Philosophy of Sri Aurobindo - Sri Aurobindo and the Future of Humanity

Sri Aurobindo and the Future of Humanity



Sri Aurobindo and The Future of Humanity
(17th to 19th  JANUARY 2005)



University Grants Commission



17th January at 12.00 Noon



Sri Aurobindo and the Future of Humanity

Sri Aurobindo and the Future of Humanity



A Synoptic Statement

Sri Aurobindo has been described as the adventure of consciousness but he can also be aptly described as the future in the process of realisation. Sri Aurobindo dreamt as a revolutionary, and every great dream that he dreamt has been realised and is being realised more and more concretely, the fruits of which can be read in the living pages of history. Of the five great dreams that he spoke in his message on the 15th of August 1947, Sri Aurobindo himself reviewed these dreams and showed how four of them had already been realised or how they were moving towards their realisation. These were relating to a free and united India, resurgence and liberation of the peoples of Asia, a world union forming the outer basis of a fairer, brighter and nobler life of all mankind, and the spiritual gift of India to the world. Of the fifth dream, which he described as a personal hope and an idea, was a step in evolution which would raise man to a higher and larger consciousness and begin the solution of the problems which have perplexed and vexed him since he first began to think and to dream of individual perfection and a perfect society. And yet this was, we might say, his key dream, since all other goals of his life were dependent on that key dream. His central aim of life was to develop in the human being and in the human race a new light which he calls supramental consciousness by the aid of which interdependence and mutuality of the individual and collective consciousness can become manifest and express themselves in lasting world

Sri Aurobindo and the Future of Humanity

Sri Aurobindo and the Future of Humanity

harmony. At the time when he spoke of this ideal as a personal hope, he was totally engaged in bringing about the descent of the supramental consciousness on the earth, and he was at the intensest point of facing the difficulties, more formidable than in any other field of endeavour.

Sri Aurobindo has been a forerunner, visualising a great future for humanity and a pioneer in hewing a path for humanity to arrive at the next step of human evolution. As a nationalist, he ranks as an outstanding internationalist, as an internationalist, he ranks as a universal humanist, and as a leader of the human mind, he ranks as a climber to the divine supermind. As a climber to the supermind, he made himself a bridge for the descent of the supermind for the supramentalisation of the earth. Future, - a glorious future for humanity, - is the very theme of the life and work of Sri Aurobindo.


Sri Aurobindo and Nationalism

As is well known, Sri Aurobindo wrote blazing pages between 1906 and 1908 for Bande Mataram, which electrified the nation and defined for the whole country the meaning of Indian nationalism. In a brief but compelling statement, he provided a quintessential answer to the question as to what is nation, what is nationality and what is nationalism, and this statement would  continue even for the future, as guideline of assurance of the continuous relevance of the reality of nationalism for all the national souls, including the Indian national soul. This statement can profitably be reiterated:

Sri Aurobindo and the Future of Humanity

Sri Aurobindo and the Future of Humanity

… there are certain essential conditions, geographical unity, a common past, a powerful common interest impelling towards unity and certain favourable political conditions which enable the impulse to realise itself in an organised government expressing the nationality and perpetuating its single and united existence. This may be provided by a part of the nation, a race or community, uniting the others under its leadership or domination, or by a united resistance to a common pressure from outside or within. A common enthusiasm coalescing with a common interest is the most powerful fosterer of nationality. We believe that the necessary elements are present in India, we believe that the time has come and that by a common resistance to a common pressure in the shape of the boycott, inspired by a common enthusiasm and ideal, that united nationality for which the whole history of India has been a preparation, will be speedily and mightily accomplished.[1]

Nationalism and Internationalism

There is today much contest in respect of concept of the nation and nationalism and it is even sometimes suggested that in the coming days of internationalism, globalisation and large aggregation in the formation of a possible world-unity, nations and nationalities will be overpassed and the world will enter into a post-national stage of existence. We of the present day and the coming days will need to consider these suggestions, and in determining our future course of action, Sri Aurobindo’s analysis, which he has given in his great work, “The Ideal of Human Unity”, will need to be revisited. In particular, we need to study the distinction that Sri Aurobindo

