Limits and Defects of the Normal Human Society for Human Development

Society generally tries to develop a systematic approach to address physical, vital and mental needs and development.  Whether it is the approach of ancient Greece with the prescription of a “sound mind in a sound body” or it is any number of other similar prescriptions that work to create a proper channel and outlet for the mental, vital and physical powers of mankind, there is generally a recognition of real needs and concerns to be addressed on all three of these levels.  We find, however, that societies tend to weaken and decline over time as their inherent defects and limitations make themselves felt.  These limitations occur because of the inherent limitations of our mental, vital and physical approach to organising society and the failure to take into account principles of evolutionary growth that fall outside the framework of these three powers.

Sri Aurobindo observes:  “The normal society treats man essentially as a physical, vital and mental being.  For the life, the mind, the body are the three terms of existence with which it has some competence to deal.  It develops a system of mental growth and efficiency, an intellectual, aesthetic and moral culture.  It evolves the vital side of human life and creates an ever-growing system of economic efficiency and vital enjoyment, and this system becomes more and more rich, cumbrous and complex as civilisation develops.  Depressing by its mental and vital overgrowth the natural vigour of the physical and animal man, it tries to set the balance right by systems of physical culture, a cumbrous science of habits and remedies intended to cure the ills it has created and as much amelioration as it can manage of the artificial forms of living that are necessary to its social system.  In the end, however, experience shows that society tends to die by its own development, a sure sign that there is some radical defect in its system, a certain proof that its idea of man and its method of development do not correspond to all the reality of the human being and to the aim of life which that reality imposes.”


Sri Aurobindo, The Human Cycle: The Psychology of Social Development, Chapter 21, The Spiritual Aim and Life, pp. 222-223

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