Recently I spoke with a good friend, the sociologist and theologian Prof. Reimer Gronemeyer, about the history and present of virtues and their importance for our community life. The encounter took place in the context of an interview I conducted for the podcast “Bannbrecher & Dammbrecher” (Spell Breakers & Dam Breakers) Below follows a transcript of the conversation. If you like, you can also listen to the German-language audio file.
Based on his compassion for the weak and disadvantaged and with the clear feeling of living in a time of heightened crises, Reimer Gronemeyer is committed in many ways to maintaining the dialogue between different parts of society. In addition to numerous publications, lectures, association activities and panel discussions, he has traveled to numerous countries in Africa. He observes a vitality and hope among the people there that he misses in Europe.
The lack may be related to the Western general standard of living, which has been rising over a long period of time – a widespread consumerism and materialism, as he has noted on various occasions – that keeps the experiences of the Third Reich from sinking into our collective consciousness more deeply. Alongside the horrors of the looming collapse of the affluent society, however, he sees an opportunity for a new beginning.
The concept of virtue, even if it has a dusty image, could prove useful in this. I had the impression that he was less concerned with the concrete virtues of classical antiquity (temperance, justice, prudence and fortitude) and Christianity (faith, love, hope) as such. Rather, he hopes they might help us remember our roots. Thus, instead of using ideas of competition and self-optimization, we could move through the time of crises with a new set of virtues that fit our culture.
“The greatest danger in which we live is perhaps the ignorance of our past, that everything that is old has to go in favor of an acceleration and innovation society that only looks forward,” he says in the interview. Towards the end, he explains that, in his view, us Westerners, just like the victims of our colonization activities, have lost almost all the cultural roots to which we could connect. It was important to realize that we were sitting on the ruins of a destroyed society before we thought about virtue.
Virtues set challenges for the individual, but they are not a program for self-promotion; they are the glue that binds communities together. It is a matter of opening one’s eyes and senses to one’s fellow man. Reimer Gronemeyer cites as an example the South African virtue “Ubuntu,” which expresses the fundamental experience that we are dependent on others and derive our humanity from looking into the face of our neighbor.
In this understanding, illnesses point to a disturbance in the community and can also be healed again through the support of the community. In Western culture, on the other hand, illness is problematized and handed over to institutions for elimination.
In European culture, instead of virtues, there is now much talk of “Western values” and a “value-based order”. We value something or attach value to it. Reimer Gronemeyer calls this attitude a “moral instant coffee.” “When you no longer want to talk about the Good, then you start talking about values,” he quotes his teacher Ivan Illich. Values belong on the stock market, he believes, not in an ethics debate. The mass uncritical use of this word testifies to an ethical breakdown, which also has to do with the fact that, in line with the current understanding of science, measurable quantities are playing an increasingly important role. The fact that “Western values” are being defended with the help of cluster bombs shows that values can be used for any kind of evil.
We often hear: “Liberty or death,” but those who said it are still alive. Gronemeyer mentions the maxim “death or virtue” in the context of Socrates’ decision not to flee from his henchmen but to stand up for the validity of virtue. When asked if we will just as easily get away with shrugging our shoulders if we do not live according to our confessions, he replies that this challenge is becoming more pressing, but the choice is up to the individual. It depends on personal courage.
The question of virtue, he said, is always also the question of the future of society: are we prepared to support the weak or are we moving toward marginalizing or even “flattening” them?
The sociologist sees the choice of suitable virtues for our time as owed to the situation, less to any dogmatic considerations. For example, he regards it as virtuous to keep open the wound of the painful experiences in his life.
Reimer Gronemeyer finds another central virtue in the consideration of how he should use his remaining life time. However, he cannot give a clear answer to this, he says. “Perhaps what we are particularly lacking at the moment, according to my impression, is the willingness to think critically, to relentlessly question one’s own existence as a question of virtue; in other words, how do we want to live?” he says. He tries to live a life of hospitality and friendship. He also mentions moderation and hope as virtues of personal importance.
On the way back from a group discussion where we – perhaps a dozen people – were pondering some theses of the philosopher Lev Isaakovich Shestov (1866-1938), my train to the Black Forest made its way through the Murg valley. Looking out of the window, mountain followed mountain, hill followed hill, tree followed tree; in between, villages and farmsteads, all very similar, but no two elements identical. And yet their arrangement produced a harmonious whole, the hills or houses lined up in chains seemed to follow a rhythm or form a pattern. I couldn’t say exactly what the regularity was. I only know that it is there. Of course it is there. It is obvious. Perhaps, after looking at the measurements recorded in topographical maps, one could even work out a mathematical formula that breaks down the clearly perceptible harmony in this landscape to a few symbols: zn+1=zn² + c or something like that. I am almost certain that this has already been undertaken.
Shestov refused such undertakings. This rational grasp of life and its manifestations was repugnant to him. The phenomena of this world appeared to him as miracles that could not be met by means of reason. He refused to press the individual, the unique, the singular into categories that could be easily calculated or manipulated. If there was a chance to escape the “gruesome horror,” the “wild insanity” of human existence, it would not lie in the rational mind with its techno/logical solutions, but in hope.
In his Kant-critical critique of pure reason, if we want to call his train of thought that, Shestov goes so far as to doubt everything that seems “natural”, “self-evident” and “logical” to our intellect, including death. For it is possible, he thinks, that the phenomena we perceive are a product of our mind. He felt driven to despair and madness by the finality of rational certainties. He felt there was no reason to help nature in its cruel business. Miracles become possible by believing in them, not by rationally tackling a problem.
So, are the laws of nature pure mental constructs? Do we recognise necessities because we wish to see them? Is the harmony I perceive in the succession of Black Forest hills imagination? Is death, which puts an end to every life, a delusion? And also the apple that never falls far from the tree?
I am not sure that these questions can be answered conclusively. If it is reported over the millennia – and we see for ourselves every day – that an object stripped of its support falls vertically to the ground, may we assume or even phrase a law that it follows? Do we understand enough to undertake that? I suppose we could say that the law exists and operates objectively, regardless of how we formulate it subjectively. Nevertheless, it seems that it is always possible to change the usual course of events through miracle, faith, wish, willpower or deed. How do freedom and regularity relate to each other? Can they be brought together?
I would like to answer here with a clear yes. There is a law underlying the patterns we observe in the structure of the universe and the processes in the relationship between the forces within it. It is neither arbitrary nor changeable and cannot be broken. It has nothing in common with laws postulated by human beings. It merely specifies the conditions of existence: for example, those of the apple tree and its fruit. When exactly the fruit leaves the tree may be the their free-will decision, but it does not provide for flying to distant shores. Fruit and tree enjoy freedom only within the framework of their physical and co-environmental conditions.
The same applies to the human domain – especially here, if one wants to believe that the human mind is superior to that of its fellow creatures. Harmony arises when our thoughts, desires, beliefs, feelings, will and action come into harmony with natural laws.
We realise our freedom within the framework of natural conditions, not against them. Freedom can therefore also be seen as freedom from nonsensical wanting to be free from the laws of nature. In music, for example, an infinite number of tone combinations are possible, but we only cross the border from cacophonous noise to harmonic music when we observe certain laws. The rules to follow when writing a symphony are relatively simple. But the freedoms one enjoys within these rules allowed Beethoven to create nine different masterpieces, and numerous other composers countless more.
And we also find this dynamic between immutable law and freedom in Natural Law. Within the framework of our physical, mental, spiritual and environmental conditions, we are completely free to shape our existence; the laws inherent in the universe merely determine the consequences. We are therefore free to consider gravity surmountable by pure will and learn something about nonsensical concepts of freedom when we fall. We are also free to harm our neighbours, but this too will have consequences, partly for ourselves in time, partly in a roundabout way across larger spaces and time spans, and mainly through our community, as history teaches us.
Nature or the Creator of the universe did not publish the Law of Nature in printed proclamations and manifestos, because that was not necessary. We and all other creatures are endowed with the ability and freedom to recognise and successfully navigate the world we live in, despite all its complexity. Our attempts to put it into words or recreate it in formulae necessarily reduce this complexity to simplistic representations. Our descriptions of Natural Law should therefore be taken with a grain of salt, as they are shaped by cultural influences on our perceptions. But the patterns they tell of, as far as we can compare perceptions across time and space, appear universal. They call for recognition and imitation in a living way – with heart and mind – so that harmony may prevail.
And what about Shestov? What about miracles? Well, there might be a kernel of truth there. In any case, between perception and reality lies no one-way street. There seem to be closer ties between them than school knowldedge would have us believe. But in the end, if I understood correctly, Shestov was not so much concerned with the efficacy of miracles as with the freedom to shape one’s existence according to points of view other than cold rationality. Some people might think that was stupid, but it was his right. Any action that does not initiate harm against others is a right, and no priest, no majority, no judge can change that.
Obvious lies turned into truth, malpractice purported as state-of-the-art technique, all-encompassing injustice, or the normalization of collective insanity during the past couple of years, they leave many of us speechless. What the hell is it, that plagues us in these times? Isn’t it a bottomless …. evil? Our naive forefathers would have used that word without the slightest hesitation but us 21st-century internet-wisened know-it-all techno cracks, we have a problem with it. Why is that? Is it because it reminds us so much of religious superstition? Of dark fairytale forests logged out of existence long ago? It might be a mistake to deny the existence of Evil, I’ll argue, because although religious scriptures from around the world have a lot to say about the nature of evil the matter is not at all a religious one. It doesn’t require you to believe in any creed specifically, to align yourself with what is true and real about Good and Evil.
Today, on August 15th, 2022, India, and especially Auroville, is celebrating the 150th birthday of Sri Aurobindo. India’s cherished freedom fighter, philosopher and yogi, born by the name of Aurobindo Ghose, and his spiritual companion Mirra Alfassa back in the 1920s founded an ashram in the south Indian city of Pondicherry. Aurobindo developed his “Integral Yoga” philosophy there, a school of thought that teaches the integration of body, mind and spirit aspects of the human existence. He and Alfassa, which he called “the Mother”, were concerned that the convergence of systemic crises, which became pretty obvious after World War I, would lead to a catastrophic collapse of civilization in the mid-term. Aurobindo and Alfassa were neither the first nor the only ones to say so but in their time they were among the few who attributed this existential crisis of our culture to a problem with the mindset, a lack of consciousness, they said.
The ashram and from 1968 on Auroville as well were set up to prepare the human body and mind for taking in the Supramental, as they named it, the highest form of consciousness. The inhabitants of both the ashram and the city were to live a life in the practice of the Integral Yoga, to bring about this transformational goal and to give an example to people all over the world. Alfassa, the Mother, provided guidelines for the architectural setup of Auroville under the usual provisio that the specifics were to be worked out in the light of the most progressed knowledge. From December 2nd, 2021 on, staff appointed to leading positions in the Auroville Foundation by the central government in Delhi used those guidelines to dis-empower the residents, the very key element which ought to work out the conscious transformation. The alleged goal is the quickening-up of building “the City the Earth needs”. Were that true the Foundation bureaucrats would sacrifice the indispensable natural-law preconditions of the Integral Yoga, to build its architectural vessel with brute force.
From observing the Takeover crew’s behaviour it is safe to say that their purported reasons are just pretense. On every single occasion when the Foundation and their supporters took steps they played a foul game while shrouding their actions in pseudo-legal, pseudo-lawful, pseudo-moralistic and pseudo-Aurobindian pretexts. Had laws, morals or the scriptures anything to do with sincere, albeit a bit misguided intentions there would have been no need for ploys, lies, violations of rights and physical violence against those who disagree. Journalist Ashish Kothari, early-on, could rightfully state in one of his pieces,
“Bulldozers knocking down trees and threatening built-up structures at 1 am: such action can only come from a source that has no legitimacy to work during the day.”
What a stunningly clear insight. If only all of us had had it, the Foundation Office would have created much less confusion by means of misinformation and pseudo-lawful violent surprise strikes.
People ought to stay unabashed by those events. In order for us to prevail it takes focus on knowledge of objective Morality and unwavering dedication to the highest form of Truth one has access to. This is why my four-part series on Auroville & Natural Law explained at length 1) the basics of Natural Law, and briefly described how Auroville’s residents’ failure to live by that Law causes social suffering, and 2) some basics of Auroville’s founding principles. The failure of many residents to study and live by those principles deserves an in-depth discussion within the community. There is no question that, should we succeed in reverting the takeover, the very future of our township depends on our collective awakening. This won’t be for consumption by a public, though, which cannot stomach first principles even.
Worse than that. We will see that ramifications reach far beyond global authoritarianism even. “It’s Truth or the Abyss,” the Mother warned all of mankind fifty years ago. What she meant by ‘Truth’ has been described in the second article of this series. In short, it is one of the many terms for That-Which-Is, Ultimate Reality, Universal Consciousness, the Creative Force, the Divine Will, or, if you don’t shy away from a loaded term, God. In the above quote ‘Truth’ is shorthand for recognizing, surrendering to, and serving THAT – or else getting consumed by its antithesis. Similar to the widening disparity in wealth a disparity between the conscious and the unconscious, between the servitors of Truth and the servitors of the Abyss(another word for Hell) divides humanity. In the long run most of the middle ground will get consumed by either one side or the other. Staying ‘neutral’ equals complicity with Evil. Choosing to stay ignorant of the forces at play equals fostering Evil. Following rules without ethical discernment equals fighting for Evil. Sounds epic? Wait, there is more.
