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Chaos & Order

Chaos, according to the Theogony of the greek Hesiod from the 7th century BC, is the first thing that existed, before the world was created. It is the primordial, hylic matter that preceded creation and from which the first gods were born - Gaia (the earth), Tartarus (the underworld) and Eros (the power of erotica, that causes all things to connect with each other). Subsequently, the sky, the night and the darkness were also born from Chaos - all of these formed the basis for a new order which would later enable the formation of life and culture. The creation of the world out of Chaos is an archetypal structure that appears again and again in mythologies from all over the world. The terms change, but the principle remains the same: in the Hebrew Bible it is the "Tohu wa Bohu" from which God created the heavens and the earth, after he commanded the appearance of light. Egyptian mythology tells us about Nun, the primordial water that was the source of all creation, and in which the god Atum created himself, and then gave birth to Shu and Tephnut (air and humidity) on which he assigned the task of turning chaos into order, principles, laws and stability. Shu and Tephnut separated the light from the darkness, and created Ma'at, the goddess of cosmic order. Then they also created Geb and Nut (earth and the sky) and from there the world went on and was created, step by step.


The air god Shu, assisted by other gods, holds up Nut, the sky, as Geb, the earth, lies beneath. c. 950 BCE.

The mythology of creation, which in the vast majority of cases presents a dichotomous division between chaos and order, darkness and light and between the known and the unknown, is based on what we see as the archetypal pattern of Duality. Duality (or opposites and the boundaries that human consciousness places between them) is the way humans perceive the world from the moment they are born. Yes and no, existence and non-existence, light and darkness, satiety and hunger, pleasant and painful, these are the first categories that are created in the developing consciousness of the baby, which learns to define things according to their presence or absence. At this point they are not even linguistic categories, but rather sensory and sensual ones. So that before learning actual language, the baby "understands" things according to what-they-are-not, and learns the essence of contrast.


At a fairly early stage, the physical sensations of the child will be given names and put into the order of language, with the parents referring to him/her in words, and "explaining" the difference between his/her various sensory experiences. Thus, even more complex dichotomies, such as male and female, good and bad, beautiful and ugly, past and future, will begin to be understood in the toddler's evolving consciousness, and will thoroughly formulate the basic worldview that will accompany him/her throughout his/her life. This worldview that will help him/her understand reality and survive within it, is the most basic part of the human "story" about the world, and upon it will be built throughout his/her life layers upon layers of categories, norms and values, that between them and the actual chaotic reality, there is a very long distance.

In the context of creation myths, the archetypal duality is most clearly expressed in the stories of war between Chaos and Order. These two are usually represented by allegorical figures, and the stories themselves often end in the creation of the world from the corpse of the chaos monster. Thus, for example, can be seen in the Mesopotamian myth "Enuma Elish", in which the war of the god Marduk against the monster goddess Tiamat is described. Tiamat is the great mother of all gods, and she is described in the same myth, one time as a monstrous dragon, and another time as the primordial oceanic water. After Marduk defeats Tiamat, he dissects her body and creates from it the world we know. Similar stories are well known from the ancient Middle East, such as the war of the Canaanite fertility god, Baal, with his chaotic brother Yam (god of the sea), the war of Horus and Seth from the Egyptian mythology, and the like. One of the Hindu traditions tells of Purusha, which represents the primordial male power that covered the entire land and had a thousand heads, a thousand eyes and a thousand feet. The gods sacrificed Purusha, and created the world from different parts of his body.


Neo-Assyrian cylinder seal impression from the eighth century BCE identified by several sources as a possible depiction of the slaying of Tiamat from the Enuma Elish. Source

Such narratives undoubtedly testify to the fact that the patterns of human thought are ancient and global. The constant tension between what is known to man and what is not known to him, has led to the creation of some of the greatest mythological epics in human history, which religious, cultural and even scientific paradigms have been based upon. The archetypal entities born out of this basic pattern of duality, simply represent the main faculties that make up human consciousness and the way it perceives the world. This is what the myths tell us: The world as we know it was created as a result of a war between an anthropomorphic hero, representing culture and order, and a multi-limbed, unpredictable and boundless monster, representing chaos and the wild nature of reality. This pattern gives rise to the other dichotomies derived from it: good and evil, beauty and ugliness, wisdom and ignorance and the like. These, in turn, continue to reinforce the archetype of duality, regenerating order, chaos, and the perpetual tension that prevails between the two.


