A New Ideal of Human Universalism

The process of change does not occur overnight, and it generally occurs with a certain amount of back and forth straining as it works to overcome past habits and tendencies, while setting forth a new direction.  In many cases the process results from a perceived limitation or weakness in the existing status quo, and in others, it comes about when there are several conflicting principles trying to achieve domination or at least a working balance or harmony within the society.  We can trace the process through the changes from a social order that left the vast mass of humanity under the domination and control of a small and powerful elite, whether in a feudal society or some kind of autocratic rule, or some other mechanism of control.  Over time the status of the individual began to take on a more important role and there arose the concept of individual liberty which obviously conflicted with the status quo ante.  Later it became clear that an untrammeled individual freedom was unworkable, and a movement to integrate and partially subordinate the individual within the collectivity arose.  A similar dynamic occurred on the national and international level as nations wanted to exercise their independence while in many cases at the same time attempting to dominate other nations.  As the world became more complex, particularly with the rise of concern for resource allocation and use, pollution, climate change and the relation between disruption of a country’s internal integrity through war, slavery, exploitation, etc. and impacts on the global community, such as streams of refugees, warfare, terrorism, etc., a new paradigm became necessary.  The tension between liberty and cooperation gives rise to new ways of developing the relationship of the individual to the nation, and of the nation to the rest of the human family.

Sri Aurobindo observes:  “But behind this conflict between the idea of a nationalistic and imperialistic egoism and the old individualistic doctrine of individual and national liberty and separateness, there is striving to arise a new idea of human universalism or collectivism for the race which, if it succeeds in becoming a power, is likely to overcome the ideal of national separatism and liberty as it has overcome within the society itself the ideal of individual freedom and separate self-fulfilment.  This new idea demands of the nation that it shall subordinate, if not merge and sacrifice, its free separateness to the life of a larger collectivity, whether that of an imperialistic group or a continental or cultural unity, as in the idea of a united Europe, or the total united life of the human race.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Human Cycle: The Psychology of Social Development, Chapter 6, The Objective and Subjective Views of Life, pg. 57