[1] Sri Aurobindo: Bande Mataram, Centenary Edition, Vol. 1, p.507

Sri Aurobindo and the Future of Humanity

Sri Aurobindo and the Future of Humanity

made between political unity and real unity. Sri Aurobindo states that this distinction must be made because  "it is of the greatest utility to a true and profound political science and involves the most important consequences.  When an empire like Austria, a non-national empire, is broken to pieces, it perishes for good; there is no innate tendency to recover the outward unity, because there is no real inner oneness; there is only a politically manufactured aggregate.  On the other hand, a real national unity broken up by circumstances will always preserve a tendency to recover and reassert its oneness.”[1]

Sri Aurobindo points out that just as the individual is an ontological Spirit, and therefore it can never be reduced to become a mere cog in a machine, even so nation is a living spirit and soul, and therefore it can never permanently be reduced to a status of a mere province of larger or even the  largest aggregate. At the same time, Sri Aurobindo underlines the fact that humanity is turning today towards world unity, and the central problem for the human endeavour in this connection will be as to how the nation will adjust itself to the pressure of the forces that are today creating phenomena which are global, world-wide and planetary in character.

In this connection, Sri Aurobindo makes a distinction between national ego and national soul, corresponding to the distinction in regard to the individual life where the superficial ego is seen to be distinct from the true individual soul.  The mark of egoism, according to Sri Aurobindo, is its superficiality and its ignorant attempt to arrive at superficial unity whether that ego is

[1] Sri Aurobindo: Social and Political Thought, Centenary Edition, Vol.15, pp.286-87.

Sri Aurobindo and the Future of Humanity

Sri Aurobindo and the Future of Humanity

individual or national.  The mark of the ego is its sense of division from all the rest, its pretension to be entirely independent in a poise of superiority over all the others.  Corresponding to this ego, Sri Aurobindo points out, there is no real reality.  There is no ontological reality, there is no independent divided entity which is superior to all the rest.  The true individual, on the other hand, has indeed distinctiveness, but is not divided from the others. The true individual and the true nation-soul are characterized by mutuality, interdependence and inner oneness that manifests in diversity.  Based upon this philosophical foundation, Sri Aurobindo perceives the future of nations as entities seeking and finding their inner souls by virtue of which they will remain free but mutually interdependent, and this, in turn, will provide the form of world unity that is supportive and not destructive of the nations.  Sri Aurobindo speaks of a world union of free nations, each having status of equality, and all contributing through their distinctive capacities to the fund of richness and variety at the global level.

In this context, Sri Aurobindo formulates an ideal law of social development in which the truths of the individual, of the nations and of humanity are all reconciled and synthesized.  This is the law as he has formulated:

Thus the law for the individual is to perfect his individuality by free development from within, but to respect and to aid and be aided by the same free development in others.  His law is to harmonise his life with the life of the social aggregate and to pour himself out as a force for growth and perfection on humanity.  The law for the community or nation is equally to perfect its corporate existence by a free

Sri Aurobindo and the Future of Humanity

Sri Aurobindo and the Future of Humanity

development from within, aiding and taking full advantage of that of the individual, but to respect and to aid and be aided by the same free development of other communities and nations.  Its law is to harmonise its life with that of the human aggregate and to pour itself out as a force for growth and perfection on humanity.  The law for humanity is to pursue its upward evolution towards the finding and expression of the Divine in the type of mankind, taking full advantage of the free development and gains of all individuals and nations and groupings of men, to work towards the day when mankind may be really and not only ideally one divine family, but even then, when it has succeeded in unifying itself, to respect, aid and be aided by the free growth and activity of its individuals and constituent aggregates.[1]

Globalisation and the Concept of World-Union

We speak today of globalisation, with mixed feelings of welcome and suspicion. On the one hand, it evokes in us a noble sentiment of “one earth” and of humankind as one race born of one common Mother Earth, and it raises in us a dream of the ideal of human unity and of universal fraternity. On the other hand, it is seen as a phenomenon of a growing network spreading over the whole globe in which the old forces of competition and resultant asymmetrical relations constitute the central forum of action and reaction. Sri Aurobindo had foreseen in his “The Ideal of Humanity” how both these features of the contemporary world movement would come to characterise the contemporary global situation. Sri Aurobindo had also

[1] Sri Aurobindo: Social and Political Thought, Centenary Edition, Vol.15, pp.63-64.