When you ask people who have quit the System – meaning, they fell out of the shared reality of mainstream society – how their dropping-out happened they tell you the story about one distinct moment in their life when it dawned on them that they have lived a lie. Usually the catalyst for that first step in ‘awakening’, as some describe it, was the dissonance between the very tools by which the false reality was created, the media, and the undeniable truth which they themselves experienced. The eye-opening moment felt like a revelation, shocking, overwhelming, stunning, frightening… and liberating. Suddenly so many question marks disappear; suddenly you realize that consensus reality is just one grand illusion; suddenly the world starts to make sense. It is obvious now, the emperor has no clothes on. You cannot make it unseen. This is what crises can do for you: You go through tremendous pain and suffering that may feel like dying, and you come out, newborn, on the other end of it, grateful for the experience you got to live through. You hear such people speak thanks to 9/11, you hear them praise the Corona plandemic, and you hear Aurovilians acknowledging that the Takeover is a huge wake-up call, a chance for transforming our minds and habits and for transcending our condition.
Did you know another word for ‘revelation’ is ‘apocalypse’? Yes, indeed. apocalyptic times are historical moments which reveal the truth about something existential. An old worldview – along with the world it created – collapses, a new world becomes possible. Which way humankind will go depends on the choices we make collectively; whether it’s Truth or the Abyss. The pathways that lead to one or the other outcome may look quite similar; in fact, the line between the two is as thin and as sharp as a razor blade, almost invisible. This is no coincidence. For it lies in the interest of the Antagonist to stage himself as the Real McCoy: to install tyranny under the guise of freedom, to establish fascism while pretending to be anti-fascist, to realize Asuraville waving the banner of Auroville, or to open the gates of Hell for all the misguided believers who anticipate Heaven. The latter may perhaps serve as a metaphor for the choice between a world of suffering and a world of complete consciousness. Sri Aurobindo remarks,
“At every moment of the spiritual life until one has got fully into the higher light, one has to be on one’s guard and be able to distinguish spiritual truth from pseudo-spiritual imitations of it or substitutes for it set up by the mind and the vital desire. The power to distinguish between truths of the Divine and the lies of the Asura is a cardinal necessity for yoga.” – Sri Aurobindo, Letters on Yoga, Volume I, Section 4; all following quotes from Section 6.
The word Asura mentioned throughout this article series is used in the sense of an antagonistic or evil principle which works against the movement towards ultimate Truth. In religious traditions of Indic origin it stands for a class of beings envisioned as chaos-creating demons, evil spirits and adversaries of the gods. According to the Indian sage Sri Aurobindo who has worked intensely on the problem of Evil, “These Asuras … resemble the devils of the Christian tradition and oppose the divine intention and the evolutionary purpose in the human being.”
When Asuric forces take over a human body or get born in human form, “the Asura has no soul, no psychic being which has to evolve to a higher state; he has only an ego and usually a very powerful ego; he has a mind, sometimes even a highly intellectualised mind; but the basis of his thinking and feeling is vital and not mental, at the service of his desire and not of truth.” An Asura’s desire is insatiable and therefore he or she effectively seeks “to rule the world”. For that purpose he or she appears in “forms often false and always incarnating falsehood, sometimes pseudo-divine.”
“Yes, some kinds of Asuras are very religious, very fanatical about their religion, very strict about rules of ethical conduct. Others of course are just the opposite. There are others who use spiritual ideas without believing in them to give them a perverted twist and delude the sadhak [spiritual seeker].”
The problem of Evil haunts our species since forever, so every culture sought to find its origins, explain its workings, and accomplish its abolishment. Myths, fairy tales, paintings, sculptures, novels, poems and plays allegorize it, psychological, sociological and historical literatures rationalize it, modern cinema and crime fiction normalize it. But none of all these, today, does much to help discern and eliminate it. Quite frankly, modern science and culture add to the confusion and so become part of the conglomerate of dark forces our individual and collective lives have converged into over the Millennia.
Although human conscience can discover immoral actions quite easily, Evil has become a matter of extensive myth-making in the hands of theologians of organized religions. By their self-proclaimed two-fold authority, both as law-making rulers, and as experts on all things divine and anti-divine, they were able to turn a simple matter into a complex subject which ordinary people couldn’t and shouldn’t understand. The secularizing effect of the Enlightenment only added to widespread ignorance because it allowed for a plethora of definitions, concepts, even philosophies, of Evil to arise, including the view that it doesn’t exist – which, most remarkably, both materialist scientists and spiritualist New-Age gurus agree upon.
Evil takes many human forms, for instance the cowardly order-follower, the mindless bureaucrat, the selfish opportunist, the ignorant denier, the bloodthirsty murderer, or the type we are exploring in this article, the malicious deceiver.
Alongside the above-mentioned Asura, the Anti-Christ figure described in the New Testament constitutes another powerful allegory for the Deceiver. Christ stands for the path of true Morality and Self-realization, the Anti-Christ represents its immoral counterpart. After having denounced the scribes and Pharisees who have usurped the word of God, Jesus predicts the end of their corrupt rule. When the disciples want to know how one could recognize the impending end, he answers,
“Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many. And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet… Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name’s sake.” (Matthew 24, KJB)
So the Anti-Christ is someone who takes the place of Christ while opposing Christ’s teachings. He is an antagonistic deceiver whose entrapments those on a truly Christian Path will recognize and avoid even as this implies sacrifice, while those who have preferences other than Truth will fall for the deception. In the name of a false morality they will hate, denounce, persecute or even kill the sincere disciples of the Path. But soon enough the Antagonist reveals his actual nature, and those who maintain ties with him forsake the Kingdom of Heaven.
Once again, we are not talking religion here. I am not a religious believer. Let’s take the New Testament, the Dhammapada, the Bhagavad Gita or Sri Aurobindo’s writings as culturally-coloured deep-spiritual descriptions of identical fundamental insights. We are also, at the same time, looking at archetypal workings of the psyche. Ancient religious scriptures reveal age-old knowledge on the human condition which modern science only begins to verify. To reject this knowledge indiscriminately from an atheist, anti-religious, materialist point of view marks the denier, himself, as a victim of the Deceiver.
Evil’s disappearance from public awareness
The Anti-Christ is a biblical figure representing the forces of Evil in their most sneaky manifestation, like a wolf in sheep’s clothing harvesting the lambs. As such he was an avatar of Satan, the Lord of Hell, you could say. People were familiar with the Anti-Christ concept until the late 18th century when the Enlightenment philosophy and the revolutionary movements began to secularize European societies. Until then numerous political and religious figures such as the Roman Emperor, the Pope, the antipopes, or the Protestant reformists have been accused of being the Wicked One. The inflationary use of the term made a laughing stock of him. Both clerics and laymen progressively dropped their guards against Evil incarnate, and eventually the Anti-Christ became a mythological figure, of no significance to anything tangible at all.
This was, in a sense, a big step forward in understanding the nature of Evil, because it eliminated its externalisation. But throwing out the baby with the bath water did not serve humanity well. No longer “a thing”, evil forces, firmly anchored in the human unconsious, continued to undermine the fabric of Creation with increasing efficacy, and modern secular culture with its ultra-greedy hardcore-materialist never-enough worldview drove humanity at top speed to the edge of a cliff. The Anti-Christ in today’s terms would no longer act as one powerful individual – though Evil in the form of malign egophrenia or sociopathy sure has a tight grip on those in “authority”, and through them, on their order-followers. It manifests in collectives. While Evil, through dispersion, all but disappeared from public awareness and discourse in Christianity-based societies, other cultures maintained a clearer understanding of what was going on here. They looked at the worldview and the culture of Western civilization and identified those, in totality, with their own brand of the Antagonist.
“Europe is a cultural statement of Yurugu, the male being, arrogant and immature, who caused his own incompleteness, and so is locked into a perpetually unfulfilled search for the female twin-soul that would make him whole, the part of himself he has denied.” (p561)
writes Dona Richards in her book “Yurugu. An African-centered critique of European cultural thought and behavior”. She goes on to explain how Europeans use spiritual terms such as ‘Harmony’ and ‘Order’ to express perversions of those concepts.
“Rational and harmonious order … represent two radically different modalities of being. […] The struggle to control can never lead to harmony – the essence of spiritual well-being. Rational ordering is predicated on the assumption of conflict and opposition and, in European intensity, becomes a sublimated form of violence. Rational order can never be more than a creation of human beings in partial recognition of who they are; that is, in partial recognition of their cosmic significance. […] If they limit themselves to this order, which they have created, they and their world become distorted. (p562)
Native American academic Jack Forbes names Western culture as “the central problem of human life today.” He calls Western civilization a “culture of Evil.” Native American philosophy, in comparison, acknowledges the right of every being to life and self-determination. Apart from meeting basic needs, Native Americans therefore avoided initiating unnecessary suffering and harm to humans, plants and animals alike, Forbes says, and they empathized with those who suffered. In other words, they lived by Natural Law. He also notes that, “Lying is also almost always a factor in wétiko behavior, and in fact may represent a key strand in the entire epidemiology of wétikoism.”But “How to live in this life? is the real question we all face. All other subjects are insignificant when compared with this one,” Forbes proclaims.
“How do people who follow that path behave? How do they behave towards other humans? How do they behave towards the earth? How do they behave towards other living creatures? Are they doing evil? Are they free men and women who will stand up to evil? Or are they passive foot-soldiers trained to surrender their minds and hearts to their masters?” – Jack Forbes: Columbus and Other Cannibals: The Wétiko Disease of Exploitation, Imperialism, and Terrorism (2008)
Paul Levy who in his works explores the problem of Evil named it, in psychological terms, Malign Egophrenia (ME), but later also used the Cree Native-American demon Wetiko to explain it.
“Whichever name we use, we are in the midst of a collective psychosis of titanic proportions, and one of its most stunning features is that very few people are even talking about it. Does that seem as crazy to you as it does to me? Our madness has weirdly become normalized, to the point where we don’t even notice it.” – Paul Levy, Dispelling Wetiko. Breaking the Curse of Evil, 2013
In a previous article I highlighted that the Good still does exist. One must add, so does Evil, necessarily, like Sri Aurobindo or Carl Jung pointed out. Jesus himself says: “If I had not come and spoken unto them they had not had sin.” (John 15:22, KJB)
Once Christ is established in our psyche, Jung writes in Aion, “the coming of the anti-Christ is not just a prophetic prediction – It is an inexorable psychological law.” He is „an imitating spirit of evil who follows in Christ’s footsteps like a shadow following the body.“
“Every intensified differentiation of the Christ-image brings about a corresponding accentuation of its unconscious complement, thereby increasing the tension between above and below.” – C. G. Jung, Aion: Researches into the Phenomenology of the Self
The disciples of Truth need to realize two understandings. First of all, Evil, although it manifests in impressing phenomena and dwells in people’s minds, is not itself a separate thing nor is it a person you can kill. It is none of God’s creatures. Go(o)d doesn’t create Evil; the ultimate Truth didn’t create the lie; Divine Consciousness didn’t create the unconscious. Those dark aspects are shadows arising from the absence of THAT. God, or the Universe, if you will, provided all beings with freedom, and established the Laws of cause and effect which dish out the consequences of our free-will decisions. Satan is the son of God, just like the Christ, but the Wicked One decided to disregard the Law and so became the “fallen angel.” Evil, according to this allegory, is never happening by an act of Go(o)d, but comes into existence by a free-will decision, or a negligent falling into unconsiousness.
“Evil is not a natural thing, it is rather the name given to the privation of good. Thus there can be good without evil, but there cannot be evil without good, nor can there be evil where there is no good.” – Augustinus, Dialogus quaestionum, quaest XVI
So the simple truth is,
There is an active and a passive form of Evil. With your freedom to decide you can consciously choose to defy Good – which usually makes you an Asura or Anti-Christ – or you can fall unconscious of the Law and become a disciple of the Anti-Christ.
The second thing to be understood by the Truth seeker is, in the psyche like in physics, each force meets an equal counter-force when it comes to head-on confrontation. Neither attacking nor ignoring or denying the power of Evil will do anything to overcome the Antagonist but will only provide him with similar counter-strength – because both movements are basically the same force, directed against itself. Once understood, the age-old dualism Good vs. Evil dissolves. We may embrace and transcend Evil in a spiritual Jiu-Jitsu which picks up the Antagonist’s force and uses it in service to one’s own aspirations towards Truth. “The soul is never lost, there is no eternal hell,” writes Nolini Kanta Gupta, one of Sri Aurobindo’s disciples. “But man, the human soul, has to go through hell, that is to say, through trials and tribulations and ordeals in order to reach heaven.”
“Evil is evil, no doubt; it is not divine and it is not an illusion. It isa real blot on the fair face of creation. Its existence cannot be justified in the sense that it is the right thing and has to be welcomed and maintained, since it forms part of the universal symphony. Not even in the sense that it is a test and a trial set by the Divine for the righteous to prove their merit.” – Nolini Kanta Gupta, The Yoga of Sri Aurobindo
Evil is also not the flipside to Good but the shadow which results from the absence of the Light, the illusion that expands in the absence of Truth. Evil is a choice which can be undone by choosing Truth. It is that simple. This is the task before anyone and everyone “whoaspire to a higher and truer life,” be they spiritual seekers or the ordinary citizen discontent with the coldness, corruption, chaos and coercion all around. The first step towards eradicating Evil should be obvious: Stop lying. Stop lying to others, even with good intentions, but most of all,
To choose Good over Evil is not at all complicated; it becomes only complicated when one considers the sacrifice that might come with the decision. A truthful life remains Utopian only for so long as one is waiting for others to join in. And Truth stays a Fata Morgana only until one is willing to admit that, for some reason or another – usually lazyness, selfishness, or cowardice – one has let oneself get fooled by the fake reality of “authorites” of all kinds.
