A&O – Unity in Diversity


Unity in Diversity


From A&O notes on elements of Art and Aesthetic Experience:

In ART & ORGANISM I understand ART as an ensemble of related traits that are expressed or experienced as both processes and products of cognition.  These function in ways unlike those used in most moment-to-moment, day-to-day processes of identifying and dealing with biologically relevant needs.  (Our consideration of NEEDS begins with Maslow’s hierarchy: see these now.) In other words, ART appears to “go beyond” immediate needs by exercising skills and combinations of skills (of perception, integration, and expression).  In practice this results in “making special” (Dissanyake).  That is the stimulus “stands out” and recruits more attention than it would routinely.

 COMPLEMENTARY READ: A&O on Empirical Aesthetics

 In “going beyond” the mundane, ART has much in common with PLAY.   Both ART and PLAY were once considered “autotelic” in that they were done for their own sake and not to meet some other external need.  We are now aware that they play important roles in the development that enables the fullest expression of a human’s potential.

Ethology—the study of behavior in developmental, evolutionary, ecological, and physiological context (“DEEP ETHOLOGY”)—integrates these disciplinary perspectives at every accessible level of organization from the cellular to the social in order to cultivate a holistic sense of art that will not neglect the fine-grain details on which it is built while simultaneously allowing the emergence of unique possibilities of one’s self and of humanity.  The tools of traditional empirical science paradoxically reveal mystery that seems to go beyond the simply “undiscovered” and can evoke spiritual feelings.  There is a dynamic dialectical relationship between what we feel is known and unknown, real and ideal, that manifests in thought processes and feelings, often manifest in art.   Levels of organization may begin “simple” buy vary progressively in complexity –shared characteristics of all life, or all vertebrates, or all humans in their incredible diversity still share crucial, founding elements.  This resonates with the familiar motto in aesthetics: “Unity in Diversity”   

“When Coleridge tried to define beauty, he returned always to one deep thought; beauty, he said, is unity in variety! Science is nothing else than the search to discover unity in the wild variety of nature,—or, more exactly, in the variety of our experience. Poetry, painting, the arts are the same search, in Coleridge’s phrase, for unity in variety.”  — J. Bronowski   [note 1]

 “But variety and pluralism need not be in conflict with unity. It was Leibniz who suggested that the unity of the world can only be experienced by man under special aspects. So his motto was ‘unity in variety.’ It dates back to the old philosophical idea of Heraclitus that even symmetry breaking is related to a sometimes hidden symmetry.”   (from Alfred Drake’s syllabus, Chapman University and California State University, Fullerton; 2014)


Unity in diversity is a concept of “unity without uniformity and diversity without fragmentation”[1] that shifts focus from unity based on a mere tolerance of physical, cultural, linguistic, social, religious, political, ideological and/or psychological differences towards a more complex unity based on an understanding that difference enriches human interactions. It has applications in many fields, including ecology,[1] cosmologyphilosophy,[2] religion[3] and politics.[4]

The idea and related phrase is very old and dates back to ancient times in both Western and Eastern Old World cultures. The concept of unity in diversity was used by both the indigenous peoples of North America and Taoist societies in 400–500 B.C. In premodern Western culture, it has existed in an implicit form in certain organic conceptions of the universe that developed in the civilizations of ancient Greece and Rome.[1]

“Unity in diversity” is used as a popular slogan or motto by a variety of religious and political groups as an expression of harmony and unity between dissimilar individuals or groups. The phrase is a deliberate oxymoron, the rhetorical combination of two antonyms, unitas“unity, oneness” and varietas “variety, variousness”. When used in a political context, it is often used to advocate federalism and multiculturalism

(from Wikipedia on Unity in Diversity; 8 April 2018)




“When Coleridge tried to define beauty, he returned always to one deep thought; beauty, he said, is unity in variety! Science is nothing else than the search to discover unity in the wild variety of nature,—or, more exactly, in the variety of our experience. Poetry, painting, the arts are the same search, in Coleridge’s phrase, for unity in variety.” — J. Bronowski

This recalls Jos Campbell: “The great deed of the supreme hero is to come to the knowledge of this unity in multiplicity, and then to make it known” (In The Hero with a Thousand Faces, 1949:40); and Einstein: “The religion of the future should be based on a religious sense arising from the experience of all things, natural and spiritual as a meaningful unity”  (quoted by Dukas & Hoffman, Eds., Albert Einstein: The Human Side 1954)

And see Whitman on the “vast similitude [that] interlocks all” (see also Rbt Richards on Ernst Haeckel[ii])

Unity in diversity expressed by Baudelaire speaking of Delacroix (1868):  C’est l’infini dans le fini. C’est le rêve ! et je n’entends pas par ce mot les capharnaüms de la nuit, mais la vision produite par une intense méditation, ou, dans les cerveaux moins fertiles, par un excitant artificiel. En un mot, Eugène Delacroix peint surtout l’âme dans ses belles heures. (It is the infinite in the finite. It is the dream! and I do not mean by that word the miscellany of the night, but the vision produced by intense meditation, or in the less fertile brain by artificial excitants. In a word, Eugene Delacroix expressed the soul at its finest.) adapted from Wikisource


