Duality, Love and Evolution

We think in terms of opposing forces, opposites. Duality flows  from the fact of boundary created as we separate from the whole of existence – initially physically at birth, and then psychically in infancy. This schism has been expressed in many ways, often as opposing forces.For instance – good / evil ;life / death; aggressive / erotic ; Me / Not Me ; extrovert / introvert. I believe that the point of duality is in our response to it. There is a fundamental difference in outcome between choice between, and integration of – opposites.

Sigmund Freud and Melanie Klein conceived of opposing Life and Death instincts. However surely a “Death” instinct is incompatible with evolution, what purpose is served by a “Death” instinct? More natural is Donald Winnicott’s expression of an Aggressive component, born of opposition and an Erotic component, born of complementarity – the birth of these components arising as an infant realises that there is a Me and a Not-Me. Carl Jung conceived of the struggle to integrate opposing forces. Many of us are familiar with the Myers-Briggs personality typing that arises from Jung with its 4 dimensions –  Extrovert-Introvert; Thinking-Feeling; Sensing-Intuition; and Judging-Perceiving. From the dawn of our species we have observed the difference between Light and Dark and described our nature as Good or Evil. Martin Buber gives us the double-dual-whammy of I-Thou way of being “over against” I-It.

“There is, Buber shows, a radical difference between man’s attitude to other men and his attitude to things. The attitude to other men is a relation between persons, to things it is a connexion with objects. ..These two attitudes represent the basic twofold situation of human life, the former constitutes the world of THOU and the latter the world of IT” Ronald Gregor Smith, translator of Ich Und Du

It appears then that fundamental to our reaction to the fact of our existence; woven into the fabric of our way of thinking and being, is duality – expressed as an opposition of forces.

What then is our response? Is it passive as in choice or balance or active – as in process or integration? Admitting polarity in all things – what should be our reaction. Do we choose – for instance between Good or Evil? Should we seek balance between different drives into a kind of dynamic equilibrium – for instance striving to be at the centre point of extroversion and introversion? Is reality in fact a process budding eternally at the very boundary that arises out of duality – life within Winnicott’s Transitional Space or Whitehead’s point of prehension? Or is it there a further truth behind this duality – the point being what arises out of unification of opposites ? After all paraphrasing Beethoven – there cannot be loud without soft, it is in contrast that music arises.

Perhaps its personal taste. If so then, at least for me, integration of duality is our purpose, and one which is unceasing because there is a counterveiling force of differentiation. There is a flow of existence which is driven by splitting and unification, birth and death. Duality is dynamic not static and the fundamental creative contrast is actually that of differentiation and integration. Freud’s Life/Death instincts replaced by Integration/Differentiation forces. This isn’t an original thought, and it’s not mine. It is inherent in the world-view of eastern tradition (Yin-Yang etc) and possibly our western ancestors (see Wisdom of the Wyrd, Brian Bates). It was  one of Carl Jung’s fundamental insights – “Much of Carl Jung’s writings are linked by the theme that mental illness is characterized by disunity of the personality, whilst mental health is manifested by unity” (Jung: Selected Writings, Anthony Storr).

If then we conceive of a schism-powered flow, what is the destination and what is the fundamental motive impulse? Well there you have Pierre Teilhard de Chardin’s concept of the fundamental duality being spirit and material – an inner and outer. For him underlying existence is the force of Love, which powers evolution. An evolution conceived as complexification through spheres of the physical, chemical, biological to that of ideas – until we become conscious of God that is Love that is all. “There is a duality of material and spiritual, which he calls the “without” and “within”. He traces the development of the “within”, an evolution of consciousness. He names man as a stage in that process associated with the phase-shift from the evolution of biology to the evolution of ideas”.

In Teilhard de Chardin’s words:

“If there were no internal propensity to unite, even at a prodigiously rudimentary level — indeed in the molecule itself — it would be physically impossible for love to appear higher up, with us, in hominized form. . . . Driven by the forces of love, the fragments of the world seek each other so that the world may come into being.”

