An early knowledge of human thought, based on observation and experience, is polarity, antagonism and duality in the world of appearances, in the life of man as well as in man himself. All times and all schools of thought have endeavored to explain and overcome these opposites and to give an answer to the human search. In this manifestation we recognize a world law, the law of duality or polarity, which operates throughout the universe. Even the abstract concepts such as place, time, measure or number, also axioms of our cognitive power and world laws themselves, reveal this polarity when we speak of here and there, of yesterday and tomorrow, of much and little, of great and small, of black and white.
This law confronts us in an infinitely varied form. Our language is rich in contrasting terms, in which the world of experience is reflected for us. Day and night are seed and harvest, birth and death, becoming and passing away, heaven and earth or, in a religious analogy, heaven and hell. Every life-excitation, every form in nature is determined by this polar contrast. We are young or old, male or female, poor or rich, happy or unhappy, hungry or full, joyful or sad, lively or tired. Our whole life takes place, as it were, in contrasts, which we strive to balance and bridge in constant effort. This struggle is most evident in the old problem of good and evil.
It is precisely the antagonism of good and evil that people felt most strongly and therefore made the earliest starting point of their thinking and philosophizing. The naive questions: What is good? What is evil? How do I become good? How do I overcome evil? Is God good? Is God evil? Does evil exist at all? Is there evil, evil in itself? could not be answered easily from purely sensual experience. That is why religious and philosophical thinking strived for deeper insight in order to solve such questions from their connection with the general problems of our lives.
The insight of oppositeness was thus transferred to the spiritual world, the world of abstract thinking and recognition. We speak of knowledge and non-knowledge, of God, but also of the devil of our popular faith. We distinguish between soul and body. Philosophically we also speak of being and non-being, of being and appearance, of content and form, of thesis and antithesis, of spirit and matter as basic axioms of our cognition. None of us and none of our great thinkers denies this polar dichotomy: It forms a basic idea of our life, although we usually do not realize that this is a fundamental duality of world-historical character. The attempt to abolish this principle only leads to an emptying of the concept of the ego, in which the ego seems to dissolve into the mass of a collective, or to the negation of the community through an exaggerated individualism. In this way, however, the ego cancels itself out and destroys the subject, since it denies the object that conditions it.
The intellectual history of the Roman Empire, of the Middle Ages, but also of modern times provides extensive examples of man’s erroneous struggle with the world law of duality, which was not recognized in its final depths. In the Middle Ages, for example, man himself, as a dual being, sought to abolish this dichotomy in himself by ascetic killing of the flesh.
The materialism of our days adopts an opposing point of view to the Middle Ages, which strived enthusiastically for spiritualization. It regards matter, the body, form as fundamentally primary and thus negates and excludes soul, being and God as secondary. In terms of intellectual history, we can say that the past 2,ooo years, the so-called Christian age in Europe, were an age of duality, in which opposites were hard and irreconcilably at odds, and the reasons and occasions of the most fierce battles were whether for God or devil, for faithful or unbelieving, for Christian or pagan, for universalism or particularism, for human rights or professional rights, and finally for nationalism or communism.
The validity of this polar world law remains valid, but our scientifically educated present recognizes also as the connecting third the concept of power, energy and creation, so that the Trinity of consciousness, power and material, of spirit-soul-body, of head-heart-hand, of idea, energy and matter has enriched and expanded our world view to synthesis.
The law of this Trinity allows us to look at and examine old problems from a new point of view.
The problem of duality and polarity can only be solved satisfactorily if we go back to the starting point of all existence and connect to the last knowledge of metaphysics. All existence, so this teaches us defined as the cognitive axiom and final reason of our human thinking, is founded in a final One, the Absolute. This unity as source and exit, but also as goal and end of the existence of this world, is expressed by the religions under different names with the term “God”. We must therefore go back to this last One, to God, if we want to comprehend order and meaning in the fullness of our world of existence and appearance.
Philosophy also calls this unity by different names, but the contents of the terms are identical. This primary unity, which existed before the world, which creates and destroys the world, and which persists even after the disappearance of the world, eternal, immutable and unchangeable, designates philosophy as the subject in everything. This subject is the primary – the prima causa, quasi the first cause of the universe.
What can we now say about this primary subject?
Well, philosophical hermetics has correctly realized that it:
- is eternal and unchangeable;
- it represents the effectual power of all change, of all becoming and passing away, invigorating and sustaining everything;
- it is both the material foundation of the universe, which is a substance from and in which everything was created;
This subject, but also that spirit which is enclosed in everything, is the universal consciousness, the order and the law of the world.
This one subject is both the central spirit and the invigorating force, as well as the substance or matter of which all creation consists. This last One, this highest subject exists in itself. It is not caused or conditioned by anything; it is independent, infinite, unique, unified, primary or “in itself”, as Kant also held after he had established that the physical “outside world”, as it shows itself to man, is not a real-existent world in the objective sense, but merely an (image) of the world, i.e. how (only) human consciousness is able to perceive and process this.
But this unity has, besides its trinitarian, triple character, a dual or polar nature: it is, or it is not. That is, it is obvious or it is unrevealable, namely, following the law of periodicity, in periodic change. So there are epochs in which God is active and creates and sustains a universe: We then speak of a world day. Then follow epochs in which God rests, that is, is not in existence: We then speak of a world night.
Following the law of polarity or duality, we distinguish two states of the one subject: existence and non-existence. In Indian philosophy these states are called Sat and Asat, in medieval European philosophy they are called essentia and existentia. Thus the life and work of the subject takes place in polar change, periodically conditioned – according to fixed laws of numbers – whose rhythm in the highest corresponds also to the rhythm in the human-soul, as it becomes visible in the phenomenon of reincarnation.
