Jump to the following topics:
- What is duality?
- There are many
examples of duality.
- Everything has a
are not really opposites.
- Why does duality occur?
- Techniques for
What is duality? It is the
two-sidedness of the world -- the fact that everything has an
"opposite," a polar complement. Duality is also called "yinyang."
There are many
examples of duality. In these examples, the yin is mentioned first,
as in yin/yang.
- General examples: feminine/masculine, mother/father,
passivity/activity, dark/light, body/mind, intuition/logic,
night/day, soft/hard, internal/external, wet/dry, follower/leader,
receptive/creative, and nature/technology.
- Examples from the psyche: shadow/ego, shadow/persona, and
- Examples from the natural world: the north and south poles of
a magnet, the positive and negative charge of an electrical
current, the wave motion of light, and the alternation of winter
Everything has a
complement. These complements are easy to recognize in the
contrariness of light and dark, or male and female. But, for example,
what is the opposite of a tree? The answer might sound ludicrous, but
it is sensible in the study of yinyang: the answer is "non-tree" --
whatever is not the tree, whatever completes the figure/background of
this gestalt, whatever defines the tree by being something other than
a tree. The Chinese language acknowledges this inseparable
reciprocity by having one word -- "yinyang" -- rather than the
English phrase "yin and yang."
are not really opposites. Instead, they are two sides of the same
thing. For example, health and sickness are two sides of what might
be termed "physiological condition"; in another example, life and
death are viewed as two alternating aspects of our "eternal
existence" (if we believe in reincarnation). We can picture this
complementary relationship in various ways:
- We can view the complementary relationship as a cycle on a
sine wave. For a while, we are on the positive side of the cycle,
and later we are on the negative side of the cycle.
- We can view the complementary relationship in their mutual
dependence; yin and yang cannot exist without the other. For
people who desire wholeness, this means that we cannot have good
without evil, nor life without death, nor growth without decay.
Thus, we stop trying to annihilate a polarity's unpleasant
- We can view the complementary relationship in the familiar
symbol of the yinyang. This symbol contains a black "tadpole" and
a white "tadpole," each incurring into the other's half of the
circle. As a further incursion into the other's territory, the
black side contains a white dot, and the white side contains a
black dot. This design signifies the idea that nothing is entirely
yin or yang (i.e., everything contains elements of both), and that
these polarities are complements rather than true opposites. They
are relative to one another.
Why does duality occur? It
occurs because the soul wants to study its own nature. Soul is
composed of spirit (just a a brick is composed of clay); thus, soul
is studying spirit. But spirit is a homogeneous substance; thus, it
cannot be studied in its totality. Instead, soul uses various
functions (which are analogous to our physical senses) to perceive
spirit's individual aspects, i.e., its "archetypes." When soul looks
at spirit through these "senses," it perceives archetypes as they
would appear in various "material dimensions" -- mental, emotional,
and physical. In these "dimensions," an archetype expresses itself in
a duality simply because of the nature of these dimensions:
- An archetype itself contains dual aspects. Thus, when an
archetype manifests, both aspects manifest.
- When something exists in the material worlds, it exists only
in contrast to that which is different from it.
- The material worlds are always in a state of balance. Thus,
they require the balancing effect of opposites. But this balance
is not static; instead, it is maintained throughout the
continually changing phenomena. The changes are powered by the
energy which is released by the splitting of the one (i.e.,
spirit) into the two (i.e., the dualities) -- as in the splitting
of an atom in nuclear fission.
- We use intuition. Intuition arises from the wholism of spirit;
thus, it contains and transcends all opposites. Therefore, its
guidance leads us to express and experience whatever we need in
any moment; for example, on one occasion it might recommend an
action which we could judge as "generous," and on another occasion
it might recommend an action which we could judge as
"non-generous" (i.e., "frugal" or even apparently "selfish"). If
we reflect on a day in which we acted intuitively, we will see
that we have expressed many opposite positions. In contrast, the
mind develops a plan of action by referring to its defaults (i.e.,
our habits, values, self-concept, the elements in our archetypal
fields, etc.) which are innately polarized; i.e., we default to
our habit of being "generous" solely because, for example, our
self-concept says that we are generous and not non-generous (even
though the circumstances might require frugality).
- We do not exaggerate the natural polarization which occurs in
our thinking. One of the useful functions of the mind is to
separate and categorize, but we can also allow the equally valid
wholistic, integrating perspective. Thus we stop labeling as
though any label is definitive and permanent; we stop giving
excessive praise when one side of the polarity prevails over the
other; and we stop arguing for one aspect of the polarity as if we
can stop the natural cyclical process. In this labeling process,
the concept of "pain" does not exist at all unless we also label
some experiences as "pleasurable." If we leave the situations
unnamed, we tend to deal with them directly and intuitively and
harmoniously rather than battling them and hating them and pushing
them even farther apart in their polarity, thus disrupting their
natural cycles and interplay. We can still label and praise and
like and also strive for the polarity which we prefer, but we can
do it from a transcendental understanding of the yinyang's
dynamics so that we aren't fighting futile battles.
- We can acknowledge elements of the unpleasant state within the
pleasant state - - the "dot" within the "tadpole." Examples:
We acknowledge our preferences. If, for example, health and
disease are the polarity, how can health be maintained? Wouldn't
the cycle require both of them to be expressed? We can enhance the
preferable side of a cycle (e.g., health rather than disease, or
happiness rather than sadness) in various ways:
- In our preference for dynamic health, we surrender to its
opposite -- the body's inherent weaknesses, e.g., its need for
sleep, proper nutrition, exercise, etc.
- If we want peace, we submit to the reality of conflict --
the struggles against our own misunderstanding and
mismanagement of our ego, our needs, our shadow, our
- We endure the inevitable failures in our learning
experiences, so that we can eventually succeed in business,
school, relationships, and other endeavors.
We accept the "tension" of the opposites. We endure any
discomfort which occurs from the constant change and apparent
instability, and from our ego's frustrated desire to claim one
side of the polarity (e.g., its claim to be a "good" person).
- We can acknowledge that the unwanted condition has a right
to exist; every conceivable state might have a purpose in the
grand scheme (even if only for a "learning experience").
Recently when I was very ill with the flu, I found that
"acceptance" of the condition weakened me; when I allowed,
instead, my genuine anger toward it (because it violated my
boundaries), I felt strong and invigorated because this emotion
separated and polarized me away from the illness. The anger was
a legitimate, balanced, and necessary response to the virus'
attack; this anger gave me the psychological and physiological
stimulation to rise up against the virus. Some polarization is
needed, as compared to an oceanic, boundary-less, open
vulnerability. But we don't need to intensify the polarity by
feeling anger toward disease in general and in times of health;
if we do that, we risk increasing the "pendulum swing" toward
- We are maintaining a stressful emergency vigilance
against an enemy which is not present (and thus we suffer
from the effects of excessive stress).
- We are attracting the conditions and people which we
despise because of the excess energy which we are directing
- We are implanting inappropriate elements into our
archetypal fields. When we indulge a general hatred toward
disease, we are not responding to the dynamics of the
current situation of health; thus, our highly charged
thoughts, images, energy tones, and actions linger in the
a-field. To discharge that energy, they must create the
conditions which they represent, i.e., the disease which we