On Nation

Preliminary compilation from Sri Aurobindo’s writings and talks;
and the article by Nolini Kanta Gupta “The Soul of a Nation”
December 2003

[Why we are searching for the Soul of Nation?]

Volume: 25 [CWSA] (The Human Cycle), Page: 35
In the same way [as for the individual life] the primal law and purpose of a society, community or nation is to seek its own self-fulfilment; it strives rightly to find itself, to become aware within itself of the law and power of its own being and to fulfil it as perfectly as possible, to realise all its potentialities, to live its own self-revealing life. The reason is the same; for this too is a being, a living power of the eternal Truth, a self-manifestation of the cosmic Spirit, and it is there to express and fulfil in its own way and to the degree of its capacities the special truth and power and meaning of the cosmic Spirit that is within it.

It is the old Indian discovery that our real “I” is a Supreme Being which is our true self and which it is our business to discover and consciously become and, secondly, that that Being is one in all, expressed in the individual and in the collectivity, and only by admitting and realising our unity with others can we entirely fulfil our true self-being.

[The parallel between the Nation and the Individual]

Volume: 25 [CWSA] (The Human Cycle), Page: 35
The nation or society, like the individual, has a body, an organic life, a moral and aesthetic temperament, a developing mind and a soul behind all these signs and powers for the sake of which they exist. One may say even that, like the individual, it essentially is a soul rather than has one; it is a group-soul that, once having attained to a separate distinctness, must become more and more self-conscious and find itself more and more fully as it develops its corporate action and mentality and its organic self-expressive life.

Volume: 25 [CWSA] (The Human Cycle), Page: 35
The parallel is just at every turn [with the individual] because it is more than a parallel; it is a real identity of nature. There is only this difference that the group-soul is much more complex because it has a great number of partly self-conscious mental individuals for the constituents of its physical being instead of an association of merely vital subconscious cells. At first, for this very reason, it seems more crude, primitive and artificial in the forms it takes; for it has a more difficult task before it, it needs a longer time to find itself, it is more fluid and less easily organic.  … its inner self a great corporate soul with all the possibilities and dangers of the soul-life.

[The Nation as a living and persistent collective unit]

Volume: 25 [CWSA] (The Ideal of Human Unity), Page: 304
At the present stage of human progress the nation is the living collective unit of humanity.

Volume: 25 [CWSA] (The Ideal of Human Unity), Page: 305
Nevertheless, it may be asked, why should this distinction be made of the political and the real unit when name, kind and form are the same? It must be made because it is of the greatest utility to a true and profound political science and involves the most important consequences. When an empire like Austria, a non-national empire, is broken to pieces, it perishes for good; there is no innate tendency to recover the outward unity, because there is no real inner oneness; there is only a politically manufactured aggregate. On the other hand, a real national unity broken up by circumstances will always preserve a tendency to recover and reassert its oneness.

Volume: 25 [CWSA] (The Ideal of Human Unity), Page: 309
Thus the nation is a persistent psychological unit which Nature has been busy developing throughout the world in the most various forms and educating into physical and political unity. Political unity is not the essential factor; it may not yet be realised and yet the nation persists and moves inevitably towards its realisation; it may be destroyed and yet the nation persists and travails and suffers but refuses to be annihilated.

Volume: 25 [CWSA] (The Ideal of Human Unity), Page: 310
In former times the nation was not always a real and vital unit; the tribe, the clan, the commune, the regional people were the living groups. Those unities which in the attempt at national evolution destroyed these older living groups without arriving at a vital nationhood disappeared once the artificial or political unit was broken. But now the nation stands as the one living group-unit of humanity into which all others must merge or to which they must become subservient. Even old persistent race unities and cultural unities are powerless against it. […]
All modern attempts to destroy by force or break up a nation are foolish and futile, because they ignore this law of the natural evolution. Empires are still perishable political units; the nation is immortal. And so it will remain until a greater living unit can be found into which the nation idea can merge in obedience to a superior attraction.

[Formation of the Nation and its purpose]

Volume: 25 [CWSA] (The Ideal of Human Unity), Page: 382
The nation-unit is not formed and does not exist merely for the sake of existing; its purpose is to provide a larger mould of human aggregation in which the race, and not only classes and individuals, may move towards its full human development.

Volume: 25 [CWSA] (The Ideal of Human Unity), Page: 554
The nation idea, on the contrary [to the family, clan or tribe idea], did not arise from a primary vital need, but from a secondary or even tertiary necessity which resulted not from anything inherent in our vital nature, but from circumstances, from environmental evolution; it arose not from a vital, but from a geographical and historical necessity. And we notice that as one result it had to be created most commonly by force, force of circumstances partly, no doubt, but also by physical force, by the power of the king and the conquering tribe converted into a military and dominant State. Or else it came by a reaction against force, a revolt against conquest and domination that brought a slow or sudden compactness to peoples who, though geographically or even historically and culturally one, had lacked power of cohesion and remained too conscious of an original heterogeneity or of local and regional and other divisions. But still the necessity was there and the nation form after many failures and false successes got into being, and the psychological motive of patriotism, a sign of the growth of a conscious national ego, arose in the form as the expression of its soul and the guarantee of its durability. For without such a soul, such a psychological force and presence within the frame, there can be no guarantee of durability. Without it, what circumstances have created, circumstances easily will destroy. It was for this reason that the ancient world failed to create nations, except on a small scale, little clans and small regional nations of brief duration and usually of loose structure; it created only artificial empires which went to pieces and left chaos behind them.

