Globalisation and Culture - Globalisation in the light of Sri Aurobindo's vision of the Ideal of human Unity

Globalisation in the light of Sri Aurobindo's vision of the Ideal of human Unity

Globalisation in the light of Sri Aurobindo’s vision of the Ideal of Human Unity


“Globalisation” is an attractive word; for it evokes in us a noble sentiment of “one earth” and of humankind as one race born of one common Mother Earth; it raises in us a beam of the ideal of human unity and of universal fraternity. But when we examine the current phenomenon of globalisation, we find that it is a growing network spreading over the whole globe in which the old forces of competition and resultant asymmetrical relations constitute the central network of action and reaction. Here globality is the globality of market forces that are free to develop hegemony of dominant and rich nations. We do not find here global relations of cooperation, even of friendliness. This is no manifestation of global consciousness in which unity and oneness predominate.

At its root, contemporary globalisation is a result of the material circumstances where scientific discoveries have made our earth so small that its vastest kingdoms seem now no more than the provinces of a single country. Considering that the human intellect has at present been so much mechanised that it is likely to push forward the tide of globalisation through mechanical means and through social and political adjustments. This is where we can foresee the perils of the coming day, unless normative consciousness of humanity intervenes in a decisive way.

Globalisation can not be arrested; mechanical means for their operations and rapid advancements have been set to work, and there is no agency of wisdom which has yet come to the surface to control and to guide; and, in reality, wisdom can not become mechanical and can not translate itself into any artificial agency. If, therefore, perils of globalisation are to be avoided, efforts have to be made to effect a great change in the heart and mind of the human race; people have to awake to wisdom in time and accept the difficult process of inner change, even though external adjustments will also need to be effected. The truth behind globalisation is, indeed, that of the ideal unity of the human race, but to bring forth that truth and to make it operative, we seem to be in need of a deeper study of the issues and of a greater opening to profounder means and remedies.

Globalisation in the light of Sri Aurobindo's vision of the Ideal of human Unity

Globalisation in the light of Sri Aurobindo's vision of the Ideal of human Unity

At this juncture, we are impelled to think afresh of globality, global consciousness and the ideal of human unity. For globalisation can be turned into a favourable circumstance if we consciously strive at the concrete manifestation of unity of the human race, which has always been latent and secretly operative. It can even be said that the ideal of human unity seems to be making its way to the front of our consciousness because this is the opportune moment when that ideal can be actualised.


Four factors have combined together to generate the present phenomenon of globalisation. Firstly, there is the amazing triumph of science and technology which have been applied on a large scale to the production of services and goods and their transportation across the globe. Secondly, social, political, commercial and industrial institutions have tended towards standardisation, mechanisation and even dehumanisation in the processes of management, governance and even in human relationship, thirdly, there has been a grim battle between the ideals of capitalism, socialism and consumerism which stands today at a point of disequilibrium that tilts heavily towards privatisation and capitalistic forces that favour the growth of multinationals and expansions of markets that promote multiplication of physical and vital wants, consumerism and motivations of economic security, competitive methods of enrichment, and profit-making. And, fourthly, science and philosophy, the two great magnets that uplift the powers of Reason towards greater heights of the truth, beauty and goodness, have tended towards the denials that emerge from materialism resulting in refusals to inquire into claims of ethical and spiritual domains. The general climate that rules the globe today is that of the pull of humanity downward towards the confinement to the demands of physical and vital life.

In 6terms of the history of civilisation, humankind is turning more and more decisively and globally, not only towards philistism but even a kind of barbarism where the barbarian can roam about the world taking full advantages of civilisation that has been created so far by the past achievements of culture of reason, ethics, aesthetics and religious and spiritual pursuits. This is a kind of invasion of barbarism that aims at physical stability in what seems to be a hostile world. In the past history has witnessed the floods of the overpowering invasions that have devastated the cultures that had reached some kind of climatic points of achievements. In

Globalisation in the light of Sri Aurobindo's vision of the Ideal of human Unity

Globalisation in the light of Sri Aurobindo's vision of the Ideal of human Unity

the present stage of history, on account of the fact that science has reached such a triumph of knowledge and its application that the invasion of the barbarians from outside, except in terms of terrorism and allied forms, may become impossible. But the point is the invasion form the barbarian from within, from the circle of civilised world itself. And this peril, -- the peril of the monstrous barbarian controlling the civilised world on a global scale, -- needs to be combated if the future is to be saved form the suffocations and sufferings that afflict the inner spirit when it is denied its natural upward urge towards its highest cultural fulfilment.

