The Essential Nature of Freedom and Diversity

There is a strong and unrelenting tendency in the human mind to attempt the achievement of unity through strict regulation and uniformity.  Certainly there are superficial benefits to uniformity to the extent that it can help create efficiency in the organization of society and thereby free the time and attention to address other needs or areas of development.  But in the end, uniformity is sterile and cannot solve the deeper issues of life.

Sri Aurobindo observes:  “But freedom is as necessary to life as law and regime; diversity is as necessary as unity to our true completeness.  Existence is one only in its essence and totality, in its play it is necessarily multiform.  Absolute uniformity would mean the cessation of life, while on the other hand the vigour of the pulse of life may be measured by the richness of the diversities which it creates.  At the same time, while diversity is essential for power and fruitfulness of life, unity is necessary for its order, arrangement and stability.  Unity we must create, but necessarily uniformity.  If man could realise a perfect spiritual unity, no sort of uniformity would be necessary; for the utmost play of diversity would be securely possible on that foundation.  If again he could realise a secure, clear, firmly-held unity in the principle, a rich, even an unlimited diversity in its application might be possible without any fear of disorder, confusion or strife.”

“While the life-power in man demands diversity, his reason favours uniformity.  It prefers it because uniformity gives him a strong and ready illusion of unity in place of the real oneness at which it is so much more difficult to arrive.  It prefers it, secondly, because uniformity makes easy for him the otherwise difficult business of law, order and regimentation.  It prefers it too because the impulse of the mind in man is to make every considerable diversity an excuse for strife and separation and therefore uniformity seems to him the one secure and easy way to unification.  Moreover, uniformity in any one direction or department of life helps him to economise his energies for development in other directions.”

“Even here, however, the complex unity of existence asserts its truth: in the end man’s total intellectual and cultural growth suffers by social immobility, — by any restriction or poverty of his economic life; the spiritual existence of the race, if it attains to remote heights, weakens at last in its richness and continued sources of vivacity when it depends on a too standardized and regimented society; the inertia from below rises and touches even the summits.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Ideal of Human Unity, Part Two, Chapter 17, Nature’s Law in our Progress — Unity in Diversity, Law and Liberty, pp. 153-154