Dualism through the lens of perception

Brief History of Dualism

We see the world not as it is, but as we are! (The Talmud)

Traditional dualism is the doctrine or philosophy that reality is the outcome of two principles which cannot be reduced to an ultimate first cause. In other words, which one of the principles exhibited influence first. In the history of Western religions philosophical dualism goes back to Platonism and developed as the idea of an opposition between spirit and matter. Applied to man, this concept gives rise to the idea that the nature of man was composed of a lower part (body) and a higher part (soul). This idea lead to a contempt for the body or this world and expectation in an afterlife.

In contrast, moral dualism puts forth the notion that there exists an irreducible battle between good and evil. The battle being the higher deity who intervenes and save the world from the power of the evil or lower god who holds the world imprisoned for a specified time allowed by the higher god.

Dualism in Jewish history entered through the Platonic portal in the form of soul-body dualism and the belief in the pre-existent soul. The dualist tendency is markedly evident in the kabalastic treatment of good and evil in that evil had no substantive existence but was the antithesis of good such as darkness is the absence of light and cold is the absence of heat. Duality can then be defined as the belief system that includes the concept of two influences or gods one being a good god of light and immaterial (spiritual) things and an evil god of darkness and material (physical) things.

The flow of dualism through the history of religion can be briefly outlined beginning with its appearance in ancient Persia (modern Iran) where Zoroastrianism, which is a dualist concept, became the first state religion. Elements of dualism were incorporated in Judaism around 600 BC when the Jews were exiled to Babylon which was then part of the Persian empire. It was from this time that the Jewish writings including the Old Testament regard satan as an adversary to God rather than an angelic servant in the heavenly court. It is the first consideration which supposes a personified evil in satan.

When Alexander the Great conquers Persia in the fourth century BC dualistic ideas were spread from Asia back into the Middle East and then to the Hellenic Empire (Greece, Rome). This allowed dualistic influence into the New Testament through the Greek pathway syncing with the Old Testament presence.

Modern Christianity essentially says the visible realm is corrupted by the consequence of sin. This world is tainted and distorted by sin's effects. However in the unseen realm, the realm of the 'sweet by and by' all is good. This and the basic concept of deism which says God is separate and distant in the lives of mankind did not originate in Judaism nor was it purported by the historical Jesus in the Gospels.

E. P. Sanders, in his book The Historical Figure of Jesus says Judaism incorporated a Zoroastrian idea to arrive at the Old Testament concept that an evil power opposes God from which Christianity inherits this ideology too. Judaism remained true to monotheism in its rejection of opposing gods but did accept some aspects of Persian dualistic principles such as the cosmic conflict of God between the force of evil.

Principle of Duality

Dualistic ideologies are present in man even as a child. The infant must learn what is part of him and what is outside of him. Then from infancy, the idea of separation is ingrained in him as he is constantly bombarded with pairs, with contrasts, with choices, and all these things force a decision of judgment.

Did God impart this mindset or was it learned from conditions that were present? The body, in determining temperate comfort, the mind's interpretation of pain, and the fear of the dark when the lights go out, is constantly processing contrasts and making judgments as to how they effect the person. Were ideas of contrast present at creation or did man bring that concept perhaps in part to deal with what he did not understand about the origin of evil? Dualism divided the world into opposing forces and set mankind in the seat of decision choosing who to obey.