Dualism Definition, Meaning, Philosophy and Religion
Definition and Meaning
Dualism states that two opposing, or opposite, ideas, things, or categories mutually exist. A person holding such views is a dualist. Such views are expressed in the humanities. For example, in anthropology dualism may explain facts about man by two fundamental causes: reason or the passions, soul or body; freedom or determinism. Dualism explains the theory of knowledge by the confrontation of two different realities, subjective or objective; the religious cosmos in the terms of a perpetual conflict between good and evil, which has always existed. As one examines any dualistic situation he discovers that the two opposites are usually considered as coming from the same or similar source.
The perpetual conflict of good and evil, a prime dualistic subject, is notably discussed when surveying the history of religion. When hearing this statement many think it only pertains to recent formalized religions, but such dualism has an ancient aspect as well. This is seen in the ancient religions centered on animism; that is the belief in spirits of the same genus capable of doing good or benevolent things or evil and injurious things. The results of the actions of the spirits determine whether it is good or evil, not the qualities themselves. Since all these spirits are forces of nature they can be good in some respects or circumstances and bad in others.
Moving onto more highly developed religions one finds that a supreme, all-powerful spirit has emerged, called a great God. According to tribal legends among the Native Americans, and tribes in central and north Asia this supreme God is not the sole creator of the world, but has an adversary or collaborator who committed a malicious or stupid act that lead to irreparable harm. Such legends express the astonishment of men finding themselves in the presence of evil and death, and expressing their belief that these terrible things do not belong to the essence of things, and they are not attributable to the supreme God. Here lies the germ of the dualism; the terrible things are believed to have come from the second being even though his independent origin is never positively expressed. This being may be a creature of the God, or his origin is omitted.
This dualistic struggle between good and evil is exhibited between the sun god Re, symbolizing life and truth, and his antagonist snake god Apep, Greek Apophis, in the ancient Egyptian religion. Apep, a monster living in perpetual darkness, perpetually tried stopping Re’s barque on its nightly journey through the underworld. During this struggle between light and darkness, the gigantic serpent is wounded by knives and spears hurled by Re’s divine entourage. In legend, Apep was the personification of darkness, evil, and chaos. Occasionally the deity was victorious for a short duration, but in the end Re triumphed. Apep was slain by Re who cut up his body and burned it. It is observed that both deities have the same divine nature but have opposite objectives.
The dualism theme is expressed again in the ancient Egyptian religion with the legendary battle between Osiris and Set or Seth. Osiris, the grain god, was considered by some the counterpart of Re after death. He was crucial to Egyptian agriculture; therefore, every king was the divine embodiment of Horus in life and became Osiris after death. From this evolved the Osirian legend found in the Pyramid Texts to be later popularized and embellished by the Greek writer Plutarch. The legend describes Set as the adversary and jealous brother of Osiris who during a drunken party was persuaded by his brother to step into a sarcophagus. Once inside the coffin was nailed shut and thrown into the Nile. This was followed by years of searching byIsis who eventually found the body. She brought it home. On the journey back, she breathed breath into the body and impregnated herself with Osiris’ semen and bore his son Horus. Set was not always depicted as being evil. According to one legend he helped the sun-god Re when he was about to be swallowed up by Apep. However, later Set became the personification of evil. Here again, both parties share a divine nature but have opposite objectives (Jordan 195, 233).
The Babylonian mythology shares a similar legend. Marduk, the chief deity and tutelary god of Babylon, engages in the primordial battle with Tiamat, the power of the ocean. He kills her, splitting her in half and uses parts of her corpse to fashion heaven and earth. Tiamat fought him in revenge for the death of Apsu, the deep. These were two opposing deities sharing a divine nature (Jordan 158).
In Greek mythology the primordial battle was waged between Zeus and the Titans, Cronus, his father, in particular. Cronus swallowed all of his children. Zeus escaped the fate by trickery of Rhea, his mother. In battle Zeus overthrew his father, making him vomit up his brothers and sisters and also freed his aunts and uncles whom Cronus had imprisoned (Jordan 296). This ushered in the Olympians. Both deities shared the same nature; one was begotten from the other.
