Moving Towards South Asian Confederation
Ideal of Human Unity - Chapters

Chapter XXXI Part V

The transformation of the national idea

A Free World Union would need an appropriate framework of functioning. Sri Aurobindo, musing on this issue considered several possibilities:

(a) The idea of a world-parliament could seem attractive because a great part of the world populace is accustomed to it “but an assembly of the present unitarian national type could not be the proper instrument of a free world-union of this large and complex kind; it could only be the instrument of a Unitarian World-State”; (The Ideal of Human Unity, pg.546)

(b) The idea of a world federation understood in the Germanic or American form of the early part of 20th century was another possibility to consider but could be “equally inappropriate to the greater diversity and freedom of national development which this type of world-union would hold as one of its cardinal principles”. (Ibid)

(c) The idea of a somewhat loose confederation “of the peoples for common human ends, for the removal of all causes of strife and difference, for interrelation and the regulation of mutual aid and interchange, yet leaving to each unit a full internal freedom and power of self-determination, would be the right principle of this unity”. (Ibid)

However a loose unity could find it difficult to inhibit centrifugal forces that facilitate separativeness, clashes and strife that in turn could sabotage “the larger principle of oneness”. (Ibid) In contrast to a loose federation, a more unitarian world-union would be more suitable to deal with fissiparous and disruptive forces but if the unity is brought about solely through political ideas and machinery and executed through a political and economic spirit, then its durability could not be guaranteed and the unity could turn to be lifeless catapulting to an eventual breakdown. The suppressed desires to recover “the lost element of variability, separateness, independent living” could rear its head leading to an activation of “local, regional, national egoism” and the system could collapse just as the Roman Empire had collapsed. (Ibid) “For in the constant mutability of the human mind and earthly circumstances, as long as life is active, new ideas and change is inevitable.” (Ibid)

A free world union in contrast to an unitarian system could provide a matrix of the rise of a new kind of nationalism as the national idea itself could undergo “a radical transformation”. (Ibid, pg.547) The national idea could merge “into a new and less strenuously compact form and idea of group-aggregation which could not be separative in spirit, yet would preserve the necessary element of independence and variation needed by both individual and grouping for their full satisfaction and their healthy existence”. (Ibid) Nationalism should cease to be possessive and instead lead to internationalism.

The most important aspect of a new non-dogmatic nationalism would be the psychological basis that would complement the political and mechanical narrative. It is the inner psychological change that “could give some chance of durability to the unification”. It is the psychological change that could primarily assure “the growth of the living idea or religion of humanity; for only so could there come the psychological modification of life and feeling and outlook which would accustom both individual and group to live in their common humanity first and most, subduing their individual and group egoism, yet losing nothing of their individual or group power to develop and express in its own way the divinity in man which, once the race was assured of its material existence; would emerge as the true object of human existence”. (Ibid)

Such a new nationalism bordering on universalism would have a greater possibility to guarantee the durability of a free world union.

In his famous Uttarpara speech delivered on 30 May, 1909 after his release from jail, Sri Aurobindo, hitherto the most fiery nationalist the country had known was already a transformed being when he indicated that nationalism had to rise from being a mere religion, creed and faith to represent the perennial wisdom of the Sanatana Dharma - the mighty phenomenon of spiritual universalism.


Date of Update: 27-Dec-19

- By Dr. Soumitra Basu