By Gisela Kirberg Mamone (1942-2009)
The tango is an embrace in movement. A man and a woman enter a dialogue through their bodies, guided by music which has an almost somber quality of yearning. Of a passion that can that can never be fulfilled. Of a sweet sadness. Two strangers become one for the duration of the dance. Two opposites come together briefly to create the fantasy of a harmonious whole.
Out of diversity, fragmentation, contrast, difference, variance, conflict, emerges integration, harmony, oneness. This is the Archetype of the Union of Opposites, symbolized in the alchemical traditions of the Middle Ages as the Wedding of the King and the Queen, or the Hermaphrodite, or the Sun and Moon. In fairy tales, this conjunction is symbolized by the marriage of the prince, and in our modern times by any Royal or other wedding that captures our imagination. And by the tango.
Deep in our psyche we know that this Union of Opposites is never completely realizable. All the more do we ache for the unobtainable bliss of such an absolute, for a state of being where all is harmony and completion, where all conflicts and differences cancel each other out. I have wondered why the tango unlike other dances has such a compelling, even addictive quality. Is it the power of this archetype: the archetype of union with the opposite, of longing for that union, of knowing that it is unreachable? Is that what makes it so truly romantic?
The longing for union with the opposite is seldom merely a longing for a member of the opposite sex, even though in dreams it is often symbolized as a sexual act, sometimes with the most unlikely persons. What we long for is what we perceive as opposite and therefore need if we are to be whole. We find this central theme of desire for our completion in Plato’s myth of the original round human being, divided by the goods into two halves, both of which are constantly seeking to be reunited with one another.
We find it in the epic Tristan, made into a haunting opera by Wagner, Tristan und Idolde. We find it in the literature of the romantic writers. The mystical teachings of the kabbalistic Tree of Life show us: we are trapped in our polarity, in Malkuth, and our constant striving is to become ONE again with our source, by evolving up the Middle Pillar towards Kether, the Godhead. Goethe’s main preoccupation was the union of opposites, and so was Roberto Assagioli’s, the founder of Psychosynthesis.
C.G. Jung speaks of an archetype as “the archaic heritage of humanity” – the key experiences and emotions and themes, passed down through the ages and shared universally by all of humankind. “Every individual life is at the same time the eternal life of the species.” Once in a while during our lifetime, usually when we are at a crossroads, some new cluster of emotions prepares to break through and then erupts into our everyday awareness. We may have a dream of something rumbling under the floorboards, or of some liquid squelching up through he cracks. Or we may dream of a loud knock at the door.
If we don’t have a dream, we may have an intuition of imminent change. Or we may have a synchronized event, one of these meaningful coincidences that give us a sense of all rightness: whatever may happen follows a coherent pattern, even if we cannot see or understand it. At such time, a new archetype is a new constellation in our psyche and we wait and watch how it will manifest in our life experience. We are poised for the next step.
As in tango, we must wait with alertness, ready to respond. When we are in the grip of an archetype, we are guided by something bigger than our concious reasoning and planning would allow for. We must follow it, if we are to fulfill our destiny.
Gisela Kirberg Mamone held a Diploma in Psychosynthesis Counseling. She’ll always be remembered as a kind and giving tango dancer at Planet Tango’s House of Tango. She wrote this article in May 2003 and it was first published on the May 2003 issue of ReporTango