The strict personification of evil in a deity began with the religion of Zoroastrianism, founded by Zoroaster or Zarathustra. The exact time in which Zoroaster lived is uncertain; many give the date of 6000 BC while others state 1200 BC. From the style of his teaching it is generally accepted that he resided in north-east Iran. The broad setting of his religion was the Indo-Iranian tradition reflected in the Rg Veda. Also, the literature of Zoroastrianism deflects the times and conditions of the era: …the practices described in sections of the Younger Avesta are only those of agriculturalists and herdsmen. Stone mortars, pestles, and the ritual flint knife were implements associated with the Neolithic times, were still being used, and bows and arrows were often flint-tipped. Events described in the Younger Avesta appear to possibly have occurred as often in the Stone Age as in the Bronze (Settegast 213-214).
Other references indicate that it was an agricultural society. Such renovation was to occur through husbandry. Although ancient Iranian kings are claimed to have invented husbandry, Zoroaster is said to be the first to embed it into a religious system. Soil cultivation became a kind of worship to his followers, “He who cultivates corn [grain] cultivates righteousness” (Vendidad 3.1). . His aim was to secure both the material and spiritual welfare of the “Good Creation,” to renew and preserve the sanctity of the world to restore it to a state of perfection. This hope is uttered in the prayer “May we be those who will renew this existence” (Y 30.9).
From these statements one sees that Zoroaster was not just a religious leader but a social reformer as well. He strived to change the society that he lived in. He consciously felt himself physically powerless, filled with a deep longing for justice; he sought the moral laws of the Ahuras in order to establish tranquility for all, the strong and weak alike (Boyce 19).
Zoroaster not only lived in an agrarian society but a warring one as well. The Rg Veda describes the Indian society of the times with Indra, the ideal warrior, nobly depicted. From the prophet’s perspective this sort of society was full of destructive forces which he wanted to eliminate. Many Iraniologists think possibly this was the most difficult transformation the prophet attempted to make upon his society. His initial step was the separation of gods, replacing All of the Immortals as mentioned in the Vedas, the warrior gods such as Indra and Mithra, with those he called the Holy Immortals, benevolent gods toward the people.
The Holy Immortals included Ahura Mazda, Lord of Wisdom, and the six lesser Ahuras which he created through his Holy Spirit, Spenta Mainyu. According to Zoroaster these with other divinities were the Yazatas who helped mankind. Opposing them was Angra Mainya and the Daevas. This was the premise of the dualism of Zoroastrianism.
The basis for the premise was formed by the eternal struggle between Ahura Mazda and Angra Mainya. These were both uncreated spirits, existing in time, they were destined by nature to be constant combatants within the physical world that Ahura Mazda, the good spirit, created; Angra Mainya, the evil spirit, by nature would continually try to destroy the world and everything in it. The Zoroastrians believed that Angra Mainyu would win some battles but at the end of the world, the eschatological theory, he would be defeated and good would triumph.
It is in Zoroastrianism that the nature of dualism changes and assumes its more permanent characteristic. The common meaning of a dualistic conflict became good versus evil, right and/or wrong, and so on; the sources of good and evil were separate, both no longer came from a single source as in the Aegean era. The Aegean gods, such as Zeus, were both good and bad; they shared both qualities as their worshippers considered them deities with human traits. Within the Zoroastrian theogony this changed, good and evil came from separate sources, not one; dualism no longer was a combat between a more powerful versus a weaker god; it now involved the struggle between the good, or perfect, deity against the evil one. This struggle, or war, as shall be seen influenced most-later religious philosophies.
Ahura Mazda, as envisioned by Zoroaster, was the Creator divinity, the good god and creator of the world and everything within it while Angra Mainyu was his adversary, the evil god, author of destruction, the continual combatant trying to destroy the word. This would become the classic definition of moral dualism, the war between the forces of good and evil. As was noted in Zoroastrianism the concept of Angra Mainyu came from Zoroaster’s experiences with the harshness of life. The single new concept in Zoroaster’s theogony was the role of Ahura Mazda as the Creator God and not equal to the other Ahuras as guardians of asha; otherwise his description of the world theorized possible causes for events as he saw them. By declaring the spirits, or forces, of good and evil to be uncreated Zoroaster practically declared them to be eternal; his assumption that good would eventually triumph over evil might be called presumptuous by some. As it will be shown this dualism of good versus evil is only overcome by the concept of polarity.
Judaism is one of the first religions considered when discussing the influences of Zoroastrianism. In 586 BC the Babylonian Empire conquered the Jews, destroyed their Temple, and forced them into exile. This captivity lasted almost fifty years. In 539 BC the Persians, under the Achaemenid King Cyrus, captured Babylonia. The next year, 538 BC, Cyrus issued a decree freeing the Jews, saying they were to be allowed to return to their homeland. He and his Achaemenid successors even went further by helping to rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem. This generosity did not just come from religious piety, other pagan groups were assisted too, but from the wisdom of knowing that grateful people were less likely to rebel.
