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Extremes and How They Meet

Why do you dance for joy in prosperity or become dejected in adversity or trial? With a little patience and calmness observe the drama of life which is played around.
—Vasishtha

Bring together the two ends of a straight line, and you have a complete circle. Extend a straight line, and you bring the extreme ends in wider and ever wider opposition. Nevertheless, howsoever far the line is extended, the point of balance at the center of the line always remains. Thus the line may stand for the breach of extremes—the tugging and pulling, the chafing and wearing, the strife and struggle introduced by man—which are kept within bounds by the Central Law of things; while the circle represents harmony, perfection, rest; a condition of calm comprehension in which there is no violence, no disturbance; wherein all extremes vanish in a round of perfect peace.

Yet again, there are no straight lines in nature. These exist only in the artificial works of man. Nature moves in circles, cycles, and brings all extremes together. She compels all opposites, all enemies, to the kiss of reconciliation. Outside man’s invention there is no straight line. The traveler who keeps straight on will come to the point front which he started. Draw out a "straight line” to the ends of the earth, and you will describe the equatorial circle. A straight line cannot be "drawn out to infinity," for he who thought to do this would be all the time moving round in a circle, so compelled by the law of things. Thus the circle—completeness—and not the straight line—extension—represents infinity. Man extends his mind across the universe in the effort to grasp infinity, but falls back defeated as he ever must, for infinity cannot be enclosed in magnitude.

"Beginning and end are dreams,"

and all things are infinite in the sense that neither beginning nor end can be ascribed to them.

All extremes are complemental, and exist by virtue of each other, are the two sides of a perfect whole. Night and day; heat and cold; black and white; mind and matter; life and death stand in eternal equipoise. Man cannot escape the Law which describes only circles. In going to one extreme he will always come in contact with the other. As January and December meet, representing the completion of the earth’s journey in its orbit round the sun, so luxury and want, riches and poverty, greed and loss, attack and resistance, pleasure and pain, self-indulgence and disease, sin and suffering touch and conjoin, completing the circle of man’s dual experience.

When the world has sunk to the deepest depth of spiritual darkness, a Savior appears who stands at the highest height of spiritual light, and he appears at that point where the darkness is deepest, illuminating it with the light of his presence. So when one reaches the darkest hour of evil, he passes on into the dawning hour of good.

When a nation reaches the highest point of riches and luxury, it also touches the lowest point of poverty and want. Where super-abundant riches abound in a city, excessive poverty will always be found. When a man has reached the limit of luxury, he is on the verge of poverty; when he is gloated with pleasure, he has reached the point of pain; when he has filled up the measure of his sin, he has come to the emptiness of suffering. When he has described the half-circle for his own delight and gratification, he must perforce describe the other half to his misery and deprivation, and so gain wisdom by experience.

When a gambler is rejoicing over his gains, another gambler is mourning over his losses. When a "clever" speculator chuckles over his rapidly acquired wealth, a “foolish” speculator is repining over his sudden and unexpected poverty. The two gamblers will, another day, change places; and between the fraud and the fool there is no distinction except in name; both are the same in purpose, only he who wins is called the fraud, and he who loses is called the fool; they also, another day, another year, another life will change places. Thus the cheat only succeeds ultimately in cheating himself.

"By this the slayer‘s knife did stab himself;
The unjust judge hath lost his own defender;
The false tongue dooms its lie; the creeping thief
And spoiler rob to render;
Such is the Law which moves to righteousness."

When a nation is rejoicing over the victories and spoils of war, another nation is mourning over its defeats and losses. While the victorious General of one army is being feted and honored, the defeated General of the other army is being humiliated and deprived of his honors. He, therefore, who rejoices in the victory of one is rejoicing in the downfall of another.

Yet the despoiled gambler and the defeated fighter are nearer to Truth than the one who is hugging his gains, and the other who is exultant in victory, for they are experiencing the two extremes; the one is learning the transiency of worldly gain, the other the emptiness of worldly glory. In this high sense, “It is better to weep than to laugh," and "Blessed are they that mourn." Thus swings the pendulum of passion, describing the arc of human experience; the one extreme point is called pleasure, the other sorrow; but the arc is one, and the pendulum is one.

Give to a mathematician any fraction of a circle, and he will accurately describe the dimensions of that circle, and restore it in its perfection. Present to a wise man any side of a question, and he will round it with its complementary aspect, and restore the broken harmony of opposing factions. Thus perceiving the nature of all extremes, how they belong to each other, how they are, indeed, the same, he cannot be a partisan, cannot make one of two opposing forces, but stands midway between all extremes, bringing all things into relation and harmony, freed from condemnation and contention.

He who understands the fixed principle of Goodness, the perfect circle of Good, as distinguished from those acts of impulse called good, (almost invariably associated in the same person with the other extreme acts of impulse called evil), detached segments of the Perfect Whole, has found the point of poise, the place of peace. In him the painful conflict of opposing elements has ceased; to him praise land blame, success and failure, victory and defeat are the same. He cannot be proud and exultant in the one condition, nor humiliated and depressed in the other. Unchangeable in the midst of change; unalterable in kindness towards all amid the ceaseless coming and going of enemies and friends; calm and composed, and freed from bitterness, no party can claim him for he belongs to all.

Every man takes care that his neighbor does not cheat him. But a day comes when he begins to care that he does not cheat his neighbor. Then all goes well; he has changed his market-cart into a chariot of the sun.
—Emerson

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« Rest (Poem)   |   Avoiding Extremes »

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James Allen

James Allen was a little-known philosophical writer and poet. He is best recognized for his book, As a Man Thinketh. Allen wrote about complex subjects such as faith, destiny, love, patience, and religion but had the unique ability of explaining these subjects clearly and in a way that is easy to understand. He often wrote about cause and effect, sowing and reaping, as well as overcoming sadness, sorrow, and grief. For more information on the life of James Allen, click here.

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