Moving Towards South Asian Confederation
Ideal of Human Unity - Chapters

Chapter XXXV Part I

Summary and Conclusion

The sentiment of unity

A mechanical unity of mankind could be achieved by political and administrative means but even that would not be viable unless there was an universal consciousness projected by an uplifted intellectual religion of humanity that spiritualizing itself would become a “general inner law of human life”. (The Ideal of Human Unity, pg.571)

The outer unity would also be needed till the psyche of the whole of humanity was ready because it is Nature’s inevitable trend to form larger and larger aggregates en route “a total aggregation of mankind in a closer international system”. (Ibid)

Nature’s march towards unity depends for fulfilment on two forces:

1. An increasing recognition of the importance of “common interests” (Ibid) which coalesce in progressively larger circles that makes old rigid divisions not only meaningless but also the ensuing wars and battles a “ruinous calamity . (Ibid) Victories come at heavy price and surprisingly end without viable survivors. (Remember the Mahabharata where the Pandavas lost all their children after they won the war!) Therefore Nature stimulates the impetus towards union and if there is a refusal to acknowledge coalition of common interests, it can try other means like war or domination by a powerful State or empire. (That is how Nature used the Pax Britannica to forge an Indian nation from a conglomeration of kingdoms who were separate though united by the bonds of a great spiritual heritage.) Sri Aurobindo explains that the same force which underlay the creation of nation-units could operate “to drive mankind towards international unification”. (Ibid, pg.572)

2. The second motivator after common interests is a “common uniting sentiment”. (Ibid) This could work as a precipitating cause or later act as a cementing factor. As a cementing factor, the force of sentiment which was initially not so effective in older times got consolidated after petty units and regional outfits were forcibly united by war and conquest or by the domination of the more powerful among many warring sections. As a precipitating factor, it would bring about a unity of smaller units by the force of the sentiment and its idea – classically a “clearer political idea”. (Ibid) This is how great federations arose though often preceded by a struggle for liberty or a unity against a common enemy. This is how unity was achieved to shape United States, Italy, Germany and more peacefully in the case of the Australian and South Asian federations. There were of course other unities that grew up from more mechanical modes of union. Sri Aurobindo opines, “But whether to form or preserve the growth of the sentiment, the psychological factor is indispensable; without it there can be no secure and lasting union”. (Ibid) If such a sentiment could not be made living and natural, it would be difficult to prevent the break-up of larger conglomerates. In 1918, Sri Aurobindo opined that this was the cause of “the precariousness of such aggregates as Austro-Hungary and of the ephemeral character of the empires of the past, even as it is likely to bring about, unless circumstances change, the collapse or disintegration of the great present-day empires”. (Ibid, pg.573)

International sentiment

Just as localized or regional sentiments can unite regional nations, there can also be “a cosmopolitan, international sentiment” (Ibid) that can facilitate an international world organization. However, at the time of this writing in 1918, Sri Aurobindo explains that such an international sentiment was still nascent and could not be expected to match the passion and force of national sentiments. Even if such an international sentiment could be constructed on “conveniences of union” (Ibid), it would still be vulnerable to centrifugal and disruptive forces and reassertion of old alignments. There could however be a change if the realm of ideas could open to the spirit of universalism – “a sort of intellectual religion of humanity, clear in the minds of the few, vaguely felt in its effects and disguises by the many, which has largely helped to bring about the trend of the modern mind and the drift of its developing institutions. This is a psychological force which tends to break beyond the formula of the nation and aspires to replace the religion of country and even, in its more extreme forms, to destroy altogether the national sentiment and to abolish its divisions so as to create the single nation of mankind”. (Ibid)

An international world-union was inevitably more complex and difficult to be formed as it had to face much more obstacles than a national or regional union. Yet, Sri Aurobindo envisaged that the World War I had shown that if unchecked, cascading cataclysms would have global repercussions; affect nations who were not directly involved and a point could be reached where mankind would have to choose between a “new, closer and more stringently unified order of things” and “a lingering suicide”. (Ibid, pg.574) He was also confident that if reason could not arrive at this culmination, Nature herself could take up the onus, working its way through a “growing sentient of unity” or by “evolutionary pressure of circumstances” which would make a formal unification of mankind practically inevitable. (Ibid)


Date of Update: 16-Sep-20

- By Dr. Soumitra Basu