However, all of the Exiles did not choose to return to their homeland. The adaptable Jews had over the years established themselves in Mesopotamia, settling there, starting businesses, entering politics and even rising to high positions in the imperial court.
Gradually change in Jewish thinking took place. Such change began during their Exile and continued afterwards. The first change occurred in the Jewish faith itself; being in exile they had no Temple or sacrificial animals which were at the center of their faith. Also within this change was their conception of God who could no longer be looked upon as a tribal protector who would save them from being conquered or exiled. They were forced to change their past religious concepts and practices.
It is most likely that Zoroastrianism influenced Judaism indirectly through everyday contact of the two populations living within this Mesopotamian area. It seems unlikely that the Jewish religious leaders would have access to the Gathas and Yashts which were only accessible to Zoroastrian priests. The material contained within these works was only orally accessible to the ordinary Zoroastrians; therefore, their teachings, if spread, could only be spread by word of mouth. Also, the archaic language of such texts would have posed a barrier for the Jews. Another barrier would have been posed by the Jews themselves; even when in Exile the Jews practiced their faith by strictly, as possible, obeying their religious rules which also served to separate them from outsiders. The Zoroastrians also had their own purity laws which they strictly followed. Thus, the only permitted relation between both groups was through oral communication.
As previously noted one of the first changes in Jewish religious thought surrounded the concept of God. Even before the Exile thinkers were beginning to move away from the idea of God as a tribal protector to whom animal sacrifices were offered to a concept of a universal and absolute being who would be adored by praises and moral actions. Among an exiled and enslaved people such a concept began fermenting.
Both the Zoroastrians and the Jews believed in monotheism, but each viewed it differently. Whereas Zoroastrianism had one God, Ahura Mazda, who was all good, Judaism had one God, Yahweh, who was believed to both reward and punish. The Jews probably recognized the Zoroastrians as monotheists, but clung to their belief in Yahweh; “I form the light, and create darkness; and create evil; I, the Lord, do all these things” (Isaiah 45:7). It is quite clear from this passage that even though both groups believed in one God, for both he had different attributes. The God of the Zoroastrians only gave beneficial or good things to his people while the God of the Jews rendered both good and evil. The Jewish concept of Yahweh is derived from the monotheistic revelation attributed to Moses just as the concept of Ahura Mazda came from the revelation of Zoroaster; both concepts are unique and independent.
A more readily recognized influence surrounds the idea of hell in an afterlife. Before the Exile the Jewish teaching was that the souls of the dead went to a dull, Hades-like place called Sheol; but after their Persian contact, the idea of heavenly rewards for good and hellish punishment for evil began in Judaism. This is recognizable because one of the Biblical words for heaven is Paradise which is from the ancient Iranian words pairi-daeza, meaning “enclosed garden”; and is one of the very few distinctive Persian barrowed words in the Bible. This moral view of an afterlife is characteristic of Zoroaster’s teaching initiated in the Gathas.
There is speculation that the concept in Judaism of a savior or messiah was Zoroastrian influenced. In the book of Second Isaiah, written while the Jews were in Exile, the prophet speaks of a Savior that will rescue his people; there are some inferences to Cyrus as the Liberator. This helped to spur the Jewish general conception of the word savior as anyone helping the Jewish people. Although there was a parallel between the words Saoshyant and Savior, both assuming almost a divine quality, this would later cause friction between Christians and Jews who never accepted Christ as a divine Savior.
As it will be shown the Christian Yahweh is more identical to Ahura Mazda than the Jewish Yahweh; the Christian God is all good like Ahura Mazda and in the same way is beneficial to his people. Many scholars believe that similarities between religions indicate that the beliefs of older religions influence younger religions; this is a common workable theory, but it does not seem definitive provable as other factors may also influence religious development. Accepting this theory, one can say the Persian God more fitted the mode of the Christian God than the Jewish. Each is supreme, monotheistic, and beneficent. Likewise, with the Christians, as with Zoroaster, such a God does not fit the world in which they found themselves living; how could an all-good God create a world, not perfect, having evil in it? They possessed the identical problem which Zoroaster faced; the evil could not come from the all-good God, so there must be another source. The early Jews did not face this predicament, as mentioned earlier, their God Yahweh, was believed to give both reward and punishment; they had eliminated the pure dualistic God who just was beneficent to his people; but the Christians took the dualistic God back again.
