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The Human Cycle, by Sri Aurobindo
This is the first of a series of selections from Sri Aurobindo's book: The Human Cycle. Comments are invited.
Chapter I: The Cycle of Society
Modern Science, obsessed with the greatness of its physical discoveries and the idea of the sole existence of Matter, has long attempted to base upon physical data even its study of Soul and Mind and of those workings of Nature in man and animal in which a knowledge of psychology is as important as any of the physical sciences. Its very psychology founded itself upon physiology and the scrutiny of the brain and nervous system. It is not surprising therefore that in history and sociology attention should have been concentrated on the external data, laws, institutions, rites, customs, economic factors and developments, while the deeper psychological elements so important in the activities of a mental, emotional, ideative being like man have been very much neglected. This kind of science would explain history and social development as much as possible by economic necessity or motive,—by economy understood in its widest sense.
Recently, however, the all-sufficiency of Matter to explain Mind and Soul has begun to be doubted and a movement of emancipation from the obsession of physical science has set in, although as yet it has not gone beyond a few awkward and rudimentary stumblings. Still there is the beginning of a perception that behind the economic motives and causes of social and historical development there are profound psychological, even perhaps soul factors;
Undoubtedly, wherever we can seize human society in what to us seems its primitive beginnings or early stages,—no matter whether the race is comparatively cultured or savage or economically advanced or backward,—we do find a strongly symbolic mentality that governs or at least pervades its thought, customs and institutions. Symbolic, but of what?
All his [man's] religious and social institutions, all the moments and phases of his life are to him symbols in which he seeks to express what he knows or guesses of the mystic influences that are behind his life and shape and govern or at the least intervene in its movements.
Man and the cosmos are both of them symbols and expressions of the same hidden Reality.
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