Indeed, there are behind the contemporary globalisation higher and nobler motives at work, the most important of which is the drive towards the fulfilment of the dream of humanity to arrive at a form of organisation that would foster united family of humanity in a state of perpetual progress, prosperity and multi-layered happiness that comes form constant ascension from height to greater heights. These nobler and higher motives that have inspired the ideal of human unity and brought about the birth of noble and momentous institutions such as those of United Nations and its international agencies do not, however, seem to be strong enough to meet the present perilous situation that confronts us today. We need to study the reasons for this so that we may arrive at better propositions of solutions than what has been offered to us so far.


Human history may, in a sense, be perceived as a multi-layered and complex struggle to harmonise the claims of the individual and those of the collectivity. The development of this struggle seems to be cyclic or spiral rather than linear in character. This has also to be seen in terms of the evolution of the human species and the laws of that evolution. For these laws follow the curve of the development of the faculties of the body, life and mind in which the concern for the physical base and infusion of the developing and developed powers of life and mind in a very zigzag swinging curve of advance appears to be predominant. There is, what we may call, the laws of ascent and integration, as a result of which the relationships between the individual and the collectivity are being built up in such a way that as soon as lower gates of achievement reach a point of maturity they tend to higher grades of achievement in a gradual manner so as to interweave the lower and the higher in a complex series of harmony of conflicting claims. If we study these laws, we find that evolution is a continuous process and

Globalisation in the light of Sri Aurobindo's vision of the Ideal of human Unity

Globalisation in the light of Sri Aurobindo's vision of the Ideal of human Unity

humanity is one of the crucial links is the process that seems to lead humanity to levels of progression that lead the development of the mind to that which lies beyond the mind and even higher grades of consciousness that are appropriate to the spirit, and its wider, deeper and higher domains.

The evolutionary study of humanity ahs its origin in the Darwinian theory, but it has found developments in the writings of philosophers like Bergson, Alexander, Smutts, Whitehead and Teillard de Chardin. But the most elaborate and comprehensive study is to be found in the writings of Sri Aurobindo, particularly, in his The Life Divine, The Synthesis of Yoga, The Human Cycle and The Ideal of Human Unity. In one of the important passages of Nature that has so far evolved Life in Matter and Mind in Matter, Sri Aurobindo writes:

The animal is a living laboratory in which Nature has, it is said, worked out man. Man himself may well be a thinking and living laboratory in whom and with whose conscious cooperation she wills to work out the superman, the god. Or shall we not say, rather, to manifest God? For if evolution is the progressive manifestation by Nature of that which slept or worked in her, involved, it is also the overt realisation of that which she secretly is. We cannot then, bid her pause at a given stage of her evolution, nor have we the right to condemn with the religionist as perverse and presumptuous or with the rationalist as a disease or hallucination any intention she may evince or effort she may make to go beyond. If it be true that Spirit is involved in Matter and apparent Nature is secret God, then the manifestation of the divine in himself and the realisation of God within and without are the highest and most legitimate aim possible to man upon earth.[1]

According to Sri Aurobindo, the evolution of human being in regard to the development of human faculties and those that are beyond human limitations is conducted by a conscious effort of the human mind, and it is not confined to a conscious progression of the nature, but is accompanied by an attempt to break the laws of the Governance and extend the human being inward into the secret principle of the present being and the outward into cosmic being as well as upward towards a higher principle.

Secondly, this evolution takes into account, the sense of freedom that emerges along with the development of self-consciousness, and with the

[1] Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, American Edition, pp. 5-6

Globalisation in the light of Sri Aurobindo's vision of the Ideal of human Unity

Globalisation in the light of Sri Aurobindo's vision of the Ideal of human Unity

process of rational and normative consciousness. The evolutionary process is, therefore, marked by alternative possibilities which can even be perilous, as in any great adventure. Evolution as conceived by Sri Aurobindo is a great adventure of consciousness, and considers the operation of a free to cooperative will on the part of the human being to be a necessary component for the human being to arrive at a higher development which may be salutary for the satisfaction of fulfilment that can come from the highest manifestation of the secret spiritual consciousness.