However, the Christian are not entirely to blame. As seen in the article The Devil the early Hebrews recognized the deity Jehovah as possessing good and evil qualities. Jehovah was similar to the Canaanite gods, in fact; originally he was considered a god among many. Gradually, however, Jehovah took on the attributes of an omniscient and omnipresent God. Also, during this early Hebrew period there was belief in angels that reign in God’s court, a suspected Zoroastrian influence, and in malignant and hairy spirits living in barren places which, one might say, gave rise to the belief in Satan.
As noted in The Devil Satan initially does not appear in the Old Testament as the arch-enemy of God, but in his first appearances he was sort of a prosecutor trying persons before God. In the book of Zechariah, possibly written in the later 6th century BC, the prophet sees Joshua, the high priest, standing in judgment before God. Satan is seen standing to the right of Joshua probably as his accuser. Even within this early Biblical book Satan is portrayed as a zealous prosecutor for which God admonishes him.
In the book of Job, written about one hundred years after Zechariah, Satan is seen as the more malignant accuser. He joins a heavenly group composed of God and the Sons of God. He says, when asked, that he has been walking on earth, leaving no doubt he can go between heaven and earth. As the story unfolds one sees that Jehovah allows Satan to tests Job’s faith and Job proved himself worthy. However, from this story three factors emerge which characterize the current role of Satan, or the Devil, within the Judeo-Christian religion: First, Job, the human, has no determination as to the onset of his fate. All he can do is accept it or reject it, this is his limited choice. Second, Jehovah, or God, is the initial character. He has the final say as to what action that is to be taken. Nothing is done without his approval. Third, the Satan is the instrument of God. He can suggest to God courses of actions to be taken; but he cannot put such actions into effect unless and until God gives his approval. Fourth, it is still believed, as with Job, that God and the Satan essentially still test men.
As can be seen Satan has gradually became the equivalent of the Zoroastrian Angra Mainyu. The dualism is intact again. The development of this evil antagonistic deity which Christianity accepted began with the Hebrews as has been demonstrated. The dualistic components are present even if they are not identical. Both God and Satan are spiritual, sharing the same nature; instead of being twins, God created Satan. And, Satan is believed to be almost as powerful as God. Satan, as believed, cannot do anything without God’s approval; he could not tempt and/or torment Job without God authorizing it. Only partially does he play the role of Angra Mainyu, the destroyer; Angra Mainyu destroyed independently, Satan need God’s approval.
However, Satan’s spiritual destruction is the same as Amgra Mainyu’s; it is irreversible. This was true in the case of the sin of Adam. After Adam sinned by eating the forbidden fruit from the Tree of Knowledge his and Eve’s relationship with God in the garden of Eden could not be restored to where it had been before the sin; God was angered and compelled them to leave the garden. In this sense, Adam and Eve had chosen wrongly just as Zoroaster said the Daevas chose not rightly when the Deceiver came upon them as they consulted; so they chose the worst purpose. As one can see the relationship between God and Satan surrounding story of Adam and Eve is similar to the relationship of Ahura Mazda and Angra Mainyu.
According to Zoroastrianism Angra Mainyu was evil by both nature and choice. And, according to various teachings of both Judaism and Christianity Satan, or the Devil, also chose evil. One of the versions of this occurrence in the Old Testament the fuller description of the events appears in the Book of Enoch. It had happened that men of earth had produced beautiful and comely daughters which were seen by some of the angels of heaven who lusted after them. These angels decided to take these daughters as their wives. The angels were of the order called the Watchers, or the sleepless ones. Their leader was Semjaza, or Azazel. They supposedly descended Mount Hermon. Then they entered and defiled the young women. They taught their wives charms and enchantments, botany and cutting of roots. Azazel instructed men in the making of the weapons of war: swords, knives and shields. He also taught them the evil art of cosmetics.
It did not take much persuasion for the first century Christians to connect Lucifer and Satan to the serpent in the garden of Eden who tempted Eve. But, strangely enough the book of 2 Enoch gives this graphic story too along with the Old Testament. It describes an archangel named Satanail trying to make himself equal to God by seducing the Watchers to rebel with him. They all were banished from heaven, and to revenge himself for his fall Satanail tempted Eve in Eden. There is another version, according to the Vita Adae et Evae that Satan refused to worship Adam, as the angels were commanded to do by God, God became angry and hurled Satan with his angels down to earth; therefore, Satan tempted Eve. Here the concept of the Devil’s pride which caused his rebellion is combined with angelic jealousy of man.
