Part 2 — The unity behind diversity
Humans are a diverse, different, collection of individuals inhabiting the planet, competing for our share of what’s available.
This statement is true, and also not true. To understand this paradox we must examine diversity on two different levels: our experience of being part of a complete whole, and diversity as part of the human condition. One is life and the other is our life’s experiences, according to Eckhart Tolle. One we share, and the other sets our individual identity, reality and perspective. This article discusses the unity aspect.
The study of metaphysics tells us that we exist as part of a collective consciousness. There are many labels for this: God, Allah, the Universe, the Matrix, the Force (yes Star Wars). Metaphysics says we are part of a holographic universe and are all holons (something that is simultaneously a whole and a part). To be part of a holographic universe means to be connected to everything within that universe.
The Big Bang theory proceeds from a point in time when everything was within a singularity and connected. The relationship continues in an expanded universe despite the increased distance between parts – connection continues from the point of origin as a wave. Mankind has understood these principles since before recorded history yet they are still not part of our everyday language.
In case metaphysics or spirituality do not work for you, quantum physics also tells us that at the level of our existence we are all the same and there is no diversity. At the subatomic level everything exists as states of energy and information that vibrate at certain frequencies. The difference between an atom of lead and an atom of gold is in the frequency of vibration of energy and information at the subatomic level.
At the quantum level of existence all possible states exist at the same time (wave/particle duality) and it is through observation that any particular state manifests (into what we call reality). Have a look at the phenomenon that Einstein called “spooky action at a distance” – which is only possible through wave mechanics.
We see quantum physics at work every day. For example, in the controlled release of energy from the sun, the operation of your smartphone, and your television. However, like metaphysics, the principles are poorly understood and applied.
At the quantum level we are all the same – simply states of energy and information. So, what sets us apart from each other? It is the influences (where we place our attention, our thoughts, feelings, emotions) we apply to those states of energy and information that dictate how we see the world around us and therefore the diversity that we perceive to exist.
Abraham Maslow and Carl Jung showed us that we are the same when it comes to our needs. The five different levels in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs are:
- Physiological needs;
- Security needs;
- Social needs;
- Esteem needs;
- Self-actualising needs.
We all have the same desire to grow, to protect our children and to strive for an understanding of life. Whether you are a student of spirituality, quantum physics, religion or the modern self-help industry, all roads head in the same direction:
- At a level deeper than our daily existence we are all the same – there is no diversity.
- Diversity manifests because of the different ways we interact with existence.
- We all live with the same questions we spend our life trying to answer: “Who am I and what am I here to do?”.
If we start with an acceptance of our underlying “sameness” and our interconnection to all things, then it is easier to see that there can be unity in diversity within our everyday interactions too. This is the concept of “unity without uniformity and diversity without fragmentation” (Ibn al-Arabi – Sufi philosopher 1165–1240). This shifts the focus from unity based on a mere tolerance (of physical, cultural, linguistic, social, religious and ideological differences) towards a unity based on an understanding that our differences enrich us all.
This idea dates back to ancient times in both Western and Eastern cultures. The concept of unity in diversity was used in non-Western cultures (for example North America and in Taoist societies) in 400-500 BC.
In the premodern Western culture this idea is also implicit in the organic conceptions of the universe that have been manifest since the ancient Greek and Roman civilisations through to medieval Europe and into the Romantic era.
“Unity in diversity is the highest possible attainment of a civilisation, a testimony to the most noble possibilities of the human race. This attainment is made possible through passionate concern for choice, in an atmosphere of social trust.” – Michael Novak.
If these universal principles were more readily understood and accepted, we could draw on them when resolving conflict by recognising and appealing to shared interests and principles. This may assist in keeping the parties grounded and connected in a way that allows them to acknowledge and explore their differences in a more secure and useful way.
Paul Sills firstname.lastname@example.org is an Auckland barrister specialising in commercial and civil litigation. He is also an experienced mediator. This is the second in a series of articles on embracing diversity. Read Part One, Part Three, Part Four, Part Five and Part Six.
Last updated on the 3rd August 2018