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Anyone starting a macrobiotic dietary practice without studying yin and yang can do so adequately, experiencing increasing health benefits physically, emotionally and mentally, for only a certain period of time, perhaps three to five years. However, since a macrobiotic dietary practice is not dieting in the strict sense, if we have not studied and begun to understand the principles which inform the practice, principally yin-yang theory and its derivative, the Five Transformation Theory, we will find that around this time our experience of doing a macrobiotic practice will get 'bogged down'. It is commonplace for people to have started a macrobiotic dietary practice and given up after three years or so; one constantly hears people saying, "oh yes, I tried macrobiotics for a couple of years back in" whatever decade they happened to have tried it. The percentage of people who have tried macrobiotic practice and given it up relative to the people who continue past the two to three year period is probably 80%.

Now, there are many reasons for this phenomenon, and I feel the most important is the lack of study of yin -yang theory means people do not know how, by and large, to make the necessary adjustments to their dietary practice as their condition improves. These dietary adjustments generally mean we have to start widening the choices of foods available to us, so we eventually can eat anything we want, always maintaining whole grains and vegetables as our daily staple foods. In actual fact it is not in accord with macrobiotic philosophy for anyone to maintain the same dietary intake from season to season, year in and year out; also, a diet suitable for a person in a certain condition is not appropriate for the same person when their condition improves.

Another very important reason to learn and understand yin and yang is to change our way of thinking. And we need to change our way of thinking if we wish to heal ourselves. The present dominant mode of thinking in the world can be characterized as scientific materialistic reductionist thinking, which has developed over the past four hundred years. This manner of thinking has arisen from the study of the material world, its basis for knowledge being the world of minerals and chemicals. From exhaustive studies, experimentation and observations of the phenomena of the mineral kingdom have been derived the laws of physics and chemistry. These chemical and physical laws have then been applied in the manipulation of matter in developing a brilliantly clever and in many instances beneficial material technology. This is fine as long as the chemical and physical laws are understood to be pertinent only to chemicals and minerals.

However, this mode of thinking characterized as materialistic scientific reductionist permeates every branch of knowledge and learning, and most human endeavors today. We need to wake up to the fact that we are totally deluded if we think the plant, the animal or the human being is merely a more elaborate and complex arrangement of physics and chemistry than is the rock or stone. In other words, it is not logically possible to derive true understanding and knowledge of living organisms by means of the laws of physics and chemistry.

The world is suffering grievously under the burden of this delusion. It is not an exaggeration to say all the problems the world is now experiencing and has been for several decades, be they ecological, environmental, economic, legal, social, political, medical, educational or religious, are the result of this dominant mode of thinking I characterize as scientific materialist reductionist. It seems fairly obvious to draw the conclusion that this mode of thinking will not help us in solving these problems, because it is largely the cause of all the problems going on in the world today; using the same manner of thinking to solve problems caused by it will in fact make these problems more intractable than they have already become.

We therefore need to develop a new way of thinking which has its epistemology based on the logically undeniable fact that the worlds of plants, animals and human beings, and, in the final analysis, even the world of minerals, are the expression, the manifestations and symptoms of spiritual laws and activities operating in the world of spirit which creates, imbues and permeates the physical world. The picture Rudolf Steiner gives of the evolution of human consciousness is the development of the intellectual capacities of the human soul such that we could objectively investigate the material world and develop the capacity to think independently, out of our own resources of the soul, beginning around 1413 A.D., was a necessary step in the evolution of human consciousness. However, any human being taking the materialistic scientific world view to its logical conclusion cannot but admit it is not possible to find in it any real satisfaction for the soul as to why the phenomena of the world function the way they do. Thus, having reached the necessary 'brick wall' at the end of scientific materialism, we must needs posit an invisible domain, lying beyond the veil of the physical senses, which is behind/within material phenomena and is the fundamental cause for why phenomena - mineral, plant, animal and human- in the realm of the physical world behave they way they do. This is the world/s of spiritual beings, forces and activities. The fact that the people inhabiting the world today appear not to find this logical conclusion admissible is more a statement about humanity's present enthralment to the delusion of modern scientific materialism, feebleness of soul, intellectual aridity and less than stringent, accurate observation of material phenomena than it is about the truthfulness of the logical conclusion itself.

As a first step, or bridge, toward developing this new way of thinking, the study and understanding of yin and yang is very helpful, because it is predicated on the knowledge there are hidden (that is, imperceptible to the physical sense organs) forces and dynamics lying within and behind material phenomena which give them their form and dynamic of function and activity. Yin and yang is a 'descriptive language' to understand the dynamics of spiritual activity. Since understanding yin and yang is so different from the conventional habit of scientific materialist reductionist thinking, it requires a rigorous and consistent retraining of our thinking. We must also realise developing our understanding of yin and yang is not only necessary in order to facilitate our healing, it is also contingent upon recovering our physical, emotional, mental and spiritual health and vitality. The necessity of developing a feeling for yin and yang is also necessary because it is simply not an intellectual arrangement and can never be understood from a purely intellectual standpoint. For although on the surface yin and yang theory appears to be simplicity itself, and in a certain respect it is, it is also complex, profound and subtle.

