Archive for the ‘yin yang’ tag
We, as humans, like to keep things separated and in their respective boxes. It makes for bringing order into what otherwise appears to be a world in chaos. We have developed codes for ourselves to ensure that order is kept, to keep things black and white. When things don’t stay in their places, we have a tendency to react negatively.
Alchemy, as a science, looked to bringing different elements together, having them interact and then noting how that interaction changed the two as they became one. The mixing of copper and tin is a prime example which resulted in the creation of bronze.
In psychological alchemy, the work or opus is focused on bringing together the conscious and the unconscious aspects of an individual in order to arrive at a wholeness for the human psyche. Carl Gustav Jung was among those who studied the ancient arts of alchemy with the view of trying to heal the human psyche, attempting to bring the fractured pieces together. One of his major works expanding on this task is called Mysterium Coniunctionis.
Jung not only drew from alchemy, he also drew from Hinduism and Buddhism in order to try to more fully understand the nature of the human psyche and approaches to healing the psyche, a task that today we call psychology and psychiatry.
As I travelled through Indian I was amazed at the presence of the overt representation of the masculine (linga) and the feminine (yoni) in every temple that I came across, a representation that had the two as one. There was little left to imagination. The union of the masculine and the feminine created a wholeness. Of course, the representation was symbolic of creation.
The idea of the union of male and female was graphically on display in various temples as well, such as the temples of Khajuraharo. In both Hinduism and Buddhism, there is a respect given to the sexual nature of being human, a respect that goes beyond merely the physical. Sexual union has a holy aspect, one that curiously points the way beyond the limits of body.
The practice of Tantric sex that has its roots in Hinduism and becomes embraced at some of the highest levels of Buddhism, specifically, Vajrayana Buddhism. The primary purpose is directed to achieving a state of wholeness and awareness.
Wholeness. The impulse to become one, to re-enter into the womb of creation and be at one with the initial impulse of creation. In Jungian psychology, the same symbolism occurs with the same intent, that of healing the human psyche, rejoining the shattered parts, the divorced masculine and feminine aspects of an individual. There is much to talk about yet, so I will leave the rest for part three.
It seems all the small and larger local lakes are busy places as geese prepare for their annual trip to warmer climes in the southern parts of North America. The sheer number of geese gathering on the lakes and feeding on the nearby fields staggers the imagination. If one could say that there exists too much of a good thing, the geese become a vivid visual example. As busy as hunters are, they have no hope of reducing the numbers to a point where there could be said to be a good ecological balance. But, nature has its own way of dealing with the problem when the balance becomes too skewed. Of course, when this happens, nature has a tendency to go a bit overboard resulting in severely diminished numbers. It all becomes a pattern of feast and famine, an eternally repeating cycle.
When I consider the human psyche, I am reminded that there is a continual circling of the psyche within each human. I am continually reminded of my own cycle of approach and withdrawal to the feminine within and the feminine without. I am reminded of the cycle of the day and how I respond to both the moon and to the sun, the two celestial bodies that hold fascination in spite of their constant familiarity. And I am reminded of how I live my life in cycles of conscious living with intention, and unconscious living where the intention seems to come from somewhere other than my ego self.
At times I try hard to resist the natural cycles, wanting to hold tight to one particular way of being. I attempt to build a container that would hold out the changes that the cycles demand. I want to be in charge, in control. After all, I am a man and like most men, I need to sense that I am in control, at least to appear to others to be in control. Yet, that control is elusive. What I am left holding when convincing myself that I have it all under control, is no more than a mirage.
As a result, I end up doing as other men do – building external structures that serve as symbols of my control, my power – symbols that are more about wishful thinking than they are about the reality of who I am behind the symbols.
I got my first copy of the I-Ching about 40 years ago and I have had some opportunity to delve into it over the years, more out of curiosity than out of need. I found this image at the “jungquotes” site and decided to compare it to my text from 1969 and found two other versions. The version isn’t that important in my opinion, for finding value in the I-Ching. Since I have had a particular interest in the I-Ching (Book of Changes) and the yin-yang symbol at the centre of the this image which is a pa kua (a circle containing the eight trigrams), I was intrigued when this image showed up in my e-mail inbox this morning. Of course it sent me to get my copy of the book off the shelf (1), as well as to check out what Wikipedia had to say (reference here).
