I believe this statement goes beyond the Singularity is Near, this goes much farther because Sri Aurobindo speaks of the development of the immaterial, not only of the material but the immaterial and how the mind can directly seize on the physical energy and may be that is also is in the offing, of which many people are not taking into account. But then what Sri Aurobindo says later, subsequently in the next paragraph is even more significant and I should like to continue to read it. “Yet even if we had full knowledge and control of the worlds immediately above Matter, there would still be a limitation and still a beyond. The last knot of our bondage is at that point where the external draws into oneness with the internal, the machinery of ego itself becomes subtilised to the vanishing-point and the law of our action is at last unity embracing and possessing multiplicity and no longer, as now, multiplicity struggling towards some figure of unity. There is the central throne of cosmic Knowledge looking out on her widest dominion; there the empire of oneself with the empire of one’s world; there the life in the eternally consummate Being and the realisation of His divine nature in our human existence.”
These are extremely optimistic statements and fill us with tremendous exhilaration about the future even while at present we are thinking of the impasse and of the perils which are on our path. But as you can see in this statement Sri Aurobindo underlines the necessity of breaking the limitations of the egoistic consciousness. So there are two important factors – the egoistic consciousness and human tendency to retain egoistic consciousness and the Reason and the limits which Reason has reached and the tendency to retain those limits, these two factors are biggest blockades in the future evolution of man. And as I said exactly at this moment the preoccupation with the preference for the perfection of economic life, a preoccupation which in itself is very important and necessary for the fullness of the totality of the completeness but if it becomes exclusive predominant as it is now then as we saw last time it marks the reversion to barbarism and this reversion to barbarism is perhaps one of the greatest perils of our times. This is where we stand.
Now it is at this stage that we find ourselves and we may begin to explore further, what is ego? What is reason and what exactly is this economic organisation of life as an aim? And what is humanity today busy with, occupied with? It is these questions that I should like to study with ourselves. Let me first point out that this question of egoism may be regarded as one of the central theme, one of the central themes you might say on which we need to dwell upon first. Usually the word ego is understood by all of us to refer to individuality. Although there is distinction between the true individual and the egoistic consciousness as we shall see in due course of time. But in our ordinary parlance the word ego and the individual are identified. And the whole history of mankind can be conceived in terms of three important terms which are connected with egoism. One, the preoccupation of the ego to develop itself to its maximum, secondly, while doing so, it has got to interact with collectivity and the relationship between this ego and the collectivity and surprisingly collectivity itself trying to develop to the maximum development point and the interaction between egoism and the collectivity. The demand of the ego to find its perfect place, its exclusive place perhaps and collectivity trying to swallow the ego from time to time and as much as it can and demanding of the ego a complete subservience possible and the egoism opposing it from time to time and sometimes accepting the subservience of the collectivity, also from time to time. A kind of an equilibrium disequilibrium play between the ego and the collectivity, and a search for a relationship between the two which could be regarded as ideal. The whole history of mankind can be conceived in the terms of these three movements and what has been conceived as three perfections. These three perfections have been conceived in the human history, the perfection of the individual, the perfection of the collectivity and the perfection of the relationship between these two.
As I said last time there are many sentences and passages in Sri Aurobindo which provide the summaries of the world history from one point of view or the other. Similarly, I would like to point out to you another passage in The Life Divine, which describes the whole history of mankind very briefly in the terms of this problem of the individual and the collectivity and their interrelationship. This is on page no., 1046 of The Life Divine, volume no. 19 of the centenary edition and it is in the last chapter of The Life Divine, where Sri Aurobindo points out, how human race has been swaying between three principal preoccupations of idealism. I read out to you the passage, “These sway between the three principal preoccupations of our idealism, – the complete single development of the human being in himself, the perfectibility of the individual, a full development of the collective being, the perfectibility of society, and, more pragmatically restricted, the perfect or best possible relations of individual with individual and society and of community with community.”
Now Sri Aurobindo goes on to say how, in the history of mankind these three idealisms have swung from one point to the other and describing this swing Sri Aurobindo states “An exclusive or dominant emphasis is laid sometimes on the individual, sometimes on the collectivity or society, sometimes on a right and balanced relation between the individual and the collective human whole. One idea holds up the growing life, freedom or perfection of the human individual as the true object of our existence, – whether the ideal be merely a free self-expression of the personal being or a self-governed whole of complete mind, fine and ample life and perfect body, or a spiritual perfection and liberation. In this view society is there only as a field of activity and growth for the individual man 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 of being. An opposite idea gives the collective life the first or the sole importance; the existence, the growth of the race is all: the individual has to live for the society or for mankind, or, even, he is only a cell of the society, he has no other use or purpose of birth, no other meaning of his presence in Nature, no other function. Or it is held that the nation, the society, the community is a collective being, revealing its soul in its culture, power of life, ideals, institutions, all its ways of self-expression; the individual life has to cast itself in that mould of culture, serve that power of life, consent only to exist as an instrument for the maintenance and efficiency of the collective existence. In another idea the perfection of man lies in his ethical and social relations with other men; he is a social being and has to live for society, for others, for his utility to the race: the society also is there for the service of all, to give them their right relation, education, training, economic opportunity, right frame of life.”
These are the three idealisms between which humanity has been swaying from time to time. I think if you look at the whole history of mankind, you can ask which period is dominated by which of these three ideals. In recent times if you examine there has been too much emphasis in putting the individual at the service of the society. To make collectivity as perfect as possible even though as a revolt individualism also has found a tremendous room and we have come to a very important tug of war between the individual perfection and collective perfection. People doubt whether ever humanity will be able to bring about either of them, whether individual can be perfected, whether society can be perfected and whether relationship between individual and society can ever be perfected. Once again rational power of man is utilised and has to be utilised because that is the highest power that man has at present and the question is whether rationality has the power, has the wisdom, has the key, either to individual perfection, social perfection and relation between the two. This is the point at which today we find ourselves arrested.