History and the Future – V

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One of the major defects which pursues the study of history is the lack of a proper perspective. The subject is presented as a flow of dates, events and personalities of the past without any meaning or significance for the present or the future. No wonder most of the young and bright minds of our modern age find history not only dull and uninteresting but also irrelevant to the present or the future life.             

But when viewed in the right perspective as the story of the inner and outer evolution of human consciousness and life moving towards a glorious future perfection, history becomes one of the most enriching and illuminating field of education and knowledge; It can widen the horizons of the human mind, inspire hope and faith in human destiny and create a fertile soil for the flowering of the prophet and the visionary. This view of history is not altogether an unscientific proposition. Some of the best scientific minds of our modern age held a more or less similar view of terrestrial evolution. For example, eminent scientist Albert Szent-Gyorgyi who won Nobel Prize for isolating Vitamin C says “My feeling is that living matter carries in itself a hitherto undefined principle, a tendency for perfecting itself. It may be that life owes its origin to this self-perfecting principle”.            

In this series we are presenting some perspectives on history, with an emphasis on the future, which can enrich the study of history and lead to a new way of looking at the past.

The Goal of History

In the previous segment of this article we were looking at history through a psychological and futuristic perspective. We also surmised that the inner and outer tide of history is probably moving towards some form of integral perfection. In this segment, we examine the nature and content of this perfection.

Dimensions of History

To comprehend the nature of perfection towards which nature is steering humanity through history, we must have some clear conception of the inner and outer dimensions of history and its implications for human evolution and development.

We may broadly classify history into four categories: spiritual and cultural history; political and military history; economic, industrial and commercial history; and social history. Each of these aspects of human history is the self-expression of a part of the human consciousness. Thus the four aspects of history are the self-expression of the four major powers of human consciousness.

There is a power or part in human consciousness which seeks knowledge, and values. We may call this part or power the Mentor and its expression in life, Culture. There is another part of human consciousness which seeks power, strength and mastery. We call this the Marshal and its outer expression in life, Polity. There is a third power of human consciousness which seeks pragmatic skill and mutuality. We may call this Merchant and its outer expression in the economic, industrial and commercial life, Economy. And finally, there is a fourth power with an inclination for work, service and community. We may call it the Worker and its outer expression, Society.

Thus, in our terminology, Mentor, Marshal, Merchant and the Worker are respectively the inner dimensions of the cultural, political, economic and social history of humanity.

But we would like to point out here that the four inner powers and their self-expression in the outer life is a process of complex interaction and should not be viewed in a simplistic, rigid and compartmental perspective. For, the four inner powers are the powers of human consciousness and therefore they are present in every human being. All these act in various forms of combination and development through each individual and collective activity of the human being. It is the predominance of a particular power which determines the unique nature of the activity. For example there is the play of the Marshal faculties wherever there is a forceful exercise of power and leadership. This can happen not only in politics or military but also in business, industry and commerce or even in culture, when a new idea fights against and displaces an old idea with a critical and combative force or when totally new horizons of knowledge are conquered. In society, the Marshal type expresses itself as a specific social organ like Polity.

Let us now examine the implications of these inner powers for history and human development.

The Mentor and Cultural History

The spiritual and cultural history of humanity is the result of the seeking and self-expression of the intellectual, ethical and aesthetic mind and the inner soul in man for the higher values like God, truth, knowledge, beauty, goodness, harmony and unity. We can see in this part of human history, progress of the higher self in man and its intellectual, aesthetic, ethical and spiritual faculties and values.

But, when we say spiritual history of humanity, we are not referring to the history of organized religions. The history of organized religions belongs to the cultural history of humanity. The dogmas, philosophies, literature and the art-work in temples and churches belong to the cultural history of humanity. Further, when religion becomes an organized institution and tries to gain secular power through force or conversions it is no longer even a cultural institution but a political organism.

The spiritual history of humanity lies first, in the inner spiritual experiences of the founders of the religions of the world; second, in the inner experiences of the great mystics in whom these original experiences are more or less relived; third, in the intuitions of some great thinkers whose minds are in living contact with their deeper spiritual self, like for example, Socrates who always talked of an inner Daemon as his guide; fourth, in the inner experiences and intuitions of such personalities who may have made some new spiritual discoveries.

The Soul of a Nation or Civilization expresses itself through its Mind in the cultural life of the group. Thus, the cultural history of a nation or civilization, gives an indication of its unique genius and the nature of the mission or contribution it has to make for the fulfilment of the evolutionary destiny of humanity.

Spiritual and cultural history contains another important part of human progress: the March of Ideas. As Man is predominantly a mental being, the thinking faculty of man and his ideas and ideals are the main instruments of evolution and development. Most of the advances in the outer life of man, especially in the later part of human history, were affected by great ideas or ideals. So in our approach to history, study of the March of Ideas will be an important part of the research. We will study the inner and outer source of ideas and ideals, and the process of their birth, growth, impact and decline in history.