Before going further, I want to comment about the solid and broken lines. Solid lines represent the male (yang) principle, and the broken lines represent the female (yin) principle. There are eight trigrams which can be paired so as to create sixty-four hexagrams. A person can use three coins which are cast (thrown) six times in order to create a “response” to a question. The first throw provides the bottom line and each succeeding throw builds the hexagram upwards. If one gives a value of 2 to “heads” and a value of 3 to “tails” and then adds up the value of the three coins, one is able to determine whether the line is solid or broken, masculine or feminine. The even numbers s 6 and 8 yield a broken line, a feminine line. The odd numbers 7 and 9 yield a solid line, a masculine line.
I decided to try using an online I-Ching divination service (Hexagram 19 – lin) as well as to cast my own hexagram using coins (Hexagram 41 - sun) in order to answer a particular question with regards to further education and training. The basic result was that this was indeed an auspicious time, but also that downsizing or “focusing” on less would be needed if the project is to be successful.
This is where synchronicity comes into play. I have not fully decided to again return to studies for yet another degree and certificate, but I have begun to cut back on those things that would draw too much of my attention, downsizing my life so-to-speak. There are more things to be considered without relying on a “divination” tool such as the I-Ching. Yet what is striking to me was how this casting of coins has provided an “echo” of what is already being said, done, understood.
I am interested in what my readers have to say about the I-Ching and any “synchronistic” readings they may have experienced. Please add your voices here.
(1. Legge, James (1964). I Ching: Book of Changes, With introduction and study guide by Ch’u Chai and Winberg Chai. New York: Citadel Press. 19th century translation.)
This is one interesting looking crab that I found hiding on the side of a rock, the most colorful crab seen during the time spent in the Philippines, and there were a fair number of varieties of crabs seen and photographed. I chose this photo for today’s post because of an image I receive in my e-mail inbox just about everyday, a horoscope for the day for the sign of Cancer.
The image to the right was borrowed from the e-mail which comes from OM, a service that provides both a daily meditation and a daily horoscope. As is likely obvious at this point, I was born under the sign of Cancer. I did a bit of web-surfing to find out more about Cancer and the crab and found this interesting bit of information:
“A crab is able to walk or run sideways. Similarly, Cancer natives can sometimes “move about” in life, in a figurative sense, in an indirect manner. The crab’s body is covered by a carapace (shell). Cancer natives are self-protective and sensitive, and often retreat into themselves when hurt. Crabs are able to resist changes in the environment, thereby protecting themselves from hostile elements in various habitats. Similarly, Cancer natives are thought to avoid too much change, and to be on the defensive. Crabs have “complex behavior patterns” (1). The inner world of Cancer natives is thought to be rather quirky and complex. Some crabs “conceal themselves by decorating their bodies with plants and animals” (2). Cancer natives tend to try to blend in with their environments, preferring not to make a big splash in life.” (Cafe Astrology)
I have to admit that this is a fairly decent image of myself though by no means a complete image. One of the interesting things that I found out is that the moon is the natural ruler of the sign. I then noticed the 6 and 9 image and immediately thought of the yin yang symbol. Research didn’t find any correlation between the yin yang symbol and the symbol for cancer. However, the horizontal 69 is said to represent the “couple” as well as a woman’s breasts which nurture. There is so little that I know or understand about astrology that I would best be advised to listen to others who are more versed in the science.
In the Chinese Zodiac, I am represented as an Ox. It is curious to note that the Ox is ruled by “yin” the dark, feminine aspect, with earth as its element for the particular year I was born. For those who are interested, the years of the Ox are: 1925, 1937, 1949, 1961, 1973, 1985. According to some sources, the least likely mate for an Ox is a Tiger. According to one site, the union of Ox and Tiger is marked by: “Personality clashes and bitter rivalry. No understanding of each other. Animosities and mutual distrust. Unable to resolve their differences. ” Well, that explains the animated relationship I have with my wife of 40 years (humour intended here). You can’t believe everything you read.
I have recently commented about the five-toed dragon and the Chinese phoenix or peacock. So, it was with some surprise when I went out to dinner a few evenings ago in a local restaurant and found this carved panel in an upper-floor hallway. It is yet another symbolic representation of the ancient Chinese emperors and empresses, with the dragon as symbol for the emperors.
I was particularly struct by the fact that these two symbols were contained within a circle which reminded me of tizhi (t’ai chi), the yin-yang symbol which shows masculine circling attempting to enter the feminine, and the feminine circling and attempting to take in the masculine – an eternal dance that never quite succeeds in two becoming one.
Both symbols point toward wholeness, a holistic world view. When I found this wall panel, I was excited and for a while forgot that I was supposed to be in a private dining room in the restaurant. I knew that I had found something I needed in order to talk about the inner world showing up in the outer world as fate.
I want to be clear about masculine and feminine. They are often synonymous with male and female, but it would be a huge error to limit the understanding of masculine and feminine to gender. It is also a mistake to assume that in using the two terms that one is talking about two people. Within each of us are active masculine and feminine aspects. With that said, I will turn to the dance between a man and a woman as I see it, feel it, know it, intuit it – at least when it comes to my self.
For me, the question of wholeness began with my mother. I sensed that because I was born to her, I was still a part of her. Yet, I knew that in spite of being a part of her and her being a part of me, we were separate and could never again become one. As a young man, I fell in love with a woman and saw in her an opportunity to again become whole. We were both ripe for the work of becoming one. We conceived children, we loved, we held each other, we danced – yet in spite of it all, we both still see ourselves locked in our own bodies and minds, separate beings. We are curiously circling each other and trying to truly discover who the other is and what will come next. It would seem that all the work has failed us as we find ourselves alone with ourselves. But, we haven’t failed.
Both of us are forced to look within for what appears to be the missing pieces. The other in relationship will always be another person, intimately linked, but always separate. Like all couples, we learn new dances, new ways of being together after what appears to be failed expectations. We have learned that the other person has not failed nor has the self failed. What we have learned is that the other person cannot hold what is buried within the self. Love ends up being redefined and we again begin the new circling, the new dance of relationship, again two becoming one.
It’s a dance that never ends – we continue to fall into another person and away from that person, constantly circling and looking for that magical moment when two can become one.
I’ve pulled a different book off of my tiny book shelf here in Changzhou, China. The Illness That We Are: A Jungian Critique of Christianity, by John P. Dourley, a Jungian analyst living and working in Ottawa, Canada. I haven’t yet read any of the book, so this will be a shared reflection here on the blog as I slowly make my way through the book. I am leaving Daryl Sharp’s book, Jungian Psychology Unplugged for the next while. I am surprised that I actually sat still with that book for as long as I did as it is hard for me to “focus” so long on anything. Perhaps I will return to Sharp’s book in the future. I have to admit that I didn’t have many choices on my bookshelf as most of the books on Jungian psychology that I own are still in Canada. I have two books by Sharp and two by Dourley as well as a few others and about a half dozen by Jung. Hopefully this will be enough until my return to Canada next June.
This photo was taken three years ago when I was Changzhou. I found the photo this morning while going through my photo archive looking for “people” photos in order to prepare for a lecture I will be giving in three weeks on the topic of non-verbal communication across cultures. As soon as I saw this photo, I knew that this was the one I wanted to use to begin this next section of my “self” discovery. I chose this hoping that it would fit what I would find in the opening pages of Dourley’s book. With that said, it’s on with the “process.”
First, the image. I have found a fair number of “yin yang” symbols here in China, not surprising since “yin yang” is a Chinese symbol. Here’s what WIKIPEDIA says about this symbol.
“The relationship between yin and yang is often described in terms of sunlight playing over a mountain and in the valley. Yin (literally the ‘shady place’ or ‘north slope’) is the dark area occluded by the mountain’s bulk, while yang (literally the ‘sunny place’ or ‘south slope’) is the brightly lit portion. As the sun moves across the sky, yin and yang gradually trade places with each other, revealing what was obscured and obscuring what was revealed.
