One, Two, Three

"Out of the crooked timber of humanity no straight thing was ever made. "

                                           - I. Kant


The relationship between yin and yang is often described in terms of sunlight playing over a mountain and a valley. Yin (literally the 'shady place' or 'north slope') is the dark area occluded by the mountain's bulk, while yang (literally the 'sunny place' or 'south slope') is the brightly lit portion. As the sun moves across the sky, yin and yang gradually trade places with each other, revealing what was obscured and obscuring what was revealed.

Yin is characterized as slow, soft, yielding, diffuse, cold, wet, and passive; and is associated with water, earth, the moon, femininity, and nighttime.

Yang, by contrast, is fast, hard, solid, focused, hot, dry, and aggressive; and is associated with fire, sky, the sun, masculinity and daytime.  -Wikipedia


"The fact that artistic, scientific, and religious propensities still slumber peacefully together in the small child, or that with primitives the beginnings of art, science, and religion coalesce in the undifferentiated chaos of the magical mentality, or that no trace of 'mind' can be found in the natural instincts of animals - all this does nothing to prove the existence of a unifying principle which alone would justify a reduction of the one to the other. For if we go so far back into the history of the mind that the distinctions between its various fields of activity become altogether invisible, we do not reach an underlying principle of their unity, but merely an earlier, undifferentiated state in which no separate activities yet exist. But the elementary state is not an explanatory principle that would allow us to draw conclusions as to the nature of the later, more highly developed states even though they must necessarily derive from it. A scientific attitude will always tend to overlook the peculiar nature of these more differentiated states in favour of their causal derivation, and will endeavor to subordinate them to a general but more elementary principle."
                                                                                        - Carl Jung

Jung's principles can be summed up as:

Even before Plato the  Greeks  had evolved two ways of thinking, speaking, and acquiring knowledge, which can be labeled mythos and logos. Both were essential  and  regarded as complementary ways of arriving at truth, and each had its own area of competence. Myth was regarded as primary as it was concerned with that which is timeless and constant in their culture. Myth, rooted in the unconscious mind, looked back to the origins consciousness and to the foundations of culture.  Myth was not concerned with practical matters, but with meaning. Life without meaning leads to despair. The mythos of Greek society provided  the people with a context that made sense of their day-to-day lives by directing their attention to the eternal and the universal.  The various mythological stories, which were not intended to be taken literally, were a form of psychology. When people told stories about heroes who descended into the underworld, struggled through labyrinths or fought with monsters, they were bringing to light the obscure regions of the subconscious realm, which is not accessible to purely rational investigation, but which has a profound effect upon our lives and behavior.  Because of the lack of myth in our modern society we use all kind of devices to help us to deal with our inner world.

Myth can not be demonstrated by rational proof; its insights are intuitive, like art, music, and poetry. Myth became a reality when it was embodied in cult, rituals, and ceremonies which worked aesthetically upon worshippers, evoking within them a sense of sacred significance and enabling them to apprehend the deeper currents of existence. Myth and cult were so inseparable that it is a matter of  debate which came first: the mythical narrative or the rituals attached to it. Myth was also associated with mysticism, the descent into the psyche by means of structured disciplines of focus and concentration which have been evolved in all cultures as a means of acquiring intuitive insight. Without a cult or mystical practice the myths of religion make no sense.  They remain abstract, in rather the same way as a musical score remains obscure to most of us and needs to be performed instrumentally before we can appreciate its beauty.

In the pre-modern world people had a different view of history. They were less interested than we are in what actually happened, but more concerned with the meaning of an event. Historical incidents were not seen as unique occurrences, set in a far-off time, but were thought to be external manifestations of constant, timeless realities. Hence history would tend to repeat itself, because there was nothing new under the sun. Historical narratives tried to bring out this eternal dimension. Thus, we do not know what really occurred when the ancient Israelites escaped from Egypt and passed through the Sea of Reeds. The story has been deliberately written as a myth, and linked with other stories about rites of passage, immersion in the deep, and gods splitting a sea in two to create a new reality. Jews experience this myth every year in the rituals of the Passover Seder, which brings this strange story into their own lives and helps them to make it their own. One could say that unless an historical event is mythologized in this way, and liberated from the past in an inspiring cult, it cannot be religious. To ask whether the Exodus from Egypt took place exactly as recounted in the Bible or to demand historical and scientific evidence to prove that it is factually true is to mistake the nature and purpose of this story. It is to confuse mythos with logos. Philosophy is about finding a rational account, but that is not always possible or fruitful. The starting point is often the mythical explanation. It's not possible to give a rational account from beginning to end, and so the rational account itself has mythical aspects to it.  

