A New Synthesis of Yoga as a necessity to overcome the impasse of modernity - Skype - Track 403 (29 September 2008)

As Sri Aurobindo points out that if mankind succumbs to this enormity of the economic man there may be even a failure of human race and the future possibility of the human society evolving even into a spiritual age maybe thwarted. Fortunately as I said something has happened and this not any more likely to be that is to say that there may not be this failure, but even then perils exist and it is these perils that we are trying to examine, and it is in that context that Sri Aurobindo speaks of three solutions which have been put forward today and the fourth one is the one which is likely to be put forth and which also will be kind of a question mark.

Now it is against this background that I would like to come back to your first question and that is about the tremendous pressure of the post-modernism. I think post-modernism is a end of the physical endeavour. This is rather a brusque statement that I am making, it may be challenged by many and it may itself be a kind of a separate subject for discussion but if you examine the history of rationality, right from the time that Descartes, the father of modern philosophy spoke of cogito ergo sum, I think therefore I am, and arrived at the certainty of rational conclusion and developed the idea of the criterion of the truth, the clarity and precision of the idea and this culminated in the Spinozistic formation of a vast system of the philosophical perception of the world in which he emphasised that pure reason is obliged to conceive the infinite in which the universe is contained. To my mind this conclusion is of enormous significance and importance. His whole ethics is based upon this basic premise. Pure reason according to him conceives infinite or the absolute in which the whole universe is systematically contained.

Now this proposition however got challenged in Leibniz and while he accepted fundamentally Spinozistic position, he introduced the logic of the contingency as against Spinozistic concept that pure reason is by necessity obliged to conceive the infinite and Leibniz also pointed out that all the events in the world are not necessary, that there are events which are contingent and as a result of which he added one new law of logic – the Law of Sufficient Reason. And while the rationalistic movement reached this kind of a climax in Leibniz and in a sense you might say that Leibniz perhaps represents the pinnacle of intellectual thought, of idealistic rationalism. It is against this that there arose in the rationalistic movement a reaction and it is that which brought about a kind of a reaction in Locke in terms of  conceiving of the human mind as the tabula rasa, exactly the opposite of what Descartes had said, according to whom thought is innate in human mind. And according to Locke the human mind is basically a tabula rasa, it has nothing inherent in it, all is derived by the experience of the senses which are recorded and graft in the human mind and therefore all knowledge is to be derived from experience. It is this which became more powerful, more developed in Berkeley and then it arrived at a final refinement in Hume and therefore Hume’s philosophy is conceived as the pinnacle of empericistic thought. Now this is a development which is also extremely important and we have to note what is the truth behind it and why it should have developed at all.

However in due course of time and particularly through Kant, who tried to reconcile both movements of rationalism, starting from Descartes to Leibniz and empiricism which has started from Locke to Hume, he reconciled by his Critique of Pure Reason and added also the Critique of Practical Reason. And that according to me is a very important landmark of rational development. Unfortunately however according to me Kant was not followed up in fullness, instead several lines developed out of Kant and they have still not become fully co-ordinated. You might say that the post Kantian development of rationality has so many different fronts. Logical positivism is one development, existentialism is another, phenomenology is another, pragmatism is still another and there are many other minor movements of rational development, rational thought. And all these ultimately today we are facing, what you have called post-modernistic view of reason.

Now you pointed out that post-modernistic movement is the latest and we have got to look into the challenge that it poses to the present situation of humanity and while considering these different statements of Sri Aurobindo, we have to find a place for the post-modernism and whether this is a kind of a farther complication, or makes even our present impasse a more rigid impasse or whether it liberates human mind to a new solution. Now that is why I would like to appreciate very much, the point of view that you have raised and I would very briefly say that post-modernism is a stage of human reason, which allows a powerful movement of reassertion of the dogmatism of religions. I shall explain what I mean. Post-modernism is a new model form of utter relativism, utter scepticism and utter uncertainty. Now the human mind however cannot rest, cannot build anything in the state of uncertainty and many people find it difficult to refute this post-modernistic attitude of the reason. Of course there are many ways by which attempts are made to meet post-modernism into which I will not enter just now but there are many, many ways by which attempts are being made. These attempts are being made on the side of empiricism, pragmaticism, even existentialism and so on. But to my mind all of them are inadequate. As a result of that since human mind always seeks some kind of certainty and having seen that the present impasse is impossible to be broken the assertion of religion which was opposed to reason in many ways is bound to come forward to humanity presenting itself as a solution to the problems of mankind.

You referred just now to many movements which are going on, movements of fundamentalism, of various cults growing up and so on. It is to that movement that Sri Aurobindo had referred when he spoke of the fourth solution which was likely to be put forward, which he had already anticipated and today we are exactly at that point where religions are coming forward as a possible solution to the present impasse.

I have forgotten exactly your second point which you had mentioned, can you just repeat the second point you had mentioned.

Debashish: Kireet ji that was about, the first one as you said was about the spectre of the nation-soul and its replacement or displacement in terms of number of religious orthodoxies and cultic fundamentalisms and the second one was of socialism, of uniformity of a termite civilisation that Sri Aurobindo talks about and the possibility that that has also been replaced or displaced by subtler forms of machinery and control.

Prof. Kireet Joshi: Yes, this is true also because of the collapse of, particularly of Soviet Union, the communist structure. I would like to however say that in China however the communist thought has not disappeared and I do not think that it has completely disappeared. The communistic thought still continues to be a power and a force and we have to see how that force is going to shape the future or what contributions it is going to make to the future. In any case the thesis remains that even then human society will still be sought to be regularised by some kind of a not exactly under the communistic ideology but the idea that society can be regulating power over the individual. But there is today a kind of unprecedented resurgence of capitalism and this capitalistic philosophy is accentuated by the third solution that Sri Aurobindo had proposed. I must say that these are not his solutions, these are the solutions which he has only described as being put forth today by different thinkers as solutions for the present impasse. And that was to, you also had rightly pointed out the solution to be sought in enlightened reason and will of the normal man consenting to a new socialised life.

Now this statement may seem to be not exactly coincidental with the super capitalism of today because of the word – socialised life, because capitalism does not believe in socialised life. And yet if you examine the enormous structures which have come into existence, whatever may be the capitalistic philosophy, the very structures in which we exist today, even highest form of capitalistic society will be obliged to present to mankind some kind of a rigid frame work of social life and it is that which is the danger. Even though there may be the rule of some kind of a place of a consent, because capitalism is an advocate of the consent of man, the freedom of man. And even though there is a tremendous space which has been given to the present capitalism to the element of consent, even then the structure which is coming up in the world will oblige any social organisation to take this form of socialised life. So I think that although the situation has changed to some extent and the form has changed the basic formula has not changed. It is the formula of the enlightened reason and will of the normal man consenting to a new socialised life. So this is my answer to your second point.