On 6 June 2004 the Chancellor of Germany participated for the first time in the yearly commemoration ceremony of the Allied landing in France, on the beaches of Normandy, the decisive military operation which would lead up to the end of the Nazi regime and of the Second World War in Europe. The invitation of the German Chancellor, Gerhard Schroeder, and his embrace by the French President Jacques Chirac were meant as the final gestures of reconciliation which would put, after sixty years, a definitive end to World War II. In the newspapers one could read: “Time has healed the wounds. It’s time the Germans were there,” and the words of Mr Schroeder, saying that his presence was “hugely symbolic” and that it meant that “the Second World War is finally over”.
The Second World War is still very much alive in the consciousness of humanity, as shown by such successful films like Schindler’s List, Saving Private Ryan, The Pianist and the TV-serial Band of Brothers. There is, however, little knowledge about the historical facts. What remains in the general awareness are some vague notions of the Holocaust, the bombings of Great Britain and Germany, the SS, and the still fascinating but often caricatural personality of Adolf Hitler. Some prominent historians, like HR Trevor-Roper and Alan Bullock, admit that they cannot explain Hitler, which means, considering the importance of the Fuehrer in Nazi Germany, that they cannot understand the war. There is much writing about Hitler’s “charisma”, about the magic power his words exerted on his audiences, and about the “evil” embodied in the SS and their reign in the concentration and extermination camps. But explanations of the gigantic and terrible event that was the Second World War there are as many as there are students of history, and most key-facts are prudently worded in the subjunctive mode.
We, Aurobindonians, have a general explanation of this war, in fact an encompassing one, provided to us by Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. In 1942 Sri Aurobindo wrote to a disciple: “I affirm to you most strongly that this is the Mother’s war. You should not think of it as a fight for certain nations against others or even for India; it is a struggle for an ideal that has to establish itself on earth in the life of humanity, for a truth that has yet to realise itself fully and against a darkness and falsehood that are trying to overwhelm the earth and mankind in the immediate future. It is the forces behind the battle that have to be seen and not this or that superficial circumstance.” (OH 3941) The emphatic force with which Sri Aurobindo wrote here was rather unusual of him.
And he continued: “It is a struggle for the liberty of mankind to develop, for conditions in which men have freedom and room to think and act according to the light in them and grow in the Truth, grow in the Spirit. There cannot be the slightest doubt that if one side wins, there will be an end of all such freedom and hope of light and truth, and the work that has to be done will be subjected to conditions which would make it humanly impossible; there will be a reign of falsehood and darkness, a cruel oppression and degradation for most of the human race such as people in this country [i.e. India] do not dream of and cannot yet at all realise.” (OH 394)
For Hitler did not act on his own initiative. Sri Aurobindo and the Mother have stated repeatedly that Hitler was possessed by an emanation of one of the great Asuras, “the Lord of Falsehood” who calls himself “the Lord of the Nations”, and that he acted as his instrument. “One can say that Hitler is not a devil but is possessed by one”. (T 575) Of this possession Hitler was “very conscious”, for he was “an excellent medium”. “Without this possession he would be a crudely amiable person with some mental hobbies and eccentricities … No one thought of Hitler as having anything in him. Then came the vital development, the vital Power holding him in his clutch.” (P 645, T 85) This two-sidedness of Hitler’s character is mentioned by all his biographers. Often seemingly floating and indecisive, he could suddenly, “when the spirit descended upon him”, jump into verbal action and unleash a torrent of words with a power which left nobody in his presence untouched.
“The problem is to save the world from domination by the Asuric Forces”, said Sri Aurobindo in September 1939. “It would be awful to be ruled by the Nazis or Fascists. Their domination will let loose on mankind what are called the Four Powers of Hell — obscurantism, falsehood, suffering and death. Suffering and death mean the horrors of war.” (T 232) In his sonnet “The Iron Dictators”, Sri Aurobindo calls these powers of hell “The iron dreadful Four who rule our breath, / Masters of falsehood, Kings of ignorance, / High sovereign Lords of suffering and death.” (CP 136) It may be remembered that the four great Asuras, of whom Sri Aurobindo and the Mother always spoke respectfully, were the reversal, at the beginning of the cosmic evolution, of the essential divine attributes which are Light, Truth, Life and Bliss.