Details of the process of formation of Nations by Nature
Volume: 25 [CWSA] (The Ideal of Human Unity), Page: 326
In building up her human aggregates, Nature has followed in general principle the same law that she observes in her physical aggregates. She has provided first a natural body, next, a common life and vital interest for the constituents of the body, last, a conscious mind or sense of unity and a centre or governing organ through which that common ego-sense can realise itself and act. There must be in her ordinary process either a common bond of descent or past association that will enable like to adhere to like and distinguish itself from unlike and a common habitation, a country so disposed that all who inhabit within its natural boundaries are under a sort of geographical necessity to unite. In earlier times when communities were less firmly rooted to the soil, the first of these conditions was the more important. In settled modern communities the second predominates; but the unity of the race, pure or mixed—for it need not have been one in its origin—remains a factor of importance, and strong disparity and difference may easily create serious difficulties in the way of the geographical necessity imposing itself with any permanence. In order that it may impose itself, there must be a considerable force of the second natural condition, that is to say, a necessity of economic unity or habit of common sustenance and a necessity of political unity or habit of common vital organisation for survival, functioning and aggrandisement. And in order that this second condition may fulfil itself in complete force, there must be nothing to depress or destroy the third in its creation or its continuance.

Three periods of the formation of a nation
Volume: 25 [CWSA] (The Ideal of Human Unity), Page: 384
The study of the growth of the nation-unit under the pressure indeed of a growing inner need and idea but by the agency of political, economic and social forces, forms and instruments shows us a progress that began from a loose formation in which various elements were gathered together for unification, proceeded through a period of strong concentration and coercion in which the conscious national ego was developed, fortified and provided with a centre and instruments of its organic life, and passed on to a final period of assured separate existence and internal unity as against outside pressure in which liberty and an active and more and more equal share of all in the benefits of the national life became possible.

[Subjective turn in Nations]

Volume: 25 [CWSA] (The Human Cycle), Page: 46
But subjectivism is in its very nature an attempt at self-knowledge and at living by a true self-knowledge and by an inner strength […].

A greater subjective force is always acting behind objective movements.
Volume: 25 [CWSA] (The Human Cycle), Page: 37
The truer and more comprehensive science of the future will see that these conditions [when a history of a nation can be understood objectively] only apply to the imperfectly self-conscious period of national development. Even then there was always a greater subjective force working behind individuals, policies, economic movements and the change of institutions; but it worked for the most part subconsciously, more as a subliminal self than as a conscious mind. It is when this subconscious power of the group-soul comes to the surface that nations begin to enter into possession of their subjective selves; they set about getting, however vaguely or imperfectly, at their souls.

Volume: 25 [CWSA] (The Human Cycle), Page: 38
Now first we hear of the soul of a nation and, what is more to the purpose, actually see nations feeling for their souls, trying to find them, seriously endeavouring to act from the new sense and make it consciously operative in the common life and action.

Volume: 25 [CWSA] (The Human Cycle), Page: 39
It opens the way to great dangers and errors, but it is the essential condition for that which has now become the demand of the Time-Spirit on the human race, that it shall find subjectively, not only in the individual, but in the nation and in the unity of the human race itself, its deeper being, its inner law, its real self and live according to that and no longer by artificial standards.

Volume: 25 [CWSA] (The Human Cycle), Page: 40
For it is necessary, if the subjective age of humanity is to produce its best fruits, that the nations should become conscious not only of their own but of each other’s souls and learn to respect, to help and to profit, not only economically and intellectually but subjectively and spiritually, by each other.

Volume: 25 [CWSA] (The Human Cycle), Page: 40
Germany was for the time the most remarkable present instance of a nation preparing for the subjective stage because it had, in the first place, a certain kind of vision—unfortunately intellectual rather than illuminated—and the courage to follow it—unfortunately again a vital and intellectual rather than a spiritual hardihood,—and, secondly, being master of its destinies, was able to order its own life so as to express its self-vision.

[In search of the Soul of Nation and self-identification]

Volume: 25 [CWSA] (The Human Cycle), Page: 38
But now we have, very remarkably, very swiftly coming to the surface this new psychological tendency of the communal consciousness. Now first we hear of the soul of a nation and, what is more to the purpose, actually see nations feeling for their souls, trying to find them, seriously endeavouring to act from the new sense and make it consciously operative in the common life and action. It is only natural that this tendency should have been, for the most part, most powerful in new nations or in those struggling to realise themselves in spite of political subjection or defeat. For these need more to feel the difference between themselves and others so that they may assert and justify their individuality as against the powerful superlife which tends to absorb or efface it. And precisely because their objective life is feeble and it is difficult to affirm it by its own strength in the adverse circumstances, there is more chance of their seeking for their individuality and its force of self-assertion in that which is subjective and psychological or at least in that which has a subjective or a psychological significance.