There are other versions of Satan turning against God by choice to make his character similar to that of Angra Mainyu. Many scholars judge this to be another example of Zoroastrian influence in Christianity.
Another seen influence is the Holy Spirit of God. In Zoroastrianism Ahura Mazda is believed to have invoked through the Holy Spirit, Spenta Mainyu, the six lesser divinities called the Amesha Spentas. The Holy Spirit especially in Christianity is to be God, notably in the Trinity this is referred to as the third person of God. Some authorities think the Holy Spirit was indicated in Genesis when God created Adam; he blew his breath into him. That breath was supposedly the Holy Spirit.
The Trinity in Christianity seems analogous to the heptad in Zoroastrianism. The heptad is composed of Ahura Mazda and the six lesser divinities whereas the Trinity consists of God, the Father; God, the Son; and God, the Holy Spirit. Similarly, Ahura Mazda, believed to be father of the Amesha Spentas, with the help of his Holy Spirit, Spenta Mainyu, invoked the other divinities; whereas, God, the Father, through God, the Holy Spirit, incarnated God, the Son. God, the Son, Jesus Christ became incarnate through the virgin birth of Mary similarly as the Saoshyant would become incarnate, born, of a virgin who had bathed in Lake Kasaoya which had miraculously preserved Zoroaster’s seed within its depth.
At this point there seems to be no direct parallel between the figures of the Saoshyant and the Son of God, Jesus Christ. As it has been shown in Zoroastrianism Saoshyant gradually became pluralized to Saoshyans to include any or all powerful people who helped the Zoroastrians in achieving their final goal of Separation. Such a plural concept would prohibit a further association of Saoshyant with Jesus Christ, a divine redeemer. Likewise, this was why Judaism never accepted Christ, as previously noted, as their savior or messiah. The Jews accepted more of the Zoroastrian description of the Saoshyant or savior: anyone who helped the Jewish people; Jesus failed to meet their requirements.
Although Christ was believed to be the personal redeemer in Christianity he certainly did not put an end to religious dualism; this is perfectly clear in the Biblical description of his temptation. Even here Satan is still seen as the antagonist of God in the person of Christ. After Jesus had fasted for forty days and nights in the desert Satan tempted him three times with worldly things promising to give them to Jesus if he would worship him. Christ said, “Begone, Satan, for it is written, ‘Thou shall worship the Lord, thy God, and him only shall you serve'” (Matthew 4:1-11).
Christ’s role as personal savior did not put and end to the belief of eternal damnation in Christianity either. For Christ said, “Verily, I say unto you, all sins shall be forgiven unto the sons of men, and blasphemies with which they shall blaspheme; but he that shall blaspheme against the Holy Spirit has never forgiveness, but is in danger of eternal damnation” (Mark 3:28-29).
Nor did Christ’s role as personal savior end the conflict of good and evil as Paul preached, “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against the spiritual wickedness in high places” (Ephesians 6:12). In the same chapter Paul tells the people that their only defense against such powers is the armor of God, comparing pieces of armor to an attribute of God (v. 13-17). The disciple also speaks of victory, “And, having spoiled [the] principalities and powers, he made a show of them openly, triumphing over them in it” (Colossians 2:15).
Thus, one can see from these passages even through Christianity does promise personal salvation, it did not eliminate the threat of eternal damnation or the conflict of righteous dualism. Such a belief that the Christian God both saves and condemns has become both difficult and confusing at times. A notable example is the theologian and church leader Martin Luther. Luther is a principle example of the intellect comprehending the true nature of dualism without acknowledging it. To Luther, God through his omnipotence both created the cosmos and maintained everything within it. God’s will was absolute, there could be no absence of God, such a phenomenon was an impossibility for nothing would exist; therefore, God, the creator, constantly cared for and ruled heaven, earth, hell, the Devil, and all creatures. Luther’s belief in God’s omnipotence was so strong that he completely abandoned the notion of human free will; here he differed from theologians such as Augustine and Aquinas who affirmed free will but described the cosmos as predetermined in fact.
