Symbols: The Two

One is self-contained. One can remain static, sufficient unto itself.

Then, something breaks it into two.

Do you see how, suddenly, there is tremendous energy?

Oneness has a self-less character. There is the one, this-ness in the midst of the chaos, but there is not a sense of self-consciousness. The one is the state of being.

With two, there is self, and other.

Two-ness implies consciousness: there has to be a self to perceive not-self. Perhaps this is why so many images and symbols of the two are human figures. We can also see this aspect of the two in the young child, experimenting with boundaries: what is me, and what is the world?


The Greeks perceived that duality fosters movement: their god Janus ruled over doorways, gates, and transitions of all kinds. Ovid described Janus as arising out of the formlessness of the one:

The ancients called me Chaos (since I am of the first world):
Note the long ages past of which I shall tell.
The clear air, and the three other elements,
Fire, water, earth, were heaped together as one.
When, through the discord of its components,
The mass dissolved, and scattered to new regions,
Flame found the heights: air took a lower place,
While earth and sea sank to the furthest depth.
Then I, who was a shapeless mass, a ball,
Took on the appearance, and noble limbs of a god.
Even now, a small sign of my once confused state,
My front and back appear just the same.

The Hebrews described the creation of the world in terms of separation into dyads. First God created Heaven and Earth, then Day and Night, then the dry land and the seas.

The fish symbol of the vesica piscis that we saw in relation to the one is also a representation of the two, the spirit incarnated into matter, God and Man joined together.

In the spirit of joining, we of may then think of Adam and Eve. In the likeness of God, male and female.

And from this sacred beginning, the two move toward the sacred marriage. From one into two, and the two become one. As if the one and the two are in flux, creating and recreating each other. From individuation to unification.

When you make the two into one, and when you make the inner like the outer and the outer like the inner, and the upper like the lower, and when you make male and female into a single one, so that the male will not be male nor the female be female, when you make eyes in place of an eye, a hand in place of a hand, a foot in place of a foot, an image in place of an image, then you will enter the Kingdom.
Gospel of Thomas, 22

But, the two can also represent an opposition, an unharmonious coupling. We can talk of the Ego or Light, and the Shadow side. The Doppelgänger, the Mephistophelian double.

Fairy tales are always a rich source of symbolism. In “Rumpelstiltskin,” the greedy, wizened little man is a symbolic double, and only in naming him (coming to consciousness) can the miller’s young daughter gain control of him.

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7 Comments

Filed under Anthroposophy, art, Religion, Symbols

7 responses to “Symbols: The Two

  1. Very interesting. It’s amazing, the similarities and connections that symbols have through so many facets of culture. I loved the art you shared here.

  2. Thanks! I’m really enjoying these posts.

  3. I used to read a magazine called Parabola and your current articles remind me of this magazine. I love it, I will be thinking about my own duality today while working in the garden. What is the idea of the two Jesus, do you know about that? Touched on it a bit while studying Anthroposophy but I want to know more. With the summer forces at work, I tend to be much more dreamy, not so intellectual. But these are compelling thoughts and awakening me from my mid-summer’s dream.

  4. Lisa Anne: Isn’t Parabola wonderful? Christopher Bamford from SteinerBooks is a frequent contributor.

    Yes, I studied about the two Jesus children, the priestly and kingly streams. There’s quite a bit on that out there, and I was lucky enough to study a bit with Brian Gray, the astrosopher, in California. I’ll have to look into it again, after I move.

    I’m glad you didn’t completely fry your brain gardening in this heat 🙂

  5. Aren’t I a lucky guy? We have breakfast conversations like this…

  6. Eve

    Oh my goodness! It’s an anthropapa sighting!

    I… I …. I thought he was legendary, like Bigfoot!

    /faints

  7. I almost fainted too 🙂

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