Ritam "Rhythms of The Human Cycle applied to Auroville"

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August 2006

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Rhythms of The Human Cycle applied to Auroville

By Joseba

The purpose of this work is to apply to Auroville the psychological methodology that Sri Aurobindo has described in his social philosophy for the investigation on the evolution of humankind, especially in his work titled The Human Cycle. This system of analysis is a good intellectual tool to discover and try to understand what are the inner or psychological cycles that Nature follows in its process of development of human societies, what man has been in his physical and vital evolution, what can be his mental and spiritual future destiny, what is his place and what is the meaning and purpose of the entire process. Although this analysis can be applied universally to any given society, the process of the evolution of each one of the cycles, the time of manifestation and flourishing, the process of assimilation of each one of them, will differ necessarily from one society to another. This aspect, the particularity of the process followed by every different society, can be of special relevance when we take into consideration the exceptional characteristics of the society of Auroville. The first of these characteristics is that here most of the people are volunteers that have joined consciously in order to participate in an experiment where explicit aims and objectives are meant to accelerate the ordinary process of evolution, through a concentrated effort made at individual and collective levels in a new process of psychological transformation that Sri Aurobindo called Integral Yoga. The ultimate goal is the achievement of a new kind of society, a society spiritually transformed or a Gnostic Society. Therefore, it can be expected that in this context these cycles will evolve and be expressed in a different manner and with a different swiftness than in any other society.

The Symbolic

This is a foundational period, predominantly religious and spiritual. A strong intuitive mind is applied to institutions, customs, ideas and other forms of culture. “The other elements, psychological, ethical, economic, are there but subordinated to the spiritual and religious idea”.[1]

The predominant character of this period, its inspiration and guidelines were given to Auroville directly by the Mother. Unfortunately, this important period of her life for Auroville was extremely short. The Mother started the process of defining Auroville around 1965. Therefore, if we take this year as the starting point and until her passing away in 1973, there were practically only eight years for the establishment of this foundational base. It is necessary to consider that the age of the Mother was another handicap, at that time she was 90 years old and in very delicate health that prevented to a certain extent the intense external efforts necessary for this kind of period. Guidelines were given for the main aspects of the practical life and organization, but in many cases these were ideals that belonged to the future and were very difficult to fulfill in the present state of consciousness of humankind. Only during this short period whenever these guidelines met obstacles for their implementation, was it possible to get direct help and advice from the Mother to overcome these difficulties.

Another possibility for the establishment of a longer foundational period could have been to develop a closer relationship with the Ashram and to take advantage of its experience. Unfortunately, only one year after her passing away, that is in 1974, Auroville had to face a very difficult period, this was the moment of the conflict between the Sri Aurobindo Society, the Society that was acting as the project holder for the development of Auroville, and the majority of the residents of Auroville. When this period was over, one of the consequences was that the normal and fluent communication which had existed earlier between the Sri Aurobindo Ashram and Auroville had been seriously harmed.

Another important characteristic of this period was that at the moment of launching the project, the international media gave wide coverage to the event and this attracted a number of young people from different countries, many of them from France. It is important to note that these youth were coming strongly influenced by the ideas of that period, the sixties, particularly after the cultural revolution of May 1968 in France. Many of their main ideas – the spirit of social revolt, anti-hierarchical attitude, individual freedom, egalitarianism, etc. – were going to play a crucial role in the resolution of many of the issues involved in the early years of the development of Auroville. At the same time, these seeds that were planted in the cultural ground of Auroville could be seen as a very significant factor and an important contribution to the future, in an attempt to find a cultural synthesis between East and West, and this is one of the most essential aspects of the ideals that Auroville needs to achieve.

The Typal or Conventional

“This typal stage creates the great social ideals which remain impressed upon the human mind even when the stage itself is passed.”[2] There is an increasing tendency to intellectualize life, this period culminates in the Conventional, in which the rigidity of social ideas, norms, and conventions is established. The chief characteristic of this age is formalization in the name of stabilization and preservation: systems of rigid grades and hierarchies are erected and life is more in its outer structure than in its inner Spirit.

This period could be considered as from the passing away of the Mother in 1973 until now. During this time Auroville has dedicated many of its efforts to its self-organization as a collective body; there is an attempt to regulate the different aspects of its collective life and for each of the important areas there is a group that tries to take care of it, and normally has prepared a set of rules and policies that try to administer it in the best possible way. A kind of ‘regular’ process has been established, in which diverse proposals and groups created to implement them change very fast, every two or three years maximum, and one has the impression of being immersed in a very fluid and flexible structure, in which nothing can become fossilized. But many times this is only a superficial impression, since looking at these processes from a longer perspective, it can be perceived that these changes affect only the surface, and it is frequent to find situations stagnating in spite of all these supposed changes.

