Theory of Social Process of Development

(Based on the theory of creation by Sri Aurobindo)

April 14, 1999

The process of social development is the same as the process of creation. Sri Aurobindo says that the Self-Conscious Being, putting out its various powers in the planes of Time and Space, creating Forms out of Force, is a process of self-conception. Society that is a collective entity by its own willed self-conception, develops new and higher forms of its existence.

Society, essentially collective, aspires through its individuals. The Self-Conscious Being by involution creates Mind, Life and Matter. And by evolution Life emerges out of Matter and Mind emerges out of Life. As social evolution is a phenomenon of Mind organising life, let us confine the parallel only to this part of creation.

Sri Aurobindo says Life progresses by consciousness and consciousness progresses through organisation. It is this part that is relevant to us in social evolution. Sri Aurobindo goes on to say that the universe fulfils itself in the Individual and the Individual fulfils himself in the universe. In society, it means the individual and society fulfil themselves in each other.

Consciousness is external as well as internal. So also organisation is external as well as internal. The internal precedes the external. All civilisation is the result of man’s growing awareness of the external environment. It is evident that that external awareness is made possible by an internal endowment. The needs of survival compel man to be more and more aware of his environment. Greater awareness results in greater progress. Awareness being an idea energises man and releases the energy. Energy thus released will yield results only when organised.

The seed of the organisation is an act. When acts are strung together according to certain rules, systems are born. Such a system is the primary organisation though several systems working in unison generate the organisation. Such an organisation grows in width as well as in complexity.

As all social results are produced by social organisation, development means creation of organisations or widening an existing organisation. Thus, social development means development of social organisations. Therefore, the constitution, functioning, and growth of such an organisation is the process of social development.

The relative importance of the inner and outer is significant. Without going deep into its philosophy, one can see that MAN begins inside. So the consciousness and organisation of the inside precedes those of the external exploits. Our starting point for the external organisation is an act. It is possible to see that an ACT is the result of an idea directing the physical movements through vital energy. What we start with as the primary unit is itself a complex organisation even as the ultimate particle of an atom is a world in itself created by compressing infinite energy.

Anyway, our present discussion does not go beyond the primal act. If we say oil is an external resource and education an inner resource, the inner should first awaken for the outer to become useful.

Organisations are centralised and directed from a centre. As time passes, the central authority moves to the individual in the periphery making a social organisation into a social institution. Festivals are thus institutionalized in a society. Organisation that was run by rules matures into an institution that is maintained by social values that are accepted by the individuals. It further develops into culture. A society’s ability for accomplishment is measured by its culture. Culture is acquired in work, human relationships, religious sentiment, spiritual pursuits and in every walk of life. Punctuality is work culture, not to interrupt is the culture of committee work, the other man’s point of view is the culture of organisational effectivity.

In periods of transition, the most effective instrument naturally turns into the most effective obstacle. In switching over from agriculture to manufacturing, the serf finds his most valued possession of loyalty to the master the greatest fetter, as he has to go in search of urban employment.

In The Third Try (*) we are in such a transition period. It ushers in a new world, which requires a new set of cultural values. Obviously all those values we have cherished till now will turn into their opposites. One would be considered rational for the new venture if he comes forward not to insist on old values but to evaluate those values in terms of the new requirements. We shall deal with this part in greater detail when we come to the strategies required for the new venture.

Organisations as well as individuals possess physical skills, vital attitudes, mental opinions and spiritual values. Values are the skills of spirit and skills are the values of the physical. Language permits the use of these words in other contexts such as mental attitudes or physical values. For the sake of convenience, let us restrict these words to one plane, i.e. skill for the physical, attitude for the vital, opinion for the mental and values for the spiritual.

For the theory to be comprehensive, the structure of existence of society, its constitution, new creation, transition, process of functions, energy, force, power, and strategies at each level must be theoretically explained.