Meister Eckehart (1260-1328), the leading representative of the German mysticism of the Middle Ages, also speaks of the polar nature of God when he states:
“God also shall and perish”
What, then, is the meaning of this lawful opposition of existence and non-existence, of becoming and passing away, of creating and resting, of obvious and unapparent?
The subject existing in and of itself, which represents the world law of unity, must operate, express, reflect itself in an object in order, in contrast, to become conscious of itself at all. If I rest at night or during death, I am not conscious of myself. Only by doing something, perceiving something through the eyes, feeling something through the senses, etc., do I realize that the thing there is not me – I am here; there is something else: a thing, a being, a you. Only in the polar contrast to the object, to the you, do I become aware of my selfhood, my ego: only in the differentiation to another do I possess or attain my self-confidence.
Johann Gottlieb Fichte (1762-1814) names the subject the “I”. In doing so, he simultaneously wants to express the identity or equality of essence of the human ego with the divine ego. And he arrives at the same result of insight with the axiomatic statement: “The ego sets the non-ego”, or – in a different terminology – the subject sets the object, or again in a different way: the world as such is first produced or defined by the subjective ego.
God creates the world as a polar opposition to himself. This process of creating or effecting an object, a world, takes place inevitably and lawfully, conditioned by the laws of the world, and is subject to fixed laws of numbers, measures and times within certain periods and spaces. Even God as the highest being within our solar system, as the supreme monad, as the central ego and “last subject” cannot escape the eternally and absolutely valid laws of the world, which he himself conditioned, which appear with him and which in turn determine him; all this is made possible by the causal “self-limitation” of God, by which he defines and creates a space from which he withdraws himself, in order to be able to allow physical things with all his laws to emerge in the first place (in the Kabbalah also known under the term zimzum = “withdrawal” resp. “last subject” in the term of the Kabbalah). “This also explains and solves the problem of theodicy.
Following this world law – in the course of a periodical realization in order to recognize itself – the one subject steps into a polar opposition to itself by letting the non-I emerge from the ego, by creating an object as subject and the universe as a deity. Only when the artist creates his work of art does he become an artist. For without this work of art, without this achievement, without this act of creation, neither he nor anyone else would recognize and admire his artistic qualities and abilities. He himself would not know himself as an artist. Only in contrast, in the juxtaposition and emphasis of my own being do I prove my artistic qualities, my art, my ability. Only through the work itself do I know that I am an artist, a creator.
We all often have the most beautiful thoughts, hear the most beautiful melodies in our minds, have the noblest intentions – but only by putting the thoughts, melodies, ideas on paper, writing them down or painting them, do we become poets, composers or painters. Only by activating the good intentions and proving them practically can we say: “I am”. – Thus it is only in contrast, in the duality of subject and object, in the emphasis of works and deeds out of itself, that the subject becomes aware of itself, be it as man, artist or deity. This is the philosophical realization of the law of duality and polarity: without minus pole no plus pole, without object no subject, without the created world no creating God. The Bhagavad Gita understands this by the words: “God is and is not either”, and the German mysticism in the sentence: “Only when God creates the world, does he become God”.
The spirit only becomes spirit in the moment in which it connects itself with the matter. The connecting third holds both together as power or energy. In his teachings on science, Fichte uses another formulation for this process: of the thesis (of the subject), which is followed by the antithesis (of the object) and whose connection to the synthesis (of the predicate) determines action, doing, creating and working. If we assign the character of consciousness to the subject or ego, we can add the character of material matter to the object, while the predicate as action or activity possesses the character of energy or force. Thus we can logically and rationally grasp the basic concept of the law of the Trinity, which is contained in every being and thing with these three principles.
Just as unity inevitably splits into duality and polar opposition as soon as it moves from the passive, dormant state into the active or efficacious, revelatory state, so duality simultaneously expands into Trinity as a characteristic or property of each individual being or thing in the universe, albeit on the basis of a different approach. The effect of the polar opposition in the universe – which philosophy conceptualizes as the world law of duality or polarity – is once an actual and yet an apparent one. On the one hand we can really distinguish subject and object, God and world, I and you, as well as the countless opposites in our world of appearance; yes, we ourselves as human beings are also only phenomena of the oppositeness of I and you, of I and God, of man and animal, of man and thing, and so on. We also distinguish “reasonably” between spirit and matter, soul and body, good and bad. This is precisely why it is so difficult for us, because of our own duality and antagonism, to grasp the concept and nature of unity on the one hand and the nature and character of the Trinity on the other.
How can – we ask – the opposite be simultaneously the One, the Divine and the Triple? As the Two stands in the midst of One and Three and to all other numerical proportions, which in turn are conditioned by the Two, so polarity is also only an expression of appearance.
The physical example of a magnetic rod may illustrate this.
We do distinguish between the positive or plus pole and the negative or minus pole of the rod, both of which have different and contradictory properties, in real and empirical terms. Nevertheless, the magnetic rod is a uniform whole as a rod. We can distinguish its form and its substance or matter, but the unity of the rod remains unquestionable. In addition to form and substance, we can also distinguish a third factor: namely the magnetic force inherent in this rod.
So we can set up three sentences conceptually:
- The magnetic rod is a unit as a rod;
- it has different characteristics, because it has two ends and two poles;
- it has a threefold nature,
namely a certain form or shape based on an idea or idea, then a certain magnetic force and finally a certain material substance. In this concrete example, it is not difficult for our imagination to speak of the unity of the staff, of the duality of its polar force and of the triad of form, force and substance.
It becomes difficult for our thinking when we want to transfer this insight to abstract things and concepts. We speak of the unity of the universe, observe the duality and polarity of the world of appearances, and also distinguish the triad of idea, energy and matter that scientific research has brought to our attention. But we can only inadequately link these relationships in our imaginary world.