Moving Towards South Asian Confederation
Ideal of Human Unity - Chapters

Chapter XXXI Part I

The Conditions of a Free World-Union

Writing in the backdrop of the just concluded World War I, Sri Aurobindo contemplates the concept of a free world union: “A Free world-union must in its very nature be a complete unity based on a diversity and that diversity must be based on free self-determination.”(The Ideal of Human Unity, pg.540)

It is important to differentiate a “FREE” world-union from a mechanical Unitarian system. A mechanical union would give precedence to convenient geographical demarcations within continents, dispensing the old natural and historic divisions and effacing the “old separative national spirit altogether”. (Ibid) It would regard the entire mankind as one single entity. It is doubtful if such a mechanical system could be viable in the long run. The psyche of the race cannot be controlled by mechanical restraints and the suppressed elements in the collective unconscious could rise up to disruptive consequences. That is why the French revolution which Sri Aurobindo described to entirely disregard the “old natural and historic divisions” (Ibid) and ended many feudal laws and practices could not resist the conservative counter-reaction that defeated Napoleon, brought back the Bourbon kings and in the process downgrading reforms.

A Free world-union in the true sense of the term would be primarily based on the psychological principle to which the physical and geographical principles would be subordinated. The object of the psychological principle would be “a living diversity” that in turn would be based on “Free-will” and “natural affinities” : “no constraint or force could be allowed to compel an unwilling nation or distinct groupings of peoples to enter into another system or join itself or remain joined to it for the convenience, aggrandisement or political necessity of another people or even for the general convenience, in disregard of its own wishes.” (Ibid) In such a scenario, nations divided from each other geographically (like England or Canada or England and Australia) could cohere together while nations closely grouped would prefer to be separated (like England and Ireland or like Finland and Russia of early 20th century)). “Unity would be the largest principle of life, but freedom would be its foundation-stone” (Sri Aurobindo also cautioned there must be a reasonable limit in the application of such a principle so that “impracticable absurdities” do not masquerade as living truth. (Ibid)

It is interesting that while Sri Aurobindo was musing on the concept of free world-union in The Ideal of Human Unity that appeared between 1915 to 1918, Jan Smuts coined the term “British Commonwealth of Nations” in 1917 and in 1919 talked about the new constitutional relations and readjustments in the famous Paris Peace Conference also known as the Versailles Peace Conference which ceremoniously opened on 18 January, 1919 with the victorious Allied powers of World War 1. The Conference formally ended on 21 January 1920 with the inaugural General assembly of the newly formed League of Nations (which was founded on the preceding 10th January) as the first international intergovernmental organization to usher world peace.

Meanwhile in 1926, the British Commonwealth of Nations was formalised with the Balfour Declaration acknowledging that British dominions were in no way subordinate to one another both in external and internal affairs though demonstrating a common allegiance to the Crown. Subsequently in April, 1949, after the end of World War II and the gradual dismantling of the British Empire, the term “British” was dropped from the title of the Commonwealth to reflect ground reality. In keeping with the spirit of free self-determination, the British monarch was kept as a figurative head of the Commonwealth and in 1950, after India became a republic and agreed to accept the British Sovereign as a “symbol of the free association of its independent member nations and as such the Head of the Commonwealth”, King George VI told the Indian politician, Krishna Menon, “So, I’ve become ‘as such’ “. (Commonwealth of Nations,

Slowly but precariously, a stumbling road to a world-union was being envisioned.


Date of Update: 10-August-19

- By Dr. Soumitra Basu