A World Built on Duality
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Without meaning to oversimplify a complex set of problems, I’d like to suggest that the dilemma we face in restoring Sacred Balance to our world is fundamentally a matter of balancing the archetypal Masculine and Feminine. I capitalize these words to emphasize that I am not talking about men and women. I am talking about archetypal principles that apply to both men and women, and for that matter to everyone – regardless of gender or sexual persuasion – straight or gay, lesbian or homosexual, transgender or bi-sexual – it doesn’t matter. All of us have a Masculine side and a Feminine side. This is as much an expression of the nature of our world – which is characterized by duality – as it is the nature of the human psyche.
As Jungian Erich Neumann explains it (The Origins and History of Consciousness, Princeton University Press, 1954, p. xxii n. 7):
"We use the terms 'masculine' and 'feminine' . . . not as personal sex-linked characteristics, but as symbolic expressions . . . The symbolism of 'masculine' and 'feminine' is archetypal and therefore transpersonal . . . In reality every individual is a psychological hybrid . . . [I]t is one of the complications of individual psychology that in all cultures the integrity of the personality is violated when it is identified with either the masculine or the feminine side of the symbolic principle of opposites."
Some people prefer the Taoist concept of yin and yang, which is less easily confused with gender than Jungian terminology. The Tao contains both Masculine (yang) and Feminine (yin) energies in perpetual Sacred Balance with each other. This is not a static balance, but one which is constantly shifting in a dynamic propelled by the emergence of yin from within yang, and vice versa – as symbolized by the small seed of yin at the heart of yang and the small seed of yang at the heart of yin. Each gives birth to the other as it reaches the limits of its expression and the movement from center to extreme and back again keeps the wheel that contains them both in perpetual motion.
Together yin and yang represent opposing principles that are ultimately complementary and necessary to the completion of each other. The notion of yang includes all that is light, high, ascendant, hot, fiery, dry, active, open, fast, outer, growing, aligned with life-giving forces, and Masculine; while yin encompasses everything dark, low, descendant, cool, watery, wet, receptive, hidden, slow, inner, decaying, aligned with death and the dying process, and Feminine.
As with the Taoist understanding, yogic philosophy also understands a similar dynamic, albeit in slightly different terminology. As described by Swami Nischalananda Saraswati (“Shiva and Shakti – the Twin Realities,” Yoga Magazine, March 1991), for example:
"Shiva represents the unmanifest and Shakti the manifest; Shiva the formless and Shakti the formed; Shiva consciousness and Shakti energy, not only in the cosmos as a whole, but in each and every individual. The roots of Shakti are in Shiva. Though one is manifested and the other unmanifested, they are in the ultimate sense one and the same. One is the principle of changelessness and the other, the principle of change – Shakti is change within changelessness, while Shiva is changelessness as the root of change. The experience of perfect unity of the changeless and the changeable, the dissolution of duality, is the aim of Tantra, and thus of Yoga."
This is the paradox of change. True change is a revelation of essence, which has in truth been there all along. In this sense:
"Sacred Balance is the ability to live from unchanging essence, while participating in a world of changing appearances."
This, too, is part of the dynamic involved in bringing the archetypal Masculine (unchanging essence) into balance with the archetypal Feminine (the flow of changing appearances). The change brought by the archetypal Feminine is necessary to reveal what is unchanging – as everything non-essential falls away. Conversely, the unchanging essence provided by the archetypal Masculine provides a pivot point around which the archetypal Feminine can freely express itself in an ever-changing variety of ways. Working together, the two allow a world in which change becomes an ongoing revelation of truth and beauty, rather than an endless falling away and/or clouding of essence.
Since the additional polarities encompassed by yin and yang, and the more cosmological dimensions of Shiva and Shakti are encompassed by the terms Masculine and Feminine understood in the archetypal sense; because these terms are more familiar to Westerners; and because they represent the psychological realm where the work of Sacred Balance must occur, I will continue to use the Western terms. I use them with the understanding that they have broader implications than can be encompassed by gender, and that both women and men must integrate their inner Masculine and Feminine in order to become whole beings.
The next post in this series is Rebalancing The Wounded Masculine.
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