Spiritual Systems & Religion
Dualism is the idea that the world is subject to two opposing principles.
Where religion is concerned, it particularly refers to two opposing powers,
good and evil, divine versus demon, that have caused existence as we know
It may be compared to single power doctrines such as monism (the world
driven by one principle), monotheism (one god/power) or polytheism (many
powers). In describing and comparing dualism, one can discern between
relative dualism (each power dependent on the other, e.g. the idea that
the devil is a fallen angel and therefore subordinate to god) or absolute
dualism (each power from and for eternity). Also, one can discern either
a tension perspective (where the two powers exist eternally - cyclical
time perspective) or destiny perspective (where one power eventually wins
- linear time perspective). Finally, dualism in a philosophical sense
may refer to the concept of two existences (transcendence or a realm apart
from this world), whereas religious dualism does not, only refering to
the separation of two powers.
Historically important varieties of dualism include:
Egyptian - Seth, a god of disorder versus Osiris, a god of fertility.
Greek - Uranus and Cronus primordia gods, versus Zeus et al, modern
gods. Within the groups of gods dualism was also present, such as
the god of war versus the god of love, the god of the world versus
the god of the underworld etc. And within people dualism was also
seen: the soul (god-like element) was imprisoned in the body.
Gnosticism - Gnosticsism which for example recognised the body as
evil and the soul as good and saw reality as having a superior world
and an inferior world and our perception being somewhere between the
two. Iranian gnosticism was more radical dividing existence in to
light and dark powers, whereas Syrian- Egyptian gnosticism was more
Iranian - Iranian dualism was represented in Zoroastrianism in which
there is the good spirit (Spenta Mainyu) and the bad spirit (Ahura
Mazda) opposing each other.
Indian - There are several Indian dualisms. There are concepts of
opposition of gods (devas) to demons (asuras), one to many, reality
and appearance, matter and spirit.
Chinese - Ying and Yang are the best known expressions of Chinese
dualism. They refer to feminine/masculine, lunar/solar, terestial/celestial,
passive/active, dark/bright etc. Yin and Yang are the double manfestation
of the the one and only Tao - The Way.
Judaism - Some evidence of dualism exists in the concepts of good
and evil, truth and error, god and satan but this is more limited
to forms of mysticism than core doctrine whcih remains monotheistic.
Christianity - similar to Judaistic dualistic concepts and similarly
not part of the core doctrine. Principally revolve around the dichotomy
of matter and spirit, earthly represenation and heavenly representation.
Other dualistic concepts - principally among aboriginal and nomadic
peoples are concepts of a mischievous trickster that can rival or
collaborate with the supreme being. Most of these systems are not
dualistic at their core but do have dualistic concepts.
Perhaps the most important theme of dualism is the relationship of good
and evil. In dualistic systems, good and eveil are opposed forces, whereas
in nodualistic systems the choice between good and evil is one to be made
by people themselves - evil arises because of improper choices of free
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