Cloudy and Clear

Which are the two ways the Yellow River can run, of course—and when it runs as one when it should be the other, it's an omen that the Mandate of Heaven has been lost.

Anyway, I read Dr. Thursday's thing about right and left, over on the Chesterton Society blog(g), and there's a quote from The Man Who Was Thursday, where the anarchist guy says they've abolished right and wrong, and Syme says he wishes they'd abolish left and right, since he has a lot more trouble with that. But it got me thinking about the two kinds of duality. Strap in, kids, I'm gonna be playing around with Buddhism and Taoism in Thomistic terms.

The first, the kind that Buddhism denies, is duality of negation—A and not-A. Now, they're not really opposite, inasmuch as not-A is the same thing as "all the rest of the universe, except A", whereas A is A (even Ayn Rand knows that, that's how basic it is). Buddhism denies it because, of course, "not-A" as such has no existence, it's just a privation; we merely hypostasize it for the sake of thought. And, of course, to a Buddhist, thought is just a delusion, since there's no "you" to do the thinking. Non-duality follows from the teaching of the non-soul. Which is why it's always funny to me when people say Buddhism's spiritual (it denies spirits), or that they worship themselves (they don't believe they've got selves).

The other kind of duality is the kind Taoism is based on, that of polarity. It includes the sexes and the directions, along with electric charges and a whole passle of other pairings. It's not a privation; north is not the lack of southerliness and female is not the lack of masculinity (sex differentiation may involve a lack—the male lacks part of one chromosome, in mammals, while the female lacks part in birds—but the sexes themselves are complementary...which is essentially what Aquinas was saying in Summa Theologica, Part 1, Q. 92, Reply Objection 1, except going from Aristotle's science which thought the female arose from a lack, not the male).

Now, oddly enough, a lot of people—including the Taoists—identify "good and bad" as a yin-yang pair, which is where that whole "balance of good and evil" nonsense comes from, à la Dragonlance. Actually, though, if you really examine Taoism, you'll notice that, to them, "good" means balance, and "evil" means imbalance—because evil is privation of a good. The "balance of good and evil" is the error the Manicheans made, and though the Chinese philosophers might've occasionally said the same thing (possibly in desperation for more yin-yang pairs), they never actually mistook the concept like that.

That second duality is very important in many of the world's philosophies; it's a cornerstone of Egyptian, Aztec, and Navajo thought, along with Chinese. Yes, that's right, Navajo thought—they're basically Taoists (their traditional homeland is protected by a barrier anchored on the four directions by guardian gods, just like Kyoto is). Everything in Navajo thought, from weather to colors to people, is divided into yin and yang, simply called "male" and "female". That's what it means when, in reference to the Hero Twins, it's said that Born for Water is the female twin and Monster Slayer is the male (they're actually both boys)—as the younger brother, Born for Water is, of course, yin to his elder brother.

The Sioux, incidentally, are Platonic hyper-realists; weird, huh?

Being and non-being—A and not-A—are more important to Western and Indian thought (though then again Indian thought's a lot more like Greco-Roman thought than most people realize—the fact Indian men's traditional garment is a toga should've been a clue there, really). Aristotle, of course, but also Plato and the Hindus, and of course the Buddhists, who, however, deduce odd things from their denial of formal parts (that's what the non-soul really means). Specifically, see, Buddhists believe that, since not-A, non-being, is just something like a convention, necessary for the mind of an illusory observer, the only reality is "A", the Dharmakaya—identical to Plato's Monad and, to Thomists, ha-Shem, ha-Kadosh Yisrael. You know how people say Buddhism's atheist? Yeah, not in Western terms; they're actually a-everything-other-than-God (as Western religion means the term)-ists. What, you didn't think ha-Shem was a deva, did you?

PS. You wanna know something fun? I can express most of science in Taoist terms—supersymmetry, electric charge, the flavors of quark, etc. For example, the electric light. Very simply, you cause a qi imbalance in something made of the element metal; as the yin qi moves through something made either of wood (cotton filament) or metal (halogen or mercury), it, too, is imbalanced. And so, to restore its balance, it exerts a yang force—by lighting up.

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