Luther’s teachings rested on his personal belief in the total, consuming omnipotence of God. He believed that God was both remote and the immediate cause of everything, he wills everything both good and evil. Luther stated God is love, and the good that he willed was revealed through Jesus Christ; his stern will, the resulting hardships, appear to be the ways of the Devil, but they are not for God turn evil into ultimate good. Luther refrained from going as far as to state that the Devil was the manifestation of one side of God, but instead said, the Devil’s will is only apparently God’s will; while the Devil and God may will the same thing, their purpose is never the same. God has an ultimately benevolent purpose in every act, while the Devil’s purpose is to destroy (Russell 37). To understand this with the inferior intellect faith and grace are required. Luther explained man’s inferior intellect often fails to see this but with divine grace it is possible. Luther by refraining from stating that the Devil was a manifestation of one side of God failed to recognize and eliminate the divine dualism; if the Devil was one side of God, and then there would be no dualism because both good and evil would come from God.
The Christian Gnostics (see Gnosticism) continued the cosmic dualism, but varied it in a different fashion. Good and evil still existed, but resided in two different Gods. The Christian God, Yahweh, they called the Demiurge, and they believe the good God was aloof from the world. The Demiurge had been born of the Spirit of God, wisdom, personified as Sophia, the divine creative force. Sophia, without the knowledge of God, her mate, gave birth to her son, the Demiurge, a horrible looking child. Unbeknown to the Demiurge his mother had given him some of her power which contained the Spirit, which he thought was his and with which he created the physical world. When doing this the Gnostics believed the Demiurge entrapped the Spirit in matter. They viewed the Demiurge as being the Christian God, the creator, basing their belief on the statement, “I am God, and there is no one besides me.”
For the Gnostics this changed the dynamics of the dualism. It was no longer between good and evil; they held the Christian God, called Demiurge, was evil representing the Devil; but between Spirit and matter since the Spirit was entrapped in matter. This oppositional change of good versus evil to spiritual versus material generated an overwhelming desire to eliminate the material among members of the Gnostic sects. This desire to eliminate the material was based upon the belief that the Demiurge through creation had entrapped the Spirit, especially in man, in matter, and the only way to ultimately free the Spirit was not to prolong life through propagation. This view was part of the intuitive or reflective knowledge, which the Gnostics called “gnois,” which came from the study of man’s inner self or soul and illuminated the Logos to bring salvation. This led to a schism among the sects. The majority of the sects practiced almost total monasticism and a few practiced libertinism. While some monastic sects permitted marriage, all sexual acts were forbidden. Many sexual acts and perversions were permitted and encouraged within the libertine sects. For example, the Ophites — a name which honored the snake or serpent — were known for their love feasts. The purpose of all the sects on both sides of the schism was the same, to liberate the Spirit by stopping the propagation of life. The Gnostics took Jesus’ answer to his disciple Solame’s question, “How long will death reign?” literally when he responded, “As long as you women bear children” (Nigg 36). This was one of the major beliefs of Gnosticism which caused the Orthodox Church to vigorously battle it.
Likewise, Manichaeism, being another Gnostic sect, preached a similar doctrine of positioning God against matter. This dualistic teaching embodied an elaborate cosmological myth that included the defeat of a primal man by the powers of darkness that devoured and imprisoned the particles of light. Thus, to Mani, the devil god which created the world was the Jewish Jehovah. Mani said, “It is the Prince of Darkness who spoke with Moses, the Jews and their priests. Thus the Christians, the Jews, and the Pagans are involved in the same error when they worship this God. For he leads them astray in the lusts he taught them.”
The cosmic process of salvation goes on as the light is delivered back to its original state. Thus, unlike Zoroaster, Mani appeared to believe that the original state could be restored. Saving knowledge promoting this process is delivered by the apostles of light among which Mani himself to be the final one. Also through his self-conscious syncretistic thought process Mani included various Biblical figures along with Jesus, Buddha (see Buddhism) and Zoroaster among these apostles (Bowker 812).
During the Middle Ages there was the teaching of Martin Luther, as previously mentioned, but preceding him were the dualistic Gnostic teachings of the Bogomils, Cathars, and Paulicians; principally though there were the teachings of Saint Augustine. Augustine’s dualistic teaching rested on his argument that everything which God, creator, had created was essentially good; thus, evil could only exist in the absence of good, that is, where good should be. Augustine held that moral evil was the consequence if freewill, whereas, physical results from imperfection. Augustine set himself as being against Nature when establishing the “original sin” teaching. He held that because of Adam’s sin that all, of Adam’s descendants, were deprived of their original endowment from God, and thus suffered an inherited defect and can only be saved by God’s grace (Bowker 109). In summary, Augustine believed in predestination, God knew what he wanted to do in the world, but man, due to his fall because of sin, temporary interfered with the divine plan. Again, Augustine’s argument materialized into a spiritual versus natural dualism.