Hitler is still often misrepresented as something like the droll figure in Charlie Chaplin’s parodical film The Great Dictator, or as a kind of screaming, half-mad sexual pervert. The fact is that he was driven by the vision inspired into him by his Lord, and that this vision was world-encompassing. The Aryans (read: the Aryan Germans) were the master race, whose rightful duty it was to submit all other peoples and rule the earth. He, Adolf Hitler, was the German Messiah, sent with the mission to lead his people towards a golden age, the Empire of a Thousand Years. As the Germans were the Chosen People, there was no place for another people which claimed to be chosen, namely the Jews, who therefore had to be eliminated by any means. The human acquisitions of intelligence, individual liberty and social fraternity, together with the virtues of the soul, were no longer of importance. They had to be replaced by the properties of power, physical strength, harshness, insensitivity, and other attitudes which would favour the global domination of the (white) Aryans.
As each God contains in himself all the qualities of all other Gods and of the Divine as such, so each Asura contains in himself all the anti-divine qualities of the other Asuras. Falsehood, ignorance, suffering and death never exist separately, though they may be dominant according to the circumstances. In India the beings who are these powers are known as “Asuras”, the basically anti-divine cosmic powers said to be older than the Gods and who will do battle with them for as long as the divine Providence allows or deems necessary. This battle between the good and the evil Forces is the main theme of the mythology of all peoples. In the West the same four scourges are known as “the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse”.
This takes us directly to Hitler, acting under the inspiration of the Lord of Falsehood, and the background of the Second World War which necessitated the direct intervention of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. It is the intention of the Asuras, still lords of the earthly evolution, to maintain their reign over the earth and all beings on it, for their existence depends upon this reign. The battle between the Asuras and the Gods has always been, in essence, a fight about the possibility of evolution upon the earth. The Asuras want to keep things as they are, for they thrive in darkness and ignorance; the Gods want to construct the path of evolution that, from that darkness and ignorance, will lead back to the divine Light, Truth and Bliss. (One can follow the gradual advance of the progress made up to the present evolutionary stage in what Sri Aurobindo calls “the procession of the Avatars”.) The battle of the Gods has rendered the apparition upon earth of the human being possible. Humanity has now reached the critical point of transformation into a higher, supramental, divine being.
This transformation is, of course, what the work of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother were and are about. The sequence of hot and cold global wars of the twentieth century, seen in this light, acquires a significance which explains the huge acts of destruction and death, and even the menace of the extinction of mankind. One may search in vain for another explanation which so fully and clearly fits the facts. But the concepts mentioned in the previous paragraphs are, generally speaking, not within the horizon of Western thought at present and only still partially alive in the East. Besides, our “post-modern” era is a time of confusion.
“What we have to see is on which side men and nations put themselves”, wrote Sri Aurobindo. “If they put themselves on the Asuric side, they at once make themselves instruments of the Divine purpose in spite of all defects, errors, wrong movements and actions which are common to human nature and all human collectivities. The victory of one side (the Allies) would keep the path open for the evolutionary forces; the victory of the other side would drag back humanity, degrade it horribly and might lead even, at the worst, to its eventual failure as a race, as others in the past evolution failed and perished.” (OH 396)
The human being consists of matter, the life forces and the mind. So does humanity as a whole. The possibilities of the individual being remain limited by the possibilities created in the species in the course of the long battle of the divine and the anti-divine forces during the upwardly spiralling cycles of humanity. Within humanity this battle is fought as the yoga of the select souls which carry the destiny of humanity, by the vibhutis, and at the most crucial moments by the Avatars. The Avatars incarnate in times of greatest need, when humanity itself, in its great souls and vibhutis, is not able to go beyond its capabilities. These times of greatest need have always an evolutionary significance: the Avatar comes to take evolution a step forward.
It would be illogical to suppose that humanity can produce the next higher being, provisionally called the “superman”, if it is not fully developed, if it has not fully explored and realized its inherent capabilities. According to Sri Aurobindo, humanity at the present point in its cycle of evolution has reached the required maturity for that unique moment in human evolution: the moment of transition into a new, higher, divine being. For this to be possible at least an upper layer of the mass of humanity had to reach the full mental development, which was the task of the Renaissance and the Enlightenment. The new values created in these accelerating periods of the human development were to become an integral part of the general human constitution.