Social thermodynamics

Every action has an equal and opposite reaction.

This applies to societies. The internal construct, what holds society together, has an external resonance. This sets up a chain of reactions which in turn impact on and shape society. It matters how groups are born and what holds them together.

Nationalism is always, in the end, corrosive. This is why. Societies, like the individual, are shaped in the mirror of those outside them. The other. The internal character is a reflection of the external reference. Whatever the start point, nationalism ends up by defining itself by reference to “the enemy” – which is of course only other ordinary men and women – but externalised and dehumanised. Made other. We project out  all that is negative.  It is the politician’s cheapest trick; to set up the reviled “other”, blame them for anything that is wrong and consequently draw “us” together.

How then can just society arise?

If the impulse that draws us together as community is love, then this will lead to a projection of good on to others. This com-passion with and for others –  in all their glorious differentiation is reflected back, bonding and reinforcing a sense of our greater human community. Simple. First love your enemy.

But loving one’s enemy is HARD. It takes an overwhelming outside force. I personally struggle with it. It is possible though, but only with outside help. One definition of God might be just that. The force of love as an external agency. And the opposite is also a truth. All and any love is God, by whatever name. Only by reference to this external and eternal force can a just lasting and joyful society hope to work. All else is illusion. Strip away any preconceptions about organised religion and focus on what makes for a just society.

You arrive at something like this:

Love other as we love ourselves. Love Love above all. Keep responding with love not war even after 490 provocations. Judge what is right by results not words.

This is of course has been said before, by someone who lived the words.

The Wolff in Buber’s Forest

Milo Wolff proposes that all “matter” in the universe is in fact made up of a mesh of scalar waves – whose nodes are points of convergence of waves. (Do I have that right Tim?). Read more at


If so, then all is connected. We all perceive all together instantaneously.

In my last blog I referred to a passage by Martin Buber in which he cites reality in relation to a tree. I complete that passage – because it seems especially to speak to our potential perception of this..

 I consider a tree.

I can look on it as a picture: stiff column in a shock of light, or splash of green shot with the delicate blue and silver of the background.

I can perceive it as movement: flowing veins on clinging, pressing pith, suck of the roots, breathing of the leaves, ceaseless commerce with earth and air – and the obscure growth itself.

I can classify it in a species and study it as a type in its structure and mode of life.

I can subdue its actual presence and form so sternly that I recognise it only as an expression of law – of the laws in accordance with which a constant opposition of forces is continually adjusted, or of those in accordance with which the component substances mingle and separate.

I can dissipate it and perpetuate it in number, in pure numerical relation.

In all this the tree remains my object, occupies space and time, and has its nature and constitution.

It can, however, also come about, if I have both will and grace, that in considering the tree I become bound up in relation to it. The tree is now no longer IT. I have been seized by the power of exclusiveness.

To effect this it is not necessary for me to give up any of the ways I consider the tree. There is nothing from which I would have to turn my eyes away in order to see, and no knowledge I would have to forget. Rather is everything, picture and movement, species and type, law and number indivisibly united in this event.

Everything belonging to the tree is in this: its form and structure, its colours and chemical composition,its intercourse with the elements and with the starts, are all present in a single whole.

The tree is no impression, no play of my imagination, FL;#no value depending on my mood; but is bodied over against me and has to do with me, as I with it – only in a different way.

Let no attempt be made to sap the strength from the meaning of the relation: relation is mutual.

The tree will have a consciousness then, similar to our own? Of that I have no experience. But do you wish, through seeming to succeed in it with your self, once again to disintegrate that which cannot be disintegrated? I encounter no soul or dryad of the tree, but the tree itself.