“Before dying, falsehood rises in full swing. Still people understand only the lesson of catastrophe. Will it have to come before they open their eyes to the Truth? I ask an effort from all so that it has not to be. It is only the Truth that can save us, truth in words, truth in action, truth in will, truth in feelings. It is a choice between serving the Truth or being destroyed.” – The Mother
Throughout parts 3 and 4 of this articles series there has been a lot of talk about “us” and “them”, moral and immoral, Good and Evil, the Takeover gang and the residents. These dualistic phrasings do, of course, not represent the oneness aspect of (human) existence, but the diversity of its expressions. Discerning the fundamental differences in views and ethical positions is merely a necessary step in the process towards right action. They do not, by any means, establish a difference in value of one group of people versus another. A perpetrator is no less a human being than her victim. We are one, and that got to show in how we treat each other; but it doesn’t mean we become blind to destructiveness. Pain and suffering are real, and so is the Evil who benefits from it. As we have seen many times In history evil has no boundaries. Good does not always win. For it to prevail it takes our active pursuit of it. Understanding Natural Law is one fundamental faculty to start from, but that’s by far not sufficient. While the knowledge of objective Morality is indispensable the pursuit of Goodness also requires other elements such as the voice of conscience, the cultivation of empathy, the capacity to forgive and reconciliate, general goodwill, or the belief in higher planes of consciousness that guide us – which is why Natural Law rarely comes as stand-alone philosophy but is usually packaged in broader world views such as the teachings of the Christ, the Buddha, Rudolf Steiner, or Sri Aurobindo. The absence of its central tenets (the bare minimum of which I have discussed in the first article) proves the evilness of philosophies, ideologies, religions, persons and societies which deny the real nature of That-which-is:
[Part 3 of a 4-part article series on Auroville & Natural Law]
… In their dreams, though, the first settlers imagined the future city of 50.000 as designed by Mother’s architect, Roger Anger: a circular town in the shape of a galaxy, with huge kilometers-long structures, up to sixty meters high, spiralling out from the Matrimandir, the spiritual center, to the periphery, where a greenbelt consisting of forests, parks and farms would surround the actual settlement. Roger Anger who would have liked to become a better LeCorbusier designed his Auroville draft with no respect to the actual ground realities such as pre-existing settlements, topography or local culture. In Mother’s mind the plan had to reflect an ideal shape that, as with all her teachings, would have to be adapted to new realizations as those unfolded over time…
Early-on, though, and despite the Mother’s warnings her teachings – and, most importantly, the Galaxy plan – ossified into a religious matter with a small portion of the residents. Time and again attempts have been made towards nailing down Roger Anger’s Galaxy once and for all. A so-called Masterplan has been drawn (and re-drawn), presented for residents’ ratification (and questioned), proposed for application with the UNESCO as World Heritage Site (yet not submitted), and projects with the goal of building the so-called Lines of Force, vast mega-structures representing galactic spiral arms, have been initiated (and stopped). Fifty-three years came and went; the township grew slowly but steadily to 3300 residents from sixty countries. Trodden paths, alternating between dusty and muddy conditions, become plastered roads, concrete and rammed-earth structures replaced the simple organic dwellings of the early days. Tropical dry evergreen forests overgrew the once barren plateau and cooled it down significantly. Sunburnt scantly-clad youthful pioneers became “old Aurovilians” who got crowded out by middle-aged middle-class newcomers indulging in uplevel comforts. Our common dream shattered into numerous interest groups, solidarity-based sharing-economy gave way to book-money-powered shopping, and consensus decision-making has been given up for sporadic majority voting while most of the decisions are taken by a de-facto government of committees, the so-called working groups.
In effect, the Natural-Law-compatible Integral Yoga philosophy, for most part, increasingly became seen as describing a Utopian goal to be achieved somewhen in the distant future, among the post-human supermen Sri Aurobindo had envisioned. Mother’s dream still carries some weight today but it has come under severe pressure on the one hand from the left-brainy materialist city builders whose main concerns are money and power issues, and on the other hand from the right-brainy New Age head-in-the-clouds self-improvers who couldn’t care less about the economy so long as they may dwell in spiritual experiences. In this situation, in the township’s fifty-fourth year, India’s central government sent their demolition crew: a new Secretary to the Auroville Foundation and newly-appointed members to the “Governing Board”, one of the three interdependent constitutive bodies of the Foundation. Their mission: Unknown. Their purported goal: To build The City At The Service Of Truth. And henceforth unfolded the coup against Auroville’s right to self-determination which we, the residents, refer to as “The Takeover”.
During the period after Mother’s passing (1973) relationships grew tense between the few hundred Aurovilian pioneers on the barren plateau and the Sri Aurobindo Society in the city of Pondicherry who legally owned Auroville’s lands and buildings. Those interested in the story may read a pamphlet titled “Genesis of the Auroville Foundation Act”. You will find stunning similarity between the SAS’s attempt to keep the emerging township under their thumb and today’s Takeover through the Auroville Foundation. SAS made ridiculous claims which led the whole project into absurdity such as, Auroville were a religious body, despite the Mother’s unambiguous statements to the opposite.
In 1982 the Supreme Court of India transferred the governance of Auroville from the Sri Aurobindo Society to the Government of India (GoI). It did not resolve the conflict, though, and so GoI, in 1988, introduced the Auroville Foundation Act, to provide the framework for Auroville’s development according to the Charter given by the Mother.
In the introduction to the AV Foundation Bill it says:
“As far as the day-to-day activities are concerned, they will be looked after by the residents through appropriate autonomous arrangements, which will include Residents’ Assembly and its Working Committee. The idea underlying this arrangement is that the residents of Auroville should have autonomy so that activities of Auroville can grow under an atmosphere conducive to harmonious growth.”
We obviously have a problem here: On the one hand, Aurovilians ought to be free from external pressure or rule in order to be able to align themselves with the Divine only; on the other hand, there is no law-free place on Earth. Rather than belonging “to nobody in particular” Auroville has been founded in the jurisdiction of the Republic of India, which mandates the registration of land ownership just like every other country on Earth. The closest Auroville could come to its principles, under such conditions, was its anchoring as some kind of state-approved entity which would allow at least collective land-ownership. Chapter III of the Act again emphasizes the importance for self-determined organization for the purpose of advancing Auroville’s goals as defined by the Mother:
“21(4)b: the residents of Auroville are allowed freedom to grow and develop activities and institutions for the fulfilment of the aspirations and programmes envisaged in the said Charter of Auroville.”
The Foundation was supposed to serve as a sandbox within which the residents were sheltered from all the things that come along with the old ways, such as taxation, policing, governing, wage slavery etc. The problem, though, with the obligation to register collectively-owned land under either a trust, a society or a foundation is that these legal entities have to have a governing body, and that this body is endowed with rights and duties determined by law. From there arises a conflict between the duties of the governing body – following man-made laws – and the residents’ freedom from all external rules, to follow a higher Law. It is in this space of opposing requirements that the forces antagonizing Natural Law step in, to seed confusion instead of Truth, randomness instead of Discipline, mistrust instead of harmony, and selfishness instead of Goodwill.
A flat-Earth understanding of writings
The inversion of terms and the false reinterpretation of principles is a typical sign of the decadent stages of a civilization. I have written to this phenomenon a few times already, using the term Dictionary of Falsehoods (see e.g. The Negro Debate All Over Again) Many residents’ own contribution to the undermining of Auroville’s goals, as described in part 1 of this article series, comes about through this channel: by having an erroneous understanding of what is at the core of the Mother’s and Sri Aurobindo’s teachings, twisted by intellectual blindness or ideological biases, such as hidden religious or materialistic assumptions. These express in literal application of the relevant texts, and the interpreters often neglect the fact that the teachings are not Truth as such; nor do they represent Truth – they are pointers to that-which-is.
Readers who still ask themselves which news media can be trusted to report “the truth” might wonder what I mean by the above sentence. In essence, Truth, in Aurobindan context, is that-which-is – Reality; not yours or mine, THE Reality. Yes, there is such a thing, but one cannot reduce it to words; to its overwhelming part it is not even physical. Words can point out, though, what to look for and where to look for it. Imagine you are on a walk, and as you walk around aimlessly you get hungry. Where the path in front of you is forking you see a signboard pointing to the right; it says, “Restaurant.” Now, the signboard does not fill your stomach – the food at the restaurant does. So you take the right hand path and walk all the way to the real thing, where the actual food is. Only an idiot would stick with the pointer in the hopes of getting satisfied. And yet the world is full of fools obsessed with words instead of dwelling in Truth. Seeking Truth in spiritual texts is just as fruitless as seeking it in any other kind of media, and a literal interpretation of spiritual sources is akin to taking the map for the territory.
And yet the literal interpretation of bits and pieces from the teachings and from the Act is what the forces behind the Takeover of Auroville currently apply – “a flat-Earth understanding,” as one resident aptly called it, of the writings.
Decision-making in Auroville
Within the Foundation’s framework Auroville’s decision-making rests on three pillars, a) the Governing Board (GB), a group whose members are appointed by India’s central government; its role is to support Auroville in achieving its goals within the legal realities of the country; it may “coordinate activities and services,” “review the basic policies and the programmes,” “secure proper management of the properties,” “prepare a master-plan of Auroville” and “authorise and coordinate fund-raising” “in consultation with the Residents’ Assembly”; b) the International Advisory Council (IAC) which consists of five members nominated by India’s central government; its role is to “advise the Governing Board on any matter relating to the development and management of Auroville”, securing the encouragement of its ideals and the freedom of the residents to fulfill their aspirations according to the Charter; and c) the Residents’ Assembly (RA), the entirety of the adult residents. Most decisions taken require the collaboration of at least two of the three pillars, and the RA needs to get involved almost every time. From this fact, from its general liberties granted by the Foundation Act, and from the tasks the Charter requests of the residents follows that the RA is the single most important part in the decision-making of the town – apart from the Divine will.
Due to the before-mentioned obstacles in place it is no wonder, though, that Auroville today, in its actual organization, could not be much farther removed from Mother’s ideal. With the legal establishment, under Indian law, of the township as the property of a foundation directly attached to India’s central government, a legalistic view of Auroville’s functioning progressively permeated throughout its residency and institutions. An expanding Residents Assembly, growing unable to meet regularly, without face-to-face discussion could not come to consensus any longer and switched to majority voting as a decision-making tool. Few residents received that as helpful and the vast majority withdrew from participation in the plebiscites.
A number of working groups which have been established, and get staffed, by the RA execute the work mandated to them by the RA, such as town planning (TDC), conflict resolution (AV Council), funds and assets management (FAMC), Entry etc.
The more the residents lost interest in direct decision-making, naturally, the working groups began to perceive themselves – and became perceived by many residents – as a quasi-government. As a result, the working groups began to make decisions which were not theirs to make, such as a network of surveillance cameras which has been installed without the residents’ agreement, with nobody signing responsible for it and no information provided on who is watching the footage or how long recordings gets stored. The groups became more bureaucratic and less transparent in their functioning over time, keeping secrets from the residents while asking them – under threat of consequences – for data. Despite numerous attempts at reform, they turned into a tool in the hands of a corrupt few, a nearly-closed circle of cronies and a caste of bureaucrats cycling through the revolving doors of the various groups.
Two examples for how rotten things had become
In late 2019, a would-be newcomer who got cheated royally by an Aurovilian and received due attention by neither the working groups nor the Foundation complained to India’s central government and its police authority. He provided evidence for hundreds of cases of corruption and other wrongdoings. Yet again, no thorough investigation ensued, neither by the government nor from within Auroville. A high-ranking officer of the Foundation accused of being in the know got absolved after what looked like a spurious inquiry.
When Corona hit in March 2020, government orders were passed “down” without any consideration of an Aurovilian way to handle such a crisis. All the numerous health practices adopted from around the world – Ayurvedic, Naturopathic, Chinese, Tibetan, Homeopathic etc – were forgotten overnight and the residents were told by the self-appointed Corona Committee that, while everyone was entitled to have their own opinions, people should keep those to themselves and simply follow the fear-based official prescription.
Far removed from the Mother’s teachings, unaware of our role in the Auroville project, and caught in a severe disequilibrium of power, we, the residents, were easy prey for the government coup that unfolded from December 2nd, 2021 on. Some say – especially those siding with the hostile forces – that we deserved it; that we should simply surrender and let Mother have her will. I disagree. Yes, by disregarding Natural Law as a collective we sort of invited further abuse. But it is not the Mother’s wrath that came upon us; she has never been aggressive. And neither us nor anybody else deserves the violation of their Natural Rights. Under the guise of “manifesting the Mother’s dream for Auroville”, “sweeping out the resisting forces” and “putting an end to corruption” a wrecking crew consisting of one handful of officers and a select few rogue Aurovilians began the dismantling of our system of self-governance.
The Takeover. Tactics from the textbook
On December 2nd, 2022 Auroville’s Youth Centre and adjacent forest plots receive a note from the Town Development Council (TDC) that, within a week, trees and buildings would be cleared along the designated Crown Road, a feature of the Galaxy footprint in the so-called Masterplan. On the following day Youth Centre asks for a stay, pointing out that recent visioning meetings had come up with creative solutions that would result in less damage to forest and buildings.
Nevertheless, bulldozers arrived already on the very next morning. Without work order they start felling trees. Within the hour, hundreds of Aurovilians peacefully block the destruction. The Foundation Office (FO) calls the police. They gather information and leave again – only to return at 1am, after consultations with the FO.
Disproportionate application of force
While the bulldozers proceed with the destruction the police block access to the site, arrest resident teenagers and assault some approaching protesters.
Calling the police against peaceful protesters was in clear violation of Mother’s guidelines for Auroville as town planning is an internal matter which should be decided and handled solely by the residents. The unprovoked use of violence, again, was in square violation of Auroville’s guidelines, as well as unambiguously immoral under Natural Law.
