Evolutionary change cannot be measured in one or two generations. Developing ideas and forces may be stirring under the surface, preparing to burst forth and, in the interim, remain relatively unseen. In the interim, life goes on as it has always gone on, with the vital and animal propensities governing much of what passes for civilisation in this world. Those who want to dominate through use of brute force forsake any concern for the well-being of those who are not part of their own clique, and disregard any concern for future generations of humanity or even of the health of the planet upon which we all reside and upon which we all depend.
However, if we observe closely, we can see and identify a slow, but steady growth of a new consciousness, a consciousness that transcends the egoistic bonds of self, family, tribe, community, city, state, nation, empire, religion, race, cultural background, or language. This new consciousness sees a future for humanity that respects each individual, each social or religious background, each tradition, and which understands the need for diversity and difference for the very health of humanity in the long run. This new consciousness works to bring about mutual benefit rather than egoistic fulfillment at the expense of others, and takes care of the needs of planetary health as a basis for long-term human survival.
The First Nations people of North America have a tradition that calls for people to view actions for their impact in the future down to seven generations. This type of forward thinking is essential if we are to avoid focusing solely on short-term gain at the expense of the harmony and balance for all in the future.
Today’s world is fixated on short-term material gain and seems careless of waste, imbalance or suffering; yet we see an ever-increasing number of people embracing the ideals set forth by Sri Aurobindo in The Ideal of Human Unity. People from all corners of the globe are raising issues and speaking “truth to power” about the need for goodwill, harmony, balance, and shared access to the resources of the planet. These people are challenging embedded racism, religious fanaticism, colonialism, imperialism, and economic imbalances and inequities, and in so doing, they act as the forerunners of a more harmonious, and civilised, future.
The entrenched forces of the past, recognising this challenge to their domination, try their utmost to destroy or still this new consciousness, but the change continues to push forward and grow. We may see small signs such as the development of a youth orchestra consisting of Palestinian and Israeli teenagers, learning to appreciate one another and work together, or the development of an environmental movement which recognises that the health of the environment is essential for the survival of all humanity. We can also see larger movements such as the development of the United Nations, the World Health Organisation, and international groups such as Doctors Without Borders, which signal that humanity is now attempting to put the ideas contained within this new consciousness into action, however imperfectly, in whatever small or large way is possible.
When we look around us today, we see the kind of aggressive and harmful egoism at all levels that could bring us to a state of despair if we could not at the same time recognise that much of what we see today in the world is a reaction of the forces that dominated humanity’s past to the pressure of change that is building throughout the world. And thus, we can see hope where we would otherwise be forced to despair.
The future existence of the human race lies in embracing our highest and best potential, applying intelligence, compassion and goodwill to all our interactions with other beings that share this planet with us, and in our relationship to the environment. Sri Aurobindo has provided us a roadmap for this future. It is for us to choose to follow that roadmap and embrace the new consciousness that is bringing the hope of positive change into the world.
Sri Aurobindo, The Ideal of Human Unity