It is against this background that the conflict between the individual and the collectivity need to be understood.

Human history may be considered as a long story of the sway of developing consciousness between three principles preoccupation of human idealism, -- the complete single development of the human being himself, the perfectibility of the in which individual, a full development of the collective being, the perfectibility of the society, and, more pragmatically restricted, the perfect or best possible relation of individual with individual and society and of community with community. Hence, we find in history that sometimes an exclusive or dominant emphasis is laid down on the individual, sometimes on the collectivity and society, sometimes on a right and balanced relations between the individual and the collective human whole. According to one ideal, freedom and growth of perfection of the individual is to be held up as a true objective on our existence. This ideal is sometimes conceived as that of a mere free self-expression of the personal being or as self-governed whole of complete mind, fine and ample life and perfect body, or a spiritual perfection and liberation. In the perspective of this view, society is conceived only as a filed of activity and growth for the individual mind and serves best its function when it gives as far as possible a wide room, ample means, a sufficient freedom or guidance of development to his thought, his action, his growth, his possibility of fullness or being. The opposite ideal gives the collective life the first or sole importance; the existence, the growth of the rare is of in this view; the individual is expected to live for the society or fore the mankind or even, he is only a cell of the society, he has no other use or purpose or birth, no other meaning of his presence in Nature, no other foundation. Or, it is sometimes held that the nation, the society, the community is a collective being, revealing its soul in its culture, power of life, ideal, institutions, or its ways of self-expression. In this context, the individual life has to cast itself in that mould, serving the power of life, consent only to exist as an instrument for the maintenance and

Globalisation in the light of Sri Aurobindo's vision of the Ideal of human Unity

Globalisation in the light of Sri Aurobindo's vision of the Ideal of human Unity

efficient existence. In a third ideal, the perfection of man lies in his ethical and social relations with other human beings; his social being and his love for society, for others, for his utility to the race. In this view, the society exists for the service of all, to give them their right or relations, education, training, economical opportunity, right frame of life.

Sri Aurobindo in his survey of world history points out that in the ancient cultures, the greatest emphasis was laid on the community and fitting of the individual into the community. Even than, however, there grew up an ideal of a perfectly individual and it has found that the idea of the spiritual individual was dominant in ancient India, although the society was of extremely importance and its moulding to individual had to pass first to the social states of the physical, vital, mental being with a satisfaction of interest, desire, pursuit of knowledge and right living – kama, moksha and dharma – before he could reach fitness for the truer realise of free spiritual existence (moksha). in contrast, Sri Aurobindo finds in recent times the whole stress has fallen on the life of athe race, to search for a perfect society, and rather than to concentrate on the right organisation and scientific mechanisation of the life of mankind as a whole. Under this circumstance, the individual is now tends to be more regarded only as a member of the collectivity, a unity of the race whose existence must be subordinated and the total interest of the organised society, and much less or not at all as a mental or spiritual being with his own right and pure existence. Again, under the same circumstances, the modern State erects its godheads and demands its bodies, subjugation, and his immolation. The individual is than required to form this exorbitant is the rights of his ideals, his ideas, but personality is conscient.

The conflict between the individual and the collectivity seems at this stage to have reached the stage of an acute conflict of standards, which Globalisation is not a normative movement; under the present material circumstances, fashioned and propelled by scientific and technological advancement, it is an inevitable movement. To think, therefore, of ethics facing globalisation is to invite normative injunction of invoking moral law, if any, in the workings of human aggregates. And this needs a detailed study of history of social and political institutions, of social and political morals, and of morality, religious and spiritual that seem to have influenced the growth of human civilisation than culture. A detailed study of relevant factors is hardly available, but two works that stand out in the depth of luminosity are The Human Cycle, and The Ideal of Human Unity, -- both written by Sri Aurobindo, (1872-1950).

Globalisation in the light of Sri Aurobindo's vision of the Ideal of human Unity

Globalisation in the light of Sri Aurobindo's vision of the Ideal of human Unity

We may briefly turn to them, just to get a glimpse and guidance that they provide.


According to Sri Aurobindo, the unity of mankind is a part of Nature’s eventual scheme and must come about. He, however, points out that it must meet other conditions and with safe-guards which will keep the race intact in the roots of its vitality, richly diverse in its oneness.

