The Meanings of "One"


The Seal of the Unity of the Three

Quoted from:

The World Upside Down: Essays on Taoist Internal Alchemy, by Isabelle Robinet, pages 49-50

According to different authors, the One is either identified with the Dao or—following Laozi—is regarded as produced by the Dao. These perspectives are not mutually exclusive, but are complementary. They correspond to two conceptions of the One: on the one hand, the metaphysical One, which is not a number; on the other, the One as the producer, which as such is the first number.

Typically, One—the origin of life—is the number assigned to Water, and therefore to the Yin principle, as the first element, the origin of all things; in this case, One is deemed to be a Yin number. This is the general rule in Taoist texts. In contrast to it, the exegetical schools of the Yijing (Book of Changes) assign number One to Qian ☰, the Origin, pure Yang, and Heaven; in this case, the origin of the world is the movement that pertains to Yang.


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