How Yin and Yang Explain It All

Lorenz Thielbeer
“The Wound of Reality” by Anna Ziegler

And Why We Can Only Understand Half Of It

This is an attempt to bring intuitive knowledge to paper through the medium of words. As we will see later, words are by their nature not capable of expressing the whole Truth I am trying to point at. Please read the following text not only with your analytical mind (Yang) but also try to feel into the meaning behind the words (Yin).

Introduction to Archetypes

Archetypes are powerful tools to point at a deeper connection between, or shared quality of, seemingly separate things. The archetype “house” for example is something the vast majority of human beings has deeply internalized. A house can have different forms and shapes. But trying to definitively describe with a finite amount of words what exactly a house is and how it looks like is impossible (You can try but don’t forget dog/doll/tiny/A-frame/… houses). However, there certainly is some connection between all of those structures. Some deeper quality that lets us agree on calling something a house when we see it. This connection, this deeper shared quality which combines all the infinite variations of form, size, and all the other infinite attributes you could come up with, is what the archetype “house” is pointing at.

The archetype is therefore a tool to condense the deeper shared quality of an infinite volume of variations into a finite symbol or representation. It is a tool to access the infinite through the finite.

Archetypes are everywhere: Every symbol, every word, every letter, every number is an archetype. Also your and my names are archetypes. We use one or multiple words to refer to the infinitely complex beings that we are.

Yin and Yang – Separate and United

Yin and Yang are both archetypes. Therefore, it is impossible to explain in a finite amount of words what the qualities are they are pointing at. The best we can do is to look at some examples out of the infinite volume of variations they represent respectively. To get a better idea of Yin and Yang, try to feel into the connection behind the listed examples.

Yin is infinite, chaos, light, feminine, whole, quality, Truth, …

Yang is finite, order, darkness, masculine, separation, quantity, illusion, …

But Yin and Yang are not simply two separate archetypes. It is one symbol, one archetype pointing at the relationship between those two archetypes. Yin and Yang as one symbol is about the balance, the dance between two perfect partners.

Archetypes Are Yang

Archetypes themselves are actually a perfect example of a balanced Yin and Yang relationship. I encourage you to go back to the “Introduction to Archetypes” and see if you can spot Yin and Yang in action and especially what their relationship looks like.

We said about archetypes that they are tools to make the infinite volume of variations (Yin) accessible through a finite abstraction (Yang). Yang is serving Yin as a tool to make the infinite graspable, to bring order into chaos, to make the unknowable known.

By its nature Yin is pure chaos and infinitely complex. As human beings we are not capable of understanding anything that is of infinite complexity. Therefore, we cannot understand Yin. It is forever unknowable. Only through abstractions of finite complexity can we try to get an idea of the underlying infinite Truth. Only through Yang can we think and talk about Yin, but we can never understand Yin itself.

A different way to visualize this is to start from Yin as whole. Yin is One, there is no separation. Without the separation introduced by Yang there is literally nothing to understand, no “thing” to stand under. There is nothing to stand apart from simply because there is no “other” in Yin, there is only Oneness.

This is a profound realization with far reaching consequences. Think about science.

We will reiterate the same point from a few more angles to deepen the feeling for Yin and Yang. But let us summarize first what we learned so far:

  • Yin is chaos, is of infinite complexity and is therefore unknowable.
  • Yang is order, is of finite complexity and is therefore knowable.
  • When in balance, Yang serves Yin as a tool to make the unknowable known.

Yin is infinite, whole, perfect with complete abundance but it is forever unknowable. Only through separation, through Yang, is there anything to be known at all. In order to get a feeling for the underlying quality we need quantity. We need a few examples. In order to get a feeling for what a “house” is we need to see a few different houses.

Yin Needs Yang To Exist

Yin does not exist without Yang. Without Yang nothing exists, no “thing” exists. There is only Oneness, only one infinite whole. You cannot call it Yin or any other name because that would make it a “thing”. But for a “thing” to exist there must also be a “no-thing”. There needs to be contrast to differentiate any “thing”. Light needs darkness, otherwise we wouldn’t know what light was. Life needs deaths, otherwise we wouldn’t know what life was. Yin needs Yang to exist. Without their Yang counterparts neither light or life nor any other Yin would exist.

