Wednesday, 30 December 2020

A Dialectic With Myself: Practical Yin Yang Approach to Coincidentia Oppositorum

Agathokakological. A Dialectic With Myself: Practical Yin Yang Approach to Coincidentia Oppositorum
Following a long outdoorsy day on the Red Sea it was time for a nice hot — then cold — shower. Upon entering the bathroom naked-ready, I caught myself in the middle of a mental chatter that turned out to be quite illuminating, let alone entertaining. By the end of these five minutes, which felt like aeons, some things about the workings of my psychonautic mind became much clearer, crystal clear in fact. Not only that, but I was also offered a glimpse into the very fabric of our world and the true [enough] nature of reality, touching upon concepts such as Coincidentia Oppositorum, Yin Yang, and Black-and-White Thinking.
This is not the first time to catch myself in a certain act then proceed to reflect upon it in writing. Theory of Mind: Thinking About Thinking and the Benefits of Observing the Observer is an earlier exposé in which I took you, the readers, on a exploratory ride into my mind. Interestingly enough, it was equally inspired by a mundane act that is trimming my nails.  

Now let us entertain the novel perspective together, in hope you may enjoy the point of view — whether rationally, logically, and/or philosophically; or just as a simple story.  

As I entered the bathroom after taking off my flip flops, I found myself pushing the blue towel used as bath mat with my feet so not to step on it. Being softer on the feet, I had placed it there a couple of days prior instead of the rougher bath rug (left in the below photo); it even helps drying your feet whenever wet. Why, then, push it aside, you may wonder.

Well, my feet were pretty sandy, dusty, and even blackish from moving around in flip flops as well as barefoot the entire day. After all, I do reside on the beach.  
At that moment, I heard a voice sarcastically exclaim: “Uhm, pretty sure this is not how bath mats work! You didn’t place it there so you sidestep it whenever entering the bathroom. The whole point of adding a bath mat instead of the rug is to step on it while barefoot.”

Yes. I see what you’re saying,” another voice Sandwich-Methodly responded. Carrying on, “However, if we step on it now with unclean feet it won’t be as clean as it ought to be when coming out of the shower with clean feet, possibly rendering our newly-cleaned feet unclean. Aha!”

Even more sandwiching ensued. “True. Though this is precisely what bath mats are for: We use them — be it clean or unclean feet — then we wash them. Once cleaned, we reuse them, again and again ad infinitum till one day, in possibly 37 years, they begin to deteriorate. One may then start using them as cleaning towels or clothes. So, it’s a constant ongoing process. Use. Clean. Repeat — mats as well as feet. Teet Teet!” 
Discoursing further into the dialectic, the same voice added: “You don’t even step on that towel with our slippers nor flip flops. I see you taking them off whenever going in there to do your business. I was there. We were there.”

The reason being is that both flip flops and slippers are often worn outside the house, so most likely their soles are dusty.” 

“That is just ridiculous. Both mats and rugs are made to be stepped on and get dirty.

Fine. But, if we can postpone the dirtiness with a certain quirky antic. Why not? Less laundry. More convenience.”

Fine. Agree to disagree and disagree to agree.

Likewise, agree to agree and disagree to disagree.

*Dialectically yours

Bath Mat and Bath Rug. A Dialectic With Myself: Practical Yin Yang Approach to Coincidentia Oppositorum
Bath rug left and bath mat right

While standing there in the bathroom staring at the floor it suddenly dawned on me, striking me with the force of googillion suns: This is Coincidentia Oppositorum in action. Or unity of opposites, in motion. Aha-moment. Yin Yang, darling. 
Literally translating as “dark-bright”, “negative-positive”, Yin Yang in ancient Chinese philosophy is a concept of dualism describing how seemingly opposite or contrary forces observed in the natural world may actually be complementary, interconnected, and interdependent; how they may give rise to each other as they interrelate to one another. The poles are different yet not separated. Like quantumly entangled particles in some kind of dance together, during which they are constantly interacting and vibrating in unison; when then part ways they still remain connected even when there is a whole universe separating them. Everything in the equation is in constant flux and the interaction is always metamorphosing. This relational concept entails that the universe is governed by a cosmic duality — sets of two opposing and complementing principles or natural cosmic energies. Consider dark and light, sun and moon, male and female, positive and negative, good [God] and evil [Devil], sinner and saint, up and down, in and out, hot and cold, water and fire, theory and practice among so many more. 

Both concepts, Coincidentia Oppositorum and Yin Yang, are thoroughly discussed in my book. I have recently shared a unified excerpt about the two topics, titled: Coincidentia Oppositorum: As Above, So Below, which is added below. 

