Remarks on the World Situation
Intellectual Idealists, World Events
and the New Creation
I cannot persuade myself that all the things that are happening — including the triumph of the British policy and deterioration
of Gandhi's intellect — are meant for the best. . . . Bengal is now benighted and there is no sign of light anywhere. Tagore
too has just written an article of despair in which he forebodes
gloomily an end of the world, pralaya-kalpānta, as perhaps the quickest and most satisfactory solution to the mess we
are in. Add to this my own lack of devotion and faith. . . . I do sometimes even feel that in the end you will give up this
wicked world and wish with Tagore for the pralaya and retire into extracosmic samadhi.
I have no intention of doing so — even if all smashed; I would look beyond the smash to the new creation. As for what is
happening in the world, it does not upset me because I knew all along that things would happen in that fashion. I never had any
illusions about Gandhi's satyagraha — it has only fulfilled my prediction that it would end in a great confusion or a great fiasco
and my only mistake was that I put an "or" where there should have been an "and"
— and as for the hopes of the intellectual
idealists I have not shared them, so I am not disappointed.
10 August 1933
Gandhi, Tagore and the New Creation
A friend writes: "Tagore and the Tagorians have by now all
but given up Sri Aurobindo for lost — as one irreclaimable. . . . They no longer have the faith they once had that Sri Aurobindo
was going to inaugurate a new era of creation in the world of fact." I feel that Tagore has come to this conclusion after
reading your Riddle of This World, which must have appeared to him more of a riddle than an explanation. For formerly he
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wrote enthusiastically to me about you as a creator. I suspect also that Romain Rolland's retraction has something to do
with Tagore's retraction. But I expect sooner or later he will write somewhere about your becoming a thorough introvert.
There of course the whole Bengal intelligentsia (such as it is) will agree with him. Are you staggered at such a lugubrious
I cannot find any symptom of a stagger in me, not even of a shake
or a quake or a quiver — all seems quite calm and erect, as far as I can make out. And I don't find the prospect lugubrious at all
— the less people expect of you and bother you with their false ideas and demands, the more chance one has to get something
real done. It is queer these intellectuals go on talking of creation
while all they stand for is collapsing into the Néant without their being able to raise a finger to save it. What the devil are they going to create and from what material? and of what use if a Hitler with his cudgel or a Mussolini with his castor oil can come and
wash it out or beat it into dust in a moment?
23 March 1934
The World Situation before World War II
I was discussing the Ethiopian problem with some friends. One
suggested it would result in a world war. He thought such a war would clear the way for the supramental and supposes
that Mussolini would help precipitate the war. Perhaps after the war everybody will be so tired out that they will begin to
read the Arya or else go to the Wardha Ashram to get peace.
I don't think! They will only gasp and talk peace for a bit and
then get ready for another war. I don't see why the supramental should need a general carnage for its appearance
— if it were
so it should surely have appeared in 1919. But perhaps that was sufficient only for the overmind to look in and it needed
Mussolini and a general extermination by all sorts of poison gases to persuade the supramental to follow suit? For the poison
gases by aeroplane were not ready to make their "descent" in the last war.
8 September 1935
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The adage "Honesty is the best policy" was invented in a
semi-barbarous age when mankind had not made so much progress
as now, an age which no longer exists — except perhaps in the wilds of Abyssinia, and now Mussolini is out to finish with it
and bring in the blessings of civilisation even there. Nowadays the saying is notoriously out of date; it only means that with
honesty you have less chances of going to jail — provided you are lucky and also provided you have not met Mahatma Gandhi.
But Rockefellers and the rest of the commercial aristocracy were not born for jail but for palaces with marble water closets and
the immortality of Rockefeller institutes and honour in the land of the gangsters and the free. All this is not meant to tempt you
out of the paths of virtue.