In the study of the past of the humanity, he finds that the interesting periods of human life, the scenes in which it has been most richly lived and has left behind it the most precious fruits were precisely those ages and countries in which humanity was able to organise itself in little independent centres, but infused into a single unity. Three such moments in human history to which modern Europe owes two-third of its civilisation where, firstly, the religious life of the conjures of tribes which call itself Israel and, subsequently, of the little Nation of the Jews; secondly, the many-sided life of the small Greek city states; and thirdly, the similar, though more restricted artistic and intellectual life of medieval Italy. Similarly, as far as Asia is concerned, no age was so rich in energy, so well worth living in, so productive of the best and the most enduring fruits as the heroic period of India when she was divided into small kingdoms, many of them no larger than a modern district. The second best period of India, according to Sri Aurobindo, came afterwards in larger, but still comparatively small, nations and kingdoms like those of Pallavas, Chalukyas, Pandyas, Cholas and Cheras.

In the course of history, Sri Aurobindo finds that even when there developed the organisation of nations, kingdoms and empires, it was a groupments of smaller nations which have had the most intense life and not the huge State and colossal empires. His conclusion is that collective life, when it diffuses itself in very vast spaces, seems to loose intensity and productiveness. As illustrations, he points out that Europe has lived in England, France, Netherlands, Spain, Italy, the small states of Germany, -- not in the huge mass of the Holy Roman or the Russian Empire. He also notices that in the organisation of nations and kingdoms, those which have had the most vigorous life have gained it by a sort of artificial concentration of the vitality into some head, centre or capital, London, Paris, Rome.

Globalisation in the light of Sri Aurobindo's vision of the Ideal of human Unity

Globalisation in the light of Sri Aurobindo's vision of the Ideal of human Unity

Taking the example of the Roman Empire, which provides a historical illustration of an organisation of unity which transcended the limits of a nation, he discerns its advantages and disadvantage. The advantages of unity that was forged by that great Empire were its admirable organisation, peace, widespread security, order, and material well-being. But the disadvantages arose from its tendency to centralise, to impose union, as a result, the individual, the city, the region had to sacrifice their independent life and they became mechanical parts – a machine. The organisation was great and admirable, but the individual dwindled and life lost its colour, richness, variety, freedom and victorious impulse towards creation. Eventually, therefore, Roman Empire declined and failed; the huge mechanism of centralisation and union brought about smallness and feebleness of the individual; mechanisation prevailed and the Empire lost even its conservative vitality and died of an increasing stagnation.

The question that Sri Aurobindo raises is as to what is likely to happen if there were social, administrative and political unification of mankind, such as some have begun to dream now a days and this question is immediately relevant, if we are to raise it in the context of the current globalisation. Sri Aurobindo’s reply is that a tremendous organisation would be needed and that under this organisation both the individual and the regional life would be crushed, dwarfed, deprived of their necessary freedom, and this would mean for humanity, after perhaps one first outburst of satisfied and joyous activity, a long period of mere conservation, increasing stagnancy and ultimate decay. Sri Aurobindo’s conclusion is that a greater social and political unity is not necessarily a boon in itself, but it is only worth pursuing in so far as it provides a means and a framework for a better, richer, more happy and puissant individual and collective life. It is against this conclusion that Sri Aurobindo makes a study of the meaning of the contemporary rise of the ideal of human unity and the conditions that must be satisfied under the which that ideal can be realised without hurting the roots of the vitality of human life and that would ensure rich diversity consistent with inner oneness.

In the first place, Sri Aurobindo makes a detailed study of the imperfection of the past aggregate and examines the interrelationship between the group and the individual. Next, he examines the idea of the state and finds its inadequacy and concludes that it is quite improbable that in the present conditions of the race, a healthy unity of mankind can be brought about by State machinery, whether it be a grouping of powerful and organised State

Globalisation in the light of Sri Aurobindo's vision of the Ideal of human Unity

Globalisation in the light of Sri Aurobindo's vision of the Ideal of human Unity

enjoying carefully regulated legalised relations with each other or part substitution a single World-State. He admits that such an external or administrative unity may be intended in the near future of mankind in order to accustom the race to the idea of a commune life to its habit, to its possibility. But he points out that it cannot really be healthy, durable or beneficial overall the principle line of human destiny unless something be developed, more profound, internal and real.

