Debashish: Looking forward to our second session with you. So just to recap briefly last time we were together you introduced the theme of the impasse of modernity. And he introduced it by referring to it by a passage from the last chapter of The Divine Life, which I have circulated to all the participants so that they could look at it and reflect on it. In this passage Sri Aurobindo gives a sweeping overview of the history of civilisation from the early stage in Hellenic civilisation right up to the modern turn of Reason in which we find ourselves and he ends that passage with the present prognosis which is that of a new kind of barbarism in which we find ourselves, finally raising the spectre of the possibility of a evolutionary failure.
Kireet Ji dealt with this passage at length last time and he also introduced the idea that it in the words of the Mother and Sri Aurobindo that has averted in his belief this evolutionary failure that is been referred to but that does not mean that there is any lack of danger and difficulty in our present time is not a time, first to rejoice as the Mother said. With those words I will pass it on to Kireet Ji to continue his exploration and for us to share with him.
Prof. Kireet Joshi: Thank you Debashish, you have done marvellously well in summarising what I was saying last time. I shall continue the theme and I want to suggest that we try to make ourselves more precise. What exactly is the impasse? What that impasse means to our human effort and how we can be benefitted, the whole humanity can be benefitted for its upward evolution by the tremendous work that has been accomplished by Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. I shall first of all make only a short statement by pointing out that three factors have joined together to produce the present impasse. One is the tremendous development of science and technology with the resultant development of huge structures of organisation, this has happened. And the multiplication of this hugeness is still in view and we shall come back to this point very shortly. The second is that Reason of which science is a product, which has developed so far, finds itself moving forward. If the Reason were able to race properly the situation would have been different. But Reason is unable to move fast enough — what this means we shall try to become more precise, very shortly. And third is the emergence of the overwhelming preference for the realisation of the economic aim of life. It is these three factors coming together that have caused the jam and as I said last time although this jam has been broken by Herculean …. These three factors have come together and as I said Sri Aurobindo and the Mother have worked out a solution and one of the aims of this exploration is to understand this tremendous work that Sri Aurobindo and the Mother have accomplished. But at the moment I am still dwelling upon this impasse so that we understand quite well, particularly because although the work as I said the work that Sri Aurobindo and the Mother have accomplished is done, the future is still full of perils and we are passing through a perilous time and if we do not understand the impasse which still continues to press upon all of us even though at the end of the tunnel, the blockade has been broken but still we are passing through the tunnel and we also need to cross many hurdles and many perils. So it is inevitable that we must understand, what is this impasse, which has been broken and yet it is still strangulating all of us and we all are struggling to come out of it. We also need to resolve in our own way. And that is why we need to understand these exact factors which are in the loop you might say of the impasse.
Now the hugeness of the structures does not require a long argument, it is right before us even the machine that we are using today as a result of which we are able to converse with each other in spite of long distances is one of the examples of this hugeness of the structures that it is organised. In this connection I will refer to one very interesting book that I have come across just a few days ago, and I thought I will bring it to your notice and read out to you a few portions of this book — it is called The Singularity is Near, this is the title. The Singularity is Near, it is written by Ray Kursweil, he is one of the foremost futurists of our times and when you read a little bio-data of this great futurist, the whole bio- data reads like an amazing achievement for a human being to have achieved. In fact Bill Gates has spoken of him in glowing terms and there are many others who have acknowledged the merits of this great book, it has been published in 2005 and I am sure in America it must be more easily available, a good friend of mine has just recently sent me a copy of it and I happened to read a few pages but even these few pages that I have read are very stimulating and I thought it would be a good idea to share with you, one or two important ideas which have been worked upon in this book.
