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Chaos is everywhere. The word itself, etymologically ancient Greek, originally meant “chasm”: a monstrous void of sorts, though whether it was cosmic or subterranean was never particularly explained. It was a void filled with potential, however, as seemingly contradictory as those terms appear, since stuff tended to spontaneously generate and issue forth from its depths.
These days, it generally refers to madness, or at the very least, the lack of a coherent system combined with a plethora of random “things”. Scientifically speaking, the term “random” itself tends to be problematic, since what might appear random may very well be a series of systematic processes that culminate into a seemingly random occurrence. Raindrop rivulets in sand dunes are a good example. Each miniature stream created is a culmination of water tension, speed of movement, wind direction, sand density, etc. Forests can also be viewed as representations of chaos, each tree, bushel and hunk of moss following a seemingly willy-nilly pattern of growth and expansion. However, where and how the branches of each tree grow are dependent upon a myriad of factors. Soil nutrition, optimal sunlight, shade, rainfall, air currents, and nearby arboreal competition all play their part, and that’s before we even begin to think about the subterranean root systems and their various benefits and caveats.
Thus, Chaos is an expression that we can somewhat quantify as a union of opposites – a yin-yang dynamic of apparent madness, frivolity and raw potential combined with a gestalt macro-order. However, this simplification once again leaves us with a complete dearth of the essentials needed to describe it. It is, and perhaps forever shall be, above and beyond our comprehension. We can perhaps “sense” the movements of chaos, and even view aspects of its myriad processes, but we shall forever fall short of defining the whole. I am always reminded of a chapter in Robert Anton Wilson’s Cosmic Trigger II, where he talks of the mathematical variables used in modern physics.
To summarize, each “law” of physics does its best to describe the workings of our world and the universe in which it resides. Each law is subsequently represented by a mathematical equation. The problem, however, is the use of variables in said equations. For example, a common variable one finds is the infinite. The infinite is a number so large, that no matter what, the human mind cannot possibly fathom it. Think of the largest possible (or impossible) number within (or without) the entire universe, and the infinite will still be greater than it. Then, there’s the infinitesimal – a number so small that it can also never be quantified. Think of the smallest number you can, then halve it – then halve the result, then halve that, and that, etc.
Just when you thought things were getting weird, the diabolical twins of physics/mathematics throw in the ultimate monkey wrench: i, the imaginary number, also known as the square root of -1. 1×1=1 and -1x-1=1, therefore, there is technically no such thing as √-1. However, i, along with our pals the infinite and infinitesimal can be found in the math equations of such modern technologies as alternating currents in electricity, computer design, space design, the theory of relativity, quantum physics, and a whole bunch more.
If you remove any of these variables from the math equations in question, the theories themselves begin to fall apart – the math being a necessary component, else we might as well say that things happen in our world because a magical talking platypus living in Johannesburg says so. However, this leaves us with a somewhat more maddening revelation. Our entire scientific worldview, our seeming bedrock of culminated knowledge about the universe is yet another house of cards, balanced precariously upon two numbers incomprehensible to the human mind, and one number that frankly, doesn’t exist.
Those gaping holes of incomprehensibility and non-existence somehow being the essential building blocks of our world represent, to me, the essence of Chaos, and ultimately, as the closest thing I can currently conceive of that encapsulates true Divinity – God/Goddess with a big G. This is not due to a bona-fide belief in a cosmic hegemony, of course, but because I currently find the metaphor convenient. Also, I find that nearly all of the more common interpretations of Deity, (such as a magical, bearded, omnipresent sky-faerie with a temper), fall disconsolately short. So, I suppose the closest culmination of ultimate godhood for me comes from the fictional concept of Azathoth that Lovecraft wrote about – the mad, blind, gnawing, chaotic infinity beyond the doors of space and time, its permutations seeping into our world. However, I feel our pal Crowley encapsulates the concept a bit more warmly and poetically in his Gnostic Mass:
“I believe in one secret and ineffable LORD; and in one Star in the Company of Stars of whose fire we are created, and to which we shall return; and in one Father of Life, Mystery of Mystery, in His name CHAOS, the sole viceregent of the Sun upon the Earth…” -Aleister Crowley, Liber XV