Chapter XVII Part IV
Nature’s Law in
Law and Liberty
The relation of law and liberty is complex and their conflict has not yet been fully resolved in the collective psyche of the human race. Both the paradigms have emerged from the innate urge in human nature to ‘LIVE RIGHTLY’ (The Ideal of Human Unity, pg 417). One may argue that such an urge is common to all terrestrial creatures. However, except the human being, all other terrestrial creatures ‘live rightly’ in accordance to their instinctive dictates. Sri Aurobindo explains that of all terrestrial creatures, it is only in the case of the human being, ‘to live rightly involves the necessity of knowing rightly’ (Ibid) ; and
(a) The real objective of knowledge is to understand ‘the true nature of being and its constant self-effectuation in the values of life’ (Ibid) , in other words, the law of Nature, not only for one’s own greater perfection and happiness but also for the greater perfection and happiness of fellow-creatures;
(b) The pursuit of knowledge is not merely effectuated by the sole or dominant instrumentation of reason ‘as rationalism pretends’ but ‘more largely and complexly’ (Ibid) by the sum of all faculties, including all faculties that surpass reason.
Thus, to live rightly is to live according to Nature. ‘But Nature can no longer be imaged, as once it was, as an eternal right rule from which man has wandered, since it is rather a thing itself changing, progressing, evolving, ascending from height to more elevated height, widening from limit to broader limit of its own possibilities. Yet in all this changing there are certain eternal principles or truths of being which remain the same and upon them as bedrock, with them as a primary material and within them as a framework our progress and perfection are compelled to take place. Otherwise there would be an infinite chaos and not a world ordered even in the clash of its forces’ (Ibid). One such eternal principle is that though Existence is one only in its essence and totality, in its manifestation it is multiple, diverse and variegated (Ibid, pg 423). The corollary runs: ‘The diversity, the variation must be a free variation’ (Ibid, pg 425).
Thus if the essence of Existence in the poise of unity is based upon freedom, the essence of Existence in the poise of a variegated diversity is equally based upon freedom. Freedom is implicit in the unity of Existence and explicit in the diversity of Nature. Freedom is the right of a diversified manifestation and a valid Law of Nature seeking for infinite variation. Freedom is also the right of the diversity to reconstruct the unitary essence of Existence as an equally valid Law of Nature. Viewed in this perspective, both ‘law’ and ‘liberty’ are derivative principles that serve the natural law of our being in their unique ways. The conflict arises because we cannot reconcile them unless we rise to the poise of a higher consciousness. To rise to a poise of higher consciousness, enlightened individuals need to integrate the disparate and conflicting strands of one’s own personality around the unitary essence of one’s being. Such ‘free’ individuals are then ready to enjoy true liberty by which we mean ‘the freedom to obey the law of our being, to grow to our natural self-fulfilment, to find out naturally and freely our harmony with our environment’; ….’All liberty, individual, national, religious, social, ethical, takes its ground upon this fundamental principle of our existence’ (Ibid). Till the human being is capable of a true psychological unity effectuated at a higher poise of consciousness, the transaction between law and liberty, in both individual and social spheres, moves through makeshift compromises that are often biased towards symmetrical regimentation or unwarranted freedom. Both are imperfect for an over-controlled regimentation may lead to ‘a devitalized individuality’ (Ibid, pg 426), a drying up of the sap of life while an unbridled license to usurp all interdependent norms can be equally devastating.
Though both law and liberty are equally necessary for life, Sri Aurobindo, in the final analysis, is the champion of freedom. He boldly announces: ‘Better anarchy than the long continuance of a law which is not our own or which our real nature cannot assimilate’ (Ibid). There are several assumptions behind this outright statement:
(a) The concept of law is represented in the ordinary psyche as a mechanism for prevention and repression but the ‘true law’ is that ‘which must develop from within and be not a check on liberty, but its outward image and visible expression’. Sri Aurobindo further adds, ‘Human society progresses really and vitally in proportion as law becomes the child of freedom; it will reach its perfection when, man having learned to know and become spiritually one with his fellow-man, the spontaneous law of his society exists only as the outward mould of his self-governed inner liberty’ (Ibid).
(b) If law has to arise from within the depths of consciousness, it must spring from a spontaneous intuitive basis. Human collectivities started with a free instinctive animal spontaneity that had to be progressively tamed by ethics, refined by aesthetics, and upgraded through the reasoning mind but still requires the mechanism of law, repression, ‘forced government of man by man’ (Ibid, pg 292) to maintain a semblance of human unity .However ‘the high dream of philosophic Anarchism, associated by the inner law of love and light and right being, right thinking, right action’ (Ibid) still persists as a potentiality in the cycles of human progress. ‘It is even possible that that our original state was an instinctive animal spontaneity of free and fluid association and that our final ideal state will be an enlightened, intuitive spontaneity of free and fluid association’. (Ibid)
(c) The freedom provided by a high spiritual consciousness provides a matrix where the spontaneous law of Nature facilitates a ‘vigilant’ liberty that spontaneously moves towards Truth. ‘Spirituality respects the freedom of the human soul , because it is itself fulfilled by freedom; and the deepest meaning of freedom is the power to expand and grow towards perfection by the law of one’s own nature... This liberty it will give to all the fundamental parts of our being. It will give that freedom to philosophy and science …..freedom even to deny the spirit , if they will….It will give the same freedom to man’s seeking for political and social perfection and to all his other powers and aspirations. Only it will be vigilant to illuminate them so that they may grow into the light and law of the spirit, not by suppression and restriction, but by a self-searching, self-controlled expansion and a many-sided finding of their greatest, highest and deepest potentialities’. (Ibid, pg 181)
Date of Update:
- By Dr. Soumitra Basu