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Friedrich’s painting Moonrise by the Sea symbolises the gnostic principle of dualism. This principle has been misunderstood as a belief in separate and opposing forces of good and evil identified with light and darkness, spirit and matter, inner self and outer world. The essence of dualism is quite different however. It lies in the simple but fundamental recognition that without two-ness or duality there can be no relationship and thus no unity or one-ness. The mere postulation of any one being, world or god implies the possibility of another, and implies also a definite relation to that other. The principle of duality is essentially a principle of relationality – the recognition that any one being is its relation to other beings. In particular gnosticism recognises the innate duality of the human being. For each human being is one human embodiment or ‘incarnation’ of their own innermost ‘spiritual’ being. What defines the human being as a being is their relation to their own inner being - that ‘second self’ or ‘double’ (Doppelgänger). This relation can be one of intimate inner knowing (GNOSIS) or spiritual ignorance. The second self of the individual is symbolised in the painting by the dualistic pairings of figures and male and female pairs. The second self is also shown as that which anchors us to the rock-like inner ground of our being, symbolised by the shore-land on which we stand. The moonrise over the sea symbolises the reflected light of awareness through which all sensory phenomena first come to light as sensory images of soul. The twin boats symbolise our second body – the soul body with which we can sail free upon the sensory surface of our own innermost sea of awareness, travelling to distant shores of the imagination.


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