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Angiras on Sun 30 Nov 2008:

The present situation in Pondicherry clearly reflects a much larger problem of which Juergensmeyer clarifies some important aspects. We should recall the Mother's statement that the Ashram "is a reduced image of life." (CWM 13:149)

It may be helpful to realize that the uproar in India against an American biography of Sri Aurobindo is in a certain sense an anti-globalization protest — as was, much more dramatically, an event such as the destruction of the World Trade Center. The WTC was targeted as a symbol of the global economic system. The Lives presents Sri Aurobindo in terms that are acceptable to the worldwide intellectual community, thus antagonizing those to whom cultural globalization is threatening. Strangely enough, the attack on The Lives of Sri Aurobindo really got under way when misleading, decontextualized extracts were sent to dozens of people on September 11, 2008.

The irony of seeing this as an anti-globalization movement is that Sri Aurobindo was one of the earliest and most far-seeing writers on globalization, though his work is as yet unknown to theorists in this field. His major work on globalization — focusing on its political aspect — is, of course, The Ideal of Human Unity, but this is also an important theme of his essays on Indian culture. Perhaps more surprisingly, long-term processes of globalization, which have been under way for thousands of years, form much of the subject of his unfinished epic Ilion.

Ilion deals with an early phase of what Huntington, borrowing a provocative phrase from Bernard Lewis, has more recently called "the clash of civilizations":

Europe and Asia, met on their borders, clashed in the Troad.

This is the "cultural struggle" of which Sri Aurobindo wrote in "Is India Civilised?" There, without using the current term "globalization," he speaks of "a compelling physical oneness forced on us by scientific inventions and modern circumstances." He continues:

But this physical oneness must necessarily bring its mental, cultural and psychological results. At first it will probably accentuate rather than diminish conflict in many directions, enhance political and economic struggles of many kinds and hasten too a cultural struggle. There it may bring about in the end a swallowing unification and a destruction of all other civilisations by one aggressive European type.... On the other hand it may lead to a free concert with some underlying oneness. But the ideal of the entire separateness of the peoples each developing its sharply separatist culture with an alien exclusion law for other leading ideas and cultural forms, although it has been for some time abroad and was growing in vigour, is not likely to prevail. For that to happen the whole aim of unification preparing in Nature must fall to pieces, an improbable but not quite impossible catastrophe. (CWSA 20:64)

The "aim of unification" as it was glimpsed in ancient times is represented in Ilion by the proto-global vision of Achilles, who is portrayed as a precursor of Alexander the Great:

Asia join with Greece, one world from the frozen rivers
Trod by the hooves of the Scythian to farthest undulant Ganges.

A less optimistic view is voiced by the cynical Paris who points to the problem of overpopulation:

But on this earth that is narrow, this stage that is crowded, increasing
One on another we press.

In the depiction of Troy as "a city throned on the hills with her foot on the nations" and "the democracy hated of heaven" one can even find parallels to the resentment of American power today. America is commonly described in a biblical phrase as a "city on a hill." But recall Juergensmeyer's comment: "What is perplexing to many Americans is why their country would be so severely hated...."

The dreams of economic globalizers are articulated in Ilion by Poseidon, the god of the neo-liberals:

Gold shall make men like gods and bind their thoughts into oneness;
Peace I will build with gold and heaven with the pearls of my caverns.

Sri Aurobindo did not encourage these illusions, however:

Even as Troy, so shall Babylon flame up to heaven for the spoiler
Wailed by the merchant afar as he sees the red glow from the ocean.

In the end, the issue for the future is whether the rational Athene or the mystic Apollo will prevail as the leading power in human life. Zeus promises supremacy to his daughter, but only for the time being:

Girl, thou shalt rule with the Greek and the Saxon, the Frank and the Roman.
Worker and fighter and builder and thinker, light of the reason,
Men shall leave all temples to crowd in thy courts, O Athene.
Go then and do my will, prepare man's tribes for their fullness.

Athene realizes that this is not the whole story:

This too I know that I pass preparing the paths of Apollo
And at the end as his sister and slave and bride I must sojourn
Rapt to his courts of mystic light and unbearable brilliance.

Apollo himself speaks of what has sometimes been called "the revenge of God":

Then in their ages of barren light or lucidity fruitful
Whenso the clear gods think they have conquered earth and its mortals,
Hidden God from all eyes, they shall wake from their dream and recoiling
Still they shall find in their paths the fallen and darkened Apollo.

Since Ilion is far from finished, we do not know how it would have ended. Badly for Troy, no doubt. But Sri Aurobindo's view was that in the long run there is no stopping the evolution of consciousness to higher and higher levels, despite all temporary setbacks and appearances to the contrary. As he says through Zeus:

For when the night shall be deepest, dawn shall increase on the mountains
And in the heart of the worst the best shall be born by my wisdom.