For the theory to be valid for the planners, it needs to provide those strategies that will 1) speed up progress, 2) awaken awareness in areas where there is none, 3) put resources to greater use, 4) accomplish more with less effort, 5) locate the missing infrastructure, 6) discover areas of marriage between two aspects that will move the society, 7) arrange for divorces of unholy alliances, 8) restore each function to its proper authority, 9) discover the links of power that are energising anti-social activities, and 10) pronounce on every aspect of every social function.

Social and human lives as we live have the alternatives of success and failure. This character of our life has given place to one of success banishing failures in certain aspects of our daily functioning. As man or woman acquires fresh skills, he or she first acquires a one-time success where no success had been met with at all until then. This is the beginning of conquest of a fresh area. With the passing of time, the measure of success increases almost touching 100%, when that skill spreads all over the society and becomes a social requirement. Eating, walking, etc. acquired that status in the beginning. Now literacy claims that status. Rationality is not accorded that rare privilege till now. The theory will do well to explore more and more areas where the rule of unfailing success can be extended. It should also describe the principle of unfailing success in general. By reducing that principle to a strategy of human choice, the theory will help the society to banish failure from chosen areas.

Behind the achievements of a society lie its energies. The social will directs those energies to its own purpose, converting them into social force. Social organisations that utilise that force further convert it into social power. Still for the individual to secure the results he aspires for, he must develop those social skills that are capable of rendering the social power into social results. That basic energy of the society is enhanced by the social aspiration or the mental idea by which it is actuated.

The individual is the finite point of concentration of the social infinite. The individual acquires individuality that as time passes becomes a separative entity. We call it ego. This separative ego was essential in the beginning for a person to become capable of survival by acquiring skills of survival. The ego has done a great service and now its time is over. In this century the individual has increasingly discovered the virtues and the power of cooperation with other individuals and particularly with the social whole. This cooperation has shown strong tendencies of over-reaching the national boundaries since 1950. Thus, globalisation, the global century, the global public sector, and the global citizen are born. The individual ego, even national egos are found to be bars in this wider effort. All those persons who come forward to overcome the fruits of ego and recognize the powers of co-operation of the individual with the social whole will become instruments of creating global activities.

We can think of several characteristics that would be helpful in this regard. Personal opinion, awareness of one’s strength or one’s country’s strength, the value of the past, reliance on one’s successful past, cultural values, capacity for successful action which at times can be the strength of irrationality, sentiment of any description, reliance on the external tool or method instead of the inner content are the main attributes.

Opinion: By definition, opinion is personal, arrived at by assimilating the external fact through one’s past experience. What is needed is the social opinion, not the personal opinion as it would be limited even when it is right. Opinion limits. One should be willing to give up opinions, rather the capacity for opinion formation. It is a way one outgrows one’s own mind into the social mind or universal mind. Facts that are the kernels of opinions are of value. Geography has now moved from the arena of opinion to facts in a great measure. History is still partly in the realm of opinions. After coming out of one’s own opinion, one accepts social opinion. That may be better, but will not serve the purposes of objective science. Mind releases enormous energies when it is able to detach itself from opinions. The Third Try does not belong to the mindset of the Cold War. Whether it is Cold War, or superstition or ignorance, the transition requires an OBJECTIVITY which is not available now. That objectivity carries with it the power to accomplish our goal. It is an objectivity that can live with paradoxical opposites.

If a person has strong opinions on some subject, he or she can try to withdraw them and see the flood of mental energy that is released. Even a positive value can be held as an opinion. One may accept the value of honesty as an opinion. Let such a person shed the opinion or change the opinion into a value and see its power. An opinion derives its energy from the mind or mental ego. A value rests in the mind outside the ego, unsupported by the ego. In changing an opinion into a value, one shifts from his ego to the mind, from the ego centre of the mind to the mind proper.

