Sri Aurobindo’s Philosophy; Author: M. P. Ajith Kumar; Publisher: Kurukshetra Prakasan, Kochi; Price. Rs. 300.00
Oswald Spengler, that illustrious philosopher of History believed, the doom of Germany resulted from the discontinuity of the Bismarckian tradition or from Bismarck’s failure to train a political elite competent to deal with foreign affairs. This continuity of tradition he calls ‘breeding’ and cites as examples the training of the medieval page, cloister education, the training of the Prussian Officers Corps, the English Public Schools and University Training for the Indian Civil Service and the Training for the Roman Catholic Priesthood. But Bismarck had started nothing like, to train a class of political elite to carry on his foreign policy. But the question whether Germany would not have met with disastrous defeats even if there would have been the continuity of Bismarckian tradition in German foreign policy is left unanswered. As is well known Bismarck was a clever ‘juggler’ who operated his foreign policy characterised by double dealings. He put the whole of Europeina political melting pot with his destructive tactics. Even if Bismarck had trained a School of ‘Jugglers’ it would no thaveany way prevented the World War or have placed Germany in good relation with foreign States. It would have artfully delayed the World War, but not avoided its possibility.
Another philosopher-historian, Arnold Joseph Toynbee believed, India can offer panacea to many of the ills the 20thcentury humanity faced. Unlike Spengler, to whom “India … formed no part of a world in progress and that [we] men of western culture are with our historical sense … world history is ‘our’ world picture and not all mankind’s”, Toynbee had great expectation that India would be the Paraclete with eternal solutions to the civilisational problems many had left unaddressed or unanswered. Because India had an ideal, a spiritual mind that could admirably combine vision and work for cultural progress. “If India were ever to fail to live up to this Indian ideal which is the finest, and therefore the most exacting, legacy … in Indian heritage, it would be a poor look out for mankind as a whole … a great spiritual responsibility rests on India,” he believed. Coming to the psychic solutions India can offer, this judgment of Toynbee is not wide off the mark.
India has an ideal, a seer vision, the proper translation of which into practical work helped her through the vicissitudes of time. She had a national soul accumulated and fine tuned over centuries of cultural evolution. Understanding and unerringly perusing this national soul, pinning ears to its rhythmic pulsations alone can help one in the process of nation building. Nation is parasakti concealed in geographical entity, believed Sri Aurobindo, the philosopher, and any attempt at nation building without knowing this sakti which is its soul, he opines, would only fail. Tampering the nation soul would lead to calamitous end. Hence Sri Aurobindo’s call to the statesmen to read the nation’s soul and lead the nations accordingly at critical junctions of history.
This being his philosophy of nationalism, Aurobindo says, any by-passing with short-cuts would not fructify. It was the dilettantish approach to the nation souls that failed many nations to march successfully down the lanes of history. Aurobindo takes the case of German history, for instance. Breeding of temporary techniques, as Spengler believed, would not sustain nations, he believes. A Germanic counterpart of the English Public Schools and University Training for the Indian Civil Service or the Training for the Roman Catholic Priesthood as well as the medieval page or the training of the Prussian Officers Corps which are only temporary would not have helped Germany. In fact, Bismarck should have had a correct reading of the German national soul or the subjective force of which the lamp was lit by her great philosophers like Kant, Hegel, Fichte, Nietzsche, by her great thinker and poet Goethe, by her great musicians like Beethoven and Wagner. But this real nation soul was not fully recognised by Bismarck whose appearance was in many respects a misfortune for the growing Germany. Nietzsche, for instance coined the Will-to-Power, represented by the triumph in Greek education and culture, the artistic creation, the philosopher’s intellectual conquest of the cosmos or the ascetic’s self-conquest. But Bismarck took this for the monstrous power to ride roughshod, and failed to translate the vision of German philosophers properly. Principle is greater than policy and vision than work. Policy and work bereft of principle and vision would only fail, believes Aurobindo. Mere adjustments and tactics cannot compensate the missing links of vision and principle. And whatever material measures Bismarck might have taken would not have helped Germany survive. A misunderstood immature philosophy rendezvoused with a mature science which armed nations to the teeth, resulting in the two world wars.
According to Aurobindo, two world wars resulted from anun desirable meeting together of, ora “confused half struggle” ora “half effort at accommodation” between “old intellectual and materialistic and the new still superficial subjective and vitalisticim pulses of the West”. The wars, Aurobindo says, resulted from the formidable combination of a falsely enlightened vitalistic motive-power with a great force of an accomplished materialistic science.
