Understanding the Duality
This is a topic that has been touched upon before but I am here to tackle it once again. Anyone that understands this idea very well, please feel free to contribute.
[What is the Duality?]
Simply put, the “duality” of all things is the nature in which anything and everything holds opposing truths: all of which are true. The infinitely small is also infinitely big and vice versa. Our Earth is an enormous planet but also a mote of dust suspended in space. The murderer or hero are both each other: it is all perspective.
[Why is understanding the Duality significant?]
Understanding the duality of all things is important because it allows us to see from other perspectives. The more important part of seeing the duality is knowing that all perceptions are RELATIVE and that is separate from the inherent, physical reality. There is the distinction that the mind is not the body and vice versa; we can perceive the world but we will never know it.
[Examples of Duality in Perspective]
1.) I see a flower, it is turquoise. A colorblind man sees a flower, it is light-green. A dog sees a flower it is dark blue. A blind man doesn’t see the flower. A woman born with more cone photoreceptors in her eyes can see a spectrum of more colors: she says it’s “_____” (not yet identified color). All relative observations, who is to conclude on the color of the flower? Nobody; not a single one knows the true color of the flower but at the same time they all know the color of the flower. The flower is all colors, and it is but one. One must understand that they are all looking at the SAME flower.
*A key point to the duality: it is the same flower and at the same time it is not. The key is that the perception of the mind has distorted their reality. The colors they see are real and false at the same time. The world can only be perceived so how are we to find real truth without perception?*
2.) A person is shot in the head, killing him instantly by a random passerby. There are several witnesses and this is what they say. A woman says that it happened quickly and that what happened is horrible. A child says that it was the longest happening he has ever seen, he wonders why no one saved the person. A man says this is a tragedy and that “random” violence is reflective of the dark side of human nature. A man says he saw that man earlier pacing back and forth near a bus stop, like he was planning something. One last girl says that she knew the man that was shot: it was an ex-boyfriend that abused her; she says it was good riddance. They are all right and none of them are right. The perceptions they have made are both resolute and relative: true and untrue.
*A man is shot dead on the streets. It is both random and not random depending on perspective. The perspective makes your personal observation true and untrue. It is random if you believe it to be but it is also not random. The tragic nature of the killing is also a perception. Something is tragic only in relation to one’s own beliefs. Is is tragic that the man died? It is all perspective. The variable of time also comes into play: time just is, but it is also perceived and measured. To say that something happened quickly or slowly is a perception of time. Time only flows at one speed but is perceived on infinite different levels.*
3.) A have a house. I say the house is worth $100,000. A real estate appraiser says it’s actually only worth $90,000. A monk says it’s worth nothing. A monopoly owner says it’s worth $300,000 and he’s willing to pay cash upfront for it. A bird flies by and shits on it and doesn’t consider its worth whatsoever. A kid, who is the son of the previous owner, thinks that there is no price that can match the value that it means to him because he has lived there his whole life until his family moved out. Who is right?
*They are all right and none of them are right. The house has no inherent value because all the values given to it are relative to the person ascribing the value. The relative nature of values means that there are no true values for anything because everything is based on perspective. This is the separation of mind and matter. Because these values are relative, the house itself has no set value: it can be changed at any time. The significance of this very liberal nature of values is covered in my last point below.*
[The Relative and the Absolute - The Nature of Duality]
The duality of all things is what separates truth into two parts, two parts of the same whole: the relative truth and the inherent, absolute truth. If something is perceived, the absolute truth cannot be understood. Absolute truth is beyond the perception because perception is one filter that life or something is viewed from (it is merely one angle and not all angles).
The true significance of understanding the duality is the further understanding that nothing we perceive is set in stone: this means that old perceptions and ascribed meanings and truths can be overturned and rewritten. We as beings of perception are free to change our perspectives and ascribe new, relative values to things. We can overturn old traditions and ways of living and running society and install newer ones that we “see” fit. The duality makes us more humble when we understand it: all distinctions are relative to something. To say we are “intelligent” is to be relative to something else, but this relativity goes both ways: in relation to ants we are more intelligent but in relation to the rest of the infinite universe we are likely not that intelligent (infinite possibility of more intelligent life in an infinite universe). To say money has value is not a real truth: it is not absolute but relative.