Yin is characterized as slow, soft, yielding, diffuse, cold, wet, or tranquil; and is associated with water, earth, the moon, femininity and nighttime.
Yang, by contrast, is fast, hard, solid, focused, hot, dry, or aggressive; and is associated with fire, sky, the sun, masculinity and daytime.“
When I see these symbols, I see a wholeness, an embracing of dark and light, I intuit that this is an embrace of spirit and soul. This photo showing the symbol on an old coin, was taken a few weeks ago. In this image the “I Ch’ing” symbols are also present, broken lines (yin) and solid lines (yang). As for the symbol of yin yang itself, my university students call it “tai ji tu.” For years before ever coming to China, I have felt the power of this symbol, one that brings me a sense of “rightness” or “calmness.” Perhaps it is that inner spirituality that lays within me, a spiritualism that is at odds with all religion.
“Jung discerned in the movement of these energies a drive toward wholeness, understood as a progressive unification of one’s many disparate components, always carrying with it an even more extensive empathy with the world beyond one’s individual life. This he called the process of individuation.” (Dourley, p. 7)
This feels right to me, especially the “more extensive empathy with the world beyond one’s individual life.” It is within this context that I began this blog site, an acknowledgement of the world beyond myself. Dourley continues:
“Jung came to equate the experience of one’s wholeness with the experience of God, and to see its expression in certain transpersonal and transcultural symbols of the deity.” (Dourley, p. 7)
Yes, tai ji tu as a transcultural symbol of deity. That fits. That resonates.
Thankfully, this isn’t a recent photo, but one from almost two weeks ago upon my return to Canada. I went looking for this photo as it was one that I felt needed to appear here. Looking out my window the sunrise is applying a light coat of golden paint to the fields and the few buildings that I can see, a huge contrast to this scene. Yet this is the scene that my head is experiencing in spite of what my eyes see.
I have seasonal allergies and they are now raging. Snow mold on the now exposed grass and dead leaves aren’t nice to me, neither are the constant dry and dusty winds. The poplar trees are beginning to show new leaf buds and that will make the situation worse in short order. Of course, like any normal person, I take appropriate medical aids to make the allergies more bearable but they only add a fog and lethargy as they do their thing in allowing me to breath easier. I say all of this, not to garner any sympathy (I get enough of that at home), but in order to contrast and inner and outer world. Though we often think of the mind as separate from the body, both are intricately linked and affect each other. Think of the yin-yang symbol where opposites are constrained tightly together yet maintaining their unique separateness within the container.
All of this is to serve as an intro to my thoughts of the next book, Through a Jungian Lens: Sol and Luna, which will be this year’s project for SoFoBoMo. I have chosen to focus on Jung’s essay, “The Personification of Opposites” from volume 14 of the Collected Works, Mysterium Coniunctionis. I plan on taking the photos and writing the text likely starting on June 12th, the date of the first full moon during the two month “fuzzy month” for the SoFoBoMo project. And, like last year, I expect that I will bring much of that stuff here in my posts. Other than the topic and the ideas from CG Jung, nothing is yet decided.
So, in spite of my allergies, I am still able to focus enough to find my way down my particular path. Tomorrow’s post will likely return to its usual, more reflective nature.
A year ago I was in India and took this photo of Lord Shiva, his consort Parvati and a small Shiva Linga which is in the centre foreground. Yesterday’s post about libido brought to mind many such Shiva Linga carvings seen during my wanderings in India. The Shiva Linga has a raised nub at the centre of a circle which has a narrow channel that rises towards the centre. The protrusion of the Shiva Linga is a representation of the lingam, a penis. The circle with entryway is the yoni, the uterus and vagina. The entryway is often depicted with a kundalini serpent moving upwards to the lingam. The lingam in the yoni, yin and yang, the holy union of the masculine and the feminine.
Jung has refered to this holy union as the “mysterium coniunctionis”.
Libido, the energy of the self and the universe. It gets confused with sex. But, it is embodied in the physical relationship between male and female as well as the pyschic relationship between the conscious and unconscious, the masculine energies and feminine energies within, with soul and spirit, with light and shadow.