It is important to clarify at this point what Yin and Yang as “counterparts” mean. Earlier we said that Yang is a finite representation of the Yin quality. If we take the example of light, then light is Yin and darkness is Yang. Light is the quality. It is infinite pure white light with all the infinite frequencies in infinite abundance. Darkness is the total absence of light. It is zero quantity. It is the origin of all finite representations of light and it is itself a finite representation of light.

Words are Limiting

Words are finite descriptions of an underlying infinite Truth. They are archetypes. For the languages we speak we deeply internalized the underlying Truth of most words. We are completely familiar with the meaning of the words. We don’t know their meaning because the meaning itself is Yin and we cannot know Yin. But we have such a deep sense for it that we could come up with infinite examples of that energy.

Learning a new language is nothing else than memorizing another finite expression for an already internalized underlying Truth.

Words are limiting in that sense that they are not capable of expressing the infinite Truth they are intended to express. Yang can always only point at Yin. But there is no way of putting the infinite Truth of Yin into finite Yang expressions.

Even if I am describing a finite expression of the quality “house”, no matter how many words I use, the picture of the house in your mind will be different from the house I am describing. Every finite expression of Yin is completely unique. It does not exist a second time. It is itself Yin, impossible to be known in all of its beingness, and every description of it is Yang. This is the fractal-like structure of Yin and Yang but we will get more into that in “The Unfolding of The Feminine Wing”.

Words themselves are not true. They themselves are not the absolute Truth they are pointing at. There are infinite ways to express the same thing, just like there are infinite possibilities of different houses. Every word is simply one finite expression of the underlying infinite Truth. But it is not the Truth itself.

If Yin is internalized, we have access to infinitely many finite expressions, we have full access to Yang. I am sure you can come up with infinitely many examples of houses. Accurately describing Yin is still impossible because it is unknowable but you can express it in infinitely many examples. However, if Yin is not internalized yet and we only have access to a finite amount of Yang representations, then we also only have finite possibilities of expressing it. Then, we will have a much harder time putting it into words.

The way to get from Yang to Yin is by intuition, by feeling into the underlying Truth. The analytical mind cannot penetrate into the wisdom of Yin. Again, there is no way of putting the infinite Truth of Yin into finite Yang expressions.

If someone is deeply in tune with the underlying infinite Truth, they will be able to find many different ways of expressing this Truth. Good teachers will express the same thing from many different angles until we, too, achieve a deep sense of this Truth. This is not just memorizing the finite expressions the teacher used, it is not understanding the Yang representation. It is what is commonly referred to as “aha-moment”. In that instant, something falls into place and our perception of this Truth is deepened. A new channel into the infinite is unlocked. We get a glimpse of pure Yin.

Awakening to Yin and Yang

Without an “experiencer” who is separate from the experienced there is no way for experience to arise. You cannot look at your own eyeballs. There needs to be separation, there needs to be space.

This is what in spiritual terms is often called the Ego. Ego, or separate I, is pure Yang energy. It is what keeps us identified as the finite body with its unique but finite history. It is what convinces us that we are a separate person who has to figure out life all on its own. And as a consequence of this separation the person has to experience a lot of suffering.

But Yang is just an illusion, separation is just an illusion. When Yin and Yang are in balance, Yang points directly at Yin, at the underlying infinite Truth. Then, Yang is simply a finite representation of the infinite Yin quality. Yang itself is it not real, it is not true, it is only a finite abstraction, an estimation so to say.

When Yin and Yang are out of balance, when Yang is mistaken for absolute Truth, suffering arises. This is the case with Ego for most of us. We are so deeply identified with the finite person that we regularly suffer the emotions of loneliness, anxiety and grief. But this is simply a sign for a relationship that is out of balance. In this case it is the relationship with Life itself.

We are not using separation as a tool in order to serve Life as a unique expression of it. Instead we completely identify with separation and mistake it for absolute Truth. We fall for illusion.

The process of Awakening starts from this place of too much Yang energy. If we are serious about Awakening to the underlying infinite Truth and follow the path sincerely we will at some point realize Oneness. We will merge with everything, become everything and lose every sense of separation altogether. There will be only pure Consciousness, infinite IS-ness. This is Life, this is Truth, this is peace and happiness, this is what we always already are.

But this state of pure bliss and Yin energy is also not a balanced relationship with Life.

Only when Yang is serving Yin, balance is restored. Only when we realize the person not to be separate but to be a unique expression of the same infinite energy, only then can we become a servant to Life itself and become free from all suffering. Then, we are granted eternal life simply because we realize that we are Life. And the person is only one finite manifestation of that infinite energy.

