The following is excerpted from The Order-Disorder Paradox by Nathan Schwartz-Salant, published by North Atlantic Books.
In the mainstream of collective life, our attitude toward creating and establishing order is based on rational-scientific consciousness; our science is ruled by causality and a belief in objectivity; our model of time is the ongoing events of historical life; our scientific mode of problem solving initiates and expands a horizon of future problems to be solved.
Through our dominant and particular structures (of consciousness, space, and time), we are caught on a treadmill of becoming, reaching for and thinking about the next thing to do. There is little room for being and reflecting; scientific methodology and the lens of causality is the ever-expanding template for all fields of knowledge. With present-day scientific and technological progress increasing at a near-unfathomable pace, we are at a stage, relative to any previous historical epoch, that dwarfs the possible unknown and dangerous consequences of denying our created disorder.
Writers and philosophers of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, such as George Bernard Shaw and H. G. Wells, adopted the “materialist progressivism” of Beatrice and Sidney Webb, and extolled the virtues of technology and rational-scientific thinking. But more prescient types, notably Martin Heidegger, S.ren Kierkegaard, and Friedrich Nietzsche foresaw and exposed the likely madness of this endeavor as it propels us away from the authentic ground of our existence.
In The Genealogy of Morals, written in 1887, Nietzsche declared:
Ever since Copernicus man has been rolling down an incline, faster and faster,
away from the center—whither? Into the void? Into the piercing sense of
his emptiness?… All science, natural as well as unnatural (by which I mean
the self-scrutiny of the “knower”), is now determined to talk man out of his
former respect for himself, as though that respect had been nothing but a
Created disorder is the shadow side of rational-scientific developments whose marvels continuously dazzle. Could a sensitivity and respect for this disorder guide us back to our center, the self, rather than drive us away from it? Nothing but the integration of our shadow-creation of disorder is likely to have any success. Jung’s remark that “the world hangs on a thin thread, and that thread is the psyche of man” should be a compulsory meditation, like musing on the mystery of a Zen koan, for all of us—especially the titans of industry and government, and the entrepreneurs of Silicon Valley.
So-called primitive logic, remarkably uncovered by the French anthropologist Claude L.vi-Strauss, and which also characterized alchemical thinking, creates order in ways at variance with the rational-scientific approach. In that older logic, the rule is not to find a new solution but, through the serious play of metaphor, to seek out an opposite to any event, discovering it metaphorically in mythical structure. The older process requires a diffuse but still focused form of awareness—variously called mythical or lunar in distinction to rational or solar—bridging conscious and unconscious, outer and inner, and sensitive to a causal forms of order that appear, for example, in synchronicity.
The scientific mind understands nature. Storms, earthquakes, unusual cold, heat spells, and so forth, are rationally understood: something has caused them. Such knowledge becomes a powerful defense against disturbing feelings. Science will predict when these environmental conditions will likely end, and so we have the promise of a “good object” to take away the “bad.” We just have to be adult, tolerate frustration, and understand that better days will come. The masthead of science is blazoned with causality and objectivity.
The mythical mind experiences the world differently, letting Nature have a personality whose features appear as events metaphorically correlate to a mythical structure. Thus, a series of dreary days, so oppressive to the rational mind, which remembers pleasanter times, is seen instead as Nature’s disorder impinging on people to absorb or order, allowing her to function more effectively.
Under this paradigm, our own discomfort and moods become meaningful. Too much snow for our convenience is seen as the Germanic Great Mother Frau Holle shaking out her feather quilts, her housecleaning. We partially absorb her overloaded condition so she can act to advantage. Generally, Nature is an alive Being, and we are part of the process in which she creates order and suffers disorder, initiated by her own actions and/or ours.
To survive the disorder accompanying scientific-rational awareness, something new and unique in the history of humanity was wrought: the ego. But this ego has become extremely insensitive to the effects, much less the necessity and usefulness, of its created disorder.
The rational ego has a tendency and capacity to split its ordering acts and products from the disorder required by the second law of thermodynamics. Then the ODP ceases to be noticed, let alone to have an unsettling sense of paradox. Created disorder is split off and projected into other people; into unconscious, organizing structures; and into the environment.
Then the question arises: what is the effect of this disorder? The following list summarizes some previous points, and adds to them.
- Created disorder can turn against a newly established attitude and structure.
This disorder tends to reactively diminish the gain, if not totally destroy the results, of all creative acts in time. These acts can run the spectrum from generating order in near-mindless, repetitive ways, to discoveries that are totally new to the individual and the existing collective consciousness. Along this spectrum, with any order, whether it be the rare occurrence of an emergence of consciousness that sees the world in a fundamentally different way, or the ordinary arranging of information in a ready-made form—a tax return, a to-do list, an outline for a report, filing papers, remembering to set an alarm or take medication, or other such routine, daily actions—disorder is always created.
Generally, the newer and more energy-upgrading the behavior, the greater will be the disorder. That is why the latest structures in development are the least stable. The same applies to the psyche: the latest structures are the least stable, and need to be continually fed by the energy sources that spawned them, until more stability forms.