Bribery and ultimatum
After staunch protest notes from a community gathering and Auroville’s international support network, AVI, to the Foundation, the Secretary of the Foundation offers money and relocation support to the caretakers of the concerned plots – provided the protests stopped. The response had to be given within twelve hours. The caretakers declined the money but agreed to collaborate if they could dismantle the buildings themselves.
TDC and Foundation office gave a reply that differed from previously offered agreements.
FO’s spokespersons announce a community meeting exactly at the same time and place the residents announced their own.
Canceled freedom of speech
FO then gave a gag order to Outreach Media, Auroville’s media relations service, and appointed two official spokespersons of their own.
Needless to say that the oppression of differing voices is a deeply immoral act. While the behaviour of the police might have been in their own responsibility the FO violated Natural Law with their gag order and so for the first time unambiguously showed their disregard for Auroville’s principles and the self-determination of its residents.
Divide and conquer
The Residents Assembly asked their Working Committee to organize an emergency decision-making event. Four of the seven WC members, siding with the Foundation, refused the request. In the long run, this results in the duplication of working groups and a division among the residents. A direct attempt at dividing Aurovilians of local and non-local origin is made by the Secretary’s addressing the Tamil residents only in a public speech.
Employment of extra-legal external forces
Meanwhile the bulldozers return to the Youth Centre along with about one hundred hired unknown goons who aggress and harm protesters, women and children among them. More trees and buildings than planned are getting taken down. In the afternoon, the crew moved on to a different plot where events repeated. To add insult to the harm done, the Secretary later thanks the goons publicly during Auroville’s birthday celebration.
Ignoring court orders, laws, decisions and petitions
The National Green Tribunal of India issues a stay order. The work, especially the felling of trees, must be stopped. The destructive works go on nonetheless, up until this day. For justification the TDC refers to older working group decisions made in breach of the Foundation Act.
The Foundation continues to violate the Foundation Act on many instances and across its content; it attempted the restriction of the residents’ freedom of speech and assembly, the right to self-governance, the Residents Assembly’s participation in all matters of administration and self-organization, the constitutive processes of the working groups and so on. The hijacking of Auroville’s institutions usually happens by an order of the Secretary or one of her allies, to hand over keys, accounts, passwords, and equipment; it includes the phrase “issued with the approval of the Competent Authorities” but neither names those authorities nor mentions any legal rules it might rest upon.
The FO and the groups it has taken over completely ignore every request by the residents, to meet and find a way forward together. Communication flows only one way, from the FO to the residents in the form of orders, and from the FO to the media in the form of propaganda which is demonizing the residents. Residents ought to answer to a barrage of demands for data, but critical feedback attracts negative sanctions.
Petitions from supporters of the residents, such as the International Advisory Council (one of the three pillars of Auroville’s self-governance), the Auroville International supporters network, or the more than 50,000 signatories of a petition at change.org consistently get ignored as well.
In an unusual landslide decision of 89% in favour, the Residents Assembly determines that all work must stop until the policies and regulations regarding the infrastructure development of the town have been reviewed. Although the RA’s call is binding the FO doesn’t care; instead, it started the direct Takeover of working groups and other institutions of the RA from the following week on, in early February. All of the relevant orders are violating the Foundation Act, established procedures, Auroville’s guidelines, ethical principles such as the right to self-determination, or general goodwill, and they disrupt the functioning of the town’s self-governance.
The hijacking of Auroville’s institutions
February 8th, 2022 – Outreach Media which had been subjected to a gag order already two months ago, became the first victim in a long series of hijacked institutions and facilities. An order directed the handover of assets. The place was then physically sealed.
March 15th, 2022 – Auroville’s construction firms are sidelined by a contract between the Foundation and an external business “for the execution of Projects related to Making of Auroville City”. Our Water Service gets sidelined by the same business which is now taking over the sludge processing.
April 27th, 2022 – The four members of the Working Committee which sided with the Foundation illegally “dismiss” their three colleagues who stand by the Residents Assembly (the RA decides who can be a member in the WC).
May 7th & 9th, 2022 – Foundation and the Governing Board order the RA to stop all decision-making processes for the time being, until the Register of Residents is updated. The reasoning is legal nonsense (see below, “General intimidation”), the order as such is illegal because it lacks a basis, and it is immoral because it infringes on the right of the residents, to meet and to decide on their actions.
May 10th, 2022 – The RA decided in another landslide vote, with 92% agreement, that the four WC members siding with the Foundation are dismissed. Nevertheless, on May 12th, the four occupy the WC’s meeting room and appoint three more members. So there are effectively two groups calling themselves Working Committee now. The WC of the Residents is able to occupy the room a few days later, but Foundation calls the police on the 18th; they shut down the whole Townhall building. Complaints are filed against the residents’ WC members, for “illeagally taking over the WC office” – sheer mockery!
May 17th, 2022 – The Foundation, claiming “anti-government activities”, demands administrative access to Auroville’s intranet facilities; they claim “anti-government activities.” They provide no further details, nor does anybody specific get accused until now. An administrator hands over the passwords under duress.
May 20th, 2022 – Using the extorted passwords, Foundation takes over the intranet of Auroville, Auronet, and SYSOP, the service in charge of the domain name of Auroville and related email addresses of the working groups, services, units and all Aurovilians and of Auroville web services. These are later misused to restrict or deny active RA supporters access to or free use of the bulletin board, to hijack working groups’ email communications, to unveil details of such communications, and to block emails coming in from, or going out to, RA supporters’ accounts. The names of the new admins and sysops have never been published.
May 27th, 2022 – Foundation hijacks the Funds and Assets Committee of the Residents Assembly (FAMC) by “releasing” the RA-selected members and replacing them with personnel of the Foundation’s choice, one of them even a non-Aurovilian. Needless to say that this was illegal, unlawful, and immoral, all in one. The members of the FAMC of the RA refuse to step down, though, so it became the second working group in duplicate.
June 1st, 2022 – Using the commandeered intranet facilities Foundation hijacks Auroville’s mass bulletin service by locking out the admin with no previous announcement. This means that the lawful working groups can no longer inform the community through that channel. The RA’s institutions replace the lost resources with external services and addresses; Foundation warns that the outsourcing of information could have negative legal repercussions.
June 22th, 2022 – Foundation hijacks Auroville’s archives by another order and replaces part of the personnel.
June 24th, 2022 – Foundation hijacks ACUR, the management of the Townhall, by yet another order.
June 28th, 2022 – Foundation hijacks the Land Board by one more order; FO dismisses two of LB’s members and replaces them, partly by non-Aurovilians.
July 1st, 2022 – Following the takeover of ACUR, several tenants, among them working groups such as Human Resources, Auroville Council or Land Board receive short-notice terminations; they have to vacate the premises within 24 hours. No replacements or support with finding new places are offered to them. Council decides to defy the order and squats its own meeting room.
July 15th, 2022 – The Sri Aurobindo Centres in India, Auroville and the Ashrams in Pondicherry and New Delhi, were informed that the Secretary of the Foundation would now be the funding coordinator for government support to Sri Aurobindo’s 150th birthday celebrations, and the grant payments would be routed through her office. Moreover, the funding would not come in the form of a simple grant but a more complex financial arrangement involving bond schemes.
July 29st, 2022 – After the actual takeover of the Finance and Assets Management (FAMC) on May 27th,, and the rerouting of the celebration funds by the Delhi government, a cold takeover of the Budget Coordination Committee (BCC) takes place. Another office order from the Foundation demands “to immediately stop all BCC disbursement of funds to all projects except maintenance [i.e. basic income] with immediate effect.”
Personal intimidation through abuse of office power
Peaceful protesters of foreign origin witnessing the destruction of Youth Centre have been denounced as “violent” persons partaking in “political” activities to the visa registration authorities (FRRO); they receive visits from FRRO officers.
Residents and workinggroup members who inquire a group of Foundation-instructed road workers breaching the National-Green-Tribunal stay-order get threatened with criminal charges, for “obstructing government works”.
The Secretary sends out letters to foreigner residents that their visas will only get extended after they signed a demand that, among other things, they “abide by the Masterplan of Auroville based on the Galaxy Plan conceived by the Mother”. (60% of Aurovilians are of non-Indian origin.)
A short time later, all residents are called to update the Foundation’s “Register of Residents” that supposedly had been neglected since 2005. At closer inspection, the Foundation has live access to the so-called Master List which is kept up-to-date on a daily basis. The registration form demands, mandatorily, an AADHAAR card number; that card is a unified biometric ID which, for the obvious problems it causes towards personal privacy, has repeatedly been ruled by India’s supreme court as voluntary-use only. Another issue with the Foundation’s registration form is an attached three-pages questionaire; the combination is not permissible. Foundation warns of severe consequences later, though, to people who do not fill the form. Nevertheless, only about half of the residents follows the request, many of them due to fear of consequences only.
Meanwhile, more than half of current visa applicants, through no fault of their own, experience difficulties; the processing of their applications gets delayed significantly, the period of visa validity gets reduced drastically, or they receive no visas at all. Such an amount of arbitrary trouble only occured in the 1970s, during the conflict with the Sri Aurobindo Society.
Judge for yourself
One could extend the list of atrocities perpetrated by the Foundation Office and their commandeered working groups by a number of further events but that wouldn’t add significantly to the picture. (Get the full & up-to-date timeline of events from the website Stand For Auroville Unity, which I used for my article.) The ill will and contempt shown towards Auroville’s residents is so obvious and the contrast to Auroville’s principles is so stark that, in order to judge sincerity and moral correctness of the Foundation Office, it is not necessary to consider the points each side is bringing forward; the methods in and by themselves are abominable and delegitimize any claim to virtue that could perhaps be made. The Takeover collaborateurs compound their foul play with gleeful remarks against those they have violated, and by glorifying their ‘leader’ (Madam Secretary, of course) with quotes from Machiavelli’s cynical book “The Prince”.
In terms of democratic values the balance sheet looks nasty as well: those who constantly violate the law while claiming to defend it apparently couldn’t care less about ethical consideration or morally correct acting. It seems that they think that the ends justify the means – in unambiguous indication of their spiritual poverty.
The individual strikes dealt in the coup were obviously illegal. But whether they were or weren’t is irrelevant to Natural Law. Legality does not establish morality, nor does illegality equal immorality. I cannot help but notice, though, that a trail of lies, theft, violence and suffering closely accompanies the steps undertaken by the Secretary since her taking office in mid-2021. I find that telling, from the perspective both of Aurobindan spirituality and your garden-variety interpretation of Natural Law. How shallow her understanding of Auroville’s principles actually must be would normally not concern anyone else but herself. Since she imposes her view on everyone else, by enforcing quick “development”, her ignorance becomes an issue.
In their blatant immorality the Takeover crew are akin to the petty tyrants currently running the countries of the Western bloc. As we see
the same methods applied as during the Plandemic – hijacking of institutions, misinformation, fear mongering, doling out unprovoked violence, causing division, demonizing dissidents, mirroring and projecting one’s own misdeeds on opponents,
and as the same denial of communication is happening like in other countries such as currently against farmers in the Netherlands,
and as the means and measures taken by the aggressors actually are in direct violation of their own proclaimed principles and harm their own purported goals,
and as the heat is coming from persons who are answerable directly to the central government,
it is not too far-fetched to assume that the Takeover of Auroville, rather than serving the development of the town along Mother’s guidelines, is part of the globalist predator’s agenda: the takeover of national states, land ownership, and natural resources around the world. Whole populations lose their subsistence, get driven off the land, fall into dependency from large corporations, and their communities dissolve. The case of Auroville may serve as a stark warning to all those who still think that governments have the best of their citizens in mind and that they were willing and able to work for a better world. Their interests are fundamentally different from those of their “constituency”, and so they lie to the people, always, everywhere. To protect the lie, to enforce their orders, and to keep themselves in power they use structural and physical violence and the threat thereof. It doesn’t matter whether it’s monarchy, aristocracy, oligarchy, socialism, theocracy, fascism, democracy, or what-have-you – all governments act immorally by default, all government is tyranny, no matter how comfortable it might feel to the average person.
Video: Mark Passio on government, authority, freedom, and determinedness
And this is why the idea that the human condition had improved over the millennia is an illusion; it only become smarter, and so much so as to make us beg them for more of the stick and less of the carrot. Today, we are standing at the edge of a cliff. One step into the wrong direction will bring unprecedented suffering on a global scale.
It is government which orchestrates the drive towards Hell, but make no mistake, it was the majority of the population that allowed for it to happen: the corruption of some, and the ignorance, the laziness and the lack of courage of almost everyone else. It was order-following that brought us here. Auroville has been founded to experiment with positive ways, based on the capacity of free individuals to discern truth from untruth, and to voluntarily collaborate for the realization of the fact that all men are basically one. To establish any kind of governance that forces its rule on the residents by external means can only result in total failure of the township’s objectives. To do so under the guise of fostering those objectives is duplicitious, if not malicious, because it leeches people’s creative energy for an evil goal while destroying their confidence in the Good.
And, as far as the residents are concerned, to help the putschists, actively or by surrendering to their orders, is equally despicable. It’s not what you are here for, dear Aurovilians!
The name Auroville deserves for as long as it rests in the claws of government and its herd of cowards is Asuraville, the city at the service of Evil, because it has become the anti-thesis of what it ought to embody.
New Age fallacies
And so it is of high importance that Aurovilians and the world’s population alike understand the significance of events like the Takeover, no matter under which guise the strikes take place: in response to a “financial crisis”, a “pandemic”, an “invasion”, or to facilitate the “development” of towns into “smart cities”. The governments’ “measures” happen always against our personal and collective interest as they do not keep harm from us (which is a lie), they inflict harm (which is violence). We have every right to resist.
