Moving Towards South Asian Confederation
Ideal of Human Unity - Chapters

Chapter XXII

World-Union or World-State

Sri Aurobindo chose a significant time during the World War I to ponder whether the new turn of internationalism would lead towards the idea of a World-state or world-Union. It was June, 1917; the time of the Battle of Messines and battle of Mount Ortigara. King Constantine I abdicated in Greece, London had the heaviest bomber raid by the Gotha G.IV; and the first US troops landed in France. Oblivious of the losses and gains at different fronts of the Great War, Sri Aurobindo thinks a age ahead when the value of internationalism would have to have a practical and not merely hypothetical expression in the formation of a World-State or a World-Union. He was confident that even if the world did not move to that idea through mutual understanding, it would yet be forced to do so due to the pressure of circumstances or a ‘series of new and disastrous shocks’. This emphasis and warning on future shocks reveals that even during the World War I, he was already speculating on another series of disastrous war; in a way, it was an intuitive warning of a second Great War, and he was proved right!

Ordinarily, wars are disruptive. However the Great War is great not merely because it has a greater and more complex field of action but because it also initiates great speculations, motivates to greater understanding, unveils a greater vision and mulls the possibility of a greater unity. The Great War provides that great shock that forces the mass to shrug off inertia and think positively. In fact, the loosely held organic unity of mankind held through love, bonding, friendship, association that even where involuntary is nevertheless interdependent became more and more significant with the march of science and social awakening of the proletariat. As a result, the 20th century started with a new basis of unity that was not feasible before. A consolidation of the hitherto loose organic unity into a new poise of international unity would have to manifest one day or the other. The Time-Spirit did not wait for mankind to come to that stage through mutual understanding as this required a uncertain working through collective egos, national prejudices and politicians who lacked visionary depth. The Great War gave that opportunity by imposing the pressure of circumstances. ‘A great precipitating and transforming shock was needed which should make this subtle organic unity manifest and reveal the necessity and create the will for a closer and organized union, and this shock came with the Great War. The idea of a World-State or world-union has been born not only in the speculating forecasting mind of the thinker, but in the consciousness of humanity out of the very necessity of this new common existence’.

What Sri Aurobindo writes in 1917 is still to be acknowledged and worked out:

‘The World-State must now either be brought about by a mutual understanding or by the force of circumstances and a series of new and disastrous shocks. For the old still-prevailing order of things was founded on circumstances and conditions which no longer exist. A new order is demanded by the new conditions and, so long as it is not created, there will be a transitional era of continued trouble or recurrent disorders, inevitable crises through which Nature will effect in her own violent way the working out of the necessity which she has evolved. There may be in the process a maximum of loss and suffering through the clash of national and imperial egoisms or else a minimum, if reason and goodwill prevail. To that reason two alternative possibilities and therefore two ideals present themselves, a World-State founded upon the principle of centralization and uniformity, a mechanical and formal unity, or a world-union founded upon the principle of liberty and variation in a free and intelligible unity. These two ideals and possibilities we have successively to consider’ (The Ideal of Human Unity, pg 463-464).

Date of Update: 16-Oct-15

- By Dr. Soumitra Basu