First of all the sub-title of the book is — When Humans Transcend Biology. And it is a very significant statement because biology at present concerns the physiology and biological functions of our body and of which life and death are very important phases and transcending biology would mean transcending many limitations that our biological existence is confronted with, the circulation of blood for example, the dependence upon breathing, dependence upon food and the necessity of death and these are very important concepts which are relevant also for the theme that we are going to discuss at length in due course of time. He speaks of six epochs right from the time that evolution started and he believes that we are now in the sixth epoch and this epoch is what he calls — Let us wake up, the world wakes up. Even this title is also very interesting and he points out that this epoch will be achieved by reorganising matter and energy to provide an optimal level of computation to spread out from its origin on earth. This book abounds with facts and figures and diagrams and graphs and they are all very interesting and when you find time and if you find time, and you feel inclined you may like to have a look at this book. And maybe that sometime Debashish may also like to speak on this subject because this is also a part of his own speciality. So I will leave at this moment this particular book, I just wanted to share with you that this book points out the possibilities of tremendous development of the hugeness of the structures that are being built up in our own times. Actually he believes that a time is not very, very far off when the human brain can produce a machine which will be a super brain and that super brain on the contrary effects our biological development. It is a kind of a statement illustrating the Mcluhan statement who said that ‘We make tools and then tools make us’. But I am not going to discuss this book, nor his thesis.
This is the first point that I would like to make that there is a hugeness of structure and I would like to underline it. The question is how are we going to deal with this structure? How are we going even to deal with the increasing development of the hugeness of the structure? And as I said it would have been much better and much easier if the highest instrument of human consciousness namely Reason were able to aid in our task and that is not happening. And apart from this important instrument which you call Reason there is another factor in human consciousness to which we must pay due attention. And many writers who speak of the future do not take into account this important factor on which Sri Aurobindo has dwelt at length and that is the factor of the ego of the man.
What is ego, what is the role that ego plays in the development of evolution? As Sri Aurobindo says at one time, ego is the helper and ego is the bar; and we all know ego has been a helper, all psychologists agree with the statement. But we do not realise that one of the most important factors that is blocking the way to a future development and the way by which our dangers can be minimised is to lead our own development to such a point where ego reaches a vanishing point. I do not know if you have remarked at one time in The Life Divine, Sri Aurobindo has, this is in volume no. 18 and this is in chapter no. 2, The Two Negations: The Materialist Denial, where also Sri Aurobindo speaks of the development of hugeness of structures of organisation. And what he has said there is extremely significant and we must remember Sri Aurobindo wrote this in 1914-1915 and at that time how he had perceived the development of the immediate future and how prophetic these words are and let me read out to you this particular passage from The Life Divine, this is on page no. 15 in the 1971 edition that is the centenary edition. Sri Aurobindo says:
As the outposts of scientific Knowledge come more and more to be set on the borders that divide the material from the immaterial, so also the highest achievements of practical Science are those which tend to simplify and reduce to the vanishing-point the machinery by which the greatest effects are produced. Wireless telegraphy is Nature’s exterior sign and pretext for a new orientation. The sensible physical means for the intermediate transmission of the physical force is removed; it is only preserved at the points of impulsion and reception. Eventually even these must disappear; for when the laws and forces of the supraphysical are studied with the right starting-point, the means will infallibly be found for Mind directly to seize on the physical energy and speed it accurately upon its errand. There, once we bring ourselves to recognise it, lie the gates that open upon the enormous vistas of the future.
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 the 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 would like to study with ourselves. Let me first point out that this question of egoism may be regarded as one of the central themes, 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 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 summaries of 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 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 the 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.
Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine - II: The Divine Life
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.
Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine - II: The Divine 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 individual perfection and collective perfection. People doubt whether ever humanity will be able to bring about either of them, whether the individual can be perfected, whether the society can be perfected and whether the 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.
Once again we are required to utilise reason to understand the individual, to understand society and to understand the relationship between the individual and the society. In doing so there are many domains of data which need to be explored and unless you do that, we shall not be able to find a true solution. And the difficulty with the egoism of man and rational powers of man at present have come up with one very important statement — both agree to inquire, both show willingness to inquire but the paradoxical situation is that when the proposals for inquiry are being put forward, both egoism of man and rational powers of man, refuse to inquire. I do not know whether this statement would be accepted either by egoism or by rationality of man. But if you inquire into the depth as to why they are not able to make sufficient progress, at the root of it we shall find that while we profess to inquire, we refuse to inquire; there is some kind of a refusal.
