Our greatest spiritual systems all describe the world as characterized by interdependent opposites. Taoism has yin and yang. Hinduism has Shiva and Shakti. Kabbalah has its “Pillar of Mercy” (kav yamin) and “Pillar of Severity” (kav smol). Sufis worship God as both transcendent (as-Zahir—’Manifest’) and immanent (al-Batin—’Hidden’).
Everything we know, we know both directly and reflected by its opposite. Duality is built into our bodies: our inhale and exhale, the systole and diastole of our heartbeats, the hemispheres of our brains. It’s built into our psyches: We love and hate, risk and fear, and rejoice and grieve simultaneously, often confusing ourselves.
Art is characterized by as many dualities as it has forms: positive and negative space, loud and soft, movement and rest, and many more.
Our most fundamental physics is characterized by a phenomenon called wave/particle duality. Turns out, everything we’re made of behaves both like interconnected waves and independent particles. It’s a puzzle.
Einstein’s E=mc² says everything is energy, and what is energy? The dynamic interaction of positive and negative charges. Duality.
The cliche ‘there are two sides to every story’ holds. Our world is dual.
But our minds analyze and fragment our experience, insisting it be ‘either/or.’ That’s valuable for basic survival, for distinguishing threats from benefits, but comes with a high price, causing restriction and suffering, because our deepest nature is ‘both/and.’ And the universe in which we live is ‘both/and’—at least! Fragmentation keeps us safe and alive, but it also lessens us. Embracing both sides of things aligns us with our full nature, transcending the halves and holding the whole.
But then even that whole can become half of a duality: a thesis to which we can propose an antithesis. And then we need to step back again, taking a larger look, reconciling that thesis and antithesis into a next-level synthesis, a new, even higher-level holism. And then we can do the dialectic again, and again, embarking on a journey not of infinite regression, but infinite ascension—a seeking of ever higher and deeper truths.
Am I describing the scientific method or a striving towards God? Sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference.