Integral Musings | Towards a Holistic Vision

An Integral Approach to management and human development based on the spiritual vision of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother with an emphasis on its application to various domains of knowledge and life.

History as Human Development A Psycholgoical Approach-II—M.S. Srinivasan

[Published in Mother India.]

Key-perspectives: goal of history: the integral man; process of history.

III. The Goal of History: The Integral Man

We may now reformulate our concept of human destiny or the Goal of history, which we have discussed earlier, a little differently. The aim of human development through history may be conceived in two aspects. The inner aim is a full harmonious and integral development of the Mentor, Marshal, Merchant and Mass consciousness or the Worker and the faculties, powers and qualities they represent. The outer aim is a full harmonious and integral self-expression of these four inner powers in the outer life through their corresponding social organs, that is Culture, Polity, Economy and Society.

This brings us to another aspect of the ideal of integral development. The highest aim of evolution could probably be to make each part conscious of and manifest the whole. This means, each of the four inner powers and their corresponding human types and social organs have to develop not only the faculties and qualities specific and natural to them but also that of the other three, and express them in a unique harmony according to their intrinsic and dominant nature and values. For example the Marshall, individually as a human type and collectively as his self-expression in Polity, has to develop not only his intrinsic, natural and dominant powers and qualities of the Will and vital force; he must also develop the powers of organized efficiency, adaptation, skill and innovation of the Merchant; develop the intellectual ethical and spiritual faculties of the Mentor and govern his faculties of power by knowledge and values; and finally he has to make or use his power, position or authority not to aggrandize himself but as a means to serve the people and the community. And this applies to all the other three human types and organs of the society.

Interestingly, we can see this integral development beginning to happen in our modern age in the Merchant and Worker. The modern Merchant has acquired the aggressive virtues of the Marshall for expansion, conquest and acquisition. The ancient Marshall built huge political empires and some of them like Alexander had the ambition to build global empires. But modern Merchants are building global business empires using economic, commercial and technological means. But some of the methods used here, like for example acquisitions and takeovers and the attempt to gain “competitive advantage” over rival companies, are as combative as the methods of ancient marshals. With the advent of industrial revolution, and the increasing application of reason science and technology to business, “knowledge” is becoming a vital resource in business. There is also a growing recognition of the importance of ethics, values and social responsibility in business. Thus the modern Merchant is developing the intellectual and ethical faculties of Mentor. The other significant development in modern business is the “empowerment” movement which aims at a devolution of knowledge, power, wealth, decision-making and responsibility to the front-line worker, which if pursued to its logical conclusion will lead to an integral development of the Worker.

Thus we can see that consciousness of the modern Merchant and his outer organ of Business is slowly moving towards the ideal of integral development. But at present only a tentative beginning has been made in this direction and there is still a long way to go to reach the ideal. For the ethical turn in business is still rudimentary and the spiritual and aesthetic faculties are still totally unmanifest. But these emerging trends in business gives an indications of the ideal towards which Nature is pushing human evolution.

 The Spiritual Aim 

But the full and highest development of the Mentor leads to the spiritual consciousness. For as we have already indicated Mentor represents and expresses the innermost Soul or Spirit and the higher Mind in Man. As the higher intellectual, ethical and aesthetic mind grows in its subtlety, depth and sensitivity it opens more and more to the spirit within man. And in the Indian spiritual perspective the ideal Mentor is the spiritually illumined Sage, Rishi, who knows, not intellectually as a concept or idea, but through a direct intuition or inner experience, the highest truths and laws of life, not only of the spiritual life but also of the secular life. So Indian thought considered the spiritual man is the best guide not only of the religious life but also of the worldly life.

The full development and establishment of this spiritual consciousness, which is the ture Self and the highest potential in man, in the individual and the collectivity is probably the significance of the next step in human evolution and the future history of humanity.