In fact you might say that one of the most important problems of humanity today is the refusal, as Mother once said: ‘Refusal with R cap’, there is a refusal. Now Sri Aurobindo goes farther and says that in breaking this refusal the lead will have to come from the individual. In fact according to Sri Aurobindo it is the individual who has a pivotal significance today, why, how it is so, we shall see later on. But this is a statement that Sri Aurobindo has made that an individual holds the key and that is why the need for this entire analysis that we are making is addressed to individuals individually. And each individual has to understand it to the best of his or her ability because it is the individual who has to make a choice. This question of choice is also extremely important. What is the role of choice in the process of evolution is also an extremely important theme to be explored. But in any case this being so, I am reminded of the very famous statement of Immanuel Kant, as many of us know that speciality of Kant is not merely in his analysis and critique of pure reason but in his analysis of the individual and in his analysis of the idea of the free-will and the importance of choice.
We must remember that Kant lived at the time of the French Revolution and one of the surprising facts that he witnessed was that an ideal was put forward and a group of people in France made a choice to realise those ideals. As a result of which the situation of pre-revolution was completely overturned and a new era in human history started on a higher level of revolution. Decisive factor was perception of an ideal and the choice which was made by a few individuals to realise that ideal. Now Kant pointed out that if there is something most important in the individual, is of course the choice, but he went farther because when we talk of choice, usually we talk of alternatives which are available in an ordinary life, whether I should go on the right hand side or the left hand side because both of them lead ultimately to the same destination, or there is more pleasure on one side and less pleasure on the other side and therefore I make a choice on the basis of what gives me greater pleasure. But what Kant pointed out was apart from this kind of choice there is a greater choice, a higher level of choice is a choice of an alternative which is governed by a law. That is to say you chose between a stage of existence in which there are alternatives but there are no laws determining what he called there are only hypothetical laws, if you want this, then this is good choice, if you want this, this is a good choice but he said that there is another choice available — a law, which he called the Law of the categorical imperative. And there is a choice available to man whether to accept the hypothetical laws or the categorical law. And the real freedom of man lies in the exercise of the choice between this and that. And he found that regal individual, what we call true individuality is really found, discovered, even the individual finds himself a living being, what you might call the existential experience of the individual, when he makes a choice, when he exercises this choice and selects and chooses this, the operation of the higher law — categorical imperative.
In fact you might say one of the greatest contributions of Kant in modern times is his emphasis on the individual. His discovery of the individual because you must remember that there was a tradition of a thought movement in Europe in which emphasis was laid upon a whole so that the individual was considered to be part was reduced only to the position of a cog in a machine and Kant pointed out that individual is not a cog in the machine. Individual is something quite unique. The whole idea of an individual as a responsible being so that there is a choice, a freedom which is exercised by the individual gives to the individual a sense of being, a channel of a will, which is not his own personal will and that is also very interesting. There is a will which he considers to be universal law, a will of universal law which expresses this self through the agency of the individual in which the individual perceives it, makes a choice for it, experiences its freedom in it and feels himself to be a true agent of action, and a responsible agent of action. It is true that Kant does not take his analysis to the farthest extent possible, potentialities of the individual, and that even his definition of the categorical imperative and his own treatment of the universal law, they have been rightly criticised by many of the subsequent thinkers and there is great merit in the criticisms which have been subjected to the idea of Kant. We need not go into it too deeply into it at present as a part of our present inquiry. What is important however is the fact that the individual is not a cog in the machine. This idea that an individual has something in him which can play a pivotal role, a decisive role in the development of civilisation. This idea I think he underlined and I think it is very important that thereafter in the West individualism has gained a great momentum on account of this discovery. In fact you might say that both post-romanticism and even postmodernism both of them have tended to give greater importance to the individual than to the society. And both have given greater importance also to the operation of will rather than to reason. This is not to advocate a kind of romanticism or post-romanticism or postmodernism, it is only to see the merits, whatever merits both these movements possess and surely in emphasising the importance of the individual underling the freedom of the individual and the pivotal role that individual can play and must play and the impact it has made on the present thinking of civilian civilisation — this is to be underlined. Nonetheless the central idea that society is the most important thing and social perfection is the highest thing to be sought after even while making an individual subservient to the society is also very, very prominent today. It is true that we speak of democracy and democracy derives its great value from the importance that is given to the individual and the freedom of the individual, we must understand that there is an overwhelming attempt to subjugate individual and that is why even in the fields of democracy the battle between the individual and the authority is quite acute. This would not be if the individual is rightly understood in his true value. There is an uneasy equation today between individual and society and the overwhelming importance is given to the perfection of the society.