But due to a misguided understanding of scriptures, and supported by erroneous New-Age “wisdom”, many believe that the utmost we may do about events such as Auroville’s Takeover is to send protest notes. From their view, to get hit by violent crime invites the question what you have done to attract it; to point out wrongdoing is called “projecting”, and to distance oneself from the perpetrators is perceived as a form of divisiveness. To involve courts will be seen as illegitimate aggression. When you occupy your place despite orders not to, you are coming dangerously close to getting chastised as a violator. Let’s put things straight:
1) A receiver of violence has usually not called for it, and he certainly doesn’t deserve it. To say otherwise is to tell a rape victim she “had it coming.” Inflicting harm on somebody else – taking their property, freedom, health, mate, life, self-determination, or ability to judge – without their consent is always immoral. To speak the truth about what happened is a Right, and it is usually the perpetrators who project their guilt by shaming the victim. There is a clear distinction between the person who is doing harm and the person that is done harm to; to treat them as “equally involved in conflict” feels fundamentally unjust – because it is. Trust that feeling. Well knowing that they have done wrong to another the perpetrators usually avoid clarifying talks at all cost; called out they react verbally aggressive or even physically offensive. In such circumstances, when all other peaceful attempts for rectifying the wrong have failed, forcefully incapacitating them or appealing to a court or a jury for support can help with ending an oppressive situation. Courts generally are advised against both under Natural Law and in Auroville, but if the antagonist is a legal entity rather than a living person I would certainly keep that option. And the forceful response to an immediate threat or to an attack is, of course, not to be equated with violence; it is legitimate self-defense. The application of force might be wise in some cases, rather not advisable in most others, because the damage inflicted invites retaliation and has unwanted implications for years, sometimes centuries to come. Self-defense is definitely legitimate under Natural Law. Listen to your consciousness, and consider non-combative conflict resolution first.
2) Living in abidance by Natural law opens up potentials for a peaceful life. And yet, unless you don’t care about your family, your neighbour, your community, your habitat, or your guiding principles – not to talk about serving Truth – you will without a doubt fight to secure their well-being when they come under attack. Pacifism is a completely different animal; it claims that there is nothing worth fighting for and that you should leave your hands in the pockets while all that has been built up is getting damaged, stolen, or destroyed, and your loved ones are getting driven out, enslaved, raped, tortured, or murdered.
3) And for whom exactly did pacifism ever work? Has it worked for the Caribbean tribes who welcomed Columbus with a feast before they got enslaved? Has it worked for New England’s Indians when they helped the first colonists survive before those turned on them? What about Appeasement politics in the 1930s – it stopped the War? Has petitioning ended Pol Pot’s genocide against the Kampuchean “intellectuals”? Pacifism’s effectiveness, when it comes to preventing the worst, horribly fails to meet expectations.
Tyrannical regimes often times don’t start with genocide, but rather with simple immoral or illegal acts guised in rationalistic, moralistic or legalistic shrouds. A wrong sense of staying peaceful and civilized in the face of injustice only helps the perpetrators drive their inhumane agenda to its bitter ending. To prevent the worst one has to note the similarities early-on.
Considering the havoc wreaked by the plandemic measures one cannot seriously sustain doubts that most of the world’s governments would absolutely sacrifice millions of their citizens in pursuit of accumulating and perpetuating power. So I have to ask the Aurovilians who would still stay silent about the wrongness of the Takeover, Do you really think that they, the Takers, will stop the dismantling of Auroville’s self-governance before you get affected? Do you think they would not expel one thousand or more residents, and use the rest of us as walk-ons pretending to be happy inhabitants of a spiritual tourist trap? Do you think they will stop before something really terrible happens that will remain as a dirty stain on Auroville’s Karma for centuries to come?
I have to ask those who would collaborate, even, with the Takers whether you actually think that any good can come from the way you treat others? Which kind of Auroville could possibly emerge from coerced collaboration when the very first point of the charter emphasized willing servitude?
Yes, Karma will restore balance eventually, by extinguishing immoral societies – it’s called the Sodom & Gomorrah solution – but for you to collaborate, or to just stand by, means you are becoming a willing servitor of the Asuric forces. Deny it all you want; Karmic Law won’t consider excuses, only sincere confessions and redemption.
As pointed out already, Auroville’s state of affairs has parallels in the global context, which hardly surprises anyone who lived their lives somewhen during the last 3000 years and paid attention. We’ll explore this thread of understanding in the upcoming fourth article of the Auroville & Natural Law series, Truth or the Abyss.
“No system indeed by its own force can bring about the change that humanity really needs; for that can only come by its growth into the firmly realised possibilities of its own higher nature, and this growth depends on an inner and not an outer change. But outer changes may at least prepare favourable conditions for that more real amelioration, — or on the contrary they may lead to such conditions that the sword of Kalki can alone purify the earth from the burden of an obstinately Asuric humanity. The choice lies with the race itself; for as it sows, so shall it reap the fruit of its Karma.” – Sri Aurobindo: War and Self-Determination
[title image: The Princess and the Goblin (1920), Jessie Willcox Smith (1863-1935)]
Speaking of Natural Law I mean a principle of cause and effect in human social behavior. That principle is intrinsic to the human condition, proceeding from the freely born individual endowed with reason and conscience. Based on correct observation of that-which-is (Truth), when the individual undertakes an ethically stringent inquiry it results in a morally correct evaluation of what he or she ought to do; given that the process has not been spoiled by egoic motions or external influences the outcome of Morality is Right Action. Abidance by or ignorance of Natural Law determines the success or failure of human communities. Societies which value truthfulness tend to increase justice, freedom, peace, and happiness; societies driven by the selfishness of rulers and/or the general population tend towards misery. The Law is valid, unchangeably, everywhere and at all times and its outcomes are inevitable.
The beauty of Natural Law is that its functioning can be explained and understood in wholly mechanistic terms even though much of that functioning happens within the intangible ethical deliberations of the human mind. Yet mechanistic materialism cannot explain the origin of Natural Law, just as it cannot explain life or consciousness. The idea that the world – nature – merely consists of matter and forces, born from randomness, indifferent or even hostile to life makes no sense at all. On closer inspection there seems to exist an ordering principle at the beginning of the Universe, a principle that is life-fostering, and people have called that principle, among other things, “Spirit”, “Universal Consciousness”, “the One Radical Cause”, “Creator”, or “God”.
So Natural Law, along with the laws of physical nature, can be understood as a God-given set of rules the observance of which does a great deal to anchor one’s life in beneficial conditions.
In the above-mentioned article I gave the international township of Auroville as a point-in-case for how collective suffering and disorder result from ignoring that Law, as the original ideas of Mirra Alfassa, its founding mother, have been turned upside down by a large number of the residents themselves. Among those count not only hardcore-materialists, but those who interpret her teachings literally, rigidly, or even religiously.
To introduce Auroville’s principles to readers who have heard none or little about this settlement so far, and to help shining a light on its philosophy (for lack of a better word) from the perspective of Natural Law I decided to write a brief summary. This will also serve to better understand the events unfolding since December 2021 around the hostile takeover of Auroville by external forces. I will describe them in the third article. When regarded in their global context their significance to the future of humanity as a whole ought to become visible, as to be described in a fourth article.
Before we start examining Auroville’s founding history and its philosophical framework, the reader should note that the author was interested in questions like, freedom of the individual, just societies, consciousness, relation of person to collective, human dignity, the unity of thoughts, words and actions, the nature of truth and reality, or the future of mankind for decades before joining that township. An understanding of and agreement with its fundamental principles can be taken as given. As a long-term resident my writings about Auroville are based on personal observation and living experience. I have access to eyewitness reports, internal communications, and all of the relevant spiritual writings. Nevertheless, although it should be self-evident that each writer or speaker can only talk from their own perspective and understanding, I am giving the explicit caveat that I am not representing the “official” Auroville, neither the overreaching powers-that-should-not-be nor, to my great pity, am I representative of a major portion of its residents. That said, it needs to be noted that a tangible minority is doing their level best to live from a deep understanding of Sri Aurobindo’s and the Mother’s teachings. It will be upon these good people to stem the rising tide of Asuric (i.e. Satanic) forces.
[All following quotes by Mirra Alfassa, unless labeled otherwise.]
“There should be somewhere on earth a place which no nation could claim as its own, where all human beings of goodwill who have a sincere aspiration could live freely as citizens of the world and obey one single authority, that of the supreme Truth; a place of peace, concord and harmony where all the fighting instincts of man would be used exclusively to conquer the causes of his sufferings and miseries, to surmount his weaknesses and ignorance, to triumph over his limitations and incapacities; a place where the needs of the spirit and the concern for progress would take precedence over the satisfaction of desires and passions, the search for pleasure and material enjoyment. In this place, children would be able to grow and develop integrally without losing contact with their souls; education would be given not for passing examinations or obtaining certificates and posts but to enrich existing faculties and bring forth new ones. In this place, titles and positions would be replaced by opportunities to serve and organise; the bodily needs of each one would be equally provided for, and intellectual, moral and spiritual superiority would be expressed in the general organisation not by an increase in the pleasures and powers of life but by increased duties and responsibilities. Beauty in all its artistic forms, painting, sculpture, music, literature, would be equally accessible to all; the ability to share in the joy it brings would be limited only by the capacities of each one and not by social or financial position. For in this ideal place money would no longer be the sovereign lord; individual worth would have a far greater importance than that of material wealth and social standing. There, work would not be a way to earn one’s living but a way to express oneself and to develop one’s capacities and possibilities while being of service to the community as a whole, which, for its own part, would provide for each individual’s subsistence and sphere of action. In short, it would be a place where human relationships, which are normally based almost exclusively on competition and strife, would be replaced by relationships of emulation in doing well, of collaboration and real brotherhood …” (1954)
The idea of Auroville has a history reaching back into the 1920s. In no text has that idea been expressed more to the point or more emphatically than 1954 in “A Dream”. We will have to inspect its central tenets later because it has become one of the core documents of the actual international township of Auroville which has been founded only on February 28th of 1968 on a barren plateau in the middle of South-Indian nowhere. Dust storms and a mercilessly burning Sun characterized the place during the dry season, torrential downpours which quickly eroded the little soil left after colonial forest exploitation shaped the picture during the Monsoon rains. The first settlers quickly understood that if they wanted to be able to stay on the land they had to make the water stay as well. For without the water there would be no way to provide food for everyone, and it would also be much too hot for human tastes. So they built check dams in the erosion canyons, dug water catchment ponds, and contoured the land in such a way as to enable rainwater to percolate into the aquifers. They also had to fence the properties that city founder Mirra Alfassa, whom they called and still call The Mother, bought from Ashram resources; else roaming cattle from the surrounding Tamil villages would have eaten into extinction every one of the millions of saplings which grew into today’s lush forests. There hasn’t been much of solid architecture around for a long, long time, and, God knows, any plastered roads whatsoever. In their dreams, though, the first settlers imagined the future city of 50,000 as designed by Mother’s architect, Roger Anger: a circular town in the shape of a galaxy, with huge kilometers-long structures, up to sixty meters high, spiraling out from the Matrimandir, the spiritual center, to the periphery, where a greenbelt consisting of forests, parks and farms would surround the actual settlement. Roger Anger who wanted to become a better LeCorbusier designed his Auroville draft with no respect to the actual ground realities such as pre-existing settlements, topography or local culture. In Mother’s mind the plan had to reflect an ideal shape that, as with all her teachings, would have to be adapted to new realizations, as those unfolded over time. And so the constitutional four-point Charter which she gave the town on its inception does not mention the physical features of the place at all.
Auroville belongs to nobody in particular. Auroville belongs to humanity as a whole. But, to live in Auroville, one must be a willing servitor of the divine consciousness.
Auroville will be the place of an unending education, of constant progress, and a youth that never ages.
Auroville wants to be the bridge between the past and the future. Taking advantage of all discoveries from without and from within, Auroville will boldly spring towards future realisations.
Auroville will be a site of material and spiritual researches for a living embodiment of an actual human unity.
While “A Dream”, appealing to the hopes and aspirations of the world’s discontent, works as a powerful invitation to “all those who thirst for progress and aspire to a higher and truer life” the Auroville Charter serves as an outline of what its residents are out to accomplish. From the standpoint of a materialistic worldview the ordinary person may feel that the goals presented here sound quite lofty and, altogether, seem rather elusive. Those people usually overlook the precision with which the Mother chose her words; most of the times they are also unconscious either to the existence of a higher Truth or to the ways the invisible, immaterial, unmeasurable aspects of the Universe work. Despite superficial similarites to hippiesque folklore we are definitely not discussing untenable fluffy New-Age assertions here, nor are we talking religion. Integral Yoga, as the Indian sage Sri Aurobindo called his philosophy, is a science in that it can be verified through immersing oneself in the experiment he describes.
