Nature’s Action of Countervailing Principles to Resolve the Tension Between Unity and Diversity

We can observe a consistent principle in Nature to resolving apparently conflicting tendencies through a method of opposition or reaction, followed by a modified working going forward thereafter.  In physics, there is a law which states that “for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction”.  This principle does not only apply to Matter, however, as it applies to plants and animals, as well as human interactions.  We see that whenever a particular species becomes over-dominant in relation to its environment, Nature finds ways to offset this dominance so as to bring the entire system back into balance.  In the case of animals, if they have an over-abundance of food, they will increase their population until such time as they use up the excess food supply; they will then die off due to the lack of food.  Similarly if crops are grown consistently in the same field, eventually they sap the nutrients they need from the soil.  Thus, practice in agriculture is to rotate crops and allow those that return the nutrient that has been depleted to the soil before planting the original crop again.

What works in the physical and biological world also has application in human society.  We may observe that if a society moves quickly forward in certain progressive directions, a counter-movement or reaction sets in and there comes a conservative phase that pulls back somewhat and consolidates.  At a certain point in time, when this conservative phase has played its part, the progressive movement may once again move forward, on a more solid basis, if the imbalances exposed in the first phase have been properly compensated for.

Sri Aurobindo observes:  “That in life to every pressure of active forces there is a tendency of reaction of opposite or variative forces which may not immediately operate but must eventually come into the field or which may not act with an equal and entirely compensating force, but must act with some force of compensation, may be taken as well established.  It is both a philosophical necessity and a constant fact of experience.  For Nature works by a balancing system of the interplay of opposite forces.  When she has insisted for some time on the dominant force of one tendency as against all others, she seeks to correct its exaggerations by reviving, if dead, or newly awakening, if only in slumber, or bringing into the field in a new and modified form the tendency that is exactly opposite.  After long insistence on centralisation, she tries to modify it by at least a subordinated decentralisation.  After insisting on more and more uniformity, she calls again into play the spirit of multiform variation.  The result need not be an equipollence of the two tendencies, it may be any kind of compromise.  Or, instead of a compromise it may be in act a fusion and in result a new creation which shall be a compound of both principles.”

“We may expect her to apply the same method to the tendencies of unification and group-variation in dealing with the great mass unit of humanity.  At present, the nation is the fulcrum which the latter tendency has been using for its workings as against the imperialistic tendency of unifying assimilation.  Now the course of Nature’s working in humanity may destroy the nation-unit, as she destroyed the tribe and clan, and develop a quite new principle of grouping; but also she may preserve it and give it sufficient power of vitality and duration to balance usefully the trend towards too heavy a force of unification.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Ideal of Human Unity, Part Two, Chapter 29, The Idea of a League of Nations, pp. 253-254