Good and Evil, Perfection and Imperfection, Life and Death, Day and Night,  Male and Female,  opposites seems to be everywhere. Two sides of  life’s every story and every ‘coin’ are the general rule – but why is this Duality to be found everywhere?

The problem of Duality has been one of the great philosophical and religious dilemmas throughout the ages. From the Zoroastrians of Persia who first made Duality a major religious issue 5,000 years ago, through to the world’s largest religions today, Christianity and Islam, the existence of Evil and how to account for it in a universe created by a compassionate God, has been a perennial debate amongst philosophers and priests.

Is Duality a fundamental feature of the Universe, or is everything a Oneness as the prophets and mystics tell us? Is there  a supreme Evil Being in rebellion against a loving God, or is this all just a myth as many Athiests/Agnostics tell us today?

A Definition of Duality: From the Perennial Dictionary of World Religions:

“DUALISM: A conception of the Universe which postulates two irreducible ultimate principles, in mutual opposition and nearly evenly matched. In Western philosophy the term refers to a distinction between Spirit (or Mind) and Matter  (or the World);. Describing Indian speculation, the term has been used of the distinction between the individual self or soul and the world-Soul. These dualities can be called  timeless, but Dualism in Near-Eastern religious history refers to mythological narratives. A Zoroastrian account…pits God (Ahura Mazda) against the Devil (Angra Mainyu) in an ethical struggle, in which the physical world is the scene  but is morally neutral; earlier Zoroastrian texts and modern Zoroastrian piety do not, however, give the evil spirit equal status with the good.”

The ancient Zoroastrian religious concept of Duality: Zoroastrianism is one of the oldest known monotheistic religion (ie, they believe in One God) in the world being founded by the prophet, Zarathustra (Zoroaster) 3,500 years ago in what is now Iran (formerly, Persia). Even though it has only 200,000 followers in the world today, it has been the inspiration, and perhaps the source, of many of the concepts of the major monotheistic religions of the world – Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.

Zoroaster was a prophet living in northern Iran, but very little is known of his life. He wrote their sacred book the Avesta which contains the Gathas or sacred hymns. Zoroastrianism believes in a single God, Ahura Mazda (‘Wise Lord’), also known as Ohrmazd. He controls the force of Goodness and Balance in the Universe known as, Asha. There are a number of other subordinate Gods such as Mithra, a group of seven divine attributes known as the Amesha Spentas, (‘Holy Immortals’): Good Mind, Order, Dominion, Devotion, Wholeness, Immortality, and the Holy Spirit.

They combat the opposite force the Druj, and the evil spirit who controls it, Angira Mainyu or Ahriman. Asha is symbolized by Fire and Light and Druj by Darkness.

Therefore, Zoroastrianism is a Dualistic religion. From creation through the present age to the final judgement and reordering of the universe, the events of this world are seen as a contest between the powers of Good and Evil.

It is incumbent upon the faithful to choose the Right, not only that they may individually achieve the reward of the righteous after death, but so that Good may eventually triumph in the world. They believe in free will, good deeds and good thoughts which bring you closer to God.

Zoroastrianism: Influence on Judaism, Christianity and Islam: Zoroastrianism has had a profound influence on the three most important monotheistic religions of the modern world: Judaism, Christianity and Islam – but the evidence remains fragmentary and circumstantial rather than proved conclusively. They all believe in a Single God; a Dualistic Universe; and a Final Judgement Day.

The notion of Satan as God’s rival, the notion of life after death, and the sequence of world ages and a final judgement and redemption are teachings that seem to have been elaborated in Judaism only after the Archaeminid Persian Empire, where Zoroastianism was the state religion, conquered Israel.

Prayer in the fire temple 5 times per day looks very much like the prayer pattern of Islam, called the Salat. The Kusti, or sacred thread, is reminiscent of the thread worn by upper-caste Hindus. The Hebrews were held captive in Babylon around 600 B.C., the time when Zoroaster’s influence began to spread.

We know that this exile marked a point of rupture in Israel’s political life, but this rupture was paralleled by a complete religious reformation. New concepts were emerging in the Hebrew tradition. The idea of a Messiah whose arrival would announce the end of time had entered Jewish thought, which until that time remained quite vague about any hypothetical savior.

The figure of the Hebrew Shatam [Satan], very confused in its formulation, began to become more explicit and borrowed the features of the Mazdean Ahriman.

Angelogy and demonology made their first appearance in sacred texts, and in what had been an extremely complicated and formal religious ritual a simplification took place, with the ritual taking on more logical meanings.