Let’s pick the Charter’s four points apart, so you can get a better impression of Auroville’s goals. The legal reality of the world since more than one hundred years looks something like the political maps they show you on the TV news: nowhere to run. Earth’s surface has been cut up into separate plots surrounded by fences and guarded by armies. All places are taken, some are even claimed by more than one nation, and all the people therein – every single one of them – is ruled over by a government of some kind. But when your free ethical thinking is impaired by external rules it has moral implications, as discussed above. Life ‘governed’ by Natural Law thrives best in – and would tend towards – anarchic conditions. This is why the “Dream” begins with the words “There should be somewhere on earth a place which no nation could claim as its own, where all human beings of goodwill who have a sincere aspiration could live freely as citizens of the world and obey one single authority, that of the supreme Truth.” Auroville itself does not claim nationhood either. It would just become the place where the “supreme Truth” – Universal / Ultimate / Perfect / Divine Consciousness, or God, for short – manifests. And so the first point of the Charter says that it belongs to nobody you could point at; which doesn’t mean you give free pass to anyone who would misuse the unregulated setting for their selfish pursuits. In Auroville,
The external freedom from man-made restrictions, such as money, property, laws, regulations, tradition, ideologies, religion, or moral codes supports the strive for internal freedom, to listen to intuition, conscience, and to the ‘supreme Truth’. External liberty also provides the space for manifesting – translating knowledge into lived practice – what these inner voices can teach you in an “unending education” from birth to death. Far from submitting yourself into bondage by your willingness to be a “servitor of the divine consciousness” the beneficial effects of your commitment free you up ever further. Our collective willingness provides the drive by which Natural Law improves the external living conditions towards freedom, justice, peace, and prosperity.
If you ever looked into the Buddha’s teachings and got the gist of it you’ll already know that our desires as well as our aversions are the breeding-ground of human suffering; our ignorance of that fact perpetuates suffering for ever and ever. This is why Auroville would be the place “where the needs of the spirit and the concern for progress would take precedence over the satisfaction of desires”, in order “to conquer the causes of [man’s] sufferings and miseries, to surmount his weaknesses and ignorance, to triumph over his limitations and incapacities”.
Aurovilians ought not reject the past in totality; to be an Aurovilian does not mean you have become a featureless human cleared of all tradition, religion, moral codes etc., but that you are choosing consciously, ethically from their teachings, to make use of all which resonates with Truth.
Given you are going through a proper process of observation (listening, acquiring knowledge “from without and from within”) and evaluation (ethical thinking, understanding & moral conclusion) your resulting actions are bound to serve “a higher and truer life.”
Unrestrained by any arbitrary limitations your life resembles no longer the machine-like existence of the ordinary world, which is running on programmes and rules, but a living ever-changing organic realization of the Ultimate Truth (actual reality, if you think in scientific terms, only that it’s bigger than the textbooks have it), or God’s will (if you prefer spiritual terms). Both perspectives are necessary for a full understanding of what we undertake here. That’s why the underlying philosophy is called “Integral Yoga”. The Charter, between the lines, points out that Auroville is not an architectural site in the first place, but a congregation for the integration of spirit, mind, and matter. That integration takes place in people and through people, in all their diversity.
Though people of goodwill from all walks of life and from all over the world are invited to join, Auroville is not intended to represent an absurd United-Nations-like compilation of streamlined yet competing individuals but to grow a “unity in diversity” which embraces and takes advantage of the infinite forms of human expressions and where “each one is indispensable to the whole.”
Infinitely more could be said about the meaning of the Charter; different aspects could be highlighted, deeper implications could be pointed out. For the purpose of a quick introduction in the light of Natural Law it should suffice, though. Let’s move on to a bunch of other cornerstones of living in Auroville.
Preconditions for living in Auroville
The fundamental preconditions for living in Auroville have been named already. In various phrasings the Mother repeated them over and over again: To “be a willing servitor of the divine consciousness,” says the Charter. “To be of goodwill,” says another quote, and “tocollaborate for the material realisation of that [human] unity,” proclaims yet another. Some of that stuff you read so far sounds pretty SciFi, doesn’t it? Unaccomplishably Utopian, hopelessly woo-woo, if you had asked me in my teens. Back then I believed that human nature was selfish, violent and shortsighted. I have learned since that I could not have been more mistaken. It is culture rather than nature that makes us selfish, violent and shortsighted. But as I was utterly fed up with the conditions I was living under (and within) I was looking for ways forward, out of the all-encompassing swamp of misery. That search set me on a meandering path eventually leading to Auroville.
A great deal of people I have talked to about this special town immediately responded that they found my leaving-behind of Western culture, my abandonment of social insurance memberships, permanently-surveilled orderliness and the overall predictability of everyday life “very courageous” when it was anything but courageous. I was totally fed up with it; I found them increasingly inacceptable and couldn’t possibly go on. The above-mentioned people also said they couldn’t take such a step. Their fascinated enchantment all too clearly showed, though, that something in them understood and would because it yearned for liberation. It was not me but them who needed courage, for courage is the will to act despite the fear of loss that tries to hold you back. A refreshingly resolute quote from the New Testament sums up the sentiment that someone with a sincere thirst for another way of being might share:
“If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:26, KJB)
It reverberates in the Mother’s word, “For those who are satisfied with the world as it is, Auroville obviously has no reason to exist.”The opposite applies as well, she said: “Those who are dissatisfied [with Auroville] ought to return to the world where they can do what they want,” becaue “it is not for comfort and satisfaction of desires that one comes to Auroville; it is for the growth of consciousness and consecration to the Truth that has to be realised.” And so the question of joining, or not, boils down to,
When – but ONLY when – you are willing to lose your guarded existence of individualist consumer choices which you pay for by selling out your conscience and your lifetime you may win something immeasurably more fulfillling. That something could await you in Auroville, or among any other group of people living by Natural Law, in one colourig or another.
“Is Auroville the only solution to the misery of mankind and the disorders of society?”, someone asked the Mother. She replied,
“Not the only solution. It is a centre of transformation, a small nucleus of men who are transforming themselves and setting an example to the world. This is what Auroville hopes to be. As long as egoism and bad will exist in the world, a general transformation is impossible.”
With all that talk about Yoga and Spirit and the Divine, “You must be meditating a lot. What’s your practice?”, I get asked sometimes. Makes me chuckle, inwardly. I’m not exactly the meditation kind, you know; none of the diverse rituals called meditation really work so well on me. Perhaps there’s an attitude issue. I contemplate or inquire quite frequently though. Adyashanti, one of my spiritual teachers, In his booklet “The Way of Liberation”, names these three methods as “Core Practices” for “bringing forth and realizing timeless Truth.”“Truth is quite literally the only thing that does exist,” he says, and calls spiritual practice “applied folly” the sincere persistent exercise of which, almost despite our efforts, guides us towards the realization of Truth. Depending on the spiritual tradition you regard – Indic religions or a-religious Spirituality – meditation is a form of Yoga, or Yoga is a form of meditation.
On being confused, resort to Sri Aurobindo who cut the Gordian knot as follows:
whereas Yoga is the search for Union with God, or Supreme Truth, or Universal Consciousness, or the Divine, or any of the other terms which have been used for the Ultimate. The word ‘life’ can be interpreted in two ways, both of them correctly so: Everything we do in the process of living is a search for Union with God, and all living beings are an expression of the aspiration for Union with God. Life is Yoga, Yoga is life.
“Our research will not be a search effected by mystic means. It is in life itself that we wish to find the Divine. And it is through this discovery that life can really be transformed,” proclaimed the Mother. Auroville has been founded for living the Yoga in the Aurobindian sense. And that means you better invest some Proper Thought, True Care, and Right Action, like you’re serious about it, that Union thing. Because it is not about you or me or them, separately; it’s about all of Auroville, and, beyond that, about all of humanity. One’s work is worth zilch if it is not dedicated to something beyond oneself, and one’s freedom is slavery to the petty ego so long as it is not concerned with the freedom of everyone. If we are good at it we can make dramatic progress early on; if not, the Universe will find other species to help achieve what it wants.
For “Humanity is not the last rung of the terrestrial creation. Evolution continues and man will be surpassed. It is for each individual to know whether he wants to participate in the advent of this new species.”
Eugenics? Transhumanism? I admit the thought is suggestive. It is one of the examples to illustrate the presence of the dark twin that every spiritual realization possesses. The satanic brother pretends to be the true good, but he twists truth into a lie, good into evil and diversity into arbitrariness. Man, by virtue of the evolution of his consciousness, can voluntarily transform himself into a physically changed being more amenable to the highest truth, and this evolution can be accelerated by spiritual practices, says Aurobindo. We are equally free to let it be. The technocratic sorcerer’s apprentices of our time, on the other hand, by means of pharmaceuticals, genetic manipulation or by merging with machines, try to impose on humanity a Babylonian megalomania that has no place in Aurobindo’s teaching.
The “superman” is a historically loaded topic, a difficult territory, especially in our time, in which humans, who have been stripped of all meaning and transcendence, try to become an omnipotent immortal homo deus. One should certainly take a very close look at who is talking about it, in what way and with what aim, and also consider Karl Kraus’ remark that the Übermensch is a premature ideal that presupposes the human being. For a huge number of our brothers and sisters are stuck in survival mode, which leaves hardly any space for expressing the faculties of our species.
To distinguish the light from the dark twin requires a sharpened eye, but one can easily acquire it with a little practice. Many of the concepts of the Auroville utopia, which at first seem confusing or impossible to achieve, only make sense once you have it. I know it doesn’t help much to say that all that seems impossible becomes self-evident after one begins to trust Aurobindo’s teachings enough to let oneself fall into his experiment. And yet, it is like that sign pointing the way to the restaurant: The hunger for truth is not satisfied by Aurobindo’s books, but in the place to which those books point the way. We will come to this in the next article.
Skeptical stares, yes, I understand. We have seen too many pied pipers to believe in anything good anymore. The cynicism and nihilism of some and the defeatism and depression of others can be understood all too well. And yet we should not be discouraged, but draw the right conclusions from the failures of our search. The good still exists. Thanks to the research of numerous men and women of all times and cultures, we know:
Ken Wilber challenges the doubters:
“if you want to know what these men and women are actually talking about, then you must take up the contemplative practice or injunction or paradigm, and perform the experiment yourself.”
And as in Auroville “each person is allowed full freedom,” to perform the experiment literally anything could happen. It therefore doesn’t make sense to spend much breath on foretelling in detail what it would be like to live in such a place.
“To seek Truth freely and to approach it freely along his own lines is a man’s right. But each one should know that his discovery is good for him alone and it is not to be imposed on others.”
Ideally, the township would have no government. As indicated in “A Dream”, “titles and positions would be replaced by opportunities to serve and organise;” nothing and no one has the right to impose themselves arbitrarily. Leadership would be understood as some sort of guidance, not as so-called authorities endowed with the right to rule.
“No rules or laws are being framed. Things will get formulated as the underlying Truth of the township emerges and takes shape progressively. We do not anticipate.”
Problems would be solved by consensus arrived-at rather than majority vote or even decree. Again, this requires deep listening to the Truth and the goodwill to reach beyond one’s own preferences. Provided there is goodwill, pathways that serve all members of the polity open up. Organization could happen spontaneously, even, as fluidly emerging – imagine that scene – like people going about their business in a densely populated place, collisionlessly passing each other on the way to their next stop without the need to follow rules or orders. When living by the guidance of higher levels of consciousness, starting with the basics of human interaction as described by the “Golden Rule”, a society organizing in the “Divine Anarchy” the Mother imagined becomes possible.
You guessed it: A society without government and laws has also no place for police and courts, for all of these are forms of imposition, of violence, of restrictions to freedom. You cannot possibly have them AND progress to a free, just, prosperous and peaceful society. People are not out to zap each other, as reports from any disaster area can tell you. Left on their own devices they spontaneously organize for mutual help. Even the actual Auroville of today, as impaired with fear, ignorance and greed as many of its residents are, may serve as an example for the tremendous improvement that comes with greater self-determination.
Work, money, property
They watch TV every night til they fall asleep on the sofa, play video games til they break the world high scores, or camp on the beach for months on end. They got the squarest eyes and the fattest asses you’ve ever seen, yes? – No.
Just like the maroding man-eating mobs from the movies are a myth, so is the ever-lazy bum. Where they exist they are a rebellous reaction to being hopelessly enmeshed in rigid social structures. Where there is no government, like in tribal groups, things essential both to survival and happiness are getting done – and have been since the emergence of our species. Today’s usage of the word ‘tribal’ gives a completely wrong impression of what natives’ life was and still is about. Despite derogatory stories told by conquistadores and missionaries peace, justice, freedom and wellbeing have been maintained to an immensely greater and more persistent degree among so-called “savages” than among the civilized. Neither driven by leaders nor incentivized by currency first nations are able to live in abundance – even today under the severe conditions they have been driven into – while enjoying all the leisure they like.
Now imagine a modern town where “work would not be a way to earn one’s living but a way to express oneself and to develop one’s capacities and possibilities while being of service to the community as a whole.” If you can’t, pay us a visit. I once read in a feature-length article in a major German newspaper that the reporter was impressed with the fact that Auroville’s residents, while generally quite relaxed, are constantly busy with their multiple projects, activities, or involvements: arts, community discussions, sports, healing, meditation, workshops, “day jobs”, gardening, voluntary service and whatnot, none of which they receive as labour in the sweat-of-your-brow sense of having to earn a living. All of them? Well, a number significant enough for this reporter’s impression to arise; those who understood that “the opposition between spirituality and material life … has no sense … as, in truth, life and the spirit are one and it is in and by the physical work that the highest Spirit must be manifested. It is not what you do but the spirit in which you do it that makes Karma Yoga [ie. the yoga of work].”
With that idea disappears another huge factor which holds societies back from developing towards real truth, justice, peace, freedom and wellbeing. “Money would no longer be the sovereign lord,” the ‘Dream’ proclaims, as we don’t need it to get our activities going among ourselves. One also quickly loses the sense of personal possessions; not only does the commune, by the power of everyone’s work contribution, provide for everyone’s basic needs; “The more we are consciously in contact with our inner being, the more are the exact means given to us.” Because it’s a real effect it has become absolutely commonplace knowledge among all spiritual seekers. Mechanistic materialists call it ‘synchronicity’; disenchanting, but fair enough.