Caeretan black-figure hydra (c. 346 BC). Etruscan pottery at the Getty Villa, LA. Source

This understanding, that Chaos is an abstract and boundless element, totally indestructible, and one that is always at the root of all "things," apparently led to the fact that in many of the narratives describing the war between order and chaos, the world was created from the corpse of the chaos monster itself, and thus it will always contain chaos as an integral part of it. Many cultures around the world that rely on a similar mythological structure, hold cyclical rites whose function is to preserve the power of order, and to keep chaos under control. The Mesopotamians, for instance, used to re-read every year the description of Marduk's war against the monstrous Tiamat, in order to maintain order within the kingdom and not allow chaos to get out of control. Another example comes from the Jewish tradition of glorifying the Hebrew god for his victorious battle against the mighty sea monsters, a triumph that enables him to maintain order within the world he created. As human beings striving for knowledge, we are engaged all day in learning and searching for answers, knowing that reality will forever be unsolvable for us, and often even unpredictable. Despite this, we make considerable efforts to increase the territory of knowledge and of what is known, thereby slightly reducing the chaotic ocean of what is unknown and what has not yet been discovered.

The archetypal dualism of chaos and order is a significant part of the way human consciousness perceives the world, and it makes up the human life experience in different aspects and resolutions. Jungian psychoanalysis, in its various branches, sees these creation myths as a metaphor for the formation of the human psyche, both in the broad aspect, of the development of Homo-sapiens' consciousness from the wild, animal state, and in the personal, private aspect of the emergence of consciousness out of the unconscious. The latter is of course parallel to the development of the human being from the moment he/she hatches from his/her mother's womb until he/she reaches adulthood. It is a process during which the baby separates from his/her mother, first physically and then also mentally and emotionally, while acquiring language, internalizing social and cultural norms, and the like. The tension between control and lack-of-control and the constant war of the human ego against the chaotic parts of the psyche, will accompany the person all his/her life, and will be present in almost every experience or event that will happen throughout them.

One thing is very important to understand here: the claim that this is an allegory for the state of the human mind or psyche, does not indicate that the allegory is intentional and that the stories were originally written to provide an explanation for this human condition. The idea (and hence its power) is that all of these stories (and myths in general) present a similar narrative pattern, because they are all the result of the same mental structure that created them in the first place. This is, in fact, not a parable but a symptom; The myth that describes the creation of the world out of chaos, is formulated in this particular way by some human consciousness, because that is how the human consciousness is built in the first place. It is a story that seeks to teach us about the creation of the world, but in fact teaches us more about its author and the psychic structure within which it was created. Once created, its unofficial role is to continue to maintain this structure in a circular fashion, in a way that allows the archetypal patterns to continue and nourish themselves and the consciousness they compose.

The Project of the Order of the Unclean, dealt quite a bit with the study of the boundaries between these dual archetypes, of order and disorder (as is already evident in its oxymoronic name - Order of the Unclean), and the examination of the blurring of these boundaries. Coupled with the understanding that these are significant categories in terms of their role in human experience, it is clear that maintaining too clear boundaries can easily become dangerous, both in social and personal cases. Examples for this are endless, and the cases in which the boundary between what is considered right and what is considered wrong have caused exclusion, discrimination, and even torture, humiliation and death, are innumerable.


So it is, with the human psyche itself: uncompromisingly maintaining an exemplary lifestyle of order and organization, and denying every aspect of disorder, lack of control and ignorance, can easily cause a person to lose his/her sanity and even his/her life. The opposite is also true: a person who is extremely devoted to his/her animal instincts and total ecstasy, may also find himself/herself behind bars or under the ground. There is no power in uncompromising adherence to any cultural, scientific or religious norms, standards or conventions, and they must be challenged constantly and at every opportunity. At the same time, a constant presence in a world where nothing matters, and where all boundaries are completely broken, is not good for anything, and is even dangerous.

