation and with respect to the citizenry, and externally in the form that the German State took in its view of international relations with other States and Nations of the world, and the impact of those ideas on the other nations in their view of relations..  There was a clear shift away from any concept of individual fulfillment taking precedence as the idea arose that the individual was to be valued for his ability to contribute to the progress and greatness of the nation.  Similarly, the idea of military domination over others who were less competent or capable or advanced clearly gained ascendancy in the post-war period following World War I.  To be sure, such ideas of control by conquest or domination was not new to the Germans, as history evidenced attempts at empire-building in the past a number of times; yet it was with a certain moral sense of superiority and their leading role in human evolution that the German experiment proceeded, while former empire-building appears to have been more or less based on vital and material aspects to enhance the conqueror and provide access to goods, labor, services, and markets.  The strength of the ideas underlying the German experiment led to a “battle of ideas” on the world stage, which appears to show the development of these ideas throughout the world even after the war was lost by Germany.

Sri Aurobindo notes:  “The unsparing compulsion as against the assistance of the individual by the State — for his and the common good, of course, but who professes to compel for harm? — is almost everywhere either dominant or else growing into a strong and prevailing current of opinion; the champions of individual freedom are now a morally defeated and dwindling army who can only fight on in the hope of a future reaction or of saving something of their principle from the wreck.  On the external side, the international, the battle of ideas still goes on, but there were from the beginning ominous signs; and now after the physical war with its first psychological results is well over, we are already able to see in which direction the tide is likely to flow.  War is a dangerous teacher and physical victory leads often to a moral defeat.  Germany, defeated in the war, has won in the after war; the German gospel rearisen in a sterner and fiercer avatar threatens to sweep over all Europe.”

In actuality, Sri Aurobindo’s prediction became all too true with the rise of the Third Reich and the cataclysm of the Second World War.  If we stretch out further we can also see that the subordination of the individual to the needs of the State, and the regimentation of the citizenry for the increased power and efficiency of the State seems to have become a dominant theme even among the erstwhile opponents of Germany in that second war, with both internal and external impacts aligned with the ideas espoused by Germany in its initiation of the experiment of the 20th Century.


Sri Aurobindo, The Human Cycle: The Psychology of Social Development, Chapter 5, True and False Subjectivism, pg. 52