We are faced with our own contemporary form of chaos: the unpredictability and uncertainty surrounding the pandemic and the civil and political unrest following the death of George Floyd.
We may feel that we are steering toward the dramatic end of the comfortable narrative of normality and social order.
We may experience helplessness when struck with illness or economic disaster.
We may not know what sources or experts to trust.
The inability to predict the outcome of these horrible events, coupled with the lack of control over most of our circumstances, is a profound stressor.
If we cannot control or predict our circumstances, should we just surrender to the crushing waves of our inevitable demise?
I beg to differ. We can change the way we mentally (and spiritually) respond to these circumstances. We can “embrace chaos.” We can follow what I, in my upcoming book, call “The Resplendent Path.”
For those of us who are in a position of influence, this Resplendent Path may also point the way out of the actual issues faced, not just the psychological response to them.
I have written about this Resplendent Path, related to chaos theory, in an earlier post.
Imagine a dimension. On the extreme left of that dimension we have the pole “rigid order,” on the extreme right the pole “absolute chaos.”
A wide range of psychological as well as social phenomena can be grouped under “rigid order”: strict rituals, obsessive thoughts, repression, anorexia nervosa, risk avoidance, depression, boredom due to extreme predictability, helplessness, and absolute control, but also totalitarian regimes and inefficient bureaucracy.
An equally wide range of phenomena can be grouped under “absolute chaos”: insanity, impulsiveness, binge eating, extreme risk taking, fear, uncertainty and extreme unpredictability, stress, and a lack of control, but also anarchy, war and revolts.
What should interest us most are the phenomena to be found at the golden middle between those two poles (The Resplendent Path): creativity, open-mindedness, growth, positive change, learning, curiosity, reasonable risk taking, meeting challenges, states of flow and diffuse control.
None of those lists are exhaustive, but nevertheless they serve to illustrate the usefulness of applying a framework of chaos theoretical concepts to explain physical, psychological, political, social and even spiritual phenomena. If this approach is embraced, we can also start thinking about using it to come up with solutions to problems stemming from inclinations toward either too much order or too much chaos. Fine tuning the system toward the optimal Resplendent Path is a daunting task, and may best be visualized by the metaphor of walking a tightrope.
That’s why I have sacrificed a lot of my precious time into writing a book, out of passion and without seeking any material gain, with the intention to make it available to all who may be interest (for free).
In this book I also dig a little deeper into more profound questions, such as “What is consciousness?” and “What is the ultimate reality?” while trying to maintain a balance between scientific considerations and sources on the one hand, and less scientific, more fantastical ones on the other. I will also expose my vulnerability by relating to my own experiences and failures, and how I learned from them – and am still learning from them.
I expect this book (I am, at the time of this writing, doing the final revision) to be finished before the end of this year, and it will first be available as a PDF file, which is the most accessible and workable format.
is the key to life, it covers most of the Earth’s surface, it is one of the
main ingredients for the recipe of our body, and we need to drink plenty of it
in order to survive. It is used in spiritual rituals, cools us comfortably during
hot summers, and also dampens the spirits of forlorn creatures in autumn, when
it pours down relentlessly for days on end.
can also be a destructive force, for instance when a massive tsunami wave
crashes down onto a hapless coastal settlement, ruining the forsaken coast
can be a perfect ice cube, all it’s power and virility seemingly contained.
evaporated, it becomes like a ghost, unseen yet present, transforming into
raindrops or even snowflakes if conditions allow it.
is the versatility of the phenomenon called water, and what does that tell us,
at least as an analogy? Much, but let’s focus on the different states.
ice cube. Frozen water. On first impression flawless and motionless. In reality
more complex than that, but for the sake of my argument, let’s assume it is in
a perfect state of order. Fascinating as it might be, it is also rather
lifeless. Imagine being turned into a statue, like in a fairy tale, frozen in a
certain state, never able to get out of it. Or, if you still want to allow for
some mobility, being stuck in a day, a day that keeps repeating itself in exactly
the same order and manner in an endless cycle. Both the static and cyclic state
seem rather miserable, right? Let that be the extreme of perfect order.
let’s zoom in on the tsunami again. A huge wave creating havoc. Death, destruction,
despair. Only miracles of a spiritual nature, or marvels of a scientific origin,
could heal what was hurt, and restore what was lost. Some will be traumatized
for life, others will be financially ruined. Such is the cost of chaos, the
extreme seems desirable. Neither the state of order nor the state of chaos can
sustain life. And yet both are necessary. The magic happens at a very small
area in the middle, a kind of “golden zone”, where chaos provides the degrees
of freedom, and order helps maintain some kind of continuity, an equilibrium. Not
a static equilibrium, but one that is fed by chaos, adapts, grows, and even
learns. This is where complexity occurs, where all that makes existence
beautiful and lively emerges, and where intelligence comes into existence.
is like total freedom, randomness, meaninglessness, unpredictability, and instability.
