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ART AND SCIENCE

THE FEMININE AND MASCULINE ASPECTS OF KNOWLEDGE

When we think of art, we might think of paintings, sculptures or perhaps


photography or music. Science, on the other hand, might make us think of test
tubes and retorts, of astrophysics, DNA molecules and so on. Art and science
may seem total strangers to each other but they are in fact opposite expressions of
the same thing: knowledge, exploration and experience. What we shall do in this
article is try to see how this is so and, more importantly, appreciate the beauty of
this wonderful relationship.

There is only knowledge, it is said. There can only be one magnificent state of
knowing and one source of knowing. True knowledge is that which contains
everything; it is total knowledge. When we think we know something, some fact
or other, we have limited or specific knowledge. Limited or specific knowledge
arises in the intellect and does so because of presupposing ideas. Hot water is hot
because we already have a preconception of what makes something hot and what
makes it cold. Such knowledge is limited because it depends on many factors to
support it. An expert in fine arts may tell us this object is good and of value but
that object is of poor quality and of little or no value with the ability, no doubt, of
giving an in-depth explanation as to why. But this is all limited knowledge arising
from what various human minds have put together as a set of beliefs as to what is
of quality and value and what is not.

Pure knowledge, on the other hand, is indescribable. We can have a go at


describing it or explaining it but in terms of reason and logic it cannot be described
because it is total and not particular. Yet it is not inaccessible – far from it; the
difficulty for us as thinking human beings is that it is beyond thought and can only
be experienced as a state of “no thought”. Why? Because pure knowledge is
beyond concepts. It is experienced as absolute clarity and clarity is disturbed by
discursive thoughts which necessarily rely on concepts.

That might make us think that pure knowledge is impractical. After all, what use
is something that is concept-less? Pure knowledge, though, is what we are and is
our true nature. Perhaps it is more easily understood by the yin-yang symbol.
Before the dual qualities of yin and yang arise, there is a state of nothingness that
contains the total of everything. This is sometimes portrayed by the symbol of a
plain circle:

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Movement within or arising from that state gives rise to yin and yang, the dark
and light of the well-known symbol:

It would be too simplistic to say that yin represents one aspect of knowledge such
as art and that science is represented by yang but certainly all knowledge that can
be grasped or understood by the thinking mind is dualistic in nature. In other
words the mind needs to be able to discriminate between one thing and another in
order to think and make judgments, for example by distinguishing between good
and bad, hot and cold, attractive and unattractive, correct and incorrect and so on.

Another way of representing the emergence of duality from oneness is through the
feminine and masculine principles. Both feminine and masculine incorporate
something of the other in them because nothing is exclusively one rather than the
other. Even in the symbol above, the yin contains some yang and vice versa. The
approach in this article is to investigate art as the more (but not exclusively)
feminine aspect of knowledge and science as the more (but again not exclusively)
masculine aspect. That is not to say that knowledge divides itself into feminine
and masculine; pure knowledge is in itself transcendent and indivisible but it
appears to our minds to separate itself into myriad branches. If we can see the
whole rather than the particular, or perhaps see that the particular resides within
the whole, there comes a cause for celebration because the whole is what we are
but have lost sight of.

Why should art be more feminine in nature? Art really relates to skill in
expression, whether that expression is through the artist’s brush, through voice,
music, design or through bodily movements. Wherever there is skill in action,
there is art. The artist may be a dancer, a speechmaker, a singer, a homemaker, a
healer, a lover, a friend, a nurse, a practitioner of martial arts – the list is endless.
Within all these expressions, a certain quality comes through. There has to be
resilience and softness; there has to be receptivity. If there is no skill, no softness,
no yielding, the expression is not art. Hardness is not a foremost quality of an
artist or of skill in action. The true artist has a certain grace in expression.

