If Francis Fukuyama is correct, and the Great Pendulum of the World swings back and forth every 60 or 70 years or so, then this would suggest right now that we are at a period of peak yin. We can surmise this because the last time there was clearly a period of excess yang it ended in the violent paroxysm of World War II, 71 years ago.
It is certainly not a time of excess yang right now in 2016. We know what that would look like – violence. This is literally the least violent time in human history (however, there is absolutely no evidence that things are guaranteed to remain this way indefinitely).
What are the characteristics of an age of excess yin? As below, so above – we can guess that the characteristics of the world would be a macrocosm of the characteristics of all of us.
Yang is also characterised, especially in Western alchemy in its aspect as the masculine principle, as order. Thus we can expect that excess yin might manifest itself as destructive, senseless chaos.
This would not manifest as the proportionate yin of a predatory beast who destroys with a view to impose a higher form of order, but more like the mindless rage of a school shooter or an Islamic suicide bomber, or even like the 2003 invasion of Iraq, which made little sense to anyone at the time and makes none now.
The masculine discriminates, the feminine does not discriminate. Therefore, in a time of excess yin, the fundamental error is to fail to discriminate when one should have discriminated. Perhaps this is what has happened with the immigration policies of the Western world in recent decades.
It’s especially evident in Europe, for example, where the man in the street has seen his quality of life drop sharply as a consequence of his nation’s naive lack of discrimination and foresight (and it’s been worse for the womenfolk).
The attitude from Western politicians towards people claiming to be refugees over the past 20 years was to open the bosom to allcomers, and to use social pressure to cow into submission anyone questioning this policy.
If yang is the heavens and yin the earth, the immense materialism of our age is perhaps also evidence that this is a period of excess yin. Our mainstream religious traditions are so thoroughly and irrevocably corrupted that expressing a will to become a priest is tantamount to a confession of sexual deviancy – whether justified or not.
There isn’t a skerrick of spirituality to be found in any of the long-dead rituals or in the emotional and manipulative rhetoric, yet our priests ride around in massive Mercedes and fly private jets, and lecture us on our duties to the poor from thrones of solid gold.
So materialistic are we that even most people who educate themselves to postgraduate level – much less the others – cannot conceive of an origin of consciousness different to the current “magic brain” model, in which one has unshakable, 100% confidence and faith in the belief that science will one day prove that the brain generates consciousness through electrobiochemical means.
Finally, we can see it with the rampant overpopulation of the Earth. The yin is associated with love and reproduction, but it is obvious that our recent interest in this is excessive. There are so many of us that we are in the middle of one of the six biggest extinction events in the history of the planet.
Despite the carnage that we are wreaking virus-like on the planet as we consume everything that lives on or under its surface, few seem to have any compunction about bringing another litter of kids into the world to compete for ever-diminishing resources.
Taken together, the reasons to think that we are in a time of excess yin seem overwhelming. This means that the world is about to start heating up – alchemically, if not physically.
It’s as simple as looking at a yin-yang, and knowing that the yin represents chaos and the yang represents order. Keeping in mind the Fifth Hermetic Principle – the Principle of Rhythm – we can surmise that it is true of order and chaos that “the measure of the swing to the right is the measure of the swing to the left.”
In a Taoist sense this is to say that an excess of order, by its very nature, leads to a minuscule element of chaos arising within it, which grows, and soon takes on a momentum of its own, only to itself crystallise from a tiny seed into order, and ever more rigid order, until the cycle begins anew.
Too much masculinity in the alchemical world is represented as fire and iron, and these stand as metaphor for how too much masculinity in the physical world leads to violence.
An excess of masculinity is like fire when it has too much energy because it causes violence which burns flesh and sears souls, and is what the ancient physicians meant when they diagnosed a person with a choleric personality.
It is also like iron when it imposes too much order because it is harsh and cuts mercilessly, and when it breaks down it shatters, as with an excess of masculinity one loses one’s ability to yield and to withdraw and breaks like a tree that cannot yield to a storm.
This is evident in the natural world even when one looks at biological life in the simplest way. A seed that sprouts and begins to grow towards the light must eventually break the surface if it is to survive (for a literary description of this phenomenon see Chapter 21 of Anna Nilsen’s Writing With The I Ching: Biting Through).
As below, so above: the world of men is no different. If a person observes the current order of the day and finds it unworthy of continued existence, then – if they are intelligent – they will soon come to appreciate the degree to which, and the vigour with which, the established order maintains itself (indeed, that’s all that order is).
But like the rising yin, the desire to break the established order – once it takes hold – grows ever more powerful by virtue of its position within nature. As the dusk darkness consumes ever more of the light, so does the chaos dissolve ever more of the existing order, until it breaks through and imposes an order of its own.
If you look at the current state of world history, there is an established Anglo-American order, which has dominated world affairs for about 200 years. This order is generally known as ‘The West’, because it represents the powers on the Western side of the world when viewed as a chessboard.
This world order arguably began at Waterloo, when the then wielder of the Spear of Destiny – Napoleon Bonaparte – was defeated in battle and the First French Empire sundered.
The nature of yang is to decline into yin – we know this, and already it’s possible to observe an America in cultural decay. Already the American Empire has degenerated in certain ways further than any empire in history, with the most recent 50 years giving us everything from Charles Manson and Ted Bundy to Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.
The nature of yin is to rise into yang – and this can be observed with the awakening of the sleeping giants of China and India. These countries were poor and were always going to remain poor as long as they were too corrupt to organise any meaningful invest in the human capital of the young. This was how it was when the Spear of Destiny was held in Europe, but now, as it crosses the Pacific, the East is awakening.
There is every chance that a rising Eastern power that wants its place in the Sun will naturally come into conflict with the established Western one that wants to hold onto power. Indeed, many believed that the Japanese action in the Western Pacific theatre of World War II was this event playing out (this column is far, far from the first to suggest it).
The collapse of the established order is not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when. The established order never collapses peacefully (observe adult male elephants for an analogy in the natural world).
Therefore, war is a fundamental aspect of life, and always will be, as long as there are masculine and feminine.