The One is the Many
Understanding the ancient Upanishadic pantheistic notion of ‘The One is the Many’ (to wit: ‘All is Brahman/Atman’ or ‘All is God’, ‘Thou art that’) is not possible until one completes the statement as:
The One is (or appears as) the many Ones.
In other words, the many means: many times one, in much
the same way as a (i.e. 1) forest means: many (individual) trees. The observation of ‘the many’ (as collection of 1’s) is a (useful) relativistic illusion. What one actually observes, i.e. processes within one’s Bio-Nav, is many times one, to wit, a series of 1’s.
One? Or 3 alternatives of One?
In short, ‘the many’ results from relativistic (i.e. whole series) processing and ‘the one’ results from quantized (i.e. one-by-one) processing.
Again: In pantheistic terms (first described in the early Upanishads), the many are many times the One and which insight/experience is stated as ‘All is Brahman’ and ‘Thou (as 1 of the many 1’s) art That’.
Recognising (with the intensity of subjective personal
experience) the identity of the one (of the many ≈ atman) and the One (i.e. as Atman/Brahman), and of which the many 1’s are localised applications of the One (i.e. 1), results in complete (i.e. perfect) liberation/release (signalled with joy), at least for some. So the Upanishads. Later Upanishads named the so liberated individual a jivanmukta.
However, what the Upanishads and later on the great Brahmin commentators (but not critics) Badarayana and Shankara failed to state, no doubt for political reasons, is that the recognition/experience of the identity of the ‘one’ (‘one’ writ small because one of the many and named atman (writ small)) with the ‘One’ (i.e. as primary creation algorithm and named Atman/Brahman, sometimes also Prajapati) also binds completely/perfectly. It binds completely/perfectly because the atman (writ small), being a localised application of the Brahman/Atman, has no choice but to actualize (or manifest, i.e. locally complete) the universal function of Atman/Brahman (write large), which, according to the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad is to actualise itself as ‘The world’ and, more specifically and brutally, as both predator (i.e. feeder) and prey (i.e. food).
The realization of such complete/perfect bondage, namely of the (writ small) one’s having no choice other than to fulfil/manifest, indeed realize in the everyday world the function of the (writ big) One, is self-signalled either with joy (i.e. of creation completion/perfection) or with sorrow (because of the necessary destruction via old age, sickness and death of the incomplete/imperfect).
It is sad but not at all astonishing that the greatest of the Brahmin priests/scholiasts, i.e. Badarayana and Shankara, failed either through lack of personal experience (because not having achieved complete moksha and become jivanmuktas) or by political design to reveal the complete pantheistic view/experience. That’s because the complete pantheistic view provides no political traction and both of the aforementioned Brahmins were political animals. Had they declared the whole pantheistic view, highly selective Vedantins of a later age might have clearly expressed the daily experienced qualities of the (writ small) brahman/atman, namely sat, cit and ananda (+ dukkha), as pertaining not to the realm of (or being identical with) the pre-creation nirguna, meaning undifferentiated, Brahman but to that of the post-creation saguna, meaning: differentiated, brahman. Obviously the nirguna (hence the ‘One without a second’) Brahman was moved to apparent action with the realization that ‘It takes 2 (i.e. ones) to tango!’, as is clearly stated in the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad.
Moreover, had the aforementioned Brahmins not deceived (i.e. lied to) their followers by presenting and commenting on a highly selective view of the pantheistic creation function (elsewhere called prâna/Brahman), the archaic political notions of karma, samsara and the varnas would have lost all credence. This the aforementioned Brahmin liars/politicians could not allow to happen.