Looking a little more deeply, what we associate with the word ‘art’ is only one
aspect, the outer expression. For any art to be expressed there has to be the
observable outer expression, there has to be the act of creating that expression and
there has to be the creator, the artist. To put it in another, more classical way,
there has to be the triumvirate of the knower, the known and the process of
knowing. Can the painting be separated from the painter? Clearly not, and the
same principle applies whatever the nature of the art. The act of painting and the

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picture itself emerge from the painter – but the painter is not a painter unless he or
she paints something. The tai chi practitioner is only a tai chi practitioner when
practising tai chi, the singer is only a singer when vocalising a song and so on. So
we might say that art, whatever its appearance, is an individual in the process of
expressing himself or herself with skill or grace. That expression is the artist
manifesting his or her inner nature, which is pure knowledge, coloured by the
artist’s discriminating mind and emotions.

Whereas art is an expression, the inner coming to the outer, wholeness becoming
manifest and diverse, science begins with the outer and seeks to find what lies
within. Science begins with examining and dissecting with the aim of finding and
proving truth. Science will not rest until it has found the answer for every
manifestation in the known universe. As there seems to be no end to that, there is
seemingly no end to the possibility for exploration and investigation. Science
wants to know and understand the cause for every effect.

As the scientist digs deeper, knowledge becomes ever more subtle, transcending
existing boundaries of knowledge. Although popular mysticism may knock
science for its ever present scepticism and lack of faith, the quest of both mystic
and scientist is the same – to understand the whole. Even the word ‘science’
comes from the Latin root ‘scienta’ meaning knowledge. At the heart of science
and running throughout it is mathematics, the science of numbers, and although
the subject is not well understood by most of us, mathematics is in fact an
expression of wholeness in numerical form.

So why might science be regarded as the more masculine aspect of knowledge?


Science is concerned with logic and reason, with structure and with the physical
aspects of life. It takes the intellect to its limit and then stretches it further whereas
art is concerned more with the intuitive side of life. Science wants to take
everything to pieces and, having understood the pieces, to build with them or to
utilise what has been learnt to affect the outer form of things. Art aims to nurture
some of our inner needs but science is concerned solely with outer needs. Science
is, relatively speaking, hard – it deals in hard facts.

The artist may think art is more important and the scientist may think that the
sciences are more important but both these extreme views are dangerous because
they indicate that the sight of wholeness has been lost. The scientist may lose
respect for natural laws and balance in nature but an artist, too, may misuse his or
her talents and create discord through divisive expression, influencing others
through writing, through music, through television programmes and other media,
for example.

If art is the expression of the individual, the inside coming to the surface, so to
speak, science is the acquisition of knowledge by the individual looking deeper
into matter – looking from the outside inwards. And just as in art there is the
doer, the process of doing and the outer expression, with science there is the
knower, the process of knowing and the object of knowledge. So there is no
physicist without inquiry into matter or energy, no biologist without study of
living organisms, and so on.

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To create beauty in a relationship, there has to be mutual appreciation and not
simply a superficial one. A scientist, or indeed anyone, who regards their acquired
knowledge with some sort of arrogance or who thinks it makes them masterful in
some way is guilty of a form of chauvinism but an artist, or indeed a mystic, who
decries science is no better. When we reach that state of affairs, and it is by no
means a rare occurrence in this world of ours, it means we have lost appreciation
of what the other does. Unwittingly, we have also lost appreciation of ourselves
and of wholeness.

The world needs both art and science. The feminine aspect of knowledge is one
half of the circle and the masculine aspect is the other half. If they are each
recognised as being an aspect of the whole and not a separate thing, the beauty of
each can be seen. The feminine will help to balance and soften the hardness of
factual knowledge and the masculine will help to balance and firm the softness of
art. Each is as important as the other and when there is a deep appreciation of
this, beauty emerges and the marriage is complete.

Andrew Marshall
October 2008

(This is the third in a series of three articles published in 2008. The


other two are Engineering in the Cosmic Sense and The Illusory
Atom which may be viewed or downloaded at www.joyousness.org. All
may be copied to others provided each is copied in its entirety, without
alteration, and that no charge whatsoever is made for it.)