While it appears to be a purely abstract, conceptual, and theoretical take on the subject, our story here is a rather practical, functional, and more tangible one dealing with decision making, as well as our perception of reality as a whole. As with all philosophical matters, without learning how to apply the knowledge while integrating it into our lives, practically, it remains mere information; essential information nevertheless. For theory is abstracted practice as practice is applied theory. See, it is the very experience of the application of knowledge that eventually catalyses wisdom: The glimmer of light within the darkness. It is also an essential cornerstone of the mystical experience.

The same can be said about mindfulness practices such as meditation, yoga, and breathing exercises. Otherwise, the easy way out would have been just sitting with eyes closed at the top of a mountain, to repeat some mantras or to stare at the face of the void, and totally detach from the world. Is that the point? Whether spiritually or health wise, it seems fair to say a conscious ‘No’. The integration and application of that which we learn from such practices — and throughout our lives — is what make us better versions of ourselves; hopefully also bettering the quality of our thoughts, feelings, and existence as a whole.

What is different in this article is the storytelling aspect, which makes the philosophical and mystical concepts explored herein more digestible, even simplified. We all love a good story, right. Because stories help us humans make sense of things; how to provide coherence and to relate. Stories are also how we learn to think in terms of metaphors, analogies, allegories, and similes; how to navigate between the general, the detailed specifics, then back to the whole general once again. They can warm our hearts as they can shatter our brains. All the while tickling our imagination and widening our horizons. As a species, we are actually wired to think in terms of stories and even live and become them.

Everyone has a story if we are willing to listen; never judge the book by its look.

Throughout the ages, the art of storytelling has been our most trusted and inspiring endeavour to present our ideas out there for the world to see. Yet, when dealing particularly with philosophical or metaphysical matters — as we are doing herein — the step of telling a good, entertaining, and educational story can only be achieved after knowing the topic inside and out, which means first grasping the conceptual theoretical. That said, here is the excerpt taken right out of the book… before going back to the non-blather bathroom chatter-patter.

Here are two other articles mainly about storytelling, For The Love Of Storytelling, and Connecting the Dots — a Storyteller Way of Seeing the Big Picture.

To the untrained eye the principle of Yin Yang may seem like duality on the surface. Once, however, one gets a clearer understanding, the notion of oneness beneath the non-duality becomes apparent. The listener and the speaker within your head are one and the same. But to come to terms with this insight, you need to rise above both and become the observer of the observer.

When this step is achieved you will notice that you’ll often be able to hold two opposite ideas in your mind simultaneously. This is the concept of Coincidentia Oppositorum, which is Latin for Coincidence of Opposites or Unity of Opposites. Those two components — the poles — are not antithetical, incompatible, or incongruent, but they are in fact complementary. One is needed to provide contrast for the other. Both are necessary to the balance of the ‘system’. For the road up and the road down are the same road.

The concept was first suggested by the pre-Socratic Greek philosopher Heraclitus. Then in the 15th C. German polymath, Nicholas of Cusa, coined the neoplatonic term Coincidentia Oppositorum. In On the Vision of God, Cusa described the concept as “The wall of paradise, beyond which is God”.

In modern philosophy, the Coincidentia Oppositorum doctrine is sometimes regarded as a metaphysical concept, a philosophical concept, or a scientific concept. However, the interpenetration, interdependence, and unification of opposites is considered as one of the fundamentals of mystical thought rather than philosophical thought. 

Unity of Opposites is equally the central category of dialectics. Also known as the dialectical method, it is basically a discourse between two or more people holding different points of view about a subject yet wishing to establish the truth through reasoned methods of argumentation. In philosophy, it is the art of investigating or discussing the truth of opinions; as it is an inquiry into metaphysical contradictions and their solutions.

The Western dialectical forms include Classical Philosophy
— Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle — Medieval Philosophy — Boethius and Thomas Aquinas — and Modern Philosophy — Hegel and Karl Marx. There are also Theological dialectical forms as in the Baháʼí Faith, which advocates a form of dialectical science and religion.
From a psychological perspective, the union of opposites was one of Jung’s fundamental principles for understanding the psyche and maturing into wholeness and reconciliation. He held that reaching this state has philosophical as well as religious implications, which eventually leads to psychology if one wants to understand the psyche dynamic behind it.

From a human perspective, fathoming said polarity and coming to terms with it is how we understand things. For our language is dualistic in nature. This is therefore how our minds have learned to reason, to justify our own conclusions, and to classify and conceptualise situations: through comparing opposing choices, ideas, and concepts. In fact, our species have been conditioned to perceive the world through binary lenses. We therefore also learn by means of opposites. This ability to see through contradictory elements can lead to true — or true enough and often complex knowledge. As Terence McKenna succinctly put it in the below image: “If you don’t at least occasionally contradict yourself your position isn’t nearly complex enough.” 

