Chaos: the behavior of systems that follow deterministic laws but appear random and unpredictable. A dynamical system that has a sensitive dependence on its initial conditions.
Mathematicians have a way to define things different from what all people understand when they hear a word.
A space for example for normal people is a room, expanse, area, volume. For mathematicians a space consists of selected mathematical objects that are treated as points, and selected relationships between these points that impose a structure.
The thing about mathematical chaos that normal people do not get: chaos in math is deterministic.
In mathematics, computer science and physics, a deterministic system is a system in which no randomness is involved in the development of future states of the system. A deterministic model will thus always produce the same output from a given starting condition or initial state.
For many centuries now, theology and science has wondered whether the world is deterministic or not, including the deep question about free will.
If the world is totally deterministic, free will is at best an illusion. If the world is totally non-deterministic, there is a great chance that we are agents within the system that have a capacity to give it gestalt, to form the world.
Today, most Christians would believe in a strangely non-deterministic world with a deterministic outcome: no matter what we decide to do, the end is pre-determined.
That could be in a way a chaotic system. It does look random and unpredictable, but at its core, it produces the pre-determined outcome and therefore could be repeated.
To look at the world this way has clear advantages: while it somehow provides for free will–that lies within the random and unpredictable part–God is in control as he knows and has not only set but in the bible communicated the outcome.
But what if the name of God really, as many rabbis would tell you, means “the becoming one”? What if Revelation does not describe the outcome, but a process we all go through within ourselves? What if the goal is not pre-determined?
Suddenly, the world is merely a space rather than a chaotic system. Remember, a space is a selection of objects with selected relationships.
Some of these relationships will be random, some will be chaotic, some will induce order, and some will be deterministic.
A chaotic system is defined by its origin, given starting condition or initial state.
We might argue that in the creation story and Adam and Eve we have such an initial state. But what if the creation n story is not about that initial state, but about the beginning of the journey we all experience individually?
What if the bible retells in archetypical ways the story of a single, each single human being? From becoming aware to the experience of non-dualism in total individuation?
What do I mean by that? What if the bible just gives us condensed stories of the deep battles and the becoming of a child of God that never loses its individuality, but reaches perfect unity with God and others through becoming aware, learning to relate, learning to be an individual, learning to search, to include, to transcend, to be?
If that were so, we would lack the description of the initial state, which would add to the impossibility for us to predict the outcome.
We also so far have not succeeded to define the function or formula that acts on that initial state.
But does that mean that it does not exist?
The interesting thing about a chaotic system is that it is defined by its initial state and the function it follows. It does not have to know about its pre-determined goal. And the objects within the space do not have to even know about the initial state or the function.
On the other side, if we interpret the creation story as the initial state, and Revelation as the predetermined outcome, we gain a lot of security. We can pretend that the system is linear, fully predictable, if we only had enough detail in measurement, just as Newton’s physics would state.
Believing in a linear system that we just do not have enough detail to fully understand does allow us to build a model of the world and thus induce order.
Such a model in itself is always a crude simplification. It does have an axiomatic base, things we just believe, and build the model from. In math, such an axiomatic system would be the Peano axioms for natural numbers.
We can then build functions on that axiomatic base, Think addition and multiplication in math.
The blue, traditional, Christian axiomatic system differs dramatically from the orange, modern, scientific or the green, post-modern, subjective one. We can think of it like pre-scientific religious worldview, Newton’s physics and quantum physics.
All three models, and many more, explain certain things to us and make perfect sense when we think within the system.
But as we have seen, a model is only a partial representation and might be locally applicable, but not globally true. A model also is a human sense on reality, fit for the complexity we are capable of understanding and need to solve the problems at hand.
Whenever a new model arises, the old fights it. Most quantum physicist were ridiculed, as captured in the famous quote by Einstein:
God does not play dice.
New models arise when the old does not answer all the questions we have, and does not provide all the necessary tools to solve all problems we face.
Again, we can use a quote by Einstein:
We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.
We could say that tradition and modernity see the world as a linear system with different axioms, while post-modernity sees it as a chaotic or potentially just non-linear system.
But most people would use the term chaos differently, as I alluded to in the beginning. They would just call chaos extreme confusion or disorder.
We must be clear, and now we get to the gist of this article: the complexity of reality does not change. Our perception does not make the world deterministic, linear, chaotic, non-linear, or any other characteristics. It’s only the complexity of our models that changes.
What we perceive as chaos is insecurity introduced as some feature of reality comes to the forefront that does not align with our model. Maybe that feature was only potential so far, maybe it has been around all along, but now it disturbs us deeply as it does introduce interference.
Maybe we can adjust our model to a point where we can deal with the new found feature and thus keep the model alive. Maybe we have to throw out or expand our working model substantially. Maybe we have to undergo a paradigm shift.
We are in such times. The world before CoViD-19 seemed somewhat predictable, as it followed our respective models, as far as we believed and understood. But CoViD-19 has the potential to undermine what we believe about the world and humanity. Or will we, as most do, just integrate it into our worldview? Tradition sees it as the beginning of the end times, science as a treatable disease, and post-modernity as a need to show solidarity. And everybody wants everybody else to see it just as they see it.
Our models are breaking down. Are we able to re-evaluate and re-model the world? Are we able to adjust our models to a greater degree of complexity? As I said, our wold is not more complex than yesterday, our models are too simplistic for the situation, and we recognised this fact.
We need to grow.
One more thought. I have reduced the bible to the description of the life of a human being. But we can use it as well as a description of humanity. This allows for a model that is both fractal and holographic in nature. We can see that in reality, as it does seem that in the micro and macro the universe does behave chaotic, while in between, in our perceived reality, there seems to be a degree of order as described by Newton.
There is so much to find out.
And we are back to the fact that it is God’s privilege to hide things, and the king’s privilege to search. Soul in Hebrew means desire. We have two desires: the desire for order and the desire to know. Since most tend to gravitate towards order, there always will be times that God pushes us towards the unknown.