Updated: Nov 25, 2020
People have been aware of polarity dynamics for thousands of years, even though it seems like a modern idea. The German philosopher, George Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel distinguished the dialectic method in modern times. He described forces which are paired in opposition. He called this thesis and anti-thesis. This polarity is resolved through synthesis, a reconciling force creating a balance in the dynamics between them.
This idea though comes from ancient times. It was passed down through Plato and Socrates. In the Christian religion, it is the Trinity and in Hinduism, the three forms of God as Brahma the Creator, Shiva the Destroyer, and Vishnu the Sustainer are called the Trimurti. It is also the same in many lost religions of the ancient world across the Ancient Near East and Indo-European and Celtic cultures. In Asia, we find the Yin and Yang, which also has its form of reconciliation and balancing of opposition.
The 20th-century spiritual teacher G. I. Gurdjieff calls Hegel's Dialectic the "the law of three Forces." He said of its mystical and cosmological nature:
"Holy Affirming, Holy Denying, Holy Reconciling, Transubstantiate In Me For My Being".
Gurdjieff claimed it to be a universal law and as one of the central ideas of his teaching. In his formulation, the reconciling 'third' force arises only when the forces of 'affirming' and 'denying' are equally balanced. In the absence of this balance, there is only the domination of one of these forces by the other!
Thus the polarities that happen in life are more than just an intellectual exercise. They also have a deeper and ancient cultural meaning. One encounters their real-world manifestations in our relationships with others and also in our own inner life. This is human nature. Reconciliation happens through the transubstantiation that manifests in us when we are balanced in our own polarities.
These ideas were also familiar to others who lived at the same time as Gurdjieff. These people came from related streams of mystical thought. These include theosophy, anthroposophy, hermeticism, and also other traditions. Together, they influenced the 20th century by bringing together influences from both eastern and western cultures. An example is the work of the movement theorist Rudolph Laban, who used polarity in his model of human movement.
Laban's work expresses polarity with regard to the embodiment of movement. He contrasts between what he calls 'Contending' and 'Yielding' natures. These are essentially identical to what Gurdjieff called the 'Denying' and the 'Affirming'. This is not an accident. Laban's biographer, John Foster reports that Laban was influenced Gurdjieff through his Swiss students who were also students of Gurdjieff in the early 20th century.*
Though the notion of transubstantiation is from Christianity, the message that Gurdjieff is sending is clear. A state change also is equally applicable in processes of psychic transformation that occur in the being of human beings. Transubstantiation occurs in body, emotion, and thought that each exists by expressing duality through their affirming and yielding nature, or denying and contending nature.
*John Foster, "The Influences of Rudolf Laban", Lepus Books, London, UK, 1977
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