Chaos or cosmos
Just as the fish can have no conception of the water that sustains him until he is pulled out of it, so do we normally remain entirely submerged within the construction of reality propagated by the society and culture in which we live, unaware of the limits it imposes on our vision. The fish may come to know all the details of his environment, but he will never detect the water itself.
In the same way, the deepest foundations of our daily reality escape our awareness, as they encompass and enclose all 360º of our vision, permeating every concept, every aspect of our worldview, but remaining invisible in themselves. And as the pond-dwelling fish who assumes that his pond must be the whole universe would find the vast and limitless ocean inconceivable, so we tend to believe that the worldview we are given supplies us with the entire range of possible reality, and to judge all speculation that passes beyond its limits as fanciful – the product of a dreaming or a deluded mind.
So drugged are we by the pond water that even though for most of us there are a number of personal experiences and other aspects of life that at least imply the existence of an ocean, we prefer to push them aside. After all, the possibility of an ocean is rather frightening for a pond-dweller.
The pond water in which modern societies all over the planet lie submerged has quite a strong flavour and texture; the flavour is randomness and the texture is chaos. Underlying all the discourses current within society is the unquestioned and unquestionable assumption that reality is at root a product of randomness, founded on chance and chaotic in texture. This is the first principle of belief. Any speculation that potentially has a different principle embedded in it is ultimately heretical, and can only be entertained as an amusing oddity.
A friend of mine, a true believer, has even gone so far as to personify this effectively divine principle of randomness as a god called Reg, an absurdist prankster whom she invokes at those many moments when life somehow beggars belief in the non-accidental nature of its unfolding. At least she is quite conscious about her upside-down sort of belief system.
But Reg is not just my friend’s own private deity. He is a very useful device indeed, much invoked in every kind of social discourse. With his help, potentially transcendent mysteries of all kinds are safely reduced to mere flukes, each one a product of the cosmic materialist randomness. He also does sterling service when invoked as a means or evading responsibility for any and every worldly misdemeanour.
There are many official versions of events that happen in the world that seem far from satisfying in their explanation of anomalous details, but which invoke the ultimate randomness and chaotic nature of everything, including human action and inaction, to head off any further investigation. After all, such randomness is in effect divine intervention, and who can question the will of Reg? What heretic dares to deny his omnipotence? So Reg has become the last resort of the contemporary rogue.
Seeking deeper understanding of the human condition through science, economics, politics, philosophy, psychology? Reg is lurking there, at the bottom of all the finest theories and insights. For Reg is the bottom line, the ultimate dead end in which all ideas in our global pond must finally seek absolution. But the anti-hero Reg is a poor leader, and reality lived by his lights tends to grow more and more chaotic, more and more incoherent. And there are times for almost everyone when it is hard to hold on to this orthodoxy of randomness. Life seems to escape from Reg’s jurisdiction.
In the face of overwhelmingly meaningful or bizarrely timed or fortuitous events or accidents in our lives, only a very strong belief in Reg can bend us back into the mainstream. Only a strong conviction about his quirky sense of humour can help to make sense of a belief system that is, just possibly, nonsensical...
For there are so many ‘oddities’ – the consistent and repeated accounts of UFOs, the instances of individuals who remember past lives, so many striking and implausible coincidences, astonishing feats of second sight or telepathy or healing, or any number of other so-called psychic and esoteric phenomena, the perennial and universally consistent wisdom of the buddhas (see some of the mandalas in the Humanity and Mind galleries for some echoes of this), as well as personal mystical experiences that reveal a quite different nature to reality. So many oddities that if we put them all together, the official materialist, random structure of reality struggles to hold off their collective implications.
The impact on us of such anomalies is like when the fish jumps out of the water. For a moment, he feels air on his scales, and thus becomes aware of the water in which he lives. Perhaps he glimpses also that his pond is not infinite in expanse. But to the water he will return, because he has no certainty about the ocean either. And those who would point to the existence of any pattern in these anomalies, suggesting the presence of some coherent and systematic agency at work, are readily dismissed as primitive or naïve, weak-minded and unable to live in such a cold hard chaos of a cosmos, like pond fish obsessed by the myth of the ocean.
But, looked at objectively, to persist in labelling even the most strikingly non-random-seeming happenings as the result of mere chance, or chaos, or cock-up, starts to appear as willfully blind and primitive as the resistance of the late medieval Christian church to the findings of science. Such blind faith is, however, inevitable while the water of our pond remains unchanged.
Still, there are undercurrents in the pond, water that flows in from some hidden source, bringing heretical waves of a different vision. This heresy is both very ancient and ever new, as it resurfaces across a wide range of human inquiry and experience. It proposes that beneath the apparent and ‘official’ randomness lies a deeper order. Even in physics, the neo-Böhmians are playing with the idea of a deeper-lying, implicate order that would give coherence to the phenomena currently judged random by mainstream science.
For the mystics, there has never been any question that Reg and his randomness are a modern myth. Nothing that seems to be a random occurrence actually is. There is a pattern and a purpose behind any and every event. In the eyes of existence, there is no such thing as chance. Nothing happens for no reason. All things are caused by the will of existence, so they occur at the right time and in the right place, although this rightness lies far beyond our minds’ capacity to understand it.
If only we are ready to accept what comes rather than remaining attached to our own projected outcomes and visions for life, the keys that will help us to grow to our full potential are always there in what existence gives to us. We think we know best what is right for us, but existence sees the whole picture, and we have only our small window on the world. And what existence wants for every one of us is true inner growth, which is usually not quite the same as our own cravings.
Such an existence is not heartless and indifferent – except for those who choose to see it in this way. It is constantly offering us experiences that can help us to become aware of the deeper patterns in life (see The drunken Sufi path of love). This is the insight of the mystics – that at every level of existence, everything unfolds according to the natural law of what is necessary.
Living by such an understanding is actually less escapist than invoking cold, callous Reg. It means accepting that we collectively create the world we deserve, by the way that we respond to all these wake-up calls – when we ignore them, they tend to come back with greater force. It means realising that everything we do has an impact on the whole pattern of existence, as the natural law is constantly responding to us and adjusting things accordingly.
When we fight with life, rather than flowing with it, our resistance often creates yet more discord (see The troubled seas of mind). The world we see around us has not happened as the result of randomness and chaos. At a deeper level, we have created this apparent chaos, by our increasing abandonment of any responsibility for it. How different a world lived from such an understanding would soon become.
If we all take responsibility for what happens to us, interpret what happens to us in such a constructive way, everything changes. And if we recognise that our negativity and abandonment to fate begets more negativity and more 'fate', through the working of the natural law, then we can change the direction of that same natural law.
In truth, it seems likely that anyone visiting a mandala website already lives with this understanding of the world – it is, after all, the very essence of the mandala concept that the cosmos is a cosmos, not a chaos. Yet, there seemed a need to place these ideas somewhere in the website, in case they can bring a little more clarity into the bigger picture, and where the mandalas fit into it. To experience the serenity and clarity of this way of interpreting reality, view any of the mandalas in this website...