Moving Towards South Asian Confederation
Ideal of Human Unity - Chapters


Diversity in Oneness

A principle of Unity in Diversity

A greater ‘unrealized principle of free union’ (The Ideal of Human Unity, pg 521) must be the guiding principle for world-unity or a World-State. The problem is that an excessive stress on uniformity and centralization may lead to the disappearance of ‘necessary variations and indispensable liberties’. (Ibid, pg 520) This may invariably lead to a resurgence of the impulse of ‘old separatism’ fostered by the forces of ‘strong group individualism’ and a vigorous cultural diversity (Ibid). Standing towards the end of World War I, Sri Aurobindo observed that it was still difficult to produce or maintain a free unity without sacrificing diversity. Would the then British Empire be able to create a ‘national individuality in a supra-national life’ without obliterating the essence and cultural uniqueness of its provinces and colonies? (Ibid, pg.521) At best it could have achieved ‘a common Anglicisation’ (Ibid) that would be a far cry from the eulogized free union. Likewise the American model of dealing with its States seemed to allow liberty in mostly mechanical variations while all departures from the norm arising from profounder inner variation were to be discouraged.(Ibid,pg.520) The pre-World War I Germany tried to impose a unity only in form. (Ibid, pg, 520-521) The English system favoured a local independence but retained the vigour of unity in the metropolis while relegating the rest of the colonial system subservient to the Anglo-Saxon idea. (Ibid, pg.521) In Switzerland where the race was divided by three foreign cultures, a common Swiss culture could not evolve. (Ibid)Thus everywhere and under all conditions, a free unity could not organically arise. ‘Nothing was suggested at any time in the way of a solution except some sort of bunch or rather bouquet system, unifying its clusters not by the living stalk of a common origin or united past, for that does not exist, but by an artificial thread of administrative unity’. (Ibid)

Thus even though unity is imperative, national unity was sought to be established by crushing out local units. Sri Aurobindo muses if a new principle of group-variation could replace the nation-unit. (Ibid) During the formation of nation-states, the rich cultural heritage of the small units was lost yet the principle of ‘variative diversity’ persisted in some way or the other, even to the extent of reflecting a continental commonality (Ibid, pg.522). In a World-State, this advantage would be missing. As the outer sources of diversity would have to be significantly disregarded, the inner essence of diversity would have to be preserved in a new denouement in the matrix of unity. If this is not done and the Unitarian idea is allowed to forcefully prevail, the nation States would become mere geographical provinces or administrative departments of a mechanized World-State. This could lead to a revolt from within or a stagnation or collapse of the ideal of world-unity. ‘A gospel of Anarchism might enforce itself for example, and break down the world-order for a new creation. The question is whether there is not somewhere a principle of unity in diversity by which this method of action and reaction, creation and destruction, realisation and relapse cannot be, if not altogether avoided, yet mitigated in its action and led to a more serene and harmonious working’. (Ibid)


Date of Update: 22-Oct-18

- By Dr. Soumitra Basu