“Food for Thought” and short introduction on national and European soul
(introduction at the European Pavilion Meeting in Berlin, June 10-13, 2011)
At our last meeting a year ago we agreed to enter, at our present gathering, into a deeper process of “searching for the European soul”.
And as a short introduction and – let's say – “food for reflection” - we came up with the idea to highlight once more the thoughts of Sri Aurobindo on the true relationship between individual, group soul and humanity as a whole.
In our announcement we have replaced „group soul“ with the term „nation“ and the question arises, why – at least as a first focus – we rather refer to the relation of individual-nation-humanity than to the relation of individual-family-humanity or tribe/race, federation-humanity.
The answer to both questions comes naturally when we follow Sri Aurobindo's thoughts in his work „The Human Cycle“, in which he elaborates on the development of collective consciousness in mankind.
Very briefly and superficially one could describe the early development of the collective human consciousness as an era, in which all elements of human life and nature were understood and experienced as living symbols of a larger mystic truth behind (vedic age in India, celtic and very early Christianity in Europe). Sri Aurobindo calls it the „symbolic age“.
When the collective consciousness, not only a few individuals, started to discover – apart from these objective forms – its subjective secret, its inner truth, we move into, what Sri Aurobindo calls „the subjective age“.
„T he primal law and purpose of the individual life is to seek its own self-development, to find
We need not talk in this context about the consequences of the first stumblings in the inner self-discovery of the nation – the first very natural step and error that the physical and vital Ego of the nation is its true self.
But then, as Sri Aurobindo says: „When we realise that the land is only the shell of the body, though a very living shell indeed and potent in its influences on the nation, when we begin to feel that its more real body is the men and women who compose the nation-unit, a body ever changing, yet always the same like that of the individual man, we are on the way to a truly subjective communal consciousness. For then we have some chance of realising that even the physical being of the society is a subjective power, not a mere objective existence. Much more is it in its inner self a great corporate soul with all the possibilities and dangers of the soul-life.“
On this understanding Sri Aurobindo defines the relationship between individual, nation and humanity as follows:
„Thus the law for the individual is to perfect his individuality by free development from within, but to respect and to aid and be aided by the same free development in others. His law is to harmonise his life with the life of the social aggregate and to pour himself out as a force for growth and perfection on humanity.
The law for the community or nation is equally to perfect ist corporate existence by a free development from within, aiding and taking full advantage of that of the individual, but to respect and to aid and be aided by the same free development of other communities and nations. Its law is to harmonise its life with that of the human aggregate and to pour itself out as a force for growth and perfection on humanity.
of the Divine in the type of mankind, taking full advantage of the free development and gains of all individuals and nations and groupings of men, to work towards the day when mankind
may be really and not only ideally one divine family, but even then, when it has succeeded in unifying itself, to respect, aid and be aided by the free growth and activity of its individuals and constituent aggregates.“
This sounds very nice, yet we seem to be quite some step away from a realisation of this ideal.
As our focus is now lying on the relation between individual, nation and humanity, here just one quote from Sri Aurobindo, how the society of the future, a so called „spiritualized society“ would see, interpret and realise the true individual, the true nation and the true relationship between nations in humanity:
With regard to the individual:
„Not only to see and find the Divine in oneself, but to see and find the Divine in all, not only to seek one's own individual liberation or perfection, but to seek the liberation and
perfection of others is the complete law of the (individual) spiritual being.
He will not live either for himself or for the State and society, for the individual ego or the collective ego, but for something much greater, for God in himself and for the Divine in the universe.
With regard to nations and their relationship:
„( A spiritualized society ) would not regard the nations within the scope of their own internal life as enormous State machines regulated and armoured with man living for the sake of the machine and worshipping it as his God and his larger self, content at the first call to kill others upon its altar and to bleed there himself so that the machine may remain intact and powerful and be made ever larger, more complex, more cumbrous, more mechanically efficient and entire. Neither would it be content to maintain these nations or States in their mutual relations as noxious engines meant to discharge poisonous gas upon each other in peace and to rush in times of clash upon each other's armed hosts and unarmed millions, full of belching shot and men missioned to murder like war-planes or hostile tanks in a modern battlefield.
(But) It would regard the peoples as group-souls, the Divinity concealed and to be self-discovered in its human collectivities, group-souls meant like the individual to grow according to their own nature and by that growth to help each other, to help the whole race in the one common work of humanity. And that work would be to find the divine Self in the individual and the collectivity and to realise spiritually, mentally, vitally, materially its greatest, largest, richest and deepest possibilities in the inner life of all and their outer action and nature.“
The question arises, how this state of a spiritualized society can be achieved in the collective consciousness of mankind.
The answer of Sri Aurobindo is quite simple and logical, yet in one aspect very interesting:
„This (a spiritualized society) can only be brought about by an individual change in each human life.
The collective soul is there only as a great half-subconscient source of the individual existence; if it is to take on a definite psychological form or a new kind of collective life, that can only come by the shaping growth of its individuals. As will be the spirit and life of the individuals constituting it, so will be the realised spirit of the collectivity and the true power of its life.
A society that lives not by its men but by its institutions, is not a collective soul, but a machine; its life becomes a mechanical product and ceases to be a living growth. Therefore the coming of a spiritual age must be preceded by the appearance of an increasing number of individuals who are no longer satisfied with the normal intellectual, vital and physical existence of man, but perceive that a greater evolution is the real goal of humanity and attempt to effect it in themselves, to lead others to it and to make it the recognised goal of the race. In proportion as they succeed and to the degree to which they carry this evolution, the yet unrealised potentiality which they represent will become an actual possibility of the future.“
At that point we could propose, as food for thought, a „daring“ analogy.
When we were replacing the „nation“ and the „nation-soul“ by any other group-soul, let us now take the „European Soul“, and replaced the respective terms, Sri Aurobindos quote would read as follows:
„This can only be brought about by an individual change in each national life.
The collective (european) soul is there only as a great half-subconscient source of the national collective existence; if it is to take on a definite psychological form or a new kind of collective life, that can only come by the shaping growth of its individual components (nations). As will be the spirit and life of the nations constituting it, so will be the realised spirit of the (European) collectivity and the true power of its life.
A society that lives not by its peoples but by its institutions, is not a collective soul, but a machine; its life becomes a mechanical product and ceases to be a living growth. Therefore the coming of a spiritual age must be preceded by the appearance of an increasing number of nations who are no longer satisfied with the normal intellectual, vital and physical existence of their collectivities, but perceive that a greater evolution is the real goal of humanity and attempt to effect it in themselves, to lead others to it and to make it the recognised goal of the race. In proportion as they (these nations) succeed and to the degree to which they carry this evolution, the yet unrealised potentiality which they represent will become an actual possibility of the future.“
But here we come back to the very beginning of this introduction; the question then is, whether a European Union is just a temporary formation on the way to a spiritual mankind and can thus be – on the long rung – neglected as a collective body or if there is some kind of eternal truth in the European-unit, some kind of a true individual, that does not depend on present forms or ideas, if there is not only a vital soul, a life-soul and a communal mind, but as well the genuine spark of the divine developing into a European psychic being.
Do we have to deal, in the end, in a spiritual age, with the true individual, the true nation and a true humanity or with the true individual, the true nation, the true Europe/Asia/America/Africa/Australia, and the true humanity? – Is continental grouping thus truly genuine or a temporary phenomenon?
So much as food for reflection for a hopefully inspiring and integrating experience.
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