Peoples Geography — Reclaiming space

Creating people's geographies

A Beautiful Motto


In necessariis unitas, in dubiis libertas, in omnibus caritas

Latin for “Unity in necessary things; liberty in doubtful things; charity in all things”

or, alternatively with syntax more closely aligned;

“In necessary things unity; in uncertain things freedom; in everything compassion”.

This theological dictum is also less commonly rendered as

In necessariis unitas, in non necessariis libertas, in utrisque caritas.

In essentials, there should be unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in both cases, charity [love].

Origin: traced to German Lutheran theologian, Rupertus Meldenius, in a call for peace among theologians of the Augustinian confession (ca. 1625), though sometimes attributed, perhaps incorrectly though it fits in with his ethos, to St Augustine of Hippo (354-430AD).

This is likely because August Heinrich Hoffmann von Fallersleben (1798-1894), a poet laureate who also wrote the words to the German national anthem “Das Lied der Deutschen”, penned a poem based on this famous saying for which German theologians and church historians have coined a special term: “Friedensspruch” or “Peace Saying”:

St. Augustine says:
In necessariis unitas,
In essentials unity,
In dubiis libertas,
In doubtful things liberty,
In omnibus autem caritas,
But in all things love.

Yet I say: not only in all things,
But before all things
And thus I praise love.*

In Christian theology caritas at once means charity and love (agapē), or a loving-kindness towards all others as a higher octave of the human spirit and encapsulated in another Latin phrase Deus caritas est – “God is love”. Biblically, it is the greatest of the three theological virtues: faith, hope and charity/love (1 Corinthians 13:13):

And now abideth faith, hope, and love, even these three: but the chiefest of these is love“.

For further information about the use of this Peace Saying, see Hans Rollman, “In Essentials Unity”: The Pre-History and History of a Restoration Movement Slogan.

* Hoffman von Fallersleben, Gesammelte Werke, edited by Heinrich Gerstenberg (Berlin, 1892), 6: 54; cf. A. Eekhof, De Zinspreuk In Necessariiis Unitas, In Non Necessariis Libertas, In Utrisque Caritas: Eenheid in het Noodige, Vrijheid in het Niet Noodige, in Beide de Liefde: Oorsprong, Beteekenis en Verbreiding (Leiden: A.W. Sijthhoff’s Uitgevermaatschappij, 1931), 77-8.

22 comments on “A Beautiful Motto

  1. 99
    16 July, 2007

    Boy, this is sure nice! I’m up here beating my brains out, fomenting revolution, fomenting impeachment, fomenting planet repairs, battling trolls coming hotly and heavily, and it’s darn nice to catch this breath of St. Augustine.

  2. Ann El Khoury
    16 July, 2007

    Good to hear. Everyone needs some beauty and a break in the battle. The struggle matters, but so does our sanity that allows us to sustain our participation in it and to savour those hard-won gains.

    Just thought of you — have you seen the latest Moyers Journal on impeachment? Video here and also on You Tube but in several segments. I drafted a post on impeachment, constitutional abuses and the preemptive war doctrine but may have a blogging break instead and step back for a bit. The Moyers link was in the draft — hope its of interest if you haven’t already seen it.

  3. 99
    17 July, 2007

    I’ve been lauding it to the rafters since it came up on the net. (I don’t have a tv.) Banging the impeachment drums for all I’m worth, and I gotta say that Moyers’ coming out of retirement because there’s no journalism left on tv was a boon. He seems to have dropped a certain veneer that always hung around his stuff, and the clarity is higher quality than ever. He is doing singularly good work.

  4. Curtis
    17 July, 2007

    A beautiful quotation. Interesting, too, that what Westerners might interpret as something like “charity” was viewed–at least, as I understand it–as the ultimate virtue of Confucianism.

    I was bored in history class this morning and I spawned a noologism for ya (well, it’s new to me, at least, if not searingly original): peopleography.

  5. Bluebear2
    17 July, 2007

    It’s amazing how many who claim the loudest to be Christians seem to have no clue of this.

  6. ressentiment
    17 July, 2007

    LoL! Peopleography has a certain inebriated onomatopoeia, so I like it bery much.

    I’m sorry, Ocifer. I was on my way to Peopleography when my directions got Confucius.


    I went to Parochial school but I missed that whole Latin scholar craze by about two decades. I’m so sorry. It’s really coming back to bite me in the ass now. Should have listened to Mom, eh?

    I always thought it was Augustine who was the first to apply geometry to poetry in search of theology, but I was wrong.

    Deus est sphaera infinita cuius centrum est ubique, circumferentia vero nusquam.

    [God is an infinite sphere, the centre of which is everywhere and the circumference nowhere]

    The hermetic philosopher Robert Fludd quotes this aphorism in his Anatomiae amphitheatrum (1623)

    [who failed to cite either Augustine or Empedocles, thus contributing to Confucius.]

    J.R. Rigman Library

    It turns out that I’ve been living in the shade of a tree which was cut down centuries before my misconception due to the improvements in wiki technology. I know, Mom. Damned kids. They never listen.


    While I was spelunkin’ the history of Christian thought, here are some some interesting collateral damages found nearby in the annals of Hermetic philosophy – sort of Davinci code-esque.

    Fili mi hic lapis est celatus, multorum colorum, natusque in uno colore, cognoscite illum, et celate.

    [This stone my son is hidden, has many colours, and is born in one colour, learn to know it and keep it hidden].