7 November 1935
You write as if what is going on in Europe were a war between
the powers of Light and the powers of Darkness — but this is no more so than during the Great War. It is a fight between two
kinds of Ignorance.1 Our aim is to bring down a higher Truth, but that Truth must be able to live by its own strength and not
depend upon the victory of one or other of the forces of the Ignorance. That is the reason why we are not to mix in political
or social controversies and struggles; it would simply keep down our endeavour to a lower level and prevent the Truth from descending which is none of these things but has a quite different law and basis. You speak of Brahmatej being overpowered by
Kshatratej, but where is that happening? None of the warring parties incarnates either.
17 February 1937
On World War II
You have said that you have begun to doubt whether it was the Mother's war and ask me to make you feel again that it is. I
affirm again to you most strongly that this is the Mother's war. You should not think of it as a fight for certain nations against
1 The reference is to the Nationalist and Republican forces, and their Fascist and
Communist backers, during the Spanish Civil War. — Ed.
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others or even for India; it is a struggle for an ideal that has to establish itself on earth in the life of humanity, for a Truth
that has yet to realise itself fully and against a darkness and falsehood that are trying to overwhelm the earth and mankind
in the immediate future. It is the forces behind the battle that have to be seen and not this or that superficial circumstance. It
is no use concentrating on the defects or mistakes of nations; all have defects and commit serious mistakes; but what matters is
on what side they have ranged themselves in the struggle. It is a struggle for the liberty of mankind to develop, for conditions in
which men have freedom and room to think and act according to the light in them and grow in the Truth, grow in the Spirit. There
cannot be the slightest doubt that if one side wins, there will be an end of all such freedom and hope of light and truth and the
work that has to be done will be subjected to conditions which would make it humanly impossible; there would be a reign of
falsehood and darkness, a cruel oppression and degradation for most of the human race such as people in this country do not
dream of and cannot yet at all realise. If the other side that has declared itself for the free future of humanity triumphs, this
terrible danger will have been averted and conditions will have been created in which there will be a chance for the Ideal to
grow, for the Divine Work to be done, for the spiritual Truth for which we stand to establish itself on the earth. Those who
fight for this cause are fighting for the Divine and against the threatened reign of the Asura.2
29 July 1942
I just received a long letter from Krishnaprem. He evidently wants to qualify his statement about violence. For myself I
have no doubt as you who know have said so. Only one point gave rise to doubts in me, in regard to what Nolini wrote in his
2 This letter and the one that follows were later revised and issued as messages, first to
the members of the Ashram, then to the general public. They are published, as revised,
in Autobiographical Notes and Other Writings of Historical Interest, volume 36 of
THE COMPLETE WORKS OF SRI AUROBINDO, pp. 463 68. In the present volume they are
published as originally written. — Ed.
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masterly analysis of the values at stake, comparing this war to Kurukshetra.3 This is exactly what troubles Krishnaprem.
How can the Allied Powers be compared to the Pandavas? I never doubted the wisdom of all efforts being directed against
Hitler, but is it not unwise to compare him to Duryodhana and the Allied Powers to the Pandavas? I have received of late
from correspondents and friends objections to that effect — that the Allies can hardly be dubbed "modern Pandavas". The
Pandavas were protagonists of virtue and unselfishness, which can hardly be said of the Allies who are all selfish (more or
less) and exploiters of weaker races and imperialistic.4
What I have said is not that the Allies have never done wrong
things, but that they stand on the side of the evolutionary forces. I have not said that at random, but on what to me are clear
grounds of fact. What you speak of is the dark side. All nations and governments have shown that side in their dealings
with each other, — at least all who had the strength or got the chance. I hope you are not expecting me to believe that there
are or have been virtuous Governments and unselfish and sinless peoples? It is only individuals and not too many of them
who can be described in that style. But there is the other side also. Your correspondents are condemning the Allies on grounds
that people in the past would have stared at, on the basis of modern ideals of international conduct; but looked at like that,
all big nations and many small ones have black records. But who created these ideals or did most to create them (liberty,
democracy, equality, international justice and the rest)? Well, America, France, England
— the present Allied nations. They
have all been imperialistic and still bear the burden of their
3 The reference is to the essay "Dharmakshetre Kurukshetre" written in Bengali by
Nolini Kanta Gupta and published along with other material in a pamphlet entitled
Sri Aurobindo o Bartaman Yuddha ("Sri Aurobindo and the Present War") in Bengali year
1349 (1942 43). The title "Dharmakshetre Kurukshetre" is taken from the Bhagavad
Gita and evokes the Kurukshetra war. At the end of the essay, the writer mentions
Duryodhana and his ninety-nine brothers, who were on one side in that war, and the
five Pandava brothers and Sri Krishna, who were on the other side. — Ed.
