Table of Contents:

Every Society Represents a Collective Being

The rational collectivist idea of society has at first sight a powerful attraction. There is behind it a great truth, that every society represents a collective being, and in it and by it the individual lives. More, it is only by a certain relation to the society, a certain harmony with the greater collective self that the individual can find the complete use for his many developed or developing powers and activities. The right organization of social life on a basis of equality and comradeship ought to give each individual his proper place in society, his full training and development for common ends, his due share of work, leisure and reward, the right value of his life in relation to society.

The pity of it is that this excellent theory, quite as much as the individualist theory that ran before it, is sure to stumble over a discrepancy between its set ideas and the actual facts of human nature; for it ignores the complexity of man's being and all that complexity means. And especially it ignores the soul of man and the soul's supreme need of freedom, and of self-control, not a mechanical regulation of the mind and of the will by others. Obedience too is part of the path to self-perfection, but not the obedience to mechanized government and rule.

Workings of a Group-soul: Pre-rational and Post-rational

Each society in the final analysis, as Aurobindo has intimated, develops into a sort of subsoul or group-soul of our humanity and develops also a type of mind, evolves governing ideas and tendencies that shape its life and institutions. The group-soul works out its tendencies through a diversity of opinions, wills, a diversity of life, and the vitality of its group-life depends on such.

In fact, in the old infra-rational societies, at least in their inception, what governed was not the State, but the group-soul itself, that for Williams constituted Africa in one communal respect or another (see Chapter 3) evolving its life through customary institutions and self-regulations to which it had to conform. This entailed a great subjection of the individual to the society, but it was not felt, because individualism was not yet born. Democratic liberty, subsequently, tries to minimize this suppression, leaving free play for the individual and restricting the role of the State. Man needs freedom of thought and life and action in order that he may grow, otherwise he will remain fixed where he was, a static human being. The State can only combat such by an education adapted to its fixed forms of life, and education that will seek to drill the citizen in a fixed set of ideas, aptitudes and propensities.

Life, on the contrary, is a mobile, progressive and evolving force. Its progress involves the development and interlocking of an immense number of things that are in conflict with each other and seem often to be in absolute opposition. To finding these oppositions some principle of standing-ground unity, some workable lever of reconciliation which will make possible a larger and better development on a basis of harmony, must be increasingly the common aim of humanity as it evolves. The integral truth of things as such, is not the truth of reason but, for Aurobindo, that of the spirit.


Reason mechanizes in order to arrive at a fixity of conduct and practice amid the fluidity of things. While such a mechanism is a sufficient principle in dealing with physical forces, it can never truly succeed in dealing with conscious life. Reason is neither the first principle of life, for Aurobindo, nor can it be its last, supreme and sufficient principle.

And the perfect social state, as such, must be one in which governmental compulsion is abolished and man is able to live with his fellow-man by free agreement and co-operation: a free equality founded upon spontaneous co-operation, not on governmental force and social compulsion is the highest anarchical ideal. A deeper brotherhood, a yet unfound law of love is the only sure foundation possible for a perfect social evolution. It is in the soul, moreover, that it must find its roots; the love that is founded upon the deeper truth of our being. At this point Aurobindo is ready to conclude, by revisiting and resurrecting religion, in his own guise.

In conclusion, if the spiritual age of which Aurobindo has been speaking is to be effected, it must unite two conditions which have to be simultaneously satisfied but are most difficult to bring together. There must be the individual and the individuals who are able to see, to develop, to re-create themselves in the image of the Spirit and to communicate their idea and its power to the mass. And there must at the same time be a mass, a society, a communal mind or at least the constituents of group-body, the possibility of a group-soul which is capable of receiving and effectively assimilating, ready to follow and effectively arrive, not compelled by its own inherent efficiencies.

Such a simultaneity, for Aurobindo in sum, has never yet happened. Steve McIntosh, in the new millennium as we shall now see, at the Integral Centre in Boulder, Colorado, picks up today from where Aurobindo left off in the old one.

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