Being at the stage of evolution where we manifest in human form, we exist in a state of limited consciousness. We experience reality as a series of objects and concepts that appear to be separate from each other. This state is typified by the Sanskrit word “dvaita”, which translates loosely to the English word “duality”, where reality is essentially composed of a series of polar opposite pairs: subject/object, light/dark, right/wrong, either/or, etc. Throughout our reincarnation cycles of life and death, we constantly experience the conflict of these many poles of existence, all the time not realizing that these oppositions are an illusion, a fundamental misunderstanding about the true nature of reality. This paradigm of limited consciousness is given the name “samsara”. Our actual being is described as “advaita”, or “non-duality”, a state of consciousness in which the separation between all objects and concepts merges into an infinite unity, which is called “nirvana”. Transitioning from the state of samsara to the state of nirvana is the great work that we have undertaken over many, many lifetimes, although at the present moment we may have forgotten that we have agreed to do this work.
The ancient philosophy of Tantra, as it has been preserved in both the Hindu and Buddhist traditions, engages a particular set of polar opposites which have a powerful effect on the evolution of consciousness. These are the opposing energies that we have given the English names “feminine” and “masculine”. In spite of the biological origin of these words, the energies of the feminine and the masculine have little to do with physical gender. Instead, feminine and masculine are aspects of consciousness that are accessible to anyone, of either gender, who is conscious that these energies exist and are in play all the time and all around us. When the person is unconscious of these energies, then women may tend to manifest feminine traits, while men tend towards the masculine, on an instinctive level. But even in these cases it is tough to make generalizations, there are plenty of men who exhibit powerful feminine qualities, as well as women who project a masculine essence. It is also possible for a person’s energy to flip from one pole to the other in reaction to unconscious triggers.
The nature of feminine/masculine duality presents the feminine as being receptive, nurturing and emotional, while the masculine is presented as being projective, controlling and intellectual. The shadow side of the feminine is passivity, and for the masculine it is aggression. These feminine and masculine qualities can be observed in all aspects of human existence, and in Tantra, this is thought of as being our defining human duality. The Piscean age, which we are now moving out of, has been mostly dominated by an imbalance of masculine energy. Thus over the past few thousand years we see the rise of logic and science, but also a state of almost continuous warfare. Repression of the feminine energy has brought humanity to the tipping point towards self-destruction. When the emotional, nurturing side of humanity goes unexpressed, the result is suffering.
While the split into feminine and masculine is the most potent factor holding us in a limited consciousness state, the Tantra philosophy also says that these energies are the most powerful tools we have at our disposal to transcend samsara and enter into nirvana. The great work of Tantra is in bringing the energies of feminine and masculine into a holistic balance, then being able to shift towards one pole or the other whenever necessary, but always being able to return to the balanced state at will. So whenever an emotional or receptive response is needed, the person can choose to shift towards a feminine state, and if a situation calls for control or intellect, the same person can intentionally choose to shift towards a masculine state. Then once the need is no longer there, that person can then return to a state of balance, a kind of embodied enlightenment. This is the future evolution of humanity. As we become more balanced, the greed, violence, depression and fear will naturally subside and peace will finally become possible.