October 04, 2006

Sri Aurobindo's universal teleology

'India and Europe' by Wilhelm Halbfass by Debashish on Wed 27 Sep 2006 06:38 PM PDT Permanent Link Review of India and Europe by Wilhelm Halbfass. Reviewed by Debashish Banerji
It is not difficult to extrapolate a strident German nationalism from the Hegelian historical teleology. Since the Zeitgeist had supposedly found its culmination in Hegel's Germany, the political alignment of Germany with a world-dominating stance was but a step away. In the Indian context, Ronald Inden and others have shown how the eternal, apolitical and spiritual India of Hegel found its way into the Orientalist myth and therefrom into the self-imaging of early Indian nationalism. What is not so clearly worked out by these thinkers are the theoretical consequences of the politicization of the apolitical that this implies. What form of nationalism would arise from this marriage of contraries? What manner of power would it exert over the ideological terrain of world politics? Inden and others were more concerned with the denial of democratic self-determination that the Hegelian structure and its Orientalist descendants have imposed on India's self-imaging. However, with the rise of Hindu politics in modern India, attention has been focussed with greater intensity on the phenomenon of Neo-Hinduism and its political consequences, particularly as it formulated itself at its inception in early Indian nationalism...
As for inclusivism, if we accept to view things from the domain of this term, the reasoning mind, then the Supermind, as Sri Aurobindo develops it, is certainly inclusivistic, in a grander sense than Advaita or the various theistic schools. It is the ocean and the elephant's foot at once, with the difference that neither do the rivers disappear into it, nor are the smaller feet obliterated, each remains intact with a simultaneity of distinctness, a mental impossibility. And if, in spite of the apparent mismatch of modalities, we insist on stretching this analogy further, is this a form of tolerance or is it a totalitarianism, a subjection of all "lesser" truths to the supremacy of the Supermind? Indeed, for Sri Aurobindo, the Supermind is the One Reality, the One as the One, the One as the All and the One as the Each. But Sri Aurobindo is not interested in convincing everyone or anyone, for that matter, of the superiority of this Truth. He upholds the characteristic Indic value of adhikaravada, the spiritual capacity of an individual, which determines the scope of his or her experience.

But at the same time, let us not forget, that of all Indic soteriologies, Sri Aurobindo's is the only one which has an universal teleology associated with it, the inevitable evolution of consciousness from Ignorance to Knowledge, Matter to Supermind and beyond. Does this not remind us of Hegel and is there not the same political danger associated with it? Sri Aurobindo makes it amply clear that the Supermind is not the property or possession of any race, nation or culture. No religion can lay hold of it and yet, in his view, it is the ultimate goal of history. How then will it come about, if not by human agency, by praxis, as all teleologies project for themselves?
Here we come to Sri Aurobindo's master idea, the crux of his message. This does not lie in philosophy, religion or politics. It lies in a change of human consciousness through the power of yoga. Moreover, in this the activation of the Supermind in the terrestrial consciousness, hitherto unrealized, is a necessity. Such an activation would make possible the conditions, primarily inner, but as trigger and consequence, outer also, for an universal change of consciousness, leading to an accelarated and infallibly guided evolution to the Supermind. The disciples of Sri Aurobindo believe that he and the Mother have brought about such an activation of the Supermind through their yoga, that the world has entered into a new age, the Age of Sri Aurobindo's Yoga as a result, that all human beings living in the planet today, are whether they are aware of it or not, within the force-field of the supramental yoga, their lives experiencing its pressure towards a change of consciousness.
No wonder, from the standpoint of Halbfass' adhikara, though he acknowledges the "intellectual and visionary power" of Sri Aurobindo, he sees so much speculation in him. In the meantime, the agents for this change must bring it about in themselves, their faith the consequence of their adhikara, their inner intuition of the reality of its Truth, and of the emergence from latency of the faculties experiencing its certitude. - end -

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