The One and the Many

Sri Aurobindo takes up the issue of the relationship between the individual and the Divine Being. “In the normal theistic conception the Many are created by God; made by him as a potter might make a vessel, they are dependent on him as are creatures on their creator. But in this larger view of the Ishwara the Many are themselves the Divine One in their inmost reality, individual selves of the supreme and universal Self-Existence, eternal as he is eternal but eternal in his being: our material existence is indeed a creation of Nature, but the soul is an immortal portion of the Divinity and behind it is the Divine Self in the natural creature.” For those of us who may have grown up with and been taught that God is other and separate from Nature, and that creatures are separate creations, it is somewhat difficult to truly grasp the significance of this insight. To recognize that the entire creation, all the creatures, including ourselves, are in our inmost essence that One, and that the Many consist entirely of the substance of the One, and exist solely by the Will of the Lord of Existence, without duality, is in fact almost an impossible task for us.

It is not through the process or modalities of the ego that we can gain this knowledge, which must be a knowledge by Identity rather than through abstraction. Rather, “it is through self-giving or surrender of soul and nature to the Divine Being that we can attain to our highest self and supreme Reality, for it is the Divine Being who is that highest self and that supreme REality, and we are self-existent and eternal only in his eternity and by his self-existence.”

Finally, “It is this truth of the consciousness of the Infinite that creates the possibility of all relations between the Many and the One, among which the realisation of oneness by the mind, the presence of oneness in the heart, the existence of oneness in all the members is a highest peak, and yet it does not annul but confirms all the other personal relations and gives them their fullness, their complete delight, their entire significance.”

reference: Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, Book 2, Part I, Chapter 2, Brahman, Purusha, Ishwara–Maya, Prakriti, Shakti, pp. 358-359