There is a Buddhist saying that addresses this process of Awakening. It goes:

First, there is a mountain. (Yang)

Then, there is no mountain. (Yin)

Then, there is a mountain.” (Yin and Yang in balance)

The Unfolding of The Feminine Wing

Yin and Yang and feminine and masculine are found on every level of existence. To put it in the terms of Ken Wilber: Every whole is made up of holons which are themselves wholes. Every expression of the quality “human” is itself a whole which includes and transcends all the parts. It is itself infinitely unique and cannot be put into finite abstractions. This is the fractal-like structure I mentioned earlier. Wilber calls this “holarchy”. And the 2nd hermetic principle puts it like this: “as above so below; as below so above”.

On every level Yang has to serve Yin for the relationship to be balanced. Masculine energy has to serve feminine energy.

For the most part of human history masculine energy was very dominant. When we look into the history books today, we find mostly stories about men fighting wars or making rules. It is also about science and technology. All of this is masculine energy. It is all Yang.

It is important to realize that feminine and masculine are much more fundamental archetypes than female and male. Every woman and every man hast both feminine and masculine energies in them. In most cases it is true that there is more masculine energy in men and more feminine energy in women than vice versa. This is why we tend to see more men in the fields of science where analytical mind (Yang) is needed and more women in activities that require creativity and intuition (Yin). But the balance of both energies within is what is most important.

I don’t know who came up with this analogy but I think it describes the state of our society very well: Imagine humanity as a bird in the air. One wing of the bird is fully extended but the other is still folded in. Our masculine wing is already in action while the feminine wing is dormant. In this state, we can only fly in circles or at best in a spiral motion. Flying higher and higher with scientific breakthroughs and technological innovations. But still bound to the saying that has proven itself to be accurate over and over again that “History repeats itself”.

The underlying force that leads to history repeating itself perpetually is the drive for more power and more control. It is greed and it is the illusion of lack and separation. It is pure Yang energy.

Fortunately, we live in a time where more and more people are waking up from the control of corrupt and exploitative systems wondering if this is really what life is about. More and more people are starting to look inward, starting to give room to their emotions and feelings and starting to ask the big questions like “Who am I?”, “What is my purpose?” and “How do I live a meaningful life?”.

The discomfort and search for a better way so many are going through right now is the realization that Yin and Yang are out of balance. On a personal and society level the masculine energy has not been serving the feminine for a long time. But this correction is starting now and it is starting from within every single one of us. This is the unfolding of the feminine wing and it is happening right now.

To quote my favorite cartoon of all time: “You must gain balance within yourself, before you can bring balance to the world.”

Once balance is restored, once the feminine wing is unfolded, we will unlock never before seen or imagined dimensions of human existence. The cycle of history repeating itself will be broken and we will finally be able to fly freely.

More Good News

To wrap it up, I want to summarize what we learned and conclude with more good news.

We learned that Yin and Yang only exist as a pair. Yin supersedes Yang and Yang must serve Yin for their relationship to be balanced. If that is not the case, suffering arises. Yang serves Yin by being its finite representation, by expressing Yin in a distinct form. These distinct forms seem separate from each other but this separation is an illusion. In reality they are simply finite expressions of the same quality, the same energy.

These finite expressions (Yang) are knowable and understandable. The underlying infinite Truth (Yin) is not knowable and not understandable.

This is what I believe the 4th hermetic principle, the principle of polarity, is pointing at when saying “[…] all truths are but half-truths; […]”

We can only ever understand the Yang part of every whole. The Yin part is by nature unknowable.

In a time where the global situation seems to get worse every day and seemingly evil forces are on the rise, where control and order are enforced beyond the benefit of the majority, this understanding comes in as bright shining good news: Yang is knowable! There are only finite moves “evil” can make. It is possible to fully understand the dynamics of darkness because it is finite Yang energy.

When Yang acts out of balance it is always about separation instead of of unity, about control instead of freedom, about fear instead of love.

Also, we must not forget that Yin always supersedes Yang. Even if it may seem very dark for a while, as soon as light comes into darkness, darkness vanishes instantly. Light is infinitely stronger than darkness. And if we work together as the unique expressions we are, as servants to Life itself, we will unfold the feminine wing of humanity and bring balance to the world.