Awareness of one’s strength or one’s country’s strength: It is Shakespeare who said that one might have strength, but to use it is tyrannical. Use of strength starts from being aware of it. It is an ancient phenomenon and an inevitable one in the minds of people. As soon as strength of any description collects, it fills the being, gives rise to satisfaction, one tends to use it, and finally enjoys using it with a vengeance against the weak. All religions arose from the Middle East and decayed in the above fashion. Nature shifted its centre of action from a decayed part to Greece and Europe. Science and democracy were born. They too went the same way. The next triumph of society showed itself in the USA and apparently shifted temporarily to Japan.

It is natural to use one’s strength. It is also natural to lose the benefits of the strength in the next phase. It happened to Russian communism and Indian spirituality. Giving way to natural impulses, one meets with the alternatives of success and failure. When strength accumulates, it is difficult to be humble. Humility absorbs strength into equanimity or equality, as Sri Aurobindo says. Strength thus absorbed will not meet with the alternative of failure. What Mother calls Self-giving also implies not to recognise one’s strength. A strong person acting not from his strength will not have the alternative of failure. To act from a sense of strength creates pride, not acting from strength. This is one aspect of perfection. Strength hurts weakness. It is natural. Not to allow oneself to walk roughshod over the weak needs the strength of the whole being. Knowledge is the strength of mind, a part. For one's knowledge not to hurt another, strength of mind is not enough. It requires the strength of the whole being, of which body, vital, mind and spirit are parts. Even the highest part, spirit, can hurt others as its ego is not dissolved. The WHOLE BEING will not have the ego. Therefore, by acting from the whole, it hurts no one.

One may be humble. When it comes to his country, his patriotism will rise. Spiritual, cultural, military, or wealth superiority of one's country is not easy for one to overcome in arriving at personal judgements or opinions. Those who endeavour in international fields must aim at this perfection. To pay for the show and not call for the tune is a restraint called for.

Value of the past: To look at the future from the point of view of the past is to ruin it. To derive the essence of the past and apply it unfailingly to the present is the real way of accomplishing any work.

To ruin the fresh opportunity by dealing with it as in the past needs no explanation. This is to extend the externals of the past and create trouble. It is common for us in meeting a new situation to raise questions that we have not raised in accepting the past. In accepting a partner we do raise considerations which we have consciously disregarded in accepting a brother. In accepting a brother, we accept him as a whole in spite of his defects. In accepting a partner, we object to his defects. The truth is:

  • In accepting anything, whether it is a person or a strategy, we accept it as a whole in spite of its defects.
  • The capacity to overlook another’s defects is a measure of success.
  • We do not accept ourselves in spite of our defects. We accept our defects as strengths and want them to be praised. One is rational if he or she sees the defects and extends that attitude in accepting others. [This much rationality will qualify one to succeed in international affairs.]
  • Rationality, according to Sri Aurobindo, is the capacity to see no defects, rather to see the defects as strengths and accept anyone like that. To him, Ignorance is greater than knowledge, and a defect is more powerful when transformed than perfection, as more energy goes into the defect than into perfection. That is why in this century the oppressed are rising. Strength and weakness are of the same energy. In strength it is expressed, in weakness the strength is held back. Once unleashed, it will express itself. A bankrupt person tries to rise up, and succeeds in catching up with others. He or she will not stay there, but will go ahead, because in trying to catch up with others he or she has generated higher velocity which will naturally overtake the rest. All the developing countries will overtake the developed nations, if they try to get out of their poverty.

Reliance on one’s successful past.

People who do not have courage will not have faith either. A work or a type of work they have themselves done dozens of times does not generate courage or faith in a timid person. The next time diffidence arises. This is so because faith does not issue out of experience. It is a ray of natural boldness that gives hope in the future that springs from the whole of one’s being. Those who have it, have it. Those who do not have it cannot raise it from past success. Should they shift from the part that experiences to the whole that carries the ESSENCE of experience, faith can be born. So, reliance on the successful past becomes a reliance on the method used then and positively leads to failure. The method is partial, the issue is the whole. The person who wails, "I have used this method so many times successfully, why has it failed now, I don’t see.." is one who lacks the rationality required for accomplishment. Rationality required for accomplishment is that which takes each situation afresh and deals with it as it requires, not based on one’s past however successful it might have been.

