Distinguishing the True Role of the Vital Activity of Human Society from Vital Barbarism

The vital force of life, within both the individual and the society, is a necessary element of our existence.  The imbalance of raising this Life-Force up to be the end goal to be fixated upon leads to a wide variety of problems both for the individual and in the setting of the society.  Greed, self aggrandisement at the expense of others, the desire to exercise power over others, and all the dishonesty that flows from the force of desire attempting to achieve its ends regardless of means, are the flaws, the errors of the vital development.

There are those who, in understanding these deformations of the vital force, counsel a course of avoidance, as they believe the vital energy is unable to be set into its right course and taking up this energy in life implies acceptance of these issues.  This has led to the legions of monks, sannyasins, anchorites and hermits, as well as those who preach a simple lifestyle abandoning the course of life-development of the human race, to seek an individual salvation or fulfillment.

Sri Aurobindo takes a different approach.  While recognizing the problems associated with over-emphasis on the vital life energy and its fulfillment, he also acknowledges that there is a true role and need for a strong, vibrant and effective action of the life-energy.

“The essential barbarism of all this is its pursuit of vital success, satisfaction, productiveness, accumulation, possession, enjoyment, comfort, convenience for their own sake.  The vital part of the being is an element in the integral human existence as much as the physical part; it has its place but must not exceed its place.  A full and well-appointed life is desirable for man living in society, but on condition that it is also a true and beautiful life.  Neither the life nor the body exist for their own sake, but as vehicle and instrument of a good higher than their own.  They must be subordinated to the superior needs of the mental being, chastened and purified by a greater law of truth, good and beauty before they can take their proper place in the integrality of human perfection.  Therefore in a commercial age with its ideal, vulgar and barbarous, of success, vitalistic satisfaction, productiveness and possession the soul of man may linger a while for certain gains and experiences, but cannot permanently rest.  If it persisted too long, Life would become clogged and perish of its own plethora or burst in its straining to a gross expansion.  Like the too massive Titan it will collapse by its own mass, mole ruet sua.

Sri Aurobindo, The Human Cycle: The Psychology of Social Development, Chapter 8, Civilisation and Barbarism, pp. 80-81