So much for the dream of Auroville. To know Truth from illusion one must always consciously discern lived reality from the ideal, and one must distinguish between first-hand experience and mediated information. Too many visitors and, unfortunately, even some Aurovilians fail to do that. Keep that in mind while reading through this four-part series on Auroville & Natural Law.
In my blogAnother Nuremberg I noted that I‘m through with people – well, to the degree that a social being can actually divorce itself from its people. It goes so far and no more. That‘s sad enough, and silly enough, too, but that‘s my sentiment in these times. As times are changing, so is the sentiment.
Same goes for science. I‘m through with it, to the degree that a living intelligent curious being can actually divorce itself from its own perception. Because when I say, ‘I’m through with science’, I don‘t mean to say that I‘ll no longer curiously follow the behaviour of the wild beings around me, or that the night sky holds no longer any fascination to me, or that peculiar views picked up from other people and the media no longer rouse my interest. When I say that I‘m through with science I mean, I’ve had enough of the institution of science – academia – and its pointless finds that my grandma knew without spending millions of bucks on reports, or which have no connection to my life whatsoever. I’m through, even more, with scientism – the folk religion of “science says”, “the experts told”, “it’s written in a book”, and “I’ve got a PhD, what have you got?”
I’m through with people because they are civilized to the point of utter craziness, and I’m through with science as the arrogant expression of that craziness, the point where people use the factoids picked up from some kind of medium for the purpose of forcing others into submission, i.e. the point they are no longer curious and open.
David Cayley, in his new book, Ivan Illich – an Intellectual Journey (Penn State University Pr., 2021), describes some of the adverse effects of the dominant contemporary view of science as follows:
“Political discussion,” Illich says, „is stunned by a delusion about science.” Science has become „a spectral production agency” whose output is certified knowledge. One accepts it because of the overwhelming authority this certification confers and because not to accept it is to risk the status of heretic. In courts of law, to take one of Illich’s examples, evidence that our legal tradition would formerly have excluded or bracketed as „hearsay” becomes decisive when delivered by a scientific expert. Decisions that belong in the realm of common sense and practical judgment are instead settled by expert opinion: Is the nuclear power plant „safe”? Do studies on parent—child „attachment” authorize early day care? Which diet will produce the biggest payoff in life expectancy? and so on. This „stuns” political discussion in two ways, according to Illich. The first is that science as a process of inquiry is mystified. Gone are the adventures and vicissitudes of trying to stabilize a „fact” along with the very provisional character of this stabilization once achieved. In their place is a monolith: the oracular „Science says . . . ” or „Studies show . . . ” There’s nothing to discuss. „Scientific” findings that amount to little more than gossip when de-contextualized and stepped down into everyday talk pass from hand to hand, still trailing the aura of the laboratory. The second result, Illich says, is that „people . . . cease to trust their own judgment.” A choice for conviviality requires „a political community [which] choose[s] the dimensions of the roof under which its members will live,” but such a community can only be composed of citizens who believe they have the right, the capacity, and the power to make such a choice.
Science is not knowledge as such. Science is the process of getting to understand how the world works, Science is the fruit of curiosity, and curiosity is the fruit of openness. So long as the gathered knowledge makes sense within the framework of one culture‘s understanding, science is weaving the tapestry of that culture‘s cosmology and worldview. This is the way our culture creates its myths. The word ‚myths‘ does not mean ‚fiction‘ or ‚fairy tales‘, but is another word for the stories that help us make sense of the universe and our place within it. Different peoples have different stories; none of them is more true than another, but each of them makes perfect sense to their respective people within their cocoon of habitat, culture, thought patterns, language, and perception.
In a truly free and participatory group of people every individual helps creating the people‘s myths, and most interestingly the resulting stories seem to last longer the less physical technology people apply in their daily lives – often many hundreds, sometimes thousands of years. At the same time, ‚scientific revolutions‘ succeed each other within decades, rendering previous scientific ‚knowledge‘ outdated or even wrong. It is not so hard to see that our current set of scientific views is really only con-temporary as well. The idea that ‚sicknesses‘ get ‚caused‘ by ‚germs‘ and that ‚healing‘ comes about through killing those germs, for instance, will be among the next certainties going down the drain of time. Ivan Illich (Limits to Medicine; see my blog post, “Medical Nemesis: compulsory survival in a planned and engineered Hell”) has traced some of the historical stages that led to our current understanding of ‘health’, warning of the consequences of continued pursuit of that path. Charles Eisenstein, in his book The Ascent of Humanity (see my blog post “What’s your story?“)described a number of fields waiting for the right moment to make the shift to a new kind of science.
What interests me most about the matter is not so much, What will the future science be based upon?, What kind of knowledge will it reveal?, or, Which new technologies will result from a new science? These are rather idle questions, I think, nice for a discussion with friends on a long night of mental yarn-weaving. The more pressing question, to me, is about how to live a simple life today in a society of expert-groupies, a life freed from tech gurus, unnecessary complications and twisted crypticized language; a life lived within my own power to perceive, discern, process, define, and enact the knowledge I need, so that the world makes sense to me, and so that my existence has meaning.
The place of choice to start this challenge, obviously, is courage – the audacity to inquire for oneself, the guts to look for oneself, the bravery to take conclusions for oneself.
“Enlightenment is man’s release from his self-incurred tutelage. Tutelage is man’s inability to make use of his understanding without direction from another. Self-incurred is this tutelage when its cause lies not in lack of reason but in lack of resolution and courage to use it without direction from another. Sapere aude! “Have courage to use your own reason!” – that is the motto of enlightenment. “
– An Answer to the Question: “What is Enlightenment?”, by Immanuel Kant, Konigsberg, 1784. Translation: Lewis White Beck
The language may sound a bit outdated – obviously identity-politically incorrect – but the message is clear nevertheless. Who, then, are those people that put you down for presenting your own findings, that ask for your credentials when you come to your own conclusions, and that try to prevent you from living according to your own insights? Logically, and experientially, they are the submissive servants of the established, the disciples of the religion of scientism, the unenlightened adorers of the fat-assed expert-guru. Let‘s be clear here: This is not about folks who, after due and diligent inquiry, arrive at same or similar conclusions as somebody recognized as an expert, and I am not disparaging those who went especially deep into some matter by using official academic means of studying it. I am emphasizing self-empowerment, the courage to rise from tutelage when you want to or need to – and the fact that you are basically able to achieve this. It is absolutely possible for an ordinary person to reconnect to our innate capabilities for orientation in the natural world, and in collaboration with one‘s community to come up with myths or stories that provide meaning. It is totally within our abilities, as well, to look through the workings of the human world, to tear the shrouds of professional jargon, and to take apart and rearrange the cogs and wheels that make our societies and its subsets function.
Did the Fuggers go to business school? Did Schiller take creative writing courses? Were the Wright brothers professors of aeronautical engineering? Was Goethe a professor of everything? Was George Washington a political scientist? Did Jesus graduate in theology? Buddha in religion? Howard Carter in archaeology?
Since last year a common saying holds that, since Corona, everyone has become an expert on law and medicine these days. Some of the speakers mean to belittle with it the intellectual capacity of non-professionals for understanding what‘s going on; other speakers mean that saying literally: We learned to understand some stuff quite deeply because we had to. And this is how an enlightened, democratic, wise, anarchic, or acephalic society can only work: by sinking our teeth into the flesh of the matter and by applying common sense.
As a citizen in a democracy, for example, one supposedly is the sovereign of one‘s nation and therefore carries responsibility for what is going on. How can you do that if you fundamentally cannot understand how the state works, what its institutions‘ functions are, what your sovereignty allows or obliges you to do, or if you don‘t at least try to understand these and many other state-related issues? You wouldn‘t be able to vote the right guys into the job as you had no clue whether they were competent enough.
Being ignorant of the law does not protect you from punishment. Therefore, one also cannot avoid understanding the constitution, laws, ordinances and court decisions. If this were fundamentally impossible for the average citizen, we would live in an arbitrary state that throws jargon at us instead of giving reasons for its actions, and we could be held accountable of deeds we had no clue of whether they are legal or not.
All this leads to the rejection of the cult of the expert. Anyone who does not use his or her intellect is neither a responsible person nor a responsible citizen and thus not a sovereign. S/he lets others dictate what to see and how to see it – in the best case. In the worst case, s/he does not care at all about things of concern, but leaves them entirely to the experts. Stupid people make the best followers. Fine by me. Then the problem arises, though, that expertism and scientism come along with universalism, the claim to universal validity of one‘s viewpoint, and universalism comes along with the demand for everybody marching in lockstep. Punishment against dissenters, torture of heretics, and war against the Other are lurking right around the corner. As it seems, we‘re already past that corner.
The early Christians made … community by sharing the simple communion meal through which they remembered their Lord, and by a mouth-to-mouth kiss through which they shared their spirits in a conspiratio or breathing together,
states Canadian radio broadcaster David Cayley in a book on Austro-American social philosopher Ivan Illich’s views. [David Cayley, The Rivers North of the Future. The Testament of Ivan Illich. House of Anansi Pr., 2005]
So this is what it means to conspire. Rather than theorizing on others doing it, we are called to do it ourselves. Which brings me to a message published in our local gazette, the News & Notes 839. It says,
The Covid Task force in its weekly communication with the community in the News & Notes, on Auronet and through many Bulletins has done a heroic job! The Pandemic in India is certainly not yet under control and we are asked to take caution; It is required by law to keep social distance, wear masks while going out and in public places and do not hold or go to large gatherings. As Auroville and Aurovilians, we have to follow the law.
Lately there are more voices of dissent, people who absolutely refuse to wear a mask in Auroville’s public places: going to the Financial Service, PDTC or Pour Tous, (despite clear signs that say: ‘NO MASK NO ENTRY ‘. Unpleasant, jarring, impatient and hot arguments were heard in PDTC at the entrance attacking the amazing people, who keep this service going since March, in a spirit of selfless service, wearing their own hot masks all morning!! and providing us with all our food needs, meanwhile keeping a beautiful atmosphere. Over the carrot-and onion displays someone went ballistic: shrieking to another customer who dared to inquire why she wasn’t wearing a mask. This was shocking painful and hurtful to everyone present. If some Aurovilians feel so strongly not keeping these simple rules, they of course have the freedom to stop shopping or use Auroville services and do their errands and business elsewhere. It would great if these simple rules could be accepted and followed by everyone -whatever people’s private opinions are- without the necessity to enforce them.
Stay Healthy! ~ L.
I have a lot of questions about this piece of writing. What exactly is heroic about sitting in a self-appointed group passing down rules from the Central Government to The City The Earth Needs? Why are those who work for a wage called selfless, and inhowfar does their self-torturing behaviour make a good example for everyone? It is certainly not ok to accuse or even shout at them, but where is all the rage coming from, did you ever wonder? From the threat of enforcement of ‘voluntary’ obedience, perhaps? Where can they go when all public doors are marked with Get-lost signs? Can they visit alternative offices when there aren’t any? Are they supposed to starve to death in their homes? What has become of the Aurovilian pride in all the non-allopathic methods and ways of healing we once practiced? Once there were Chinese, Tibetan, Ayurvedic, Homeopathic, Yogic, Shamanic and all kinds of ways, now there is only one, the control-obsessed Western-orthodox approach, or rather a perverted politicised version of it that defies all scientific and common-sense understanding.
Despite the many questionable points in the above opinion piece, I’ll focus on the topic of obedience alone. Mirra Alfassa, the founder and “Mother” of Auroville, also called the place The City At The Service Of Truth, and she made clear in many of her statements that laws, rules, traditions, morals, or religions alongside money, police, courts, politics, governments etc. should not rule its ways. A life divine, but no religions, as she famously said.
As can be seen from the following quotes, to no surprise, the New Testament as a spiritual document anticipates some of the things that the Mother, along with many other wisdom teachers, said about proper relation of the truth-seeker to rules.
Let me quote from Cayley’s book [in italics]; not in order to establish yet another authority or to argue theological points, but to give a perspective on what the insistence on obedience might mean.
What the Samaritan does is to step fearlessly outside what his culture has sanctified in order to create a new relationship and, potentially, a new community. He does not seek God within a sacred circle but finds him lying by the road in a ditch. His possibilities cannot be predicted or circumscribed. He lives, in the apostle Paul’s words, “not under the law, but under grace.” [Cayley]
“We are released from the Law, having died to what was binding us, and so we are in a new service, that of the spirit, and not in the old service of a written code.” [Paul, Letter to the Romans, 7:6]
In other words, the spirit defines our relationship, not our man-made arbitrary rules. One of Illich’s central tenets was that even the duty to help and the obligation to solidarity eliminate empathy and spirit from the good work. Before everything else, there ought to be compassion, not judgment. The person that comes to your doorstep is a person in need. Right action does not draw its direction from the norm or from fear of breaking rules.
“If I had not come and spoken to them they would not have sin; but now they have no excuse for their sin.” [Jesus, Gospel of John, 15:22-23]
While modern political and social theory has it that societies are shaped and held together by their rules, the bond of community is understanding. It doesn’t mean that laws, traditions or rituals are absent in community, but that they do not have precedence over compassion. Through the message passed on by numerous voices such as the Buddha, Jesus, or the Mother, we have been made aware of our freedom to act compassionately, and that the strict application – not the breach – of rules is a sin:
Sin, in this new context, no longer means just a violation of the law, but something more — a coldness or indifference to what has been revealed and made possible. [Cayley]
Don’t take ‘sin’ for the religious crime codified by the Roman Church, but for the betrayal of the relationship established by the loving trust of the Samaritan into the commonly despised stranger.
“Sin,” Illich says, “is refusing to honour that relationship which came into existence between the Samaritan and the Jew, which comes into existence through the exercise of freedom, and which constitutes an ‘ought’ because I feel called by you, called to you, called to this tie between human beings, or between beings and God […] It is not in any sense offensive of a law. It is always an offence against a person. It’s an infidelity.”
