The Two Basic Ways of Meeting Life's Confrontations - 3
The Yin Way
The Yin type of response to what life brings is essentially receptive and adaptive. It is archetypally associated with the feminine attitude and character. In a culture that upholds the Yin ideal, philosophers and wise men tend to consider the universe as an immense network of relationships linking and integrating a multitude of centers of consciousness and activity into a dynamic fullness (or pleroma) of being reflecting a transcendent and ineffable "Unity" that can only be symbolized by inadequate names or concepts such as the Absolute, Space, an infinite Ocean of potentiality, or in religious terms, by God or the Godhead. While the Yang type of philosophy leads to a pluralistic, personalistic, and atomistic image of the universe, the Yin type is essentially holistic, seeing component parts of a cosmic Whole in every manifestation of a universal "ocean" of life.
A Yin type of person is essentially characterized by its acceptance of what "is", and by a willingness to experience every aspect of the ever-unfolding process of change. Such a person is thus free to meet whatever this process
brings, and adapt to every new situation. A Yin type of person is primarily concerned with the relationship between the entities or forces involved in a meeting, rather than with what this meeting will do to his or her self or ego, because the person seeks to understand what function this relationship is meant to perform within a larger frame of reference — a family or community, a nation and its culture, mankind and the whole Earth, and ultimately the process of evolution of the cosmos.
Relationship and meeting are words that describe the coming together (convergence, commerce, or communion) of two or more spheres of consciousness and activity — two entities or persons — within a particular area of
space; and space here may mean either the external space of a meeting of physical bodies or the internal space of the mind in which images and ideas are associated or in which they clash and refuse integration. Any meeting, in either kind of space, produces a "situation". The Yin type of person tends to be focused upon the total situation, the meaning of which person tries to understand rather than to be concerned with his or her own reactions and those of the other parties to the meeting. Any event is seen as a "meeting". For example, if a person walking in a storm is struck by a falling branch, the happening would be interpreted as the meeting of the person and the tree. If attacked on a deserted street by a drug-addict in desperate need of money, this too is to be understood as a meeting. The respectable citizen and his attacker are performers in a situation for which, in different ways, both are responsible; the entire society is also responsible for the state of affairs which produced social conditions which gives this meeting its character.
Whatever the situation is — a boxing match, a Judo contest, a love affair, or baby-sitting with an aggressive child — the Yin-manifesting individual will not react to it instinctively or indignantly by trying to oppose superior force in an emotional outburst of violence and anger which might lead the attacker to use still greater violence. He or she will try to "flow with" the situation, to adapt to what it implies. He or she will use "intelligence", and
intelligence is essentially the capacity to adapt to ever-changing types of situations.
To adapt is, first of all, to accept and not to resist the change. It is, in the deepest sense, to try to understand the meaning of the happening. Why did the meeting occur between the attacker and the attacked? Why does the person who built a home near a river known to have flooded often find himself washed by the torrential waters amid the wreckage of his home? Why?
The search for meaning may come only after the experience is lived through, but the immediate reaction of the Yin-motivated individual is nevertheless one of essential acceptance of the meeting with whatever produced the crucial or painful change. I repeat that to such an individual the relationship between the experiencing self and the tormenting or disturbing factor — whether it be "natural" or the result of personal enmity or social stress — is the essential element to be concerned with. And it may be a very pleasant meeting, love at "first sight", or a deeply moving experience to which one normally would attach the qualificative "spiritual". In all cases, the experience is a meeting, even if it be the meeting of two biological or psychic or other (but equally "internal") processes. The Yin-ideal of response to such a meeting is no longer "mastery" but sagesse (a French word that has deeper implications than "wisdom").
The Sage is not a "master" in the Yang sense of the term; for the very word master implies slave as a referent — just as to be a mother implies having a child. The Sage uses control only in the sense of being in control of the aggressive and/or rebellious tendencies of human nature within his or her biopsychic organism, especially when this human nature has produced the solid, unyielding, and rigidly self-centered entity we call "ego". The Sage does not seek to exert superior force upon an attacking power; he does not live in a world where every change and event are interpreted as referring to a force-against-force situation — the world in which our modern Western science and technology exclusively operates. In that world even man's most superior mind and willpower is in the end always defeated. The Sage is not defeated because he seeks no victory. He does not fail because he courts no success and has no ambitions for achievement.
