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From the Dialectical Notebook: Edmond Bordeaux Szekely’s “Ten Commandments Of Dialectical Thinking”

March 10, 2012

Heraclitus, depicted in Raphael's painting, "The School of Athens", argued against Plato's "Forms" that "everything flows" or "Panta Rhei".

Most consider Macrobiotic Philosophy to be based on the ancient oriental teachings of yin and yang as introduced by George Ohsawa and his followers, including my parents, Michio and Aveline Kushi.  Yet due to the esoteric and exotic nature of the yin/yang ideology many dismiss the whole of the philosophy and eventually relegate macrobiotics as a rigid diet that may be helpful yet may also be deficient.  Lost in this dismissal is the understanding that macrobiotics and its biological application is but a gateway to an understanding of life and the universe that is far grander in scope that is not only oriental in roots but is common to all of humanity in origin and any who seek and explore the very nature of life and reality.

The attractiveness of foreign terminologies such as “yin” and “yang” tends to result in, at one end of a spectrum, an eventual confusion, rejection and reversion back to familiar “scientific” tenets (e.g. modern nutrition) or, at the other end, a fanatical righteousness that seems to ignore basic common-sense. Yet any who perseveres in a deeper philosophical inquiry of the uncensored life without settling for lesser conclusions will find rich treasures of knowledge and understanding of the ancients from both Eastern and Western origins and from which Ohsawa, a well-read man of Western philosophy, derived his original “Unifying Principle”  (unification of East and West ideas) upon which he based his definition that “Macrobiotics is the biological application of the dialectical conception of the universe.” in his book, “Zen Macrobiotics.”  (For a listing of the Principles and Theorems of the Unifying Principle See: )

Edmond Boudreaux Szekely

A case in point that macrobiotics is not solely oriental in origin is Edmond Bordeaux Szekely and his work on dialectics.  On the inside front flap of his book, “The Dialectical Method Of Thinking” is a simple introduction to the dialectical philosophy of macrobiotics, not from ancient oriental works but from occidental sources.  The inside cover lists “Ten Commandments Of Dialectical Thinking” taken from a variety of Western philosophers which reads very much like anything Ohsawa wrote.  These “Ten Commandments” are as follows:

  1. “The dialectical method is the basis of all sciences, it is their universal frame.” – Engels
  2. “Everything is in motion.  There is no fixed point in the Universe.” – Heraclitus
  3. “Everything comes out of the battle of two opposite forces.” – Heraclitus
  4. “We can understand a phenomena only if we examine its origin and genealogy.” – Engels
  5. “We must examine everything in the totality, and nothing separately as a part.” – Engels
  6. “All phenomena are correlative.  They not only depend on others, but each reciprocally completes the other; opposites complete opposites, and they are indivisible and unimaginable without each other.  The whole structure of the Universe is correlative” – Essene Teaching  “Dialectics is the science of motion and evolution of nature, society and thought.” – Engels
  7. “Every existing thing has a foundation and super-structure; the foundation determines and the super-structure influences.” – Engels
  8. “First appears primitive thesis, then the opposite, the antithesis, and finally their synthesis in a more perfect form.” – Hegel
  9. “Man is the measure of all things.” – Protagoras
  10. “Every phenomena, process and action has its best form, requiring the minimum of sacrifice for the maximum results.  The actual chaos can be cleared only by the all-sided (omnilateral) realization of the best (optimal) forms of life.” – Essene Teaching

Independent of Ohsawa yet using the same principles of dialectics, Szekely developed his own version of macrobiotics and founded the “International Biogenic Society” whose dietary and lifestyle values and ethics are similar to those of present day macrobiotics:

(source: Wikipedia )


The credo of the International Biogenic Society states the following:

  • We believe that our most precious possession is Life.
  • We believe we shall mobilize all the forces of Life against the forces of death.
  • We believe mutual understanding leads toward mutual cooperation; that mutual cooperation leads toward Peace; and that Peace is the only way of survival for mankind.
  • We believe that we shall preserve instead of waste our natural resources, which are the heritage of our children.
  • We believe that we shall avoid the pollution of our air, water and soil, the basic preconditions of life.
  • We believe that we shall preserve the vegetation of our planet: the humble grass which came 50 million years ago and the majestic trees which came 20 million years ago, to prepare our planet for mankind.
  • We believe that we shall eat only fresh, natural, pure, whole foods, without chemicals and artificial processing.
  • We believe that we shall lead a simple, natural, creative life, absorbing all the sources of energy, harmony and knowledge, in and around us.
  • We believe that the improvement of life and mankind on our planet must start with individual efforts, as the whole depends on the atoms composing it.

Biogenic living

Szekely classified foods into four categories, depending on their qualities and what they contributed to one’s health:

  • Biogenic: life renewing – germinated cereal seeds, nuts; sprouted baby greens.
  • Bioactive: life sustaining – organic, natural vegetables, fruit.
  • Biostatic: life slowing – cooked, stale foods (but legumes must be cooked after sprouting first).
  • Biocidic: life destroying – processed, irradiated foods and drinks.

The daily diet should consist of 25% biogenic foods, 50% bioactive foods, and 25% biostatic. No biocidic foods should be consumed.

Biogenic living also includes meditation, simple living, and respect for the earth in all its forms.

Szekely also went so far as to establish a retreat center in Baja California known as Rancho la Puerta which continues its operations today. (See: ):

As discovered by Ohsawa and Szekely, dialetics is the basis of many great philosophies and religions from ancient Greece to the Far East; from Heraclitus to Lao Tzu and from the Teachings of the Essenes to the I-Ching. It is the basis of understanding of all phenomena. Today, dialectics can be considered as the foundation of all “holistic” ideas from organic agriculture, renewable energy and whole local foods as well as chaos theory and quantum physics and any and all sciences concerned with the dynamic flow of things including climate science, political science, economics and, of course, macrobiology and its practical application known as “macrobiotics”.  Furthermore and in conclusion I believe that any serious inquiry into the nature of life and the universe from a dialectical foundation will eventually lead to macrobiotics – and this is a far cry from its popular misunderstood notion as a rigid restrictive diet.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Tim permalink
    March 17, 2012 7:06 pm

    I am seeing a practitioner of Traditional Chinese Medicine for acupuncture treatments. When I discussed Yin and Yang with him, I soon discovered that Chinese Medicine has a very different concept than the Macrobiotic classifications of what is considered Yin/Yang.

    For instance, contraction is seen as “Yin” and expansion is seen as “Yang.” Why is this? If the principles are universal, one would think the classifications would be uniform. I would be very interested in reading a blog post explaining why different disciplines view Yin/Yang in seemingly different ways.

    I have cultivated for years a working understanding of the Macro principles, so it was quite frustrating to encounter an acupuncturist who seemed to turn all of that understanding on its head!

    • phiyakushi permalink*
      March 17, 2012 7:50 pm

      Thank you, Tim for your comment and suggestion. I will write a blog article exploring the differences between Traditional Chinese Medicine and Macrobiotic uses of Yin and Yang.

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