Many years ago, one day, out of the blue, I suddenly awakened to the world of opposites, of dualism. I had comfortably existed as an undifferentiated part of the universe, without any special awareness of the nature of the universe, or my part in it. Either I was an extension of the universe, or the universe was an extension of me. I was part and parcel of Jung’s oroboros, the womb of the world. A prelogical experience of the primitive state of mind. Like a baby in the mother’s womb, safe, secure, undifferentiated, a mindless experience of being one with the symbolic mother.
And then, one fine day, there I was, rudely thrown out of the secure confines of this undifferentiated existence. I am still not sure what it was that caused it. Perhaps my meditative practice, perhaps my age, perhaps my education, or perhaps some combination of all these. I remember being ungrounded, and completely disoriented with the experience for several months. In psychoanalytic therapy at the time with Dr Shaffer, I remember telling him that it felt as if the ground had been pulled off from under my feet, and the sky did not exist, as if the north and south were no longer the extremes, and neither were the east and the west. The space around me stretched out boundlessly into infinity. Everything appeared limitless. I could not even find any limits to my reasons, or my mind. Right and wrong became meaningless terms, as did past and present, justice and injustice. these expressions seemed so hollow, devoid of any inherentmeaning. I felt I existed in a limitless universe, where nothing really was as it had previously seemed to me. I could intuitively feel it was meant to be a positive experience, a growth, but at the time, it was really, really disorienting as well.
Human beings are crafted by, and survive within the dualistic universe. We are created by two, and two becomes a part and parcel of our existence. So oblivious are we to this inherent dualism of human existence, that we tend not even to notice it. But there is one, and there is two. The rest does not exist, it is an illusion. The numbering system itself is redundant, because the binary is capable of defining the entire mathematics. The decimal system is actually constructed to simplify logic. To simplify our understanding, lets agree that the entire structure, length, breadth, and weight of mathematics rests on the numbers zero and one. (As anyone who works with circuit board and silicon chips will tell you, everything electronic rests on “yes” and “no”, “true” and “false”, is and is not, presence and absence [take your pick]). We exist, or we do not. We mate, or we do not. We reproduce, or we do not. And this repeats overand over again. This phenomenon can be seen repeated at all levels – from the life of quantum strings, electrons, or humans. So the universe presents itself in ones and twos. One represents unity, and uniting, and two represents separation, diversity, cleavage, dissociation. (Interestingly enough, Buddha reduced human existance to two as well – craving being symbolic of unity, merger, turning towards something, and aversion being symbolic of duality, division, turning away from something).
We believe there is day, and the opposite of that is night. We believe humans are good, or evil. Just or unjust. divine or human. White or black. There’s light, or there is darkness. Hot or cold. Happy or sad, and so on and on and on. The wiser among us know that there are various shades of grey, and that happiness and sadness is not digital. One can exist in between the continuum. But wherever one exists, he or she is surrounded by opposites in everything that one encounters. We acknowledge the extremes in the opposites, and the in-between. The middle path, as Buddha posited, is preferred. Moderation is wise. But that middle path is bound by a limit on either side, an extremity.
But what if those extremes fall away, what then ? We would get a glimpse of what lies beyond. Or at least we would intuitively feel that there was something beyond the extremes. But human minds are incapable of such imaginations because we are born *within* the dualism. We are *of* the dualistic world. We are not created out of nothing, we are born from two, birthed by the other, we *separate* from our mothers, and enter into the world as individuals. The one of the womb, becomes two. Years later, we drop the mother, and go along as individuals, only to unite with a partner to become two, till we become one again. No matter what, we cannot go beyond the two. That is our limit. No matter what, we cannot see beyond the light spectrum, even though the universe is full of other forms of energy frequencies. What *would* a world look like if we could see ALL the frequencies of energy ? I guess we cannot even imagine such a world. We can only imagine what lies within the confined limits that are recognized by our anatomy, and the praphenalia that is provided to us by virtue of our existence – our bodies. Our imagination does not go beyond the limits imposed upon us by our bodies. Perhaps our bodies will evolve, but such rate of evolution, as everyone knows, slooooow. Hot/cold, and temperate. Those are the milits we are confined to. If we tried to go beyond, I guess we would come up with the word “hotter”, or “colder” or even “hottest”…but those words themselves impose limits. What can we perceive beyond “hottest” ? What is it that lies beyond the hottest, and the coldest ? Such a reality is unimaginable. But what we *can* imagine, and deduce from encountering these limitations, is that the word “hot” or “hottest” are constructed. They are not innate. They dont’ represent universal truth. They are representative of the limitations of human existance. The words embody and establish our ignorance, and the encumberour capabilitis with limits.
Jaques Lacan the famous French philosopher/psychologist, has famously stated that human psyche is shaped like a language. Language is a constructed phenomenon. It uses symbols and signifiers, that point to the signified. There is a famous expression : “The finger wagging at the moon is not the moon.” Words are like the finger that points (signifies) at something. If there is no word, nothing is pointed out. Language thus provides us with a way of differentiation. If there was no language, we would not be able to differentiate ourself from the universe. And the evolution of the language therefore represents the evolution of man. Or vice versa ? Who cares – as long as there is evolution. Perhaps it goes hand in hand. And the struggle we face is due to the fact that no language is evolved enough to take us beyond the “hottest”. What lies beyond the word “hottest” is unspoken. There is no word to decreibe it. So essentially, for human psyche it does not exist. Therefore the psyche is not structured to see it, or experience what lies beyond the word “hottest”. We hit a barrier that prevents us from discriminating and differentiating ourselves further, and prevents us from nderstanding anything beyond “hottest”.