Sri Aurobindo and the Future of Humanity

Sri Aurobindo and the Future of Humanity

foreseen the possible perils of the increasing sweep of the turn towards the world unity, and had indicated the necessity of avoiding tendencies towards tyrannical mechanisation and dehumanisation. His vision of the future, therefore, advocates the growth of global consciousness which can effectively combat shortsighted visions and appetites of egoism in individual life and in collective life. In fact, Sri Aurobindo has devoted a major portion of his writings that can provide luminous guidance to the future development of humanity in realising human unity that would be free from the dangers that are likely to develop and which are likely to frustrate the highest possibilities of human fulfilment, unless a deliberate effort is made by humanity to bring about a radical change of consciousness. For this guidance, we need to study not only “The Ideal of Human Unity” but also “The Human Cycle”, “War and Self-determination”, and also “The Life Divine”.


Evolutionary Crisis

Sri Aurobindo considers the acute problems and difficulties of the present stage as an evolutionary crisis in which human will is called upon to make a free choice.  This is the crisis where evolution of human Reason is, on the one hand, increasingly compelled to yield to the pressure that impels the creation of a life of universalised rule of economic barbarism, while on the other hand, it is increasingly obliged also to exercise its role in lifting up humanity to create a life of unity, mutuality and harmony born of a deeper and wider truth of our being.  And yet there is also a possibility that the human reason might continue to spin itself into larger or narrower circles

Sri Aurobindo and the Future of Humanity

Sri Aurobindo and the Future of Humanity

propounding great dreams but never fulfilling them. The question, therefore, is whether the human being will choose to remain arrested in some kind of intermediary typal perfection like earlier animal kinds, or whether he will consent to rise to a higher level of evolution.  The necessity to make the choice has created a state of crisis, since the choice to pursue a higher level is not only difficult but appears at first sight to be almost impossible.  Sri Aurobindo describes this crisis as follows:

At present mankind is undergoing an evolutionary crisis in which is concealed a choice of its destiny; for a stage has been reached in which the human mind has achieved in certain directions an enormous development while in others it stands arrested and bewildered and can no longer find its way.  A structure of the external life has been raised up by man's ever-active mind and life-will, a structure of an unmanageable hugeness and complexity, for the service of his mental, vital, physical claims and urges, a complex political, social, administrative, economic, cultural machinery, an organised collective means for his intellectual, sensational, aesthetic and material satisfaction.  Man has created a system of civilization which has become too big for his limited mental capacity and understanding and his still more limited spiritual and moral capacity to utilize and manage, a too dangerous servant of his blundering ego and its appetites. … A greater whole-being, whole-knowledge, whole-power is needed to weld all into a greater unity of whole-life.[1]

[1] Sri Aurobindo: The Life Divine, Centenary Edition, Vol.19, pp.1053-55.

Sri Aurobindo and the Future of Humanity

Sri Aurobindo and the Future of Humanity

Importance of the UNO

As an aid to the higher choice that can be made by humanity, Sri Aurobindo has welcomed the increasing force of internationalism, and in that context, the formation of the United Nations Organisation as a force that now stands in the forefront of the world and struggles towards some kind of permanence and success in the great far reaching endeavour on which depends the world’s future. Emphasising the importance of United Nations Organisation, Sri Aurobindo wrote in 1949 in a postscript chapter to his The Ideal of Human Unity the following:

This is the capital event, the crucial and decisive outcome of the world-wide tendencies which Nature has set in motion for her destined purpose. In spite of the constant shortcomings of human effort and its stumbling mentality, in spite of adverse possibilities that may baulk or delay for a time the success of this great adventure, it is in this event that lies the determination of what must be.[1]

Following the idea of the United Nations Organisation, Sri Aurobindo foresees the development of a World-State without exclusions and on a principle of equality into which consideration of size and strength would not enter. Indeed, Sri Aurobindo raises the question of the freedom of the individual and of the nations in the context of emergence of the World-State. And in this context, Sri Aurobindo considers it necessary that a profounder spiritual ideal for the individual and for the nation and the world should emerge and vivify the world organisation in such a way that the spirit of the

[1] Sri Aurobindo: The Ideal of Human Unity, Centenary Edition, Vol.15, pp.556-57.

Sri Aurobindo and the Future of Humanity

Sri Aurobindo and the Future of Humanity

individual and the spirit of the nation, the freedom of the individual and the freedom of the nation are not only maintained but respected and perfected. Sri Aurobindo, therefore, speaks of a union of free people which could open the prospect of a sound and lasting order.

