Carl Jung wrote that: ‘Wisdom never forgets that all things have two sides’. He wanted to point out that opposites give energy and the tension between them serves as what he calls the ‘elixir of life’.
Whilst there is a necessity to bring the opposites together in the ‘quest for one’s soul’ he makes it clear that complete unification will eliminate the passion for life and everything is then at a complete standstill. Perhaps this is the peace that passes all understanding and sometimes one can get a glimpse of it during meditation when the mind ceases and there is tranquillity…but usually… certainly for me… not for very long.
Sanford Drob in his book called Archetype of the Absolute says that while a complete unification of the opposites appears to be the impetus to certain mystical states it can also lead to a form of psychosis in which the distinctions of everyday life collapse and the individual is unable to distinguish between fantasy and reality.
Jung advocated this balancing of the tension and warned against complete immersion in one or other state, or when the separation is carried so far so that the complementary opposite is lost sight of. In other words when everything is all good and no bad is seen in it at all; in this state it is all too one-sided so then the unconscious compensates without our help. You can see this in some people’s belief systems. I can think of examples in certain strands of religion where the family has been held up as the supreme model and then it’s revealed that the greatest advocate of this belief is also a serial adulterer on the side and so on.
The bible offers examples of the tension between the opposites as a state of mind and the idea of their unification (both/and rather than either/or) as being representative of both wisdom and God.
One example is found in Hannah’s song. Hannah in her joy at having a son Samuel is also in pain at the loss as she relinquishes him to God. The coincidence of the joy and pain gives rise to her song, a breakthrough or epiphany about her experience of Who and What God is…
The bows of the mighty are shattered,
But the feeble gird on strength.
Those who were full hire themselves out for bread,
But those who were hungry cease to hunger.
Even the barren gives birth to seven,
But she who has many children languishes.
The Lord kills and makes alive;
He brings down to Sheol and raises up.
The Lord makes poor and rich;
He brings low, He also exalts.
He raises the poor from the dust,
He lifts the needy from the ash heap
To make them sit with nobles,
And inherit a seat of honor;
For the pillars of the earth are the Lord’s,
And He set the world on them.
1 Samuel 2