Thursday, October 9, 2008

An alternating rhythm of repose and activity characterises the life of the universe


The growth of man in society is a fascinating subject for study and research. Thinkers have looked at the question from various angles and have formulated different theories regarding the social development of man through the ages. We will attempt to present some of the more important of these in their large lines, evaluate them inter alia in the light of Sri Aurobindo's thought, bearing in mind contemporary advanced opinion, and give a brief outline of the Master's own exposition of the subject.

An alternating rhythm of repose and activity, movement and cessation of movement characterises the life of the universe. Discussing this feature with reference to human civilisations Prof. Toynbee draws attention to the interesting concept of YIN and YANG in the Sinic imagery. Yin is the static and Yang the dynamic. The nucleus of the sinic character which stands for Yin seems to represent dark coiling clouds overshadowing the Sun, while the nucleus of the character which stands for Yang seems to represent the unclouded sun-disk emitting its rays. In the Chinese formula Yin is always mentioned first.' And this is in keeping with the Eastern tradition which has always regarded activity posterior to and consequent upon an antecedent state of repose.

Brahma the creator is born out of and rests for support on the recumbent figure of Vishnu lying on the folds of Sesha. The creative Power of Dynamis Kali performs her whirl of dance on the immobile body of Shiva. Proceeding out of a state of repose, activity has perforce to come to halt in repose, though only to set out on a further career of movement. This fundamental trait of swing between the Yin- static and Yang-dynamic has governed all the manifestations in the universe, particularly human effort at a mastery and governance of life, within and without, which is what we usually describe as civilisation. Many have been such endeavours by human societies more than twenty of them have been listed but all of them have been subject, more or less in a uniform manner, to the eternal laws of Yin and Yang. The process is the same.

A society content to rest in its primitive state is provoked out of its Yin stage to meet a certain difficulty challenge thrown by Nature and in acting responsively to it the society passes into a Yang stage and the period of growth commences. In the very process of responding to the challenge a further challenge is provoked and so on. The society continues to grow till it successfully meets the challenges; but the moment it flags, the Yang stage begins to end, the society begins to lapse back into the Yin. But it will be a mistake to assume that all the human societies have been simply engaged in a mechanical repetitive movement. The wheel turns round its own axle, again and again in a tireless way, true. But in performing its revolutions the wheel moves forward also. The movement of human society taken collectively does show such a forward inarch.

  • In what direction does the progress tend?
  • Does a detached study of the past civilisations give us any clue as to the decisive factors influencing their career?

Systematic attempts have been made by serious students of history to study this vast saga of the rise and fall of human societies from the beginnings of recorded time with a view to find out the prime or the predominant factor which influences, governs and shapes their movement. There is what is called the Theological Interpretation of History. It looks upon history as the Drama of the Will of God. All events are determined by Him. Syste matised as it was in Europe, it was inevitable that the theory should have been woven round the figure of Christ. 'Its earliest apologists sought to show how the world had followed a divine plan in its long preparation for the life of Christ.

From this central fact of all history, mankind should continue through war and suffering until the Divine plan was completed at the judgement day. The fate of nations is in God's hands; history is the revelation of His wisdom and power. Whether He intervenes directly by miracle or merely sets his laws in operation, he is the master of men's fate.' (Encyclo- paedia of Britannica). Bishop Bossuet worked out this theory in great detail (in his famous Histoire Universelle) and sought to prove that the key to the understanding of History was in the Will of God. But the Will does not work, in the very nature of things, openly and palpably; it works, he said, through secondary and natural causes. And it is to these latter that we have to turn for guidance in our study. Logically pursued, this theory led one to these 'secondary and natural causes' for explanations of history rather than to an inferential Will of God.

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