 All the past cycles of human history was perhaps a sort of education or preparation of the human consciousness to make it fit to receive, manifest and express this spiritual consciousness. This was probably what the medieval Christian mystic St. Augustin meant when he summarised the meaning of history as: “The education of the human race, represented by the people of God, has advanced, like that of an individual, through certain epochs, or as it were, ages, so that it might gradually rise from earthly to heavenly things and from the visible to the invisible”. But in our integral view, the goal of history is not only “to raise from earthly to heavenly things” but also unveiling, and unrolling or manifestation of the heavenly and invisible in the earthly and the visible, leading ultimately to a heavenly transformation of the earthly life or in other words kingdom of God on Earth.

History of the Future

In the past, spiritual consciousness and its faculties were realized only in a few sages, saints, artists and thinkers belonging mostly to the Mentor type, expressing itself in the organ of culture, that is in religion, philosophy, art and literature. But if the integral development of the whole of individual and collective human organism is the aim of human evolution, then spiritual consciousness has to be awakened in every individual type and in every organ of the collectivity. This means spiritual consciousness has to be developed and established not only in the Mentor and his self-expression in the culture but also in the Marshal and his Polity, in the Merchant and his Economy and in the Worker and his work or social life. So in the future we may witness leaders with spiritual consciousness emerging not only in religion or culture but also in politics, government, administration, business, commerce, science and technology work-force and the civil society, giving a total spiritual direction to the whole of human life. In the past most of the spiritual personalities are of the contemplative mentor-types. This is the reason why in most of the spiritual disciplines of the past there is so much emphasis on meditation and contemplation and the insistence on the outer renunciation of life and world. But in the future we may witness this spiritual consciousness emerging in men and women of action belonging to the Marshal, Merchant and Worker-type. This means the spirituality of the future will be not a life-denying and a predominantly contemplative spirituality; it will be a life-affirming and a life-transforming spirituality with a greater emphasis on action rather than contemplations; there will be new systems of spiritual disciplines which can be practiced in and through our daily life and activities. This life-embracing spirituality will be governing paradigm of the future evolution of humanity.

 And this is already beginning to happen all over the world. There is at present a growing and widespread seeking for inner fulfillment in every part of modern life, especially among professionals in business, health, industry and commerce. Spiritual ideas and methods are entering into health, management and popular literature.

IV. The Process of History

Indian Insights

We have spelt-out so far the broad outlines of a spiritual, psychological and developmental vision of history. We may now examine the process of history. Here, a well-known concept of Indian Psychology can throw some revealing insights of the process by which Nature works-out human evolution through history.

 Triple Qualities of Nature and its Impact on History

We have said that the history of the past and present is the Age of the Ego. But the ego-centric (lower) nature of our being is not made of a single piece. Each part of our nature, our body, life and mind, has its own unique ego with its own distinct temperament. And according to Indian psychology our human nature is made of three psychological qualities: Tamas, Rajas and Sattwa which may be roughly translated as Inertia, Dynamism and Luminosity. In this section we will apply this Indian concept to trace the psychological process of history.

Tamas is the predominant quality of the physical ego in man. The manifestations Tamas in the human organism are laziness, indolence, blindness of ignorance; unwillingness to change or make the effort for progress; attachment to status quo and inaction, mechanical routine, clinging to the established customs and tradition; and a consciousness driven by the subconscious instincts and needs of the body and sunk in the subconscious mass of the group. The effect of Tamas and the tamasic ego on the collective life and history are stagnation in every part of the society, and entrapment in the fixed and mechanical routine of custom, tradition and rules and most often enslavement to or destruction from more vigorous tribes from outside.

Rajas is the predominant quality of the emotional and vital ego and the life-energy in man. The manifestations of Rajas are the urge for action, expression and creation, for power, possession, enjoyment, conquest, expansion and progress. If the rajasic ego is strong and left to itself with out any guidance or control from higher mental, moral or spiritual will, then it may degenerate into lust and wrath and greed, selfish ambition, violent conflict with other egos, exploitation of others for its own self-interest. Even if all these negative manifestation of Rajas are minimized by some higher control, there will still remain in the life of a Rajasic ego anxiety, tension, restlessness, stress, back of peace and tranquility.