To say anything has value is to be on one side of the coin: one side of the duality. True values cannot be created because a true value would already exist and be inherent in the object. Relative values are “created” but a better word is perceived: we perceive the values of something, we don’t really create a value. All perceived values are “false” in this sense because the other side of the coin cannot be perceived but merely understood.
The nature of duality is what makes society as a whole a collective “illusion”, a collective perspective or angle of looking at something. It is a true angle but it is not all the possible angles. It cannot be all the possible angles; perception is limited to one angle. This is important to understand because it means that we can collectively view everything from another angle, a possibly better angle. To say that money has value, or that this is taboo, or that this race is better than that race, or that men are better than women, or that this distinction and that distinction… is to be seeing things from one angle. These are all relative truths, they are far from absolute. Although these perceptions are true and false at the same time, it is the false nature of them that allows for the redefining of all things.
That is all. Thank you very much for your time.
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@smokeup1, Yes that one is quite funny, the most ‘spiritual’ people are a lot of the time just as lost in their ego as anyone else. In fact, calling yourself spiritual is just the ego using another label to define itself. Thanks for the link! Cheers :)
There is no need to redeem yourself. I enjoyed our discussion very much even though I feel as if we had multiple misunderstandings.
In all honesty, I believe deeply in the duality so your words made me think a lot about my own beliefs. Nothing is ever concrete for me: if over time I decide that your thoughts ring more true than we may have future discussions where we are on the same side. But for now, I admire your way of thinking (it is equally as viable as my own) but I remain a believer in the duality of the world.
” If my relative “truth” is my opinion, then it is my opinion that this is something that has been settled fundamentally in the past. If you don’t believe me, that’s fine but knowing that we don’t have to struggle with duality makes it a lot easier to continue living.”
I agree that without the duality our goals and sense of direction (in terms of learning and progressing our collective knowledge) would be more stable and efficient. We would be more accepting of the truths we learn as absolute rather than relative and that would allow much progress. But with the duality I feel that we can still learn but at least we can be humbled by the things we may never know (again, this is my opinion that the truly absolute may never be perceived through sense experience alone).
@egarim, And that sir, was the last lesson I needed learned.. and I learned the hard way. I am excited.. and I wasn’t looking down on anyone at all.. I know it seems that way.. but my brain was not understanding how to deal with all this new information that was being “downloaded” so to speak.. and so I reacted with the ego, and tried to find outside explanation, when every answer is inside.. it just takes time and understanding. I apologize if it sounded like I was putting myself above anyone.. that’s not the case.. I just need a way to express the positivity that is coming from this.. and it needs to be put in my own expressions, not reached from someone else.. it has to be my own interpretation. =)
Indeed, as I was reading the OP, I had a thought: Our human (thought)constructs build on one another, and through various methods, be them through “divine intervention” or drugs or WHATEVER, can lead us from where we were at Step #1 all the way to Step #8. The thing is, Step #8 also applies laws to it that we discovered in Steps #2-7. Without these laws, we’re dazed and confused as to how to explain them, and when the moment of enlightenment passes we don’t know how to apply it to our everyday lives.
Our reality defining thoughts may just have to be processed by our minds for a few more years until they can become useful to our lives and the people around us. Sad, but true :s
Duality can result in improved objectivity. Identifying connotations and questioning their validity. This is a step to finding states like disolved attachment but also understanding cause and effect, but most significantly the role of concepts in understanding and mastery of existence.
Perspective: +1 has more value than 0 or -1
Absolute: 0 – -1 = +1
How can the perspective be true if the absolute is that you can take a lesser from nothing and gain a greater?
Therefore all perspective is flawed, even the ones with the “positive” outlooks
Thanks for the post @egarim,
I really needed a different perspective :)
@egarim, I really enjoyed reading this entire thread, looking forward to your article.
Here’s some perspectives from my side (Might give some new ideas):
- All consciousness movement is from higher potential to lower potential. A duality.
- Drugs take you more fiercely into duality.
- All existence is painful validated by its dual i.e. the universal seeking of pleasure.
- There is duality between predictability and unpredictability.
- Duality between being and non-being.