From a developmental perspective, the importance of this spiritual and cultural dimension of history is obvious. A nation or civilization may be great in wealth, technology, political and military power; but if it is spiritually and culturally weak and underdeveloped, which means if the outer physical life of the nation is not chastened and guided by some higher mental, aesthetic, ethical or spiritual values and ideals, then such a nation has not yet risen from barbarism whatever may be its economic, technological, political and military achievements. If these barbarous tendencies are not checked, it leads to a quick and reckless exhaustion of the vital energy of the nation, in mindless pursuit of material and sensuous enjoyment, or in violent internal conflict, external aggression and war mongering.

The Marshal and Political History

The political and military history of humanity is the expression of that part of the vital force in man that seeks power, conquest, mastery, expansion, law, order and unity in the outer life. We can see the growth of qualities, faculties and values like leadership, courage, heroism, sense of honor and justice, and the capacity for organized force and collective unity. Full development of all the potentialities of this part of the collective consciousness is also an important aspect of the integral ideal of development. A nation or civilization may be great and noble in its culture with lofty ideals, or efficient, productive and prosperous in its economic life, but if it is weak in this part of its being, it is susceptible to frequent barbarian invasion from nations which are politically and militarily stronger.

Every creative and successful handling of a difficult or adverse challenge posed by nature or from the environment, such as natural calamities, foreign invasion or civil war, help in the development of the will and vital force of a Nation or civilization. Thus, what may appear outwardly as a negative or painful event for a nation, may turn out to be a blessing in disguise. For example, constant external aggression from barbarian nations may provide the impetus for a peaceful and cultured nation to develop its political and military capabilities, which means taking a step forward to a more integral development of the community.

The Merchant and Economic History  

The economic, commercial, industrial and technological history of humanity is the expression of a second part of the vital force, the pragmatic mind and will in man. Such a man has a keen intuition into the changing, relational and practical aspects of life and seeks efficiency, productivity, skill and prosperity in the outer life and action. We can see in this part of human history the growth of those faculties which come into play in organization, adaptation, execution, innovation, craftsmanship and harnessing the human, economic and material resources of life for the material realization of the Idea.

A nation or civilization may be great in culture, turning out great ideas and lofty values; it may develop a strong and powerful political or military organization; but without the capacity for organized efficiency in the economic and social life and a keen vital intuition into the ways of harnessing the economic and material resources, it will lack the ability to convert its ideas into material reality.

The Worker and Social History

The social history of humanity, of a family, group, clan and community, is the expression of the physical, instinctive and emotional being in man, seeking to fulfil its basic material, biological and emotional needs for survival, security, enjoyment, to love and be loved and for harmonious living with others. We can trace in this part of history and in the contents of popular literature like folklore and novels which mirror society, the growth of the mass-consciousness. This part of human consciousness is also the other source of economic history. For economy is made of not only the entrepreneur or the Merchant but also the consumer and his needs which the merchant seeks to fulfil. And a large majority of the consumer belongs to the masses. Their needs for survival and enjoyment are some of the major shaping factors of economic history.

A very large part of the human population, especially the work-force in the lowest levels of the social and organizational hierarchy, lives in this part of the human consciousness. Most of them may not have sufficient intellectual, ethical, vital, volitional or pragmatic capabilities to occupy leadership positions. This was why ancient Indian thought viewed this part of humanity as fit only for service to other sections of the society. There is an important truth behind this concept – it is that this part of human consciousness has the highest potential for hard work, patient execution and selfless service.

The Merchant and the Worker are important for realizing the aim of integral development. A nation or civilization may be great or strong in its Mentor or Marshall consciousness and their faculties and capacities; but if it is weak and underdeveloped in its Merchant and Worker consciousness, it will remain as a top-heavy civilization and its gains or achievements in culture and polity will be confined to a few elite classes, not percolating into the whole of society and the masses.

Most emotional transactions happen within the family, community and the work-place. So the emotional condition or development of a community depends to a large extent on the nature of the values and the organization of the family and community which is the source of society, and that of the work-place and the work-life which is the source of Economy.

The Integral Man

We may now reformulate our concept of human destiny or the goal of history, which we have discussed earlier. The aim of human development through history may be conceived in two aspects. The inner aim is a full harmonious and integral development of the Mentor, Marshal, Merchant and Worker consciousness and the faculties, powers and qualities they represent, and organize them around the spiritual center of the individual and the collectivity. The outer aim is a full harmonious and integral self-expression of these four inner powers in the outer life through their corresponding social organs, that is, Culture, Polity, Economy and Society.

