Expert Answer Forum
ying & yang QUESTION from Julia November 18, 1999 My daughter has a small tatoo on her shoulder of the ying & yang symbol. She had it done when she attended college and was influenced by a chinese friend(I believe) Could you please tell me specifically what it stands for and the significance and dangers of having it on your body(as a tatoo)I know that she covers it whenever she thinks her father might see it. Thank you and God bless you!
ANSWER by John-Paul Ignatius on November 23, 1999 Dear Miss Julia:
The Yin and Yang symbol is very popular with the college crowd. There is a fascination for Chinese philosophy and the whole mystery of the one hand clapping sort of thing.
It is unfortunate that our young people seem to think they have to go to the Eastern Philosophies and religions to engage in the mysteries of mysticism. We, in the Catholic Church have a rich heritage and history in mysticism. If we stay within the parameters of the Church we can be assured that the mysticism we study will have filtered out of it all the contaminates of a non-christian worldview.
As an aside to this, there are MANY Catholic retreats and priest who are teaching Enneagram and Centering Prayer. Both of these are NOT Christian and NOT Catholic. The Enneagram is occult divinition and Centering Prayer as taught by the Fr. Keating and others is contaminated with new age philosophies and eastern philosophies and notions not consistent with the Church.
As to a definition of Yin and Yang, let me quote from the Chinese philosopers themselves:
The Chinese view the human body as a microcosmos which reflects the relationships to be seen in the cosmos. They believe that the same energy which rules the universe and breathes life into nature also has a determining influence on man. Chinese philosophy regards man as a part of the cosmos, embedded in the rhythms of the universe, a span between heaven and earth, between the poles of the two elemental forces in the universe, Yin and Yang. The principle of polarity is to be found everywhere in the universe: heaven and earth; the finite (the earth) and the infinite (the atmosphere and everything above the earth); the visible (the earth) and the invisible (heaven and air); above (the sun and warmth) and below (the earth and cold). Polarity allows movement and therefore change; for example, the earth moves and rhythmically changes its position in relation to the sun. This brings about the slow change from day and daylight through the dusk into the darkness of night.
The concept of continual change, a fundamental idea in daoistic philosophy, is clearly illustrated by the behaviour of water. It falls as rain on the earth. It collects in rivulets, which become streams and then rivers which flow into the sea. The water then evaporates, rising into the sky to fall as rain and thereby completing the cycle.
Everything in nature and all events in life have a relationship to each other which involves opposing factors. These natural things and events are also in a continual state of change as they are subject to the ebb and flow of cosmic forces. The ideal state in nature and therefore in health is when these opposing forces are in relative balance. The Chinese do not believe in absolutes or in the ideal, rather that everything is relative, flexible and changeable. The interplay of Yin and Yang brings about every change and every movement in the universe.
Yang means literally the sunny side of the mountain or illumination, while Yin can be translated as the shadowy slope, that is the state which exists after a period of illumination.
Yang can be defined as active, initiating, moving, spreading out, unfolding, altering, dispersing, loosening, expanding, aggressive and as negation; ie. it is that which changes what is already in existence.
Yin is regarded as a force which makes things concrete, materialises and somatises; as being completing, confirming, corresponding, solidifying, thickening, organising, determining, contracting, at rest, solid, compact and conservative.
This might sound okay, but it is based on a view of the universe where there is no god, only a cosmic plasma of essence of Yin and Yang, good and evil, beauty and ugliness. Good cannot exist without evil. Evil and Good and just two sides of the same coin. There is no God Creator, omnipresent, all powerful, all knowing. A personal God and a personal devil.
In this cosmology we have in essence what was popularized in the movie, Star Wars -- the Force. The Force which can be used for Good (Luke Skywalker) or used for bad (Darth Vader).
This cosmology is absolutely wrong and absolute contrary to Christianity.
As far as a danger of the tattoo, there is no inherent danger in the tattoo itself. What I would wonder about and worry about is the daughter's faith. Is she still in the faith or is she contaminated with New Age (Chinese Philosophy) notions.
If she is, try to calmly encourage her back into the faith. It will do no good to have a shouting match. And PRAY for her.
I hoped this helps a little.
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