[Necessity to distinguish between soul and ego and other parts of the nature]

Volume: 25 [CWSA] (The Human Cycle), Page: 42
That befell her [Germany] which sometimes befalls the seeker on the path of Yoga, the art of conscious self-finding,—a path exposed to far profounder perils than beset ordinarily the average man,—when he follows a false light to his spiritual ruin. She had mistaken her vital ego for herself; she had sought for her soul and found only her force. For she had said, like the Asura, “I am my body, my life, my mind, my temperament,” and become attached with a Titanic force to these; especially she had said, “I am my life and body,” and than that there can be no greater mistake for man or nation.

Volume: 25 [CWSA] (The Human Cycle), Page: 42
The soul of man or nation is something more and diviner than that; it is greater than its instruments and cannot be shut up in a physical, a vital, a mental or a temperamental formula. So to confine it, even though the false formation be embodied in the armour-plated social body of a huge collective human dinosaurus, can only stifle the growth of the inner Reality and end in decay or the extinction that overtakes all that is unplastic and unadaptable. It is evident that there is a false as well as a true subjectivism and the errors to which the subjective trend may be liable are as great as its possibilities and may well lead to capital disasters. This distinction must be clearly grasped if the road of this stage of social evolution is to be made safe for the human race.

Volume: 25 [CWSA] (The Human Cycle), Page: 45
In the general view of society itself, we begin to regard the community, the nation or any other fixed grouping of men as a living organism with a subjective being of its own and a corresponding growth and natural development which it is its business to bring to perfection and fruition. So far, good; the greater knowledge, the truer depth, the wiser humanity of this new view of things are obvious. But so also are the limitations of our knowledge and experience on this new path and the possibility of serious errors and stumblings.

Only by admitting and realising our unity with others can we entirely fulfil our true self-being.
Volume: 25 [CWSA] (The Human Cycle), Page: 47
This is what a true subjectivism teaches us,—first, that we are a higher self than our ego or our members, secondly, that we are in our life and being not only ourselves but all others; for there is a secret solidarity which our egoism may kick at and strive against, but from which we cannot escape. It is the old Indian discovery that our real “I” is a Supreme Being which is our true self and which it is our business to discover and consciously become and, secondly, that that Being is one in all, expressed in the individual and in the collectivity, and only by admitting and realising our unity with others can we entirely fulfil our true self-being. Of these two truths mankind has had some vague vision in the principle with regard to the individual, though it has made only a very poor and fragmentary attempt to regard them in practice and in nine-tenths of its life has been busy departing from them—even where it outwardly professed something of the law. But they apply not only to the individual but to the nation.

Volume: 25 [CWSA] (The Human Cycle), Page: 44
A psychic self-knowledge tells us that there are in our being many formal, frontal, apparent or representative selves and only one that is entirely secret and real; to rest in the apparent and to mistake it for the real is the one general error, root of all others and cause of all our stumbling and suffering, to which man is exposed by the nature of his mentality. We may apply this truth to the attempt of man to live by the law of his subjective being whether as an individual or as a social unit one in its corporate mind and body.

Volume: 25 [CWSA] (The Human Cycle), Page: 73
The Self of man is a thing hidden and occult; it is not his body, it is not his life, it is not—even though he is in the scale of evolution the mental being, the Manu,—his mind. Therefore neither the fullness of his physical, nor of his vital, nor of his mental nature can be either the last term or the true standard of his self-realisation; they are means of manifestation, subordinate indications, foundations of his self-finding, values, practical currency of his self, what you will, but not the thing itself which he secretly is and is obscurely groping or trying overtly and self-consciously to become.

Volume: 25 [CWSA] (The Human Cycle), Page: 45
The individual seeking for the law of his being can only find it safely if he regards clearly two great psychological truths and lives in that clear vision. First, the ego is not the self; there is one self of all and the soul is a portion of that universal Divinity. The fulfilment of the individual is not the utmost development of his egoistic intellect, vital force, physical well-being and the utmost satisfaction of his mental, emotional, physical cravings, but the flowering of the divine in him to its utmost capacity of wisdom, power, love and universality and through this flowering his utmost realisation of all the possible beauty and delight of existence.

Volume: 25 [CWSA] (The Human Cycle), Page: 46
The will to be, the will to power, the will to know are perfectly legitimate, their satisfaction the true law of our existence and to discourage and repress them improperly is to mutilate our being and dry up or diminish the sources of life and growth. But their satisfaction must not be egoistic,—not for any other reason moral or religious, but simply because they cannot so be satisfied.