In any case Sri Aurobindo points out that faced with the present situation where we stand today, where economic organisation, perfection of economic organisation is being pursued vehemently. A situation where huge structures have been built up, and where the difficulties are being faced, although the impasse is not felt as an impasse as yet but still there is a tremendous movement to find some solution. There is no doubt that humanity does find itself in the presence of an enormous difficulty. We speak of a bewildering multiplicity of problems which modern mankind is facing today. We may not regard this multiplicity of problems as basically a result of a deeper crisis, which Sri Aurobindo calls an evolutionary crisis. This diagnosis may not be yet seen by many people but nobody can deny the fact that today humanity recognises, acknowledges multiplicity of problems and that there is a tremendous movement to find a solution. Now in that search for a solution, Sri Aurobindo marks out four alternatives which have been put forward in our last century, in the twentieth century. In fact, if you examine the whole history of the century, we shall find that it is working out of proposing these four solutions. And it is by examining these four contrary solutions that we can move forward in coming to the grip of the real problem.
I would like to invite all our friends to three or four pages of The Life Divine, beginning from page no.1056 up to page no.1059, where Sri Aurobindo expounds these four solutions. I think the first solution, in fact Sri Aurobindo says that the overwhelming idea of the first solution was to emphasise the search for a perfected economic society. Secondly, this search for a perfected economic society was to be conducted by the powers of reason and by the powers that science has brought to mankind but there was a farther element. That element was to regard the idea that a community, or society, or the nation had a soul and that each nation, particularly one nation, or the one nation in which this ideology arose regarded itself to be a superior soul, where even the concept of the soul was misconceived and the communal ego was raised up to the status of the soul and it was felt if this idea of national subjective being or soul but actually an ego, if people can be collected together under the force of this impulsion and if they all come together then a perfected economic society can be created. This was the formula. In doing so, the effort was to coerce the individual to fall in line with the demands of the communal ego.
Now the other solution had also the same idea of perfected economic society, again with the power of the reason, again putting science as the instrument for enlargement of whatever structures and productions that could be produced by science. But the idea was not a communal, national egoism but the whole humanity, it was a kind of a movement in which international community of mankind could join together so that a perfected economic society can be created but the means were the same, coerce the individual so that they can all come together and individual if he opposes he can be curbed and fall in line. This is the second solution that was being proposed. A third solution was as Sri Aurobindo says the development of an enlightened reason and will of the normal man consenting to a new socialised life in which he will subordinate his ego for the sake of the right arrangement of the life of the community. Here the consent of the individual was conceded but the aim is again a perfected economic society and even ultimately the teaching was that the individual should sub serve himself for the larger interest of the society. And that this consent can be brought about by education, by training and by creating a kind of a social machinery. Now Sri Aurobindo having studied all the three alternative solutions, in fact we know now historically that all the three solutions have failed and today we are almost at a point where we do not know in what direction the new development must take place. It is true that after the collapse of Nazism, after the collapse of communism in Russia, in Soviet Union, and after the failure of the developed world, which was capitalistic, which was socialistic partly and which was partly swayed between the two alternatives, we do not know as yet where to turn? And we are at this point where we are still constructing new theories of social development and still our preoccupation is the perfection of economic society. To use our reason for that purpose and to use the power of science and creation of huge structures and the latest development is globalisation. And we do not know as yet, we are not experienced how far globalisation will take us and what direction, what will be the perils and advantages and disadvantages are being discussed today at large. But there are two-three sentences of Sri Aurobindo which are very relevant where Sri Aurobindo says that all these solutions rely upon machinery, create social machine, create scientific machines, utilise reason as a machine, utilise individual as a machine, it is machinery that is predominant in our present thinking about social individual relationships. And Sri Aurobindo says:
Machinery cannot form the soul and life-force into standardised shapes; it can at best coerce them, make soul and mind inert and stationary and regulate the life’s outward action; but if this is to be effectively done, coercion and compression of the mind and life are indispensable and that again spells either unprogressive stability or decadence.
Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine - II: The Divine Life
In three lines Sri Aurobindo suggests a true solution, Sri Aurobindo says:
Man’s true way out is to discover his soul and its self-force and instrumentation and replace by it both the mechanisation of mind and the ignorance and disorder of life-nature.
Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine - II: The Divine Life
Now you can see that in Sri Aurobindo’s diagnosis the most important thing is to ask each individual to discover his soul. This is a proposition which needs to be explored — what does it mean? Unless there come about individuals in the world in sufficiently, increasingly larger numbers, we cannot come out of the present impasse. As Sri Aurobindo pointed out, it is only when the egoism of man can be thinned to the vanishing point that the hugeness of the structures can be met by the hugeness of the individual and that hugeness of the individual would rest in the soul of man, neither in his power of mind, nor in his power of life, nor in his power of body but in the power of the soul. What Kant had dimly recognised the discovery of the individual, the discovery of the individual freedom, individual’s discovery of a law which is categorical, a discovery which is universal, universal and therefore something that goes beyond egoism, to go beyond egoism to remain yet the individual and to be united with the universal, unless this happens and unless a large number of individuals coming together and this consciousness spreads in the world, we may go on knocking doors after doors, erecting solutions after solutions, the present situation is such that we cannot escape from the present impasse. I think I have spoken at length today beyond my time limit but let me within next two-three minutes, sum up my present statement because I spoke four solutions and I have expounded only three and I reserve the fourth one for next one and still develop it further, next time and then I would like to then deal with the problem of reason and also deal with the problem of ego and the individual because unless we analyse these terms very neatly, we will not be able to understand the significance of the problem and the solution and the tremendous work that Sri Aurobindo and the Mother have accomplished.
Debashish: Maybe I can sort of introduce a question in lieu of some of the others and I am sure there will be other questions, particularly I know one of the problems you introduced, the very first problem that of the hugeness of machinery and Sri Aurobindo’s statement about the vanishing point is a great sort of concern with many, Rich Carlson with whom I had many conversations on this subject, the question over there has to do with this idea of vanishing point for machinery. What is very interesting is that indeed Sri Aurobindo was writing in that particular comment in the second chapter of The Life Divine,we had just embarked upon the whole regime of the disappearance of machinery in a subtle or subtler transmission, telecommunication revolution and he is talking about wireless telegraphy over there but this question of the vanishing point which is in a sense something. Because today we have reached a point we are seeing all over the world we can contact anybody at just a push of a button, we take it for granted today, but at the same time there is invisible machinery behind it, though we have reduced the mechanical sort of devices but huge machinery has not disappeared and we are in a sense being ruled by a variety of conditioning forces that are utilising this disappearance. You know tomorrow people are talking about a new kind of biology in which there are implants and all kinds of bionic devices which we can’t see. We see human beings just like human beings, they are so subtle, they have entered in our body but as a matter of fact they have provided a certain kind of a circuit within which the free market can operate even more freely. That in sense as you were pointing out the demise of communism has brought into play this free market in which the individual is not free enough, there isn’t enough freedom of choice of the deeper sort, of the impersonal thought, so that the individuals are constantly being conditioned by the market forces of self-interest and …. So would you like to comment on that, Kireet Ji, particularly on this reversed use, if one may say using Sri Aurobindo’s terminology and asuric disappearance of … to the vanishing point is with us today.
