The rantings of a beautiful mind

On life, society, and computer technology.

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Location: Toronto, Ontario, Canada

I live in the Fortress of Solitude. I drive the Silver Beast. My obsession is justice. I used to be a Windows software developer. I retired in 2000 when my stock options helped me achieve financial security.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Coincidentia Oppositorum

The lover’s art most clearly modeled by the sexual is the merging of the masculine and the feminine. Although it is often expressed in the merging of man and woman, it is by no means limited to that expression. For to the Hebrew mystics the sexual union of man and woman both models and participates in the more primal union of Shechina (the divine feminine) and Tiferet (the divine masculine). Masculine and feminine express the two essential forces of the universe.

In Chinese Taoist thought we would call these forces the yin and the yang, whose integration is the source of all harmony. In Hinduism we speak of Shiva, the male fire deity, and his consort Shakti. Their union brings blessing to all the worlds. Nicolas of Cusa, the Christian mystic scholar, labeled this universal merging of the masculine and feminine coincidentia oppositorum, the union of opposites.

There is a core paradigm in Hebrew mystical sources and many other traditions that provides a clear reality map for integration. It is the trinity of stages: simple; complex; simple.

Simple: Before enlightenment: chop wood, carry water
Complex: Enlightenment
Simple: After enlightenment: chop wood, carry water

The linchpin of the idea is that the third stage and the first, although externally similar, are really worlds apart. For stage three deeply integrates the new consciousness of stage two. So while the simplicity of stage one might be symptomatic of someone who is naïve, superficial, and even irresponsible, the simplicity of stage three is an expression of someone who is deep, wise, and responsible.

Another image of this pattern is drawn directly from the world of love and eros.

Stage one: falling in love. Initial ecstasy. Head over heals. Love conquers all. Fairy tale.

Stage two: falling out of love. Pain, alienation, disappointment, even betrayal. Boredom. Ennui. Yet if you have the courage to stay, you can return to stage one, but so much higher.

Stage three: Transcendence. Joy. Quiet bliss. Passion born of commitment. Ecstasy.

We have now arrived at the heart of the matter. What is the difference between masculine and feminine?

The core cosmic intuition of the Hebrew mystic Isaac Luria offers a deceptively simple paradigm. Men are lines, women are circles. Or more accurately, a line is a masculine image and a circle is a feminine expression.

Lines and circles in various permutations and balances are the DNA of spiritual reality. The unique blending of their energies give contour, character, and depth to every unit of existence. It is a blending in which neither the circle nor the line ever disappears.

Both energies – that of the masculine line and the feminine circle – are essential. Each one held by itself has its own unique and terrible shadow.

Pacifists are usually circles. Lines correctly point out that had pacifism won the public debate at the time of World War II, the terrible evil of Nazism would now rule the world. Rigid fundamentalists are usually lines. A demarcating characteristic of fundamentalism is the belief that strict adherence to law is more important than compassion. In fundamentalist societies women and the feminine always suffer the most. This shadow is affecting the entire world today in the form of Islamic fundamentalism.

Many cultural and political debates today revolve around lines and circles arguing with each other. George Bush and many Republicans, for example, are lines, while Ralph Nader and the environmentalists are circles. John Lennon is a circle, while Rush Limbaugh is a line. Each side thinks the vision of the other will bring disaster to the country and ultimately the world. Each accuses the other of being immoral and blind. Both are correct.

The deep truth is that only an integrated vision that holds both circle and line can be both moral and visionary. It is the line quality in George Bush that cancels a critical environmental treaty that could have protected the earth, and the circle quality in Ralph Nader that is so often morally blind to core distinctions between good and evil when unpacking his fanciful foreign policies.

We need to fully embrace the truth of the line, then roundly challenge it with circle consciousness, only to reembrace the line from a more supple and rounded place.

Similarly we need to rejoice in the circle, only to bisect it with the challenge of the line, all in order to come back to the circle in a more balanced, honest way. This is the spiritual pattern of the three levels that we introduced in the beginning of our discussion.

- The Mystery of Love, by Marc Gafni, pp. 183-190

Everything is coming together. I understand! When I was a martial arts practitioner, I was exposed to the yin/yang concept. I saw how beautiful and powerful it was, but I did not really appreciate its significance. Here, I can see that we need to integrate the two halves of our brains in order to achieve unity with the universe. We need to understand that doing things the masculine way is terribly self-destructive and very wrong. But doing things the feminine way is not enough, either.

Today we struggle to create a new consciousness in stage two. The old ways of doing things, like going to war because it is more expeditious than futzing around with hate-filled Muslims, are immoral.


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