[Essential oneness and the process of unification]

Volume: 25 [CWSA] (The Human Cycle), Page: 66
Mankind upon earth is one foremost self-expression of the universal Being in His cosmic self-unfolding; he expresses, under the conditions of the terrestrial world he inhabits, the mental power of the universal existence. All mankind is one in its nature, physical, vital, emotional, mental and ever has been in spite of all differences of intellectual development ranging from the poverty of the Bushman and negroid to the rich cultures of Asia and Europe, and the whole race has, as the human totality, one destiny which it seeks and increasingly approaches in the cycles of progression and retrogression it describes through the countless millenniums of its history. Nothing which any individual race or nation can triumphantly realise, no victory of their self-aggrandisement, illumination, intellectual achievement or mastery over the environment, has any permanent meaning or value except in so far as it adds something or recovers something or preserves something for this human march. The purpose which the ancient Indian scripture offers to us as the true object of all human action, lokasangraha, the holding together of the race in its cyclic evolution, is the constant sense, whether we know it or know it not, of the sum of our activities.

Volume: 25 [CWSA] (The Human Cycle), Page: 70
As the individual lives by the life of other individuals, so does the nation by the life of  other nations, by accepting from them material for its own mental, economic and physical life; but it has to assimilate this material, subject it to the law of its own nature, change it into stuff of itself, work upon it by its own free will and consciousness, if it would live securely and grow soundly. 

Volume: 25 [CWSA] (The Human Cycle), Page: 71
As the free development of individuals from within is the best condition for the growth and perfection of the community, so the free development of the community or nation from within is the best condition for the growth and perfection of mankind.

Volume: 25 [CWSA] (The Ideal of Human Unity), Page: 349
Undoubtedly, a free association and unity must be the ultimate goal of our development and until it is realised the world must be subject to constant changes and revolutions. […]
It is idle to hope for a federation of free nations until either the present inequalities between nation and nation are removed or else the whole world rises to a common culture based upon a higher moral and spiritual status than is now actual or possible.

What a unity in uniformity leads to
Volume: 25 [CWSA] (The Ideal of Human Unity), Page: 519
The disappearance of national variation into a single uniform human unity, of which the systematic thinker dreams as an ideal and which we have seen to be a substantial possibility and even a likelihood if a certain tendency becomes dominant, might lead to political peace, economic well-being, perfect administration, the solution of a hundred material problems, as did on a lesser scale the Roman unity in old times; but to what eventual good if it leads also to an uncreative sterilisation of the mind and the stagnation of the soul of the race?

Free grouping of individuals as a basis for the unity
Volume: 25 [CWSA] (The Ideal of Human Unity), Page: 513
Nature secures variation by division into groups and insists on liberty by the force of individuality in the members of the group. Therefore the unity of the human race to be entirely sound and in consonance with the deepest laws of life must be founded on free groupings, and the groupings again must be the natural association of free individuals. This is an ideal which it is certainly impossible to realise under present conditions or perhaps in any near future of the human race; but it is an ideal which ought to be kept in view, for the more we can approximate to it, the more we can be sure of being on the right road. The artificiality of much in human life is the cause of its most deep-seated maladies; it is not faithful to itself or sincere with Nature and therefore it stumbles and suffers.

Volume: 25 [CWSA] (The Ideal of Human Unity), Page: 395
The ideal society or State is that in which respect for individual liberty and free growth of the personal being to his perfection is harmonised with respect for the needs, efficiency, solidarity, natural growth and organic perfection of the corporate being, the society or nation. In an ideal aggregate of all humanity, in the international society or State, national liberty and free national growth and self-realisation ought in the same way to be progressively harmonised with the solidarity and unified growth and perfection of the human race.

[Nation: the right to be itself]

Volume: 25 [CWSA] (The Human Cycle), Page: 70
The nation or community is an aggregate life that expresses the Self according to the general law of human nature and aids and partially fulfils the development and the destiny of mankind by its own development and the pursuit of its own destiny according to the law of its being and the nature of its corporate individuality. It has like the individual the right to be itself, and its just claim, as against any attempt at domination by other nations or of attack upon its separate development by any excessive tendency of human uniformity and regimentation, is to defend its existence, to insist on being itself, to persist in developing according to the secret Idea within it or, as we say, according to the law of its own nature. This right it must assert not only or even principally for its own sake, but in the interests of humanity. For the only things that we can really call our rights are those conditions which are necessary to our free and sound development, and that again is our right because it is necessary to the development of the world and the fulfilment of the destiny of mankind.

Volume: 25 [CWSA] (The Ideal of Human Unity), Page: 515
For each language is the sign and power of the soul of the people which naturally speaks it. Each develops therefore its own peculiar spirit, thought-temperament, way of dealing with life and knowledge and experience. If it receives and welcomes the thought, the life-experience, the spiritual impact of other nations, still it transforms them into something new of its own and by that power of transmutation it enriches the life of humanity with its fruitful borrowings and does not merely repeat what had been gained elsewhere. Therefore it is of the utmost value to a nation, a human group-soul, to preserve its language and to make of it a strong and living cultural instrument. A nation, race or people which loses its language cannot live its whole life or its real life. And this advantage to the national life is at the same time an advantage to the general life of the human race.