Prof. Kireet Joshi: Actually the question that you have raised has many aspects and let me first speak of the present movement of market economy. I think this is the recitation of market economy because many people believe that market economy is based upon the philosophy of the freedom of the individual because in market economy every individual is considered to be free as an entrepreneur, every individual can enter the market and can compete with all the peers and he make his mark in the society and can succeed and can gain whatever he aims at getting. He can work in the society, as it were, as a field but not as a master, society does not tell him what he should do, how he should do, how he should go about. In that sense you can say that market economy advocates the freedom of the individual and many people believe that market economy is a kind of an ideal system, and with the collapse of communist system in Soviet Union, people believe that now there is a reassertion of freedom of man and freedom of the individual, freedom of market development and humanity is now being freed. This is the kind of reasoning which is being put forward.
Now the statement that you made is very important because the question is — is it really true that in a market economy individuals are free? First of all we must know that those individuals who say they are free to enter into market, if you examine really the claim of those individuals who can really get into the global market are those individuals who have some kind of backing of a system of inheritance, it’s a subtle kind of a social machinery, if there was no system of inheritance, if there was no law to support inheritance, if there was no machinery of inheritance then most of the so-called free individuals would not have felt the freedom to enter into the free market. So that is one machinery, machinery which has not been questioned from centuries and centuries and even in the present time and the right to property is regarded as sacrosanct. A right which was questioned in the communist philosophy is now being reasserted in the name of freedom. But we don't realise that this so-called freedom is itself a kind of machinery. We have a system of inheritance as a result of which property rights are being protected by the society and society has got to protect it, by law. These are all machineries. It is by machinery that some individuals are able to enter into markets, free markets and begin to play a big role. And other individuals are told, you also are free, how illusory this freedom is for those individuals who watch — the big tycoons are moving in the world is really to be seen in the realistic terms. They believe that they are free perhaps; I do not know how far do they feel that they are free? It is true that some individuals do feel free and they exercise freedom and they can enter into that larger market by some kind of circumstances and favourable circumstances, hard labour on their part and so on. But can we say that it is the operation of the whole of the society or the principle of freedom, is every individual inwardly free to enter into the global market? Legally you might say, it’s a law, nobody will prevent him but what is the condition in which individuals are placed, are individuals placed in equality by law? Not at all, this is one machinery.
Second is a big machinery, the market itself. Market is being run by three machineries. One is the machinery by which goods are produced, secondly there is a machinery by which goods are distributed and thirdly there is a machinery of administration by which this production and distribution are annexed. So you have got three machineries. And these three machineries, all of them take advantage of science in regard to productivity. And science itself is an impersonal force which is developing in its own way and there also there are machines by which science is developing and the march of science seems to be almost like a machinery, they have to submit themselves to the progression and the direction in which the science is moving today. This also is machinery and thirdly the whole world today is greatly organised by a system of administration, not only economic administration of which I spoke just now but administration in every field of activity. There is a political machinery, by which leaders are being elected and we know in what conditions it is working, and to what extent individuals are free in this machinery. Those who are examining the political philosophy of democracy acutely, they have come to the conclusion that it is a pseudo democracy, or that democracy is the best of all evil forms of government. Not that it is the best, it is the best of evil forms and it is regarded as one of the best economic structures but one of the most evil economic structures, best of the economic structures which are evil, all of them. So in politics there is a machinery, even in regard to health care there is a machinery, in education there is machinery. In fact everywhere, wherever you turn today our life is a time-table ruled life, what we call freedom of man is hardly there is leisure to seek even. Everywhere there is machinery, in fact touch anywhere your hand and there is machinery. You build a house; we now call them prefabricated houses in which everything is pre-designed and machines draw out all that you need for a housing. This is not to deny the fact that it is a vast field of art, creativity, literature, poetry but even artists today know how much machinery today is at work and how much individuals even find it difficult to really exercise freedom in their own art. So I agree with you that there are various layers of machineries today in which our whole society is encased. And it is against this fabrication of machinery and binding up the societies within machineries of various kinds, it is that which reduces individual to be a cog in the machine. Debashish, what do you think about the reflections which I have presented to you?
Debashish: Yes, Kireet Bhai, I absolutely agree that it really brings into focus, this problem of the individual in the modern world and the tremendous difficulty that is faced by us in even having a time and space to allow the growth of the soul. I just wanted to mention if anybody else has any questions, please come forward.