Will humankind be obliged to repeat the experience of ancient world and to pass through confusion and anarchy? Sri Aurobindo’s answer is that it ought to be possible for us to avoid that kind of experience by subordinating mechanical means to our true development through a moralised and even a spiritualised humanity in its inner soul and not only in its outward life and body.

Apart from the question of various possibilities that may be adopted by the contemporary world in which the forces of centralisation are likely to become more and more powerful, Sri Aurobindo makes a detailed study of Nature’s law in our progress, that of unity and diversity and of law and liberty. He concludes that their ideal must be “to develop the individual and all individuals to their full capacity, to develop the community and all communities to the full expression of that many-sided existence and potentiality which their differences were created to express, and to evolve the united life of mankind to its full common capacity and satisfaction, not by suppression of the fullness of life of the individual or the smaller commonalty, but by full advantage taken of the diversity which they develop.”[1]

Sri Aurobindo maintains that human society progresses really and vitally in principle as law becomes the child of freedom, and it reach its perfection when, man having learned to know and becomes spiritually one with his fellow men, the spontaneous law of the society exists only as the outward mode of his self-governed inner liberty.

Sri Aurobindo then proceeds to suggest the principle of the ideal unification of mankind. This would mean, he points out, a system in which, as a first rule of commune and harmonious life, the human peoples would be allowed to form their own groupings according to their natural divisions of locality,

[1] Sir Aurobindo, Social and Political Thought, Centenary Edition, Volume 15, page 400.

Globalisation in the light of Sri Aurobindo's vision of the Ideal of human Unity

Globalisation in the light of Sri Aurobindo's vision of the Ideal of human Unity

race, culture, economic convenience and not according to the more violent accidents of history or the egoistic will of powerful nations whose policy it must always be to compel the smaller or less timely organised to serve their interests as dependents or obey their commands as subjects.

During the course of his study, Sri Aurobindo examines the idea of a league of nations and arrives at the concept of a free world union but warns that the idea of a world federation, if by that we understood the Germanic or the American form would equally be inappropriate to the greater diversity and freedom of national development which this type of world union would hold as one of its cardinal principle. He concludes:

“Rather some kind of confederation of the peoples for common human ends, for the removal of all causes of strife and difference, for interrelation and the regulation of mutual aid and interchange, yet leaving to each unit a full internal freedom and power of self-determination, would be the right principle of this unity.”[1]

In arriving at the implication of this principle of unity, Sri Aurobindo emphasises the need for intellectual and psychological change. Only such an inner change, he points out, could alone give some chance of durability to unification. The saving power needed, he points out, is a new psychological factor which at once make a united life necessary for humanity and force it to respect the principle of freedom. That new psychological factory is what he calls a spiritual religion of humanity. In his own words,

“A spiritual religion of humanity is the hope of the future. By this is not meant what is ordinarily called a universal religion, a system, a thing of creed and intellectual belief and dogma and outward rite. Mankind has tried unity by that means; it has failed and deserved to fail, because there can be no universal religious system, one in mental creed and vital form. The inner spirit is indeed one, but more than any other the spiritual life insists on freedom and variation in its self-expression and means of development. A religion of humanity means the growing realisation that there is a secret of Spirit, a divine Reality, in which we are all one, that humanity is its highest present vehicle on earth, that the human race and the human being are the means by which it will progressively reveal itself here. It implies a growing attempt to live out this knowledge and bring about a kingdom of this divine Spirit upon earth. by its growth within us oneness with our fellow-men will

[1] Ibid., page 523

Globalisation in the light of Sri Aurobindo's vision of the Ideal of human Unity

Globalisation in the light of Sri Aurobindo's vision of the Ideal of human Unity

become the leading principle of all our life, not merely a principle of co-operation but a deeper brotherhood, a real and an inner sense of unity and equality and a common life. There must be the realisation by the individual that only in the life of his fellow-men is his own life complete. There must be the realisation by the race that only on the free and full life of the individual can its own perfection and permanent happiness be founded.”[1]

[1] Ibid., page 554

Globalisation in the light of Sri Aurobindo's vision of the Ideal of human Unity

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