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A new conception of the city: A city of total life

One might say that the history of the =1 city began about 7,000 B.C. near the eastern end of the Mediterranean Sea, in the ancient village of Jericho, the oldest fortified town known to archaeologists. Such fortified communities represented a dazzling advance for our ancestors, who up to that time had either roamed about, carrying their tents, or lived in caves. Once man discovered wall-building, he put it to good use. He built walls wherever he wished. With Jericho a new period started, the period of neolithic man. The builders of the first villages were not very sure what they wanted besides protection and shelter. At first they were satisfied with the wall around them. Then came a roof against bad weather, a place to protect their fire. That was all they wished. But as they began to build their houses closer together, they discovered village life. It came as an explosive beneficence, a totally unexpected blessing.

This qualitative transformation is a law of all evolutionary development. Nothing in the characteristics of an electron suggests what takes place when hundreds of electrons are grouped around protons and neutrons. They become something entirely new – an atom. Atoms grouped together into molecules again become something new, something unexpected. H + O combined in certain proportions = water and the unimaginable possibilities of water: of becoming ice, of becoming steam, of flowing, being an ocean, a waterfall, or of carrying blood plasma or the aroma of wild grapes – plus all the possibilities of new chemical combinations. Again the grouping of molecules in which thousands atoms are united constitutes living matter and its capacity for recreating itself.

The first cell was not only a combination of thousands of molecules, but truly a new being. And when these cells united and became a tree or an animal it was again and again something unexpected.

The first thoroughly organic city is yet to be created, and cannot be as long as we depend on predetermined organization or that administrative coercion we call planning. All fixed programmes would be unworkable in view of our inability to predict the growth pattern of a pristine, intrinsically new entity. If man could predict it, it wouldn't grow. What will happen in the city of the future will be a surprise, and a new creation.

Evolution has already prepared and put at our disposal the organs needed by this new society: a common memory in the big computers, instant liason in telecommunication. The consciousness which will animate this new body has also been prepared by the great seers and thinkers of mankind and put into practice by Sri Aurobindo and the Sri Aurobindo Ashram. It is an entirely new consciousness which Sri Aurobindo called the ‘supramental consciousness’. With it man will be able to inaugurate a new liberation of being.

Here and there in the past a man has attained to what is called a great liberation, but this was a release within himself, a liberation from his external self, from the ego. In order to enjoy this freedom he had either to live apart from society or to leave his body. Or in Christian terminology, in order to lead the beatific life you had to leave this planet and live in paradise.

The new society, the planetary society, will offer to each of its members this great liberation, not only in silent or solitary meditation or in a great final ecstasy, but even in the material reality of life and of contact with other men.

Today we can only foresee how this city of tomorrow will begin. It will start simply with us as we are. But it will be the first society to be concerned with the totality of being, the first to utilize, educate and enable this totality to manifest. As a society it will permit each of us to be fully himself. With this beginning, this initial state, this sine qua non as a foundation for the future, a broad avenue of light will open before us.