Spiritual Religion of Humanity

In this context, the emergence of religion of humanity is of a greater significance, although he finds its present intellectual form hardly sufficient. Sri Aurobindo, therefore, advocates the emergence of a spiritual religion of humanity and explains that he does not mean by it what is called universal religion, a system, a creed of intellectual principle and dogma and outward rite. For Sri Aurobindo emphasises the growth of the realisation that there is a secret spirit, a divine Reality, in which we are one, that humanity is its highest representation in the world, that the human being is the means by which it will progressively reveal itself here. There must be, according to Sri Aurobindo, the realisation by the individual that only in the life of his fellowmen is his own life complete. There must be, he adds, the realisation by the race that only on the free and fullness of the individual can its own perfection and happiness be founded. Finally, Sri Aurobindo points out the need of the discipline and the way by which each individual can be developed in accordance with his or her line of development towards integrality and all-embracing perfection. In defining the spiritual religion of humanity in which the ideals of liberty, equality and fraternity can be harmonised, Sri Aurobindo states:

Sri Aurobindo and the Future of Humanity

Sri Aurobindo and the Future of Humanity

The union of liberty and equality can only be achieved by the power of human brotherhood and it cannot be founded on anything else. But brotherhood exists only in the soul and by the soul; it can exist by nothing else. For this brotherhood is not a matter either of physical kinship or of vital association or of intellectual agreement. When the soul claims freedom, it is the freedom of its self-development, the self-development of the divine in man in all his being. When it claims equality, what it is claiming is that freedom equally for all and the recognition of the same soul, the same godhead in all human beings. When it strives for brotherhood, it is founding that equal freedom of self-development on a common aim, a common life, a unity of mind and feeling founded upon the recognition of this inner spiritual unity. These three things are in fact the nature of the soul; for freedom, equality, unity are the eternal attributes of the Spirit. It is the practical recognition of this truth, it is the awakening of the soul in man and the attempt to get him to live from his soul and not from his ego which is the inner meaning of religion, and it is that to which the religion of humanity also must arrive before it can fulfil in the life of the race.[1]


Evolution, Supermind and The Future

As an aid to the solution that Sri Aurobindo has presented, Sri Aurobindo has provided a voluminous study of human consciousness, presenting therein the results of his herculean labour and explorations and research in

[1] Sri Aurobindo: The Ideal of Human Unity, Centenary Edition, Vol.15, pp.546-47

Sri Aurobindo and the Future of Humanity

Sri Aurobindo and the Future of Humanity

yoga to which he had turned in 1901, not in search of the usual aim of personal salvation but for the sake of development of that power which yoga can develop for its utilisation in the task of attainment of Indian freedom, and subsequently, for the attainment of human solidarity and most beneficial fulfilment of the ideals for which humanity has aspired right from the earliest preoccupation in its awakened thoughts. Without this yogic endeavour and without the knowledge and the power that have been generated by it, the glimpses of which can be had in Sri Aurobindo’s writings, particularly in his The Synthesis of Yoga and his epic Savitri, Sri Aurobindo’s vision of the future of humanity might have seemed a philosopher’s speculations like those of the eminent philosophers of evolution, such as Alexander, Whitehead, Teilhard de Chardin, who have studied and critically examined the scientific theory of evolution and concluded that the future of humanity lies in the direction of the emergence of the deity or towards the progressive ingression and incorporation into the cosmic series of the eternal divine order, or else towards an omega point which can be described as a collective divinity.

The distinctive feature of Sri Aurobindo’s philosophy of evolution is that it is not speculative and that its premises and conclusions are tested on the anvil of experimentation. Sri Aurobindo pointed out that the animal is a living laboratory in which Nature has worked out man and that man himself is a thinking and living laboratory in whom and with whose conscious cooperation Nature wills to work out the divine superman. In pursuance of this hypothesis, Sri Aurobindo made an experiment upon his entire integral being, using it as an evolutionary laboratory, so as to evolve and manifest

Sri Aurobindo and the Future of Humanity

Sri Aurobindo and the Future of Humanity

higher and higher grades of consciousness reaching up to the supermind so as to supramentalise the human body to the farthest extent possible.

In 1949, Sri Aurobindo wrote a series of articles which can be considered to be his manifesto for the future of humanity. In these articles, which have been published in a book entitled Supramental Manifestation Upon Earth, Sri Aurobinodo has spoken of the relationship between supermind and humanity, of the mind of light that will seize humanity, and even of the total transformation of human life so as to arrive at the birth of a new humanity or super-humanity.

