In Principles Against Common Fallacies I wrote...
6. Nothing is indivisibly singular.
This is an interesting philosophical issue to consider. There are philosophies centres on the notion of zero - that all is 'emptiness' and there are philosophies centred on the notion of 'oneness'. These two 'numbers', one and zero are oddities. They are almost as odd as the notion of infinity. Historically, many systems managed without the notion of zero. If you look at your keyboard, you will probably see that the zero is in the wrong place, on the extreme right, when, in fact, it is supposed to be the number before one. This is because it was an afterthought. So there has been controversy throughout history about zero and whether it is a real number or not, which, of course, all depends on what you mean by 'number'. However, 'one' is also a rather strange number. Something only has meaning in contrast to something else or some other things, so one has meaning in contradistinction to multiplicity, yet multiplicity is made up of items that are supposedly singular, so one is distinct in being different from a lot more of itself, which is odd.
Empirically, there actually seems to be nothing in the universe that cannot be broken down into smaller parts. It was once thought that we should discover 'atoms' that were indivisible, but this has proved impossible. There is always a smaller set of parts. So every 'one' is actually a 'set' or 'group'. This is a notion quite close to some of the early Buddhist analyses of the person into elements. When we think about this we start to see that the only really unreal number is one. There are no ones in the universe. One is an abstract intellectual concept. As soon as we think of one X, we are automatically having in mind the other Xs. So the 'one X' simply refers to an instance of Xs.
Thus oneness can be a matter of grouping things together, rather artificially, or of delineating an instance of a broader class.
All of this means that the many instances that we encounter of 'oneness' as a fundamental spiritual principle are all vulnerable to both deconstruction and aggregation.
What does this mean in terms of practical spirituality? That one cannot claim a special status as one-self because, on the one hand (sic) one is constituted of many elements and on the other hand one is one-self only as an instance of all selves. So the attempt to find one's true self or oneness is doomed to failure. Nothing solid will be encountered that can be posited as one. Any attempt to find the oneness of all things will be similarly futile - actually even more futile, since to say that a group of things is one, in any meaningful sense, is to designate them as somehow united in distinction to something else, but if we are talking about 'all' things this become self-defeating.
Everything is a multiplicity. Our struggles to arrive at the kind of self-consistency that will justify a sense of one's oneness are un unnecessary self-torture. It cannot be done. Much more profitable and interesting is to explore the jungle of natural complexity than to imagine that one can reduce it to a monoculture.
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