Reality is the opposition between two forces which compliment each other to create a unified whole. Understanding the nature of the interplay between the two forces and learning to accept the wholeness they create is a crucial step in your path towards true understanding and peace.
Introducing The Two Forces
The two opposite forces that combine to create reality pervade every aspect of it. Because of this, the two forces have many names. Some of these include:
Good vs. Evil,
Yin vs. Yang,
Masculine vs. Feminine,
Day vs. Night,
Hot vs. Cold, etc.
The key characteristic that spans all of the infinite number of names for the two forces is that they are defined in opposition to each other. Good cannot exist without evil. Evil cannot exist without good. Neither fundamentally has any meaning without the other.
In Tai Chi, we mimic this oppositional cycle with the breath. The breath goes in; the breathe goes out. Together they create a wholeness which we call you being able to breathe. If we could only breathe in one direction (only inwards or only outwards), nothing would work properly and our bodies would immediately break down and die. That's how fundamental this binary force is.
In electricity, the way AC power works is by constantly alternating between positive charge and negative charge to create a stable whole which provides electricity to you. The earlier design before AC was called DC and it only had one charge rather than two. Not surprisingly, DC power proved to be an inferior design because it could not move energy over great distances, a feature which is easily possible with AC power. Perhaps AC power works better than DC power because it's structure is more consistent with the very structure of reality in the first place.
The Fractal Nature of the Two Forces
A fractal is a natural configuration where an item has a similar appearance at drastically different scales. The classic example is a chart for a stock stock in a stock market. The chart for a stock looks very similar whether you are looking at years of time at once, days at once, or even zoomed in so much that you see every second at once. If you just looked at a stock chart with no labels on its axis, you would have no idea if you were looking at a longer timeframe or a shorter one. So "fractal" means having similar characteristics at vastly different scales. Another classic example is the shape of a shoreline. The shore will have a similar, jagged shape at all time-scales.
Let's look at yoga for another illustration of how the fractal nature of reality works and how that ties in with the two forces. One of the key positions in yoga is called downward dog. If you're taking a really intense, yang-style yoga class like Vinyasa or Bikram, downward dog is a resting (yin) position. Conversely, if you're taking a relaxing sort of yoga class like Yin Yoga or Restorative Yoga, downward dog is the most intense (yang) position. So downward dog can be either yin or yang depending on the overall context. The same is true for all of reality.
We can observe this fractal characteristic of the energy in all of the different versions of it. Someone who is typically dominant becomes submissive when confronted by someone with much more dominance. Inside of a shadow, some parts can be darker and some parts lighter. Out of all the rich people, some are still poor compared to their super-rich counterparts. So the point is that nothing is one side of the two forces. Everything is both of the forces and meaning is determined by the specific overall context.
How the Yin Yang Symbol Helps Us Understand the Two Forces
The Yin Yang symbol is a simple way of conveying this complex concept of the dualistic nature of reality and how it forms a cohesive whole. The Yin Yang symbol is comprised of two halves, typically depicted as black and white, but depicted here as night and day:
The darker side is on top because it represents dominance. The bottom side represents submission. Both sides have an odd shape which makes it highly intriguing that they fit together so perfectly.
The shape also suggests movement around a circular axis. Let's travel along the outside circle of the symbol, starting at the left side where the moon is (9:00 position on a clock) and moving clockwise from there. Imagine at each point along the circle, a small radius from the center moving out to the point where we are in the circle. At each point in the circle, the radius will be a different combination of the two energies.
Starting on the left portion of the circle, the radius is almost totally dark with only the smallest spec of light, envisioned here as a moon but often envisioned as a white dot. This is the moment of maximum darkness. Yet even in the darkest time, there is still the spec of light.
Moving upward along the circle, with each tiny movement there is less night and more day. We reach an inflection point at the midnight clock position where the two forces are even. We then continue to move clockwise to the right along the circle. The amount of day keeps increasing and the amount of night keeps decreasing (ie. the sunrise and the morning period of a day).