- Duality of wanting – want also implies awareness of what is not wanted
I’ll look at my logs and add more if I find. More the merrier :)
I really like your examples of the relativity of perspective, the reality we experience is no doubt somewhat formed in relation to our viewpoint. This is one of those helpful human qualities that allows our thoughts the freedom to stroll astray from the typical cultural path. Our differences cultivate communication and growth. If we were all the same hitler wouldn’t have shocked the world and Einstein wouldn’t have been able to Imagine moving at the speed of light, he would have just been a good little Jew and gone to synagogue! .
I’d just say its best your careful when asserting in general anything to do with truth. Saying objective reality is inherently meaningless is as unfounded as saying objective reality exists or that the only reality is the subjective experience.
These age old ideas fall into the ontological and epistemological categories, which have had a history of paradoxical conflicts left unresolved. Knowledge is yet to be adequately defined without dispute, therefore
Ideas like ‘truth’ and ‘meaninglessness’ are often ungrounded and difficult to justify without paradoxical explanations.
I like your ideas, it’s just best to try explain things from within an accessible and realistic template. Rather than mixing good observations and attuned ideas with the epistemological babble about truth and reality that’s really way over anyones heads. @egarim,
I understand and admire your take on the duality. But you cannot be “outside of the duality”, as you put it, everything is within the duality. The duality is two sides: relative and absolute (it covers everything). You cannot be outside of it.
You say there is inherent “good” and that it is a state within itself. I disagree. Good is a perception, there is no true Absolute Good. If there was who is it that can recognize it? Is it you? Are you our new prophet who can interpret Absolute Good? No, and neither am I. Your perception and idea of absolute good is another relative perception, another angle to view morality. It is a relative truth, one of the two sides of duality.
Absolute truth cannot be perceived because to see it we must be unbiased… and to be truly unbiased you need to see life and morality from my view, as well as your own, as well as from the next person’s, the homeless man’s, the rich man’s, the poor man’s… all possible views.
“God doesn’t participate in evil since He is all that is Good. He is all of existence. God participating in Evil would make him less than all benevolent which is contrary to the nature of God. A God that’s even a little evil is not worthy of truly being called God.”
Without evil there would be no concept of good. The old ways of viewing god as an all-loving being and pinnacle of “good” is outdated. At least, in my opinion. A true God perceives no morality. He is so infinite that all things are one: no bias, takes no sides. Life and Death become one in his/her/its perspective and evil and good are but human distinctions. When you say that “god” is only capable of “good” or that he/she is the zenith of good virtue, you are effectively romanticizing a concept of something that may or may not exist whatsoever.
If there is a true god, who is the ultimate form, he must not be split in a duality. He cannot merely represent the good, he must be all things so he is the devil as well.
Thanks man I really appreciate the kind words :)
However, concerning your points, I am having trouble properly understanding what you mean by each one. I have what I can presume is what you’re saying but a more thorough explanation would be really helpful in clarifying. The duality in my case is one related to truth and perception, but you bring up many other applications for it which are very intriguing and I would love to hear it so that the whole topic can be expanded (by so much).
Thanks again man! Keep em coming. By the way I’m starting a vlog channel on youtube very soon and would love feedback from people like yourself.
After reading that I must ask have you studied NLP? I’ve come across similar thoughts in that vein or existentialism and buddhism tend to espouse similar things with people saying meditation and hypnosis can help free you from very limiting perceptions which leave you with a hopeless feeling when in actual fact there is almost unlimited potential.
Very good post. I could do with a bit of that.
@egarim, Oh i read your post, but you, good sir, don’t seem to understand that this is something already gone over in history. As in, the people that came before us talked this subject over. And yes, we all DO have different perspectives but we all have to be on the same playing field to share in our different perspectives. As in, there has to be something (objective) that allows us to have and share different perspectives. If you actually read MY post, then you would see that we’re all looking for RIGHT (see what I did there?) answers. As in answers that are TRUE regardless of other perspectives. Your offering none of that or at least affirming that if it’s possible, we don’t have access to it.. I’m saying greater men have covered the issue already.
@splashartist, I see you talk a lot bout the ego. Maybe this might interest you. It’s talks about the spiritual ego.. It knows how to hide.
