Glen T. Martin
Secretary-General, World Constitution and Parliament Association. http://www.wcpa.global
President, Earth Constitution Institute http://www.earthconstitution.world
(Published in World Union, Vol. LIII Nos. – I, II, III, IV March, June, Sept, Dec. 2011, pp. 36-43)
World Union and the World Constitution and Parliament Association (WCPA) have a long history of cooperation on behalf of uniting humanity under the “ideal of human unity” as envisioned by Sri Aurobindo and institutionally structured by the Constitution for the Federation of Earth. In this article I describe some of this history of cooperation in relation to our common goal of liberation for the people of Earth and the establishing of human unity as the foundation for a yet higher destiny for human life.
During the three decades following 1970, Samar Basu and A. B. Patel, both leaders in World Union, worked closely with leaders of the World Constitution and Parliament Association. A. B. Patel was General Secretary and Treasurer of World Union International Center, Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry. Like Basu, he participated in the first three Constituent Assemblies in 1968, 1977 and 1979 during which world citizens from many countries worked together to envision, write, and promote the Earth Constitution to all the governments of Earth. Patel presided over the signing of the Earth Constitution at the Second Constituent Assembly in Innsbruck, Austria in 1977 and was its very first signatory. From this time until his death, he was Co-President of WCPA with Dr. Reinhart Ruge. He was also elected as Parliamentary Speaker for the first session of the Provisional World Parliament held under the authority of the Constitution that took place in Brighton, England in 1982.
Samar Basu was a noted Bengali author who first visited Pondicherry in 1967, joining World Union in 1973. He soon became Editor of World Union and lectured widely on Sri Aurobindo’s philosophy. Basu was also a signatory to the Earth Constitution during the Second Constituent Assembly. His book The UNO, The World Government and the Ideal of World Union as Envisioned by Sri Aurobindo chronicles many of these events.[i] Dr. Terence Amerasinghe, as Co-President of the World Constitution and Parliament Association after Patel’s death, wrote the Preface for this 1999 book in which Amerasinghe quotes from the Mother’s Message to the Peoples of the World at the Birth Centenary of Sri Aurobindo in 1972: “A new world based on Truth and refusing the old slavery of falsehood, wants to take birth. In all countries there are people who know it, at least feel it. To them we call, will you collaborate?” (iv-v).
Basu saw the connection between World Union and WCPA in an almost mystical light. In this book he writes:
…The World Union as an international organization was set up in 1958 under the direct guidance of the Mother (of Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry), to work for Human Unity and World Peace and harmony on spiritual foundation as envisioned by Sri Aurobindo, and that WCPA was also founded in 1958 as an international organization to achieve the same goal in its own way. The formation of these two organizations in the same year has a deep occult significance which has yet to be realized. (58-59)
For many years Terence Amerasinghe was Co-president of the World Constitution and Parliament Association with Dr. Reinhart Ruge from Mexico. Both were regular visitors to Pondicherry and Auroville and collaborators with World Union in the work for democratic world government under the Constitution for the Federation of Earth. Amerasinghe and Ruge recognized the significance of the work of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother and made the evident connections between the Earth Constitution and Aurobindo’s great vision of the evolution of human life toward Supermind and ever-greater unification of human life.
Ruge and Patel met in Delhi in 1975. Patel immediately invited Ruge to Pondicherry, after which time they became good friends. Ruge retired in 2003 to become WCPA Honorary President for Life and Amersinghe continued as WCPA President until his death at age 90 in 2007. Both Ruge and Amerasinghe understood human life through the model of the emergence of a higher level of human existence, one major step for which would be the ratification of the Constitution for the Federation of Earth. Each of them understood that “the ascent to the Divine Life is the human journey, the Work of works, the acceptable sacrifice. This alone is man’s real business in the world and the justification of his existence….[ii] (46). Perhaps this is why these leaders spent so much time in India. India is not only a center of the great insight into the human ascent to the Divine, but its multiple wisdom traditions lend themselves to an understanding of the need for the dynamic unity in diversity envisioned by the Preamble to the Earth Constitution. In the words of Aurobindo, “the universe and the individual are necessary to each other in their ascent” (49 ).
