Exploring the Subjective Sense of Self for the Individual and the Collective Life of Humanity

Those who adhere to the subjective viewpoint, as well as those who support the objective viewpoint of life and living, still are faced with the issue as to whether the truth of the self is individual fulfillment or collective fulfillment, or some other result that encompasses both in a balanced manner.  Those who accept the view that it is the individual that should be looked at as supreme, hold that the collectivity should not have the right to suppress or control the growth of the individual; whereas those who accept the view that it is the collectivity that should be accepted as supreme, reduce the importance of the individual and fixate on the progress of humanity in the form of the collectivity of mankind, in whatever form or forms that collectivity may take.

Sri Aurobindo observes:  “We may concentrate on the individual life and consciousness as the self and regard its power, freedom, increasing light and satisfaction and joy as the object of living and thus arrive at a subjective individualism.  We may, on the other hand, lay stress on the group consciousness, the collective self; we may see man only as an expression of this group-self necessarily incomplete in his individual or separate being, complete only by that larger entity, and we may wish to subordinate the life of the individual man to the growing power, efficiency, knowledge, happiness, self-fulfilment of the race or even sacrifice it and consider it as nothing except in so far as it lends itself to the life and growth of the community or the kind.  We may claim to exercise a righteous oppression on the individual and teach him intellectually and practically that he has no claim to exist, no right to fulfil himself except in his relations to the collectivity.  These alone then are to determine his thought, action and existence and the claim of the individual to have a law of his own being, a law of his own nature which he has a right to fulfil and his demand for freedom of thought involving necessarily the freedom to err and for freedom of action involving necessarily the freedom to stumble and sin may be regarded as an insolence and a chimera.  The collective self-consciousness will then have the right to invade at every point the life of the individual, to refuse to it all privacy and apartness, all self-concentration and isolation, all independence and self-guidance and determine everything for it by what it conceives to be the best thought and highest will and rightly dominant feeling, tendency, sense of need, desire for self-satisfaction of the collectivity.”


Sri Aurobindo, The Human Cycle: The Psychology of Social Development, Chapter 6, The Objective and Subjective Views of Life, pp. 59-60

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