By Kishor Gandhi
(Original Version from Sri Aurobindo Circle Journal 1966)
Destruction: The First Condition of Progress
NOW that the supramental Truth which will create a New Age in human evolution is increasingly pressing to manifest in the external life of the world, the question naturally arises as to how it will deal with those elements in the life and consciousness of humanity which still obstinately resist its advent and which blindly or deliberately side with the forces of Falsehood which vehemently seek to prevent its reign upon earth. Or, since the supramental Truth directly manifests the Will of God, how will God deal with these obstructing elements in humanity? Will He destroy them?
The majority of men conceive of God as God of Love and Mercy. To them the idea of God as destroyer seems too shocking and horrible. But a more clear-sighted and courageous vision of existence ought to make it clear that destruction is as necessary a part of the cosmic process as creation and preservation and that without it any new progress would become impossible in the present state of life.
As Sri Aurobindo says :
“Destruction is always a simultaneous or alternate element which keeps pace with creation and it is by destroying and renewing that the Master of Life does his long work of preservation. More, destruction is the first condition of progress. Inwardly, the man who does not destroy his lower self-formations, cannot rise to a greater existence. Outwardly also, the nation or community or race which shrinks too long from destroying and replacing its past forms of life, is itself destroyed, rots and perishes and out of its debris other nations, communities and races are formed. By destruction of the old giant occupants man made himself a place upon earth. By destruction of the Titans the gods maintain the continuity of the divine Law in the cosmos. Whoever prematurely attempts to get rid of this law of battle and destruction, strives vainly against the greater will of the World-Spirit. Whoever turns from it in the weakness of his lower members…is showing not true virtue, but a want of spiritual courage to face the sterner truths of Nature and of action and existence.” (CWSA, Vol 19, p.384)
This is Gita’s conception of God as the Time-Spirit who speaks of himself: “I am Time the Destroyer of beings.” But the Gita also makes it clear that this action of God as the Destroyer is not the whole essence or the complete truth of His cosmic working. It is a transitional necessity in the lower stages of evolution in which man lives in his egoistic consciousness enveloped in the Ignorance and blindly driven by forces of the lower nature. In this condition he is not always sufficiently responsive to the progressive will of the Time-Spirit in the universe. Not only so, but he often becomes an instrument in the hands of the Asuric forces of Falsehood which are opposed to the increasing manifestation of the Divine Truth in the world. So long as there is this obstruction and opposition in man the necessity of destruction also remains. It can be dispensed with only when man consciously begins to respond to and side with God’s progressive will in the cosmos. More and more he does so, less and less becomes the necessity of destruction. God does not delight in destruction for destruction’s sake; He uses it only as a means for a greater creation because man in his lower egoistic nature refuses to move forward by the smoother and harmonious process of consenting to His Will. As Sri Aurobindo says : “God the Time-Spirit does not destroy for the sake of destruction, but to make the ways clear in the cyclic process for a greater rule and a progressing manifestation.” (CWSA, Vol 19, p.387) But when urged by the call of the higher nature man begins to consent to God’s Will, then God also changes his manner of dealing with him. The fierce and terrible face of the Destroyer changes into the face of the Friend.
It is for this reason that Sri Aurobindo, while admitting that the law of progress through strife and destruction is not the best way of progress, also points out that it cannot be replaced by the higher law of harmony and peace and love until man is truly ready for it. “It is self-evident”, he says, “that in the actual life of man intellectual, social, political, moral we can make no real step forward without a struggle, a battle between what exists and lives and what seeks to exist and live and between all that stands behind either. It is impossible, at least as men and things are, to advance, to grow, to fulfill and still to observe really and utterly that principle of harmlessness which is yet placed before us as the highest and best law of conduct.” (CWSA, Vol 19, p. 42)
God’s higher law of peace and love can prevail in the world only when man outgrows his present egoistic consciousness sufficiently to deserve it and not before. Any premature rejection of the necessity of destruction would only result in setting back the forward march of humanity’s progress :
“No real peace can be till the heart of man deserves peace; the law of Vishnu cannot prevail till the debt to Rudra is paid. To turn aside then and preach to a still unevolved mankind the law of love and oneness ? Teachers of the law of love and oneness there must be, for by that way must come the ultimate salvation. But not till the Time-Spirit in man is ready, can the inner and ultimate prevail over the outer and immediate reality. Christ and Buddha have come and gone, but it is Rudra who still holds the world in the hollow of his hand. And meanwhile the fierce forward labour of mankind tormented and oppressed by the Powers that are profiteers of egoistic force and their servants cries for the sword of the Hero of the struggle and the word of its prophet.” (CWSA, Vol 19, p.386)