The effect of Rajas and rajasic ego on history is change, activity, progress, growth expansion and individualism. From an evolutionary perspective, the most important contributions of the rajasic ego is the urge for progress and individualism. For both these factors or values are indispensable for realizing the human destiny. Change and Progress are the eternal laws of life. Anything which doesn’t progress in this world begins to stagnate, disintegrate and die. But the tamasic physical ego has no urge for progress; it is content to turn around endlessly in the mechanical round of its habits, customs and routine. And Progress requires the initiative of a well-developed and conscious individual. For the consciousness of a community cannot progress by itself, because it is sunk in the dead-weight of its subconscious mass. In order to progress, the community requires the creative impulse of conscious individuals. And the tamasic physical ego doesn’t have a well-developed and conscious individuality; it is submerged in the subconscious tribal mass of the community. It is the Rajasic ego which helps the human being to emerge from the subconscious and tamasic mass of the community and realize self-conscious individuality. But rajas, also has its negative effect. It creates intense conflict between competing rajasic ego, each trying to dominate, possess and enjoy as much of life and the world as possible. And the result is lack peace and harmony in the community.

The third quality of Nature is sattwa which is the essential and predominant quality of the higher mental ego made of the intellectual, ethical and aesthetic being of man. The main manifestation of sattwa in the psychology of man is the aspiration for knowledge, understanding, clarity, vision, peace, harmony and higher values. The sattwic ego may appear very spiritual, noble and disinterested but behind the saintly appearance there is an ego with intense attachment to and pride in its knowledge and virtue and the peace and happiness comes from sattwa. This sattwic ego helps the human being to progress from the vital ego and its turbulent desires and ambitions to the clarity and tranquility of the higher mental consciousness. But when the sattwic ego clings to its pride of knowledge and virtue it becomes an obstacle to his higher spiritual progress beyond ego to the egoless and universal consciousness of the Spirit. Another defect of sattwic ego is that, when it is developed exclusively, it tends towards a quietistic, soft, gentle, and alloof-from-life poise of the mind without sufficient rajasic energy and strength for vigorous and forceful action to face and conquer the fierce and aggressive onslaughts of life; or else it may lead to a life-denying asceticism which may result in a loss of vitality. So sattwa or sattwic ego however noble it may appear to be, is not considered as the highest ideal of human development in the Indian spiritual tradition. The highest ideal is the spiritual consciousness of the Soul beyond sattwa. But sattwic development is very much recommended because sattwa is close to the spiritual consciousness than tamas or rajas and therefore considered as the ideal preparation for the higher spiritual evolution of the human being.

The effect of sattwa on history is cultural progress in art, science, philosophy, religion and literature. But if sattwa is too exclusively developed without sufficient rajas it may lead to a lofty but a weak and inefficient civilization prone to attack and conquest from stronger and more rajasic civilization and subjugated or destroyed in the process or else it may lead to a top-heavy civilization governed by a small, oppressive and arrogant aristocracy.

 The Triple Qualities and the Evolutionary Process of Nature

This concept of triple qualities of ancient Indian psychology throws light on one of the strategic principles of Nature in her management of the human development process through history. Nature uses rajas to awaken and subjugate tamas and uses sattwa to enlighten, restrain and guide the rajasic ego.

Nature uses the quality of rajas and the rajasic ego in man to awaken the tamasic individual and communities from their lax and indolent poise in their physical being to the gust and roar and strom of the vital life and the potentialities of their vital being. This is done by pouring into and awakening in the consciousness of the tamsic physical man the rajasic energy and the urge for power, wealth, enjoyment, expansion and progress. In the collectivity this results in a vigorous and manifold economic, social and political activity and expansive ambitions for conquest and empire over the world. The human instruments of Nature in this first evolutionary task are the strong dynamic and ambitious Marshal and Merchant personalities and leaders.