In short, the Jews’ captivity in Babylon, thanks to the contacts they had with other traditions, especially that of the Zoroastrians (Mazdeans), allowed the refinement of Hebrew thought and the development of a mysticism that appears to have been completely lacking earlier. 

Dualism began to pervade  what has become the most widely held religious beliefs of the modern world.

Duality in Ancient Egypt: The Two Lands: Duality pervaded ancient Egyptian religion and life. Egypt itself was known as the Two Lands: The fertile Black Land of Osiris and the Red Land or desert of Seth. Heaven and Earth were unified oppositions: ‘As above, so below; as within so without’.

They knew that all things exist in pairs. There is no doorway through which to pass unless pillars stand in opposition on either side to create the doorway through which we can pass. Duality combines male and female, negative and positive, light and dark. All life, according to the mystical equations of Thoth, evolves from a divine coupling of opposites.

Life is impossible without a notion of Duality. Two strands of the twisted chain of DNA combine in the same way that there are two sides to the ladder of heaven held up by Horus and Seth in the Pyramid Text. These pair of opposites combine to create a deeper expanded consciousness. – from Normandi Ellis: Hieroglyphic Words of Power page, 30.

Perspectives from Ancient Egypt: ‘One’ the ‘All’: The Ancient Egyptians had their own wonderful way of expressing how Duality arose from the ‘One’ called the Great Ennead (Nine). Stripped of the mythology and complicated terminology of Gods and Goddesses, their understanding of the origin of Duality in the Universe as I understand it is as follows:

The number One is the Absolute and the Unity of all things. This absolute principle can be seen as the omnipotence of God, or, in a scientific way, as the pure energy from which the entire physical universe manifests. It is the ‘All.’

But, this ‘All’ could not manifest as individual consciousness, since it is only through a vehicle of matter that consciousness wells up as ‘I am I,’ a physical basis being necessary to focus a ray of the Universal Mind at a certain stage of complexity.

For example, a physical candle would never be confused for the light, nor for the flame which energizes it — but clearly, without the physical candle no light would happen!

Two: Duality: When the Absolute becomes conscious of Itself, Duality, or Polarity, is created, and as a result, the number Two exists.

This expresses the opposition that is fundamental to all natural phenomena. Two is not the sum of one and one, but a state of primordial tension. A world of two and nothing else is static, so nothing would ever happen. By nature it is divisive and if unchecked, it is Chaos. Then comes the Trinity or relationship of the Two – but that’s a story for another day!

Unity is eternal, undifferentiated consciousness. When it becomes conscious and creates differentiation, then there exists polarity. Polarity, or duality, therefore, is a dual expression of Unity.

The Two Ways: Good and Evil: This leads us to the ultimate question of the teachings of the Ancient Wisdom about the Two Ways, The Eternal Ways of the Universe – Good and Evil.

If we consider the Universe as boundless space, then there must be times when parts of the Universe are appearing and manifesting as material worlds, and other times when parts of it are resting out of manifestation; ie parts of it are ‘alive’ and others ‘dead’ as far as the material worlds are concerned.

As long as there is manifestation, ie. The spirit expressing itself through a vehicle of matter like a human being  with a sense of ‘I am I’,  there will be relative perfection and imperfection which is what we humans call ‘Evil’.

Oneness and Duality: From the viewpoint of the Ancient Wisdom then, the entire manifested universe is pervaded by Duality. Wherever we look we see that we are copies of universal paradigms.  “As above, so below,” is the old Hermetic axiom. As H. P. Blavatsky wrote:

“Everything in the Universe follows analogy. ‘As above, so below’; Man is the microcosm of the Universe. That which takes place on the spiritual plane repeats itself on the Cosmic plane. Concretion follows the lines of abstraction; corresponding to the highest must be the lowest; the material to the spiritual.” (The Secret Doctrine I:177)

“Parabrahm (the One Reality, the Absolute) is the field of Absolute Consciousness,” but when manifested as a material universe “duality supervenes in the contrast of Spirit (or consciousness) and Matter, Subject and Object.”(The Secret Doctrine, Vol. 1, p. 15)

“Spirit (or Consciousness) and Matter are, however, to be regarded, not as independent realities, but as the two facets or aspects of the Absolute (Parabrahm), which constitute the basis of conditioned Being whether subjective or objective.”

Not being separate from the universe, we experience the manifested physical (to us) universe as ruled by the contrasts of day and night, sleeping and waking, hot and cold, evil and good.

