I keep putting off writing this, but when my horoscope said recently, “Live with the paradox of knowing that everything is okay and not okay at the very same time,” it seemed very apropos.
It was one of my Zen Transformation cards that set me to pondering the paradox of opposites—the fact that where opposites are involved, there cannot be one without the other. That is, there is no darkness without light, good without evil, etc.
As Osho said, “Mind is a kind of prism—pass a ray of white light through it and immediately it is divided into seven colors. Pass anything through the mind and it becomes dual. Life and death are not life-and-death, the reality is lifedeath. It should be one word, not two; not even a hyphen in between. Lifedeath is one phenomenon. Lovehate is one phenomenon. Darknesslight is one phenomenon. Negativepositive is one phenomenon. But when you pass this one phenomenon through the mind, the one is divided immediately in two. Lifedeath becomes life and death–not only divided but death becomes antagonistic to life. They are enemies. Now you can go on trying to make these two meet, and they will never meet.”
Actually, I think they can meet, but they can never be more than acquaintances. We can introduce ourselves to death and come to terms with it as a fact of life. We will all die. When the sun sets at night, we know that it will rise again in the morning despite the fact the darkness seems unending at the time, and when the trees lose their leaves in the fall, we know that they will return with the spring.
When we work toward wholeness in the process of individuation, we must work with reconciling those opposites, the paradox within our selves.
Psychoanalyst Carl G. Jung states it this way in his book “Answer to Job”, written in 1952:
“The metaphysical process is known to the psychology of the unconscious as the individuation process. In so far as this process, as a rule, runs its course unconsciously as it has from time immemorial, it means no more than that the acorn becomes an oak, the calf a cow, and the child an adult. But if the individuation process is made conscious, consciousness must confront the unconscious and a balance between the opposites must be found. As this is not possible through logic, one is dependent on symbols which make the irrational union of opposites possible. They are produced spontaneously by the unconscious and are amplified by the conscious mind.
“The difference between the ‘natural’ individuation process, which runs its course unconsciously, and the one which is consciously realized, is tremendous. In the first case consciousness nowhere intervenes; the end remains as dark as the beginning. In the second case so much darkness comes to light that the personality is permeated with light, and the consciousness necessarily gains in scope and insight. The encounter between conscious and unconscious has to ensure that the light which shines in the darkness is not only comprehended by the darkness, but comprehends it. The filius solis et lunae is the symbol of the union of opposites as well as the catalyst of their union. It is the alpha and omega of the process, the mediator and intermedius. ‘It has a thousand names,’ say the alchemists, meaning the source from which the individuation process rises and the goal towards which it aims is nameless, ineffable.
“But empirically is can be established, with a sufficient degree of probability, that there is in the unconscious an archetype of wholeness which manifests itself spontaneously in dreams, etc., and a tendency, independent of the conscious will, to relate other archetypes to this centre. Consequently, it does not seem improbable that the archetype of wholeness occupies as such a central position which approximates it to the God-image. The similarity is further borne out by the peculiar fact that the archetype produces a symbolism which has always characterized and expressed the Deity.
“The religious need longs for wholeness, and therefore lays hold of the images of wholeness offered by the unconscious, which, independently of the conscious mind, rise up from the depths of our psychic nature.
“. . . it is well to remind ourselves of Saint Paul and his split consciousness: on one side he felt he was the apostle directly called and enlightened by God, and, on the other side, a sinful man who could not pluck out the ‘thorn in the flesh’ and rid himself of the Satanic angel who plagued him. That is to say, even the enlightened person remains what he is, and is never more than his own limited ego before the One who dwells within him, whose form has no knowable boundaries, who encompasses him on all sides, fathomless as the abysms of the earth as vast as the sky.”
I’ll leave this with a smidgen of a poem from the Gnostic Gospels that celebrates this paradox:
The Thunder, Perfect Mind
For I am knowledge and ignorance.
I am shame and boldness.
I am shameless; I am ashamed.
I am strength and I am fear.
I am war and peace.
It is a lengthy poem, but you can read it in its (mostly) entirety here at Erik Andrulis’ blog: Anacephalaeosis