Capacity and Culture

Nov. 18, 2005

Hard work for survival creates capacity. When the latest technology is marshalled to the enterprise, its success is spectacular. It is a vast great accomplishment in itself without any reference to society outside or its law. That capacity is colossal but brute. It refuses to put itself under the benevolent canopy of law, but tries to bend the law to its requirements. The emerging social consciousness of law is essentially more powerful but is always thwarted in the beginning. It is at this stage corruption grows and organises itself on a nationwide scale. There is no country or civilisation that has not passed through this coarse stage. The formation of the family, its attachments and values that compel men in affluence slowly turn towards the rule of Law. In earlier centuries, marriage between royal families of feuding states restored them to peace. The English, Prussian, Russian, Spanish, French, Danish, Italian, Greek kingdoms were ruled almost by the same royal family. These ties of blood stemmed the fury of war to a great extent for a long period. Raw capacity is brutal; culture acquires capacity over long centuries of patient wisdom and plodding organisation. That capacity which rides on the wave of an evolutionary drive is enormously rewarded with accomplishment but it is always devoid of culture. Rather it rises to heights by destroying the rigidities of long established habits of civilisation.

In today’s world, America is the shining symbol of such a success. Demands of work disregard culture, law, family and all else except that of results. It is a theoretical necessity followed practically. It is new, coarse, brutal, unvarnished and uncivilised. It is in this condition that abundance arises, and prosperity becomes plentiful. It is a law unto itself. If there is extant culture around, it hastens to acknowledge the vast wealth lending its social endorsement readily. If not, over the centuries some remnants of restraint gather into manners, behaviour, law, civilised life and finally culture. It is education that hastens this process or shapes it into a cultural form. All civilisations began thus. Egypt, China, Persia and India had over the past millennia arrived at a stage of culture that enjoyed a language, a court, a tradition of family, a religious worship, etc. culminating in standards ethical and spiritual. The Europeans who were living in tribes during such ascendancy of world civilisation were largely barbarians. The advent of science gave them an affluence with which they set out to civilise Asia. Now they suffer the Americans who are impatient to civilise them. The phenomenon in every nation cultured or not is the best part of the population there equates Americanisation with cultural advancement. America has that right today as Europe had it in the previous century. To the older, richer, more mature civilisations, it appears to be a pity but they are helpless. The truth is when capacity to accomplish is rare, unaided by a social wave of awakening to a civilising effort, capacity that shapes within the chastening influence of culture is non-existent.

Not that culture is incapable of acquiring capacity but that the capacities of the world preceded the birth of any trace of culture. Now the world has two options. One is the emerging capacity that is raw should acquire a modicum of culture through education and values. The other is the older civilisations have to acquire the latest social capacities within their ambit of culture. Both are formidable efforts. They combine in the emerging Spirit in work. Man shifting to the Spirit in work from work or Spirit in culture from culture for culture’s sake will have the advantage of work as well as culture. It is the spiritual awakening of Mankind. Successful wars ended in diplomacy all over the world. Now diplomacy is at its wit’s end. When diplomacy fails, the centre of power shifts to public opinion when it is formed. In its absence, there is an impasse. There are occasions when public opinion fails. The next recourse is public conscience that comes into existence from the seed of private conscience. It is spiritual. Sri Aurobindo said that one Man’s perfection could save the world. He practised it during his lifetime. India today is in a kind of ferment that is an awakening. Sporadic symptoms of progress are breaking out in different parts of the nation. The above theme is fully relevant to her present political status. It is worth dilating on it.

America represents the emerging Individual in the plane of physical accomplishment. She has outrun all the world. To her aid came the enormous physical resources of that continent. Should India wake up to her heritage and draw upon what she has all along stored, the Infinite will throw at her disposal the infinite resources of the material, vital, physical and spiritual planes. In the physical plane, she will discover all the material resources she ever needs, as the silicon chip revealed in one dimension. In the vital field she would stumble upon all the monetary resources she needs as they are waiting to be tapped in the atmosphere. It is not graduates she will produce in the mental plane, but Ramanujans will be the order of the day. A disciple of Saint-Simon caught a glimpse of this possibility in the 19th century and declared that 37 million Newtons would be thrown up.

Beyond all these physical material achievements, India will reveal to the world the Spiritual riches of the inner life. She would be showing the world that evil is not part of creation. She has a hoary past of the Spirit. Sri Aurobindo has taken that ideal further and shown that Spirit’s domain is more in this world of ours than its native heaven. Mother has explored it further and lived that possibility in Her own inner life. She became the Supreme. She invites us all to follow Her path. Nor is it necessary to trail behind Her. One can choose one’s own path as long as the goal is the same.