Students of esoteric studies – focussed on practical techniques for understanding and accessing the deeper potentials of our being – are exhorted to consider the idea of polarity at the start of their journey.
Polarity is the idea of opposites creating a dynamic environment in which some kind of evolution takes place… For example, the play of heat and cold in a watery substance creating patterns and currents in the fluid.
We might consider the idea that heat and cold are, in reality, different degrees of the same ‘quality’ – temperature.
From a mystical perspective, the evolution may be in one of two directions – something higher in-volving itself with a lower medium which it has first created: a primal substance; or evo-lution, where a ‘corner is turned’ and the upwards, or return journey to the source is pursued. In practice, these two directions are taking place, simultaneously.
The parable of the Prodigal Son is related to the inner symbolism of this: the idea of a ‘wise’ return’ to the ‘Father’. This is a classic example of the symbolic rather than literal use of the word. The tale is told in terms of father and son, and yet the subject of the story is ourselves.
One of the best examples of polarity at work is the biological coming together of male and female, as in father and mother; to create, then birth and nurture the child. I am careful here not to confuse the biological aspects of male and female with the characteristics of masculine and feminine.
We all have a mixture of masculine and feminine in our natures. But only the combination of biological male and female will continue the species. We have seen, over the past century, the widespread presence and acceptance of mixtures of masculine and feminine traits in behaviour and character. Societies that allow for this are generally more gentle, artistic and creative.
From a mystical perspective, these words need to be considered carefully. Masculine and feminine are qualities within the human character. They are not to be confused with the male and female biology. In that sense, each ‘set’ occupies a functional ‘level’ of being that is different from the other pair. The exercise of feminine and masculine elements of character holds a different balance in each of us.
Such levels are seen as vertical. Their purpose is to create a hierarchy of increasing intelligence and sophistication so that the whole may express and explore itself more mindfully.
There is in all nature a scale of what we might call organisation. The single-celled organisms, from which mankind evolved over billions of years, had the ‘lower’ level qualities of such attributes as persistence, separation and the ability to exchange material with their environment. Did they have awareness? In a simple form, yes. They were aware of what would meet their needs in the oceans in which they arose and matured – which is not to say they ‘thought about it’. Thought requires a brain and a reflective mind; something that was not to arise until the higher mammals evolved. Brains developed from primitive nerves.
The Kabbalistic Tree of Life (above) is a diagram of how polarity was the tool that created and maintains both living things and consciousness. There are three vertical pillars that span the ‘above’ to the ‘below’. The above is the bringing into existence of the world as we know it. The below is the evolving of organic life from the material of that world and its climb back towards its non-material source.
The right pillar is that of Force, and is traditionally seen as a masculine (not male). The left pillar is that of Form and is seen as feminine (not female). The middle pillar is that of Perfect Balance and represents the ascent of the human mind and heart as it learns, through what will eventually be wisdom, what it really is and what its place is in Creation.
Thought, through its tool – words, provides the building blocks of communication with others and with ourselves in the form of ‘working something out’. What we are really doing is holding something up to the light of the highest consciousness we have ‘inside us’ – before speaking it. This is mind at work, but, as we shall touch on, later, mind is not the highest consciousness we possess, though it is intimately related to it.
It is likely that the molecular structures we now consider to be DNA and RNA were the proto-form of life which established the principles of persistence – the foundation of living things that change and yet stay the same – in other words, Life. We are very conscious, during our lives, that something stays the same. What is it? The answer, which must be found by each of us rather than being told, is the catalyst to the real spiritual journey of Self.
That journey to the personal spirit surpasses the mind… reaches back in time and forward in potential, simultaneously.
Although it is centuries old, there is nothing childish or primitive about the Kabbalistic conceptualisation of reality. Understood fully, it is a map of the way home. It can suffer from a degree of over-ornamentation, which is why other forms of portaying human consciousness have arisen that map more closely with psychology as we know it. One of these is the Mystical Enneagram, as below and created by the Silent Eye.
The two symbols are best studied together, with the Kabbalistic Tree of Life illustrating the whole scheme of creation and personal evolution, and the Mystical Enneagram providing the findings of esoteric psychology and how the personality is a mask for the wonderful parts of us that lie beneath.
Organic life began with persistent molecules. In other words, its long climb of organisation began with matter plus this unseen ‘upward reach’. For unknown millions of years the principles inherent in matter that drove it to ‘self-organise’ provided an ‘upwards’ gradient to development towards more sophistication.
Single-celled life emerged around 3.5 billion years ago. The persistence of ‘form’ inherent in the DNA/RNA molecules was evolved in order to create a more sophisticated ‘body’ – one that was sensitive to its environment.
We take it for granted, but defining LIFE is difficult… The famous Quantum scientist Erwin Schrödinger – celebrated for his dead/not dead cat – wrote one of the classic science books of the twentieth century on this subject: ‘What is Life?’. It was written for the layman but proved to be one of the drivers for the birth of molecular biology, the subsequent discovery of DNA and the entire field of ‘Emergence’.
The link is in the text if you’d like to get yourself a copy. I recommend it.
To close this thought: the radical philosopher and spiritual teacher G.I. Gurdjieff maintained that polarity was actually three things and not two. He said that behind any system of creative polarisation, there was always a ‘third force’ driving on the creation to its next level. We could, he said, train ourselves to be conscious of this ‘third force’.
I can’t think of a more noble ambition…
©Stephen Tanham 2023
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
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