It’s everywhere. The classic yin-yang symbol, seen more and more these days, is a circular symbol, half-black and half-white, with a small dot of white on the black side, and a small black dot on the white side. This symbol is called the Tai Chi Tu. The term “yin-yang” is drifting into popular speech also, usually along such lines as, “Well, everything has its yin and yang side,” and many believe this symbol represents balance, peace or harmony. Others believe that it means there is a little bad in the good, and a little good in the bad (which would mean there is no absolute good or evil).
What does Yin-Yang Really Mean?
Origins of Yin-yang became associated with Taoism, a religion widespread in China several hundred years before Christ’s incarnation on earth. In Taoism, the Tao, loosely translated as “the Way” or “the Path”, is the origin of all things and the ultimate reality. As is true in many Eastern religions, this concept is not to be grasped intellectually since it describes a reality beyond the intellect. Therefore, according to Taoist teachings, the truth of the Tao can only be understood indirectly or through a process of enlightened living. Happiness is gained by living in the flow of the Tao, which is the flow of the universe. This belief has no personal God. Where do the yin and yang come in? “Through the dynamics of yin and yang, the female and male cosmic principles, the Tao creates all phenomena. Whereas the Tao is perfectly harmonious, the cosmos is in a state of constant disequilibrium ” (Spirituality By The Numbers, Georg Feuerstein, p. 146).
Yin & Yang
The forces of yin-yang arise from a belief in dualism, a state in which the universe is seemingly equally divided into two opposing but equal forces. The dualistic world of yin-yang, however, is not seen as good versus bad. It is divided along other lines. Yang, represented by the white in the yin-yang symbol, stands for the creative principle, while yin, represented by black, is dissolution and return (to creation). Yang came to represent hot, dry, male, light, hardness, movement and initiative. Yin symbolizes coolness, moistness, female, darkness, softness, stillness and receptivity. The yin and yang forces are believed to be cyclical, moving and evolving into each other, represented by the white dot on the black yin side of the symbol, and by the black dot on the white yang side. In this view, the universe depends on the interaction between these two forces which arise from the Tao. Yin and yang also became a part of the I Ching, a form of divination. These values extend to a classification of foods, organs in the body, plants, etc. as either yin or yang. The macrobiotic diet, first popular in the late sixties and the seventies, is based on the division of food into their yin and yang properties. The way to be content is to balance between these two forces and thus find harmony in the Tao. If the yin-yang forces in the body get unbalanced, then illness results.
No Good or Bad?
There is really no good or bad according to the Taoist/yin-yang view, only what appears to be good or bad. There is no life and death because “Life and death are one, right and wrong are the same,” (from the Chuang Tzu as quoted in World Religions, Geoffrey Parrinder, p. 333). In this view, opposites are not really opposite; they just appear that way to us because we perceive through a dualistic conditioning and cannot see how opposites are really part of the whole. Opposites actually contain the essence of each other, and eventually merge with each other. This is one of the origins of the holistic view of the world and of the body, and remains the basis today of the body-mind connection. The universe is seen as mystically connected and interplaying, including every person, animal, rock, tree, river, etc., through the yin-yang interaction. Referring to the Tao, Wen-Tzu states that “the Way has no front or back, no left or right: all things are mysteriously the same, with no right and no wrong,” (Wen-Tzu, Further Teachings of Lao-Tzu [Boston: Shambhala, 1992], 109).
Many people mistakenly accept the body-mind connection of holism because we know that our attitudes often affect our health or recovery from illness. However, attitudes and the contemporary mystical holistic view are two separate things. The holistic view of the body and of health is based in monism, that all is one and one is all, and that a universal force (referred to as chi or qi) connects us and flows through the body. Holism today assumes that all illness is an imbalance of or blockage of the chi and/or the yin-yang forces in the body, and thus the state of one’s health is a reflection of this energy/spiritual imbalance or blockage.