This period was also the time of the development of Liberation Theology and philosophy, originating in the Latin American Catholic Church after the Second Vatican Council, 1962-1965, but soon spreading to other continents and other religions. There have, of course, been many philosophies of liberation historically, including that of Sri Aurobindo. What Vatican II did for Christianity, however, was to bring the teachings of the Biblical Prophets and Jesus into the sphere of concrete action on behalf of the poor and the oppressed and on behalf of a world-transformative process that they called “preparing the Kingdom of God on Earth.” The “praxis” of Liberation Theology recalls the Karmayoga of Mahatma Gandhi and Sri Aurobindo. Aurobindo writes: “The soul in us develops itself by life and works, and, indeed not so much as the action itself but the way of our soul’s inner force of working determines its inner relations to Spirit. This is, indeed, the justification of Karmayoga as a justification of the soul’s higher self-realization.” (117)
Liberation theology emphasizes the liberation of the poor and the oppressed, those who constitute the majority of humanity. Their liberation, however, is not simply through transformation of the present economic system into one that creates prosperity for all. For liberation theology, human liberation also involves the realization in human life of agape, the love taught by Jesus, and the building of a new kingdom on the Earth in which people live in communities of equality, justice, freedom, and compassion. Economics must become humanized economics: human economic and social relationships based on values, respect for human dignity, and the need to create a decent existence for all human beings.
Sri Aurobindo expresses a similar vision: “The aim of economics should not be to create a huge engine of production, whether of the competitive or the co-operative kind, but to give to men – not only to some but to all men in his highest possible measure – the joy of work according to their own nature and the free leisure to grow inwardly, as well as a simply rich and beautiful life for all.” (197) Aurobindo formulated the pragmatics of human liberation far before the advent of Liberation Theology. To “grow inwardly” is to grow in love, compassion, truth, and the deep freedom of inner silence.
The spirit of WCPA under the influence of Amerasinghe and Ruge was informed by the vision of evolutionary ascent articulated by Aurobindo and by the praxis of liberation philosophy that spread across the world from Latin America to Africa to Asia in the decades after 1965. Amerasinghe (an international lawyer from Sri Lanka, educated in London, with a Ph.D. in Asian history) was one of five primary authors of the Earth Constitution, the preliminary draft of which was written in Denver, Colorado in the spring of 1972. The Earth Constitution is the Magna Charta for human liberation in the sense that it forms the crucial next step in the process of realizing Supermind in human life and absolutely fundamental for establishing a global economic system premised on universal human dignity and well being.
In their discourse on Education, Sri Aurobindo and the Mother affirm that collective reorganization for humanity is just as fundamental as individual self-realization: “In this effort, however, to improve human conditions there have always been two tendencies, which although apparently contrary to each other should rather be complementary and together work of the progress. One seeks a collective reorganization, something that would lead toward an effective unity of mankind: the other declares that all progress is made first by the individual who should be given the conditions in which he can progress freely. Both are equally true and necessary, and our effort should be directed along both lines. Collective progress and individual progress are interdependent.” (227)
The Earth Constitution organizes human life on our planet to make further progress possible. At present, our global economic system (in which, as Gandhi put it, “the few ride on the backs of the millions”) in conjunction with the system of sovereign nation-states blocks all possible further progress. Human life cannot move forward when 20% of humanity control 90% of our planet’s wealth and resources while the other 80% live in a condition of misery and exploitation in slavery to these Lords of the Earth. During the life of Sri Aurobindo, this condition was not nearly as severe as it is today, but the authors of the Earth Constitution and the leaders of World Union during the 1970s understood the tragic direction of history toward ever-greater poverty and misery. They also understood the tragic destruction of our planetary environment that has continued apace in the last 40 years as well as the astonishing developments in weaponry and spread of nuclear weapons across the world, weapons that have spread recently even to the homeland of Gandhi and Aurobindo.
