Conscious Dualism

 Making the higher active and the lower passive

Dualism means the tendency of humans to perceive and understand the world as being divided into two discrete categories. Dualism exists in many belief systems including Zoroastrianism, Christianity, Taoism and Confucianism. In these beliefs the universe is divided into the complementary oppositions, e.g. good and evil. 

In traditions such as classical Hinduism, Zen Buddhism or Sufism, a key to enlightenment is “transcending” this sort of dualistic thinking.

Photo by Flickr user David Gabriel Fischer.
Source: | Author: David Gabriel Fischer | License: CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

In Chinese philosophy, the opposition and combination of the universe’s two basic principles of yin and yang play a large role and are important features of Taoism, both as a philosophy and as a religion.  

Yin and yang are used to describe how opposite or contrary forces are interconnected and interdependent in the natural world; and, how they give rise to each other as they interrelate to one another.

Many natural dualities (such as light and dark, high and low, hot and cold, fire and water, life and death, and so on) are thought of as physical manifestations of the yin-yang concept. The concept is also a central principle in different forms of Chinese martial arts and exercise, such as qigong  Yin and yang can be thought of as complementary forces interacting to form a dynamic system in which the whole is greater than the parts. Everything has both yin and yang aspects, (for instance shadow cannot exist without light). Yin or yang manifest more or less strongly in every person.

Photo by Unsplash user Elizabeth Lies
Author: Elizabeth Lies

Some of the common associations with yang and yin, respectively, are: male and female, active and passive, motion and stillness.

The yin and yang symbol in actuality has very little to do with Western dualism; instead it represents the philosophy of balance, where two opposites co-exist in harmony and are able to transmute into each other.

In the yin-yang symbol there is a dot of yin in yang and a dot of yang in yin. This symbolizes the inter-connectedness of the opposite forces as different aspects of Tao.

Contrast is needed to create a distinguishable reality, without which we would experience nothingness,

i.e. you need friction for fire.  Therefore, the independent principles of yin and yang are actually dependent on one another for each other’s distinguishable existence. An underlying principle in Taoism states that within every independent entity lies a part of its opposite. Within sickness lies health and vice versa. This is because all opposites are manifestations of the single Tao, and are therefore not independent from one another, but rather a variation of the same unifying force throughout all of nature.

For me, conscious dualism is the awareness of two different forces constantly working within us – the higher and the lower.  It is the ability to observe how the higher self and the lower self manifest themselves in our lives and to increase our intentionality for making the higher active and the lower passive.

In my experience, our higher self reveals itself through, acceptance, forgiveness, and compassion. 

We need to accept the fact that everyone is struggling with their own issues and most of us are doing our best to care for ourselves and for others. 

We need to accept our own limitations and the limitations of people in our lives, but not let those limitations limit us.  We need to forgive others for whatever offenses they may have caused us and hope others will forgive us for our own transgressions, shortcomings, hateful acts, and sins of omission.  Finally, we need to find compassion in our hearts for all living creatures on our common planet.  These words are all easy to say, but I find it is all too easy to slip into my lower self.

Our lower self shows itself through imagination, identification, and negative emotion.  Imagination is our tendency to exaggerate our own self importance and centrality. It is fed by our egos (well-fed, I might say) and results in highly inflated opinions of our capabilities, power, and presence.

As a friend of mine would say, “we are often prone to inhaling our own PR.” I am often guilty of having more confidence than my capabilities would suggest is appropriate.  And this confidence easily spills over into arrogance.

Identification is our tendency to get over-invested in any given image, role, position, religion, nation, or ideology.  

The belief system usually associated with that identification causes us to draw conclusions and act in ways that are not always in our own best interest and certainly don’t advance our growth and development as evolved human beings.  I am guilty of identifying as a psychologist, an outsider, a provocateur, an athlete, or a parent.  I don’t particularly identify with any nation, or religion, but I have many other identifies I can hide behind.

Negative emotions are those feelings that sink us into depression, rage, disorientation or any other energy depleting states.  They are spiritual anchors.  I am guilty of reacting for the slightest reason with impatience, irritation, intolerance, and disgust.  While I’m much quicker to observe these emotions and let them go, they continue to raise their ugly heads in my ever-vulnerable psyche.

Photo by Rick Bellingham
Photo by Rick Bellingham

It seems to me that the goal is to make our higher selves active and our lower selves passive.

The real questions are:

  1. Can I be more conscious of how and when my lower and higher selves show up?
  2. Can I be more intentional about connecting to my higher self and make an effort to activate it?
  3. Can I transcend my dualistic nature and find joy in those “enlightened moments?”

Yes, consciousness, intentionality, and transcendence seem to be the most useful ways to deal constructively with our dualistic nature.

Also published on Medium.

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Artie Egendorf
Bravo Rick, . . . for taking the leap, for laying all this out and for inviting us in–not that you haven’t been on display these last 40 years wandering in corporate America! In each post that you have up this far I can read, know the issue you’re wanting to engage, and where or on which side of the issue you hope to persuade your reader to come down on. And on those scores I don’t know how to enter any discussion, other than to say, “good, Rick.” An overall issue that may be good for me to engage… Read more »

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