[The role of individual in the progress of society]

Volume: 25 [CWSA] (The Human Cycle), Page: 67
… his [Individual’s] life and growth are for the sake of the world, but he can help the world by his life and growth only in proportion as he can be more and more freely and widely his own real self.

Volume: 25 [CWSA] (The Human Cycle), Page: 73
As yet we have not to deal with the race, with mankind as a unity; the nation is still our largest compact and living unit. And it is best to begin with the individual, both because of his nature we have a completer and nearer knowledge and experience than of the aggregate soul and life and because the society or nation is, even in its greater complexity, a larger, a composite individual, the collective Man. What we find valid of the former is therefore likely to be valid in its general principle of the larger entity. Moreover, the development of the free individual is, we have said, the first condition for the development of the perfect society. From the individual, therefore, we have to start; he is our index and our foundation.

Volume: 25 [CWSA] (The Ideal of Human Unity), Page: 512
The communal mass is always conservative and static in its consciousness and only moves slowly in the tardy process of subconscient Nature. The free individual is the conscious progressive: it is only when he is able to impart his own creative and mobile consciousness to the mass that a progressive society becomes possible.

Volume: 25 [CWSA] (The Ideal of Human Unity), Page: 302
Always it is the individual who progresses and compels the rest to progress; the instinct of the collectivity is to stand still in its established order. Progress, growth, realisation of wider being give his greatest sense of happiness to the individual; status, secure ease to the collectivity. And so it must be as long as the latter is more a physical and economic entity than a self-conscious collective soul.

Volume: 25 [CWSA] (The Human Cycle), Page: 246
A change of this kind, the change from the mental and vital to the spiritual order of life, must necessarily be accomplished in the individual and in a great number of individuals before it can lay any effective hold upon the community. The Spirit in humanity discovers, develops, builds its formations first in the individual man: it is through the progressive and formative individual that it offers the discovery and the chance of a new self-creation to the mind of the race. For the communal mind holds things subconsciently at first or, if consciously, then in a confused chaotic manner: it is only through the individual mind that the mass can arrive at a clear knowledge and creation of the thing it held in its subconscient self.

Individual belongs to Nation, to Humanity, to the world of all beings and to the godheads of the future
Volume: 25 [CWSA] (The Human Cycle), Page: 68
Individual man belongs not only to humanity in general, his nature is not only a variation of human nature in general, but he belongs also to his race-type, his class-type, his mental, vital, physical, spiritual type in which he resembles some, differs from others. According to these affinities he tends to group himself in Churches, sects, communities, classes, coteries, associations whose life he helps, and by them he enriches the life of the large economic, social and political group or society to which he belongs. In modern times this society is the nation. By his enrichment of the national life, though not in that way only, he helps the total life of humanity. But it must be noted that he is not limited and cannot be limited by any of these groupings; he is not merely the noble, merchant, warrior, priest, scholar, artist, cultivator or artisan, not merely the religionist or the worldling or the politician. Nor can he be limited by his nationality; he is not merely the Englishman or the Frenchman, the Japanese or the Indian; if by a part of himself he belongs to the nation, by another he exceeds it and belongs to humanity. And even there is a part of him, the greatest, which is not limited by humanity; he belongs by it to God and to the world of all beings and to the godheads of the future. He has indeed the tendency of self-limitation and subjection to his environment and group, but he has also the equally necessary tendency of expansion and transcendence of environment and groupings. The individual animal is dominated entirely by his type, subordinated to his group when he does group himself; individual man has already begun to share something of the infinity, complexity, free variation of the Self we see manifested in the world. Or at least he has it in possibility even if there be as yet no sign of it in his organised surface nature. There is here no principle of a mere shapeless fluidity; it is the tendency to enrich himself with the largest possible material constantly brought in, constantly assimilated and changed by the law of his individual nature into stuff of his growth and divine expansion.

[The Ideal Law for Individual, Nation and Humanity]

Volume: 25 [CWSA] (The Human Cycle), Page: 71
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 its 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. The law for humanity is to pursue its upward evolution towards the finding and expression 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.

Source: Booklet & article published under the title The Chariot of Jagannatha by Sri Aurobindo Ashram:

“An ideal Society is a vehicle of the Divine, the Divine as the inner Soul of collective humanity. It is the Chariot of Jagannatha, the Lord of the World, and its four wheels are unity, freedom, knowledge and power.”

[Present state of the Humanity in its progressive movement]

Volume: 25 [CWSA] (The Human Cycle), Page: 72
[…] very business of a subjective age when knowledge is increasing and diffusing itself with an unprecedented rapidity, when capacity is generalising itself, when men and nations are drawn close together and partially united though in an inextricable, confused entanglement of chaotic unity, when they are being compelled to know each other and impelled to know more profoundly themselves, mankind, God and the world and when the idea of self-realisation for men and nations is coming consciously to the surface,—it is the natural work and should be the conscious hope of man in such an age to know himself truly, to find the ideal law of his being and his development and, if he cannot even then follow it ideally owing to the difficulties of his egoistic nature, still to hold it before him and find out gradually the way by which it can become more and more the moulding principle of his individual and social existence.