It is movement without purpose, without direction.
is the opposite: it is control, rigidity, predictability, and stability. It is
either static or cyclic (though the latter seems more apparent in this
universe, which seems to be always in motion).
is the moving equilibrium between those two extremes, a delicate balance where order
maintains form, but chaos allows it to grow more complex and better adapt to
the conditions of its context of existence. Going to either of these extremes
will lead to either stagnation and maladaptation (too much order) or decay and
These ideas of order, chaos, and complexity, if you ask me, can be used, to describe things that happen in the universe, from the smaller scales of particles (like in thermodynamics) to the larger scales of galaxy formation. They can be used to describe the dynamics of the human mind, and those of human society. Something I am trying to do in my book, which is still in progress.
the conditions of the early universe would have been too random, or rather too
rigid, galaxies, and life as we know it, would probably never have evolved.
concepts of order, chaos and complexity seem to be very useful in describing
what I see and experience, what I rationalize about, whatever their scientific
worth may be.
what does all of this tell us about the more spiritual side of existence, on
which I have been writing stubbornly for the last few years?
consider the ocean: vast, seemingly endless, borderless, shapeless, humbling,
inspiring, majestic, and remorseless. If you behold her like a poet would, not
a scientist, she takes no definite shape, but incessantly flows and brings
forth waves. She consists of countless individual drops, yet those drops are
part of the whole and have sacrificed their stricter individuality, they are “one”.
Everything that could be formed out of the ocean’s water, either as a whole or as
a part of her, is in a way already there, like ice cubes, snow flakes, or even
ice sculptures. However, none of those forms are manifested, they remain latent
yet are always potentially there.
water evaporates from the ocean, cooling down and eventually transforming into
hailstones, these hailstones are like “manifested order”. Like Erwin
Schrödinger’s proverbial “cat”, from the Quantum Mechanics thought experiment, which
seems to be in two conflicting states: alive and dead, suddenly coming alive as
a manifested creature, as in the collapse of a quantum wave describing the
possible states of existence.
ocean, the unmanifested, called Brahman in Hindu philosophy – the Absolute, the
pure and formless ground of being from which creation and manifestation arise –
is NOT chaos, or change. It is absolute flow, but as it is formless, it is not
change. Change and chaos (the extreme version of change) only occur when there
is order, when something has already been manifested, when something has arisen
out of nothingness. So when the tsunami wave crashes down onto the coastal
settlement, it causes chaos because the coast and the settlement were already
there in the first place.
the unmanifested ocean which I will now call the “higher reality”, and to which
I have referred many times in earlier writings, all those things that can be
described using the concepts of chaos, order, and complexity also exist, but
not as a manifested form, as they are always in motion, and always “whole”,
divided yet one. As it seems impossible to fully comprehend, let alone clearly describe,
what this vast ocean of the unmanifested actually is, we mortal manifestations
of that higher reality might refer to it in various abstract or comforting
terms, and from a religious perspective that could be what is meant by “God”.
the drops in the ocean, at the deepest level, we are part of this higher
reality, and yet we experience existence as something that is manifested in a
certain mold we refer to as the physical universe. We experience a distinct
self, related to a distinct body, in a world full of other distinct forms and
other distinct, conscious beings, behaving as if separated, following sets of physical
rules which may be uncovered through the various sciences, within a framework
of space and time which, at least at the macroscopic level, to the conscious
mind, seems to unfold as a one way deterministic trip from past to future; and
even science, probing this manifested universe only, has a thing or two to
teach about this seemingly unidirectional movement of time and space –
especially at the smallest scales, where past and future states, or rather even
time itself, seem nonexistent.
