"In Wonders We Sail, Questing for the Answers in Veil"

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Opposition And Unity

All the great forces of nature and the human emotions have their opposites by which they are partly defined. Without light, there would be no concept of darkness; without sorrow, the experience of joy would be diminished; and without woman, there could be no man. Just as male and female can be unified at the esoteric level, so can all opposites be reconciled to recreate the paradisal state. Many Eastern traditions hold that opposites arose when the one true reality fragmented into apparent disunity to create the world of forms (in the Hindu faith, it is said that "the one becomes two, the two become three, and from the three come the ten thousand things"): each fragment is incomplete in itself and longs to be reunited with the wholeness from which it came . 

The Buddhist saying, "When the opposites arise, the Buddha-mind is lost", refers to the limitations of oppositional perception. By making sharp distinctions we are blinded to the fact that all opposites in reality spring from the same source, and that the whole of creation is in truth still one. The opposites, and the material world which they constitute, are a subjective reality, and the enlightened mind can see through this to the unity which is its true nature. 

The unity underlying diversity, and the mutual interdependence of opposites, is expressed symbolically in numerous objects and shapes. The cup, for example, illustrates that form cannot exist without space, and vice-versa. The sides of the cup belong to the world of form, while the space they contain belongs to the world of emptiness. Form and space together are expressions of the fundamental unity of the cup. Symbols such as the circle illustrate wider aspects of this truth. Similarly, although we regard concepts such as "beginning" and "end" as opposites, each point on the circumference of a circle can be both a beginning and an end. Accordingly, in Zen Buddhism the circle stands for enlightenment and the perfection of humanity in unity with the primal principle, and the Chinese Tai Chi symbol  is enclosed in a circle. At a more complex level, mandalas and yantras symbolize the illusory nature of observed differences, and their spontaneous appearance in meditation and across cultures suggests that, in the collective unconscious, we are aware of the truth which they represent. In Hinduism and Buddhism, it is said that "life and death are the same": this expresses the belief that even the two fundamental opposites - existence and non-existence - are mutually dependent, and are facets of the same unity. 

Two Realms

Two Realms Many cultures believed the cosmos to be divided into two realms — heavenly and earthly. The heavens were the home of the gods and higher powers, and were associated with spirit and intellect, while the earth was the place of matter and physicality. The organization of the earthly realm (microcosm) was held to mirror that of the heavens (macrocosm): the correspondence between macrocosm and microcosmic is the subject of this 17th century alchemical image (above) Mankind was believed to hold a unique position in the universe, having access to both realms. Opposition and Unity

Good And Evil

Good and Evil In this 18th century print by William Blake, what appear to be good and evil angels struggle for possession of a child, a symbol of the lost innocence of undivided Man. Blake devised his own mythology to explore, through art and literature, his belief that Man's predicament resulted from his inability to reconcile the elements of his divided self. In terms of Blake's myth, the "good" angel is Los, a symbol of the imagination, while the "evil" angel is Orc, a symbol of energy and revolt. Blake believed that mankind's inner conflicts could be resolved through the imagination, rather than the intellect.

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