4 Here Sri Aurobindo wrote between two lines of the correspondent's letter:
"Good Heavens, but so were the Pandavas, even if less than more! They were human beings,
not ascetics or angels." — Ed.
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past, but they have also deliberately spread these ideals and introduced self-governing bodies and parliamentary institutions
where they did not exist; and whatever the relative worth of these things, they have been a stage, even if a still imperfect
stage, in a forward evolution. (What of the others? What about the Axis' new order? Hitler swears it is a crime to educate the
coloured peoples, they must be kept as serfs and labourers.) England has helped certain nations to be free without seeking
any personal gain; she has conceded independence to Egypt and Eire after a struggle, to Iraq without a struggle. On the whole
she has been for some time moving away steadily from Imperialism towards a principle of free association and cooperation;
the British Commonwealth of England and the Dominions is something unique and unprecedented, a beginning of new things
in that direction. She is turning in spirit in the direction of a world-union of some kind after the war; her new generation
no longer believes in an "imperial mission"; she has offered India Dominion Independence (even, if she prefers it, she can
choose or pass on to isolated independence) after the war, on the base of an agreed free constitution to be chosen by Indians
themselves; though this, it has been feared, leaves a loophole for reactionary delay, it is in itself extremely reasonable and it
is the Indians themselves with their inveterate habit of disunion who will be responsible if they are imbecile enough to reject
the opportunity. All that is what I call evolution in the right direction — however slow and imperfect and hesitating. As for
America she has forsworn her past imperialistic policies in regard to Central and South America, in Cuba, the Philippines,
— everywhere apart from some islands in the Pacific which would go plop into other hands, if she withdrew from them.
It is perhaps possible, some suggest, that she may be tempted towards a sort of financial imperialism, the rule of the Almighty
American Dollar, by her new sense of international power, or led into other mistakes, but if so we may fairly assume from
her other strong tendencies that she will soon withdraw from it. The greater danger is that she may retire again into a selfish
isolationism after the war and so destroy or delay the chance of
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a possible beginning that may lead eventually to some beginning of a free world-union. But still there again is the evolutionary
force. Is there a similar trend on the part of the Axis? The answer is plain enough both from their own declarations and
their behaviour. Avowedly and openly, Nazi Germany today stands for the reversal of this evolutionary tendency, for the
destruction of the new international outlook, the new Dharma, for a reversion not only to the past, but to a far-back primitive
and barbaric ideal. She fully intended to reimpose it on the whole earth, but would have done so if she had had, as for a
time she seemed to have, the strength to conquer. There can be no doubt or hesitation here; if we are for the evolutionary future
of mankind, we must recognise that it is only the victory of the Allies that can save it. At the very least, they are at the moment
the instruments of the evolutionary Forces to save mankind's future, and these declarations of their own show that they are
conscious of it. Other elements and motives there are, but the main issue is here. One has to look at things on all sides, to see
them steadily and whole. Once more, it is the forces working behind that I have to look at, I don't want to go blind among
surface details. The future has first to be safeguarded; only then can present problems and contradictions have a chance to be
solved and eliminated.
