The Feminine and Masculine as Universal Forces
The Kaneros framework is based upon the idea that Yin and Yang (in the form of the Feminine and Masculine) combine within us to make us who we are. Since these forces play a central role in the universe as a whole, our conceptual model of the universe should include them.
The central activity of the cosmos is evolution.
In our universe, things change over time in ways that generate increasing complexity, diversity, and connection. We call this process evolution.
We first came to understand evolution as the way in which organisms generate different genotypes to adapt to their environments. Then we recognized evolution as a “general condition,” which the philosopher Pierre Teilhard de Chardin expressed when he wrote:
Is evolution a theory, a system, or a hypothesis? It is much more: it is a general condition to which all theories, all systems, all hypotheses must bow… Evolution is a light illuminating all facts, a curve that all lines must follow.
Now we conceive of the universe in its totality as an evolving entity. When we examine evolution in this light, as a universal phenomenon, we’re confronted with a fundamental question: what is the basic mechanism through which it operates?
Evolution requires duality.
For evolution to occur, information must be conveyed, and for information to be conveyed, a binary pair is required. At a bare minimum, there must be a duality. There must be a Yes/No, an Off/On. Conveying information this way is the simplest and most robust way to do it, which is why computers are based upon a Zero/One binary digit.
The universe’s evolutionary processes work according to the same binary principle. Modern science tells us that when singular energy split into a binary pair—the positive and negative electromagnetic charges—that enabled evolution. Positively-charged protons and negatively-charged electrons combined to form atoms, atoms fused to make stars, stars exploded to create the elements, and elements coalesced into planets.
When life arose on Earth, it was manifest as a single force, with organisms reproducing simply by dividing themselves. Then it began to be channeled through another binary pair, the female and the male. When life split into this binary pair, it accelerated evolution, combining creatures’ DNA to generate myriad species.
The fundamental duality is Yin and Yang.
The ancient Chinese noticed this fundamental duality in the universe, the binary pair of forces that enable and drive its evolution. They called these forces Yin and Yang, and considered them equally powerful. They also described the nature and essential qualities of each:
In the West, Yin and Yang have long been understood in terms of their human manifestations, the Feminine and Masculine. When we think of them as fundamental forces, we recognize that they mesh well with our scientific views of the universe:
- The singularity from which the universe arose can be thought of as unanimated Yin, while the Big Bang that brought it into existence can be thought of as unstabilized Yang.
- Protons in the nucleus of an atom are Yin, while the electrons orbiting them are Yang.
We’ve also come to recognize that Yin and Yang drive the evolution of human consciousness:
- Theorist Don Beck has shown how our cultural values evolve by oscillating between Yin (group) and Yang (individual) memes.
- Philosopher Steve McIntosh depicts Yin and Yang as the in/out “breathing” forces that animate our “metabolism” of truth, beauty and goodness.
Our current conceptual map doesn’t include Yin and Yang.
In the mid-1990s, the philosopher Ken Wilber created a four-pole conceptual map of the universe that points out the Individual/Collective and Interior/Exterior poles of existence, then locates the aspects of our experience in the quadrants they define.
In its flexibility to help us understand the basic aspects of anything we can perceive or conceive, Wilber’s map illustrates a sublime truth: the universe is fractal. That is, the four existential aspects of every individual thing mirror those of the universe as a whole.
This map, however, doesn’t reflect the universe’s evolutionary nature. It displays the aspects of static existence, but not the forces of dynamic change. It’s time to expand it, and add to its two dualities of existence a third duality of evolution.
Let’s create a new conceptual model of the universe.
In our current conceptual map of the universe, the Individual/Collective poles of existence are depicted on the up-down axis, while the Interior/Exterior poles are on the left-right axis. So where should we add Yin/Yang? On the back-and-forth axis.
Adding Yin and Yang to the current map adds a third dimension to our conceptual representation of the universe. It turns a two-dimensional map of its four poles of existence into a three-dimensional model of its six fundamental facets. This is displayed in the planar projection at right.
In locating Yin and Yang around its perimeter, this “3-D” model illustrates their places as the universe’s prime movers. In placing Yin and Yang on the back-and-forth axis (on the diagonal, in this projection), it identifies them as the dynamic forces that drive evolution.
Is the new model consistent with the current map?
To be valid, this new 3-D conceptual model must be consistent with the current four-pole map, which illustrates the universe’s fractal nature: everything is both an Individual thing and part of a Collective, and has both Interior and Exterior qualities.
So, to determine whether Yin and Yang should be included in our conceptual model of the universe, we must ask: Does everything exhibit both Yin and Yang? The answer is Yes.
Examples from physics are listed above, and examples also abound in biology. A cell is Yin in that its membrane is permeable, exchanging molecules with its environment according to the Yin quality of inclusion. It is Yang in that its membrane also keeps some molecules out, maintaining its individual integrity according to the Yang quality of distinction.
The same is true in the human sphere—each one of us channels both Yin and Yang energies. When a woman (essentially Yin) disciplines a child, moving to create a distinction between good and bad behavior, she’s expressing Yang. When a man (essentially Yang) embraces a woman to include her in his sphere of caring, he’s facilitating Yin.
Is the new model comprehensive and cohesive?
Does this new 3-D model of the universe represent all that exists, in a conceptual sense? Yes, it does. It’s also elegantly cohesive, in the sense that both evolutionary forces include the dualities of existence, and both dualities of existence include the evolutionary forces.
Yin and Yang both include the Individual/Collective and Interior/Exterior:
- Yin is both an Individual thing in itself, and part of a Collective duality with Yang. The same is true for Yang with regard to Yin.
- Yang has Interior qualities (distinction, movement, solidity) that determine its Exterior interactions. The same is true for Yin.
The Individual/Collective and Interior/Exterior both include Yin and Yang:
- Individual (a thing’s distinctive identity) is Yang, while Collective (the inclusive holarchies in which things are enmeshed) is Yin.
- Interior (a thing’s static, intangible qualities) is Yin, while Exterior (the active, tangible expression of those qualities) is Yang.
Carl Jung may have diagrammed this model first.
The psychologist Carl Jung kept a journal of his mystical experiences, The Red Book, which he illustrated with paintings. In his paintings, he featured a visual motif that echoes the 3-D conceptual model of the universe depicted above: a cross within a circle. This motif appears throughout his journal.
Does it represent something mythological, like the four directions of the world bounded by the horizon of infinity? That explanation certainly fits, but the motif may have another, deeper meaning. It may precede the 3-D model as a representation of the universe’s conceptual structure.
As we know, the universe is fractal—every individual thing mirrors the structure of the universe as a whole—and this is true for the Interior as well as the Exterior. When Jung went deep inside his Interior self, he perceived the nature of the universe in ways that can’t be described in words. Consequently, he didn’t try. Instead, he did it in symbols, and may have done it in a profound way with his cross-within-circle motif.
It can also help us understand the human sphere.
To transform the 3-D model of the universe into a useful conceptual model of the human sphere, we need only:
- Refer to Yin and Yang in terms of the human-specific Feminine and Masculine, and include the three qualities of each.
- Give its quadrants the human-specific Self/Object/Culture/System designations, and include the three elements of each.
This diagram serves as a model of our world in the most basic sense, depicting humanity’s fundamental energies, as well as the essential aspects of our experience. Like any good map, it helps us first to orient ourselves, then navigate to where we want to go.