Every part is also a whole. The cell is a whole entity made from smaller wholes (atoms) and comprising larger wholes (organs). The same goes for the atom, our society, the planet and our Milky Way galaxy. At each level, we see wholes that are also communities of parts. These whole/part structure-relationships were termed ‘holons’ by Arthur Koestler.
…particles, atoms, molecules, cells, tissues, organs, organ systems, organism, society, ecosystem, planet, solar system, galaxy, local group, supercluster, observable universe, cosmos…
If we proceed even beyond elementary particles to ‘smaller’ scales, an unexpected finding is revealed. Elementary particles are not made from smaller things - they are aspects of vast fields extending throughout space, like wrinkles in a vast bedsheet.
These facts challenge our concept of a discrete ‘thing’, since every ‘thing’ is a holon in a hierarchy of holons. No boundary is fixed. No boundary is final. Through these evanescent boundaries, nature indicates to us that ‘things’ are not *independently* real; they are holons as real as the boundaries we perceive.
Where do these boundaries come from?
The sage Shankaracharya noted that thing-ness is a result of superimposition. In the Three Minds framework, the Second Mind apparently superimposes boundaries and gives rise to First Mind experiences of individuality and things. This is experienced as a shift in identity - a dissociation from the whole to the part, or an association with the part. Recognizing this shift in identity makes it bidirectional - it can shift back. The perception of what a world is and its nature shifts in tandem. Thereafter, the boundary is a tool through which identity can express.