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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Comment by David Brazier on September 19, 2016 at 9:32

Singular unity is something that our minds seem programmed to seek. It gives us a sense of completeness and, therefore, understanding, and, hence, mastery. Yet it has inbuilt its own nemesis since control implies action that is inevitably disruptive. We transcend inherent diversity in order to find meaning through some kind of creating of a whole - a holiness - but that is not the last step, because we then seek out instances and among them find the difficult cases. At that point one must choose between repression and refinement. Either way the game is not ended, the battle must still be fought one way or another, and total singularity always eludes us - thank goodness.

Comment by David Brazier on September 15, 2016 at 21:18

Thank you Maitrisimha. Wonderful. I like Amida being one and infinity at the same time - we can say so, but what do I know? It certainly is interesting to play with these numerical concepts and one can see how the Pythagorians (amongst others) became immersed in them. One, zero and infinity are the strange characters.

∞ = 1/0

I'm sure that the Blessed One can be as many as he likes.

Comment by Maitrisimha Kouwenhoven on September 15, 2016 at 12:21

What then do we mean by saying: The Blessed ONE?' What is the meaning of 'Hear Israel, the Lord Jehova your God, ...,he is One. (Deuteronomy). There is an anecdote about Leibnitz (17th century).He was the inventor of the calculus (differentiating and integrating in mathematics). Religion is never far away in Leibnitz, he was a devote Christian. So he imagined an integral of all, being GOD. The numerical outcome was ONE.

Zero was brought from India to the West by Arabs. They saw the value of 0 for mathematizing the world, but above all the value for trade and the possibility of defining 'negative possession.' (Debt, creditorship a.s.o.).

And further, you will not object to: Infinite light, meaning just what it says, no end, boundaryless, measureless. Precisely not us, not me, because we are finite. So infinity is other then one and even other then     nothingness (0)

So of course I (as one) am all the time seeking for autonomy, but that is only possible theoretically (theoria that gave Western philosophy its bad name). In that way I can read the title the text: 'THERE IS NO ONE', as:

Existing totally autonomous as I, which is the reason for existence of the I anyway, brings one in a realm where is NO ONE (else). Not empy, not immediately nothingness, not imediately 0, but something as: 'Il y a, there is'. A nameless being, Some horror a neutrality that just as much is not as it is. Something I have met many times in my life when sleepless. I know what is meant by the title: There is no one. But against knowing better anytime saying "I" it means desiring that the SAYING, and the SAID are the same. One can keep trying but that will never happen. Why, because in saying one has allready given up part of one's autonomy for a heteronomy, for another towards one is 'saying.'

There is always ambiguity. So I like to read: THERE IS NO ONE, as: THERE IS SOME OF ONE.

In the act of speaking (towards another) there is already heteronomy, there is already anOTHER, so the ONE is broken in SAYING. I can 'autonomously' decide to saying and not seeing the OTHER. In that case the SAYING is my saying and is always violent by reducing someONE other to only 'there is,' to a nameless 'what.' A sort of nothingness (annihilation of the 'who'). So SAYING is on the side of Ehtics already before the saying begins. Ontology is about the SAID. Everything that can be 'said' about my being and everybody's being, like the being of being and so on. Even nothingness (0) can nicely and wellformed find a place in Ontology respectively as the negative of being or as not thingness or any other name that allows it to be something like: not me but nevertheless part of me. Like:nothingness is an extreme case which just because it can be called (named) still is just part of being (could be in the form of fear or so).

Ontology is egology and sooner or later it becomes a totallity a kingdom with only an inside: all is one, meaning all shall realise that oneness sooner or later. All that is other or has otherness, every attempt to break that totalitarian regime will be broken apart and reconstructed as complex concept to take its place in the 'whole'.

One and Zero are odd numbers indeed but they are always 'Said.' And so is infinity as number. And even the transcendent can have its place as the being of being that appears as discrete values or shades of light between Zero as total darkness and One as total lightness. 

It's all comfortably part of what I can imagine and what amazes me or pleases me and so on.

INFINITY however is another matter. It just stands opposite of the two other numbers in their 'ontological' status. INFINITY; its boundarylessness, its absolute otherness is the real lightning that is the outside of totality and nothingness it is the space of other and above all of OTHER it  is 'my heteronomy' how paradoxical it may sound. I do not posses myself anymore in spite of all that is said about me and to me. 

Amida is infinite (measureless) light and life. Amida is a real person, Dharmavidya once said in a debate about the 'what' of Amida (a symbol, a god a metaphor).  A real person: a ''WHO'. And this time I can can say THERE IS ONE, which if honest to the bone I cannot say about myself but I can say or utter of an OTHER. Another who can only be real and radically different if he/she is infinite. But above all if Amida is ONE in a NAME, a name that is not a 'said' but a SAYING: the NEMBUTSU. 

NEMBUTSU practice is an saying otherwise, AMIDA is a real person, an concrete OTHER who looks me in the face and makes me endless responsable. AMIDA is as it were a name that makes me realise that in any OTHER I encounter someONE. ONE of whom I cannot say anything at first, it is OTHER and not me, not mine, in sofar the OTHER is not yet part fo my knowlegde: is not a what but a WHO.

So the OTHER, any other that appears before me and I do not want or can escape is a encounter with AMIDA who is ONE, while I am just some of one. So any real encounter with ANOTHER is an instance of infinity.

Thank you for your sometimes provocative SAYING, always makes me think and contemplate.


Comment by David Brazier on September 13, 2016 at 13:17

Yes. If something is 'one' the question is 'one what?' and if there is an answer to that question then the one-ness indicates being part of a multiplicity. If there isn't an answer, then the 'oneness' does not make sense, except in the manner of 'one group of blah-blahs', so 'one' always stands between a subordinate or superordinate multiplicity, doesn't it?

Comment by Carol English on September 12, 2016 at 16:49
In a way perhaps oneness is an abstract emergent property... And zero the ultimate abstraction, as the negation of one... would it be better to say that one and zero arise together, neither can draw meaning without the implicit (if not explicit) existence of the other. In order to speak one needs to be a "one"— a coherent entity, an identified single grouping gathered into a singularity, an identity. And surely an identity requires an I and a not I, self and other, the two sides of a drawn distinction... But, yes, as such it is always drawn over a multiplicity, patterns and groupings of sub-identities are surely infinite.


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