“If mankind is to be spiritualised, it must first in the mass cease to be the material or the vital man and become the psychic and the true mental being. It may be questioned whether such a mass progress is possible, but if it is not, then the spiritualisation of mankind as a whole is a chimera.” (HC 253) “The mind and intellect must develop to their fullness so that the spirituality of the race may rise securely upward upon a broad basis of the developed lower nature in man, the intelligent mental being … So long as the hour of the rational age has not arrived, the irrational period of society cannot be left behind, and that arrival can only be when not a class or a few but the multitude has learned to think, to exercise its intelligence actively.” (HC 188-89)
“Whatever modifications may arrive, whatever new tendencies intervene, whatever reactions oppose, it could hardly then be doubted that the principal gifts of the French Revolution must remain and be universalised as permanent acquisitions, indispensable elements in the future order of the world, — national self-consciousness and self-government, freedom and enlightenment for the people and so much social equality and justice at least as is indispensable to political liberty; for with any form of fixed and rigid inequality democratic self-government is incompatible.” (IHU 75)
Whatever happens in history — and the path of evolution is dotted with catastrophes, which seem to be, like the wars, a means of intensified change — “to go back is impossible, the attempt is always, indeed, an illusion”. (HC 42) But to counteract the unique possibility of progress now present in humanity was precisely the intention of the Lord of Falsehood who, firstly, caused an anti-Enlightenment and anti-intellect wave, called Fascism, and who, secondly, inspired Hitler with a similar, although much more radical far-reaching, programme. “God’s front is the spiritual front … Hitler’s Germany is not God’s front. It is the Asuric front, through which the Asura aims at world-domination. It is the descent of the Asuric world upon the human to establish its own power on the earth.” (T 669) “Hitler did not want the keep the wheel of history moving, he wanted it to turn backwards”, writes the German historian Guido Knopp, who also speaks about Hitler’s intention “to go back to pre-modern, even pre-civilised forms of society2”.
There can be no doubt about this when one reads Hitler’s Mein Kampf — which at the time too few did seriously — and when one reads his recorded sayings about his vision. “Creation is not finished”, he said, “at least not as far as the human being is concerned. The human being stands, biologically speaking, clearly on a turning point. A new kind of human being becomes discernible … This causes the old species Man, as we have known it until now, to become inexorably decadent … All the creative power will be concentrated in the new species Man. Both species will quickly separate and develop in opposite directions. The one will sink below humanity, the other will rise far above the present humanity. I might call the former ‘god-man’ and the latter ‘mass animal’ … Yes, man is something that has to be overcome. Nietzsche knew already something about this in his own way. … Man becomes God, this is what it means in simple words. Man is the becoming God … Do you understand now the depth of our National Socialist movement?” Hitler asked Hermann Rauschning, the man to whom these words were addressed. “He who understands National Socialism only as a political movement knows practically nothing about it. It is more than a religion: it is the will to create a new humanity.3”
These astonishing and revealing words leave little doubt that Hitler’s vision was, by way of speaking, the shadow of Sri Aurobindo’s. In fact, he systematically counteracted everything the Enlightenment stood for in order to build his pseudo-Darwinist racist world in which the ideal, its “god”, would be a kind of magnificent beast of prey, and the individual a cell in the integrated body of the people or nation. “If nature does not wish that weaker individuals should mate with the stronger, she wishes even less that a superior race should intermingle with an inferior one, because in such a case all her efforts, throughout hundreds of thousands of years, to establish an evolutionary higher stage of being, may thus be rendered futile”, we read in Mein Kampf. And in the comments to his Table Talk we read that Hitler said: “My pedagogics are ruthless. What is weak must be hammered away. I want my youth strong and beautiful, masterful and fearless. The free, magnificent beast of prey must flash from their eyes. In this way I wipe out the years of human domestication and I obtain the pure, noble material of Nature. And I will be able to create what is new.”
Germany became the uniformed, drilled, militarized society which would be “the fist of the Fuehrer” and “the sword of God”. (Hitler has always been convinced that he was faithfully carrying out the instructions of his “God”). It became “the rigid, armoured, aggressive, formidable Nazi state” (HC 42). But “uniformity is death, not life”, wrote Sri Aurobindo, for whom individual freedom was an absolute principle without which real growth is impossible. He wrote in the heyday of Nazism: “If this trend becomes universal, it is the end of the Age of Reason, the suicide or the execution … of the rational and intellectual expansion of the human mental being. Reason cannot do its work, act or rule if the mind of man is denied freedom to think or freedom to realise its thought by action in life. But neither can a subjective age be the outcome …” (HC 206) We know that the subjective age is necessary for the further development of the spirit in humanity and for its transformation into a higher kind of being.