To value the law over the person, that is sin. Freedom, though, is not about permanent rebellion against rules in general, but about unrestrained acting in the spirit of the good: compassion, truthfulness, community.
Sin, on this account, is not simply an evil, or a moral fault. It is a failing against the Spirit, possible only for those who have heard and ignored what they have heard, and visible only in the light of that freedom that Paul says is identical with “the forgiveness of sin.” [Cayley]
How do you define justice? What is its measure? How do you fill it with life? How do you bring it about? These questions haunted me for many years. Recently I brought up the justice issue in my book “Mach was!?”, and I also put it before Tom, a dear friend whose ponderings I value highly. Yet I have not been able to come to a satisfying conclusion.
So what is justice?
The suspicion that my questions might be based on invalid hidden assumptions has been with me for quite a while already. In John Michael Greer’s book “Star’s Reach” we read,
“The balance of the world is always exact but it’s never fair. That’s true in politics, in war—” He shrugged, glanced at me. “Anything else you care to name. One person gets the benefit, another pays the price, and there’s no justice to who does which—but the price still gets paid.”
Here we go. I read and translated JMG’s novel five years ago. It took that long for the penny to drop.
There is no justice.
by Albrecht Dürer
It is that simple. Justice doesn’t exist because the word has no clear meaning, and the word has no clear meaning because justice doesn’t exist – not even in the sense that a law exists. It rather has the properties of a ‘human being’ or a ‘tree;’ for practical communication purposes we may pretend that there is a generic standard human or a norm tree, separate from all other humans / trees of its kind, and from everything else that exists. The truth is, though, that each being is unique and has neither a clearly defined beginning nor end; it is inextricably interwoven, interconnected, interdependent with the continuum we call ‘Kosmos.’ Similarly, the justice concept develops its usefulness only if one acknowledges its fuzziness: What we perceive as or refer to as just is highly personal, cultural, and circumstantial in nature. It varies from time to time, from case to case, and from place to place.
Justice, as a word, symbolizes an abstract idea that describes an ideal. Being abstract in nature it does not bring any concrete content with it. Whether it is just that a thief’s right hand gets removed, whether it is just he gets sentenced to a fine or whether it is just that he may join a welfare program against poverty is totally up to cultural values. And whether the thief agrees that he is being treated in a just and fair way is completely dependent on what he expects to receive as a reward for his behaviour.
As an idea justice does not possess a physical counterpart – which it also cannot have because as an idealit refers to a perfection that does not exist in the world of forms and shapes. Justice is about the things that should and shouldn’t be, and it is therefore extremely is-phobic and judgmental. Depending on who defines what justice is, it is not even clear whether it is supposed to be a thing, a condition, a feeling, a perception, or a process: justice is achieved, gets done, feels right, seems justified, or gets established; and it can only occupy its place in a world in which people possess agency. Whether they do, or not, is under dispute, though; mind the philosophical discussion on Determinism. Still the people of our culture believe in their agency, and so we tend to fall into the trap of confusing sanctions for justice, as there seems to exist a need for such a thing.
Having dismantled human-made justice, what could take its place in our lives? For it seems to me that its removal as a factor leaves an ugly wound behind that will fester if it cannot be healed. What is it that makes us construe the kind of ‘justice’ that we could achieve by acts of will? Is the justice concept a manifestation of something deeper? Do we perceive a kind of natural or divine balance, a moral equivalent to the law of gravity?
If so, Karma – the rule of ‘justice,’ a Kosmic mechanism of cause and effect which the Buddhists describe – might be the answer. While we may, to a certain degree, take decisions which change the course of our lives, those lives are also the result of decisions taken at an earlier point in time. As we cannot foresee most of the consequences of our actions, though, willed decisions rarely lead to happiness or harmony, unless we follow ‘right action,’ i.e. action that is guided by compassion. When we learn to accept what life dishes us out we begin to perceive the immensity of a dynamic balance that is truly Kosmic.
Within this balance we feel no need to judge people, do not divide situations into ‘good’ or ‘bad,’ do not label events as ‘just’ or ‘unjust.’ We do not need to prevent anything from happening, nor do we long for punishment, retribution, or vengeance. Compassion, the enactment of ‘justice,’ has us not only feel for, and love other people; it lets us understand that everything that happens does so for a (Karmic) reason and is therefore in perfect harmony with everything that exists. All dichotomies dissolve, and justice becomes the air that we breathe, the element that we live in, the thing that one does not need a word for. Justice is what-is.
The Yurugu blog series attempts to uncover some of the myths the dominant culture is based upon. As we have a hard time seeing the things we take for granted the view from outside, through the eyes of a different culture, may help with discovering our biases and enable us to act more consciously. Marimba Ani, the author of the book “Yurugu. An African-centered critique of European cultural thought and behavior,“, is not involved in putting up the series and does not necessarily agree to its contents. The series is also not meant to present the book’s central thesis, or to agree one-hundred percent with it; rather the blogs are inspired by the deep thoughts Marimba Ani has put forward, and offer some of them for consideration.
Throughout the elaborations of this series it shows that universal values take a problematic position in the matrix of European civilization. We believe that values, such as “freedom,” “equality,” “humanism,” “rationality,” etc., are not just the values of our culture; we claim their universal validity, i.e., other peoples must naturally want them and abide by them.
This expectation plays a role in international relations, when our so-called Western “community of shared values” demands of other governments that they respect the civil rights of citizens. Very few governments squarely rebuke that notion, among them China which holds that her culture functions in different ways. Now China is a nuclear power, a state of more than one billion people which cannot be bullied into submission. Other nations for most part cannot afford open rebellion against “universal” values. They usually resort to paying lip service when they rather tend to disagree. Think of the United Nations’ “Universal Declaration of Human Rights”in 1948: “Of the then 58 members of the United Nations, 48 voted in favor, none against, eight abstained, and two did not vote”[Wikipedia] It’sa case study of cultural falsehood in which neither Mao’s China (aye vote) nor the Apartheid state of South Africa (abstained) nor the autocratic regime of Caríasin Honduras (no vote) dared to disagree. In each of these and all othercases the intent to disregard civil & human rights was clear from before the declaration’s coming into effect. Then why did nobody vote “nay”?
As Marimba Ani explained in her introduction to the book Yurugu. An African-centered critique of European cultural thought and behavior,
The secret Europeans discovered early in their history is that culture carries rules for thinking, and that if you could impose your culture on your victims you could limit the creativity of their vision, destroying their ability to act with will and intent and in their own interest. (Yurugu, p1)
Lip service works fine when it comes to adhering “universal ethical values,” as globalized Western civilization is not based on their proclaimed values; those in power heavily rely on them for veiling their true intents from the general population both inside and outside of their immediate sphere of influence.
Within the logic of European humanism one can talk about “morality” that is not reflected in behavior. One is considered to be highly moral if the language that one uses is couched in the syntax of abstraction and of universality; that is, of disinterest. This makes no sense in other cultures where morality is concerned with behavior only and is meaningless unless it is indicative of a behavioral norm. Which is the more “human” – the way of life that dictates respectful behavior or the one that attempts to encourage an “abstract affection for humanity at large,” which has no relationship to behavior and to which the individual cannot relate? (Yurugu, p543)
Well, the answer seems obvious to me. In the same way, I have no doubt about freedom, equality, and brotherhood, as defined by our culture, being just carrots on a stick, meant to give hope in the light of an everlasting enslavement, inequality, and competition which are intrinsic “qualities” of Western civilization from its very beginning.
I know that words like “freedom” do have a deeper meaning, or else they would not have inspired widespread revolutions; yet the values can never come to true actualization under the paradigm of the forked tongue. As the French of the late 18th century acted from the same basic assumptions as the parasitic elite they overthrew it is no wonder their revolution so quickly turned into immense bloodshed, devouring its own children.
Fanon says in his famous testament which we also find quoted within Yurugu:
Europe talks… and kills. And while Fanon, like Marima Ani, speaksto people of African origin, the same logic goes for us Europeans (I assume here that most, or all, of my readers are of Caucasian origin, or, like many people of colour today, live by the same basic “universal” values). Our liberation must start with noticing the harmful European asili, the core of the dominant culture, then continue by its wholesale rejection and its replacement by an asili of sanity.
We cannot mobilize for effective resistance to our physical destruction unless we are ideologically liberated. What impedes that liberation is cultural imperialism. European “universalism” and its attendant spurious “humanism” are very dangerous and effective forms of European cultural imperialism.
Universalism, when translated scientifically, becomes objectification. The illusion of objectivity promotes the myth of universalistic commitment, that is, it is a stance that disavows political or group interest. It thereby services group interest more subtly by calling it something other than what it is. We can conclude that this universalism semantically represents European value, is not a universally valid goal and, as an “imperative” serves the interest of European cultural imperialism. (Yurugu, p551)
Real revolution, which Jiddu Krishnamurti so famously coined as a term, is not concerned with people taking to the streets, in the first place; it is a revolution of the mind – not in order to fill it with new contents, but to make different use of human consciousness. Translated into everyday behaviour, we would livein closely interrelated community, rather than talk about community in terms of a collection of individuals (as in, European Community, United Nations, Facebook community etc.), with similar implications for other words like “prosperity,” “democracy,” “brotherhood,” “peace,” “love,” and so forth, which, today, are merely hollow shells, shallow concepts being invokedwithout consequence.
The Yurugu blog series attempts to uncover some of the myths the dominant culture is based upon. As we have a hard time seeing the things we take for granted the view from outside, through the eyes of a different culture, may help with discovering our biases and enable us to act more consciously. Marimba Ani, the author of the book “Yurugu: An African-centered critique of European cultural thought and behavior”, is not involved in putting up the series and does not necessarily agree to its contents. The series is also not meant to present the book’s central thesis, or to agree one-hundred percent with it; rather the blogs are inspired by the deep thoughts Marimba Ani has put forward, and offer some of them for consideration.
With technology, we have developed massive power that can be used for better or for worse. However, our consciousness, and our conscience – what the Brazilian educator Paulo Freire called “conscientisation” – has not kept pace with invention.
This has left us utterly exposed to the blandishments of marketing. Exposed to what might be thought of as “Microsoft security vulnerabilities” within the human psyche.
Shaped by the utterings of my teacher back in 7th grade religious education, something like McIntosh’s view has been my conviction until only recently. I’m not quite clear on when the change of perspective happened. I only know when it came to the forefront, with a bang: when I read the above article. Suddenly I thought, this is a damn myth, harping on the idea that, basically, our techno-scientific culture was a natural development, and that the artifacts created and the concepts adopted had no inherent value, and so could be used for better or worse. When we perceive a lack of consciousness and conscience, i.e., spirit and morality, that lack is more or less a result of our focus having been busy with inventing – so they think.
Nothing could be farther from truth.
To be sure, our focus is locked onto the rational perspective; both culturally and individually we are heavily distracted, in a multitude of ways, by a technically mediated reality. But this is by no means a casual effect, or a condition easily remedied by putting more emphasis on “consciousness and conscience;” regardless of what those words mean. Rather, it is the consequence of a decision made long ago: the decision to see the world from a distinct, discrete and separate human point of view. Marimba Ani writes,
Abstract categories of thought, conceptual absolutes, the syntax of universalism become the means by which they are able to achieve the illusion of transcendence. But the culture forecloses on the consequences of faith and love, while inhibiting their precondition; i.e., spirituality. The universe loses its richness as it is transformed into lifeless matter; the supernatural is reduced to the “natural,” which means to them, the merely biological or physical. Consequently time can only be lineal; space, three-dimensional; and material causality, the ultimate reality. In European religious thought the human and the divine are hopelessly split; there is no sacred ground on which they meet. In such a setting, the exaggerated material priorities of the culture are simply a result of the praxis of its participants, of the limiting realities offered by the culture. The resultant materialism further despiritualizes the culture. So the circle is joined; and European culture gives the appearance of being a self-perpetuating system. (Marimba Ani: Yurugu. An African-centered critique of European cultural thought and behavior, 1994, p556f)
Western science and technology, like all of Western civilization, including its philosophy and religion, are incompatible with what Alastair McIntosh summed up under “consciousness and conscience.” If we define our world in rational, material, and utilitarian terms, what is the neglected consciousness part supposed to consist of? The irrational? The immaterial? The useless?
I would very much think so. Rational, material, use-oriented spirituality, friendship, emotion etc are contradictions in terms; I also don’t see how they could improve on the unfortunate situation of having overemphasized the mechanistic worldview – especially its scientific and technological manifestations – for five centuries, now amending them with even more rationalized parts of a reality that is fundamentally immaterial. To Marimba Ani, our worldview precludes all of that; she denies that we could achieve a true morality based on European tradition:
A rationalistic ethic, accompanied by an isolating concept of self is, in the context of majority cultural [ie. non-European] philosophies, diametrically opposed to that which is moral, as “morality” – the proper attitude and behavior towards others – is based on love or identification, which necessitates a “joining with other.” This “union” is a spiritual rather than a rationalistic phenomenon and cannot be achieved by an act of “reason” (conceived as abstracted from “emotion”). It is a repudiation of the idea of “objectification.” (Yurugu, p390)
Consequently, what I receive when I point out the dilemma as described above is stonewalling and utter rejection. The “religious,” as the rational minds of our days choose to call every notion immaterial, to them, is a non-negotiable no-go area, and so they continue their search for rational solutions to and technological salvation from the self-inflicted wound of disconnectedness, which we treat with haemostatic agents while continuing to stab ourselves. Our technological gadgets are like the blood money Judas has received for turning his back on the Divine. It didn’t end well for him, and it certainly won’t for us.