It is remarkable that the number 1 is a straight line. We teach our children to count from the number 1 upwards, and when we learn a foreign language, we do the same. But the line separates, it forms a barrier. It is also unstable. A wall can come crashing down, a tower topples.

What is also remarkable is that the ego in English – I – is also a straight line and very similar in appearance to the number 1. So when we teach our children to count from 1 upwards, we are in effect teaching them to start with the ego. This conditions all our thinking. We start with ourselves, instead of starting with the other.

We should actually start with the number 0. 0 stands for the Other. It also stands for God, since 0 represents infinity and is unending (it goes round and round). We might even see that the word G O D is made up of three zeros, one after the other, and this will be important when it comes to understanding the word ONE.

Christianity is full of paradox. Christ says, for example, that we must lose our life in order to find it. This is paradoxical – how can you possibly lose your life and find it? I have discussed this in another article. Another paradox is that the first will be last, and the last first. Again, it seems paradoxical, and I have talked about this paradox here.

Well, one of the biggest paradoxes in Christianity is the concept of the Holy Trinity – that God is three in one. How can that be? Surely, he is either three or one. How can he be both?

Again, language will give us the answer, because language contains information about the meaning of life, about God, ourselves, existence, the world, the creation, the Fall, etc.

It will be easier to understand if we write it in the following way: three in ONE. The Holy Trinity is made up of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Three persons, but one essence. The Son is begotten of the Father before all ages. The Spirit proceeds from the Father (and not from the Son, as is recited in the Creed in Western Churches, a later addition).

Three in ONE. Three distinct persons, but one essence. Let us imagine that God the Father is 1, God the Son is 2 and God the Holy Spirit is 3.

We will add these numbers as subscripts to the number 0 or O. So God the Father is O1, which means that he is ‘no one’. The only thing here is that in chemistry the subscript 1 is not normally written down, so we would say simply that God the Father is O.

There is confirmation for this in the Greek language, where the word for ‘God’ is theos. If we omit the final s (as happens in the vocative and is very common in spoken Greek), this can be read the O.

God the Son is O2, which happens to be the chemical formula for oxygen (the air we breathe). And God the Holy Spirit is O3, the chemical formula for ozone, the protective layer that surrounds the planet on which we live.

Now all this information – God the Father as O, God the Son as O2 and God the Holy Spirit as O3 – can be found in the number ONE, because the one number that the number ONE does not contain is itself (1). ONE contains the numbers O, 2 (on its side) and 3 (back to front). It does not contain 1 because in chemistry the subscript 1 is not written down and because there is no selfish impulse in God, there is only love.

Three in ONE. It turns out that this concept of the Holy Trinity is literally true. That is the information about the Father, Son and Holy Spirit is contained in the word itself.

There are other connections. For example, if we combine the Son (O2) and the Holy Spirit (O3), we find that they are present in MOON (the 2 is on its side again, the 3 is on its front). This reminds us of the obvious similarity in sound between Son and Sun, so it would seem that God is the air we breathe, he is the light we see by during the day and he is the reflection of that light in the night, so that we even see in the darkness.

And if we remember that the word for ‘Spirit’ in Greek is pneuma – that is ‘wind’ – and that the letter that represents breath in the alphabet is h, then if we combine the Son (O2) and the Holy Spirit (this time written as H), we find that they make up the chemical formula for water: H2O. This means that we drink God as well.

God is all around us. He is ‘everywhere present’. He is even in the language we speak. Since we are translators, there is nothing in this world that is of our own making. All the materials we use were here when we arrived – we transform them into something else, we translate them, just as we translate the air we breathe and the food we eat.

But we have to open our eyes to see him. Eye sounds the same as I. We breathe life into the line and make a circle: O. We open our spiritual eye. When we teach our children to count from 1, we are making life much more difficult for them, because once you start counting from 1, there is no end, you will never reach the answer, when all you had to do was count down to 0.

Jonathan Dunne,


We have been placed on this earth, we’re not really sure how, except to say that we emerged from our mother’s womb after a gestation period of nine months. When we emerged, having survived in water, we took a breath of fresh air and thus became suitable for the environment we now inhabit. Once we had breathed in, we could breathe out and we joined all the other creatures in translating the environment around us.

It is important that we understand this concept of translating the environment around us. We generally look down on translation. It is second best to the original. It contains mistakes and isn’t as good as reading the original text. The translator’s name is hidden, eclipsed. When we need a translator, that person is essential, but we soon forget about them afterwards. Perhaps because the translator takes control away from us, we cannot access the original language ourselves and so we must rely on the other.

But translation goes further than this. The person who sits down and writes the original text is also translating – translating their experiences, the stories they have heard, the knowledge they have acquired, the words they have learned, their understanding of conversations. And they translate all of that on to a piece of paper. The way they write it one day will not be the same if they write it on another day, so the text is susceptible to their mood on that day and the environment around them (any disturbances). Creativity is a fragile thing.

And while they are doing this, they are translating the air by breathing, translating the food they had for breakfast that morning, translating (making sense of) any conversations they may overhear. Everything in this world is translation because nothing begins or ends with us.

The same might be said of our thoughts. Do they truly originate with us? Or are they placed in our minds to see what we will make of them, how we will react? I believe that the only thing that is ours, strictly speaking, is our reaction, how we choose to react – whether we choose in a given moment to show love or hatred. This also is translation because our reaction, our choice of words or deeds, is like choosing the words with which to represent a text in another language. Again, it will not be exactly the same on one day as the next.

Air passes through us. Food passes through us. Even life passes through us – the life we receive from our parents and pass on to our children, precisely because we are not the authors of life. Even trade, the desire to make money, involves things passing through our hands. They do not begin with us, we do not come up with the raw materials, more often than not it is the earth that does that. We change them in some way (a process that normally involves packaging) and pass them on, fixing a price as we do so.

But we would prefer to think of ourselves as authors. We lay claim. We say this piece of land, this object, this product is mine – because I paid for it, because I got here first. Once we draw the line and say something is mine, we open ourselves to conflict, because it is a false assumption. We don’t own the land we live on, someone else made it, and it wasn’t us. We don’t own what the earth produces, we certainly didn’t invent the seed that gave rise to the crop.

If you fail to recognize the other, then what the world contains, even other people, are fair game, you might think, a potential source of profit. But this is a corrupted way of thinking. We should use what is placed at our disposal for the good of others, not to make a profit.

This claiming ownership is really making ourselves out to be the source of what is around us, and only God can do that, the same God who appeared to Moses at the burning bush in Exodus, chapter 3, and sent him to free the Israelites from bondage to the Egyptians. When Moses asks, naturally enough, on whose authority he is to do this, who he is to say has sent him, God replies, ‘I AM WHO I AM.’ This is the name of the one who sent you.

In Greek, this phrase is translated ‘ἐγώ εἰμι ὁ ὤν’, literally ‘I am the being’, and the last part of this phrase – ‘ὁ ὤν’, ‘the being’ – is included in icons of Christ Pantocrator, since in Orthodox tradition it is the pre-incarnate Christ who appears in the Old Testament. The letters are written in capitals: O WN.

Not only do these three letters spell three words in English – own, won and now – not only do they spell a number if we rotate one of the letters – ONE – they make clear, as all of language does, who the author is, who is the one that can lay claim to ownership. The rest of us are just passing through.

Jonathan Dunne,