Cultural values

Most of us will agree that to judge another by our cultural values is irrational. This is true up to a point. Beyond that point our entrenched cultural sensitivities at the physical level will rise in revolt. Not that we are irrational but our rationality is limited. Surgeons who by their profession handle blood, mucus, urine and all kinds of putrid matter in the theatre and who treat this as neutral matter will not be able to stand dirt of that description in another culture. In spite of the best of education, rational vegetarians cannot consider non-vegetarians religious or spiritual. "Rationality is all right, but I do not want to hear of the spirituality of one who eats flesh." Buddhists and Jains do not get over their vegetarianism in spite of their Harvard education. Eminent persons who refuse to look up to rich people for their riches or leaders for their power expect those people to look up to themselves because of their intellectual eminence. They won’t be able to brand this irrational.

Persons known for their rationality who, throughout their lives championed the cause of rationality, are capable of saying, "If that is rationality, I don’t need it" when confronted with situations that touch their organised sensitivities entrenched in their bodily consciousness. Some examples will be,

  1. Intolerance of chronic late-coming, late by hours, not by minutes.
  2. Intolerance of the absence of elementary manners.
  3. Absence of rudimentary physical skills.
  4. Presence of intolerably bad traits of violence, corruption, etc.

We condone alcoholism, criminal mindedness, absolute sloth, and uncouth manners in our people, more so in ourselves. I mean for such defects, we do not give up a parent or a child. We hope one day they will turn around. When they emerge out of it, we are happy. Only that we do not want it to be known. That it once existed in them is no bar to our emotions towards the child or parent. But the same phenomenon in another raises our brows, and we feel an outrage. Those who do not feel so are RATIONAL in their emotions. To successfully work in international projects, these concepts, if not their practice, will be of great help.

Not to be able to discredit any defect is a great spiritual strength. Though we may not see the route of strength that the other person travelled and in that process acquired this defect, we must not be able to disown anyone for the sake of any pronounced defect.

For our limited purposes, we may consider these ideas to cover the foundations of the theory and the rest can be understood as phenomena that are combinations of various minor factors. Let me take some examples from Mexico and The Third Try for examination.

  1. Mexico’s population quadrupled in 60 years and GNP doubled (?) during that period. It means that if the population had been static, Mexico would have raised the GNP 8 times during this period. When we know England, USA, Japan, China during several periods between 1750 and now took 58 years, 34 years, 17 years and 10 years to double their GNP, we understand Mexico is a nation overflowing with great social energies. Only that it expresses negatively in corruption, gangsterism, etc. for want of a proper outlet. It is possible to search for that outlet and provide it.
  2. In the USA where several cultures meet, there is the highest potential for ethnic conflict. But we see none or little. Why? Unconsciously the US society is economically resolving social conflicts. USA is an armed nation. Street fights can break out without notice and escalate into mini wars. It has not happened. The vast economic opportunities and the universal VOCATIONAL education that enable the opportunities to be availed of, absorb all the social energies.
  3. Neither in Palestine, nor in Serbia is there such a great abundance of social energy. If the USA is free of ethnic conflict, no small war anywhere in the world, be it in Kashmir or the Gulf, need be waged, if only the social energies are directed to the economic opportunities.