[The State and the Nation]

Volume: 25 [CWSA] (The Ideal of Human Unity), Page: 300
The State is a convenience, and a rather clumsy convenience, for our common development; it ought never to be made an end in itself.

Volume: 25 [CWSA] (The Ideal of Human Unity), Page: 301
The State is bound to act crudely and in the mass; it is incapable of that free, harmonious and intelligently or instinctively varied action which is proper to organic growth. For the State is not an organism; it is a machinery, and it works like a machine, without tact, taste, delicacy or intuition. It tries to manufacture, but what humanity is here to do is to grow and create. We see this flaw in State-governed education. It is right and necessary that education should be provided for all and in providing for it the State is eminently useful; but when it controls the education, it turns it into a routine, a mechanical system in which individual initiative, individual growth and true development as opposed to a routine instruction become impossible. The State tends always to uniformity, because uniformity is easy to it and natural variation is impossible to its essentially mechanical nature; but uniformity is death, not life. A national culture, a national religion, a national education may still be useful things provided they do not interfere with the growth of human solidarity on the one side and individual freedom of thought and conscience and development on the other; for they give form to the communal soul and help it to add its quota to the sum of human advancement; but a State education, a State religion, a State culture are unnatural violences. And the same rule holds good in different ways and to a different extent in other directions of our communal life and its activities.

Volume: 25 [CWSA] (The Ideal of Human Unity), Page: 300
When the State attempts to take up the control of the cooperative action of the community, it condemns itself to create a monstrous machinery which will end by crushing out the freedom, initiative and various growth of the human being.

Volume: 25 [CWSA] (The Ideal of Human Unity), Page: 299
The State now feels the necessity of justifying its existence by organising the general economic and animal well-being of the community and even of all individuals. It is beginning to see the necessity of assuring the intellectual and, indirectly, the moral development of the whole community. This attempt of the State to grow into an intellectual and moral being is one of the most interesting phenomena of modern civilisation. Even the necessity of intellectualising and moralising it in its external relations has been enforced upon the conscience of mankind by the European catastrophe.

The real business of the State
Volume: 25 [CWSA] (The Ideal of Human Unity), Page: 301
The business of the State, so long as it continues to be a necessary element in human life and growth, is to provide all possible facilities for cooperative action, to remove obstacles, to prevent all really harmful waste and friction,—a certain amount of waste and friction is necessary and useful to all natural action,—and, removing avoidable injustice, to secure for every individual a just and equal chance of self-development and satisfaction to the extent of his powers and in the line of his nature.

[The future possibilities for the Nation]

Volume: 25 [CWSA] (The Ideal of Human Unity), Page: 587
The central question is whether the nation, the largest natural unit which humanity has been able to create and maintain for its collective living, is also its last and ultimate unit or whether a greater aggregate can be formed which will englobe many and even most nations and finally all in its united totality.

Different possible perspectives: disappearance, persistence in vitality or formal survival
Volume: 25 [CWSA] (The Ideal of Human Unity), Page: 411
We see that there are always two extreme possibilities with a number of more or less probable compromises. The nation is at present the firm group-unit of the human aggregation to which all other units tend to subordinate themselves; even the imperial has hitherto been only a development of the national and empires have existed in recent times, not consciously for the sake of a wider aggregation as did the imperial Roman world, but to serve the instinct of domination and expansion, the land hunger, money hunger, commodity hunger, the vital, intellectual, cultural aggressiveness of powerful and prosperous nations. This, however, does not secure the nation-unit from eventual dissolution in a larger principle of aggregation. Group-units there must always be in any human unity, even the most entire, intolerant and uniform, for that is the very principle not only of human nature, but of life and of every aggregation; we strike here on a fundamental law of universal existence, on the fundamental mathematics and
physics of creation. But it does not follow that the nation need persist as the group-unit. It may disappear altogether; even now the rejection of the nation-idea has begun, the opposite idea of the sans-patrie, the citizen of the world, has been born and was a growing force before the war; and though temporarily overborne, silenced and discouraged, it is by no means slain, but is likely to revive with an increased violence hereafter. On the other hand, the nation-idea may persist in full vitality or may assert in the event—after whatever struggle and apparent decline—its life, its freedom, its vigorous particularism within the larger unity. Finally, it may persist, but with a reduced and subjected vitality, or even without real vitality or any living spirit of particularism or separatism, as a convenience, an administrative rather than a psychological fact like a French department or an English county.