Once we reach the farthest point on the right side of the circle, we have reached maximum daytime. However, even in the moment of maximum light, there is darkness. This is typically depicted as a black dot. The picture we're using is slightly inaccurate because it's showing a sun when it should really be showing a black hole right there. The point is that there is no moment of pure yin or pure yang. Good implies bad and bad implies good (see the Story of Luck for more on this).
As we continue along the bottom half of the circle, the process repeats but in mirror opposite. Each clockwise movement results in less light and more dark (ie. evening and sunset) until we reach our starting point, the moment of maximum darkness. So we can think of a trip around the circle as one complete cycle: one day, maybe one year, maybe one lifetime.
Two Becomes Four
Interestingly, there is another path from our starting point on the left to the opposite side of the circle on the right. This path goes from left to right, through the circle rather than around it. Notice the shape of that pathway is identical to a wave in trigonometry:
This is actually not totally surprising because trigonometry is the mathematics of circles. Anyway, this wave is significant because reality is physically constructed of waves: sound waves, light waves, etc. So this shape mirrors the shape of reality's physical building blocks.
Now let's think about what happens during the shifting from one side of the circle to the other, which we are going to describe also as movement along the wave pictured above. Let's say the beginning point is the season of fall (the transition between summer to winter). From the starting point, the line goes down and down, getting colder in this example, until we reach the coldest part of the year (the middle of winter), represented here as -1. From -1, the days start getting warmer and warmer until we reach zero, the transition from cold to hot, known as spring. From zero, the days get warmer and warmer until we reach the time of maximum heat, which is the middle of summer. Summer is represented here as the number 1 and the highest point on the wave. Of course, as we move from there, the days start getting colder until we reach the x-axis again and return to our point of origin, the fall. The cycle repeats over and over again forever. We have just described the seasons. Electricity looks the same, moving from positive clarity to negative polarity. Sound waves look like this, as do light waves. This is our reality.
So the wave shown in the middle of the yin and yang symbol is a demonstration of the structure of reality, which is primarily in the shape of a wave. All waves are produced by alternating between the two forces. The only thing that really exists is the two forces and the wholeness they create. All of reality is the fractal interplay between the two forces. It is this complexity, this amazing beauty, that sometimes fills us with awe when we behold it.
In evaluating the Yin Yang symbol, we have primarily focused on repetition and circularity, which are key aspects of reality, However, because the arrow of time moves in only one direction, from the past to the future (at least in our perception of it), there is a forward momentum aspect of reality as well. We can understand this most easily via Hegel's dialectic.
The dialectic is simple. First there is a thesis, which can be any claim or statement. Later, resistance will form to the original claim, which will be rejected in favor of its opposite, the anti-thesis. So the two forces naturally oppose each other, but they don't create a point of stability. Instead, they naturally progress to a third stage, which in Hegel's dialectic is called the synthesis. The synthesis incorporates both the thesis and the antithesis, even though they both originally appeared to be totally incompatible. This synthesis is now its own new thesis and the process repeats in an endless loop. It is this progression from thesis to antithesis and then from antithesis to synthesis that results in things like our technology evolving over time to become more and more powerful. Through a looping mechanism it creates forward momentum which is perceived as linear. This is also perhaps the reason why antagonism exists in the first place, to move forward towards a new synthesis.
How It All Ties Together
The two forces are the fundamental building blocks of existence. We have shown how the two forces creates circles, waves, and lines. We have examined how every instance of seeming opposition actually results in a wholeness. Even you yourself are made up of the two forces and are connected to all other instances of the two forces. It is exploring this connection between ourselves and everything else that allows us to start understanding ourselves as a key component in an infinitely complex and beautiful system.
We hope this introduction into the core nature of reality has been helpful to you! We're happy to answer any questions which you may have here.