    Gold is the king of all metals. When he is crowned [?annointed?] he will father a son:

    Ubi autem regem coronatum filiae nostrae rubeae ei coniungemus, et in levi igne nondum nocentibus, concipiet, et filium coniunctum, et super eminentem, quo igniculo permanentem cibat illa, et vivit igne nostro.

    [When we have crowned our king, we join him with our red daughter, and in a light fire which cannot harm them, she will grow with child and bear a conjoined and eminent son. She feeds him with that fire, and he lives in our fire].

    Scitote ergo rumoris inquisitores, et sapientiae filii, quod vultur super montem existens, clamat voce magna: Ego sum albus nigri et rubeus albi et citrinus rubei et certe veridicus sum. Et scitote, quod caput artis est corvus, qui in nigredine noctis et claritate diei volat sine alis.

    [You must know, investigators of rumours and sons of wisdom, that the vulture which lives on top of the mountain, screams with a loud voice: I am the white of black, and the red of white and the yellow of red and truly I speak the truth. And know, that the beginning of the art is the raven, which flies through the darkness of the night and the brightness of the day without wings].

    And then there’s this totally unrelated Alchemy factoid-quote which needs a home.

    John Maynard Keynes

    “Newton was not the first of the age of reason, he was the last of the magicians.”

  7. Ann El Khoury
    17 July, 2007

    Brilliant wordplay, thanks for the neologism Curt. I especially like the thought of spawning a new discipline :) Hope its all going well at uni and you’re not running rings around the other students too much. :)

    The pun fun continues in Ressentiment’s “but I got Confucius” — classic. That article link on Isaac Newton is very interesting and Keynes’ appraisal even more so — what I would give to be able to read some of Newton’s private papers on paranormal/ metaphysical matters.

    Ain’t that the truth Blue Bear! Instead of sending so called “Christian” neocons to the South Pole as 99 suggests, I think they ought to be locked up in a monastery …

    A great saying: “God is an infinite sphere, the centre of which is everywhere and the circumference nowhere”

  8. 99
    17 July, 2007

    Neocons couldn’t catch the drift of this with a thousand years in a monastery. Stake them to the surface of Mars. That will do it. Their karma will clear right the heck up then.

  9. Ann El Khoury
    18 July, 2007

    Love those purifying extremes of temperature. :)

    Right, I’m taking a few days off. Will see how long I can last away from the blog.

    Best to all.

  10. michaelgreenwell
    18 July, 2007

    –irrelevance warning–

    “August Heinrich Hoffmann von Fallerslebe”

    i think that is the longest name i have ever seen.

    did his mates just call him bob or something?

  11. Ann El Khoury
    18 July, 2007

    *hearty belly laugh*

    Well, to be fair I think it was shortened to Hoffmann von Fallerslebe but I included the first two names.

    A H? Henry? Hoffa? poet-dude?

  12. Graeme
    19 July, 2007

    very good quotes!

  13. Bluebear2
    19 July, 2007

    I’m taking a few days off

    Sheesh girl, a while back you said you were going into hibernation! It seems you haven’t even slept a wink since then!

  14. Ann El Khoury
    19 July, 2007

    :) Too true. I was working my proverbial butt off and just didn’t think I’d have blogging time, but its kind of integrated into my day now.

  15. Servant
    19 July, 2007

    Get busy, you slacker! :P

    No rest for the wicked!

  16. Ann El Khoury
    19 July, 2007

    I am busy fellow wicked one … :) Let’s see if I can stick to a few days off blogging as some of you have so ably done. When one is online and at the desk so much for work anyway, its so easy to blocrastinate!

  17. 99
    19 July, 2007

    Well my proverbial gourd is empty of me and these words are ceasing to have a calming-enough effect! My legislature is trying to drive me further ’round the bend. It’s damn well working! I’ve taken to booze and John Mayall.

  18. Servant
    19 July, 2007

    I know, I was just teasing you. Thought you’d appreciate the irony of _me_ calling _you_ slacker. It’s like the guy who begs for change outside an office building near here. He likes to tell people “Hurry, up! You’re late for work.”

  19. Servant
    19 July, 2007

    99 —

    Thanks for the flashback, now pass the Thorazine, man.

  20. Ann El Khoury
    19 July, 2007

    99, I’ve just sent you some promising stuff on The Orange Revolution, and I’ll post on it too. And there’s a forthcoming post in the works about some gorgeous singers from the East that may interest you. Be interested to know what you think.

    Kilroy, the teasing put a smile on my face. Your great humour certainly shows that you are immune from irony deficiency (boom, tish). ;)

  21. miche
    20 July, 2007

    I love this post. Thank you.

  22. Ann El Khoury
    20 July, 2007

    Great to see you, Miche, thanks for coming by.

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This entry was posted on 16 July, 2007 by in Christianity, Germany, History, International Law, Iran, Languages, Poetry, Quotes, Religion, Theology.

Timely Reminders

"Those who crusade, not for God in themselves, but against the devil in others, never succeed in making the world better, but leave it either as it was, or sometimes perceptibly worse than what it was, before the crusade began. By thinking primarily of evil we tend, however excellent our intentions, to create occasions for evil to manifest itself."
-- Aldous Huxley

"The only war that matters is the war against the imagination. All others are subsumed by it."
-- Diane DiPrima, "Rant", from Pieces of a Song.

"It is difficult
to get the news from poems
yet men die miserably every day
for lack
of what is found there"
-- William Carlos Williams, "Asphodel, That Greeny Flower"