Volume: 25 [CWSA] (The Ideal of Human Unity), Page: 545
For the final end is a common world-culture in which each national culture should be, not merged into or fused with some other culture differing from it in principle or temperament, but evolved to its full power and could then profit to that end by all the others as well as give its gains and influences to them, all serving by their separateness and their interaction the common aim and idea of human perfection. This would best be served, not by separateness and isolation, of which there would be no danger, but yet by a certain distinctness and independence of life not subordinated to the mechanising force of an artificial unity. Even within the independent nation itself, there might be with advantage a tendency towards greater local freedom of development and variation, a sort of return to the vivid local and regional life of ancient Greece and India and mediaeval Italy; for the disadvantages of strife, political weakness and precariousness of the nation’s independence would no longer exist in a condition of things from which the old terms of physical conflict had been excluded, while all the cultural and psychological advantages might be recovered. A world secure of its peace and freedom might freely devote itself to the intensification of its real human powers of life by the full encouragement and flowering of the individual, local, regional, national mind and power in the firm frame of a united humanity.

Future the nation in a free word-union
Volume: 25 [CWSA] (The Ideal of Human Unity), Page: 547
On the other hand, in a free world-union, though originally starting from the national basis, the national idea might be expected to undergo a radical transformation; it might even disappear into a new and less strenuously compact form and idea of group-aggregation which would not be separative in spirit, yet would preserve the necessary element of independence and variation needed by both individual and grouping for their full satisfaction and their healthy existence. Moreover, by emphasising the psychological quite as much as the political and mechanical idea and basis, it would give a freer and less artificial form and opportunity for the secure development of the necessary intellectual and psychological change; for such an inner change could alone give some chance of durability to the unification.

[A spiritualised society]

Volume: 25 [CWSA] (The Human Cycle), Page: 255
A spiritualised society would live like its spiritual individuals, not in the ego, but in the spirit, not as the collective ego, but as the collective soul. This freedom from the egoistic standpoint would be its first and most prominent characteristic

Volume: 25 [CWSA] (The Human Cycle), Page: 244
Man’s true freedom and perfection will come when the spirit within bursts through the forms of mind and life and, winging above to its own gnostic fiery height of ether, turns upon them from that light and flame to seize them and transform into its own image.

Volume: 25 [CWSA] (The Human Cycle), Page: 255
When man is able to see God and to possess him, then he will know real freedom and arrive at real unity, never otherwise. And God is only waiting to be known, while man seeks for him everywhere and creates images of the Divine, but all the while truly finds, effectively erects and worships images only of his own mind-ego and life-ego. When this ego pivot is abandoned and this ego-hunt ceases, then man gets his first real chance of achieving spirituality in his inner and outer life. It will not be enough, but it will be a commencement, a true gate and not a blind entrance.

Characteristics of the spiritualised society
Volume: 25 [CWSA] (The Human Cycle), Page: 256
Therefore a society which was even initially spiritualised would make the revealing and finding of the divine Self in man the supreme, even the guiding aim of all its activities, its education, its knowledge, its science, its ethics, its art, its economical and political structure. As it was to some imperfect extent in the ancient Vedic times with the cultural education of the higher classes, so it would be then with all education. It would embrace all knowledge in its scope, but would make the whole trend and aim and the permeating spirit not mere worldly efficiency, though that efficiency would not be neglected, but this self-developing and self-finding and all else as its powers. It would pursue the physical and psychic sciences not in order merely to know the world and Nature in her processes and to use them for material human ends, but still more to know through and in and under and over all things the Divine in the world and the ways of the Spirit in its masks and behind them. It would make it the aim of ethics not to establish a rule of action whether supplementary to the social law or partially corrective of it, the social law that is after all only the rule, often clumsy and ignorant, of the biped pack, the human herd, but to develop the divine nature in the human being. It would make it the aim of Art not merely to present images of the subjective and objective world, but to see them with the significant and creative vision that goes behind their appearances and to reveal the Truth and Beauty of which things visible to us and invisible are the forms, the masks or the symbols and significant figures.
A spiritualised society would treat in its sociology the individual, from the saint to the criminal, not as units of a social problem to be passed through some skilfully devised machinery and either flattened into the social mould or crushed out of it, but as souls suffering and entangled in a net and to be rescued, souls growing and to be encouraged to grow, souls grown and from whom help and power can be drawn by the lesser spirits who are not yet adult. The aim of its economics would be not to create a huge engine of production, whether of the competitive or the cooperative kind, but to give to men—not only to some but to all men each in his highest possible measure—the joy of work according to their own nature and free leisure to grow inwardly, as well as a simply rich and beautiful life for all. In its politics it 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 battle-field. 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 Nature of nation-soul
Evening talks with Sri Aurobindo, page 680

