The Need for the Characteristics of Will, Self-Discipline and Self-Mastery for Human Development

In any review of the opposition between the aesthetic temperament and the ethical temperament, we can see both the positive and negative aspects of each.  When either one reaches an extreme, it tends to failure in a society, either due to an excess of zeal in the ethical impulse which harshly suppresses the aesthetic impulse, and with it human creativity and freedom; or, due to an excess of the free-spirited nature that seems to accompany the aesthetic impulse in its more expansive formations, which can lead to a weakening of the energy of the society or a degradation of the needed discipline and impulse of order to provide for an organized and resilient society.

Sri Aurobindo observes:  “This insufficiency of the aesthetic view of life becomes yet more evident when we come down to its other great example, Italy of the Renascence.  The Renascence was regarded at one time as pre-eminently a revival of learning, but in its Mediterranean birth-place it was rather the efflorescence of art and poetry and the beauty of life.  Much more than was possible even in the laxest times of Hellas, aesthetic culture was divorced from the ethical impulse and at times was even anti-ethical and reminiscent of the license of imperial Rome.  It had learning and curiosity, but gave very little of itself to high thought and truth and the more finished achievements of the reason, although it helped to make free the way for philosophy and science.  It so corrupted religion as to provoke in the ethically minded Teutonic nations the violent revolt of the Reformation, which, though it vindicated the freedom of the religious mind, was an insurgence not so much of the reason, — that was left to Science, — but of the moral instinct and its ethical need.  The subsequent prostration and loose weakness of Italy was the inevitable result of the great defect of its period of fine culture, and it needed for its revival the new impulse of thought and will and character given to it by Mazzini.  If the ethical impulse is not sufficient by itself for the development of the human being, yet are will, character, self-discipline, self-mastery indispensable to that development.  They are the backbone of the mental body.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Human Cycle: The Psychology of Social Development, Chapter 10, Aesthetic and Ethical Culture, pg. 100