All these increasing calamities – poverty and misery, destruction of our planetary environment, worldwide depletion of resources such as fresh water and arable land, and vast increases in the destructive power of weaponry – are exacerbated by the system of some 192 autonomous nation-states recognizing no effective law above themselves. Collectively these militarized national security states spend more than one trillion US dollars per year on militarism and weapons, making the world evermore dangerous, evermore unstable, evermore desperate, and evermore inhospitable for the development of the spirit within communities and individuals.
The Earth Constitution is premised on the sovereignty of the people of Earth, and the nations under the Constitution have a sovereign authority appropriate to national units within the Earth Federation. Their status is comparable that of states within the United States or Pradesh within India. When the process of ratification of the Constitution (prescribed in Article 17) has reached its second stage, the nations are required to demilitarize according to a carefully developed plan that does not leave any nation feeling vulnerable. The large sum of money saved from this, along with vast sums of credit created by the Earth Federation, will now be used to end poverty on Earth, restore the planetary environment, and protect essential resources such as fresh water and arable land.
Equally fundamental, the Earth Constitution establishes every person in the Federation as a world citizen with full protection for his or her human rights and with the capacity to relate to every other citizen in equality and dignity. The present apparent incommensurability between religions, races, ideologies, cultures and nations will be transformed through this global social contract. The unity in diversity of humankind will be established and protected by law. A great transformation in human consciousness will result, when the apparent incommensurability of these divisive forces will disappear for most people. The unity proclaimed by Sri Aurobindo and the Mother will begin to be actualized for the first time in history.
The Earth Constitution is predicated on an economics designed to provide every person on Earth with a “rich and beautiful” existence, a set of laws and institutions necessary to protect the global environment and to preserve essential resources, and the means by which to demilitarize the nations and make them subject to the enforceable rule of democratically legislated world laws. This alone will make possible the next step in the ascent of humanity to the life divine. As Aurobindo and the Mother proclaimed, the process of individual self-realization and social reorganization are necessary to one another and inseparable. We can no longer wait for a slow evolution of humankind that some thinkers proclaim necessary. The threats to human existence are so much greater today than when Aurobindo and the Mother lived. World Union today is necessary not only for the advance of humankind, but for its very survival. Ratification of the Earth Constitution remains our most promising option to make this happen.
Drawing on the long association with World Union and the work of Aurobindo, in July, 2010, WCPA organized the 11th session of the Provisional World Parliament at the Sri Aurobindo Ashram in Nainital, India. The Provisional World Parliament has been meeting since 1982 under the authority of Article 19 of the Earth Constitution (as we saw above), with A. B. Patel as its first Parliamentary Speaker. The Parliament passes provisional world laws and resolutions designed to facilitate the developing infrastructure of Provisional World Government as well as ratification of the Earth Constitution. On the way to Nainital, many delegates came from abroad through the international airport at New Delhi and were hosted with kindness and friendship by the Sri Aurobindo Ashram in Delhi. Our hosts at Nainital held yoga sessions every morning for those delegates who cared to participate and went out of their way to facilitate a successful session of the Parliament. Again, during the 12th session of Parliament in December 2010, in Kolkata, delegates held formal meetings at the Sri Aurobindo Ashram in that city.
The history of WCPA remains linked to Sri Aurobindo and World Union. Despite the appearances today of insurmountable obstacles to the unification of humankind, WCPA chapters around the world continue to actively promote the Earth Constitution. The large chapter in Chennai, India is planning a week of events, seminars, and lectures in June 2011, and we hope that World Union will participate. I believe we share a common understanding that the next step for human beings can and must be political and constitutional union for human beings under the Earth Constitution. It alone will make possible the further descent of the Divine into human life. With Sri Aurobindo, we also understand that a great transformation can happen at any time: “if earth calls and the Supreme answers, the hour can be even now for that immense and glorious transformation” (57).
[i] Basu, Samar, The UNO, the World Government and the Ideal of World Union. Pondicherry: World Union Publisher
[ii] Aurobindo, Sri. The Essential Aurobindo. Robert McDermott, ed. New York: Schocken Books, 1973. For convenience, all quotations from Aurobindo’s works have been drawn from this anthology, with page references given in the text of the article.