Modern Democracy and the dangers facing it by Sri Aurobindo written in 1916

 

For this is one gain of modern democracy which ancient

liberty did not realise to the same extent and which has not yet

been renounced, a full freedom of speech and thought. And as

long as this freedom endures, the fear of a static condition of

humanity and subsequent stagnation might seem to be groundless,—

especially when it is accompanied by universal education

which provides the largest possible human field for producing

an effectuating force. Freedom of thought and speech—the two

necessarily go together, since there can be no real freedom of

thought where a padlock is put upon freedom of speech—is

not indeed complete without freedom of association; for free

speech means free propagandism and propagandism only becomes

effective by association for the realisation of its objects.

This third liberty also exists with more or less of qualifying

limitations or prudent safeguards in all democratic States. But

it is a question whether these great fundamental liberties have

been won by the race with an entire security,—apart from their

occasional suspensions even in free nations and the considerable

restrictions with which they are hedged in subject countries. It

is possible that the future has certain surprises for us in this

direction.3 Freedom of thought would be the last human liberty

directly attacked by the all-regulating State, which will first seek

to regulate the whole life of the individual in the type approved

by the communal mind or by its rulers. But when it sees how

all-important is the thought in shaping the life, it will be led to

take hold of that too by forming the thought of the individual

through State education and by training him to the acceptance

of the approved communal, ethical, social, cultural, religious

ideas, as was done in many ancient forms of education. Only

if it finds this weapon ineffective, is it likely to limit freedom

of thought directly on the plea of danger to the State and to

civilisation. Already we see the right of the State to interfere with

individual thought announced here and there in a most ominous

3 A surprise no longer, but more and more an accomplished fact. At this moment

freedom of speech and thought exists no longer in Russia; it was entirely suspended for

a time in Germany and Southern Europe.

manner. One would have imagined religious liberty at least was

assured to mankind, but recently we have seen an exponent of

“new thought” advancing positively the doctrine that the State

is under no obligation to recognise the religious liberty of the

individual and that even if it grants freedom of religious thought,

it can only be conceded as a matter of expediency, not of right.

There is no obligation, it is contended, to allow freedom of cult;

and indeed this seems logical; for if the State has the right to

regulate the whole life of the individual, it must surely have the

right to regulate his religion, which is so important a part of his

life, and his thought, which has so powerful an effect upon his

life.4

 

 

VOLUME 25

THE COMPLETE WORKS OF SRI AUROBINDO P511

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