Krishnaprem too has become doubtful about the Allies being
compared to the Pandavas. Would you kindly throw some light on the question?
For us the question put by you does not arise. The Mother made it plain in a letter which has been made public that we did not
consider the war as a fight between nations or governments (still less between good people and bad people) but between
two forces, the Divine and the Asuric. What we have to see is on which side men and nations put themselves; if they put
themselves on the right side, they at once make themselves instruments of the Divine purpose in spite of all defects, errors,
wrong movements and actions (past or present or possible
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backslidings in the future) which are common to human nature and to all human collectivities. The victory of one side (the
Allies) would keep the path open for the evolutionary forces; the victory of the other side would drag back humanity, degrade
it horribly and might lead even, at the worst, to its failure as a race, as others in the past evolution failed and perished. That
is the whole question and all other considerations are either irrelevant or of a minor importance. The Allies at least stand for
human values, though they may often have acted against their own best ideals (human beings always do that); Hitler stands
for diabolical values or for human values exaggerated in the wrong way until they become diabolical (e.g. the "virtues" of the
Herrenvolk, the master race). That does not make the English or Americans nations of spotless angels nor the Germans a wicked
and sinful race, but as an indicator it has a decisive importance.
Nolini, I should suppose, gave the Kurukshetra example
not as an exact parallel but as a traditional instance of a War between two world-forces in which the side favoured by the
Divine triumphed, because its leaders made themselves his instruments. I don't suppose he envisaged it as a battle between
virtue and wickedness or between good and evil men or intended to equate the British with the Pandavas, nations with
individuals or even individuals with individuals, — shall we say, Stafford Cripps with Yudhisthir, Churchill with Bhima and General Montgomery with Arjuna! After all, were even the Pandavas virtuous without defect, calm and holy and quite unselfish and
without passions? There are many incidents in the Mahabharat which seem to show to the contrary that they had their defects
and failings. And in the Pandava army and its leaders there must have been many who were not angels or paragons of virtue,
while there were plenty of good men and true on Duryodhana's side. Unselfishness? But were not the Pandavas fighting to establish their own claims and interests — just and right, no doubt, but still personal claims and self-interest? Theirs was a righteous
battle, dharmya yuddha, but it was for right and justice in their own case. The Allies have as good or even a better case and
reason to call theirs a righteous quarrel, for they are fighting
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not only for themselves, for their freedom and very existence, but for the existence, freedom, maintenance of natural rights
of other nations, Poles, Czechs, Norwegians, Belgians, Dutch, French, Greece, Yugoslavia and a vast number of others not yet
directly threatened; they too claim to be fighting for a Dharma, for civilised values, for the preservation of great ideals and in
view of what Hitler represents and openly professes and what he wishes to destroy, their claim has strong foundations. And
if imperialism is under all circumstances a wickedness, then the Pandavas are tainted with that brush, for they used their victory to establish their empire continued after them by Parikshit and Janamejaya. Could not modern humanism and pacifism
make it a reproach against the Pandavas that these virtuous men (including Krishna) brought about a huge slaughter (alas
for Ahimsa!) that they might establish their sole imperial rule over all the numerous free and independent peoples of India?
Such a criticism would be grotesquely out of place, but it would be a natural result of weighing ancient happenings in the scales
of modern ideals. As a matter of fact, such an empire was a step in the right direction then, just as a world-union of free peoples
would be a step in the right direction now, — and in both cases the right consequences of a terrific slaughter.
