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The idea of Unity and multiplicity by Alan Watts.

“The sense of unity with the “All” is not, however, a nebulous state of mind, a sort of trance, in which all form and distinction is abolished, as if man and the universe merged into a luminous mist of pale mauve. Just as process and form, energy and matter, myself and experience, are names for, and ways of looking at the same thing — so one and many, unity and multiplicity, identity and difference, are not mutually exclusive opposites: they are each other, much as the body is its various organs. To discover that the many are one, and that the one is the many, is to realize that both are words and noises representing what is at once obvious to sense and feeling, and an enigma to logic and description.”

Alan watts.  in “The Wisdom of Insecurity”

The symbol is often confused with what it symbolizes. When one is repeatedly called by his name, that person tends to believe that he is the Name. Same happens with everything in the Universe that has a name. The name is mistaken for the true identity of an object or a person, which can be experienced through senses and feelings.

You have a body. It is made up of different parts. Arms, legs, head, heart and many hundreds of parts. However we know from the experience that this body is one. We have only created parts for our intellectual understanding. Similarly, the whole universe is one body, with you (your awareness) being the center of its experience. But due to the language we use, we identify everything as separate from us. Each thing that we name differently becomes separate entity in our perception.

The Idea of ‘I am different than you, and “this is different than that” takes place the moment something is given a definition through a name or a word.

From the experience we can know that we are one with the universe. For example,

  • close your eyes and listen carefully to the sounds that you hear. And ask yourself, are the sounds coming from outside of you or are they inside your head?
  • open your eyes and see. Is what you see outside of you or is it a part of your consciousness (means part of yourself) ?

This experience of oneness with the universe is so lost in our lives because we are entirely caught up with logic and description. We are constantly engaged in thoughts, which take away the mindfulness and the sensory experience of the present moment.

There is a famous zen question: “Who were You Before you were named?” That question gets you thinking about your true identity. It is an attempt to suggest that state of mind which is free of all definitions, and a pure, naked awareness, (the only right view) which zen aims to achieve.

That awareness can be brought back by the consistent practice of mindfulness and meditation. Otherwise we are all lost in the grand illusion of our own thoughts, failing to realise our true nature..

Thank you for reading. hope this added value to your life and made you question about your perception of yourself and the universe. There’s more to come to challenge your thoughts and beliefs. Till then find more awareness, find more of your true self..:)

Featured image by Dawid Zawiła on unsplash.

If you liked this you might also like related ideas from my posts below:

Mindfulness: Ideas and practices to increase your awareness of life.

Concentration: The treasure hidden deep within you!

Expand from within to discover unknown dimensions.

True freedom can be found only in emptiness.

3 Life lessons to be learned from this simple zen story.

15 thoughts on “The idea of Unity and multiplicity by Alan Watts.

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  1. A favorite thing I do is open a window to listen to the birds in the morning. However, rather than relaxing to the many amazing sounds, I find myself attempting to learn the language of these beautiful souls & locating those making sounds I don’t recognize. I’ve much work to learn how to simply be. It is good that you inserted herein the Zen question. It is centering. Before I attended school as a child, I remember controlling my body, yet my consciousness was seemingly above my head, like I was an observer of myself. I think it wasn’t until age 5 or 6 that I was sort of sucked down into the encasement that was my identity. The Zen question pulls up that memory & may be beneficial in preventing that mindset of isolation. A lot of personal info there, I shared it because I appreciate the words you take time to finely craft to help others have a purer view of it all.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wow! Thank you very much for such a positive comment! I am truly grateful to you. I found reading your experiences very very interesting. Your words resonate deeply with me, and to put it simply: I am getting alot of positive vibes from you. I am thankful that this post helped you remember your childhood and your precious memories. And lots and lots of thank yous for appreciating my words and inspiring me to write more.

      Can we become friends on facebook or instagram?

      Liked by 1 person

  2. “The symbol is often confused with what it symbolizes.” This is absolutely priceless!! I almost want to stamp this onto my shirts lol!!! Every single time I look around me, I think this very thought. I say to the tree ” you are so much more than just your name, your deep and intimate with all that surrounds you. You are selfless in more ways than are apparent. I love Alan watts! I put on a live stream when I go to bed!! Thank you so much for your wonderful post! Can’t wait to read more of your stuff!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Haha 😂, Thanks. Yes, you are right. A tree is a lot more than its name. When we call it a tree we only think of it in limited ways. It is true with everything that has a name. Possibilities become limited when we define things.
      Thank you for reading. Great to find a person with similar and rare interests like these! 😊

      Liked by 1 person

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