The war he believes was, however, a blessing in disguise to some extent, because it by a salutary ruin cleared the way of all the checks to a truer development towards a higher goal. It had given a clear warning to abandon the path of arms race and aggression, war and violence and emphasised the relevance and probability of the safer ways. Aurobindo therefore urges all to give an outward expression to the more subjective will-to-power and look beyond the red mist of the blood of war. He says, the nation soul is something great and divine. It should not be mistaken or shut up in an armour-plated social body. For, it can only stifle the growth of the inner reality and end in decay or the extinction of all that is ‘unplastict’ and ‘unadaptable’.
There is an ideal subjectivism which is the only law for development. This, he says, is in nothing other than the searching of one’s own inner being i.e., the cosmic unity of which all are the expressions. Aurobindo sublimates this theory of universal oneness or integral humanism with the touch of spirituality. The ideal law is that all things are one in their being, origin, their general law of existence, their inter-dependence and the universal pattern of the irrelations.
He believed that the cult of enlightened nationalism can lead the world a good way towards the emergence of a universal culture based on principles of humanism, and he subscribed to the views of Joseph Mazzini to whom nations were the incarnations of the divine and the best examples of integrity at individual, national and universal levels. Nations, to both Mazzini and Aurobindo, were the training grounds of individual’s spiritual preparation to be universal human beings. Nationalism is to Aurobindo a universal religion binding everything with the chord of the highest principle, and its sojourn is to universalism. He wanted the world to be a comity of nations living in harmony, retaining their identity and integrity. The ideal law of all nations is to bring their life in harmony with the human aggregate and contribute their share for the growth of perfection and Beauty. Nations must help their men transcend social, racial and national limitations to find themselves as parts of greater humanity. Freedom in harmony, Aurobindo believed, is the only law of human progress and historical evolution which is the expression of the psychic evolution. All the victories and failures of humanity Aurobindo ascribes to the ups and downs of human psyche. Hence his exhortations for the ‘Religion of Man’: Man must be sacred to man regardless of all distinction of race, creed, colour, nationality, status, political or social advancement. The body of man is to be respected, made immune from the violence of outrage, fortified by science against disease and preventable death. The life of man is to be held sacred, preserved, strengthened, ennobled, uplifted. The heart of man is to be held sacred also, given scope, protected from violations, from suppression, from mechanisation, from belittling influences. The mind of man is to be released from all bonds, allowed freedom and range and opportunity, given all its means of self-training and self-development and organised in the play of its powers for the service of humanity. And all this too is not to be held as an abstract or pious sentiment but given full practical recognition in the persons of men and nations and mankind. This largely speaking is the idea and spirit of the intellectual religion of humanity.
To the present world torn with misunderstandings among the nations, Aurobindo offers integral humanism as the desirable panacea. Like Toynbee who held aloft India’s contribution to world unity, Aurobindo believed, India can offer light for the future humanity. Man is the reservoir of the infinite and man’s spiritual and psychic growth leads to harmony and peaceful coexistence.
These and more such philosophical views of Sri Aurobindo are the subject of the new book Sri Aurobindo’s Philosophy of History by M. P. Ajith Kumar whose years of research in history culminated in this work. Many works on Sri Aurobindo’s literature and spiritual philosophy are already there, and have been the subject of academic study. But a work on Sri Aurobindo’s visions on history, none has attempted ever before. This work, in that sense, is indeed a novel development, as the author himself claims though he does not believe this is the final work on Aurobindo’s philosophy of history.
In fact, a well-researched one in Sri Aurobindo’s reflections on history apart, the work in general is a threshold to the philosophy of history. The book beginning with the life and times of Aurobindo carries the reader to different areas of history including its nature. The philosophy of nationalism is dealt at length, and its necessity is stressed as a stepping stone to the happy international living wherein alone the human race can realise the dawn of culture. Comparative study of Sri Aurobindo’s perceptions of the past with those of other philosophers of history like Spengler and Toynbee is definitely a desirable highlight of the book which introduces a great luminary into the world of historical thought, a luminary whose thoughts were so far discussed only in the world of philosophy and Yoga. It is high time Sri Aurobindo’s visions of the past became a subject of academic history, and works on his philosophy of history placed on the syllabi historical studies of universities and academic institutions offer.