Yin & Yang
The union of opposites

“The alchemist saw the union of opposites under the symbol of the tree, and it is therefore not surprising that the unconscious of present-day man, who no longer feels at home in his world and can base his existence neither on the past that is no more nor on the future that is yet to be, should hark back to the symbol of the cosmic tree rooted in this world and growing up to heaven – the tree that is also man. In the history of symbols this tree is described as the way of life itself, a growing into that which eternally is and does not change; which springs from the union of opposites and, by its eternal presence, also makes that union possible. It seems as if it were only through an experience of symbolic reality that man, vainly seeking his own “existence” and making a philosophy out of it, can find his way back to a world in which he is no longer a stranger.”

― C.G. JungPsychological Types

In alchemy, the conjunction of opposites — the union of seemingly separate elements to give birth to and reveal a higher form — is often referred to as the “royal marriage.” This marriage is of fundamental concern to alchemists because it is a key to transformation, to personal and social evolution.

― By Charles R. Martin, Ph.D.

The central idea of Heraclitus’ thought is undoubtedly the unity of opposites. Moreover, Heraclitus claimed that all things are one. This ‘unity of all things’ is based on the fact that there is a common formula, i.e. logos, which is at work in everything to which we attribute temporal and spatial identity and continuity. Heraclitus should not be misunderstood as denying the phenomenal difference between day and night, hot and cold, up and down, and even death and life, rather, his claim is that each opposite is inseparable from its other, and that they depend on one another for their own identity. In other words, if one of the pair is removed the other immediately disappears.

Heraclitus’ famous phrase that “you can’t step in the same river twice” should be understood as the claim that things which seem to have a stable identity, in fact depend upon a continual interchange or succession of their constitutive parts, or outright antagonistic forces, for their identity.

― La Audacia de Aquiles

[…] this fourth ray is that which is responsible for the strains and the stresses, and for the initial conflict between the major pair of opposites to which we give the name of spirit-matter. It is this fourth ray energy which makes apparent the distinction (so often misunderstood by man) between good and evil. In Atlantean days, the leaders of men, under the influence of this paramount fourth ray energy, made a decision which laid the emphasis upon the matter aspect, according to their desire and their emotional reaction, which is present in the essential duality of manifestation, and thus inaugurated the Age of Materialism. This age has wrought itself out through its accompanying greeds, hate, separativeness and aggression. During the present century, this materialism led to the world war which was in reality the expression of a shifting orientation, and therefore to a certain extent, of a coming triumph of Good.

The balance is slowly, very slowly, swinging over to the side of the spirit aspect of the duality; it has not yet swung, even in intention, completely over, but the issues are becoming increasingly clearer in men’s minds and the indications are that man will eventually decide correctly, will attain a point of balance or equilibrium, and will finally throw the weight of public opinion on the side of spiritual values, thus leading to a collective renunciation of materialism, particularly in its grosser and physical forms. The time is not yet, but a great awakening is in process; men, however, will only see correctly when this Principle of Conflict is properly evaluated as a spiritual necessity and is used by humanity as an instrument to bring about emergence from the wrong controls and principles. Just as the individual disciple uses it to emerge out of the control of matter in the three worlds, beginning with the emergence from the control of the physical body, passing out of the control of the emotional nature, and formulating for himself a spiritual ideology which enables him to pass out of the control of the three worlds of forms, and so begin to function as a soul-infused personality, so mankind also has to do the same in mass formation.

…it is wise to remember that all crises in the material world – individual crises and those related to humanity as a whole – are governed by the Principle of Conflict, whilst crises in the spiritual world are controlled by the esoteric Principle of Decision. …

Alice A. Bailey, The Rays and the Initiations, pp.605–610.

Unity, duality or triplicity — all facets of the same concept, and merely a question of different approach and point of view, and which will be determined by the unfoldment of consciousness.

From the standpoint of the awakening aspirant, all is seen as duality — for instance: personality and soul; matter and spirit; the Son and the Father. Manifestation may, however, also be regarded as a triplicity: ‘Life-Quality-Form’ or expressed in different terms, as ‘Spirit-Soul-Body’. But all these are merely inadequate attempts to express in words various aspects of Deity, of which man is vaguely aware, but which he will never really be able to comprehend. These triplicities are therefore only facets of a Unity which man has identified under the inclusive name of GOD.

But regard the world from the standpoint of the aspirant. To him everything could be interpreted in terms of duality or opposites, and these pairs of opposites meet on the emotional or astral plane, where they act and interact, and where these clashes may develop into major conflicts.

In reality the battle is a struggle for dominance waged between the soul and its vehicle, matter, manifested as the personality.

The average man, however, remains unaware of this underlying conflict and of the issues involved; he is only concerned with the lesser or secondary activities, such as the struggle between light and darkness, good and evil, pleasure and pain, freedom and suppression, poverty and riches, and many more.

Before a disciple can begin to work with world forces and problems, he first has to balance the opposites in his own system. When this equilibrium has been achieved to some extent, he has entered the Path and can become a co-worker in the wider field.

To the little evolved there are as yet no problems of duality, being unaware of anything beyond the world of matter. The aspirant, however, becomes aware of opposites, and this leaves him stranded, vague and uncertain somewhere in between, being pulled hither and thither by the dual poles.

The man who is thus becoming aware of the presence of the soul realizes that he is suspended between two forces — the attraction of matter and form, as opposed to that of the soul. It is this double attraction, accentuating the many dualities, which brings the aspirant to recognize that his own divine will, as opposed to the selfish will of his personality, constitutes the deciding factor. Through the light he has found, he has become aware of the darkness; he sees the good as his ideal, but the urge of the flesh draws him towards evil; he experiences hell on earth, and thus visualizes a spiritual heaven as his sanctuary.

Two streams of energy

These dual forces may be seen as two streams of energy, or two paths leading in opposite directions — the one back to material, selfish desire, associated with the dreary cycle of rebirth, and the other to the freedom of the world of souls. For the aspirant who has made relatively only recent conscious contact with his inner guide, there usually follows years of severe strain and struggle. He has repeatedly to face the opposites, and decisions and choices have to be made. He comes to realize that he can no longer continue along the way of least resistance.

From time to time he obtains flashes of insight and new visions appear to him, only to be engulfed again by the requirements of everyday life and the selfish desires and demands of the personality. Another consideration which may play an appreciable role is the fear of ridicule of relations and friends who have not yet become aware of these deeper perceptions, or else refuse to acknowledge these experiences. It may require very strong convictions to overcome such fears or even active opposition, and to proceed calmly along the way, disregarding all disparagement and opprobrium.

Once the disciple has reached the point of decision, and has turned his footsteps to the Light, he will find that active support will be forthcoming from both the soul and certain subjective Entities who are always ready and willing to reach out a helping hand. Should his resolve, however, weaken or his energies flag, then he will temporarily revert to the old habits and conditions of the unawakened man, with the murky clouds and glamours of the astral plane settling over him again. This only means that these same battles will have to be waged anew, until he finally succeeds in meeting these challenges.

― The problem of duality by Aart Jurriaanse