Today’s spirituality/science blog is inspired by the Chinese Tai Chi symbol:
This classic Taoist emblem illustrates the dynamic relationship between yin and yang. Fundamental metaphysical compliments, these archetypes of passivity and activity, rest and energy, constantly flow into and back out of one another. And even when either one is dominating, a spot of the other remains—right in the middle.
Together, yin and yang characterize the fundamental tao: the full circle, ever in fluid motion.
Carl Jung was a pioneering psychologist who believed that the human personality was characterized by two similar elements: anima and animus. Anima is the feminine, connective and passive element of the psyche, and animus is the masculine, discriminative and active element. Jung taught that men’s psyches are balanced and “compensated” by their anima, and women’s by their animus. He further theorized that neither anima nor animus are directly perceivable on their own—only in interaction with a member of the opposite sex does a person’s corresponding gender archetype activate, coming clearly into view.
Jung thought anima and animus to be timeless expressions of the collective unconscious—the part of the psyche that transcends personal identity. He believed dream symbols, myths and other common human characteristics and patterns come from this shared field of consciousness.
Anima and animus seem to me to be smoothly analogous with yin and yang. And Jung’s collective unconscious can be likened to the fundamental tao.
Let’s re-imagine the Tai Chi symbol, then, as an emblem depicting the human psyche—anima and animus swirling and interpenetrating, the full circle symbolizing the complete self in dynamic balance!
Neils Bohr, a primary architect of quantum theory, similarly re-imagined the Tai Chi in his Danish coat-of-arms, using it to represent another totality characterized by interdependent opposites: the quantum. Bohr’s principle of complementarity asserts that all quantum phenomena require two simultaneous types of description—one appropriate to waves, and one appropriate to particles. He developed this principle after experiments revealed that quanta display characteristics of both, which is an ongoing mystery, as waves and particles were previously thought to be mutually exclusive modes of matter.
Waves passively intermix when they encounter one another, making them analogous to yin and anima. Particles actively bounce off one another when they meet, or they break up into smaller particles. Either way, they remain discrete, like yang and animus.
Contemporary physicists theorize that all quanta spring from and share in a foundational field of physical energy known as the Zero Point Field. This field can be visualized either as a dense tapestry of interweaving waves, or a boiling body of water from which particles bubble up.
The quantum ZPF is thus another wholeness with dual characteristics—like the tao, like Jung’s collective unconscious.
And so I’m led to ask these questions: Is science only recently discovering a fundamental reality that mystics and philosophers have intuited and experienced for millennia? Is physics confirming metaphysics?! And if so, should that strengthen our trust in less empirical ways of interpreting the world?