True human unity depends on the psychological unity of humanity. The watchwords of liberty, equality and fraternity express basic truths of the relationship of all human beings with one another, and they alone can, in their fulfillment, provide the basis for human unity.
Sri Aurobindo notes: “Yet is brotherhood the real key to the triple gospel of the idea of humanity. The union of liberty and equality can only be achieved by the power of human brotherhood and it cannot be founded on anything else. But brotherhood exists only in the soul and by the soul; it can exist by nothing else. For this brotherhood is not a matter either of physical kinship or of vital association or of intellectual agreement. When the soul claims freedom, it is the freedom of its self-development, the self-development of the divine in man in all his being. When it claims equality, what it is claiming is that freedom equally for all and the recognition of the same soul, the same godhead in all human beings. When it strives for brotherhood, it is founding that equal freedom of self-development on a common aim, a common life, a unity of mind and feeling founded upon the recognition of this inner spiritual unity. These three things are in fact the nature of the soul; for freedom, equality, unity are the eternal attributes of the Spirit. It is the practical recognition of this truth, it is the awakening of the soul in man and the attempt to get him to live from his soul and not from his ego which is the inner meaning of religion, and it is that to which the religion of humanity also must strive before it can fulfil itself in the life of the race.”
Sri Aurobindo, The Ideal of Human Unity, Part Two, Chapter 34, The Religion of Humanity, pg. 300
It has become clear in recent years, that all of humanity must find a way to co-exist and work together to solve issues that extend beyond the confines of individual nations and their borders. The burgeoning population is one factor that increases the stress on the world’s capacity to feed, care for and deal with the energy needs while at the same time not changing the climate radically or polluting the air, water and land to the point that it becomes destructive to human life or at least, the quality of life. Add to this the many divisions promulgated by unequal access to and utilization of resources, and the negative impacts that a small highly developed segment of humanity has on the quality of life on the planet and for the vast majority of people throughout the world, and we can see that supra-national solutions must be achieved.
The idea of the heterogeneous empire is one possible line of solution that Nature has been experimenting with, but it is not the only possible line of development that could yield a solution to the intractable problems that we see before us today. Sri Aurobindo has identified several approaches that bear review:
“The progress of the imperial idea from the artificial and constructive stage to the position of a realised psychological truth controlling the human mind with the same force and vitality which now distinguish the national idea above all other group motives, is only a possibility, not a certainty of the future.”
If it does not happen, then Sri Aurobindo asks “…what other possibility can there be of the unification of mankind by political and administrative means? That can only come about if either the old ideal of a single world-empire be, by developments not now apparently possible, converted into an accomplished fact or if the opposite ideal of a free association of free nations overcome the hundred and one powerful obstacles which stand in the way of its practical realisation.”
Sri Aurobindo, The Ideal of Human Unity, Part I, Chapter 9, The Possibility of a World-Empire, pg. 67
Nature continues to impel humanity towards larger groupings of society than the current largest stable unit, the Nation-State. In particular, the global concerns about human-accentuated or induced climate change, the result of the industrial revolution, as well as the issues of population growth within a world of limited or badly distributed resources, the increasing pollution of the planet and its effects on life, and the increasing visibility of different cultures and lifeways to each other, are forcing all of humanity to grapple with finding a way to live together in harmony, to share the bounty of the planet, and to find ways to maintain balance with the environment. The focus and goals of the individual nation states are too narrow to accommodate the need to solve these key issues. Thus, it becomes necessary to find a way to exceed the nation state.
In the past, this drive has led to the development of empires, whether homogeneous or heterogeneous. There has been variable success in these imperial formations. What has become clear is that the attempt to impose one particular national culture, language, religion or direction on others through military, economic or political domination is a short-term solution, doomed eventually to failure.
Sri Aurobindo notes: “The replacement of the local by the imperial culture and as far as possible by the speech of the conqueror was essential to the old imperial theory, but the moment that becomes out of the question and the very desire of it has to be renounced as impracticable, the old Roman model of empire ceases to be of any avail for the solution of the problem…. a new model is demanded. That new model has already begun to evolve in obedience to the requirements of the age; it is the model of the federal or else the confederate empire. The problem we have to consider narrows itself down to this, is it possible to create a securely federated empire of vast extent and composed of heterogeneous races and cultures? And granting that in this direction lies the future, how can such an empire so artificial in appearance be welded into a natural and psychological unit?”
Sri Aurobindo, The Ideal of Human Unity, Part I, Chapter 6, Ancient and Modern Methods of Empire, pg. 52