In his work "The Birth of Tragedy from the Spirit of Music", Friedrich Nietzsche outlines a division between two main forces that he claims run the human experience, and are in constant tension. To explain the nature of these elements, Nietzsche uses two deities from Greek mythology, who he claims represent these two contradictory aspects: Dionysus and Apollon. Dionysus, the god of wine, ecstasy, and theater, represents the reality that is not divided by categorical forms and distinctions, while Apollon, the god of the sun, light, and medicine, represents the distinct, formal, and organized reality. In Greek tragedy there is a fusion between the two elements, the Dionysian (represented by the choir) and the Apollonian (found in the dialogical form of the play). So the tragedy is, according to Nietzsche, the highest form of art, since it manages to represent the complex human experience. These two opposites, the Dionysian solemnity and the Apollonian discipline, are of course derived from the archetypal pattern of chaos and order, and as in the ancient myths we have already dealt with, Nietzsche also describes the ideal reality as a fusion between them both.

The practical work of Heterosophy and the Archetypal Workshop, as well as their theoretical infrastructure, deals extensively with the tension between Chaos and Order, and also with the way in which these two complement each other. As you will see in the following chapters, even when we deal with other issues, these two concepts will underpin and represent the most basic element in our human experience and perception of the world. They will serve, at the same time, as a metaphor for the tensions that exist in the human psyche between the conscious and the unconscious, as well as the difference between the natural, wild experience, and the civilized, scientific and "tamed" one. Chaos and Order are, for us, the fundamental concepts that must be known, discussed and dealt with, if we want to continue to the next chapters with a proper infrastructure.

Perhaps the most basic and important principle before proceeding, is to remember that we are dealing here with the effort of trying to understand human experience throughout history, examining how thousands of years of insights can be beneficial for us, and continuing to question any basic archetypal pattern encountered. At no point are those purely objective truths, and so readers should forever remain skeptical and critical. The worldview presented here is basically a story, and it constitutes one interpretation out of many. Its whole purpose is to provide a point of view and open the reader's consciousness to questions and possibilities that may not have arisen in him previously. Knowledge will always be tainted with Chaos.

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Conclusions & Highlights

1. Duality is one of the fundamental archetypal patterns of human thought.

2. The dualistic division into what is known and what is unknown, is what gave rise to the myths about the creation of the world from the primordial chaos, and about the constant tension that exists between chaos and order.

3. Chaos and Order are categories of human thought, and they make up the great story of humanity. 

4. As basic archetypal patterns, Chaos and Order contain within them many other archetypal essences, which make up the human consciousness and the way it experiences reality and the world. These vary slightly from culture to culture and from one person to another, and they should also be reconsidered from time to time.

For example: the Chaos archetype includes the unknown, the unconscious, the wild, the animalitic, the realm of emotion and instinct, the pre-lingual and pre-categorical reality, the irrational, and so on.
The Order archetype, in the other hand, includes within it the known, the conscious, the cultural, the humane, the realm of intellect and morality, the linguistic and categorical (Aristotelian) reality, the rational, and so on.

5. The main archetypes, Chaos and Order, as well as their secondary archetypes, are expressed in the symbolic world (within the stories of human culture) as gods, monsters, events, places, human and animal figures, and so on. The more mythical the image, the closer it is to the archetype.

6. The Known and the Unknown are the basic components of human experience. Therefore the whole reality can be seen through the perspective of the archetypes Chaos and Order. This may be a good way of dealing with life's experiences and challenges, but we all should be aware that this is nothing but a point of view. What constitutes order for one person, might be perceived as chaotic for another.

7. Some myths tell us that the human, cultural world was born out of chaos and was created from it. The unknown and the unpredictable will ever be an integral part of human reality, at all levels (global, social and personal).

8. Man constantly strives to increase the territory of the known (order), at the expense of that of the unknown (chaos). At the same time, the unknown is by its very nature infinite, and will always be a part of the human experience. We encourage our readers to embrace this fact, and to welcome it.

9. Despite man's aspiration for knowledge, organization and control, it must be remembered that Chaos is always there beneath the surface, lurking around the corner. Therefore, we should all be prepared for any incident. An overly extreme approach of order to life, while ignoring the existence of chaos, can be disastrous, and vice versa: absolute chaos means an end to human existence as we all know it.

10. We recommend, therefore, to strive for merging and blurring the boundaries between the Known and the Unknown, between control and lack-of-control, between intellect and instinct and between the "cultural" and the "natural" (or between the Dionysian and the Apollonian, according to Nietzsche). Chaos and Order must live in balance and interaction with each other. A creative and meaningful life is one in which you stand with one foot in the Known, and the other in the Unknown.

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