Consciousness, the rose and the fire


All manner of thing shall be well

When the tongues of flame are in-folded

Into the crowned knot of fire

And the fire and the rose are one

TS Eliot

Any static theory of consciousness feels incomplete. Reality is much closer to a process than a material. Whitehead’s “Process and Reality”, is impenetrable, but so much is clear. Consciousness, our awareness of self and the universe, is transitory, fleeting for most of us. This is to be expected if reality is the intersection of process and the material. It takes intense meditation and study to be able to hold oneself within the stream of the process that is reality as it pours through us. (I am told).

To quote Max Tegmark (New Scientist “Solid, Liquid, Consciousness”) “consciousness is a process that can occur in certain physical systems”. Whilst he invents new language (consciousness is for instance renamed as perceptronium) – it’s an old truth restated. As old, or older than zen. The mathematics are apparently called “Integrated Information Theory” or IIT for short. The system conditions necessary are interesting involving a fluctuation dynamic balance between various factors – system integration and internal separation for instance.

Reality may in fact be the same thing as consciousness (since observation crystallises out particular reality from the infinity of potential). In any case both are a process within a material setting. Matter doesn’t exist without the process of observation and the process can’t flow unless it is materialised. Just as gravitons need material to interact with to create weight. Matter matters – like the zip travelling through time, along the zipper. In this metaphor, what is reality? The changing space that the opening zipper reveals?

And what of the observer phenomenon? After 100 years of quantum investigation there is still no explanation of who or what the “observer” is. In the quantum world at least the observer certainly affects the observed – crystallising out one particular reality from the infinity possibilities that exist. Tegmark states “recent papers have argued that the observer is the key to understanding other fundamental physics mysteries, such as why our universe appears so orderly, why time seems to have a preferred forward direction, and even why time appears to flow at all”.

But is this not what we, each of us are? Fundamentally we observe. For me at least, the words observer and soul are interchangeable – as are the words observation and witness. As Teilhard de Chardin puts it – together we are the phenomenon of man and through us “the universe becomes aware of itself for the first time”. And Teilhard de Chardin also makes the powerful case that consciousness must have been a property of matter from the outset (his inner and outer), and that evolution has led along the path to emergent self-awareness and will eventually lead to (re)unification with God’s love at the Omega Point – when individual units of consciousness, our separate selves – unify and merge.

It seems to me that the separate strands of enquiry – scientific, spiritual and philosophical – are converging or possibly a better description is co-emerging; and toward a knowledge of the presence of God’s love. A rose is a rose by whatever name – love, connection, truth, God.

The Priest and the Physicist – emergent convergence

This week’s issue of the New Scientist features an article by Max Tegmark – “Solid, Liquid, Gas, You” – which is an exposition of his article (see previous post) in Cornell University Press. Essentially it posits consciousness as a different state of matter, in the same way that solid/liquid/gas are different phases. There appears to be some evidence for this. The argument is that as matter complexifies in certain circumstances consciousness arises as an “emergent property” (see God as an emergent property).

This is a mechanical version of Teilhard de Chardin’s hypothesis – that consciousness has always been within matter and inherent in it, and that evolution is the story of phase shifts toward an awareness or consciousness of the glory and love of God. Put another way – what would you call the system where in an emergent reality the whole universe were self-aware, conscious.

What Tegmark calls “Perceptronium”, de Chardin would call the love that is God.



Donald Winnicott, being and doing..

I was introduced to him last night. Someone to rank with Jung, Pauli, Buber and Teildhard de Chardin…

Wikipedia entry on his view on “being”

“One of the elements Winnicott considered could be lost in childhood was what he called the sense of being. “For Winnicott, the sense of being is primary, the sense of doing an outgrowth of it…Premature development of the ego-function means doing too much, being too little”:[21] a false sense of self. The “capacity to ‘be’, to feel alive…the baby’s lifeline, what Winnicott calls its ‘going on being'” was essential if a person was not to be “caught up in a false self and a compulsive cycle of ‘doing’ to conceal the absence of ‘being'”.[22] One antidote to the potential loss of being was the child’s capacity for playE