Thus the resolution of the dualism, whatever it may be in terms of opposing concepts, weak versus strong, good versus evil, or spiritual versus material, usually does not disappear naturally or without some difficulty. The reason for this resides within the nature of the dualism itself; the opposing concepts which compose the dualism need to be resolved through agreement that rarely occurs. For this reason the dualism usually perpetuates itself and leads to continual antagonistic feelings between parties holding the opposite concepts.
As it has been shown throughout the article the principle dualism permeating Western society is good versus evil mainly originating from the Biblical heritage of the spiritual versus the natural, which established the Western worldview or mindset. God is not deemed in nature, but above it or opposed to it even through it is proclaimed God created the world, the universe, and man. This absence of God from nature is the purposeful significance of the Adam and Eve story or myth. By eating the fruit, the thing which God forbade, the first man and woman separated themselves from God; the hindrance of the sin. In truth, though, their sin was their act of becoming independent people. In Eden, they were one with God; God was one with them, walking in the cool of the evening with them, always guiding them. They knew God, but not themselves or even their sex. And since Eve, the woman, was the first bearer of life, now evil since it was absence the presence of God, she and all who followed her have suffered ridicule and scorn.
Their gained knowledge was sinful in that it separated them from God; they became conscious of themselves, their separateness or sex, and began thinking for themselves. Here an unanswered question rises, didn’t God want this? The answer lies within the Judeo-Christian worldview of God versus nature, Adam and Eve were natural, human, now; no longer with God but separate from him; the world he made was separate too. Thus, anything separate from God became synonymous with sin. Again the unanswered question arises did God want this, or has man proclaimed it to be.
Joseph Campbell so aplty discusses this in The Power of Myth with Bill Moyers in his discussion of The Message of Myth. Here he discusses the Mask of Eternity, which is really the mask of God. This huge mask contains a face looking straight ahead; everything it sees is good, nothing is evil, because it represents God in the center of everything. On either side of the face are figures, male and female, walking away out from the center. The figures symbolize people, humanity, entering the temporal world composed of opposites, or opposing forces or energies.
The temporal world is also finite, meaning it has dimensions, width, height, breath, upper, lower, and so on, in other words, the physical world. The world which God is proclaimed to have made, but is not a part of; thus giving meaning to Augustine’s words, evil can only exist in the absence of good, or God. Therefore, if God is absence from the world, then it is evil, and will continue to be evil until God enters it, or a different worldview is accepted. Campbell said such a worldview is found in Buddhism and Hinduism where the divine is joined with nature.
This joining of the divine with nature also is celebrated in the nature-based religions such as Neo-paganism and Witchcraft. When the divine and nature are joined, mingled, there are no more opposing forces or energies, all become one forming a balanced whole–the harmonious world.
This is the Spiral Dance of the Goddess:
Alone, awesome, complete within Herself, the Goddess, She whose name cannot be spoken, floated in the abyss of outer darkness, before the beginning of all things. And as she looked into the curved mirror of black space, She saw by her own light her radiant reflection, and fell in love with it. She drew it forth by the power that was within Her and made love to Herself, and called Her “Miria, the Wonderful.”
Their ecstasy burst forth in the single song of all that is, was, or ever shall be, and with the song came motion, waves that poured outward and became all the spheres and circles of the worlds. The Goddess became filled with love, swollen with love and She gave birth to a rain of bright spirits that filled the worlds and became all beings.
But in that great moment, Miria was swept away, and as She moved out from the Goddess She became more masculine. First She became the Blue God, the gentle, laughing God of love. Then She became the Green One, vine-covered, rooted in the earth, the spirit of all growing things. At last She became the Horned God, the Hunter whose face is the ruddy sun and yet dark as Death. But always desire draws Him back toward the Goddess, as He circles Her eternally, seeking to return in love (Starhawk 31).