The approval in 1988 of The Auroville Foundation Act by the Indian Parliament was the other important event during this period. The relevance of this Act can be seen at two levels: first, it can provide Auroville with the necessary official recognition and legal frame to interact with the Indian administration on all levels and channelize various initiatives; second, this Act has provided the Indian Government with the possibility to intervene directly in Auroville’s affairs. This Act also introduces the possibility of establishing and formalizing conventional processes at some levels. For instance, in my opinion, this is happening in the Governing Board, a body which is nominated by the Central Government and follows customary and common procedures. If one of the important aspects of the Auroville experiment is to research and to discover new and innovative forms of self-government, the present Auroville Foundation presents some aspects which may need to be amended in the future, in order to foster this research and discovery.

I would like to point out that the present organizational set up is quite unsuitable to realize the ultimate aims of becoming a spiritualized society. There is a contradiction between trying to live within, in contact with the inner Spirit, and from there to try to mould external structures, and a mental attempt to organize and regulate the outer world, that is the predominant character of the present organization. This contradiction can only be solved when some individuals or a group of individuals have reached a substantial inner development, and have been able to effectively transmit their knowledge to the collectivity. Meanwhile these kinds of temporary organizational arrangements can have their own utility in order to facilitate the necessary transitional period between the present level of human consciousness, and the future realizations that we as a collectivity try to manifest.

There are some inevitable dangers in this situation, one of them would be the growing importance of conventionalism in all these structures, the triumph of the external and practical form over the spirit and the subsequent rigidity and stagnation of the entire organization, after all this has been the normal process of evolution followed by ordinary societies. Auroville is aware of these dangers and hopefully will do what is necessary to prevent them.

These are some of the reasons that make me believe that this period in Auroville is probably going to be much shorter in its evolution, never will it have the unquestioned acceptance and general legitimacy that one can find in other experiences and it will be marked by a general sense of temporality and distrust.

The Individualistic

This is a very skeptical, critical and questioning age, it is an attempt to rediscover the truths of life and thought and action that have been distorted in the conventional period.

Up to now, it is not possible to find any generalized expression of the characteristic attitudes of this period in the context of Auroville. Probably the main reason for this is that the experiment is still in its initial phases of development, and not sufficient time has been given to any of its organizational forms to settle and become formalized.

But it is possible to find some specific forms that this individualistic behavior has adopted; this can be seen more clearly in the interrelation between individuals and the different aspects of collective life. In the present organization there are rules and regulations that reflect a certain degree of arbitrariness and inappropriateness with regard to the real needs of the collectivity, and the dissatisfaction caused by these deficiencies is being expressed in various attitudes.

One of them is the lack of participation in the collective process. Often, since the number of people involved in taking decisions is not substantial or sufficiently representative, the decisions do not have enough validity to be implemented.

Another expression, more common in the financial area, is that given the complexity and the number of difficulties experienced in the past to find an appropriate system for a collective economy, many people finally took recourse to finding their own individual solutions, which are less difficult and less demanding, and as a result the implementation of a true system is postponed, and to the unresolved problems is added the weight of inadequate solutions put in practice by individuals.

Another of these expressions, which takes more the form of a general trend of thinking, could be called pluralistic relativism which very much influences the present reality. Its main characteristic is the strong subjectivism that means that individual preferences or interpretations impose themselves over an objective truth, what is true for you is not necessarily a truth for me, everything is considered a matter of interpretation, and in that sense there are no truths that can bind the collectivity in a common exercise. The main problem with this attitude is its proportion, since beyond an acceptable point, this attitude can become a psychologically corrosive acid able to dissolve the accepted truths established in the Symbolic age and prevent collective action.

The Subjective

The subjective stage of human development is the critical point at which, having moved forwards from the conventional stage, the human being starts to see deeper, sees what is below the surface and tries to act from within. It is a step towards self-knowledge and towards living from the self. Everything depends on how this self-research is taken, to what kind of subjectivity we arrive and how far we go in this self-knowledge; because here the errors can have big dangers while right seeking fruitful results. “There is a false as well as a true subjectivism.”[3]

Individual seeking for the truth of one’s being can be done safely if two great psychological truths are respected, the first is that the ego is not the real self and therefore the fulfillment of the individual does not mean the satisfaction of his egoistic intellect, vital and physical desires but the development of the divine individuality in him to his utmost capacities of wisdom, love and powers of realization, something that the evolution has been secretly preparing to emerge one day in everyone. The second psychic truth is that the individual is not only himself, but he is in his life and being all others simultaneously, there is a secret solidarity between the individual and the collectivity and only by admitting and realizing his unity with all the others can the individual entirely fulfill his true self-being. A psychic self-knowledge tells us that there are in our being many frontal, apparent or representative selves but only one which is entirely real, although secret in our deepest self. To mistake the apparent self for the real one is a very common error, the root of many others and the cause of many sufferings and blunders.

