In all of life, wherever we look, if we look openly, we see evidence of the dance of eternal opposites; in the cycle of day and night, sleeping and waking, working and resting, birth and death, the attraction of opposites in relationships, down to the regular in-breath out-breath and the beating of our hearts. We feel this innate part of life reflected in the way that hot feels opposite to cold, the way the warmth of the sun feels paired with the cool light of the moon, how water feels very different from fire and how darkness is the sister to the light. This duality is, when we think about it, quite essential to our everyday existence because without it the potential to choose would not exist, and life as we know it, with its comings and goings, dreams and longings, desires and achievements would simply not be possible. Duality is so natural to life, that it’s easy to take it for granted and in fact to hardly be aware of it at all. Yet in my experience every time we deepen our understanding and appreciation of this natural law of life, the act of making this eternal dance more conscious can activate more wholeness in our lives.
The Eastern Yin-Yang symbol conveys the nature of this process very well; masculine energy (yang) and feminine energy (yin) are so much a part of each other, that they are equals in the game of life, each one essential to harmonious flow, creating the raw vital force that drives evolution. Yet the 2 dots provide a poignant reminder, that no matter how different male and female energy appears to be, they are merely different sides of the same coin; different faces of the same one energy.
This primal pair is in a sense in an endless conflict or energetic argument within all living things and more broadly within all of matter; forever changing in a dynamic creative, ecstatic relationship that is the engine of life. We are built to experience a dual nature, and our very existence is alchemical; humanity is entrusted with the task of self-realisation through the reconciliation of these apparent opposing forces. Ideally we need to relate to both the masculine and feminine equally for without the masculine, there is no activating principle to ignite life, and if we lose touch with our masculine, we lose desire and we forget what desire is. Without the feminine, there is no creation to be ignited and no form to manifest, and losing touch with the feminine, is losing touch with our Source, and we forget where we come from.
The symbol of the caduceus, often attributed to the androgynous god Hermes, known later by the Romans as Mercury, embodies this prime wisdom suggesting to me that the awakened individual (regardless of their sex) must master both sides of this creative force as represented by the two serpents shown in balanced symmetry coiled around a central column topped with a vessel or grail.
The tree provides an apt metaphor for the human process; a tree can be seen as a trunk with branches above and roots below. The tree can only flourish if there is a balance between root growth and branch and leaf growth. In this metaphor, the root development beneath the surface down in the dark earth belongs to the feminine, and the growing of branches that reach up into the sky, producing leaves that draw energy from the Sun belongs to the masculine.
Yin & Yang in more detail
Yang – Masculine – Animus The masculine principle is the urge to move away from one’s own source, to separate and to individuate in order to develop a singular defining identity that can ultimately reach a state of pure experience of All-That-Is, what we might commonly call “enlightenment”. Yang energy holds no pattern and naturally disrupts and shatters structure, organisation and stagnancy. Within us this energy always moves away from the subjective to the objective. This dynamic energy can be eruptive and violent, inconsistent, competitive, alienating and yet if expressed positively can be non-violent, emotionally powerful, idealistic, visionary, and detached. It is associated with the colour white representing day or blue representing the sky, the elements fire and air, and with the Sun. Yin – Feminine – Anima
The feminine is characterised by an impulse to return and move inward, to dissolve uniqueness into a totality of sameness. Through the archetype of the feminine we are able to relate, to include, to contain and to live and die. It is through the yin energy that healing and transformation occur. This energy within us can express as jealousy, rage, parasitic, all consuming, all devouring and fiercely protective, and more positively as harmonising, compassionate, receptive, inclusive, nurturing, and accommodating. It is associated with the colour black for the night or red for the earth, with the elements of earth and water and with the Moon.
Solar cultures, the patriarchal distortion and the false matrix
Modern western culture is solar in nature and as such it has a bias toward the masculine. In fact the feminine is greatly feared by our society. The mythic tale of St George and the Dragon was brought to Europe from the East by the crusaders, and tells of how St George offered to kill the dragon in the name of Christianity.
At an individual level, this image represents the triumph of a healthy ego over destructive psychic energy. Inner growth and self maturation processes demand that we face the demons within, often a heroic struggle that eventually makes possible the establishment of a strong identity with high moral values and virtues. Regardless of one's physical sex, the masculine individualising aspect has overcome the domination of unconscious collective forces represented by the dragon.
At another level I also see a dark side connected to what I term The False Matrix; culturally and collectively the elevation of the masculine over the feminine is reflected throughout modern life today. On a gross level we know it well as the ever-increasing exploitation of planetary resources driven by profit, or as the ambition of the few to control the many. On a more personal level we see it in ourselves as an overemphasis on doing and thinking and a lowered capacity to connect with our emotions, trust in life, and let things unfold in their own time without trying to make them happen.
We see it in the way it makes sense to us to send our children to school at ever earlier ages, sometimes as early as 3 years old, in order to get that competitive edge; to get ahead of all the other kids. Yang dominance favours the intellect, so children get to play less and less, while they learn to perform mental tasks like maths and spelling. It shows up as lack of empathy in people all over the world; in the way young boys especially aren’t allowed to cry or feel emotions because they are thought of as weak, when quite the opposite is true; to express vulnerability is a courageous act. We see it in the way women are almost always sexualised in the media, used to sell products, most of which have nothing at all to do with sex.
So how do you relate to the masculine and feminine within yourself? How aware are you of these energies flowing through your life? As a general rule modern humanity most needs to make friends with the feminine principle and work toward elevating its essence in the world; we need to value it equally alongside the masculine. It doesn't matter whether you inhabit a male or female body-vehicle - we are all subject to both energy currents, and I think that a great many life challenges can be solved when we all take the integration of these prime dual forces seriously, and dedicate some of our life energy to this noble task.