2.2. Two parts in the universe

The simplest division of unity (the one-division) is a partition in two pieces. The first proceeding (separation) can result in two equal parts (when severed in the middle), or in two unequal parts. The subsequent act of comparison – in a dynamic approach – differs in both a-priori starting points. The former action (halving) has been called mediation or dimidiation. It is different from a handling of division with multiple (initial) parts. The ancient Egyptians applied the first type of division-by-two as a fundamental calculation method. The method is still used in modern binary arithmetic when a bit-shift is performed that moves the number one place to the right.

The two-division is by far the most important division in a human thinking process. It marks the distinction between unity and multiplicity, expressed in the one and the many. It is the raison d’être of the part, which has distinguished itself from the universe, although it is still part of it. The ‘one’ of the one-division is a complete different entity than the ‘one’ of the two-division. The first unity is a total of itself, while the second is an outlined part of the many (minimal two).

The world of duality is secure: it is ‘either – or’, with nothing in between. This disposition may explain the widespread occurrence of this type of thinking, from the past to the present day, in all forms of biological existence. It is, in short, a natural survival mechanism based on reflexes.

Kent PALMER (2000) pointed, in his article on ‘Intertwining of Duality and Nonduality’, to the difference in use of the terms ‘dualism’ and ‘duality’. He distinguished a philosophical and a mathematical interpretation of the dual. The first (dualism) ‘has to do with the production of nihilistic artificial and extreme opposites’, like the Mind/Body dualism. The second (duality) is a mathematical concept, ‘and would be better stated in terms of complementarity rather than duality’ (What is Life and Living, 2000).

Palmer noted that ‘throughout the history of the Western tradition dualism uses duality as part of the armament by which it builds up dialectically opposite arguments and philosophical positions, which spar with each other.’ He pointed to the Orient, which took – in his view – a different direction of thought by placing an alternative in the middle between dualism and dogmatic monism. Aristotle’s principle of the Excluded Middle (‘every proposition is either true or false’; On Interpretation; Metaphysics, Book 3) and the banning of contradiction was seen by Palmer as the first principle in his metaphysics. He observed that Aristotle ‘forced our (Western) tradition down the road of Dualism.’

LLOYD (1971) described polarity and analogy as types of argumentation in early Greek thought and concluded ‘the fact is that other societies, whether ancient or modern, provide a great deal of evidence concerning dualistic theories and beliefs of different sort.’ The Greek philosopher and physician Alcmaeon of Croton (c. 540 – 500 BC) believed that most human things go in pairs. He was the first to identify the brain as the seat of understanding, which acted as a vital organ for perceptions, thoughts and sensations. Alcmaeon’s dualistic thinking formed the base of his theory of health. He composed a ‘Table of Opposites’,’ which was used by the Pythagoreans.

Alcmaeon saw the human being as made up of opposites: the hot and the cold, the moist and the dry, etc. A disease was seen as a ‘monarchy’ of one of the members of the pair. Health meant the rule of a free government (of the extremes) with equal law. The term ‘isonomy’ expressed the balance of all possible antagonisms (in the human body). The philosopher Parmenides (c. 540 BC) exploited the dualistic theme further in his ‘Way of Seeming’ (the every day perception of reality of the physical world) as a continuation of the opposition of light (day) and darkness (night).

This latter theme had contemporary roots in Zoroastrianism, with its ancestry in the northern part of Persia (Iran). The Iranians have a distinct history of lower division thinking, which originated in a distant past and can be traced to the present day. The tenacity, in which the oppositional way of thinking has been preserved over the years and the historic efforts to escape from it, provides a microcosm of human division thinking. Their history is also a narrative of the development of division thinking in general. A brief outline of its chronicle will be given here to indicate the transition of (division) conceptions within a cultural setting.

Zoroastrianism is the oldest monotheist religion, based on the word of the prophet Zarathustra (or Zoroaster), living somewhere between 1200 and 600 BC. The message of goodness was orally transmitted until the words were put on paper under the Sassanians (226 – 651 AD) in a book called the Avesta. The sacred sections are formed by seventeen great hymns, called the Gathas. Later literature includes the Phalavi Texts, with quotations and paraphrases from lost Avesta texts.

Zoroastrianism was the major religion in the Persian empires from the sixth-century BC until its substitution by the Islam in the seventh century AD. The teachings of Zarathustra had influences on other religions like Judaism, Christianity and Islam. The (dualistic) concepts of a free will, Heaven and Hell, the future resurrection of the body, the Last Judgement, and life everlasting were borrowed from Zoroastrianism (BOYCE, 1979).

The Supreme Being was called Ahura Mazda (Ormuzd, God), meaning ‘Wise Lord’. He was seen as the creator of heaven and earth and visualized as a symbol of light or fire. In this capacity, he reflected the one-division. However, this god of light was permanently fighting with Ahriman, the representative of a destructive spirit, living in darkness. Good (light) and evil (darkness) were in an eternal opposition.

