The Twelve Theorems

In the USA, we just finished celebrating Independence Day on July 4th. Political independence against tyrannical government is an important step toward the realization of human freedom. Another step on the path toward full independence is freedom from erroneous concepts about life and how it is structured and organized. Many problems in the world today stem from one-sided, unbalanced and incomplete notions about life.

George Ohsawa (born Sakurazawa Nyoichi) devoted much of his life to educating people how to overcome such limitations, believing human happiness would be improved in so doing. To such improvement of the quality of life for people everywhere, this month's article is dedicated.

George Ohsawa believed we must strive to understand the mechanisms, or causes, behind life's endlessly varied events and activities. He believed all life and activity is governed by the interaction of opposites, called Yin and Yang by the ancient Chinese philosophers. Mr. Ohsawa classified and summarized properties of Yin and Yang, and described how these tendencies interact. He organized them as the Twelve Theorems of the Unique Principle.

The following article is based on the list that appears in Appendix II of Zen Macrobiotics, published by the George Ohsawa Macrobiotic Foundation of Oroville, California. Here they are presented in the same order, as follows:

    1. Yin and Yang are the two poles of the infinite pure expansion.

Infinity expands in all directions from every point, creating the compressed, phenomenal world of time and space, or duality. Such duality is called Yin and Yang. At one pole, infinity is infinitely compressed (Yang); at the other, infinitely expanded (Yin). Halfway between both extremes spins our material universe, perpetually evolving from, and returning to, its source.

    2. Yin and Yang are produced infinitely, continuously and forever from the infinite pure expansion itself.

Creation of the dualistic universe which we inhabit, and its simultaneous destruction, continues everywhere, and will continue, for all time. Infinity is the ultimate recycler. Nothing is ever lost, and nothing gained. Overall equilibrium between creation and destruction is always maintained.

    3. Yin is centrifugal; Yang is centripetal. Yin, centrifugal, produces expansion, lightness, cold, etc. Yang, centripetal, produces constriction, weight, heat, light, etc.

The two tendencies of expansion and contraction create, sustain and disperse all phenomena. An example: expanding a gas (like CO2) makes it become cooler and lighter, while compressing a gas makes it warmer and heavier. Refrigerators depend on the validity of this theorem to keep our food cold.

    4. Yin attracts Yang, Yang attracts Yin.

Opposites attract. That's why male and female attracts, north and south poles of magnets attract, hot weather (Yang) attracts us to cool beverages (Yin), while cold weather (Yin) makes hot soup and beverages (Yang) more desirable.

    5. All things and phenomena are composed of Yin and Yang in different proportions.

If every created thing was composed of precisely the same proportions of Yin and Yang, everything would be the same. Creation's endless variety is due to the reality of this theorem. This theorem directly relates to, and is explained by, #8, below.

    6. All things and phenomena are constantly changing their Yin and Yang components. Everything is restless.

This theorem is also explained by, and tied to, theorem #8. Just as life cannot be separated into isolated elements, the 12 Theorems are also interdependent. You cannot explain one without referring to the others. Each defines, and is defined by, the others. They are one whole, a Gestalt (more than the sum of their parts). This fact gives credence to the assertion that they truly represent the scheme of things, the Order of the Universe.

The reason life is restless (constantly changing) is because Yin and Yang never can reach perfect balance, or stasis. This fact drives the universe and everything in it to constantly and perpetually seek a balance that can never be attained. Momentum always carries every attempt at balance beyond the point of perfect balance back to imbalance. This fact makes the universe a field of endless flux.

Rather than strive for stasis, we must realize perfect balance is unnattainable, and strive to perfect instead the ability to make our way through the flux field we call the universe. To do this, we must try to recognize Yin/Yang aspects of each situation, and thereby alter our course away from the destruction that awaits at either extreme.

Life can only survive within certain limitations. If we exceed these limitations, our lives cannot continue. By recognizing Yin and Yang components of each situation, we are better equipped to deal effectively with each situation as it arises. Since each situation differs from every other one, there are no set formulas that can make us masters in each situation. We must rely entirely on our own instinct/intuition to evaluate each situation and react appropriately to it.

The old schools of Zen tried to awaken the spontaneous ability to react appropriately in each situation by forcing students to suspend the tendency to rely on rational thought. Instead, the student was encouraged to rely on instinctive reaction, and reach intuitive answers to illogical or irrational problems that intellectual reasoning could not solve, much less apprehend.

We should try to bring back some of this approach to learning in modern education. In many ways, it could better equip our children to deal with life's constantly changing situations than depending on "formulas for success" so popular today that don't encourage creative problem-solving.

That is a real value of Yin/Yang study: to enhance our survivability. Change is inevitable, in every area of life. Those who cannot adapt to change, like dinosaurs, become extinct. Those who grasp the dynamics of change, the way opposite forces interact, are better equipped to deal with change effectively as it occurs.

    7. There is nothing completely Yin or completely Yang. All is relative.

This statement is the true "Theorem of Relativity". For example, an onion can be considered more Yang than a cabbage because it is more compact, but a carrot is more Yang than than an onion because it is even more compact than an onion, and much less pungent. But burdock root is more Yang than even a carrot because it is more compact, darker in color and grows deeper below the ground.

