Tuesday, September 6, 2011
Life Is Rhythm
LIFE IS RHYTHM
Our basic experience of polarity is through breathing. Here we can study the laws of polarity, laws which can then be extended to the entire universe. Remember: as above, so below. When we breath in there follows, with absolute certainty, a breathing out. And this breathing out is followed, with equal certainty, by another breathing in. The continual alternation between the two poles produces a rhythm.
Rhythm is the basic matrix of all life. If rhythm is destroyed, life is destroyed. Rhythm always involves two poles. It is therefore a process of “both … and” rather than “either … or”. If you refuse to breathe out you cannot breathe in again, and vice versa, for for each pole exists by virtue of the other pole. If I do away with one, the other disappears. This may seem obvious to everyone in the case of breathing, but in all other spheres it is overlooked.
As long as human beings, in their attitude and outlook, take up a position of being “for” one thing and “against” another thing they destroy unities. Human beings are for health and against illness, but they fail to understand that health and and illness are, as a polarity, conditional upon one another. Health derives its existence from illness. Health can only arise through illness. Thus all preventive medicine is an illusion.
Anyone who has understood the law of polarity knows that every goal can only be reached via its opposite pole and not via the direct way which most people vainly try to follow. If you want to throw a stone as far as possible you do not stretch as far forward as possible; on the contrary, you lean back as far as you can in the opposite direction. The gardener does not fertilize his roses with fragrant perfume so that they smell good the following year; rather he fertilizes them with stinking manure which nevertheless enables them to grow sweet-smelling blossoms. Thus the Tibetan Book of the Dead teaches “He who has not learnt to die cannot learn to live”. Similarly Christ teaches that only through death can man attain to life. All traditions of wisdom teach that man can only be free by submitting himself to universal law. Yet human beings will not grasp this law. Everywhere they seek the direct way and do not even learn much from their failures.
Every position for or against something is a fixation. Life is rhythm and therefore movement. “Everything flows” says Heraclitus. Fixation hinders movement and is therefore inimical to life. Every time that someone adopts a fixed opinion or view, on whatever subject, he hinders development. If we were to analyze ourselves honestly we would realize that we are made up almost entirely of such fixations. Nothing seems to be so difficult to a human being as to change his or her opinion.
There is an old technique in the esoteric schools which depends on systematically reversing all opinions and attitudes. I have described this technique in my book Voices from Other Lives. It consists in taking steadfastly the opposite view to every opinion one has held up till then, until the point is reached when the poles have equal weight. That is the moment when one is released from polarity, and from the perspective of a higher, third point, begins to see polarity as a totality.
Every human utterance can express only one aspect of the truth. In order to describe the whole truth one always needs the opposite pole as well. Thus every statement about the truth is a paradox. Unambiguous statements about reality do not exist in human language. An utterance that lacks the element of paradox in incomplete and reflects only a fragment of truth. Hence the downfall of all scientific efforts to produce statements that are completely clear and free of contradiction. People have been all too hasty in scorning the contradictory formulations of ancient teachings such as those of the Tao Te King or the alchemists.
The turning point in science came with research into light. There were two contradictory theories about the nature of light rays: the wave theory and the particle theory. Each theory apparently excluded the other. If light consisted of waves it could not consist of particles, and vice versa. Either … or. In the meantime, however, it has been discovered that this either... or was based on a false formulation of the question. Light is both waves and particles. The fact that a phenomenon can simultaneously take two such apparently contradictory forms is something that is beyond normal human understanding, but nevertheless true. Thus these two aspects of the nature of light, the wave aspect and the particle aspect, can only be proved by using a different experimental framework in each case; for human beings can understand polarities only in sequence and not simultaneously. We should always keep in mind the dual nature of light when we are thinking about philosophical problems.
For example: throughout history we have been passionately debating the question “Is life predetermined, or do we have free will?” Here again we fail to recognize that the question is wrongly framed. The truth will elude us until we can put aside this either... or and realize that man's life is both predetermined and totally free.
From the law of polarity it follows that everything which exists has the right to exist. Within a cosmos that functions according to laws, we can never say of anything that it “ought not to exist”. It is only human beings who have divided the world into things that should exist and other things that should not. In taking this attitude, moreover, we are setting ourselves against reality. Every manifestation has its purpose, otherwise it could never come into being in the first place. Anyone who does not accept this must fall back on the concept of chance occurrence.
When a person is against something, this usually means that, by the same token, he or she is “for” the opposite. Thus people are for peace and against war, for the good and against the bad. They overlook the fact that all these concepts are pairs, and each pair forms an inseparable unity which no human being can put asunder. If I refuse to breathe out I can no longer breathe in. If I take away the negative pole of a magnet the positive pole disappears as well. In the same way peace determines war, good enforces bad, and bad fertilizes good. Thus Mephistopheles declares in Goethe's Faust: “I am a part of that power which always wills the bad and always works the good”.
These consideration are in no way a justification for people to act in an arbitrary manner but only a reminder that they should guard against the notion of opposites when they are looking at the world of manifestation. Certainly we should make a distinction between that which has already manifested itself and that which has not yet become reality. If a murder has taken place it is a part of reality and has its own reason and meaning, otherwise it would not have happened. It makes no sense to refuse to accept the murder that has happened, unless we want to set ourselves against the universal order. But this does not mean that we should judge the murder as right and good, let alone commit one ourselves.
To acknowledge reality merely means to acknowledge the right of all things to exist. If we set ourselves against reality we do not alter anything objectively. Every time we push against reality we engender an apparently opposite push which in turn has its effects on us. The greater part of human suffering arises from our own opposition to the circumstances of manifest reality.
All things are in themselves of neutral merit. It is only our attitude which creates out of them the contrasting categories of joy or suffering. Thus loneliness is neither nor bad, neither pleasant nor unpleasant. One person will experience loneliness as torment, while another will see it as a welcome precondition for contemplating and taking stock of oneself. For one person possessions are the highest object of his endeavours, for another they are cumbersome ballast. It is never the circumstances themselves which affect our state of mind but only our attitude towards the circumstances.