To some reading this it may appear to be a feminine creation story. When read in prose it is, analytically the beginning is similar to the Judeo-Christian story: And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters (Genesis 1:2). And the Goddess…floated in the abyss of outer darkness, before the beginning of all things. And God said, Let there be light, and there was light (Genesis 1:3). The Goddess became filled with love, swollen with love and She gave birth to a rain of bright spirits that filled the worlds and became all beings. Already a significant difference between the two creation stories is seen. In the Biblical story God appears to be commanding things to happen or occur; whereas in the creation story of the Goddess she gives birth to everything from the love which she has for herself. God’s act of creation is more intellectual as emphasized by John: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him not anything made that was made (John 1:1-3).
With the Goddess all beings are seen naturally being born from her, “…swollen (pregnant) with love and She gave birth to a rain of bright spirits that filled the worlds and became all beings.” The Mother Goddess gave birth to the spirits which filled the worlds and became all beings as naturally as the human mothers give birth to children. The beings born of the Mother Goddess possess her nature just as human children possess their mother’s nature. There is no separation in this worldview; the Goddess nature fills all things. This sameness, Goddess nature, is why Goddess worship can simultaneously be referred to as nature worship. The duality between the Divine and nature, and humanity and nature vanishes because all things are the same.Thus, this is the poetry of creation.
All beings in this worldview are part of the Goddess and she is part of them. Most sharing this view or belief system feel “an aliveness or ‘presence’ in nature” (Adler 4). Literally members of these loose-nit nature-based religious groups, without formal dogma or set of beliefs, no matter what they call themselves, Witches, neo-Pagans, or both, or just being in the Craft or Pagan, feel the Goddess interacting with nature and themselves; likewise, these individuals feel that they are interacting with the Goddess and nature.
Nature is once more acceptable, even death which is viewed as part of nature. This is among the aspects of the Horned God, the Hunter, who as well came from the Goddess. His face is the ruddy sun and yet dark as Death. The sun gives light to grow, but can burn as fire. Here are opposites, but opposites having purpose: vegetation needs light with which to grow, but when its utility is served it decays and needs to be destroyed or burned away. Opposites are viewed as natural polarities, not as dualistic combatants, offering balance for the maintenance of nature. So it is why in her dance the Goddess spiraled out from herself forming the Gods, symbolizing the masculinity of nature. There are no sinful connotations placed upon natural functions such as life, sex, birth, death, and rebirth; they are seen as life’s functions coming from the Goddess.
One might question the inclusion of neo-Paganism and Witchcraft in an article concerning dualism. The reason might be expressed as twofold. In the discussion of dualism it was expressed that the first obvious cosmic dynamic of religious dualism was stronger versus weaker, stronger deities versus weaker ones; then the dualistic dynamics changed to good versus evil, right versus wrong. In various ways Witchcraft and Paganism were affected by and have affected these dynamics. When discussing the struggles between the stronger and weaker deities it should be noted they mostly belonged to the Egyptian and Greek pantheons; the gods which ancient Witchcraft worshipped, and the same gods which are worshipped by current Witches and neo-Pagans. These were the gods that the Judeo-Christian traditions attempted to destroy as they attempted to destroy Witches and heretics throughout the centuries (see Burning Times).
Accompanying such destruction the Judeo-Christian traditions also helped to enforce the change in the dualistic dynamics from stronger versus weaker to a more moralistic good versus evil. As it has been demonstrated the process of changing and/or eliminating gods began in Zoroastrianism and has been incorporated to various degrees in both Judaism and Christianity. Now the major portion of Western culture is moralistic, and to a certain extent this applies to Eastern culture as well. Simply put, most people find themselves being governed by moralistic-based laws; laws, which to many, do not seem moral at all. It is within the current Witchcraft traditions and neo-Paganism that ones find a resounding protest to such moralizing. Many within these groups feel alienated by the progress of modern society and the formality of institutionalized religion. Being gravitated to the polytheistic gods of the pre-Christian religions they are urging a return to nature with less moralistic conformity. The individual, along with his needs, needs to be more recognized; giving rise to the Rede: “Harm no one, and do what you will.” These two reasons seem to signify the significance for the inclusion of Witchcraft and neo-Paganism in this discussion of dualism; as with many things in life, dualism seems to have came full-circle.
This article has attempted to present a history of religious dualism to show its social importance. An acknowledgement must be given to the recognition it will not change the attitudes of many in institutionalized religions and such dualism will continue. However, for the objective minded it is hoped that the possibility of future change or trying something different has been presented.
by Alan G. Hefner
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Zoroastrianism, Judaism, and Christianity