So far in my writings I’ve been examining topics that display symmetry between the left and right arms of the infinity symbol: logic and emotion, fulfillment and motivation, self and reflection. But more often than not, infinity is an imprecise representation of the dualistic concepts we encounter in daily life, since left and right as portrayed in the infinity sign are generally seen as balancing each other out (even though they are quite unequal). I’ve written about the inequalities between left and right, but just as a reminder, we’re talking about things like the dominance of right handedness, male superiority, the power of law and money over human behavior, etc, etc.
In reality, the shape of me is an eight rather than an infinity symbol. This vertical arrangement causes the two sides to be entirely imbalanced by design. We can see this inequality quite clearly in our language: to be in low spirits is to be sad, while to be in high spirits connotes happiness; a pick me up makes you feel better, while a put down is an insult; to reach a peak is to achieve a great accomplishment, while to be entrenched is to be stuck in a valley. I could go on with these examples for quite a while, suffice it to say that up (heaven) is good and down (hell) is bad.
This up>down spatial bias shows up in everything from bodily physiology to ancient mystical teachings. For example, one of the most prominent human features that differentiates us from our ancient ancestors is our upright stature — our evolution as we’ve charted it out literally proceeds upwards.
Similarly, ancient mystical representations of vital energy flow were intended to be a circle of energy flow. For example, the major chakras are 7 points along the human body where energy is liable to pool instead of flow.
The word ‘chakra’ literally means ‘wheel,’ but since we are an open system and not a closed loop the entry point of the circle of energy flow originates above the head and the exit point emanates from the groin. The crown chakra (up), where energy flows in above the head, is pure consciousness or enlightenment. The root chakra (down), where energy flows out of the groin, is instinct or our survival-based animalistic selves.
Another perfect example of the up>down bias is a Jewish system of mystical tradition called ‘Kaballah.’ In Kaballic diagrams the top node is a representation of ‘divinity’, or the most almighty God that we strive towards, while the bottom node is a representation of ‘ordinary life,’ or the materialistic world that we are imprisoned within. These diagrams are an extremely direct exaltation of the glory of up compared to the banality of down.
It seems likely that this bias is an inherent part of the collective human psyche. It almost certainly arises from the fact that the sun is always visible above us while the dead are buried below us. In a very real way up represents the energy flow of life and down represents the end of cycles through death.
Many of these ancient cultures and traditions overemphasize the power of up, or light, while giving very little credence to the power of down, or darkness. Of course, there is the Yin-Yang conclusion to be drawn that light cannot exist without darkness and vice versa. However, here I’m referring to a deeper, more active element of darkness that cuts to the very core of eightstep me.
Stay tuned for future posts where we will learn how to leverage the seemingly negative nature of darkness to fully embrace the exuberance of light. Creating a psychological framework in which the two aspects can be consciously alternated is vital for vision, balance, and the process of eightstep me.