This brings us to another aspect of the ideal of integral development. The highest aim of evolution could probably be to make each part conscious of and manifest the whole. This means, each of the four inner powers and their corresponding human types and social organs have to develop not only the faculties and qualities specific and natural to them, but also, that of the other three, and express them in a unique harmony according to their intrinsic and dominant nature and values. For example, the Marshall, individually as a human type and collectively as his self-expression in Polity, has to develop not only his intrinsic, natural and dominant powers and qualities of the will and vital force; he must also develop the powers of organized efficiency, adaptation, skill and innovation of the Merchant; develop the intellectual, ethical and spiritual faculties of the Mentor and govern his faculties of power by knowledge and values; and finally he has to use his power, position or authority not to aggrandize himself but as a means to serve the people and the community. And this applies to all the other three human types and organs of the society.

Interestingly, we can see this integral development beginning to happen in our modern age in the Merchant and Worker. The modern Merchant has acquired the aggressive virtues of the Marshall for expansion, conquest and acquisition. The ancient Marshall built huge political empires and some of them like Alexander had the ambition to build global empires. Modern Merchants are building global business empires using economic, commercial and technological means. Some of the methods used here, for example, acquisitions and takeovers and the attempt to gain “competitive advantage” over rival companies, are as combative as the methods of ancient marshals. With the advent of industrial revolution, and the increasing application of reason, science and technology to business, “knowledge” is becoming a vital resource. There is also a growing recognition of the importance of ethics, values and social responsibility in business. Thus, the modern Merchant is also developing the intellectual and ethical faculties of the Mentor. The other significant development in modern business is the “empowerment” movement which aims at a devolution of knowledge, power, wealth, decision-making and responsibility to the front-line worker, which if pursued to its logical conclusion will lead to an integral development of the Worker.

Thus, we can see that consciousness of the modern Merchant and his outer organ of Business is slowly moving towards the ideal of integral development. However, at present only a tentative beginning has been made in this direction and there is still a long way to go to reach the ideal. The ethical turn in business is still rudimentary and the spiritual and aesthetic faculties are still to manifest. Nevertheless, these emerging trends in business give an indication of the ideal towards which Nature is pushing human evolution.

The Spiritual Aim

The full and highest development of the Mentor leads to spiritual consciousness. For as we have already indicated, Mentor represents and expresses the innermost Soul or Spirit and the higher Mind in Man. As the higher intellectual, ethical and aesthetic mind grows in its subtlety, depth and sensitivity, it opens more and more to the spirit within man. And in the Indian spiritual perspective, the ideal Mentor is the spiritually illumined Sage, Rishi, who knows, not intellectually as a concept or idea, but through a direct intuition or inner experience, the highest truths and laws of life, not only of the spiritual life but also of the secular life. This is why Indian thought considered the spiritual man as the best guide, not only of religious life, but also, of worldly life.

The full development and establishment of this spiritual consciousness, which is the true Self and the highest potential in man, in the individual and the collectivity, is probably the significance of the next step in human evolution and the future history of humanity.

All the past cycles of human history were perhaps a sort of education or preparation of the human consciousness to make it fit to receive, manifest and express this spiritual consciousness. This was probably what the medieval Christian mystic St. Augustine meant when he summarized the meaning of history as: “The education of the human race, represented by the people of God, has advanced, like that of an individual, through certain epochs, or as it were, ages, so that it might gradually rise from earthly to heavenly things and from the visible to the invisible”. But in our integral view, the goal of history is not only “to raise from earthly to heavenly things”, but also, an unveiling or manifestation of the heavenly and invisible in the earthly and the visible, leading ultimately to a heavenly transformation of the earthly life or, in other words, the kingdom of God on Earth.

Some Future Possibilities

In the past, spiritual consciousness and its faculties were realized only in a few sages, saints, artists and thinkers, belonging mostly to the Mentor type, finding expression in the organ of culture, that is, in religion, philosophy, art and literature. But if the integral development of the whole of individual and collective human organism is the aim of human evolution, then spiritual consciousness has to be awakened in every individual type and in every organ of the collectivity. This means spiritual consciousness has to be developed and established not only in the Mentor and his self-expression in culture, but also, in the Marshal and his Polity, in the Merchant and his Economy and in the Worker and his work or social life.

So, in the future we may witness leaders with spiritual consciousness emerging not only in religion or culture but also in politics, government, administration, business, commerce, science and technology, work-force and the civil society, giving a total spiritual direction to the whole of human life. In the past, most of the spiritual personalities were of the contemplative mentor-types. This is the reason why in most of the spiritual disciplines of the past there is so much emphasis on meditation and contemplation and the insistence on outer renunciation of life and world. But in the future we may witness this spiritual consciousness emerging in men and women of action. This means that the spirituality of the future will not be a life-denying and a predominantly contemplative spirituality; it will be a life-affirming and a life-transforming spirituality with a greater emphasis on action rather than contemplations; there will be new systems of spiritual disciplines which can be practiced in and through our daily life and activities. This life-embracing spirituality will be the governing paradigm of the future evolution of humanity.