The Two Hands Of God


As there is no woven cloth without the simultaneous interpenetration of warp and woof, there is no world without both the exhalation and inhalation of the Supreme Self. Though the image of breathing, as distinct from weaving, makes the two successive rather than simultaneous, nevertheless the one always implies the other. Successive in time, they are simultaneous in meaning that is, sub specie aeternitatis, from the standpoint of eternity. Beginning and end, birth and death, manifestation and withdrawal always imply each other.


In Western—that is, Judaic and Christian—imagery there has generally been a tendency to overlook this mutuality and to see each life and the creation itself as unique—as a beginning, and then an end, which does not imply another beginning. Our world is linear, and the course of time is very strictly a one-way street. Nature is a clockwork mechanism, which does not wind itself up in the process of running down. In Western religion and physics alike, we tend to think of all energy as expenditure and evaporation. There is no hope for a renewal of life beyond the end unless the supernatural Creator, by an act of special grace, winds things up again.


But the Indian view of time is cyclic. If birth implies death, death implies rebirth, and likewise the destruction of the world implies its recreation, The Western images are thus essentially tragic. Nature is a fall and its goal is death. There is no necessity for anything to happen beyond the end: only divine grace, operating outside the sphere of necessity, can redeem and restore the world. But the Indian imagery makes the world-drama a comedy—a sport or lila—in which all endings are the implicit promise of beginnings.


—Alan Watts, The Two Hands of God, ‘The Cosmic Dance’




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