It is very difficult to see how the Universe can be One when it is so obviously Many. So difficult, in fact, that to this day western philosophy is unable to reconcile these seemingly contradictory properties and it remains a famous metaphysical paradox. This may be because this tradition of philosophy reifies Time and Matter. It cannot understand how to avoid reifying Time and Matter since it is predicated on the dogma that the doctrine of the Upanishads is false, and this would be the only plausible way to reduce Time and Matter. What allows us to call this tradition of thought ‘western’ is that as a matter of principle it rejects mysticism with its ‘principle of nonduality’ as the solution for such paradoxes. It then has nowhere to go but must remain puzzled forever. If we do not fall into this comfortable and inviting intellectual trap then the non-paradoxical Upanishadic solution for the One-Many problem is available and all such paradoxes cease to trouble us.
In his Divine Life, while speaking of the three ‘poises’ of the Divine Supermind and of how these would be no more than reflections or treatments of the same unified Truth, Sri Aurobindo briefly explains the ‘nondual’ or ‘Middle Way’ solution for the One-Many problem. It would entail the rejection of all partial or dualistic metaphysical views for a unity then can never be achieved in language or thought but which, nevertheless, can to some extent be discussed. Only by a conceptual division of this unity into aspects, reflections and treatments would discussion and analysis become possible. The eternal Tao cannot be talked, says Lao Tsu, but must be talked, and this would require that we talk about its aspects and reflections as does Aurobindo.
His words may shed light on what ‘nondualism’ would mean in respect of formal analytical philosophy as well as psychology and experience. They may also explain that when it is proposed that Prakriti, the space-time creation of Maya, is ‘unreal’, ‘not really real’, has merely a ‘dependent-existence’ or is an ‘illusion’ this is not to reduce human beings to insignificance but just to concede their origin beyond Time and their ‘epiphenomenal’ or emergent status. The proposal would be, to the contrary, that human beings are far more significant than we usually believe them to be.
“The language of the Upanishads, the supreme ancient authority on these truths of a higher experience, when they speak of the Divine existence which is manifesting itself, implies the validity of all these experiences. We can only assert the priority of the oneness to the multiplicity, a priority not in time but in relation of consciousness, and no statement of supreme spiritual experience, no Vedantic philosophy denies this priority or the eternal dependence of the Many on the One. It is because in Time the Many seems not to be eternal but to manifest out of the One and return to it as their essence that their reality is denied; but it might equally be reasoned that the eternal persistence or, if you will, the eternal recurrence of the manifestation in Time is a proof that the divine multiplicity is an eternal fact of the Supreme beyond Time no less than the divine unity; otherwise it could not have this characteristic of inevitable eternal recurrence in Time.”
The Divine Life (159)