Most holistic healers believe that illness is a spiritual condition, and they use methods based in occultism and Eastern religious views. Acupuncture originates in the belief that the yin-yang forces flow along invisible pathways in the body called meridians, and that illness results from an imbalance in these forces, or the blockage of these forces. Inserting the needles at certain points is supposed to allow a balanced flow of the body’s yin and yang energies. Although there are theories that acupuncture works either because the placement of the needles sends signals to the brain which release endorphins or because the needles block a pain signal to the brain, these theories have not been proven. Even if these theories prove correct, then the conclusion would be that it is not acupuncture that is working, since acupuncture is based on the idea that relief is coming from the flowing of chi and balancing of yin and yang. What would be working is relief of pain through endorphins and the blockage of pain signals. This is not the theory of traditional acupuncture. This relief would have nothing to do with chi, meridians, or yin and yang, but rather with biology and a proper understanding of the body. At best, acupuncture relieves limited amounts of pain temporarily. No physical or medical model exists yet to explain acupuncture.
Evil is Not a Force
If opposites are always merging into and becoming each other, then there is no absolute good or evil. However, in I John 1:5, it states, “This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him, there is no darkness at all.” Evil is not a force; it is a rejection of or rebellion against the good. Evil is the work of Satan, who has no truth in him (John 8:44), and those who choose to deny or reject God. Evil and good are not equal because God is sovereign and “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work,” (I John 3:8). God allows Satan to operate for now; but Satan was defeated when Jesus died for us on the cross, allowing deliverance from Satan’s power through trusting Christ (For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins, Colossians 1:13,14). Satan will be thrown into the lake of fire (Rev. 20:10).
Tai Chi often called a “moving meditation,” is based in Taoism. One of the purposes of Tai Chi is to facilitate “the flow of qi through the body,” (Harper’s Encyclopedia of Mystical & Paranormal Experience, Rosemary Ellen Guiley, p. 599). The qi (also spelled chi, ki or ji) is an Eastern name for the universal energy supposedly flowing through the body. A fact sheet on the meaning of the 108 moves in Tai Chi, put out by the Taoist Tai Chi Society in the U.S., states that the 36 major and minor yang channels in the body are the “Celestial Deities” while the yin elements in the body are the “72 Terrestrial Deities.” The combined total is 108, a “number divined by Chang San Feng himself” (Chang, an 11th-century Taoist monk, is considered the founder of Tai Chi). The statement goes on to say that “the full 108 symbolizes the harmonious balance of yin and yang and therefore lead to health. The union of all yin and yang elements represents the return to the holistic and undifferentiated state of the Tao.” The term undifferentiated means there are no distinctions; all is one.
The Christian Response
Christians should be discerning about practices such as acupuncture that have as yet no medical basis and “exercises” like Tai Chi that are designed based on spiritual beliefs hostile to Christ’s claim to be the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6). The fact that such a treatment may work is not a good enough reason for using it. Many things in the occult and mystical world seem to work. The standard for Christians in adopting a spiritually based idea or practice is not whether it works. We are admonished to “not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God…” (1 John 4:1a). These words should be taken to heart in regard to many other holistic and alternative treatments as well. The Tao claims to be the way but offers an undifferentiated whole where there are ultimately no distinctions between yin and yang, or between good and evil. Harmony is based on balancing yin and yang. However, true peace comes only through trusting Christ (John 14:27; Philippians 4:7). There is a Person, Jesus, not a principle or a philosophy, Who said He is the Way (John 14:6), the Way to God and to eternal life (John 5:24; 6:40).
Sources: Eileen Campbell and J. H. Brennan, Body Mind & Spirit; Georg Feuerstein, Spirituality by the Numbers; Rosemary Ellen Guiley, Harper’s Encyclopedia of Mystical and Paranormal Experience; J. Gordon Melton, New Age Encyclopedia; Richard Osborne and Borin Van Loon, Introducing Ancient Eastern Philosophy; Geoffrey Parrinder, World Religions, From Ancient History to the Present; Eva Wong, The Shambhala Guide to Taoism.