Indeed, The Mother, to whom Sri Aurobindo had assigned the task of continuing his work even after his departure from his body, declared in 1956 that the supermind had descended, and we have in 13 volumes of Mother’s Agenda, a continuous account of the way in which the supermind that had descended was working out farther consequences for humanity and for the mutation of the human species. Indeed, we have in these 13 volumes a journal of a scientist in which are recorded meticulously both macroscopic and microscopic events relating to humanity and its future. There is here all the help that one can wish for us to understand and feel the way in which Sri Aurobindo has been contributing to the humanity’s future.

According to Sri Aurobindo, human nature can be changed and it can be changed by a method of integral yoga, having its basis in verifiable objective knowledge of the supramental consciousness and laws of the working of the supermind in the world and in the evolutionary processes as a result of which humanity has evolved so far and stands today at the threshold of its

Sri Aurobindo and the Future of Humanity

Sri Aurobindo and the Future of Humanity

own mutation. A generalisation in humanity of the imperative necessity of spiritual transformation, if humanity is to survive and arrive at its fulfilment, is a precondition.

Development of the integral yoga that aims at supramental transformation is rightly regarded as Sri Aurobindo’s latest gift for the future of humanity. It has, however, to be noted that the task of supramental transformation is extremely difficult, although, according to Sri Aurobindo, the time has come for the generalisation of yoga in humanity.

Whether humanity will respond to the need of this new turn will depend upon its increasing perception of the necessity of spiritual transformation. Sri Aurobindo points out that a change from the vital and mental to the spiritual order of life must necessarily be accomplished in the individual and in a greater number of individuals before it can come to have an effective hold upon community. What is necessary is that the common human mind begins to admit the ideas proper to the higher order that is in the end to be, and the heart of man begins to be stirred by aspirations born of these ideas. Sri Aurobindo concludes that if this condition is fulfilled then there is hope of some advance in the not distant future.

Inevitability of the Spiritual Solution

Despite the difficulties and critical trials through which humanity may be required to pass, Sri Aurobindo underlines the need of understanding the inevitability of the spiritual solution. Indeed, in presenting this solution, Sri Aurobindo is aware that it may be objected that it puts off the consummation

Sri Aurobindo and the Future of Humanity

Sri Aurobindo and the Future of Humanity

of a better human society to a far off date in the future evolution of the race. But Sri Aurobindo affirms forcefully:

… if this is not the solution, then there is no solution; if this is not the way, then there is no way for the human kind. Then the terrestrial evolution must pass beyond man as it has passed beyond the animal and a greater race must come that will be capable of the spiritual change, a form of life must be born that is nearer to the divine. After all there is no logical necessity for the conclusion that the change cannot begin at all because its perfection is not immediately possible. A decisive turn of mankind to the spiritual ideal, the beginning of a constant ascent and guidance towards the heights may not be altogether impossible, even if the summits are attainable at first only by the pioneer few and far-off to the tread of the race. And that beginning may mean the descent of an influence that will alter at once the whole life of mankind in its orientation and enlarge for ever, as did the development of his reason and more than any development of the reason, its potentialities and all its structure.[1]

According to Sri Aurobindo, the world is a mutable world and uncertainties and dangers cannot be avoided. Much will depend, according to Sri Aurobindo, on the intellectual and moral capacity of humanity to carry out what is evidently the one thing needful, namely, a concentrated effort at the spiritual change that can sustain a global and untied human family.

[1] Sri Aurobindo: The Human Cycle, Centenary Edition, Vol.15, p.207.

Sri Aurobindo and the Future of Humanity

Sri Aurobindo and the Future of Humanity


One question that we in India can ask for guidance is as to what Sri Aurobindo counsels us in respect of the tasks that India should accomplish in the light of the needs of the future of humanity. In answer, we may point to the three tasks that Sri Aurobindo has put forward in his great work The Renaissance in India:

The recovery of the old spiritual knowledge and experience in all its splendour, depth and fullness is its first, most essential work; the flowing of this spirituality into new forms of philosophy, literature, art, science and critical knowledge is the second; an original dealing with modern problems in the light of Indian spirit and the endeavour to formulate a greater synthesis of a spiritualised society is the third and most difficult. Its success on these three lines will be the measure of its help to the future of humanity.[1]

[1] Sri Aurobindo: The Foundations of Indian Culture, Centenary Edition, Vol.14, p.409.

Sri Aurobindo and the Future of Humanity

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