Out of Diversity Emerges Unity

From time immemorial, humans have organized their societies by devising ways to divide themselves through caste, race, and other systems of exclusion. These have enabled the domination by some groups over others, despite the scientific fact that all human beings are 99.9 percent identical in their genetic makeup. The tragedy created by these artificial differentiations is now being highlighted by the “Black lives matter” movement, causing a long overdue examination of the injustices embedded in existing power structures. For many thoughtful people of spiritual orientation, the problem has another level of significance as well, motivating them to consider whether the seemingly limitless scope of differences and diversity—of skin colour, intelligence, culture, and religion, to name only a few—deny our oneness, or if these differences, in fact, affirm it.

Does the existence of diversity contradict the belief that there is one Humanity, or does it provide the means to discover our inherent unity? Can the diversity which is so apparent on the outer planes of human experience be transformed from a means of exclusion, a source of injustice and denial of opportunity, into a way to discover the spiritual purpose working out through the vast range of differences in the world of forms? At a certain stage in the quest to comprehend the unity not only of humanity but of all life, the inquirer on the Way inevitably must confront the need to understand the cause of diversity on the plane of forms.

For many, it’s easier to accept the idea of a subjective unifying principle underlying all life than it is to appreciate the seemingly limitless diversity of the manifested worlds. It seems to be a fundamental human tendency to draw borders around one’s own “people”, whether clan, tribe, race, religion, or even nation, and to view everyone outside those borders as “the other”—not necessarily threatening, just…different. Yet the sense that there is a subjective unity behind the outer complexities of human experience has quietly nudged at human consciousness for centuries. As an ancient verse from the Koran declares: O mankind! We have created you from male and female and made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another.

That you may know one another…This intuitive recognition suggests that diversity is not only unavoidable but that it’s essential to the manifestation of unity, and therefore isn’t something to be overcome but to be understood as purposeful in the working out of the divine Plan. Diversity isn’t only an effect; it is also causal, for it compels the human imagination to expand its field of awareness beyond the known and familiar—one’s own “people” and “tribe”—to include and appreciate the richness of human experience in all its differentiations. Why the marvelous mosaic created by humanity hasn’t been more readily welcomed but instead has all too often generated fear and even animosity is one of the most troubling aspects of human history, with roots so deep that even the most learned psychologists and spiritual teachers struggle to explain it.

Esoteric teaching provides a useful framework by defining the progression of the one Life as a triplicity—spirit/consciousness/form—and the subsequent sevenfold expression of this synthesis: The one expresses itself as three, and then differentiates into the seven. The ancient spiritual teacher Patanjali asserted that consciousness is one, unified, yet it produces the varied forms of the many. The homogeneous is the cause of the heterogeneous; the One is responsible for the many.

The expansion of consciousness depends upon learning to see oneself as a sentient part of a sentient whole, and, ultimately, to become merged in the whole. Yet all the while the sense of identity is retained; the realisation of individual self-awareness persists and at the same time breaks through the barriers to Self-awareness—the recognition of the one Soul permeating all life in manifestation. The individual contribution enriches the whole as it becomes intelligently and willingly offered to Something beyond one’s comprehension.

The realization of that goal lies far ahead for most of us. Perhaps all we can understand at this point is that diversity isn’t only tolerable but necessary to express the sheer stupendous comprehensiveness of divine Life. Ultimately, there may be no better summation of the relationship between unity and diversity than a statement that is well known but too ancient to be attributed reliably to a particular individual: God is a circle whose centre is everywhere and whose circumference is nowhere. No one and no thing stands outside the all-encompassing, innately unifying, manifestation of Divinity.



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