Who are the people who have such a tenderness for Hitler and object to his being compared to Duryodhana? I hope they
are not among those — spiritual people among them, I am told, — who believe
— or perhaps once believed? — Hitler to be the
new Avatar and his religion (God help us!) to be the true religion which we must all help to establish throughout the wide world
or among those who regard Hitler as a great and good man, a saint, an ascetic and all that is noble and godlike. I don't
see why Hitler should not be compared to Duryodhana, except that Duryodhana, if alive, might complain indignantly that the
comparison was a monstrous and scandalous injustice to him and that he never did anything like what Hitler has done. By
the way, what about Krishna's jitvā śatrūn bhunksva rājyam samrddham? An unholy and unethical bribe? Or what on earth
did he mean by it? But battle and conquest and imperial rule
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were then a dharma and consecrated by a special form of sacrifice. We should remember that conquest and rule over subject
peoples were not regarded as wrong either in ancient or medieval times and even quite recently but as something great and
glorious; men did not see any special wickedness in conquerors or conquering nations. Just government of subject peoples was
envisaged, but nothing more — exploitation was not excluded. No doubt, many nations in the past were jealous of their own
independence and some like the Greeks and later the English had the ideal of freedom, more especially of individual liberty. But
the passion for individual liberty went along in ancient times with the institution of slavery which no Greek democrat ever
thought to be wrong; no Greek state or people thought it an injustice to take away the freedom of other Greek states, still
less of foreign peoples, or deemed it immoral to rule over subject races. The same inconsistency has held sway over human ideas
until recent times and still holds sway over international practice even now. The modern ideas on the subject, the right of all to
liberty both individuals and nations, the immorality of conquest and empire, or, short of such absolutist ideas, such compromises
as the British idea of training subject races for democratic freedom, are new values, an evolutionary movement, a new Dharma
which has only begun slowly and initially to influence practice, — an infant Dharma that would be throttled for good if Hitler
succeeded in his "Avataric" mission and established his new "religion" over all the earth. Subject nations naturally accept
the new Dharma and severely criticise the old imperialisms; it is to be hoped that they will practise what they now preach when
they themselves become strong and rich and powerful. But the best will be if a new world-order evolves which will make the old
things impossible, — a difficult task, but not, with God's grace, absolutely impracticable.
The Divine takes men as they are and uses them as his instruments even if they are not flawless in character, without
stain or sin or fault, exemplary in virtue, or angelic, holy and pure. If they are of good will, if, to use the Biblical phrase, they
are on the Lord's side, that is enough for the work to be done.
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Even if I knew that the Allies (I am speaking of the "big" nations, America, Britain, China) would misuse their victory or bungle
the peace or partially at least spoil the opportunities opened to the human world by that victory, I would still put my force
behind them. At any rate, things could not be one hundredth part as bad as they would be under Hitler. The ways of the Lord
would still be open — to keep them open is what matters. Let us stick to the real issue and leave for a later time all side-issues
and minor issues or hypothetical problems that would cloud the one all-important and tragic issue before us.
P.S. This is an answer to what is implied in your letter and, I suppose, in those of your correspondents, not to anything in
K's letter. His observations are all right, but circumstances alter cases. Ours is a sadhana which involves not only devotion or
union with the Divine or a perception of him in all things and beings, but also action as workers and instruments and a work to
be done in the world, a spiritual force to be brought on the world, under difficult conditions; then one has to see one's way and do
what is commanded and support what has to be supported, even if it means war and strife carried on whether through chariots
and bows and arrows or tanks and cars and American bombs ˙
and aeroplanes, in either case a ghoram karma: the means and times and persons differ, but it does not seem to me that Nolini
is wrong in seeing in it the same problem as in Kurukshetra. As for war, violence, the use of force to maintain freedom for
the world, for the highest values of human civilisation, for the salvation of humanity from a terrible fate, etc., the old command
rings out once again after many ages for those who must fight .
or support this battle for the right, mayaivaite nihatāh pūrvam
eva nimittamātram bhava savyasācin.
2 September 1943
The War and Sri Aurobindo's Work
The other day X said that Hitler had so arranged things that
the Allies will not be able to make any headway in Italy. Also that in Russia he has shortened his front so that the Russians
will not move any further.
