Natural Groupings and the Diversity of Languages

Sri Aurobindo notes that Nature encourages and requires diverse groupings of beings, whether it be plants, animals or human beings.  These groupings develop their own identity which allows them to differentiate from the larger species and thus, provide fields for experimentation and innovation.  Oftentimes among animal species, specific groups will have their own unique language or at least identifying sounds to distinguish the group from others of the same species.  This is true among pods of dolphins and whales, but is clearly more noticeable among humanity.  Humanity is distinguished by a vast array of languages and they clearly serve Nature’s purposes.  Language of course is a unifying factor among the group that speaks the same language, while it can create barriers between groups that speak different languages.  In the modern world, the unique language cultures help to preserve diversity, while the development of “languages of international commerce” help to bridge gaps and thus, both aspects appear to be supported as we move forward on our evolutionary development.

Sri Aurobindo notes:  “The legend of the Tower of Babel speaks of the diversity of tongues as a curse laid on the race; but whatever its disadvantages, and they tend more and more to be minimised by the growth of civilisation and increasing intercourse, it has been rather a blessing than a curse, a gift to mankind rather than a disability laid upon it.”

“In former times diversity of language helped to create a barrier to knowledge and sympathy, was often made the pretext even of an actual antipathy and tended to a too rigid division.  The lack of sufficient interpenetration kept up both a passive want of understanding and a fruitful crop of active misunderstandings.  But this was an inevitable evil of a particular stage of growth, an exaggeration of the necessity that then existed for the vigorous development of strongly individualised group-souls in the human race.  These disadvantages have not yet been abolished, but with closer intercourse and the growing desire of men and nations for the knowledge of each other’s thought and spirit and personality, they have diminished and tend to diminish more and more and there is no reason why in the end they should not become inoperative.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Ideal of Human Unity, Part Two, Chapter 28, Diversity in Oneness, pp. 244-245