Reply To: Introduction

  • Matt Dorsey

    October 15, 2022 at 4:30 pm

    Hey, Don. Apologies that it took me so long to respond. Within days after I signed up, I was suddenly unable to log back in, and the problem was only rectified today.

    Yes, Yin and Yang relate perfectly to Iain’s work. I just finished ‘the Master and His Emissary’ about a week ago, and did a small workshop on it at an event last weekend. Here’s some of what I presented:


    I call Chinese medicine ‘Medical Taoism’ because it’s based on Taoist thinking, and thus is primarily concerned with the interplay of Yin and Yang, and largely sees disease as stagnation and health as flow. It sees the body-mind as a deeply interrelated network in which an organ or body part can never be understood without respect to the context of the whole body.

    The idea of two opposites mutually antagonizing one another, yet also paradoxically supporting and giving rise to each other, is at the heart of the Taoist tradition and its veneration of Yin and Yang. And of course, they contain each other, as seen in the Taiji, commonly called the ‘Yin Yang’.

    The tension of opposites, like the tension on the string of a guitar, makes music, which incidentally the right hemisphere particularly appreciates.

    And in fact, the character in Chinese for ‘medicine’ is actually just the character for music with a couple little symbols above it that mean ‘shaman’. Some say that the role of the Chinese medicine doctor is to ‘create music in the human heart’ and the heart in our medical tradition is the organ most closely associated with the mind.

    The string of a musical instrument such as a guitar requires just the right amount of tension.

    Too much tension, and the pitch is too high, or way too much tension and the string breaks. Not enough tension and the pitch is too low, or far too little tension, and it just sits limp against the neck, totally unpluckable.

    Either way, when the tension of opposites is out of balance, there’s no music. There’s no health. We’re lost in the wilderness of extremes.

    And that’s precisely where I think many humans live on this planet: lost in the wilderness of extremes, because this appreciation of the dynamic interplay of opposing forces has lead us into confusion, hubris, and overly simplistic conceptualization of the universe.

    Yin and Yang can be seen everywhere:

    Masculine & Feminine

    Hot & Cold

    Proton & Electron

    Particle & Wave

    Sun & Moon

    Birth & Death

    To study physiology even from the Western medical perspective is to study the relationship between opponent processes in the body:

    Sympathetic & parasympathetic nervous systems

    – The all-important sleep-wake cycle, where one being out of balance can profoundly affect the other

    – Flexor muscles & extensor muscles

    – Stimulating and exciting neurotransmitters like Dopamine and Glutamate & calming and inhibitory ones like Serotonin and GABA

    – Absorption of nutrients by the small intestine & the excretion of toxins by the large intestine

    – Testosterone & Estrogen

    – Pro-inflammatory and anti-inflammatory cytokines in the immune system

    – And the Immune-Reproductive axis (<b style=”background-color: var(–bb-content-background-color); font-family: inherit; font-size: inherit; color: var(–bb-body-text-color);”>the Immune system, which defends and destroys, and the <b style=”background-color: var(–bb-content-background-color); font-family: inherit; font-size: inherit; color: var(–bb-body-text-color);”>reproductive system, which loves and creates)

    Philosophers and theologians have, since time immemorial, attempted to reconcile these opposite qualities of the soul using various approaches, some extremely wise, poetic, and insightful, and others in a way that flaunts a pathological obsession with logico-linguistic precision, either / or thinking, and decontextualized, abstract conceptualization.

    The elegance with which people have dealt with these universally opposed ways of seeing reality is proportionate to the degree to which these thinkers were able to reach, a la Hegelian dialectical, BOTH / AND type thinking—a beautiful synthesis, rather than simply taking one mode of being to be the ultimate truth and then attempting to completely nullify or invalidate the other, such as with body-mind or body-soul issues.

    The paradigm of scientific materialism is as blind, stupid, and dysfunctional as the fundamentalist religions that they so love to denigrate.

    And in fact, the left hemisphere, with its steadfast dedication to maintaining its paradigm, its map, its belief system, despite new information that might contradict its axioms, is the hemisphere that is dominant when we fall prey to any sort of fundamentalist-type thinking.

    It’s not science VS religion. It’s hubris borne out of the desperate need to know everything, versus the humble reverence for the vast complexity of the universe.

    It’s closed-minded, arrogant, delusional, and fundamentalist thinking VS open-minded, modest, realistic, and TRULY scientific thinking.

    A lesser scientist or a lesser religious believer fights against the mysteries of the universe in an attempt to conquer them and gain control, out of the unconscious need to subdue the anxiety of not knowing how everything works.

    A great scientist or a great religious believer, rather than trying to conquer them, takes in the living mysteries of the universe, imbibes them in an act of reverence for the incredible and awe-inspiring complexity of the vast unknown.

    If you live in the mystery, if you truly let it into you, then it will change you…for the better. Paradoxically, you will learn more, NOT LESS, about reality by assuming this posture of openness.”


    As you can see, the workshop I gave was heavily based on Iain’s work, but I also had plenty of opportunities to share my own thoughts that naturally dovetail with his material.

    Yin and Yang, I believe, are pseudo-opposites, but then again, viewed from a non-dual perspective, so are all opposites. Taoism suggests that, despite the fact that they are opposites, and that they do in fact antagonize one another, they also support and mutually give rise to one another.

    Beyond the Taiji, closer to the ultimate ground of being, lies the Wuji, which is non-dual, undifferentiated, and of course, thoroughly ineffable.

    Hope that wasn’t too long of a response, and that I could at least in part answer your question about Iain’s work and Taoism.