This evolution of civilization from tamas to rajasi and the domination of rajasic ego over the society has positive as well as negative consequences for human society and history. It brings out certain dynamic powers and faculties which remained undeveloped during the earlier periods. But it may also lead to much conflict, war, destruction, inequality, strife, tension and misery. There is also a great danger in this phase of evolution. A strong, aggressive and successful rajasic ego, when it is not sufficiently chastened by sattwic and spiritual values tends develops an unheeding arrogance. In its ambition to conquer and master the world or forces of Nature for its own rajasic needs and desires it may be misled into self-distructive paths violating the laws of Nature. When this happens, Nature sends warning signals either through external calamities or through sattwic voices of mentors. But if the rajasic ego dominating the civilization persistently refuses to listen, then Nature allows that civilization to perish as one of her failed experiments.

Legends in ancient traditions, supported by latest research on ancient civilization, indicate that our human race has passed through many cycles of civilization, and our present historic cycle is only one among many which had passed. There is at present a growing body of evidence that there were many prehistoric civilizations which had perished due to natural or man-made causes. Some of them seemed to have reached advanced levels of social organization, science and technology before they perished. Most scholars attribute natural disasters like earth-quakes and raising of the seak level as the cause of destruction of these civilizations. But it could be also due to man-made cause like wars or self-destruction caused by persistent violation of the inner and outer laws of Nature. When we read some of the description of war-scenes in Mahabharatha, it seems that epical civilization possessed highly sophisticated Weapons of Mass Destruction, some of which can destroy entire clans in a second. The holy Koran mentions about a prehistoric civilization which was destroyed by the gods because of the sinful nature of its people. According to an ancient Hopi legend, our human race or the world had already gone through four cycles of evolution and our present human civilization is the fifth. All the previous four civilizations were almost destroyed at the end of each cycle. The first one perished due to the misdeeds of its people and the other three due to natural causes. And the legend warns that the fate of our present civilization depends on how its people respond to the Creator’s will and plan. Here comes the function of sattwa in Nature’s management of human evolution.

Nature uses the quality of Sattwa to awaken the physical and vital being in man to higher values aims and laws of life, potentialities of his higher mental being, and finally awakens the sattwic ego to its highest spiritual self. This is done by pouring into and awakening in the physical and vital being in man, the sattwic urge for light and knowledge, ethical and aesthetic refinement, the religious aspiration and longing for the permanent, ultimate and the absolute Reality. In the collectivity this leads to a vibrant and varied cultural activity in religion, philosophy, ethics, art and literature. The human instruments of Nature in this higher evolutionary task are the Mentor-personalities, the thinker, poet, artist, saint ands the mystic.

 The Growth and Decline of Civilisations

The fate and progress of a civilization depends on how creatively that civilization, or to be more precise, the leaders of the civilization respond to the progressive rajasic and sattwic impulsion of Nature. A civilization may respond creatively to the rajasic impulsion of Nature, and develop a strong, vigorous and prosperous economic, social and political life, with an effective science and technology. But if the civilization doesn’t respond sufficiently to the sattwic impulsion of Nature towards higher values like peace, harmony, unity, truth, beauty and goodness, it may either destroy itself through wars and conflicts or rapidly exhaust its creative energy in an orgy of greed and enjoyment, and as a result, relapse into some form of tamasic barbarism.

On the other hand a civilization may respond creatively to the sattwic impulsion in Nature and very inadequately to her rajasic impulse. In this case, the civilization may develop a lofty and luminous cultural life, creating great ideas and ideals or works of art and literature. But it will be inefficient and weak in its economic, social and political life; it will be lacking sufficient vital energy and strength to defend itself from barbarian irruptions from without or invasions from without or to create an efficient, prosperous and equitable outer life for the whole community. Whatever cultural progress or economic prosperity achieved by the civilization, will be confined to a small elite aristocracy while a large majority of the communal mass wallows in poverty and ignorance.

Those civilizations which respond to the rajasic and sattwic impulsions in a more balanced way, endure longer than others and make lasting contribution to the human progress.

 In a psychological perspective, our human history is nothing but the result of the shifting domination of the triple qualities of Nature and their corresponding egos in various combination. Let us now examine our present historic cycle of human civilization in the light of the principles we have discussed so far.

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This entry was posted on April 9, 2012 by in The Meaning of History.