[i]. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Golden_mean_(philosophy) 

[ii]. “Goethe and Humboldt believed, adapting ideas from Kant’s third Critique, that aesthetic judgment complemented scientific understanding; each in its own mode captured the laws of nature, the principles according to which nature exhibited a unity underlying an ever astonishing variety. With Haeckel, aesthetic judgment would be fused with Darwinian understanding through a love now lifted beyond the individual.” (Rbt Richards, 2004, in press)


|“The great source of pleasure is variety.
Uniformity must tire at last, though it be uniformity of excellence.
We love to expect; and, when expectation is disappointed or gratified,
we want to be again expecting.”
(Samuel Johnson “Lives of the English Poets” Butler)


“But variety and pluralism need not be in conflict with unity. It was Leibniz who suggested that the unity of the world can only be experienced by man under special aspects. So his motto was ‘unity in variety.’ It dates back to the old philosophical idea of Heraclitus that even symmetry breaking is related to a sometimes hidden symmetry.”

“All meaning implicitly asserts God, because all meaning is nothing less than a reference to one or other of the two aspects of the cosmic reality, what it has done or what it could do—that is, to the consequent or primordial natures of God.

The world as preserving its identity through all transformations is infinitely endowed with power to assimilate variety into unity. Indeed, the world in this sense is identical with God . God is the self-identical individuality of the world somewhat as a person is the self-identical individuality of his or her ever changing system of atoms.” — http://www.harvardsquarelibrary.org/HSGod/hartshorne.html

As Ralph Waldo Emerson once put it, “Herein is especially apprehended the unity of Nature, -the unity in variety, -which meets us everywhere.”.

BUT while we may possess this knowledge, do we realize it? Joseph Campbell approached it from the perspective of myth: “The two–the hero and his ultimate god, the seeker and the found– are thus understood as the outside and inside of a single, self-mirrored mystery, which is identical with the mystery of the manifest world. The great deed of the supreme hero is to come to the knowledge of this unity in multiplicity, and then to make it known.” (Joseph Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces, 1949:40) The effect of the successful adventure of the hero is the unlocking and release again of the flow of life into the body of the world. (Line added in the audiotape)

What better than Music?

“…Augustine of Hippo once wrote of another young court musician, “made use of music in order to express a tremendous truth by means of mystical symbols, for what can better suggest the unity in variety of a well-ordered city than the harmony produced by the rational and controlled concord of differing tones?” (Steffen Losel 2006 citing an abridged version of The City of God book XVII Ch 14, 383 in “Theologia Cantans: Mozart on Love, Forgiveness, and the Kenosis of Patriarchy” in Soundings 89(1-2): 73-99 )

BUT harmony appears often in aestheics and Poincare speaks to its power to enable graceful perception : It is the harmony of the diverse parts, their symmetry, their happy balance; in a word it is all that introduces order, all that gives unity, that permits us to see clearly and to comprehend at once both the ensemble and the details.  Henri Poincare , in Ultra Low Power Bioelectronics, p. 3.  https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Symmetry)   



      What is Art – Leo Tolstoy (http://www.cyberspacei.com/jesusi/authors/tolstoy/art/wia_03.htm)

“According to Hutcheson, in his Origin of Our Ideas of Beauty and Virtue, the aim of art is beauty, the essence of which consists in the manifestation of unity within diversity. In the perception of what is beautiful we are guided by ethical instinct (‘an internal sense’). This instinct may be contrary to the aesthetic one. Thus, according to Hutcheson, beauty no longer always coincides with the good, but is separate from it and sometimes contrary to it.”

Shaftesbury (1671-1713). Anthony Ashley Cooper Shaftesbury, the grandson of Locke’s patron, and the author of Characteristicks of Men, Manners, Opinions, and Times, points out the consequences that follow from Locke’s rejection of innate principles of morality, but instead of basing the morality of actions on innate principles he bases it on innate sentiment. For an innate logic of conduct he substitutes an innate aesthetic. His concept of the universe as a whole is aesthetic rather than logical: he conceives the all-pervading law of creation to be unity in variety. -Bronowski          



Specific ideas are explored by SCIENCE in a relentless search for precision and accuracy … to approach a “final state” of an idea by successive approximations … Each relevant representation contributes and may be perceived as more or less “beautiful” or “true” to the extent that it contributes to a final “true” perception. Thus, a multitude of representations, each distinguished by some detail, can be seen as part of –a fragment of– the “ideal.” Each sunset enlarges, perfects, completes, our view of sunset as a phenomenon and as an idea. Their beauty proportionate to their contribution. Their enlargement of boundaries, their setting of limits. Their evasion of the final fixed and eternally unchanging unity.

