Our greatest spiritual systems testify about 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 in-and-of-itself and conditioned by its essential 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, rejoice and grieve simultaneously—often confusing ourselves. Our most fundamental physics is characterized by a phenomenon called wave/particle duality—turns out, everything we’re made of behaves both ways! 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 that ‘there are two sides to every story’ holds: Our world is dual.
But our minds analyze and fragment our experience—it becomes ‘either/or.’ Valuable for basic survival, for distinguishing threats from benefits to escape death and enhance life, this orientation comes with a high price. It causes restriction and suffering, because we are ‘both/and.’ The universe in which we live is ‘both/and’—at least! Fragmentation keeps us safe, but it also lessens us: We miss ourselves and each other. Embracing holism can align us with our full, sacred nature; we can strive to transcend polarities and grasp Truth. But then even that truth can become polar—a broad thesis to which we can propose an antithesis, throwing everything we know into humble question. And we can try to answer that question by reconciling our thesis and antithesis, creating a synthesis—a new, even higher-level truth. 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.