To see beyond the dualistic thinking could free one from unnecessary fighting to life. This article was published on OmTimes magazine, Feb A, 2019 issue and I am sharing it here as I feel it is more topic than ever.
The culture of confrontation is so common that one might not even notice it. It’s part of our daily lives: east vs. west, immigrants vs. natives, rich vs. poor, right wing vs. left wing, light vs. dark, science vs. religion, medicine vs. alternative medicine etc. Even many of the most basic questions in our daily lives originate from polarities which are often even artificial. However, to see beyond this dualistic thinking could free one from unnecessary fighting to life.
Views on dualism
Indian guru, philosopher, yogi Paramahansa Yogananda writes in his book ”Autobiography of a Yogi”:
”Creation is light and shadow both, else no picture is possible. The good and evil of maya must ever alternate in supremacy. If joy were ceaseless here in this world, would man ever desire another? Without suffering, he scarcely cares to recall that he has forsaken his eternal home. … Creation is only an immense movie and our own reality is not in it but beyond that.”
According to him we are thus consisting of two opposites, light and shadow - good and evil and our mission is to learn from suffering. Suffering helps us on our path towards our true selves within. Reality however is something different than we experience in this world, and opposites are thus also just an illusion.
Also Carl Jung emphasizes balance and the significance of opposites:
”The word “happiness” would lose its meaning if it were not balanced by sadness”.
Osho, an Indian spiritual teacher who lived in the 20th century, says in turn:
“The mind is dualistic, it is always building confrontation: winner and loser, observer and observable, target and experiencer, day and night. Even those that have not been divided will be divided into opposites. Day cannot be distinguished from night nor birth from death. They all have the same origin. But the mind divides everything apart, into opposites. Nothing is opposite in its occurrence, all discrepancies are apparent. From their deepest essence all conflicts melt together.”
Osho therefore explains the confrontation as a feature of the mind. In essence, however, everything is of the one and the same as a whole, and oppositions are only apparent.
Danish physicist Niels Bohr, one of the most prominent developers of quantum mechanics, says:
”The opposite of a correct statement is a false statement. But the opposite of a profound truth may well be another profound truth.”
Light has dualistic nature
This phrase by Bohr includes the connection of quantum physics to the Eastern philosophies - and also one of the views on confrontation.
To illustrate this, a few words on what we know about the nature of light.
In order to understand the behaviour and qualities of light, we need - as it is - a dualistic model. Light has the properties of both waves and particles: sometimes light behaves like a wave, sometimes like a particle. One of the most famous examples to illustrate the dual nature of light is Young’s double-slit experiment. The experiment was first conducted already in 1802, and with it Thomas Young demonstrated the wave-like nature of light. However, during the 19th century, the light particle nature was well received, and only with the light quantum hypothesis it was possible to explain this phenomenon more accurately. Light may be particles or waves, depending on how it is expressed.
In the double-slit experiment light particle or photon particle beam is targeted to a wall that has two parallel slits, and from that onwards to a screen. In the original experiment conducted in the 19th century the arrangement was illuminated with sunlight. A wave pattern forms on the screen, which is a demonstration of the wave-like nature of light. When passing through the two slits the wave behaves as if the slits were both sources of the wave. The two waves interfere which is when part of the wave is amplified and a part of it is weakened, and a interference pattern of waves is formed, i.e. the strongest line is in the center and several lines on either side of it.
If the light source is replaced with a light source spraying individual particles, and the light particles, photons, are sprayed one at a time through the slits, the particles hit the screen one by one but together they form a wave pattern, just like the particles would know where the other particles have gone. By observing through which slit a particle passes via a particle detector, they begin to behave like particles, and only two lines are formed on the screen as evidence of particulate lines. Just as if a particle would know that it was being observed.
Light therefore has a double character: it behaves sometimes like a particle and sometimes like a wave. Part of the particle-like nature is that the location of the light quantum is known at any given moment. Part of the wave nature is that the location cannot be determined. The particle nature and the wave nature are mutually contradictory, but both acceptable if one wants to understand all the attributes related to radiation.
Opposites complement each other and create the whole together
The particle nature and the wave nature are mutually contradictory in the same style as the yin and yang of the Chinese philosophy, two opposing but complementary forces. They describe how the two extremes are actually complementary, that is, complementing each other and interconnected.
This dichotomy is also reflected in Chinese science, philosophy and medicine, which seeks to restore the balance of yin and yang through various methods. In the yin and yang -symbol the black and white droplets are interwoven and there is a white dot in the center of the black part and a black dot in the center of the white part. The symbol depicts how yin contains a seed of the yang and yang of yin, and both parts give way to each other in turn. Yin and yang together are a whole. Both exist, they together form a reality. If either is “true”, that doesn’t automatically mean that one is not true, as usually in math the opposite is “false”.
The connection between quantum mechanics and Eastern philosophies can be illustrated by Niels Bohr’s choice of coat of arms as he was awarded the Order of the Elephant by the king of Denmark. As a knight of the Elephant he chose the yin-yang symbol taijitu to his coat of arms with the motto “Opposites are complementary”.
The whole quantum mechanics therefore includes this idea of the complementary nature of the atomic world. Two contradictory parts can be complementary and jointly form a reality. There are even more such complementary quantities in quantum mechanics, such as place and momentum or energy and time. The more accurately one can be determined, the more imprecise is the knowledge of the other. This is also known as Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle, and it asserts a fundamental limit to the precision with which certain pairs of physical properties of a particle can be known. It is impossible to accurately determine simultaneously these pairs of complementary variables. When the measurement is made, it also affects the value to be measured and it is no longer the same as before the measurement.
”What could we learn from all of this? Often opposites will guide you to choose one of them. When making these choices, it might be good to remember that they are only apparent and reality is something else. Making a choice does not mean that the other option would be wrong.”
”There is always light in the middle of darkness, likewise light also contains darkness”.