Plenty of other mammoth souls throughout the ages entertained the concept and philosophy
be it mystics, visionaries, scientists, or authors. Among them is American novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald who in 1936 noted: 

The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.” 
This quote was kindly shared by a reader commenting on the excerpt, which happened to have been shared hundreds of times on Facebook — mainly through a Terence McKenna page as well as a Psychedelics and Philosophy” one. 

Terence McKenna. A Dialectic With Myself: Practical Yin Yang Approach to Coincidentia Oppositorum

Now back to our bathroom conversation and the nature of reality...

What may first appear like duality on the surface may not really be that polar. Rather than plus vs minus or with vs. without, it is plus and minus as it is with and without. Rarely is it an either or situation. Both coexisting sides are, in fact, complementary. Both are needed to define each other while none is ever absolute. Instead of reactively choosing one side over the other, as winner and loser, one can come to recognise then accept the validity and legitimacy of both seemingly conflicting, contradictory views. As such, we end with a more wholesome, balanced, bigger, and fuller picture to suit the agathokakological universe in which we live.

Oftentimes, after accepting the existence of both supposedly conflicting ideas and weighing the available options, the observer of the observer then reconciles by deciding to side with one pole over the other. That’s how decision making is accomplished. Some close cases even to the extent of having 51 percent from one side and 49 percent from the other. 

Most of times, however, it may be around 40-60 or 30-70 depending on how much of the equation or of the Big Picture you get to essentially “see”. 

Something to remember whenever feeling ambivalent, inconclusive, stuck in a quandary, or torn between certain choices or courses of action.
On some occasions, either by mere fortune or through some cosmic Orphic intervention, we can find ourselves walking along the Path Of The Razor’s Edge — the periphery. This psychospiritual state entails seeing the full picture, both sides of the coin, including the little good in the bad as well as the little bad in the good. Exemplified in the black dot in the white and the white dot in the black of the Yin Yang symbol, there exists a balance between the two opposite poles; by having a portion of the opposite element in both sections. 
Baltering, faltering, coddiwompling, and skedaddling freely along that circular periphery one gets to simultaneously perceive the light and the darkness, the black and the white, the in and the out. Then, the sage and the lunatic and the ongoing dialogue between them are transcended by the one who rises above, revealing a deeper, fuller truth. Illumination at last! Enlightenment. Awakening. Soul Liberation. Nirvana. Satori. The Source of Being. The Kingdom of Heaven. Eternal Bliss. The Quintessence.
This razor’s edge is what I anticipate Cusa had called “The wall of paradise, beyond which is God” when describing Coincidentia Oppositorum.
 There truly is no greatest poetry than being nothing and everything at the same time.
A different example I use in the book is taken from none other than nature. Let us consider a cheetah mother killing an impala to feed herself and her young one. This situation is good for the cheetah and her cub while bad for the impala and her fawn. Or is it?

In reality, this hunter/hunted situation is neither good nor bad. It is simply what it is: Neutral. It is actually part of the circle of life. That is how nature functions. We are nature; hence this is how we function. The scenario could be what we choose to look at. It is solely a matter of perception. Now, what if the fawn was infected with some deadly disease and was about to transmit it to its mother, who, in turn, was going to transmit it to the whole herd causing them to all die at the end? So when the mother antelope is killed, the fawn won’t be able to survive which will save the herd. Who knows, really. We humans are not omniscient like that; we don’t possess this capacity to know all or to see the much larger picture all the time. So judging by labelling people, situations, and things good or bad remains but a subjective experience — the easy way out. Good and bad for whom exactly? The cheetah or the impala? The cub or the fawn? The herd of antelopes or the cheetah population? What about for you, the observer?   

In Taoist metaphysics, distinctions between good and bad shown in Yin Yang, along with other dichotomous moral judgments, are considered perceptual rather than real; hence the duality remains an indivisible whole leading to true oneness... of the circle. 

Now, when further contemplating the matter we realise that while in the bathroom example we’re dealing with two choices, in reality there are usually more than just two options, as it is rarely ever limited to two absolute extremes. Consider in politics when they slyly corner you with a box-choice by offering “The lesser of two evils”, like it is some kind of absolute necessity to vote. In truth, though, not choosing is clearly a third option. Echoing with Jean-Paul Sartre’s choisir, c’est encore choisir; not choosing is still choosing, you see.

In actuality, when people think in such a binary way they fail to simultaneously incorporate both positive and negative qualities of themselves and of others in order to form a realistic whole. This tends to lead them to think in terms of extremes — widening the dichotomy in-between both poles while making it more rigid and harder to bridge. It becomes: With or against me, us vs. them. Extremism is a suicidal attitude to have in life, which brings upon fear, hatred, and lack of empathy among other detrimental qualities. As such, neither reconciliation nor wholeness can be accomplished.
In psychology, Black-and-White thinking is called “Splitting”, which is a common defence mechanism some people use.