Thank you. I make no assertions regarding truth other than separating it into relative and absolute truth. To quote myself, “we can perceive the world but we will never know it” meaning that there may be an absolute truth but we cannot see it through perception. And I know you are probably referring back to my previous thread about everything being “meaningless” but please do take note that I do not use the word “meaningless” even once. I also never state that “objective truth” is meaningless but I am postulating that since we are beings of perception, and since objective truth cannot be perceived (because perception is only one lens, one angle; subjective), there is no way of truly knowing about the absolute truth except through thought.
Since we cannot experience or “see” absolute truth, it is somewhat fair to say it is “meaningless” in the sense that absolute truth does not concern humans. We are hence free to give things meaning because everything is without true meaning (but there may be true meaning but we cannot possibly perceive it). I know it’s confusing, but that’s my best shot at explaining what I mean. Your argument is well received.
Everything is duality. The universe IS duality…. something else I’ve always known also.. Perception is reality.. And ALL realities exist. They only exist in the now. What I perceive to be real, is not what anyone else could perceive as real, does not mean for one second that it’s not real. You make your own reality..believe it.
@egarim, Put down a lot more stuff related to duality. Not sure if its exactly the direction you are looking for but I was excited to add some more input:
- Desire itself could thought of as simply energy. A desire moves you to do certain things until that energy is used. A simple case would be, you reach your threshold for thirst, and this creates an intense desire to go drink water. So you go and get water. Now the question is, did ‘You’ really get up, or did the desire move you?. Each desire is like a mini ‘I’. We have many little ‘I”s or desires but there may be a small group of highly powerful ‘I’s which we may refer to as our core personality. So from this perspective, it could be said we are swimming in an ocean of desire being desire ourselves. Like a drop of water swimming in the ocean. So the duality here is that, there is only arising and passing away of multiple layers of desires at different rates in time. So identifying yourself with any desire is to get locked and limited into some viewpoint.
- Another interesting area is ‘prana’ (life force energy). The waxing and waning of life force energy. Activities that give us energy like sleep, meditation, relaxation vs. Activities that drain our energy like stress, worry etc. This cycle happens everyday. Like batteries we get charged in the mornings and it runs out by night. I would intuit deep sleep has maximum potentiality and it might be the 0 (infinite potential) point for all manifestation. Duality is the reason why everything in the universe is cyclical. I feel duality and the cyclic nature of everything imply each other.
- Another super fascinating insight I recently came across is that, awareness itself is by contrast. Without contrast awareness itself is not possible. All knowledge is by contrasts too. Like how do you know, you are feeling normal now? How do you know there is light around you now? The very perception of normality or light implies knowledge of abnormality or darkness. The definition of every concept, implies some kind of polarization, just like even if you shatter a magnet, even the smallest pieces will have the 2 poles. This can be applied to every single thing we know, both conventional knowledge and spiritual knowledge. It seems to be the very nature of knowledge.
- If awareness is because of effort from your part, then in the relaxation that follows (duality principle) you will lose this awareness. True and timeless awareness has to transcend duality and that can happen only if its effortless (At the center of the wheel of experience not at the periphery).
Here are some other great duality statements I picked up from an Alan Watts lecture:
- Happening and doing are duals again. You can’t tell the difference without the two-together. You need happening to know what is doing. Also, voluntary and involuntary are duals again.
- Sensation by itself is awareness of contrast.
- Non-existence is the very condition for existence.
- Where is the notion of improving, isn’t it absurd? White must win? Which side would you take: Black or white? Does the side really make a difference?
- Nothing is the source of something. It is the seed.
- Both white and black can play the negative role. We conventionally associate white with the positive and this is another illusion. For Example: Paper with black ink writing, the writing is the positive and the white is blank, and therefore nothing, negative. In this case the black is positive.
- Drugs take you more fiercely into duality.
If I take a euphorigen (any of the super gratifying ones), because of duality, on coming down, instantly my ordinary state would seem miserable. The perception of happiness and misery itself is relative.That is way perception itself works and perception is the only reality we know, so its reality itself. Excessive pleasure for humans with ordinary psychology is very likely to create extreme compulsivity. This is not only true for drugs but just about anything, like even sex (That’s why the taoists advice Karezza instead of regular sex). So when you come down from the drug, you go lower than your baseline causing an intense desire to elevate the level up again. Now the setpoint of pleasure has been set to that first high experience, the memory of that make you binge on the pleasure stimulus until you reach it again. Now you go down even further the 2nd time and so on. So the sine wave of ups and downs has been intensified compared to a normal person’s happy/sad moods.