So if someone asks, "Is (this or that) Yang or Yin?", the only correct answer is, "Relative to what?"

    8. There is nothing neuter. There is always Yin or Yang in excess.

This theorem has already been pretty well explained in discussing the previous ones. Again, the dynamics of universal movement and change are explained by this theorem. There is no rest anywhere. Everything is constantly trying to reach a state of rest which is never achieved because the perpetual imbalance of Yin and Yang propels the universe onward in a ceaseless attempt to reach stasis. Change is the only constant.

    9. Affinity, or force of attraction between things, is proportional to the difference of Yin and Yang (potency) in them.

An example of this: The more masculine a man is, the more women are attracted to him. The more feminine a woman is, the more strongly men are attracted to her. People may want to overlook, minimize or mock such statements, but they stand true and verifiable, nonetheless.

If a man compromises his masculinity by ingesting too much Yin food, beverages and drugs over time, feminine women will be less attracted to him. Also, women who compromise their femininity by eating too much meat, smoking tobacco and using too much salt (all Yang) will become less and less attractive to masculine men. Instead, they will find more Yin men become attracted to their Yang masculinity.

If there is enough polarity established between overly Yang women and very Yin females, or overly Yang men and very Yin males, attraction can occur between members of the same sex. If people really understood that these mechanisms are no different than what is observed between magnetic polarities, they could change their lives whichever way they wish. Very strong opposite magnetic polarities are attracted to each other very strongly.

Macrobiotics is not condemnatory; we all are born free to seek health and happiness. Macrobiotics simply says, be honest with yourself. Echoing the ancient Greek philosopher, Epictetus, Macrobiotics says, If you are not happy, it is your own fault.

    10. Yin expels Yin; Yang expels Yang. Expulsion or attraction between two things Yin or Yang is in inverse proportion to the difference of their Yin or Yang force.

Again, magnetic polarities offer the clearest example to validate these statements. Similar magnetic polarities repel each other. Military leaders, gang leaders and other warriors are often very Yang, aggressive individuals. When they confront equally Yang opponents, conflict often occurs as they try to expel or prevent each other from encroaching on their territories or national boundaries. The animal world is also full of examples of this law.

Knowing this, fathers, ambassadors and peacemakers can adopt more accomodating (Yin) stances when confronting overly Yang sons, rivals and opponents. The Oriental Martial Arts are based on taking complementary measures to neutralize opposition. For example, when someone thrusts forward, the student is trained to step back, allowing the opponent's thrust to continue to the point where it unbalances. This harnessing of the other's Yang force to defeat himself is based on a deep understanding of Yin/Yang dynamics.

    11. Yin produces Yang, Yang produces Yin at the extremity.

An example: cold (Yin) weather and climate produce very hardy (Yang) people. Northern people historically have often been able to defeat people from southerly climes, because warmer climates create more Yin diets which in turn create less robust people.

The defeat of America in Vietnam can be explained by the condition of troops raised on many Yin foods and beverages in modern America coming against people raised on a Yang, simple diet of mostly brown rice and vegetables, as characterizes the rural Vietnamese diet. In this case, as in early Roman territorial expansion, Southern soldiers used to consuming a dietary regimen based on whole grain cereals were able to defeat Northerners. Modern civilization no longer follows the usual model, because it has interrupted the natural order by importing and creating Yin foods and beverages that nature would not normally provide.

In most other cases, Northern cultures usually dominate cultures from the South throughout history. America's Civil War, Germany's initial defeat of its southerly neighbors in World War's I & II are examples. Overly Yang behavior is barbarous and cruel. Ghengis Khan's defeat of China and Russia was accomplished because of the Yang climate and culture which created the Mongol warriors. However, the arts, religion and culture (Yin influences) of southern cultures end up dominating the civilization of the conquerors, as occured after the Mongol Empire reached its full expansion (Yin). Yang became Yin at the extremity.

This fact of life is also clearly evident if we track the course of Roman civilization. The religious zeal of the early Christians galvanized (Yangized) them and made them strong enough to overcome all the persecution that was thrown against them by the Roman Empire, which started very Yang but became very Yin (decadent) over time.

    12. Everything is Yang at its center and Yin at its periphery.

Example: most fruits have a hard (Yang) central core -- the pit or seed. The soft, sweet part (Yin) is located on the outside. The planets all have hot (Yang) cores, with cool (Yin) exteriors. Seeming exceptions: strawberries have seeds on the outside because the fruit is actually more Yang than the seeds, so they position themselves accordingly. Most animals have hard (Yang) bones on the inside (center) and are softer on the outside. Insects are mostly opposite -- hard on the outside, soft on the inside. Again, flesh of insects is actually more Yang than their outer shell, which is made of a material more like hair (chitin). Hair is also found on the periphery in mammals.

The more one searches for corroboration of the preceding theorems, the more one will recognize their validity. As one studies more and more, a vast orderliness begins to reveal itself -- from the smallest of universes within atomic structures to the largest cosmic constructs fathomable.

It is hoped you will begin your own research, trying to understand how the universe operates, guided by the magic spectacles, as George Ohsawa called them, of Yin and Yang.

Fred Pulver
July 5, 1997

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