Disciple: Some disciples here believe that there is a collective Karma for which either the group, the society or the nation has to bear the consequences like the individual.
Sri Aurobindo: The collective being is non-evolutionary. It is hard to believe in reincarnation of the races. 
Disciple: Somebody seems to have said that the Romans are born as Americans.
Sri Aurobindo: Very queer Romans! You may say in some sense that English are the ancient Carthagenians! Or one may even hazard that the French are the Greek reborn. But it won’t carry us very far. You can’t take for granted that one individual is always born in the same race or nation in which he is born now. So how can the nation soul or race soul incarnate?
Disciple: Have the nations a soul each?
Sri Aurobindo: You can speak of it as a collective or nation’s being or entity. It is not in evolution. It is not subject to the law of Karma.
Disciple: Can it be said that the law governing it is suprarational?
Sri Aurobindo: Yes, each collective being is a projection of the Cosmic Spirit for a particular purpose. You can speak of it as a particular Shakti…
Disciple: How does the collective being of Shakti work?
Sri Aurobindo: It identifies itself with a particular form – here of a group of individuals. There is a mutual action: it acts on the individual and the individual acts on it by manifesting it.
Disciple: Suppose the collective entity is dissolved from life?
Sri Aurobindo: When the physical form of the collectivity is dissolved here the collective being withdraws into the origin.
Disciple: Can a collective being, after such a dissolution, take another form, a group, for manifesting itself?
Sri Aurobindo: We have as yet no proof of it.

The Soul of a Nation
Nolini Kanta Gupta

A nation is a living personality; it has a soul, even like a human individual. The soul of a nation is also a psychic being, that is to say, a conscious being, a formation out of the Divine Consciousness and in direct contact with it, a power and aspect of Mahashakti. A nation is not merely the sum total of the individuals that compose it, but a collective personality of which the individuals are as it were cells, like the cells of a living and conscious organism. The psychic being or soul of a nation is indeed conscious; it knows its raison d’etre, its life purpose, its destiny, the role it has to play in the divine scheme as the divine instrument. And its will   for it has a will, the expression of its consciousness, the Divine’s impulse in and through it   is inevitable, sooner or later it will fulfill itself. Even like the soul of a man, the nation’s soul is behind all the movements that form its external life, supporting, building, guiding its political, economic, social or cultural make up. The individual can know of and come in contact with the nation’s soul in and through his own soul. When one becomes conscious of his psychic being then only one is in a condition to be conscious of the psychic being of the collective person of his nation or the nation with which he has inner affinity.

There are periods in the life cycle of a nation, critical moments, when it is in deadly peril, when its very existence is threatened, attacked by enemy forces either from within or from without. Such was the case when, for example, Britain was invaded by the Spanish Armada or when France was being subjugated by England. Those were very anxious times, but in each instance the soul of the nation came forward and inspired the nation to react and go through the ordeal and survive. Jeanne d’Arc may be considered as the embodiment of France’s national soul, as on a still earlier occasion that same soul embodied itself in St. Genevieve. But a nation may fall on much more evil days, namely, when it loses contact with its very soul, goes astray, its life movement taking a wrong curve. A nation can deny its soul, even as an individual may and the result is disaster. Germany is a terrible example of such a tragedy in our own day.

India is offering a spectacle of another tragedy. What is happening here is the attack of a disease that is convulsing the body politic: it seems to be a cancerous disease, the limbs seeking to grow independently at the expense of each other. The patient is passing through a very critical period and it is indeed a question of life and death. But we hope   we are sure   that the soul of this ancient nation will assert itself and through whatever vicissitudes re establish health and harmony: for that soul’s mission is yet to be done.

Like the individual a nation too dies. Ancient Greece and Rome, Egypt and Babylon and Chaldea are no more. What has happened to their souls, it may be asked. Well, what happens to the soul of the individual when the body falls away?

The soul returns to the soul world. Like the individual Psyche the collective Psyche too goes and retires ‘into the womb of peace and light with all its treasures, its beauty and glory gathered in, like a bird that goes to sleep within its folded wings. What the Greek culture and civilisation was still continues to exist in its quintessential reality in a world to which one has access if one has the requisite kinship of consciousness and psychic opening. That soul lives in its own domain, with all the glory of its achievement and realisation in their purest, and from there it sheds its lustre, exerts its influence, acts as living leaven in the world’s cultural heritage and spiritual growth.

When however the soul withdraws, when a nation in a particular cycle of its soul manifestation has fulfilled its role and mission, the body of the nation falls gradually into decadence. The elements that composed the organic reality, the living consistency of national life disintegrate, lose their energy and cohesive capacity; they die out and are dispersed or persist for a time as a confused mixture of disconnected mechanically moving cells. But it may happen too that in an apparently dying or dead nation, the soul that retired comes back again, not in its old form and mode of life   for that cannot be   Egypt, if it lives again today cannot repeat the ages of the Pharaohs and the Pyramids   but in a new personality, with a fresh life purpose. In such a case what happens is truly a national resurrection a Lazarus coming back to life at the touch of the Divine.

We do not believe that India was ever completely dead or hopelessly moribund: her soul, although not always in front, was ever present as a living force, presiding over and guiding her destiny. That is why there is a perennial capacity for renewal in her and the capacity to go through dire ordeals. And to live up to her genius, she too must know how to march with the time, that is to say, not to cling to old and past forms   to be faithful to the ancient soul does not mean itemizing the external frames and formulas that expressed that soul one time or another. Indeed the soul becomes alive and vigorous when it finds a new disposition of the life plan, which can embody and translate a fresh creative activity, a new fulfillment emanating from the depths of the soul.

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