A&O – Unity in Diversity – Theme and Variation


Unity in Diversity

theme and variation


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)

IN HIS SINGULAR BEING, Walt Whitman can say “I contain Multitudes” (Whitman) … is this connected to this recognition of the “vast similitude [that] interlocks all”–he is looking very DEEPLY here, finding the shared roots…  (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


https://neilgreenberg.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/pp-1524679464-7116.png               https://neilgreenberg.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/pp-1524679464-7168.png    https://neilgreenberg.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/pp-1524679464-6947.png    https://neilgreenberg.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/pp-1524679464-721.png    https://neilgreenberg.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/pp-1524679464-7387.png    https://neilgreenberg.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/pp-1524679464-7435.png    https://neilgreenberg.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/pp-1524679465-684.png https://neilgreenberg.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/pp-1524679465-7268.png    https://neilgreenberg.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/pp-1524679465-7326.png    https://neilgreenberg.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/pp-1524679465-7235.png https://neilgreenberg.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/pp-1524679465-7645.png        https://neilgreenberg.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/pp-1524679465-7539.png    https://neilgreenberg.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/pp-1524679466-5069.png    https://neilgreenberg.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/pp-1524679466-7852.png    https://neilgreenberg.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/pp-1524679466-7886.png    |   https://neilgreenberg.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/pp-1524679466-7955.png    https://neilgreenberg.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/pp-1524679466-7837.png    https://neilgreenberg.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/pp-1524679466-7844.png    https://neilgreenberg.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/pp-1524679466-8833.png    https://neilgreenberg.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/pp-1524679467-1256.png    https://neilgreenberg.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/pp-1524679467-1314.png    https://neilgreenberg.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/pp-1524679467-1255.png    https://neilgreenberg.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/pp-1524679467-1315.png    https://neilgreenberg.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/pp-1524679467-1739.png    https://neilgreenberg.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/pp-1524679467-2387.png    https://neilgreenberg.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/pp-1524679467-8188.png

|“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)


THEME and VARIATION.  A term most often associated with music: a simple melody is followed by several more-or-less varied repetitions exploring the effects of  melodyrhythmharmonycounterpointtimbreorchestration, or any combination of these (Wikipedia).  But in fact it explores the potential implicit in any expression.

  • DEEP ETHOLOGY:  Can there be a neuroscience of “theme and variation?” —  Look in on “… Theme and Variation in the Songbird Brain” (Bertram et al. 2014) (link)

(visit the interdisciplinary course offered by Donald Morisato (molecular biology) and Andrea Gullickson (music) at Evergreen College in 2018 — “theme-and-variations-music-and-biology“)



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 aesthetics 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)   


[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)