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.”

Humanity reduced to pixels

As many images have been captured in the past 6 months, as have been taken in the history of humanity to-date (paintings, drawings, films, photos etc).

Donald Winnicott proposed that the mother establishes the sense of reality, of existence, in her infant by adapting herself to his internal world of sensation, and by acting as a mirror; reflecting back through her face – the baby’s internal sensations. (‘The Mirror-Role of Mother and Family in Child Development 1967).

On the other hand – Jacques Lacan  observed (Le stade du Miroir 1949) that “when a child looks in the mirror he sees a unified image of his own disarray”. An actual mirror – presenting back to us, as it does, a unified visual image of ourselves – is a challenge. We don’t feel ourselves to be one single unified being as represented by the image.

The point is that our sense of Self has throughout millions of years of evolution been established by social reflection – first of our interior sensation in the face of our mother and then others. The actual visible reflection of our image is an entirely new challenge to the richness of who we really are or can be.

What then is the impact of so many images, captured  by all of our mobile phones and then “tagged” and replayed to us constantly?

The self that is created in a social mirror -our sense of who we are as a sum of how we are perceived by those around – must surely be entirely different from a simple visual image. The image of our face has no bearing on the image of our person – in all its multiple facets. Is this not Lacan’s point from his 1949 paper? Now, however, we are deluged with this visual imagery – and increasingly also confronted with our ageing – because we have the record of our image from the past. Does this mean that we now construct our sense of self from the outside in – from multiple images back to who we are inside? Is this not a recipe for a plague of narcissim; and does the impact of the photograph not only steal from our other senses – but also usurp our very being?

Lacan and Winnicott were writing in the age before Facebook, YouTube,  Pinterest and the mobile phone. Is anyone investigating the change to our species of this aspect of our technological – “progress”?

As Adam Phillips puts it, the maternal mirroring process that creates the Self that is each of us…

“He (an infant) can only discover what he feels by seeing it reflected back. If the infant is seen in a way that makes him feel he exists, in a way that confirms him”

What impoverishment to have this reduced to the pixels on an iPhone..