(Above: the Yin-Yang symbol as an object)

I remember being a child and considering the Yin-Yang figure for the first time. It fascinated me. I felt like I couldn’t ‘see it’ properly – as though something about it was hidden…

For several days after spying it on a street poster, I tried to draw it, but without success. The best I could do was render it as ‘an eight with two dots’. It was only years later, looking at how a tennis ball was formed, that the structure of the yin-yang became clear.

(Above: the humble tennis ball – a puzzling shape that resolves itself into two simple ovals that can be bent to form the sphere… but only because of the properties of space)

The ball, like the Yin-Yang, is composed of two symmetrical halves which perfectly and symbolically interact. The difference is that the tennis ball does it in three dimensions rather than the yin-yang’s two. It’s impossible to make a ball from a single piece of material, technically a surface. But with two such surfaces, it’s simple. The tennis ball pattern we have today replaced an older, more approximate clover-leaf design and the two intersecting ovals enable a tight seal at the time of manufacture.

(Above: we can emulate the way the tennis ball is made in three dimensions by holding our two hands cupped at 90 degrees to each other)

Both fascinating… but let’s leave the tennis ball to another post. It’s the Yin-Yang symbol we’re investigating, here, and the driver for this is the approach of the winter solstice on 21st December at 21:45 – next Wednesday.

But why? What is the relationship between the winter solstice and the Chinese Yin-Yang symbol?

For many cultures, the winter rather than summer solstice has been the most important astronomical event of the year. I vividly remember a Silent Eye weekend hosted by Allan Pringle which was centred on the East Aquhorthies stone circle at Inverurie, an hour’s drive north-west of Aberdeen. It was memorable for the extreme weather, apart from anything else. But it was worth the effort and the drenching…

(Above: the ‘recumbent stones’ of the East Aquhorthies circle)

The East Aquhorthies site is one of the best-preserved examples of a recumbent stone circle in Britain. It is one of very few that still have their full complement of stones. Remarkably, all are to be seen, here, in their original position, without having been re-erected.

(Above: (c) Allan’s diagram of the astronomical use of the East Aquhorthies stone circle at Inverurie)

The stone circle at East Aquhorthies maps the points of the astronomical compass against the surrounding landscape, with particular reference to the line of hills in the south. One of these is a visual intersection of two hills: the place where the Winter Solstice sunset is to be seen, Scottish weather permitting, you can see the sun sink into the land on or about the 21st December, marking the birth of the new…

(Above: a happy memory from September 2017. Sue Vincent and Allan Pringle at the East Aquhorthies stone circle)

But why is an ancient Chinese symbol appropriate to our consideration of the northern hemisphere Winter Solstice? It turns out that there is a deeply mystical relationship between the yin-yang glyph and the year’s twin solstices, one applicable to any part of the planet that has them.

To approach this, we need to look at the nature and purpose of polarity in human consciousness.

The great cycles of our lives are driven by opposite extremes or ‘poles’. Winter and summer are good examples, and they have at their heart the quality of light… and its absence: dark. Dark does not come from light, yet its existence is the basis of our experience of light. We might consider whether dark actually exists at all – in its own right?

(Above: each half of the Yin-Yang glyph is an exact mirror of the other, yet opposite in qualities – mostly…)

But each of these complements has a specific point where the quality of their brightness or darkness is at the maximum it can be. The winter solstice is one such point – represented, above, by the black half (yin) of the Yin-Yang glyph.

The ‘tadpole’ shape (many have also compared it to semen seen under a microscope) is not entirely its dominant white or black colour. Within the thickest part of the figure there is a small circle of the complement: the black Yang has a white circle; the white has a black circle.

I do not mean to imply that there is an historical connection between the Yin-Yang and such stone circles. The connection is in the commonality of these ideas:

  1. That everything in our lives is made up from dual aspects: active and passive, male and female, giving and receiving… above and below.
  2. That this polarity is the very basis of how anything happens – and also how it is observed in our consciousness.
  3. That a deeper understanding of this enables us to see that the very nature of opposite polarity is such that there is always some of the opposing quality in the deepest example of one extreme, such as the nature of the winter or summer solstice seen in the Yin-Yang.

If we wish to follow this mystical thread, then our most profound act on the winter solstice will be to acknowledge the presence of an invisible sun between the twin halves of what is really one continuous act of creation… and the birth of the summer’s sun in the depths of that darkness, corresponding to an inner journey of the development of Self.

Happy winter solstice!

Note: This post is also the orientation document for the Silent Eye’s SE-Explore Zoom gathering for December 2022. These online meetings, lasting 90 minutes, are held on the third Sunday of each month and are open to all.

Contact us: Rivingtide@gmail.com to be added to our invite list.

©Stephen Tanham 2022

Stephen Tanham is a Director of the Silent Eye, a journey through the forest of personality to the dawn of Being.

http://www.thesilenteye.co.uk and http://www.suningemini.blog

4 Comments on “The Eight with Two Dots

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