While the simple, natural, and instinctual type of human being displays a primitive and unconscious kind of sagesse in dealing with crises, he usually can do so only within a particular and well-defined set of situations. He
is attached to the soil of the land of his birth, to his cultural ways of feeling and reacting, and to his personifications of natural energies as gods to be placated and worshipped. The Sage is totally unattached to anything in particular. He or she allows all life, all events, all human relationships to pass through his or her consciousness — indeed through the whole of his or her being at all levels of activity. The consciousness of the Sage could almost be called a "sieve", for the vast flow of life's experiences pass through it; but the sieve has form, an individual form. It is a structured mind. What flows through it acquires meaning. This is the supreme mystery of la sagesse. It gives a meaning to everything that flows through the unresisting, yet totally focused, consciousness.
In this sense only can it be said that the experiencer and the experience "are one". The instinctual and intellectual reactions we call resistance vanish; where resistance was, meaning now arises: resistance is transmuted into
meaning. In the same sense, one can describe an "Avatar" as a field of activity through which cosmic or spiritual motion operates without any resistance. What in any human being is a subtle or crude form of resistance is, in the Avatar, meaning. The Act, the Actor, and the Meaning of the Act merge into a composite mystery that is both act and consciousness — at whatever level the action occurs — for it may be biological or cosmic activity. We may call it "constructive" or "destructive", but the name one gives simply reveals the specific character of the namer's resistance to universal Motion — his or her objectivity, and thus, separateness from the Act.
Where the Sage is, motion occurs. It is not even "spontaneous" because spontaneity etymologically refers to what is "one's own". In the Sage, there is no longer any owner and only a release of dynamism which is consciousness at the center of the release. This center is the Sage; but it is not a "he" or "she"; it is simply the centrality of the motion, the "tone" that is one of a myriad of overtones of the cosmic Fundamental of the field of activity to which the action refers. Quantitatively speaking, the existential field may be small, or an immense one of the planetary (or even galactic) scope. But quantity does not matter — or rather, quantity is materiality. At all levels (even at cosmic levels), the essential character of matter is resistance.
The Sage does not go after what we call knowledge, because, as I have already stated, knowledge is a function of resistance. In knowledge, something separates itself from its acts in order to analyze them objectively. But in doing this, what has become the object of knowledge is inevitably colored and affected by the subject (the mind, the ego) which immobilized it as an external and separate entity. In turn, the subject is likewise given a specious yet very definite character of objectivity by the very fact that as the one "flow" of existence became arrested — thus resisted against — the observer and the observed were created as two distinct, objective entities.
Knowledge freezes the flow of universal Duration into moments that thereby acquire a particular character. They become particularities of what then becomes "time". Time, in this sense, is a quantitative, measurable factor which attaches itself to the Actor and Knower, for whom every experience becomes particularized because he or she has also become a "singularity" in the universal whole. The Actor glorifies these time-particularities ("moments") into a mysterious, seemingly transcendent Now. But Now — at least as this now fashionable term is being used — implies a resistance to change.
The particularity (or singularity) can be expanded by the mind into a generality, but this hardly modifies its character; a small, limited resistance has become broadened into a class of resistances. Then, this type of resistance is related to a more or less large group (or set) of resisters. It no longer applies to one person, but to a psychological type, a nation, or a biological species.
True, "wisdom", in contrast, is not based on an absolute separation between the experiencer and the experienced object, force, or entity. It brings the meeting to the state of meaning — a meaning which strictly refers to a particular situation and does not allow itself to be turned into a standardized and classified form of knowledge: the knowledge of what should be done by anyone whenever a situation appearing to have the same character occurs.
For the Sage, there is no "whenever" and no truly valid categories of events, because every situation is a unique, unrepeatable meeting once it is referred to the universe as a whole within which it occurs; and as I have already
pointed out, the universe never repeats itself. Its cycles are spirals, not circles; and in a still deeper, more transcendent sense, one should not speak of recurrence, because there are no fixed, rigid "entities" to which anything happens. There is no meeting between self and not-self, because there is no separatable self, but only the one ultimate principle of Selfhood, SPACE, always in motion, yet never really changing. SPACE does not really change because its Motion is harmonic, ever-balanced; every movement is at once, timelessly, compensated for by another complementary movement.
The ideal of the Sage I have pictured may seem far beyond the reach of all but a very few human beings, but so is the ideal of the omnipotent and all-knowing Master. Both ideals are, like the two cosmic polarities of universal existence, Yin and Yang, unattainable in their absolutely pure states. They are ideals, not existential realities; yet they point to states of being, consciousness, and activity which may have an attractive and indeed compelling power, if an individual person has reached a stage in his or her evolution at which a deep-seated crisis demands an inner change of direction and a repolarization of the capacity for action and the mobilizing central will. Such a crisis may have only an individual character, but it may also occur in terms of collective, cultural, or political situations. It may refer to a seemingly isolated, even accidental event — as being attacked on a city street — but the situation may also be the end result of a long series of failures to act or of actions performed in a state of egocentric ambition, weakness of character, or attachment to obsolescent values and ideals, whether by an individual or a tribe, kingdom, or nation.