The dualistic aspect is – on an intellectual level – extended to the three-division in Time. The sacred number three found an expression in a ‘limited time’, consisting of a period of Creation, Mixture and Separation (each lasting a thousand years). Zoroaster was born towards the end of the third millennium, or the first half of the ‘world year’ of six thousand years. The subsequent periods in the second half (of the world year) all had a Saviour (or Saoshyant, one who brings benefit). The first one, Ukhshyat-ereta was ‘He who makes righteousness grow’. The second, in the year 5000, was his brother Ukhshyat-nemah, or ‘He who makes reverence grow’. Finally, there was the greatest of the Saoshyants, Astvat-erata. The latter brings the final renovation of the world, the Frashokereti.

The last stage in the development of division thinking was shaped in one of the few deviations of the basic Zoroastrian doctrine known as the Zurvanite heresy. The Zurvanites found their scriptural justification in the explanation of a Gathic verse (Y 30.3), in which the two primal spirits (good and bad) are depicted as a twin. When there are twins, there must be a father and so Zurvan (or Time), took that place and assumed power over Ahura Mazda and Anra Mainyu. Zurvan became the Lord of the Three Times. This separation of the ‘means’ as a ruler (of a trinity) let to a new quaternity. The number four was, in due course, a prominent element in the cult of the Zurvanites (BOYCE, 1979; p. 69).

The conceptions of Ahura Mazda changed over time and an orientation away from the dualism of early Zoroastrianism could also lead (back) to monotheism. The main agent in this process was the position of ‘power’, being either subscribed to a single creator of the world or in a divided pantheon.


 Fig. 6 – The Faravahar or Farohar, was the winged symbol of the Zoroastrians. It was an adapted form of the motif of the ‘spread eagle’. This form, which features a flying bird shown from below, with its wings, tail and legs outstretched, has a wide cultural distribution in time and place.

The faravahar is the symbol of our human spirit, which already existed before we were born and which will continue to exist after death (fig. 6). All events of our world are based on cause and effect. In the center of the figure is a circle, which represents the soul of the individual. The cyclicity points to immortality, because there is no beginning or end. Each wing has five layers of feathers, which might represent the Five Divine Songs (Gathas), the five divisions of the day (Gehs) and the five senses of the human body.

The meaning of the Persian Faravahar symbol is ambivalent. Some scholars see it as a symbolic image of Ahura Mazda, others as an aim to reach the One God, the ‘Wise Lord’. Irach Taraporewala identified, in 1928, the Winged Disk as the khavarenah or royal glory.

The fight between the sepanta meynu (the good force) and the ankara meynu (force of the bad/evil) are essential for the faravahar (spirit) to reach maturity. Only by strengthening the good force in us and suppress the evil force can we reach the final aim: a higher level of future existence. The key to life is vohu mana (divine wisdom), which means the attainment of a good mind, wisdom and good thinking. The divine fire (mainyu athra) is empowered by truth, a key word in the Zoroastrian religion. Alternatively, like it is expressed in Yasna 34.4:

‘Now, we wish Thy fire, Lord, which possesses strength through truth and which is the swiftest, forceful thing, to be of clear help to Thy supporter but of visible harm, with the powers in its hands, to Thy enemy, Wise One’.

The motif of the eagle was used in Egypt as early as the second millennium BC (notably by pharaoh Tut-ank-amoun), and found its way to the Hittites of the ancient Near East. In Syria, it was shown on a seal from the Mitanni civilization (c. 1450 – 1360 BC). Assyrian art had their own, independent, version as a winged disc associated with divinity and divine protection. The design that would become the Faravahar flourished during the Achaemenid kings, from about 600 – 330 BC. It is, however, absent in the art of the Sassanian period, from AD 250 – 650. In fact, it were the European antiquarians of the early twentieth century that gave the symbol a new lease of life. A renewed awareness among Zoroastrians worked in favor of its popularity.

The same ‘heresy’ as the Zurvanites with regards to a (holy) trinity is known in Christian-dominated Europe. This development started with the Arian heresy in the early fourth-century AD. The Cyrenaicean priest Arian, living in Alexandria, shook the young Christianity with the claim, that God deserved a separate place, outside the Trinity. By doing so, he created a quaternity and challenged the basics of division thinking (and consequently, the position of power).

The controversy flared up again between Joachim of Fiore and Petrus Lombardus, which took place at the end of the twelfth century. ‘Joachim accused Peter Lombard of Sabellianism and Arianism, of overemphasizing the unity of God at the expense of His threeness to such an extent so as to make a quarternity of persons by separating the ‘deitas’ or ‘essentia’ of God too distinctly from the persons’ (BLOOMFIELD, 1957). Joachim characterized Petrus Lombardus as a ‘quaternator’, who made God into a quaternity (DANIEL, 1980). And he was completely right: the year 1200 was – from the perspective of a modern observer – a historic dividing line between the old (quaternarian) and the new (trinitarian) way of thinking in the cultural history of Europe.

The world of the two-division is, in nature, a simple one, but becomes complex as soon as dynamism is introduced. The cause of the complications is found in the definition of the communication itself. Its main components – division and movement (fig. 4) – should both be present to fulfill the requirements of a ‘real interaction’. The individual components, operating on their own, do not provide the complete essence of human understanding.


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