This Duality construct, says The Secret Doctrine 1:15, is “necessary to focus a ray of the Universal Mind at a certain stage of complexity.”

“Apart from Cosmic Substance, Cosmic Ideation could not manifest as individual consciousness, since it is only through a vehicle of matter that consciousness wells up as ‘I am I,’ a physical basis being necessary to focus a ray of the Universal Mind at a certain stage of complexity.

“Again, apart from Cosmic Ideation, Cosmic Substance would remain an empty abstraction, and no emergence of consciousness could ensue — and “the manifested universe is pervaded by duality, which is, as it were, the very essence of its existence as ‘manifestation.’”

The Battle of the Higher and Lower Selves: We humans experience this duality every moment as the intense struggle of our split dual consciousness. The mind’s higher spiritual aspect  (Buddhi Manas – the Compassionate Mind)) gravitates toward altruism, says the Ancient Wisdom, while the tides of its companion personal side (Kama Manas – the Desire Mind) is attached to outer forms, desires, survival and other material concerns.

The result is that all human minds are often blown by the winds of sense into the low lying eddies and currents of material thought. Like a balloon losing helium, we drift down from the god within us, and away from our kinship with the soul of things. Broadly considered, what is called higher mind is really a feature of our god-soul, our intuitional base: the manifestation all-knowingness in human beings.

Our all-seeing self and personal self are caught in a struggle, we are alternately pitted by the gut and brain consciousness, against the knowing heart consciousness. This sets up an confusing conflict between the true god and the demigod in us.

The Two Hemispheres of the Brain: This struggle of  or two ‘selves’ is dramatized by neuroanatomist Bolte-Taylor in her New York Times bestseller  My Stroke of Insight where she speaks of her personal experience, due to stroke, of isolating the  functions of the left  (logical, analytical, everyday consciousness) and right  (intuitional, artistic, higher mind consciousness) hemispheres of the brain.

In the book she explains the two physical hemispheres of the brain, and how each is a unique vehicle to express the Yin-Yang of ‘self’ and their relationship. Both “selves” represented by the two brain hemispheres are necessary — but they are also in urgent need of very rigorous cleansing, balancing and prioritizing by us humans.

The gateway to a wider spiritual understanding lies in our attitude to what we are doing and experiencing in our everyday life. Perhaps an analogy would be that some people see a tree as just an obstacle in the way of development whereas others see it as a beautiful creation of nature, as a ‘poem’ rather than  just a ‘thing’.

Eckhart Tolle on Oneness: Another modern spiritual teacher, Eckhart Tolle, gives us the clue as to how we can find our way to reconcile this duality in daily experience:

“What grace to see that the very thing that looked so heavy in the world of form, the very thing that seemed to be limiting me on all sides, that very thing is the doorway into the formless and into who I am beyond form. What grace to see that ultimately they are one. Form is emptiness — emptiness is form. They are one.”  —Eckhart Tolle

At Our Deepest Level We Are One with the Boundless: Changing our attitudes to what comes to us in daily life to see the better side of every experience is the gateway to approaching the Unity behind all manifestation that the Vedic sages simply called THAT (Tat).  We can’t say much about THAT except that it is not Dual as we have no point of comparison.

“… Being necessarily beyond the reach of thought, this Principle can only be spoken of by negation, such as by the Vedic method of Neti Neti (“not this, not that”), in which is the Absolute is seen to transcend the dualities and differentiations of existence, whilst yet being the root and cause of all. It is from this that we originally emerged into being, and to this that, through the cosmic process of seemingly infinite eons, we will ultimately return.

From this Boundless Principle – Parabrahm – we derive our thoughts and consciousness, our ability to influence and create our reality. It is important for us because it is us, at the most fundamental level, being the root of everything we are.” Luke Ironside.  The Three  Fundamental Propositions of The Secret Doctrine. Theosophy Downunder. March 2021.

An Endless Journey: As human beings all of us are on an endless journey throughout beginningless and endless time experiencing many different hierarchies of life besides the human unfolding ever more of our inner essence.

But that Rootless Root within each of us is the utterly Boundless. The great Hindu spiritual teacher, the Avatara Sankaracharya, based his teaching of the Vedanta (meaning: ‘the real meaning of the Vedas’ or the ‘books of wisdom’) on this fact.

He called it ‘Advaita’ or, ‘non-dualistic’, because his thought dwelt on this endlessly Divine, the Rootless Root which is the core of the core of every unit in boundless space – including each one of us!