Unity within diversity

Unity without uniformity, diversity without fragmentation.

To understand the ways of the world we must begin by understanding the workings within. In the literal sense, one cannot begin to understand the necessity of diversity in order to make the many, one, on the outside, if one cannot see it reflected inside.

The alchemists of the 16th and 17th centuries divided our human identity into three primes (or tria prima), according to Paracelsus, each corresponding to the Law of the Triangle, that is physically or conceptually, the manifestation of a union of two seemingly separate and opposite properties or things coming together creating a third:

Thoughts, Will, Action;

Attraction, Repulsion, Equilibrium;

Unity, Duality and Trinity (1+2=3)

The three alchemical primes were known as

  • Mercury (spirit; imagination, moral judgment and higher mental faculties)
  • Sulphur (soul; emotions and desires) and
  • Salt (base matter or body).

It’s worth noting that the Paracelsus’ Tria Prima was known to be principles – Passive, Active, Neutral – rather than actual substances.

During its prime, the work of the alchemists demonstrated that the basic and fundamental elements that made the whole ultimately paved the way for scientific synthesis and analysis; science overall evolved thus refining the ability to detail the human body.

It became less elemental as we were able to categorise improved systems such as, skeletal, circulatory and nervous systems to name but a few. What remains true to the scientist of today as it did to the alchemists of old however, was that in order for the human body to fully function, the diverse mechanisms must unite through co-operation (though admittedly they’re primarily autonomous and subconscious) to survive.

Harmony between the spirit, body and soul or the skeletal, muscular and nervous systems must be attained for ordinary everyday tasks to be achieved.

With the latter, allow me to exemplify this principle by asking you to look at your hand.


Stretch it, clench it, feel each finger press against the thumb, move each one independently one after the other, or at the same time. Notice the complexity of work required to bend one finger, the collaboration between brain, joint, and muscle, a simple action we take for granted but necessary in order to achieve this. Remove but one factor in this process and the objective is disrupted, a disharmony achieved. Our hand would be of very little use if, for example, the thumb were of the same length as our middle finger, or if our first and last fingers swapped places.

Each part is different but of equal importance.

How could we possibly achieve anything in our daily lives if there was no synchrony between the brain and the hand?

In this way we appreciate the way in which apparently separate things can work together in a coherent and co-ordinated way.  Such principles apply at all levels of existence, for example, in the way that human beings interact with each other. Applying this principle can help us to understand the root of conflict and to discover a potential route back to a state of equilibrium.

Plurality of the One: The Golden Rule

As a means to counter the strife with peace, love and fraternity amongst humanity, we find within the diversity in all the world’s religions a clear consistent message encouraging a selfless commitment to the well being of others.

Christianity: In everything, do onto others as you would have them do onto you; for this is the law and the prophets.  Jesus Matthew 7:12

Judaism: What is hateful to you, do not do to your fellowman. This is the entire Law; all the rest is commentary. – Talmud, Shabbat 3id

Islam: No one of you is a believer until he desires for his brother that which he desires for himself. – Sunnah

Hinduism: This is the sum of duty; do naught onto others what you would not have them do unto you. – Mahabharata 5,1517

Buddhism: Hurt not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful.  Udana-Varga 5,1

Confucianism: Do not do to others what you would not like yourself. Then there will be no resentment against you, either in the family or in the state. – Analects 12:2

Taoism: Regard your neighbor’s gain as your gain, and your neighbor’s loss as your own loss. – Tai Shang Kan Yin P’ien;

As French author, theologian and philosopher Jean Yves Leloup once said

The ordinary believer sees religions in opposition; the Initiate sees only oneness in them; he sees One Being manifesting in many forms…implying two kinds of understanding: the one still attached to diversity, the other which has realised the unity of All.

This articulates wonderfully how by just shifting ones focus from the plural to the universal perspective, one transcends the hindrance and trivialities of seeing difference or ‘other’ to be more precise. Instead he or she is free to witness the collective beauty of individuality balanced with the knowledge that it derives from one source. In other words, understanding the universal message heard in all the world’s religions, one sees the wood for the trees!

Harmony and Dissonance

Another way to  understand the principle of unity within diversity is within music. An orchestra can be seen as the microcosm of humanity; the conductor is all knowing and separate, directing accordingly the performance at hand. He or she unifies the multitude of textures, tempo (pace), articulations and harmonies found within the music score.

When we speak of unity, we also mean harmony. The definition of the word harmony has a combined twofold meaning, musical and universal. When separate, it begins with the former and may be defined as the technical execution of two or more notes (pitches, tones) played simultaneously. The latter, a peaceful state of being one feels with oneself and/or with his or her environment. When combined, though the latter may not exclusively be inspired through music, the agreeable effect music has on the physical, emotional and spiritual state can be profound and therefore highly sought-after in order to feel such a way.

Harmony is achieved when different parts of a whole, like an orchestra, work together. Dissonance (or disharmony) occurs when something out of that whole plays out of sync with the rest of the phenomenon, a disunion is thus achieved.


Like a solo trumpeter playing a Miles Davies jazz solo in an orchestra playing music by Richard Wagner, one can only imagine the stress and confusion one would feel when listening to such an ordeal!

The beauty of the piece of music is found when each member of the orchestra knows the importance of their individual role and plays it with unreserved confidence and joy.

One could arguably claim that the meaning of life is the inner journey one makes to know what instrument one is. Though the way may prove to be arduous and likely to face many periods of dissonance, the music that one plays at the moment of his or her realisation will be heard in the great song of humanity for all to hear!


Although it can be great to be romantic towards this ideal, we’ll be no closer to achieving it if we are not aware and practical. Ignorance is the greatest hindrance towards our physical, intellectual and spiritual development.

Ignorance is made manifest through the neglect of our bodies. Watch how easy the physical can deteriorate when we do not look after ourselves mostly through poor diet, and lack of exercise. Illness and suffering is sure to follow therefore the necessity of a balanced diet ensures a healthy body. The diversity of food groups consumed sustains the whole.

Ignorance is made manifest through the delusion of superiority. The existence of racism and colourism (the prejudice or discrimination based on the relative lightness or darkness of the skin) are pure examples of the destructive power of ignorance. Being taught to hate based purely on the colour of ones skin, designate beauty by the texture of ones hair, think less of cultures that aren’t your own, discriminating by how one prays, none of these things will bring us closer to a unified society.

It’s only when we become more spiritual that we understand the necessity of diversity humanity needs to becomes one.

It’s through the different functions of the body we are alive, different roles in an orchestra we hear music, different ways of praying we see One. What Rosicrucianism teaches sheds light upon the obscurity of ignorance and reveals to us the true transcendental magnificence of individuality and unity.

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