There is then a true and a false subjectivism, and this carries some important implications for the analysis of the individual and the life of societies and nations. In the context of Auroville, my assumption is that the majority of its members are psychologically living, in one way or another, in this age, although most are probably still in the phase of a “false subjectivism”. This assumption is based on two things, the first is that even if it is possible to recognize in many of the Auroville residents an authentic attempt towards finding the truth of their beings, presently, there is evidently the lack of a leading person or group with the required spiritual consciousness to guide the entire process. The rest of the residents probably are still in the individualistic age, looking for their “partial and external freedom”, without recognizing that first, this freedom and liberty are only the incomplete and external aspects of a much deeper and wider reality, and second, that this is an attitude that is going to reaffirm the false ego, instead of seeking for one that is oriented towards putting an end to it.

If this is the outline that can be depicted after thirty-eight years of experience, some observers could comment that from the spiritual point of view, apparently not much advance has been made in a project whose explicit aims are precisely those. To this it could be replied that it should not be forgotten that first, the project was started with people with no experience in Yoga or spiritual paths in most of the cases, second that the help which could have been received from the Ashram in this field was cut very soon, and third that the process of learning normally takes a long time and always faces many difficulties.

For these reasons, looking to all the circumstances involved in a process of this complexity, my opinion is that it is almost a miracle, or maybe I should say just a miracle, that a project of the magnitude and significance of Auroville, has managed to survive the large number of difficult challenges that had to be faced in a short time and is still alive and confident in the final achievement of the ideals for which it was created.

There are two other important questions that I would like to clarify, the first one is the direction that Auroville needs to take at present if it still wants to fulfill its original aims, and the second is the next necessary steps to be taken to reach the objectives mentioned. The direction that Auroville must take in these circumstances is, in my opinion, to deepen and enhance the true subjective period that has already started, even if this is done only by a small minority of its members. All the present problems of Auroville, all the divisions, conflicts, weaknesses, have this at their base: the insufficient development of this Subjective Age. At the same time, all the unrealized potentialities are also contained at this point, latent and waiting for the hour when the external conditions and time becomes favorable for manifestation.

With relation to the second question, there is a very interesting section in the chapter “Conditions for the Coming of a Spiritual Age”. One of its propositions is that if the spiritual change is to be effected, it must unite two conditions, there must be the individual or individuals that have embodied in themselves a higher spiritual consciousness, and there must be at the same time a mass, a society, the possibility of a group soul which is capable of receiving and assimilating this spiritual consciousness. Sri Aurobindo ends by saying that such a simultaneity has never happened in the past but must happen one day. I think that the entire endeavor of Auroville revolves around the fulfillment of these two conditions. But, what will be the strategy that the Spirit behind all the processes of Auroville is going to apply for its realization? The first condition clearly has not been achieved if we look at the present situation, but perhaps the strategy followed all these years, has been devoted to slowly collecting the different ingredients and the basic components that are necessary for the fulfillment of the second condition.

Meanwhile, what is needed at this precise moment is to face our insufficiencies as well as our highest hopes, to identify and know both of them in depth, to offer them to the Divine concealed in all of us for transformation, while continuing our daily work with an indomitable spirit and an unshakeable faith in our destiny, knowing that the force of this faith and the power of our actions are the necessary conditions, to create the most inviting environment to attract the forces of the future necessary for the realization of the once unattainable Auroville’s utopias. The essence of this spirit can be summarized in the following lines:

Cherish the might of the spirit,
The nobility of the ideal,
The grandeur of the dream
The spirit will create the material it needs
The ideal will bring the real to its body and self-expression
The dream is the stuff out of which the waking world will be created[4]

  1. Sri Aurobindo, “The Cycle of Society”, The Human Cycle
  2. Sri Aurobindo, “The Cycle of Society”, The Human Cycle
  3. Sri Aurobindo, “The Discovery of the Nation-Soul”, The Human Cycle
  4. Sri Aurobindo, “The Voice of the Martyrs”, Bande Mataram, Calcutta, March 11, 1908