January 24, 2006

Sri Aurobindo’s gnostic individuals

Ananta Kuma Giri Knowledge and Human Liberation
European Journal of Social Theory 7(1): 85–103 MADRAS INSTITUTE OF DEVELOPMENT STUDIES, CHENNAI
Sri Aurobindo’s gnostic individuals are seekers and bearers of the multi-dimensional transformation of practical spirituality. But these gnostic individuals are not the Nietzschean supermen driven by the will to power; they are animated by a will to serve and the desire to transform the contemporary condition and to build a good society (Connolly, 1991).
But their seeking nonetheless faces the challenge of what Roy Bhaskar calls the prehistory of spirituality (personal communication). Bhaskar says that we are at a prehistory of spirituality as spiritual seeking in the past has not always embodied collectivist struggles for human emancipation. Spiritual seekers and movements continue to face the challenge of overcoming their egoism, a narrow self-centred view of salvation, and the will to assert and here participation in mutually validating discursive argu-mentation is a crucial step in overcoming these.
Therefore, if Derrida (1998) says that we cannot authorize ourselves in the name of religion, the same is true of spiritual quest as well. We cannot authorize ourselves in the name of spirituality. In a critique of authority including acknowledging what Gianni Vattimo (1999) calls ‘the contingency of the whole’, there is the continued significance of a Habermasian critical perspective. Liberatory movements of even a spiritual kind continue to be entrapped in the logic of authoritarianism and here the Habermasian practice of argumentation and mutual validation can go a long way in creating an appropriate democratic public space for the spiritual evolution of self and society.
As we have seen, this critical perspective for realizing its own inherent potential can learn from the ways of Sri Aurobindo as Sri Aurobindo’s project of knowledge and human liberation can be facilitated by movements of radical democracy and formation of appropriate public spheres. Going beyond the simple polarity between rationality and spirituality, West and East, we can build here on this intertwined path of knowledge and human liberation to create a more beautiful and dignified world for us all.

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