Principles of Harmony: Essays

The authors of the essays in this collection explore Harmony in the context of cultural history, philosophy and cosmology and discuss how it can inform practice in economics and business today.

These essays will be edited by Nick Campion, UoWTSD, and will be published in full for reference by students studying at the university’s Harmony Institute.

Harmony and the Cosmos

Nick Campion – Sophia Centre for the study of Cosmology in Culture, UoWTSD

This paper addresses the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda’s reference to Harmony as necessary for sustainability, but its failure to define Harmony. It seeks to lay the basis for such a definition.

The paper begins with reference to classical ideas of the cosmos as a single organism in which all things, material and intangible, physiological and psychological, and ‘alive’ and ‘inanimate’, are of necessity completely integrated. One of the main threads which runs through this integral cosmos is music, which becomes an audible expression of the integral cosmos.  The idea of music as a bond with heaven exists in many cultures (for example in Javanese gamelan); in the western tradition, emerging from classical Greece, musical harmonies share the same mathematical structure as the movement of the planets. Musicians and composers may therefore actively contribute to the beautiful and harmonious functioning of the cosmos through their music. The paper then goes on to explore other ramifications of the integral cosmos. It explores traditional ideas of Earth and sky/heaven/cosmos as part of a single, reciprocal, mutually supportive system. It then relies on modern astronomy to argue that the notion of the integral universe is as compatible with modern science as it is with traditional thinking and considers deep ecology as a modern philosophy of sustainability which is dependent on the idea of the cosmos as a single system. It concludes that an understanding of Harmony, as used by the United Nations, is dependent on our understanding of our place within the cosmos.


Peace from the Perspectives of Harmony

Scherto Gill – Research fellow, Guerrand-Hermes Foundation for Peace

This essay sets out to explore an understanding of peace from the perspectives of harmony and discusses the opportunities that such a conception might bring to the process of creating peace and peacefulness globally. More specifically, in reading Confucian and Greek classics concerning the notion, it interprets that harmony not only contains the idea of Right Relationships amongst all, which echoes the vision of peace articulated in the Earth Charter. Furthermore, it proposes harmony to be dynamic and proactive, rather than static and merely complying to a predefined universal order. This reading finds harmony to be harmonising, a co-creative and generative process that can help transform tensions and conflicts towards infinite possibility of relating and interconnection. These insights lend a holistic understanding of peace that is beyond the mere presence of inner peace or an absence of wars and violence. Like harmony, peace itself becomes an active process of embodying principles of harmony in the myriads relationships.


Harmony of the Cosmos, the Soul and Society in Plato

Joseph Milne – Scholar 

By the constant reference to the eternal or the transcendent, Plato opens the door to philosophical understanding of what was previously established through cosmic myths. Yet, as is clear in Book X of the Laws, piety towards the gods remains essential if the harmony of the polis is to be maintained. The proper life of the city, which brings harmony to the soul, is possible only so far as the civil laws derive from the harmonious order of the universe permeated by divine intelligence. It is this divine intelligence that manifests in number and proportion everywhere, and in the providential laws that nourish life and draw human intelligence, through awakening eros, towards the contemplation of truth.


Harmony and the Perennial Philosophy

Jeremy Naydler – Temenos Academy

Modern science has given us an increasingly exact knowledge of the material world and the technical means to manipulate and control it. But we have largely lost sight of the philosophical, religious and visionary tradition, often referred to as the “perennial philosophy”, which – prior to the scientific revolution – sustained and nourished a harmonious relationship between human beings, nature and the world of spirit. Under the influence of the scientific worldview, nature has been treated as a resource to be exploited, and the goal of human life has been understood in purely secular terms. This has resulted on the one hand in a deepening ecological crisis, and on the other in the widespread experience of a loss of spiritual orientation. By turning to the ageless wisdom of the perennial philosophy, we may once again find the way towards healing our relationship to nature and also towards reconnecting with our spiritual roots.