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Well, they seem to be making some headway in spite of Hitler's arrangement. I seem to remember Hitler made arrangements for
taking Stalingrad; the result was that he has been kicked out almost entirely from old Russia.
Also he said that Japan was going to crush China in three months.
It doesn't look like it; but perhaps they have confidential information?
Then the day before yesterday I heard about Y's remark about the Allied paratroops having been wiped out.
declared that Y had said no such thing. I wondered about this, made inquiries and was told that he had said something. Did
People say that he did — on the authority of the man to whom
he said it. Does Y deny his saying it?
Write to me if you find a little time whether I am right in
feeling that speculating intellectually about Allied reverses is not a right movement as it may easily lead us, unawares, into
sympathy with the hostile hordes who are against your work.
All these things are silly utterances in which the wishes of the
mind are presented as truth and fact. That is a common habit in this very imperfect humanity and ordinarily it would be of no
importance, except that such inventions and falsehoods are most improper in the mouth of a sadhaka and the habit must be a great
obstacle to any progress. But here the wish behind, whether they are conscious of it or not, is that the Asura shall prevail against
the Divine. That means a most dangerous giving of oneself to the Falsehood that is seeking to prolong its hold on the world
and establish definitely the reign of Evil over the whole world. That is what the victory of Hitler would have meant
— it would
have meant also the destruction of my work. You are quite right therefore in resenting this kind of attitude (also there is the fact
that it establishes a centre of support for the Falsehood and Evil
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in the Asram). The propagation of this Falsehood, false ideas, false feelings, false actions and persuading people that they are
right is the chief instrument of the Asura and its prevalence and success a sign of the growth of darkness on the earth. Fortunately
the intensity of the peril is over, however long the struggle may still last. Other perils and manoeuvres of the Asura may follow
afterwards; so it is good to discourage firmly the tendency so that it may not do harm hereafter.
10 June 1944
The Situation after the War
All that [answers to various questions] is however another matter than the question about the present human civilisation. It is
not this which has to be saved; it is the world that has to be saved, and that will surely be done, though it may not be so easily or so
soon as some wish or imagine or in the way that they imagine. The present civilisation must surely change, but whether by a
destruction or a new construction on the basis of a greater truth, is the issue. The Mother has left the question hanging and I can
only do the same. After all, the wise man, unless he is a prophet or the Director of the Madras Astrological Bureau, must often
be content to take the Asquithian position. Neither optimism nor pessimism is the truth, they are only modes of the mind or
moods of the temperament. Let us then, without either excessive optimism or excessive pessimism, "wait and see".
2 September 1945
This is no time for patting the Germans on the back or embracing and consoling them. If they are allowed to get on their legs again
without trouble or without making an atonement for the horror of darkness and suffering they have inflicted on the world, they
will rise only to repeat their performance, — unless somebody else forestalls them. The only help we can give to Germany now
19 March 1946
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I know that this is a time of trouble for you and everybody. It is so for the whole world; confusion, trouble, disorder and upset
everywhere is the general state of things. The better things that are to come are preparing or growing under a veil and the worse
are prominent everywhere. The one thing is to hold on and to hold out till the hour of light has come.
2 June 1946
Capitalism and Socialism
Sri Aurobindo is in no way bound by the present world's institutions or current ideas whether in the political, social or economic
field; it is not necessary for him either to approve or disapprove of them.5 He does not regard either capitalism or orthodox
socialism as the right solution for the world's future; nor can he admit that the admission of private enterprise by itself makes
the society capitalistic, a socialistic economy can very well admit some amount of controlled or subordinated private enterprise
as an aid to its own working or a partial convenience without ceasing to be socialistic. Sri Aurobindo has his own view as to
how far Congress economy is intended to be truly socialistic or whether that is only a cover, but he does not care to express his
view on that point at present.
15 April 1949
5 Sri Aurobindo dictated this note to his secretary, who replied to the correspondent.
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