This must suffice to indicate what was really at stake in the Second World War: the future of humanity, of the earth, of evolution. “Even if I knew that the Allies would misuse their victory or bungle the peace or partially at least spoil the opportunities opened to the human world by that victory, I would still put my force behind them. At any rate things could not be one-hundredth part as bad as they would be under Hitler. The ways of the Lord would still be open — to keep them open is what matters. Let us stick to the real, the central fact, the need to remove the peril of black servitude and revived barbarism threatening India and the world …” (OH 398, September 1943)
Most people did not know what Hitler really had in mind, they did not realize that if they did not belong to the white Aryan master race, they would have to polish its boots. Especially the coloured peoples, rated somewhere with the animals, were the subject of his disdain. “To me, as a nationalist who appreciates the worth of the racial basis of humanity, I must recognize the racial inferiority of the so-called [colonially] ’oppressed nations’, and that is enough to prevent me from linking the destiny of my people with the destiny of those inferior races”, he wrote in Mein Kampf. The treaty with the Japanese was only a matter of opportunity, for they were a kind of yellow monkeys, as the Nazis said behind their back. What the “reign of falsehood and death” really meant became terribly clear when the gates of the concentration camps were crushed by the invading tanks, and when the documentary films and huge stacks of files were produced before the first military tribunal at Nuremberg.
Some details of the way in which Sri Aurobindo and the Mother put their force behind the anti-Hitler armies can be read in Nirodbaran’s Talks with Sri Aurobindo, in Purani’s Evening Talks, in Sri Aurobindo’s letters and in the conversations of the Mother. This, however, is only a small part of their real action, which was constant. The Mother would later say that in those years the situation was so serious that the avataric Yoga came to a complete standstill. This happened at a point that the descent of the Supermind was expected, as we find confirmed in KD Sethna. It must have been the last chance for the Asura to prevent the great turnabout the world is now subject to — the great swirling confusion which actually is the result of the momentous birth of a new world.
It should never be forgotten that when Hitler was at the zenith of his powers, in 1940 and 1941, he had, according to Sri Aurobindo, “a fifty percent chance of success” (T 939). Sri Aurobindo said clearly: “He is the enemy of our work”. (ET 710) And in the days of Hitler’s greatest triumphs Sri Aurobindo said: “There is no chance for the world unless something happens in Germany or else Hitler and Stalin quarrel”. (T 552) “Now only Hitler’s death can save the situation.” (T 721) Sketching the tactical moves of Hitler in October 1940, Sri Aurobindo commented: “So Hitler comes to Asia Minor and that means India”. (T 939) That Hitler’s pincer movement, through the Balkans and Southern Russia on the one hand and through North Africa on the other, was intended to reach India, is now abundantly documented. If Hitler had won, the evolution of the world, in its most critical stage, would have been turned back “for centuries if not for millennia”.
Now India is free, the Asian nations have taken their places among the nations of the world, the world is growing one, Indian spirituality is penetrating into the mind of the West, and the roads into the future, where man will become superman, have remained open. (These are “the five dreams” of Sri Aurobindo as formulated by him in his radio message on the occasion of India’s independence.) Few know about the role “the Sage of Pondicherry” and his “companion” the Mother have played in rendering these developments possible. Sri Aurobindo lived secluded in his apartment, there on the first floor of a compound in Rue de la Marine, where apparently he sat mostly in a big chair. But in his autobiographical poems (and in Savitri) we read about his wounds which were “a thousand-and-one”, caused by the attacks of “the Titan Kings”. Nobody knew of his battles, except when in one such attack his thigh was broken. Nobody knew or knows much about the superhuman work Sri Aurobindo and the Mother have done for the world.
It is Sri Aurobindo himself who has compared the spiritual battle of the Second World War with Kurukshetra. “Ours is a sadhana which involves not only devotion or union with the Divine or a perception of Him in all things and beings”, he wrote, “but also action as workers and instruments and a work to be done in the world or a force to be brought in the world under difficult conditions; then one has to see one’s way and do what is commanded and support what has to be supported, even it if means war and strife carried on whether through chariots and bows and arrows or tanks and cars and American bombs and planes, in either case ghoram karma: the means and times and persons differ but it does not seem to me that X is wrong in seeing in it the same problem as in Kurukshetra.” (OH 398)
1. The abbreviations used are “OH” for On Himself, “T” for Nirodbaran’s Talks with Sri Aurobindo and “P” for Purani’s Evening Talks, HC for The Human Cycle, IHU for The Ideal of Human Unity, P for Collected Poems.
2. Guido Knopp: Hitler — Eine Bilanz, pp. 176, 177.
3. Hermann Rauschning: Gespräche mit Hitler, pp. 231-32.