Questioner: All the external perfections like no economic problem, and no fights, no agitations, all those perfections even if we have externally. Do you think that there will still be some internal problems like boredom, a sense of insecurity and lack of communication and some kind of sense of gap in communication, things like that?
Prof. Kireet Joshi: You are quite right actually. Our main emphasis is on the fact that basically an individual is a seeker of freedom. It is because of circumstances that he is obliged to submit himself to society and to machinery, or sometimes he really recognises the importance of society because there is no doubt about the fact that collectivity is also a reality and collectivity also has meaning. While speaking of individual freedom and the value of the individual we need not underestimate the importance of the collectivity, the importance of the collectivity, even the need for collective perfection. But while we look upon the present society as a big machine, we do have to reckon the fact that an individual is bound to feel suffocated under the impress of the machinery. And what you are saying is that the problems of boredom, problems of oppression, problems of anxiety, problems of various kinds of competitive forces which are at work and this feeling of fear of the future and therefore what we call existential problems are rampant today all over the world. And it is for that reason that we need to examine problems more acutely. My problem is that we are not at present first of all analysing the problems more clearly and we are driven away by the influence of one ‘ism’ or the other and try to defend one position against the other and we are not able to arrive at a very synthetic method of looking at things.
What I find in Sri Aurobindo so refreshing is a new way of thinking, feeling and acting. And this new feeling and this new way of thinking is his synthetic way of looking in which all points of view are synthesised. And I think that as Sri Aurobindo says that we have to move towards that what he calls whole consciousness and consciousness of integrality, and it is only with the integral vision of things that the problem of the present society can be resolved. So I think that this problem of which we are thinking of they do access and do require a solution.
Question: Do you place surrender to the Divine anywhere near as a solution?
Prof. Kireet Joshi: Yes, of course. You are raising one of the most important themes and while I would say certainly yes, and underline it hundred times but when we speak of surrender, we need to understand this concept in a greater depth than what is normally suggested because there are many ideas of surrender in religious thought, even in the thought of legal systems, surrender of Christ, for example, then similar ideas of surrender that we find in economics. We find a similar idea of surrender in spiritual life, not religious but spiritual life. So while I agree with you that certainly the solution would lie in the surrender to the Divine, I would say that we need to understand in greater depth what we really mean by surrender to the Divine. So if you would like to ask something further on this we can dwell upon it, otherwise it’s a question we shall have time to discuss in due course of time. When we come to find out how egoism for example can be led to its vanishing point and there the idea of surrender to the Divine is very relevant and we shall have certainly to say a great deal about this matter.
Question: I just wanted to know if that last chapter of Sri Aurobindo’s book is the one he worked on or that he just, you know, did he amend it in the course of his life or was it written in 1914-1921?
Prof. Kireet Joshi: I did not follow exactly. You are asking whether Sri Aurobindo came to all these answers, please continue, can you repeat your question.
Questioner: Yes. Did Sri Aurobindo write his thoughts in or work on this chapter at the end of his life or was it complete early.
Prof. Kireet Joshi: I know that Sri Aurobindo wrote basically between 1914 and 1921, but many chapters were added later on and therefore I cannot say that what I read out to you was written in 1914 and 1921, excepting I am quite sure that what was written in chapter no. 2, was certainly between 1914-1915. It was among the other essays that he wrote in The Life Divine, but later on when he comes to discuss the problem of divine life and this problem of modern times, contemporary times, I think it was at a later stage. But I do not know exactly at what later stage, when? I don’t know whether we have sufficient data to be very sure about it. Perhaps Debashish may be able to answer this question. Debashish, can you shed light on this question?
Debashish: Kireet Ji, yes, you are right, I think the six chapters were revised later by Sri Aurobindo towards the 1940s as I am told, but I also not hundred percent sure what exactly he added, the people in the archives have been studying these things and may be some answer can be obtained from some of the people over there. But this last chapter was certainly edited by Sri Aurobindo in the 1940s and maybe even round the time of the Second World War, in that period.
Prof. Kireet Joshi: Would you like to ask the archive sometime because this question seems to be a very interesting question even from a historical point of view, if you could raise this question to the archive and send them this question then maybe next time you can get an answer on this question. It will be quite interesting for all of us.
