Moving Towards South Asian Confederation
Ideal of Human Unity - Chapters

A Postscript Chapter, Part I

The thirty five chapters of the Ideal of Human Unity appeared serially in the Arya between September 1915 and July 1918. It came out initially in a book form in 1919 and was revised in the late 1930s, probably in 1938. The revised text remained unpublished for a decade and when it was finally published in 1950, it contained a Postscript Chapter which was a sort of reappraisal of the book in the light of contemporary developments in the global scenario.

Towards a new world-order

By that time the League of Nations which was the first international intergovernmental organization to maintain global peace had wounded up in 1946 after failing in its primary aim to prevent a future world war and after the Second World War was replaced by the United Nations.

Nevertheless, Sri Aurobindo considered that despite its shortcomings, the League of Nations indicated the preliminary beginnings of a new world-order where even if its mission failed, it would have to be renewed in a different denouement as it represented a shift in thinking and was concerned with the existential issue of the human race. “But that such an organized endeavour should be launched at all and proceed on its way for some time without an early breakdown (it lasted 26 years) was in itself an event of capital importance and meant the initiation of a new era in world history; especially, it was an initiative which, even if it failed, could not be allowed to remain without a sequel but had to be taken up again until a successful solution has safeguarded the future of mankind, not only against continued disorder and lethal peril but against destructive possibilities which could easily prepare the collapse of civilization and perhaps eventually something even that could be described as the suicide of the human race”. (The Ideal of Human Unity, pg.579). The United Nations finally took upon itself the mantle of securing the world’s future, ostensibly with a sense of durability. Sri Aurobindo hailed this trajectory of internationalism as a “capital event, the crucial and decisive outcome of the world-wide tendencies which Nature has set in motion for her destined purpose”. (Ibid)

The necessity of Internationalism

A consolidation of the value of internationalism was a necessity for the progress and the very existence of human civilization as a whole. Such an endeavour would meet huge resistance but was imperative in a world that had witnessed two World Wars and there was no guarantee that a far more devastating third World War would not happen. Sri Aurobindo also noted that even if another war did not break out, an atmosphere of “prolonged antagonism” could result in the phenomenon of “cold war” even at the time of an outward semblance of peace. (Ibid, pg.580) Such a cold war that Sri Aurobindo visioned actually happened between 1947 and 1991 signalling a period of geopolitical tension between the Soviet Union and the United States and their respective allies, the Eastern Bloc and the Western bloc. The struggle for domination continued indirectly, albeit psychologically through propaganda, espionage, embargoes, and rivalries in sports and competitions in the Space Race. That cold war ended with the dissolution of the USSR but got resurrected afterwards in new patterns that now persists between an over-ambitious China and the USA and its Western allies.

The consequences of a third world war

What could happen if such a persisting antagonism actually precipitates a third World War? Sri Aurobindo displays a basic and “legitimate optimism” (Ibid, pg.581) to explain that if the first two World Wars could lay the foundation of the spirit of internationalism that resulted in the formation of world-bodies like the League of Nations and United Nations; a third World War might very well consolidate that great world-endeavour to come to a more lasting world peace. If human nature and ego are unwilling to live in harmony, a higher Nature can design adverse circumstances to usher in a higher harmony. Sri Aurobindo explains:

“Nature uses such means, apparently opposed and dangerous to her intended purpose, to bring about the fruition of that purpose. As in the practice of the spiritual science and art of Yoga one has to raise up the psychological possibilities which are there in the nature and stand in the way of its spiritual perfection and fulfilment so as to eliminate them, even, it may be, the sleeping possibilities which might arise in future to break the work that has been done, so too Nature acts with the world-forces that meet her on her way, not only calling up those which will assist her but raising too, so as to finish with them, those that she knows to be the normal or even the unavoidable obstacles which cannot but start up to impede her secret will. This one has often seen in the history of mankind; one sees it exampled today with an enormous force commensurable with the magnitude of the thing that has to be done. But always these resistances turn out to have assisted by the resistance much more than they have impeded the intention of the great Creatrix and her Mover”. (Ibid, pg.580-581)


Date of Update: 16-Nov-20

- By Dr. Soumitra Basu