order must be manifested in order for chaos to emerge, and growth (complexity)
arises due to the interplay of those two extremes, at a very specific, optimal
intersection. Complexity, therefore, must seem nonexistent too in the formless
ocean that is unmanifested higher reality, right? It is like everything you
will ever be, and everything you ever can be, already exists. What is the point
of growth? In manifested reality, you might want to find and embrace the ocean,
which you had forgotten when you embraced (or were determined to embrace) mortal
life. Then the whole journey toward spiritual enlightenment would just be an
uncovering of what was lost, and finally overcoming that amnesia fully, forever
forsaking the distinct self that had forgotten its true origins.
is my belief, therefore, that through life in the manifested world, something
is gained, a way of perceiving the unmanifested that would otherwise have been
impossible. And I am confident that we are each on our own personal quest to
find our own purpose in this bewildering enrichment of consciousness, to find
our own true voice in the all-encompassing, time and space-independent heavenly
choir of meaningful experience, a unique unity which may only be achieved by
overcoming all our shortcomings, and our egocentric self, as those lead to the
state of duality which traps us in the illusion of conflicting manifestations,
in its most extreme form a kind of hell of separateness and isolation.
embark on this journey, defy the odds, embrace the ocean fully, and, once
discovering your true sound, add your own fabulous voice to the orchestra of
Image: Albert Bierstadt – The Shore of the Turquoise Sea
People lie all the time, they lie socially, professionally, or even in the name of a religion.
Your eyes (in reality it concerns the parts of your brain dealing with vision) lie, when pretending to represent a consistent visual reality, which can easily be disproved through experiments with optical illusions.
The memory of a crime suspect lies, when interrogators use too “convincing” techniques to force a confession.
Similarly, the brain of a psychiatric patient lies, when remembering child abuse that did not actually take place, but was suggested with ample psychological conviction and influence by a therapist.
Even a photon, one of the many sent on a light-speed journey from the Sun to Earth, lies, if it claims to be a particle, rather than a wave, or the other way around. At least it is the instrument causing the interference in the quantum state, that lies, or the brain of the person operating it. I am far from well-versed in the intricacies of physics, let alone astrophysics, yet these ideas seem significant to me in this context.
Big, manifest things like trees lie, while actually being collections of cells, which are actually organised molecules, which are actually atoms – with unimaginably large voids of seeming nothingness separating them – which are actually protons, neutrons and electrons, which are actually quarks (as “strange” and “charming” they may portray themselves), which are things we can hardly visualize at all in our imagination.
The whole universe lies, pretending to be rich and full, hundreds of billions of galaxies each oozing with the light and life of hundreds of billions of stars – and presumed planets, while actually expanding toward a state of emptiness so vast it can never be bridged.
Even science, though it may humble us enough to sacrifice other lies, may lead to its own lies, if its adherents claim to have come close to an understanding of the deepest layers of truth, while it may never be proven, through traditional science, how the reality we all share and call the universe, is rooted into the more definite reality which must lie beyond, and which we may never fully understand. Who is to say we can ever escape the biases ingrained in our very being, the fact that we were already born into a certain predetermination toward order, the laws and inclinations that made life possible, and that somehow emerged out of the soup of chaos that was the early universe. There is no range of parallel universes available to us – with current abilities and understanding – to do a control experiment, by means of which we could see if our perceived state of our own universe could be generated from random and varying conditions at conception.
All that is manifest and to which we attach ourselves is a mere lie if we take it for granted and fail to see the mystery and uncertainty behind “existence”, the majesty of the unknown, the chaos that is actually the very origin of order.
Yet, most self-proclaimed truths are impostors who do an awfully convincing job of letting us believe they are our salvation, rather than our doom.
The unknown, the pit of nothingness, which many of us fear, is the true source of existence, the Higher Reality where there are no restraints, limits, boundaries, discriminations, flaws, definites, absolutes, paradoxes, irrationalities, vanities, concepts, percepts, or any forms that might show the faintest trace of persistence.
That is the One Truth, the very source of wonders we need to embrace, a fearsome, yet immeasurably magnificent ocean, unbound by the ruthless masters of space and time, where we, as individual drops, loose all the ignorance of individuality and ego, but acquire the kind of freedom that does not exist in ordinary reality.
Only in true surrender, true acceptance, true sacrifice, and true humility, can this truth be obtained, if it can ever be obtained to its fullest. Plunging into the deep can be frightening, having to drown first and loose everything, but it will be ever so rewarding, once we are reborn and refurnished as a more enlightened being.