Debashish: Alright, I will certainly ask the question.
Prof. Kireet Joshi: That will be good, thank you.
Questioner: I was reading a book about the latest thing that was the transmission of energy and I thought it was a great breakthrough. It would lead to a lot of things like kinetic in my head, like lot of electric cars being driven around, no need of battery but then I realised that it’s not really a breakthrough it was also mean a tremendous increase in mechanisation, like the power transmission would probably be very destructive if we were aware of it. It’s like thinking of a dead end, so I realised it is connected to, like the vanishing point of mechanisation like the opposite of the, I just felt a sense of spell as I went there. I can see why Sri Aurobindo was feeling that. I wish we get to that vanishing point.
Prof. Kireet Joshi: You know I think there is a what Sri Aurobindo was suggesting was that in wireless telegraphy, we get freedom in transmission and although there are kind of a limitation at the point of impulsion and the point of reception and Sri Aurobindo envisaged there is a possibility of even eliminating these two points, — impulsion and reception and particularly the discovery of the energy at work in the immaterial. We are still at the level, we have not yet crossed the barrier of the material. We have not entered sufficiently into the field of the immaterial, although all the present movements and speed with which we are able to communicate and so on, certainly takes us to borderline where the material and the immaterial meet together but still according to Sri Aurobindo the newer sciences are still to develop. When the science of life, life-world, science of mind-world are discovered and how to utilise them, a great period of development is ahead. But how much freedom even then from machinery, you will get, that is the question mark because freedom can be gained only by freedom from egoism. It is not a development of powers and isn’t all kinds of structures which are necessary but real freedom is only when there is this realisation of the freedom from egoistic limitation.
Questioner: Thank you.
Questioner: We got this freedom from egoism and specially seem to be the machinery that is sort of names and sort of preoccupation of modernity or postmodernity, it seems like this machinery, you know we can talk about probably two positions. One sort of internal that Sri Aurobindo was referring to and one external which sooner progresses perhaps like Maclaurin says ‘everything altering for our inner propensities, so we are becoming the altering our looks, close the altering of skin or the central nervous system is sort of altered in sort of mass communication technology. So with this altering with technology seems to me to be working unfamiliar with this inner centering ourselves and I don’t see why altering the psychic being sort of wants to be the items of…… modality on the sort of evolution? If that is so, I am sure that Sri Aurobindo warns that this sort of mentality needs to sort of an effort, it ties with the ego …. And he speaks of the coming of a Nietzschean type of superman and possibly he says that worse the reign of the world to the …… and every, or every being there to return to barbaric .. How we sort of aspiring for the inner evolution as the vanishing point of the ego, rather than the vanishing of the human machine which leads to sort of builds to power, builds to technology and is driving modernity and the sooner you see a sort of dialogue or relationship of how one sort of on the path of inner evolution then sort of encounter the machinery of this outer evolution?
Prof. Kireet Joshi: I think your question is very, very difficult to answer, but let me show some points which you can discuss further. The first point is that there is always a process in this world and there is a law of the process, only there are levels of these processes and therefore different laws of processes. And these processes are more and more flexible as we go from material plane to higher planes of existence. To come out of the binding or the bondage to the process is a process by which one can stand a capacity to stand behind the process that is why a great importance is given to the development of the witnessing consciousness but even that is only a step. At a higher level there should be a will, which can utilise the process according to the need or according to whatever the end in view and therefore in that sense what you spoke of the psychic being is important. It is the discovery of the psychic being in which we are capable of witnessing and also willing and which can control the processes. These concepts are to be put together in a kind of a neat relationship.
We had in India right from the Veda, the concept of swarajya and then the concept of samrajya, that is to say you rule yourself and if you rule yourself you can rule the whole world. And the secret of it was the vanishing point of egoism as a result of which the psychic being can be released from the bondage and it can exercise its own free will to utilise machinery or the processes and the levels of processes, which are available, freely to the individual. So this is somehow the kind of an answer that I can give you temporarily, although I would admit that your question is very vast and admits levels of answer but if you have further things to say I will be happy to hear from you once more.