Monday, May 23, 2011

The Kalki Avatars-Napoleon Bonaparte

Sri Aurobindo was known in his ashram as the rebirth of Napoleon. Napoleon’s birthday was also August 15th.... In his previous births, it was believed he was Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Krishna and many other persons too. Someone asked Sri Aurobindo whether he had been Shakespeare as well, but could not elicit an answer. Read.

NIRODBARAN: Aldous Huxley says Napoleon and Caesar were bandits.
NIRODBARAN: He also says all evil, economic and otherwise, of the modern age are due to Napoleon..
PURANI: That is going too far.
SRI AUROBINDO: If he does say so, it shows a mind that is pedantic and without plasticity.
PURANI: Anatole France, though not an imperialist, says Napoleon gave glory to France.
SRI AUROBINDO: Not only glory. He gave peace and order, stable government and security to France. He was not only one of the conquerors but also one of the greatest administrators and organisers the world has seen. If it had not been for him, the whole idea of French Revolution would have been crushed by the European Powers. It was he who stabilised the ideas of the Revolution.
The only trouble was that he was not bold enough. If he had pushed on with the idea of unification of all Europe, which he had at the back of his mind, then the present Spanish struggle would not have been necessary. Italy would have been united much earlier and Germany would have been more civilised. If instead of proclaiming himself Emperor he had remained the First Consul, he would have met with better success. But, he was not like Hitler, he could not carry out things in a ruthless fashion. Even after his overthrow, the Germans on the Rhine were unwilling to give up the Code Napoleon and the institutions he had brought into existence.
Satyeyndra: They say his Russian Campaign was a proof that he was not a military genius. It is Tolstoy who belittles him in his War and Peace.
SRI AUROBINDO: War and Peace is a novel after all.
Satyeyndra: There Tolstoi says that Napoleon blundered by burning Moscow.
SRI AUROBINDO: But, history says that the Russians themselves burnt Moscow to deprive Napoleon of the gains of his victory. He conquered Moscow though he couldn't conquer Russia. Even his retreat at Leipzig is regarded as a feat of military genius. But, there is now a tendency to belittle even his military genius. They say it was his generals who were the military genius of his campaigns and not he. In the same way they belittle Genghis Khan and call him a cut-throat.
He organised the whole of Asia and part of Europe and made commerce safe. He was successful because he was supported by all the trading agencies who badly wanted safe commercial highways along the banks of rivers.
It is true about Napoleon that his physical capacity failed towards the end owing to his disease.
NIRODBARAN: Napoleon had a pituitary tumour, as a result of which his mental powers declined.
SRI AUROBINDO: History says it was cancer of the stomach. But who says he lost his mental powers? It is an historical fact that his mind remained clear and powerful up to the last. All talk of his mental decline is nonsense.
Nirodbaran read out to Sri Aurobindo some passages from Aldous Huxley's Ends and Means. They were on war, passive resistance, non-attachment, the Jacobins, Caesar, Napoleon and dictators in general. The last was: "More hooks have been written about Napoleon than about any other human being. The fact is deeply and alarmingly significant. . . . Duces and Fuhrers will cease to plague the world only when the majority of its inhabitants regard such adventurers with the same disgust as they now bestow on swindlers and pimps. So long as men worship Caesars and Napoleons, Caesars and Napoleons will duly rise and make them miserable."

SRI AUROBINDO: All that is shallow, it is mere moralising. If Caesar and Napoleon are not to be admired, then it means that human capacity and attainment are not to be admired. Caesar and Napoleon have been admired not merely because they were successful: plenty of successful people are not admired. Caesar has won admiration because it was he who founded the greatness of Imperial Rome which gave us one of the greatest periods of human civilisation. And we admire Napoleon because he was a
great organiser and he stabilised the French Revolution. He organised France and, through France, the whole of Europe. His immense powers and abilities - are these things not great?
PURANI: I suppose men admire them because they find in them the realisation of their own potential greatness,
SRI AUROBINDO: Of course. But Huxley speaks of Caesar and Napoleon as if they were the first dictators the world had seen. There have been dictators since the beginning of the world. And they are of various kinds. Kernal, Pilsudski, all the kings of Balkan states, as well as Stalin and Hitler, are all dictators. Even Gandhi, if he were put at the head of a free India, could be a dictator. My own father can be called the dictator of Rangppur or Khulna! The dictators come in answer to the necessity of the hour. When men and nations are in conflict with their surrounding conditions, when there is confusion all about, the dictators come, it set things right and pull the race out of its difficulties.
As for the Jacobins, with whom Huxley finds fault, I have been thinking of Laski's view. Laski is perfectly right in saying that the Jacobins saved the Republic. If they had not concentrated power in their hands, the Germans would have marched on Paris and crushed the new Republic at the very start and restored the old monarchy. It was because of the Jacobins that the Bourbons even when they returned, had to accept constitutional monarchy. Louis XVIII and all the kings in Europe were obliged, more or less, to accept the principles of democracy,
It is true that in Napoleon's time the Assembly was only a shadow, but the full Republic, although delayed for some time, was in fact already established. Politics is only a shadow at the top: the real changes that matter are those that come in society. The social laws introduced by Napoleon have continued till this day. It was he who made for the first time all men equal before the Law. The Code Napoleon bridged the gulf between the rich and the poor. This kind of equality seems very natural now, but when he introduced it, it was something revolutionary. The laws he laid down still hold. What he established may not have been democracy in the sense of government by the masses, but it was democracy in the sense of government by the middle class, the bourgeoisie.
On the topic of war, Huxley speaks as if there were always an alternative between military violence and non-violent peaceful development. But things are never like that: they don't move in
a perfect way. If Napoleon had not come, the Republic would have been smothered in its infancy and democracy would have suffered a setback. No, the Cosmic Spirit is not so foolish as to allow that. Carlyle puts the situation more realistically when he says that the condition was, "I kill you or you kill me. So it is better that I kill you than get killed by you."
PURANI: Huxley says war is always avoidable.
SRI AUROBINDO: When intellectuals talk of these things, they get into a muddle. How is war avoidable? How can you prevent war so long as the other fellow wants to fight? You can prevent it only by becoming stronger than he or (smiling), as Gandhi says, by changing his heart by passive resistance. And even there Gandhi has been forced to admit that none has understood his passive resistance except himself. It is not very promising for Satyagraha; in fact, it is a condemnation of it, considering that it is intended to be a general solution for all men. What some did in several places in India is not Satyagraha but Duragraha (obstinacy).

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