I was inspired to build on an earlier post on polarity by these thoughts from a free pdf in the Psychosynthesis Centre: Balancing and Synthesis of the Opposites by psychologist Roberto Assagiol. Quotes are from that document.
Polarity is a universal fact; it is inherent in cosmic manifestation… From the very moment that cosmic manifestation begins to unfold, duality is born. The first fundamental duality is precisely that between manifestation and the Unmanifest. In the process of manifestation the fundamental polarity is that of Spirit and Matter.
We could see existence as the dance between spirit and matter.
… all polarity is a relationship between two elements… as such, it is never absolute, but relative even to a particular pair of opposites: the same element can be positive in its relation to a certain “pole” and negative in its relation to another. An instance of the relativity of the “polar relationships” exists in the fundamental polarity between Spirit and Matter.
All polarities are reflections of that one basic spirit/matter polarity – such as inner/outer, feminine/masculine, symbolic/analytical, religion/science, labour/capital, right brain/left brain, mind/body and on and on.
Assagioli’s paper discusses how we can resolve opposing polarities. Essentially, he identifies two ways: balance and synthesis.
- Achieving balance involves an intermediary centre or a regulating action to either diminish the amplitude of the oscillations between the two extremes (“happy medium”) or consciously and wisely directing the alternations so that the result is harmonious and constructive (as in I Ching.) ‘Both-and’ thinking instead of ‘either-or’ thinking.
- Synthesis is brought about by a higher element or principle which transforms, sublimates and reabsorbs the two poles into a higher reality. This could be what we today call a win-win solution. Hegel’s dialectic of thesis-antithesis-synthesis is similar.
Both can be examples of the creative effect of polarities. Sticking to one side or the other usually means stasis. So efforts of, say, the political left or right to ‘finally win the argument’ are doomed to failure!
Assagioli makes interesting observation on the key polarity between mind and heart:
The polarity between ‘mind’ and ‘heart’, between reason and feeling, is regulated in the first place by the recognition of their respective functions and of the legitimate field of action of each of the two functions, so that neither dominates the other. This can be followed by a mutual and increasing cooperation and interpenetration between the two, finally arriving at the synthesis so well expressed by Dante in the words “Intellectual light full of love.”
He concludes with the essential principle of synthesis:
A clear understanding of this process of synthesis enables one to achieve it more easily and rapidly. The essential requirement… is to avoid identifying oneself with either of the two opposite poles, and to control, transmute, and direct their energies from a higher center of awareness and power.
Of course, Assagioli invented the psychology of psychosynthesis.