  4. Military conflicts are easily resolved politically. Political conflicts are best resolved economically. Economic conflicts can be resolved socially. To resolve them culturally is easier. In the spiritual planes conflicts do not exist.
  5. A nation is a whole, but it develops in parts. Developed parts can conflict with each other or sap the energy of the whole for further development. When the political, military, economic, social parts of a nation are well-balanced, her growth is fastest.
  6. Still, if any one factor or sector of life is energised, its effect on the whole will be considerable. If education or roads or communication is fully developed, even if the development is lopsided, it will be able to double or triple the nation’s GNP.
  7. If any negative aspect is lessened to some possible extent, it can create great impressions of positive effect. Though this is not a permanent remedy, if corruption or gangsterism comes down by 25% for six months, it is a welcome change during which period a wider approach can be tried.
  8. Potentials do not turn into actualities by themselves. They need initiative. Any initiative for housing is bound to succeed in a greater measure in Mexico than elsewhere, as the family value is great there. The house is the symbol of the HOME .
  9. Theoretically the potentials at any given time are infinitely greater than what is needed. Imagine a housewife in USA who has not pursued her education beyond high school. If only she seeks it now, the measure of help available from the society for her far outweighs her need.

The Third Try

  1. For the needed organisation to come into existence it will take a long time. A conscious initiative is needed. Factory workers acquire knowledge of their machines over a long time. At the end it is a partial knowledge. Systematic education abridges long years into short weeks.
  2. When conscious initiative is ORGANISED and well informed, it can abridge the time needed into a fraction of what is otherwise needed.
  3. Double opening is a phenomenon of the society. Sri Aurobindo speaks of the double opening in this new evolution, rising to the superconscient and descending into the subconscient. In creating new social oganisations, it is not enough we meet its requirements on one side for its existence. On the other side, it needs to be FULLY protected from the onslaughts of the negative forces of the same society we are endeavouring to serve. One who enters adulthood and takes an employment is supported by his or her family and society from such onslaughts. Still, they need to quickly learn to protect themselves from several forces. A person who does not is described as naïve and will not survive. Gorbachev initiated a revolution from inside the fortress but neglected this factor and was thrown out. In 1947 the Indian leadership was thinking only of transfer of power which was bloodless and which was a Parliamentary process. They too neglected this factor and had to face ten million refugees.
  4. Academic work and social work can be done within the framework of this society enjoying the existing support. The Third Try, though welcome to many, will be a threat to all establishment. The entire establishment will rise in revolt. In 1917 the fledgling Soviet government met with such an invasion from 17 nations. Now conditions are different. If we go about it on the principles of unfailing success, there is a chance of the society---not the establishment—rising to the occasion to our support. The Third Try can even be an instantaneous success. For that, we should not lose sight of this principle of double opening. We should in our formulation, provide for meeting the resistance of the establishment. When the principles of organisation are carefully employed, it will enable us to overcome that possible threat.

