The Secret of Life Lies in the Harmony Between Unity and Diversity

The mental consciousness is limited and works generally with a fixed framework for its action.  Nature appears to support almost limitless variety and differentiation, as we see in the insect, plant and animal kingdoms.  Even among human beings, we find a certain amount of variation around the general theme.  Tracing back through our biological roots, we can even see that human beings share a very considerable amount of common background with amphibians, fish, and animals.  Research done by the Indian scientist Jagdish Chandra Bose even showed that plants share a considerable aspect of life with animals, and are able to respond with signs of intelligence to vital stimuli.  Within humanity, experiments with “inbreeding” within communities has shown a weakening of the strain across multiple generations, leading to the banning of marriage between close relations, and conscious attempts to reach outside a small community, whether peacefully or through warfare, to broaden the genetic pool.  All of these things show us that Nature prefers and insists upon wide diversity, even within an overall unity of life.

Sri Aurobindo observes:  “…the real aim of Nature is a true unity supporting a rich diversity.  Her secret is clear enough from the fact that though she moulds on one general plan, she insists always on an infinite variation.  The plan of the human form is one, yet no two human beings are precisely alike in their physical characteristics…. All life is one in its essential plan and principle; even the plant is a recognizable brother of the animal; but the unity of life admits and encourages an infinite variety of types.”

Similarly one can see that each human societal grouping, while following essential basic principles of aggregation in society, nevertheless has its own uniqueness.  “…each develops its own character, variant principle, natural law.  This variation and fundamental following of its own separate law is necessary to its life, but it is equally necessary to the healthy total life of mankind.  For the principle of variation does not prevent free interchange, does not oppose the enrichment of all from a common stock and of the common stock by all which we have seen to be the ideal principle of existence; on the contrary, without a secure variation such interchange and mutual assimilation would be out of the question.  There we see that in this harmony between our unity and our diversity lies the secret of life; Nature insists equally in all her works upon unity and upon variation.  We shall find that a real spiritual and psychological unity can allow a free diversity and dispense with all but the minimum of uniformity which is sufficient to embody the community of nature and of essential principle.  Until we can arrive at that perfection, the method of uniformity has to be applied, but we must not over-apply it on peril of discouraging life in the very sources of its power, richness and sane natural self-unfolding.”


Sri Aurobindo, The Ideal of Human Unity, Part Two, Chapter 17, Nature’s Law in our Progress — Unity in Diversity, Law and Liberty, pp. 154-155