Order Out of Chaos

Jung’s analytic psychology calls the encounter of a person with the unconscious the process of individuation. He uses this as a measure of the extent of psychological growth that a person has undergone. At one end of the spectrum lie those who are completely detached from the unconscious and are narcissistic, self-centred, and overly materialistic (in both senses of the word). At the other end, lie those who are too deeply absorbed in their unconscious and are psychotic. His method thus recommends that the optimum road to walk upon for individuation as he describes it is a middle path, never delving too deeply into the chaos of the unconscious nor repressing and ignoring it to such an extent that one’s life becomes detached from it.

I can relate to this dichotomy insomuch as I have also been trying to form a bridge to the unconscious that lies under the surface appearance of reality. And, I can understand why drinking too much of its waters can lead to insanity. It is the psychedelic source of all art which if we fixate too much upon can cause a dissociation from reality. In this there seems to also be a role for the chaos/order dichotomy, as the unconscious seems to be closely related to chaos and the conscious mind to order. So, can there be a balance between chaos and order or are these two mutually exclusive by definition? Something can either be chaotic or ordered and not both by the law of contradiction. However, it may be that the source of everything is chaos but that the human brain constructs the appearance of an ordered world out of this. It is not controversial to claim that the brain constructs our perceived world, as it is precisely this act of perception that is the creation of the world. The difference between sense-data and percepts is so great that this world we so vividly see before our eyes cannot truly be said to actually exist before our eyes but is instead created after the information coming from our eyes is processed and transformed. Additionally, it may not even be controversial to claim that the source of everything is chaos, if chaos is understood to mean randomness and quantum theory is taken seriously. So, order out of chaos. The failure to recognise the chaotic nature of the world and the desire that it should be ordered as it appears is perhaps what causes so much of the troubles that humans experience. Our expectations are always just inferences taken from our stock of pervious experiences and can thus never be better than mere guesses, albeit educated ones. But we seem to desire that these expectations truly predict the future and are severely dismayed when they don’t. The pattern-finding nature of our brains is so good that it begins to believe that these patterns it uncovers are an adequate predictor of the future, via an implicit inductive process. Are not thwarted expectations at the core of every instance of suffering possible? In a way they are since a desire is always at the root of suffering, and a desire needs to be coupled to an expectation of its fulfilment, or else it is discarded. Desires for which there is no reasonable expectation of fulfilment are demoted to mere wishful thinking and do not motivate any action unless it is seen that this action can somehow bring about their fulfilment, or at least make this more likely. Hence, when the heart’s desire is foiled, misery certainly follows. In cases of the death of a loved one, it is not that we expect them never to die, just that we expect them not to die in the near future. We simply divert our mind’s investigations from considering this at all times and so upon its eventual and inevitable occurrence, a grave sadness ensues. It seems that we try to escape from the randomness and chaos of life, because in this are entailed so many events which run counter to our aims and desires. And they that engage themselves too strongly with this randomness become insensitive to any order whatsoever and subsequently sink into a world of their own. That such a world is possible is clear given that the brain is responsible for creating our perceptual world, and that an active intention is entailed by this process. When once we have given up all hoping and desiring and engagement with the world, we give free reign to unrestricted and irrelevant information in our brains and thus sink into phantasm and delusion.

There is another dichotomy which mirrors this one and that is the science/art duality which can perhaps be generalised to a rational/irrational duality. Science is no more than an elaboration upon the pattern-finding functions of our brains and seeks to find and perfect its models of reality such that they can, at some as yet unforeseeable future, foresee the future. Art, on the other hand, has no such concerns but instead aims to uncover beauty through the aesthetic contemplation it stimulates. And where science demands rigour, art thrives on randomness. This age we currently live in is an overly scientific one and continues to strengthen its assault on the artistic way of being. This, as expected, leads to self-absorbed narcissists to whom all this sort of talk is useless. Nothing will engage the likes of these except if it serves some interest and is justified empirically and is rational. Everything irrational is to be avoided at all costs, because it harms rather than helps with the task of order-creation and future-prediction. On the other hand, those who, for whatever reasons, are dissatisfied by this and turn to art in a profound rejection of all this logical positivism, are frequently the same ones who receive the label ‘crazy’ or ‘insane’ or ‘psychotic’, and later ‘suicidal’.

So, I am led to the conviction that a healthy psyche is one that balances these two different modes of the mind. Both art and science are needed, at least in order for the one to counter the faults of the other. Thus, our overly rational nature cedes a little of its wilful and outcome-oriented control to the irrational in us while our psychedelic unconscious is kept at bay through the directed yet dampened application of reason.

“Chaos in the world brings uneasiness, but it also allows the opportunity for creativity and growth.”     

Tom Barrett

“Our real discoveries come from chaos, from going to the place that looks wrong and stupid and foolish.”      

Chuck Palahniuk

“Chaos is a friend of mine.”    

Bob Dylan

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