Evolving Beyond the Mentality of the Barbarian

Fixation on the strength and predominance of the physical body as a primary characteristic for determining human advancement and preeminence, is a sign of what Sri Aurobindo calls “the mentality of the barbarian”.  Physical strength and bodily prowess is the key indicator that judges the rank of individuals in that realm.  Brute force and physical might are prized.  Every human being has a fixation on the needs and development of the physical body in the early formative years of childhood, but later, as the vital personality and the mind development, most are able, in today’s world, to move beyond such a fixation.  We see the development of the vital being as man becomes more concerned with relations and with economic activities, and then the development of the mental faculties for those who are moving towards a focus on the mind and its powers as characteristic of human life.

Sri Aurobindo observes:  “The time is passing away, permanently — let us hope — for this cycle of civilisation, when the entire identification of the self with the body and the physical life was possible for the general consciousness of the race.  That is the primary characteristic of complete barbarism.  To take the body and the physical life as the one thing important, to judge manhood by the physical strength, development and prowess, to be at the mercy of the instincts which rise out of the physical inconscient, to despise knowledge as a weakness and inferiority or look on it as a peculiarity and no necessary part of the conception of manhood, this is the mentality of the barbarian.”

“Man is ceasing to be so much of a physical and becoming much more of a vital and economic animal.  Not that he excludes or is intended to exclude the body and its development or the right maintenance of and respect for the animal being and its excellences from his idea of life; the excellence of the body, its health, its soundness, its vigour and harmonious development are necessary to a perfect manhood and are occupying attention in a better and more intelligent way than before.  But the first rank in importance can no longer be given to the body, much less that entire predominance assigned to it in the mentality of the barbarian.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Human Cycle: The Psychology of Social Development, Chapter 8, Civilisation and Barbarism, pp. 74-75

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