In so many medieval Indian languages, there is no corresponding word for “vagina”. There is a word for womb, but no word for vagina. In ancient India, sanskrit was the spoken language. And Kamasutra recognized and celebrated women’s sexuality. However, with the Moghal invasions, and the subsequent represssion of women’s sexuality, the word “vagina” slowly became extinct from the spoken language, except as an insult. The consequence of such traversity of language was that women’s sexuality became a taboo subject, a subject that has been non existant in Indian culture for centuries. If spoken at all, it is with derision and distaste. Woman, as a sexual person, is harassed to no end in India till this date. Woman as a mother is worshipped. Thus, language has shaped our society, devalued sexuality, and forced woman to become procreators. It has shaped women’s rights, women’s mental as well as physical health. With the advent of English as a language with words that celebrate women’s sexuality, Indian women are now begining to find their rightful place in the sexual world. The women’s sexual revolution has just begun in India and provides an excellen example of how a language shapes the psyche of human beings.
What would it be like to transcend beyond the duality of sex, or no sex, perversity or ascetism ? Jung talks about the transcendent function, but such a function mediates and brings about the unity/reconciliation of the opposites. It is not truly transcendent. It does not go “beyond” the extremes, to examine what lies after the meaning of the term “hottest” has been exhausted. It simply helps the psyche find a reconciliation between “hot” and “cold” so to say….a meeting of the unconscious and conscious mind.
I have only questions. No answers. What I experienced, was the disintegration of the extremes. What lay beyond those extremes, I could not verbalise, as language is not evolved enough. The word that comes closest to my experience is “void”…there was a void beyond the extremes. But the experience of the void could be because my mind, or body were incapable of experiencing the “real thing” that lay beyond. Hence the experience of “nothingness”. Perhaps that is the zone of neti neti (not this, not this), the function of negation. I have since created more flexible extremes to help me navigate the world becasue it was impossible to live in a world without limits, without accepting andembracing and becoming a part of two extremes. But such extremes, and such dualism is situational, and self constructed, and can be adjusted situationally by choice. The extremes are self constructed, and therefore flexible, movable, and not rigid, certain, and permanent. I grew from the knowledge about the existence of the beyond, even if my human body prevented me from experiencing the true nature of that beyond.
The term Uroboros or Oroboros actually refers to the ancient, prelogical symbol of a serpent eating its tail. It has been used sice antiquity, in various civilizations including Greek, Egyptian, Nordic cultures. The alchemists used it to signify the ending of human sufferings embodied in the circle of life and death. Jung said thefollowing about it :
“The Ouroboros has been said to have a meaning of infinity or wholeness. In the age-old image of the Ouroboros lies the thought of devouring oneself and turning oneself into a circulatory process, for it was clear to the more astute alchemists that the prima materia of the art was man himself. The Ouroboros is a dramatic symbol for the integration and assimilation of the opposite, i.e. of the shadow. This ‘feed-back’ process is at the same time a symbol of immortality, since it is said of the Ouroboros that he slays himself and brings himself to life, fertilizes himself and gives birth to himself. He symbolizes the One, who proceeds from the clash of opposites, and he therefore constitutes the secret of the prima materia which […] unquestionably stems from man’s unconscious.”
In most cultures, the serpent devouring its own tail, represents the cyclical nature of existence, and of the universe. I remember asking my physics professor once “what would I see if I could see thru space into eternity?” and his response was “your gaze would circle back and you’d see the backside of your head”. That truth feels absolutely unmaginable. I expected to see distant galaxies, and limitlessness of the universe. I expected to see the edge of the universe as it was expanding dynamically. Ah, but I now know that the edge of the universe too represents a limit. The truly limitless is unimaginable. And the symbol of the serpent, an archetype of the psyche, is a signifier that ultimately points back at (signfies) me.
The ponderings take me back to the teachings in Bhagvad Gita, where Lord Krishna opens his mouth, and Arjuna can see the entire universe within him. Perhaps each one of us is a complete universe in itself. Perhaps the opposites, and the inherent dualism creates a sense of space outside of us. A space that really doesn’t exist outside of us. What exists is unknown. But if the opposites fell away, perhaps ultimately everything would point back at us. For according to Advaita, each one of us is the creator, the created, and the creation itself.
Perhaps such ultimate transcendence lies beyond *human* existence. I often think if human existence actually confines us to the realm defined by the opposites, would that yoke be lifted in our death ? What happens when we die ? Does the spirit drop these limits and soar in the limitless world ?I struggle to imagine such a world, and the nature of my existance in it. A part that is simultaneously united, as well as differentiated with the universe. A world where past present future co-exist, where existence deamands self awareness and comprehension of truth, the real truth, the ultimate truth…………? Perhaps the expression oneness is part of such a universe, where each one of us, is a part of the other. What would such a universe be like ?