Friday, January 27, 2012

Assertiveness and Receptivity III

Scott Bradley


Traditionally, Yin and Yang are complimentary principles, neither of which is to be affirmed more than the other. Together, through their give and take, all things have their being. If the Yang is waxing, the Yin is waning; but the waxing leads to waning and the waning to waxing. We cannot have the one without the other.

Yang and Yin are also representative of life and death, existence and non-existence. In the Taoist context, this does not assign a negative connotation to Yin, as representative of death. Death and life are a single thread and the one is but the flipside of the other. Life and death alternate like night and day. On the contrary, Taoism sees the discovery of death (non-existence) as an integral part of life as essential to balanced living.

But again we see that the human norm is the denial of Yin in the denial of death. Yang dominates. We typically proclaim life as the negation of death and death as the negation of life. We sunder their essential unity. And we fear to integrate our empty core (non-existence) with our assertive selves.

For this reason, Taoism stresses the Yin, not with a view to its dominance, but in the interests of balanced and harmonious living.

This is illustrated in negative relief by the development of the cults of immortality which grew out of philosophical Taoism. These were, in effect, the complete negation of that of which they claimed to be the truest expression. Death became the enemy. Immortality became the goal. Yin, representative of death, must be opposed and overthrown. Yang, life, must become pure, unadulterated and concentrated in one's being. Max Kaltenmark (Lao Tzu and Taoism) writes:
In ancient and classical theory, they [Yin and Yang] were held to collaborate; but this collaboration implies the alternation of life and death. The desire for eternal life naturally leads, therefore, to a desire for the victory of Yang over Yin.
This should not surprise us given our own personal experience of the dominance of Yang and our desire to prolong life...forever. Yet if we in any way subscribe to the essential intended meaning of Yin and Yang, and the Taoist appreciation of the equality of life and death, then it is to Yin we must look as the way to restore balance.

You can check out Scott's other miscellaneous writings here.

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