The Poet, Wendell Berry made a relevant observation:
“All creatures … dance …
To music so humble and vast that no ear hears it except in fragments.”

( from, The Larger Circle)


Why would we pursue a fixed and final unity? it has a certain charisma: immortal, infinite … all the big metaphors … there in enantodromia … there is the “death instinct” (“Todestrieb” – Freud 1920) Much (if not all art) is an effort to fix the ephemeral in unchanging, most nearly perfect form. Seek the stillness amidst chaos.                                                                                                                                                                  


Unity in Diversity Quotes
a selective, serendipitous, list of quotes collected from who knows where any more(although many from http://veganoflight.blogspot.com/atom.xml)
— there’s nothing like a flock of more-or-less experienced views converging on the same idea to make you think, “maybe there’s something to this…” or to persuade you that this idea, no matter how transformed by individual times or circumstance, is buried deeply in the psyche, maybe in the fabric of being itself.

    • “The essence of the beautiful is unity in variety.” — William Somerset Maugham
    • Our lives are based on what is reasonable and common sense; Truth is apt to be neither. — Christmas Humphreys
    • Truth is one. Sages call it by different names. — Rig Veda (c. 4000 BC)
    • The Creator Himself, at one and the same time, knowledge, the knower, and the known … There exists nothing which is not united to Him and which He does not find His own essence. He is the type of all being, and all things exist in Him under their most pure and most perfect form. — Kabbalist Moses Cordovero, Page 74 of Kabbalah: The Way of The Jewish Mystic by Perle Epstein
    • Once unfettered and delivered from their deadweight of dogmatic interpretations, personal names, anthropomorphic conceptions and salaried priests, the fundamental doctrines of all religions will be proved to be identical in their esoteric meaning. Osiris, Krishna, Buddha, Christ, will be shown as different names for one and the same royal highway to final bliss, Nirvana. — The Maha Chohan
    • The little space within the heart is as great as the vast universe. The heavens and the earth are there, and the sun and the moon and the stars. Fire and lightening and winds are there, and all that now is and all that is not. — The Upanishads.
    • He who experiences the unity of life sees his own Self in all beings… – Buddha
    • The human being is part of the whole, called by us the ‘universe’, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings, as something separate from the rest — a kind of optical delusion of consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of
    • Love is the reflection of God’s unity in the world of duality. It constitutes the entire significance of creation. — Meher Baba
    • The mystic bond of brotherhood makes all men one. — Thomas Carlyle
    • All things appear and disappear because of the concurrence of causes and conditions. Nothing ever exists entirely alone; everything is in relation to everything else. — Buddha
    • In my Father’s house are many mansions. — The Bible, John 14:2

How can we be “one with everything?” (why should we want to be? After years of individuating we want to merge? to “rejoin the unity”?)

In any event, motivated to merge into or return to something larger than ourselves, we can start with a THEORY OF EVERYTHING:

“There will come a time, when the world will be filled with one science, one truth, one industry, one brotherhood, one friendship with nature … this is my belief, it progresses, it grows stronger, this is worth living for, this is worth waiting for.” (Dmitri Mendeleyev, Russian chemist who framed the periodic law in chemistry (1869), which states that the chemical properties of the elements depend on their relative atomic masses. This law is the basis of the periodic table of the elements, in which the elements are arranged by atomic number and organized by their related groups. (1834-1907) from The Symmetry of Nature and the Nature of Symmetry by Yu A. Urmantsev).

The great American biologist, E.O. Wilson sought to approach a theory of everything through biology: In his popular book, Consilience, we can trace a great naturalist’s approach to the perennial dream of the grand unified “theory of everything.” [consilience notes]

(As an idea, the search for a grand unity in science enjoyed a tremendous surge as the THEORY of EVERYTHING (TOE) (A&O notes). It gained traction in theoretical physics in the 1990’s and is now part of the cultural landscape.

A&O note on “Unity” (inactive link)

01/2011; revised 06/2015/, 05/2018

[note 1:  “What is beauty? It is, in the abstract, the unity of the manifold, the coalescence of the diverse; in the concrete, it is the union of the shapely (formosum) with the vital. In the dead organic it depends on regularity of form, the first and lowest species of which is the triangle with all its modifications, as in crystals, architecture, etc.; in the living organic it is not mere regularity of form, which would produce a sense of formality; neither is it subservient to anything beside itself. If may be present in a disagreeable object, in which the proportion of the parts constitutes a whole; it does not arise from association, as the agreeable does, but sometimes lies in the rupture of association; it is not different to different individuals and nations, as has been said, nor is it connected with the ideas of the good, or the fit, or the useful. The sense of beauty is intuitive, and beauty itself is all that inspires pleasure without, and aloof from, and even contrarily to, interest.”   (English Essays: Sidney to Macaulay.  The Harvard Classics.  1909–14.  On Poesy or Art — Samuel Taylor Coleridge.   http://www.bartleby.com/27/17.html )