Moving Towards South Asian Confederation
Ideal of Human Unity - Chapters

Chapter XVIII Part I

The Ideal Solution – A Free Grouping of Mankind

Human unity in its broadest and universal sense has to be based on human groupings which maybe diverse in type: regional, ethnic, cultural, racial or national. Whatever may be the denominator, Sri Aurobindo opines that the groupings should be FREE and NATURAL: ‘The first principle of human unity, groupings being necessary, should be a system of free and natural groupings which would leave no room for internal discords, mutual incompatibilities and repression and revolt as between race and race or people and people’ (The Ideal of Human Unity, pg 429)

Free Groupings

Sri Aurobindo was unequivocal about freedom that was an essential requisite as psychological unity could not manifest in forced human groupings as well as in partly free and partly forced groupings. A psychological unity can only be assured by a free assent of human groupings and the power of free assent implies ‘a power of free dissent and separation’ (Ibid, pg 430). If a psychological unity cannot be established due to ‘incompatibility of culture, temperament or economic or other interest’, ‘the old principle of force’ would have to be applied for forging unity –‘a difficult matter when dealing with great masses of men who must in the course of the new process have arrived at self-consciousness and recovered their united intellectual force and vitality’ (Ibid, pg 430-431). Nevertheless, such ‘forced’ human unities serve two rational purposes:

(a) Such a forced unity can act ‘as a halfway house to the unity of all the nations of the world and an experiment in administrative and economic confederation on a large scale’ (indeed this 1917 write-up commenting on ‘halfway house.. experiment economic confederation’ is echoed in the setting up of the European Coal and Steel Community in 1951 and the European Economic Community in 1958 that were to be the precursors of the European Union in 1993) ;

(b) Such a forced unity also serves ‘as a means of habituating nations of different race, tradition, colour, civilization to dwell together in a common political family as the whole human race would have to dwell in any scheme of unity which respected the principle of variation and did not compel a dead level of uniformity’ (Ibid, pg 431).


Human groupings should not only be free in spirit, they need to be natural too in structure. Sri Aurobindo writes that human peoples should ‘be allowed to form their own groupings according to their natural divisions of locality, race, culture, economic convenience and not according to the more violent accidents of history or the egoistic will of powerful nations whose policy it must always be to compel the smaller or less timely organized to serve their interests as dependents or obey their commands as subjects’ (Ibid, pg 428). Such natural groupings to foster human unity and harmony are difficult to be established due to the widespread prevalence of ignorance in the proletariate and the implicit falsehood in the forces that wield State power. ‘The present arrangement of the world has been worked out by economic forces, by political diplomacies, treaties and purchases and by military violence without regard to any moral principle or any general rule of the good of mankind’; and at times such forceful maneuvers had ‘justification, not moral but biological, in the necessity of the rough methods which Nature has to use with a half-animal mankind as with her animal creation’ (Ibid). Sri Aurobindo is however optimistic that with the growth and refinement of collective consciousness, the artificialities upholding human unities would no longer be relevant for two important reasons:

(a) Firstly, ‘the convenience and good of the world at large and not the satisfaction of the egoism, pride and greed of particular nations would be the object to be held in view’, and

(b) Secondly, ‘whatever legitimate claim any nation might have upon others, such as necessities of economic well-being and expansion, would be arranged for in a soundly organized world-union or world-state no longer on the principle of strife and competition, but on a principle of cooperation or mutual adjustment or at least of competition regulated by law and equity and just interchange’ (Ibid, pg 428).

Sri Aurobindo concludes, ‘Therefore no ground would remain for forced and artificial groupings except that of historical tradition or accomplished fact which would obviously have little weight in a great change of world conditions impossible to achieve unless the race is prepared to break hundreds of traditions and unsettle the great majority of accomplished facts’ (Ibid, pg 428-429)

Date of Update: 26-May-14

- By Dr. Soumitra Basu