Individuality vs Unity
Science says we are consciousness wrapped in packets of meat ( But does not know what consciousness is or how it arises. A common scientific response to this is to deny consciousness exists) . Isolated, single solitary save for the channels of the senses. Mystics however get a sense of unity with everything and the feeling of separateness vanishes. Yet there is apparently still an individual recognises the feeling. We have that most fertile manure, a paradox.
When we talk of these things we talk about what we cannot (yet) put into words. Here I propose a couple of analogies that may help towards resolution of the paradox. I look at some phenomena that I think indicate a way of thinking that will help understanding the individuality-unity paradox. More on the technical aspects can be found on Wikipedia or your local library
Think of a wave in the sea. The wave moves but the individual particles in the wave hardly move. The wave is an individual entity linked to the entire ocean. This is an old and hackneyed cliché and does little or nothing to relate consciousness to physics, but everyone has seen a wave.
Moving on look at the soliton, or solitary wave, first described by Russell in 1834, though other regularly occurring examples have been identified. Technically a soliton is a self reinforcing pulse that keep its shape while moving. They are permanent, localised and can interact with other solitons with the only change being a phase shift in each soliton. Solitons can apparently arise in certain types of quantum field and in some condensed matter systems such as magnets. The important aspect here is that the soliton exists in some form of medium of which it is part just as a normal wave is part of the sea.
Now look at Phonons. These are harder to understand. Vibrations in a crystal lattice arise when atoms are displaced from their original position by, for example, heat in the environment. A phonon is a quantised mode of vibration in a rigid crystal lattice. Although normal vibration modes are wavelike in classical physics, the quantum mechanical treatment of lattice vibrations reveals vibration modes that have acquired some particle like properties. Loosely phonons are waves that behave like particles
As a final example I temporarily adopt the view that the human mind creates structures that match reality, even if this knowledge is unconscious and I move away from Physics to computing, which, like mathematics, can be treated as a creation of the human mind, and I look at what techies call frameworks.
A framework is a kind of infrastructure. In the ones with which I am familiar software components (individuals/waves) can take advantage of the framework (the sea) to communicate with each other without the programmer taking any action. If you are unfamiliar with the operation of a framework this seems magical. Even if you are familiar with how the framework operates working out the details can be a pain.
On being a non solitary soliton
I have presented, at a very high level, a few systems where individualised particle like phenomena arise a a result of disturbances to an infrastructure, but remain linked to and part of that infrastructure. I will now try to link these to the original paradox.
The view that we are self maintaining disturbances to some underlying structure is consistent with some phenomena in classical and quantum Physics. Some of these phenomena are permanent and localised, but mobile.
I am not too concerned at this point whether the underlying structure is the Zero point field, an intermediate structure, the mind of a deity or something else. But the permanent nature of solitons would lead to the idea we are wave packets moving in space time and not creations of the meat-wrappers we inhabit. It would allow for reincarnation and survival of consciousness without a body. For the rest of this article I will call such self maintaining packets spirits.
I have presented a very high level view of how we can be individuals yet remain linked to the rest of the universe. I do not claim that this is anything more than a vision, and much work needs to be done before it is even a testable hypothesis. Right now I cannot even think of doing the needed research.
There are however other modes of self maintenance. Mainly eating. Imagine a spirit that will decay to nothingness but can delay that by absorbing energy from other spirits. This gives us vampires, incubi, succubi and the demons C.S Lewis imagined that feed on agony and suffering.
Perhaps we are being farmed. If so I hope it is as dairy cows not meat.