In logic, Black-and-White thinking is also a fallacy called “False Dilemma”. It occurs when something is falsely claimed to be an “either/or” situation, limiting the number of alternatives available when in fact there is at least one additional option. At least. Certainly a not-deep-enough way to perceive reality.

Once, then, we are to able see the oneness beneath the dance, the marriage — reaching the balanced “Yin-Yang” insight — one can entertain this dialogue between both opposites, learn from them while rising above what misleadingly appears like absolute duality. This is achieved through the mystical experience; by becoming the observer of the observer and embracing the Oneness beneath the polar juxtaposition. This is where we find truth, yet rarely ever it would be absolute. Mayhap truth finds us just as well.

Then other times in life Coincidentia Oppositorum as well as Yin Yang become practical in reflection and contemplation without the need to make any choice. Like the case of the cheetah and the impala. Mere observation suffices. Along with experimentalism, observation can be the best of teachers. Remember that the observer of the observer is the one with the vantage perspective. 
Whether you look for the good in others or the bad you will find it.

Yin Yang. A Dialectic With Myself: Practical Yin Yang Approach to Coincidentia Oppositorum

As we have seen, Coincidentia Oppositorum deals with the possibility of achieving balance by having the apabicity to perceive both sides of the same coin. Showing how not only is it fine to be able to hold two opposites ideas in our minds at the same time, but also how it actually seems like the wisest of approaches. Apabicity, by the way, is one of 176 words and their definitions which I have come up with, conveniently defined as: The state of having the ability, capability, and capacity all at once. Uhu. 
Wisdom aside, we still find that many people are only able to process reality in a binary way, as in “with me” or “without me”. “This or That”. “Fight or Flight”. No Rainbow.
 No various colours or shades. No full spectrum. No big, full picture. No different hues or distinct angles. No nuances, degrees, spices or flavours. No subtlety nor even sensibility nor sensitivity. Not even grey. Just black, and white.
Beside helping us in our decision-making, this balance can also be applied when dealing with the outside world. Consider those times when you are exposed to that which goes against a certain belief or conviction you hold and it triggers an emotional reaction. Acknowledging both sides of the spectrum offers you a chance to re-examine the belief. It does not matter if you may or not not agree with the novel or different view at the end. But do take the chance to explore the novelty and the difference. Because you will likely end up learning something or two from the experience. It would either strengthen your argument or offer you a whole different perspective. Perhaps a bit of both if you are lucky. 

As follows, fear not to understand things, or to entertain ideas, that clash with your own beliefs, traditions, and privileges.

In our case here, after reasonably observing the dialogue between the inner voices and the two different courses of action they propose, I eventually chose to carry on not stepping on the bath mat with unclean feet, but on the floor instead before jumping into the shower. Smoothing hot water then 20 seconds of significantly cold water until I moaned out a loud and invigorating “Ahhhhh”. The instant shock makes you feel like being electrocuted and your brain lightens up in flashes. How refreshing hot and cold showers are. Both.

Then once all cleansed, it was time to step on the still-clean bath mat. Yes, in a few days it will need washing; because that’s how towels work and that’s what shall happen.

The hot-and-cold shower appears to have reset something up and in there as I was struck with yet another epiphanic moment: The inherently pristine, immaculate beauty of this Oneness we’re speaking of; of the essence of being able to look at things, with impartial eyes, and wholesomely see them for what they really are. Opening the Doors of Perceptions and entering... without conceptualisation, condemnation, expectation, or prior prejudice or judgment. O’ the Reconciliation. The Union. Yoga. The Mental Peace. The Soul Dance.
The final verdict was to keep the bath mat for when barefoot before and after showers, as this time, while removing the bath rug completely. For any other use of the bathroom, especially when wearing something I use outside the house, the actual floor works fine. Sounds good to us. And that, Ladies and Gentlemen, is how it’s done. That is how we fundamentally deal with that which appears different, whether inside our heads or in the outside world.


At the very end, it seems safe to ascertain that if one is capable of dealing with their inner polarity, by rising above it and hopefully reaching a certain degree of reconciliation, they will also be equipped to deal with anything different residing outside of them. Calmly, wisely, and with the quintessence of equanimity.

À la prochaine conversation with myself. I hope you enjoyed the tour as much as we did. Salute to your Souls. 

A Dialectic With Myself: Practical Yin Yang Approach to Coincidentia Oppositorum
Et Voilà. The End (Thank you, Seif)
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

No comments:

Post a Comment