  5. Hour of God. Those that are strong can accomplish in the Hour of God what otherwise needs 1000 years. Who is thus strong? One whose mind is rational in the best possible sense qualifies for that strength. If that person agrees to avail of the atmosphere of strength that is now available on earth, he or she naturally becomes strong. For our purposes we can even narrow it to rationality and caution.
  6. Glorious organisations or great personalities are a bar. Used sparingly and consciously, they can play a great temporary role. That role may be positive and may even be essential. No rational explanation will convince people. People who have had similar experiences in any measure will be able to respond to the Idea.
  7. Steam engine discovered in the second century was smothered for 1000 years or more. Society is not oppressive now. Society is so poised that it will readily support this initiative. Still the initiators must be cautious of the still deeply entrenched forces.
  8. In the past only the governments could initiate such works. They had to work physically through their organisations. Now, it is possible to initiate at the mental level, i.e. through ideas and information. Also, the initiative can be taken outside the government. Today an enlightened man can be as powerful as a head of the government in earlier times.
  9. A complete ACT – a perfect act – by a few enlightened people whose emotions are passionately committed to the ideal can achieve at once by perfection what otherwise only heads of government could hope to achieve by governmental organisation in decades.
  10. An IDEA becomes perfect by its being rational in the sense that it is inclusive of all other points of view. An idea is a mental product like a section seen under the microscope. Naturally it is partial with a vengeance. When half a dozen people work together, the initiator tries to integrate the viewpoints of others. They will not be under the microscope. A time comes when the initiator has to take his or her eye off the microscope and see the object in front, instead of seeing a tiny dot under the microscope. The other person’s point of view liberates an idea from the fetters of mind and raises it to the level of the whole.
  11. We know the organised society is the greatest institution on earth. The unorganised enlightened part of the society is a still greater institution. The developments of the last hundred years or one thousand years can be considered to have issued from the unorganised potential of man of that period. In that sense, it is infinite. To draw support from that part, one does not have a developed mechanism. But we know the vast energies of the society that are not yet fully organised into institutions available to all citizens. It is available to all resourceful people of leadership. We know how information taps those sources. This is a great invisible organisation. A knowledge of the theory of organisations, their origin, growth and functioning will help us reach this ORGANISATION .
  12. Sri Aurobindo says that God created the universe for the sake of delight, a delight of self-discovery, discovery of the self-concealed, Self-Conscious Being. This is spirituality and yoga.
    We know the joy of discovering even small things. Our joy is the reflection of God’s delight. Einstein said that one who has not crossed the border of human reason and seen the emotions of an intuitive vision of God, is one who is incapable of great discoveries.
    When we set out to discover the right organisation, which will make the Third Try possible, the discovery will give rise to a great joy.
    Accomplishment is enjoyment. It can also be stated as –
    Enjoyment is Accomplishment.
    A flawless higher enjoyment is a sign of accomplishment. Any accomplishment invariably gives rise to enjoyment.
  13. The time required for accomplishment is decided by the perfection of the formula’s rationality.
    • Perfection is measured by the comprehensiveness of the formula.
    • Comprehensiveness of the formula is determined by the part not determining the issue but the whole determining the part and the issue.
    • Emotions do not lend themselves to rationality. Physical habits stubbornly defy rationality. To achieve rationality, we must persuade the emotions to accept what is right. A diabetic person may understand that sugar is harmful. If he or she restrains from eating sugar, the result is good, but tension is generated. It is possible for a rational diabetic to feel so deeply the harm sugar does that a distaste is formed about sugar. At least the emotions may not crave for it. Physical habits are subconscious. When an itch is scratched it may not heal quickly. One may force his itching fingers not to scratch the itching part during the day. But involuntarily one will do so at night while sleeping. We can imagine that a person who deeply appreciates the value of not scratching, will not scratch even in sleep. That is to be rational at the physical level too. For our aim, rational emotions will serve the purpose.
  14. A question may arise as to how great works can be completed because one is successful in small things.
    As the whole body is one single organism, when the temperature comes down in one part, it will come down all over the body. Life is a single whole without any break anywhere. An isolated act in one place may not mean it can be duplicated elsewhere or all over. But when an act that is characteristic of SUCCESS is performed in one place, it can be reproduced elsewhere. If the act which is characteristic of the whole can be performed anywhere or in any measure, it means it can be a success even when performed all over.
    Whether a sugar mill will be a success or not can be determined by the cost of one kilo of sugar produced in their pilot plant or testing laboratory.
    In a sense, most of our acts are representative. When we learn to see which is a representative act and which is not, we shall be able to determine the outcome of a greater work from the result of a small act.
  15. Organisation and Institution
    The government functions as an organisation. In an organisation, no work will be done however small, without an order being given by the authority. Festivals are institutions lived in the society. No one awaits anyone’s order to celebrate Christmas. As each person has accepted the imposed order of the society at the beginning of the festival 1000 years ago as a personal social value, it is celebrated by itself. We can say Christmas celebrates itself.
    In the organisation we are trying to evolve for the implementation of The Third Try, everyone can, in the beginning, learn the rules to be observed. When all the rules are learnt, it will be desirable if each person follows them without the monitoring of a central authority. The small group we will organise should institutionalize the values of organisation we evolve for this purpose. It is not essential but desirable. Should it happen, The Third Try will lead to further goals.

(*) The League of Nations and the United Nations Organisation were the first and second attempt at one world. Harlan Cleaveland’s Birth of a New World speaks of a Third Try at one world based on the burst of information and faster communication.