Chapter XXI Part V
The Drive towards Legislative and Social Centralisation and Uniformity
It is interesting that while education, culture, religion, political temperament and economic forms are inextricably linked with the social psyche, legislation is viewed as something like an external prop needed to support the social scaffolding, an administrative device that somehow, with checks and balances, keeps the show running. It had thus ‘confined itself until recently to politics and constitutional law, the principles and process of administration and so much only of social and economic legislation as was barely necessary for the security of property and the maintenance of public order’(The Ideal of Human Unity, pg 457). Arguably, such a legislative function could be enacted by an intelligent or intellectual or better still by a visionary executive, a monarch or a premier or a succession of such executive individuals with as much efficacy as a democratic government. History however bears witness to the fact that the king is an inefficient legislator. The monarch has limitations and it is naïve to believe that an individual executive can determine the whole social and economic life, the whole religious institution or even the cultural tradition. ‘It is evident that he cannot determine the whole social life of the nation, it is much too large for him; no society would bear the heavy hand of an arbitrary individual on its whole social living. He cannot determine the economic life, that too is much too large for him; he can only watch over it and help it in this or that direction where help is needed. He cannot determine the religious life, though that attempt has been made; it is too deep for him; for religion is the spiritual and ethical life of the individual, the relations of his soul with God and the intimate dealings with his will and character with other individuals, and no monarch or governing class, not even a theocracy or priesthood, can really substitute itself for the soul of the individual or for the soul of a nation. Nor can he determine the national culture; he can only in great flowering times of that culture help by his protection in fixing for it the turn which by its own force of tendency it was already taking. To attempt more is an irrational attempt which cannot lead to the development of a rational society’.(Ibid, pg 457-458).
One might object to such a broad generalization of the limitations of the monarch for were there not great visionary emperors, benevolent monarchs, philosopher-kings—mighty rulers with zeal and mission? Sri Aurobindo explains that despite their uniqueness, even the greatest of the great monarchs usually ended with autocratic oppression supported often by a false claim of divine right and lineage. At the end, even ‘exceptional rulers, a Charlemagne, an Augustus, a Napoleon, a Chandragupta, Asoka or Akbar, can do no more than fix certain new institutions which the time needed and help the emergence of its best or else its strongest tendencies in a critical era. When they attempt more, they fail. Akbar’s effort to create a new dharma for the Indian nation by its enlightened reason was a brilliant futility. Asoka’s edicts remain graven upon pillar and rock, but the development of Indian religion and culture took its own line in other and far more complex directions determined by the soul of a great people.’(Ibid, pg 458) The political executive cannot claim divine right for that is the province of the rare prophet or Messiah whose secret of force is not political but spiritual.
It is actually the soul of the people which has to develop the law of the society. It is in this way that in the pristine heritage of the Orient, legislation had developed like an all-embracing Shastra, a phenomenon that was originally a product of intuition but which now has to be worked out and consolidated on the edifice of Reason in accordance to the Zeitgeist. The self-consciousness of the society has to develop to realize something like the Utopia of thinker. ‘For the Utopian thinker is the individual mind forerunning in its turn of thought the trend which the social mind must eventually take.’(Ibid, pg 457).
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- By Dr. Soumitra Basu