YOUTH AND OLD MAN
A Chinese symbol of the dual distribution of forces, comprising the active or masculine principle Yang and the passive or feminine principle Yin. It takes the form of a circle bisected by a sigmoid line, and the two parts so formed are invested with a dynamic tendency which would be wanting if the division were by a diameter. The light half represents the Yang force and the dark half denotes Yin; however, each half includes an arc cut out of the middle of the opposing half, to symbolize that every mode must contain within it the germ of its antithesis. Guenon considers that the Yang-Yin is a helicoidal symbol, that is, that it is a section of the universal whirlwind which brings opposites together and engenders perpetual motion, metamorphosis and continuity in situations characterized by contradiction.
The entrance to and exit from this movement lie outside the movement itself, in the same way that birth and death stand apart from the life of the individual in so far as it is conscious and self-determined. The vertical axis through the centre of the Yang-Yin constitutes the 'unvarying mean' or, in other words, the mystic 'Centre' where there is no rotation, no restlessness, no impulse, nor any suffering of any kind. It corresponds to the central zone of the Wheel of Transformations in Hindu symbolism, and the centre or the way out of the labyrinth in Egyptian and western symbolism. It is also expressive of the two counterbalancing tendencies of evolution and involution .
More than a symbol, the year is, as it were, the prototype of all cyclic processes the day, the span of human life, the rise and fall of a culture, the cosmic cycle, etc.. All cycles are composed of an ascending and a descending phase, i.et evolution and involution; sometimes, cycles are also subdivided into three or, more frequently four phases seasons of the year, ages of man. The overall division of the cyclic process, however, need not necessarily be symmetrical.
Thus, in a cycle composed of twelve units, such as the year or the wheel of the Zodiac, the ascending and descending phases can be taken either as 6 plus 6 symmetrical division or 8 plus 4 asymmetrical division. The former is a more geometrical, the latter a more empirical division. The year is usually represented by the figure of an old man in a circle, with two or three outer rings containing such items as: the names of the months, the cycle of work appropriate to each month, the signs of the Zodiac and so on. Often the circle of the year is, in its turn, enclosed in a square the corners of which are occupied by four figures personifying the four seasons. The tapestry of the Creation, in Gerona cathedral, is a famous example. Two interesting points in connexion with the annual cycle are:
i in Chinese tradition, the cycle is divided into two equal parts, corresponding respectively to darkness/death, and light/life;
ii there was a primitive belief that every man undergoes a process of regeneration every year, from December to June, symbolizing death and resurrection
Like the sheaf or bunch, the yoke is a symbol of union and discipline; but by virtue of its association with the ox, it is also symbolic of sacrifice .
Like the mandorla, the Yoni is the gateway, or the zone of interpenetration wherein two circles intersect. Indians, in order to ensure regeneration, make an image of the Yoni in gold, and pass through it .
Youth and Old Man
These two figures personify the rising and the setting sun. Another similar idea is that which considers each sun as the offspring of its predecessor; this provides us with an explanation of the great number of solar gods born of other sun-gods . In addition to this system of 'continuous connexion', or of circular links, the Old Man is always the father the master, tradition, contemplation, the celestial sovereign, justice, while the Youth is the son the governed, subversion, intuition, the hero, boldness. The counterbalancing formula of Youth-Old Man loses its equipoise once the Youth is a mature man and the Old Man decrepit, because the latter then becomes infantile and asexual.