- All existence is painful validated by its dual i.e. the universal seeking of pleasure.
If I am seeking to improve my situation, seeking to get better, seeking to be at another mental state B, even the smallest seeking implies dissatisfaction with the way things are. This is what is referred to as suffering. If we say, all humans are universally seeking pleasure, it would be equally right to say, all humans are dissatisfied with the way things are.
- There is duality between predictability and unpredictability.
How can I know what predictable without being simultaneously about whats unpredictable, and vice versa?
- Duality of wanting – want also implies awareness of what is not wanted
When you want something, in that very moment of wanting something, not wanting of its opposite is implied. If I want a want a white object, then it instantly also implies I do not want a black object. Here black and white is simplistic. It can be an abstract quality too. An opposite can be found for every single mental object no matter how abstract.
- Hearing music in any form would not be possible without awareness of silence. So the duality is that if you are enjoying music, you are simultaneously aware of the background silence too. They happen concomitantly. Imagine a continuous note with no gaps, there would be no pattern, therefore no music.
I have heard of NLP but I can’t say that I am knowledgeable in that field. If you have studied NLP or understand fairly well please feel free to explain it and its connection to this topic (I would like to examine the parallels). I have studied existentialism and Buddhism (fairly in-depth I would say) and agree that both emphasize the importance of being aware and understanding one’s own perceptions.
Thank you. I tried my best to explain it but I know there are still flaws in my explanation.
I did read your post. Your passion is bleeding through your words. Passion clouds judgment.
Please do try to understand what I am saying here:
“don’t seem to understand that this is something already gone over in history. As in, the people that came before us talked this subject over.”
This is very self-righteous. I don’t care how many times it’s been talked over. Science makes progress when new evidence is introduced and we REVISIT old conclusions. You make it sound as if since this has been “talked over” I am NOT allowed to argue against you. As if your words hold a “higher authority” because you deem it “true”. I don’t care if the most intelligent humans have discussed something over and over… we as intelligent beings are allowed to revisit things. Question everything. If we just accept things because other, possibly more intelligent individuals, have thought it over… we becomes mindless drones.
“As in answers that are TRUE regardless of other perspectives. ”
There is absolute truth as I have said. I do not disagree.
“I’m saying greater men have covered the issue already.”
This is subjective. I agree that there is an objective truth that we can possibly discern… but saying there is “greater men” is clearly related back to the concept of duality. With your attitude I should just throw my hands up and surrender. I choose to learn and question regardless of what these “great men” have thought.
I would like to think these great men would appreciate my capacity for questioning and learning more than your very passionate refute of my ideas and passionate acceptance of theirs. We must learn to question and hence we become great me ourselves. If we accepted the conclusions of the past like the “world is flat” or “flight is impossible” we would make no progress.
But I am going off topic. I appreciate your insightful thoughts.
@egarim, Duality and objectivity can lead to an understanding of Nihilism. Nihilism is a pretty freaky thing to encounter if you are not ready for it and I will advise you: Nihilism applies strictly to concepts and it is very important to remember that there is so much more to a human being, life and the universe than just concepts. Nihilism is only a step in the disolving of attachment, it can leave you free of the conditionings of experiences and observations.
At that point you can order reason according to what makes sense to you, not what life long impacts of education and culture have installed. As I said, there is a very important stage after Nihilism, it is not the be all and end all. Things such as constructive relationships and destructive forces, the Yin/Yang universe, things beyond concept, what has began, survived and prospered all before the first concept was concieved.
A human as a result of these factors and the duties, responsibilities and liabilities of being a constructive being that has resulted from constructive relationships. The tasks of protection and liberation of constructive relationships as well as the control and focus of destructive forces toward purpose, all with their logical benefit.
Seeing the dynamic power of concept, knowing its place in these tasks, and never submitting to it as your identity, it is your tool subject to you, never the other way around.
But all these are things are a ways off, most people never achieve these understanding, even if they persue them, so know your strengths and weakness.
@egarim, It makes me think of a few works, for instance J.R.R. Tolkien’s Elves, who were so atoned to nature that they spoke with them and learned their “True names”. There are many works of fantasy that emphasize the use of names, and how if one knew someone’s “true name” they would have power over them. Interesting!!