One problem, which I need to address here, is if a reader comes to this page with any sort of background in Traditional Chinese Medicine, then they will look at the description of yin and yang qualities, attributes and tendencies that follows and conclude the macrobiotic understanding of yin and yang is in error. And indeed it is, from the perspective of Traditional Chinese Medicine. However, George Ohsawa, who I refer to as the 're-discoverer' of macrobiotic principles and practices, changed the perspective of yin and yang from the traditional metaphysical one to one which is geocentric.

In essence, if we study the 'I Ching', which is the consummate expression of yin and yang theory and philosophy from the metaphysical perspective, it states that 'Heaven' being the generator of all things, is more creative, active, dynamic and therefore more yang than the expression of its creative activity, which is called 'Earth'. 'Earth', which is, in contrast to 'Heaven' passive, receptive,and still, is therefore more yin. In fact 'Heaven' is called Great Yang and 'Earth' is called 'Great Yin'.

George Ohsawa said, on the other hand, from the perspective of an individual living on the earth, heaven is a wide, vast, relatively empty expanse flung out above us, and is therefore more yin; the earth, from this perspective, is a solid, compacted, physical object floating in this wide expanse of space, and is therefore more yang. From this radical change in perspective Ohsawa then developed the yin-yang theory presented here.

Thus, neither one is incorrect as long as they are not mixed up; if we are consistent in our interpretations from each of the different perspectives then we will not make errors, excepting those made because of our lack of understanding of whichever interpretation of yin and yang we are using. There is no reason one cannot learn both; however, my advice is to start with the explanation given here and learn it thoroughly and understand it well. This is a minimum two year proposition, while simultaneously adopting a macrobiotic dietary program, which is one of the applications of yin-yang theory and therefore a great way to study yin and yang is to learn how to cook and eat macrobiotically.

The Principles of Yin and Yang.

1.) Oneness, God, the Mother-Father Creative continuously manifests two tendencies of dynamic spiritual activity which are always and in all places and times under the continuous guidance of the One. Together, these three are manifest in 'The Ten Thousand Things"; that is, all visible and invisible phenomena of the relative world.
2.) The two tendencies are called yin, centrifugality and yang, centripetality.
3.) Yin attracts yang; yang attracts yin.
4.) Yang repels yang; yin repels yin.
5.) At their extreme of movement, yin changes into, or produces yang; likewise, at the extreme yang changes into, or produces, yin.
6.) The greater the polarity between yin and yang, the greater the force of attraction between them. The more alike two phenomena are respect of yin and yang, the greater the force of repulsion between them.
7.) Yin and yang are constantly changing into one another.
8.) No phenomenon is completely, absolutely yang, or completely, absolutely yin. All phenomena are permeated with both yin and yang tendencies.
9.) No phenomenon is neutral, that is, perfectly balanced. Yin or yang is present in excess in all phenomena at one time or another in dynamic interplay.
10.) Under the guidance of the One, all inter-relationships of yin and yang are always tending toward a dynamic balance.

These ten principles are, so to speak, the rules of the game. Now we need to learn what I call the ABC's of yin and yang. What follows is by no means an exhaustive list, and by learning it, you can add many more examples.

The properties, attributes and tendencies of yin and yang:





















(in plant growth)

 upward and outward

horizontally, beneath ground

 downward and inward

horizontally, above ground





more inactive, slower

more active,faster

shorter wavelength

higher frequency

longer wavelength

lower frequency
 Diurnal Rhythm



more mental

more physical














Moisture content







Violet Indigo Blue GREEN Yellow Orange Red

N, O, K, P, Ca, etc.

H, C, Na, As, Mg, etc.
 Heavenly Bodies





It is important to bear in mind that when we are seeking to determine whether any given phenomenon is more yin or more yang, it is always relative to another phenomenon. It does not make sense to say any phenomenon is yin or yang; it is always more yin or more yang relative to another phenomenon. Further, it is usually cause for error when we only take only one attribute, property or tendency of a phenomenon, say color, to determine if it is more yin or yang than another phenomenon. For example, say we want to know what the yin and yang of carrots and tomatoes, which are both red, and a green apple is, relative to one another; if we only use color as a basis for comparison, we would conclude the green apple is more yin than the carrot and the tomato. Well, we would be correct in the case of the carrot, but incorrect in the case of the tomato. To understand why is your homework .

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Kaare Bursell

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