Consider your own body: It consists of tens of trillions of cells. These cells are created, and (excepting some brain cells) die – each, looked at superficially, has its individual fate. To be a muscle cell, a nerve cell, to live just a few days, weeks or months. But do YOU die when one of your body cells dies? Of course not, you experience continuity despite all these cells coming and going.
So would you say that the cells of your body are separate from you? Or should it not be better put that the cells are an integral part of you? Certainly, without them there would be no you.
Whichever way we now look – outward to the solar system, the stars, the milky way, to clusters of galaxies – or down from bodies to cells to molecules, atoms, and sub-atomic particles, we see conglomerations: groups of similar-scale items coming together to form apparently individual objects at a larger scale.
What I have written here so far is common knowledge. All too often it ends there, in the physical world. Yet the logical step is to pose the question: If I am a conglomerate with my own personal life and awareness, do other levels of conglomeration also have an ‘individual’ life and awareness of some sort? We can pose this question at every level of conglomeration within the totality of manifestation.
For example, imagine the planet Earth and the approx. 7.5 billion people who currently live on it. Does the Earth die when one human dies? No. So does the Earth have it’s own consciousness (Gaia), just as a person does who nevertheless consists of trillions of cells? Good question. How could we prove or disprove the existence of a Gaia consciousness? My suggestion is the same as ever: Do exercises to expand / loosen up your perception, then you stand a good chance of noticing the mind of Gaia.
Interestingly, we can find pointers to the answer to the generalised question at both the very smallest and the very largest scale. (1) Physicists have started entertaining the idea that manifestation may in fact consist of ‘nothing’, that each subatomic particle is not any ‘thing’, but simply a cluster of attributes. This concept aligns neatly with the assertion of Sages for thousands of years, that there is only Consciousness. See my article on ‘Science and Emptiness’. (2) The largest thing that there is, is Universal Awareness, which spans all of time and space and thus can fairly be said to be the largest conglomeration of all. In fact, it is One, yet it contains or manifests All.
If the two end points of the spectrum, and something in the middle (you), all have life and awareness, then it seems probable that Life is in fact the common background at all levels of scale. The topics considered above also fit the holistic philosophy –
that the parts of something are intimately interconnected and explicable only by reference to the whole (Oxford Languages).