ART & ORGANISM
Unity in Diversity
theme and variation
The one is made up of all things,
and all things issue from the one
Heraclitus, tenth fragment
UNITY in VARIETY
“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])
l’infini dans le fini. 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
Unity in diversity is a concept of “unity without uniformity and diversity without fragmentation” 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, cosmology, philosophy, religion and politics.
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.
“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)
|“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)
.A vast similitude interlocks all,” said Whitman, “All spheres, grown, ungrown, small, large, suns, moons, planets, comets, asteroids, All distances, however wide, All distances of time – all inanimate forms, All Souls – all living bodies, though they be ever so different, or in different worlds, All gaseous, watery, vegetable, mineral processes – the fishes, the brutes, All men and women – me also, All nations, colors, barbarisms, civilizations, languages, All identities that have existed, or may exist, on this globe or any globe, All lives and deaths – all of past, present and future, This vast similitude spans them, and always has spanned, and shall forever span them, and compactly hold them. [Leaves of Grass, 12]
.The One and the Many is one of the principles of the pre-Socratic philosopher Heraclitus (famous also for his doctrines of impermanence and of the river into which we can never step twice)
Of this teaching, John Burnet (1930) writes: “The truth Herakleitos proclaimed was that the world is at once one and many…”
Academic philosophers, ever since the time of Parmenides, have believed that the world is a unity.
This view has been taken over from them by clergymen and journalists, and its acceptance has been considered the touchstone of wisdom.
The most fundamental of my intellectual beliefs is that this is rubbish. I think the universe is all spots and jumps, without unity, without continuity, without coherence or orderliness or any of the other properties that governesses love. Indeed, there is little but prejudice and habit to be said for the view that there is a world at all. (Bertrand Russell (2001), The Scientific Outlook, Part One, Chapter IV. Scientific Metaphysics).
Russell may appeal because there is a grain of truth: there may well be a universe of spots and jumps, but they can affect each other in ways that engender unique configurations that appear to persevere through time–and change in ways that at least briefly (the life-time of an organism or a star system) integrate energy and information, sometimes in ways that become self-aware. Each of us simultaneously manifests–exemplifies–wholeness and diversity. There is an intuition, grounded in everyday observation, that we and everyone in our family share a common ancestor. And while less obvious, we understand that each of us, manifesting an incredible diversity of cell types, originated from a single progenitor cell. DIVERSITY DEVELOPS. Arguably–at least from a DEEP perspective–over time (say, generations) individuals multiply and differentiate: cells divide, and from one cell many diverse forms develop into an organism consisting of billions of types, each uniquely suited to a different adaptive task. But all of these necessarily share the same core biochemistry (say, DNA). DIVERSITY EVOLVES. Similarly, over countless generations, a single ancestor may have diverse descendants, uniquely adapted to prosper in diverse environments.
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 melody, rhythm, harmony, counterpoint, timbre, orchestration, 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“) .
Question: Would it be correct to suggest that the aesthetic is this unifying glimpse that makes us aware of the unity of things which is not (in the limited sphere of) consciousness? … Gregory Bateson: That is right; that is what I am getting at. The flash which appears in consciousness as a disturbance of consciousness is the thing that I am talking about. (Bateson, 1991; p. 300)
(quoted in “Beauty and Uncertainty as Transformative Factors: A Free Energy Principle Account of Aesthetic Diagnosis and Intervention in Gestalt Psychotherapy” Pietro Sarasso et al. (2022).
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)
[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)
- Might CHANGE be the essence of the relationship we perceive between a whole and its parts–the differentiation we see in DEVELOPMENT, speciation in EVOLUTION. Theory of Everything…
- is a hypothetical single, all-encompassing, coherent theoretical framework of physics that fully explains and links together all physical aspects of the universe.
- A perpetually intriguing dimension of this pursuit is manifest in physics: although there is experimental confirmation of “virtually every prediction made by two principal alternative theories (general relativity and quantum mechanics) … they are mutually incompatible – they cannot both be right. Since the usual domains of applicability of general relativity and quantum mechanics are so different, most situations require that only one of the two theories be used. … As it turns out, this incompatibility between general relativity and quantum mechanics is only an issue in regions of extremely small scale [read more]
- “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)
An idea is invoked often by people seeking harmony, free of perceptions or other experiences that create dissonance and evoke stress
- “This quest for harmony with nature gained its preeminent expression in the philosophy of the dào. Yet all this philosophizing can scarcely compete with the experience of a work of art. ” [read more]
Alan Watts argues that as long as we divide life into interior self-awareness and exterior experience, into life in here and life out there, we split our psyches asunder and doom ourselves to never attaining the wholeness at the heart of human happiness. With an eye to the inherent interconnectedness of the universe, he writes:
There is a world of difference between an inference and a feeling. You can reason that the universe is a unity without feeling it to be so. You can establish the theory that your body is a movement in an unbroken process which includes all suns and stars, and yet continue to feel separate and lonely. For the feeling will not correspond to the theory until you have also discovered the unity of inner experience. Despite all theories, you will feel that you are isolated from life so long as you are divided within.
But you will cease to feel isolated when you recognize, for example, that you do not have a sensation of the sky: you are that sensation. For all purposes of feeling, your sensation of the sky is the sky, and there is no “you” apart from what you sense, feel, and know.
Read the complete commentary on “Our Integration with the Universe, and How We Wrest Meaning from Reality” at brainpickings.org