3 Mar 2016

Sri Aurobindo’s Concept of the Nation-Soul – Kishor Gandhi

Mother India is not a piece of earth; she is a Power, a Godhead, for all nations have such a Devi supporting their separate existence and keeping it in being. Such beings are as real and more permanently real than the men they influence, but they belong to a higher plane, are part of the cosmic consciousness and being and act here on earth by shaping the human consciousness on which they exercise their influence. It is natural for man who sees only his own consciousness individual, national or racial at work and does not see what works upon it and shapes it, to think that all is created by him and there is nothing cosmic or greater behind it.[1]

[Extract – read full article below. Title provided by Compiler and references updated. From Kishor Gandhi’s “Social Philosophy of Sri Aurobindo and The New Age”, pp 33-36 (First Edition in 1965).]

The Nature of Society

(I)

The whole structure of Sri Aurobindos social philosophy is built upon his view of the nature of society, its evolutionary development and its ultimate destiny. Because of this, the full import of his socio-philosophical thought would not be grasped without a preliminary appraisal of his distinctive view of the nature of society, the process of its development and its ultimate goal. All the ramifications of his ideas pertaining to the various aspects of social life are only an unfolding of his central concept of society, and the reason why they firmly retain an organic coherence even in their farthest and most detailed extensions is that they are always governed by this central concept. It is therefore necessary to state precisely what his distinctive view of society is before any exposition of the general body of his socio-philosophical thought could be properly undertaken.

At the very outset it needs to be pointed out that Sri Aurobindos social philosophy is an integral part of his general philosophical system and, as such, it has to be viewed as an application of his general philosophical principles to the sphere of social life. His view of society or community emanates from the same philosophical vision which also determines his view of man, humanity and the universe. For him these are different but interrelated expressions of the same Reality that originates and governs all its manifesta­tions. As he states:

There is a Reality, a truth of all existence which is greater and more abiding than all its formations and manifestations; to find that truth and Reality and live in it, achieve the most perfect manifestation and formation possible of it, must be the secret of perfection whether of individual or communal being. This Reality is there within each thing and gives to each of its formations its power of being and value of being. The universe is a manifestation of the Reality, and there is a truth of the universal existence, a Power of cosmic being, an all-self or world-spirit. Humanity is a formation or manifestation of the Reality in the universe, and there is a truth and self of humanity, a human spirit, a destiny of human life. The community is a formation of the Reality, a manifestation of the spirit of man, and there is a truth, a self, a power of the collective being. The individual is a formation of the Reality, and there is a truth of the individual, an individual self, soul or spirit that expresses itself through the indi­vidual mind, life and body and can express itself too in something that goes beyond mind, life and body, some­thing even that goes beyond humanity.[2]

Thus, according to Sri Aurobindo, both the individual and the community are, like humanity and the whole universe, living powers of the eternal Reality in its cosmic manifesta­tion; they are the individual self and the collective self of the one universal Being. As the individual is not merely the ephemeral physical creature, a form of mind and body that aggregates and dissolves, but a being, a living power of the eternal Truth, a self-manifesting spirit[3], so too the commu­nity is a being, a living power of the eternal Truth, a self-manifestation of the cosmic Spirit, and it is there to express and fulfil in its own way and to the degree of its capacities the special truth and power and meaning of the cosmic Spirit that is within it.[4]

This parallel between the individual and the society in regard to their true self or soul also extends, in Sri Aurobindos view, to their external nature. For, The nation or society, like the individual, has a body, an organic life, a moral and aesthetic temperament, a developing mind and soul behind all these signs and powers for the sake of which they exist.[5] It is thus evident that the social being is not merely a group-soul without an embodied external existence but, like the individual being, has also an external self of mind, life and body. A people, a great human collectivity, is in fact an organic living being with a collective or rather — for the word collective is too mechanical to be true to the inner reality — a common or communal soul, mind and body.[6]

Thus, both in regard to its true self as well as its outer being, the nature of society is closely parallel to the nature of the individual man. The society or nation is, even in its greater complexity, a larger, a composite individual, the collective Man.[7] This is true not only of the nation society but of all other organised human groups.[8]

(2)

It needs, however, to be emphasised that Sri Aurobindo does not consider the group-soul to be merely an impersonal force or power of the cosmic consciousness; to him it is a living conscious being, a real entity, existing on the cosmic plane with whom one can enter into a direct contact and relation by an inward projection of one’s personal con­sciousness into the cosmic consciousness. In reference to the nation-soul of India, for example, Sri Aurobindo maintains:

Mother India is not a piece of earth; she is a Power, a Godhead, for all nations have such a Devi supporting their separate existence and keeping it in being. Such beings are as real and more permanently real than the men they influence, but they belong to a higher plane, are part of the cosmic consciousness and being and act here on earth by shaping the human consciousness on which they exercise their influence. It is natural for man who sees only his own consciousness individual, national or racial at work and does not see what works upon it and shapes it, to think that all is created by him and there is nothing cosmic or greater behind it.[9]



[1]  Sri Aurobindo, Letters on Yoga – 1 (CWSA, Vol. 28), p 482

[3]  Sri Aurobindo, The Human Cycle, (CWSA, Vol. 25), p 35

[4]  Ibid. It needs also to be noted that the soul of the community or the group-soul is, in Sri Aurobindo’s view, a sub-soul of the all-soul of humanity; it is a special soul-form expressing a special aspect of the human all-soul on earth. As stated by him, “Generally, every nation or people has or develops spirit in its being, a special soul-form of the human all-soul and a law of its nature which determines the lines and turns of its evolution.” The Future Poetry (CWSA, Vol. 26), p. 46.

[5]   Sri Aurobindo, The Human Cycle, (CWSA, Vol. 25), p 35

[6]  Sri Aurobindo, The Renaissance of India, (CWSA, Vol. 20), p 396

[7]  Sri Aurobindo, The Human Cycle, (CWSA, Vol. 25), p 73

[8] "The family, clan, caste, class, social, religious, industrial or other community, nation,people are all organic group beings that evolve their own dharma ...” Sri Aurobindo,The Renaissance of India, (CWSA, Vol. 20), p 403

[9]  Sri Aurobindo, Letters on Yoga – 1 (CWSA, Vol. 28), p 482

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