Harmony and Myth

Jules Cashford – Scholar

I will be suggesting that, pre-eminently in Greek mythology, the myth of Orpheus is the Myth of Harmony, as Shakespeare shows in his Two Gentlemen of Verona. Perhaps, Orpheus, playing his lyre, allows us to hear the harmony of the universe in our own immortal souls, leading us from Bios, (the Greek term for the personal and finite reality), to Zoe, infinite life – the soul remembering itself. Orpheus would then be the initiator into unfathomable depths, whose power transforms the whole of the natural world, including ourselves. In his myths there is a search for what that secret is, asking what is the essence that can bring about transformation and discover the innate harmony within human beings in relation to each other and to the greater reality of the universe?


Pythagoras: Father of Harmony

Kayleen Asbo – Cultural historian, musician, teacher and writer

Pythagoras is widely known as a seminal figure in the history of mathematics and credited with the geometric theorem that bears his name.  What is less known is how the Pythagoreans were a spiritual community searching for divine patterns in the fields of astronomy, philosophy and music, aligning themselves with a way of life that they believed would “tune” the soul to echo with the harmony of the spheres and lead to an awakening of wisdom. This search yielded the insights that became the basis for Western Music Theory and was passed on through the ages in education in the form of the Quadrivium. This article will explore the Pythagoreans and the implications of their discoveries, echoes of which are found in Chartres Cathedral, the art of Hildegard von Bingen and the Divine Comedy of Dante Alighieri.


Nature’s Fragile Harmonies

Stephan Harding – Schumacher College

We tend to have a rose-tinted idea about harmony in nature, as if somehow it involves a state of static perfection devoid of conflict, friction and strife. But this view of harmony may not hold up under close scrutiny, for harmony in nature seems to appear when opposite tendencies and forces: creation and destruction, positive and negative, predator and prey, implosion explosion, reach a transient state of equilibrium in which, for a while at least, some kind of dynamic balance is achieved.  If this view is correct, we would expect to find harmony emerging from the interaction of opposites at every level of existence, from sub-atomic particles to galaxies to galaxy clusters and beyond.  Here I’ll explore the notion that harmony emerges from a reconciliation between opposites in a progression that begins with so-called sub-atomic ‘particles’ and ends with Gaia, the global ecosystem, leaving you, the reader, to ponder whether the principle might apply at larger, more cosmic scales.


The Foundations of Chinese Culture and Harmony

Yuli Liu, Academy of Sinology, UoWTSD

The fundamental basis of Chinese culture is filial piety – honouring and loving parents.  The Chinese character for filial piety (孝, xiao) implies the notion of one entity.  Only after people fully believe in the notion of one entity, can people genuinely practise equity and live in harmony with others. It is by honouring parents and respecting teachers that traditional Chinese culture can be imparted to generations to come. The concept of filial piety was not only the foundation of traditional Chinese culture, it was also the basis of imperial government for almost two thousand years of Chinese history.


Harmony and the Regenerative Economy

John Fullerton – Founder and President of the Capital Institute

In Harmony: A New Way of Looking at Our World, HRH The Prince of Wales declares: “At the heart of the matter lies a crisis in our perception – the way we see and understand how the world works.”

And Albert Einstein once said, “It is the theory which decides what we can observe.” I believe these assertions hold both important truths and great wisdom. Together they offer critical insight into the root cause of the crisis in economics and, in turn, the crises facing civilization.  More than bad behaviour or selfish people, or some fatal flaw in human nature, I believe it is our failed economics and reductionist finance driving our decision making that is the source of our accelerating and interconnected social, political, and ecological crises.  The institutions that run the world are directed largely by good people who are victims of this crisis in perception, failing, in Prince Charles’ words, to accurately “see and understand how the world works.”


Rediscovering the Human Purposes of Business

Mark Goyder – Tomorrow’s Company

In his 2017 UNESCO paper, David Cadman defined harmony in terms of balance, order and relationship. He said that harmony is concerned with parts within, and only within, a whole, and of wholes within wholeness. Applied to the world of business that means considering individuals as part of enterprises, and enterprises as part of industries, and value chains, and all of these as part of society.

There is, in fact, a strong European tradition of writing and analysis which explores the conditions in which people find balance, order and relationship through their economic activity. Add this some of the wisdom of the East, and five conditions for harmonious business can be derived.


Photograph: Richard Dunne

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