The Yin approach to a physical situation involving a sudden confrontation with a hostile force or person is the foundation of various Asiatic disciplines, often referred to as "martial arts" yet having a much broader kind of relevance to interpersonal meetings in which one is faced by aggression, either moral or physical, mental or muscular. These disciplines are based on the principle of non-resistance and self-effacement formulated in Lao Tze's Tao Teh Ching. They teach the student to oppose "space" (emptiness) to an external act directed against him. Becoming sharply aware of the physical place toward which this act is aimed, the student swiftly moves away from it, and the attack, finding only empty space, extends itself into a "nothing" that forces the attacker into an over-extended and out-of-balanced position. The energy of the attack is used, as it were, to suck the attacker into a void where his strength becomes the power that defeats him and makes him fall.
Such a technique is more than mere technique, for it implies a basic reversal in the usual polarity of human consciousness. It does not refer to some procedure to be memorized by the mind after an analysis of the situation; it has to be an instantaneous and unself-conscious reaction in which the motive of the aggressive act one faces is negated. One does not resist the act, one accepts it and turns it against the attacker by refusing to be involved in it — thus by opposing to it only an inner void of response, by not being there (physically and/or morally and psychically) at the place the attack is aimed.
The principle of "not-being-there" when confronted with violence so that the violence has no object to meet and thus to absorb or react to thrust, is what Gandhi meant by ahimsa, non-resistance and non-violence. This is the Yin principle to which the much misunderstood and presumably mistranslated words of Christ refer in the Gospel: "Agree with thine enemies." The word "agree" should be understood to mean "do not use force against the force of the enemy and refuse to be the object of an aggression by "not being there" where the aggressor expects you to stand.
An aggressor bent on attack will naturally aim at the point where a person is weak or unprotected. In such a situation, a Yang type of individual will rush reinforcements to meet the attack by opposing force to force. From the Yin point of view, this is senseless or at least exhausting; the consciousness becomes involved in the state of violence, and a long series of actions and reactions follow. What one should do is to refuse to be identified with that state of violence and counter hate with love, by opposing only space and emptiness (or egolessness) to the aggressive movement; thus, "not being there" where the attacker expects a resistance to his attack. "Not being there" may be physically impossible; but it is always spiritually possible, in the sense that a person being attacked may not be active in the situation as an ego. Even if the physical body suffers, the consciousness remains unaffected, secure in its own center and intensely aware.
The Sage meets such a type of situation according to the wholeness of what it implies. If he is weak, he accepts his weakness as he accepts the strength of the adversary. He understands the causes of this weakness and this strength, and is ready to let the energy involved in these causes exhaust itself. He transmutes what in him could have been resistance into meaning and understanding. He grows in wisdom through non-resistance against the karma of his past. By consciously allowing the dynamism of life — which is unceasing change-to flow through his consciousness and whole being, he is able to use this power of transformation as his own; yet, it is far more than "his own", for he possesses nothing except the ability to centralize in consciousness and total understanding whatever is — all there is, without refusal and without exception — even the deepest darkness. He can calmly face this darkness, because he is unshakably centered in light. The only way to oppose darkness is to be more light. The vaster the space the consciousness illumines, the more it can afford to allow impacts of dark forces to enter and become lost in the light.
Meaning is produced by the relationship between opposites. In any attack or confrontation two opposite interpretations can be given. The aggressor has his own meaning for the aggression — an emotional and ego — centered meaning. If the intended victim reacts by also giving to the situation an emotional and ego-centered meaning — fear, anger, hate — a cyclic pattern of action-reaction is built or strengthened, which sooner or later will call for more violence. But if the aggressor's attack meets only "space", he eventually comes to see aggression as an empty gesture. The Sage has robbed it of its meaning; and however unevolved or hurt the attacker may be, he is "human", and no truly human being can long hold even the crudest form of strength against the total loss of meaning in what he is doing. To live without the personal ability of investing one's activity with a meaning of what one's culture has considered meaningful, is spiritual death. It soon leads to actual physical death.
By permission of Leyla Rudhyar Hill
Copyright © 1980; by Dane Rudhyar
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