Logos, as reason, is equally important. Logos is the rational, pragmatic and scientific thought that enables us to function well in the world. We may have lost the sense of mythos in the West today, but we are very familiar with logos, which is the basis of our society. Unlike myth, logos must relate exactly to facts and correspond to external realities if it is to be effective. It must work efficiently in the mundane world. We use this logical, discursive reasoning when we have to make things happen, get something done, or persuade other people to adopt a particular course of action. Logos is practical. Unlike myth, which looks back to the beginnings and to the foundations, logos forges ahead and tries to find something new: to elaborate on old insights, achieve a greater control over our environment, discover something fresh and invent something novel.


Logos and Early Christianity

 The early Christians had heated disputes about Jesus and the Logos and Wisdom. Eventually the Emperor Constantine set a pattern for Eastern Christians by dedicating a church to Christ as the personification of divine wisdom. In Constantinople the Emperor Justinian rebuilt Santa Sophia, consecrated in 538, and it became a model for many other Byzantine churches. Nevertheless, in the New testament and subsequent Western Christian thought Logos as Word came through more clearly than "the Wisdom" of God as a central title of Christ in the east.

Philo of Alexandria (20 BC - 50 AD)  attempts to combine Plato and Moses into one philosophical system. Some scholars hold that his concept of the Logos as God's creative principle influenced early Church fathers. Alternatively, the references to the Logos and Sophia (wisdom)  may be ideas taken from Greek philosophy or Hellenistic Judaism directly by church fathers. The concept of intermediate divine beings was common to Platonism and heretical Jewish sects. In Proverbs 8, Wisdom (as feminine consort) is described as God's Counsellor and Workmistress, who dwelt beside Him before the creation of the world.

Theophilus, Patriarch of Antioch c. 169 puts it as "God, his Word (Logos) and his Wisdom (Sophia)."  It is possible that the word may have been used before this time as many Greek Christian works before Theophilus were lost. The context for his use of the word Trinity is commentary on the successive work of the creation weeks (Genesis chapters 1-3). According to Theophilus the sun is the image of God; the moon of man, whose death and resurrection are prefigured by the monthly changes of that luminary. The first three days before the creation of the heavenly bodies are types of the Trinity. In like manner also the three days which were before the luminaries, are types of the Trinity, of God, and His Word, and His wisdom. And the fourth is the type of man, who needs light, that so there may be God, the Word, wisdom, man.

The council of Nicaea dealt primarily with the issue of the deity of Christ. Over a century earlier the use of the term "Trinity" (Τ?ιάς in Greek; trinitas in Latin) could be found in the writings of Origen (185-254) and Tertullian (160-220), and a general notion of a "divine three", in some sense, was expressed in the second century writings of Polycarp and Justin Martyr. In Nicaea, questions regarding the Holy Spirit were left largely unaddressed until after the relationship between the Father and the Son was settled around the year 362. So the doctrine in a more full-fledged form was not formulated until the Council of Constantinople in 360 AD.

That Council concluded:

We believe in one God the Father Almighty, of whom are
all things. And in the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of God before all ages, and before every beginning; through whom all things visible and invisible were made: who is the only-begotten born of the Father, the only of the only, God of God, like to the Father who begat him, according to the Scriptures, and whose generation no one knows but the Father only that begat him. We know that this only-begotten Son of God, as sent of the Father, came down from the heavens, as it is written, for the destruction of sin and death: and that he was born of the Holy Spirit, and of the Virgin Mary according to the flesh, as it is written, and conversed with his disciples; and that after every dispensation had been fulfilled according to his Father's will, he was crucified and died, and was buried and descended into the lower parts of the earth, at whose presence hades itself trembled: who also arose from the dead on the third day, again conversed with his disciples, and after the completion of forty days was taken up into the heavens, and sits at the right hand of the Father, whence he will come in the last day, the day of the resurrection, in his Father's glory, to requite every one accord-to his works. [We believe] also in the Holy Spirit, whom he himself the only-begotten of God, Christ our Lord and God, promised to send to mankind as the Comforter, according as it is written, "the Spirit of truth" whom he sent to them after he was received into the heavens.



Mention of the Holy Spirit seems almost an afterthought, but "Spirit of truth" does suggest the Greek Hagia Sophia.


hagia sophia
Icon of Hagia Sophia from St George Church in Vologda
Christ is shown above a winged Sophia.


In the west the Holy Spirit is often  portrayed as a dove. All four Gospel accounts refer to the baptism of Jesus by John at the Jordan river have the Holy Spirit resembling a dove. (Matthew 3:16; Mark 1:10; Luke 3:22; John 1:32)  For example, the Luke account says “And the Holy Spirit came down in a bodily shape, like a dove on Him.“


Baptism of Christ - Piero della Francesca