The Rationale Behind the Concern for the Loss of Liberty and Vitality in the World-State

After enumerating a number of positive benefits that would flow from the development of a World-State, Sri Aurobindo noted that eventually the creativity, vitality and springs of evolutionary development would dry up under the pressure of the efficiency and mechanization brought about by such a World-State.  This is analogous to the weakening from inside experienced by the Roman Empire in its day, which preceded the fall of that empire.

Sri Aurobindo sets forth his concerns on this issue:  “The conditions of a vigorous life would be lost, liberty, mobile variation and the shock upon each other of freely developing differentiated lives.  It may be said that this will not happen, because the World-State will be a free democratic State, not a liberty-stifling empire or autocracy, and because liberty and progress are the very principle of modern life and no development would be tolerated which went contrary to that principle.  But in all this, there is not really the security that seems to be offered.  For what is now, need not endure under quite different circumstances and the idea that it will is a strange mirage thrown from the actualities of the present on the possibly quite different actualities of the future.  Democracy is by no means a sure preservative of liberty; on the contrary, we see today the democratic system of government march steadily towards such an organized annihilation of individual liberty as could not have been dreamed of in the old aristocratic and monarchical systems.”

“…there is a deprivation of liberty which is more respectable in appearance, more subtle and systematized, ore mild in its method because it has a greater force at its back, but for that very reason more effective and pervading.  The tyranny of the majority has become a familiar phrase and its deadening effects have been depicted with a great force of resentment by certain of the modern intellectuals; but what the future promises us is something more formidable still, the tyranny of the whole, of the self-hypnotized mass over its constituent groups and units.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Ideal of Human Unity, Part Two, Chapter 27, The Peril of the World-State, pp. 238-239


The Gunas and the Qualities of Happiness

The “pursuit of happiness” is considered by many to be one of the primary directives of human life, and is even enshrined as a guiding principle in the U.S. Declaration of Independence. Happiness, however, is not something that can be understood universally, as there are different forms and definitions of happiness. To the Upanishadic sages, true happiness was determined to be a state of bliss, achieved by overcoming the force of desire! For most of humanity however, happiness is a much more qualified state of consciousness, and its character is determined by the predominance of one or another of the three Gunas.

Sri Aurobindo describes these differences: “…the tamasic mind can remain well-pleased in its indolence and inertia, its stupor and sleep, its blindness and its error. Nature has armed it with the privilege of a smug satisfaction in its stupidity and ignorance, its dim lights of the cave, its inert contentment, its petty or base joys and its vulgar pleasures. Delusion is the beginning of this satisfaction and delusion is its consequence; but still there is given a dull, a by no means admirable but a sufficient pleasure in his delusions to the dweller in the cave.”

“The mind of the rajasic man drinks of a more fiery and intoxicating cup; the keen, mobile, active pleasure of the senses and the body and the sense-entangled or fierily kinetic will and intelligence are to him all the joy of life and the very significance of living. This joy is nectar to the lips at the first touch, but there is a secret poison in the bottom of the cup and after it the bitterness of disappointment, satiety, fatigue, revolt, disgust, sin, suffering, loss, transience.”

“What the sattwic nature seeks, therefore, is the satisfaction of the higher mind and the spirit and when it once gets this large object of its quest, there comes in a clear, pure happiness of the soul, a state of fullness, an abiding ease and peace. This happiness does not depend on outward things, but on ourselves alone and on the flowering of what is best and most inward within us….it has to be conquered by self-discipline, a labour of the soul, a high and arduous endeavour.”

“The self-exceeding of the sattwic nature comes when we get beyond the great but still inferior sattwic pleasure, beyond the pleasures of mental knowledge and virtue and peace to the eternal calm of the self and the spiritual ecstasy of the divine oneness. That spiritual joy is no longer the sattwic happiness…, but the absolute Ananda. Ananda is the secret delight from which all things are born, by which all is sustained in existence and to which all can rise in the spiritual culmination. Only then can it be possessed when the liberated man, free from ego and its desires, lives at last one with his highest self, one with all beings and one with God in an absolute bliss of the spirit.”

Sri Aurobindo, Essays on the Gita, Second Series, Part II, Chapter 19, The Gunas, Mind and Works, pp. 487-489

Essential Difference in Viewpoint Between Overmind and Mind

To get at the essence of what the overmental process is, in comparison to the mental process, it may be useful to compare specific ways of addressing or understanding issues and looking at how they vary between the two standpoints. Sri Aurobindo take up this process: “To the Overmind, for example, all religions would be true as developments of the one eternal religion, all philosophies would be valid each in its own field as a statement of its own universe-view from its own angle, all political theories with their practice would be the legitimate working out of an Idea-Force with its right to application and practical development in the play of the energies of Nature.”

He goes on to provide the correlary from the mental standpoint: “In our separative consciousness, imperfectly visited by glimpses of catholicity and universality, these things exist as opposites; each claims to be the truth and taxes the others with error and falsehood, each feels impelled to refute or destroy the others in order that itself alone may be the Truth and live: at best, each must claim to be superior, admit all others only as inferior truth-expressions.”

reference: Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, Chapter 28, Supermind, Mind and the Overmind Maya