Friday, July 27, 2012

An Obedient Structure

One of the stock ideas in all religions is the idea of how great the power of God is. God can do this; God can do that; God can do anything. God is omnipotent, all-knowing, all seeing, and capable of intervening on a personal level in this, that, or the other way.

 Arguments (and a great deal of wishful thinking) about this have followed mankind through thousands of years of history, but my own feeling is that Gurdjieff pretty much put the lie to all of it when he told the story about the theological student who pointed out to his professor that even God can't beat the ace of spades with a deuce.

 There is one perspective, however, from which we may be able to understand the infinite power of God.

The universe is an obedient structure, bound by the absolute Will of God into its form. Before the Big Bang, the degree of entropy in the universe was very nearly infinite. This is because the hypothetical plasma—or whatever it was–from which the Big Bang arose had, physicists assume, little or no structural order whatsoever. (Conjecture, obviously, but that's the general consensus.) Immediately after the Big Bang, the level of entropy within that energy decreased exponentially and catastrophically, giving birth to an extremely ordered and structured universe —against all reasonable expectations.

Physicists prefer to address discussion of the idea that this contradicts the second law of thermodynamics by explaining that this apparent exponential increase in order is occurring only in "pockets." This argument seems specious for two reasons: first, that these pockets would have to be offset by pockets of much greater than usual disorder—not definitively shown to us yet, but supposedly out there—and second, that there seem to be an awful lot of pockets of order, generally referred to as galaxies—billions of them, in point of fact—, which appear to be spawning ever more suns and planets, in seemingly arrogant defiance of entropic expectations.

There's a third problem, as well: presumably, whatever existed before the big bang was in an extraordinarily high state of entropy. This singularity ought, according to conventional understandings of the laws of thermodynamics, to have been extraordinarily stable.

If that's the case... ahem... why did it blow up?

Anyway, the point is that everything in the universe is constructed from the same obedient energy. If you look at a leaf and a piece of stone, they both have an unimaginable amount of energy bound up into each one of them. If atoms are split, they release that energy, with–as we know—catastrophic consequences. Yet the energy in a leaf or stone is, under ordinary circumstances, completely passive, finding all of that potential bound up in a structure that expresses something entirely different than a nuclear explosion.

The return to conformity with the laws of thermodynamics—a state of high disorder and low energy—involves, in other words, a hugely destructive event, demonstrating just how much extraordinary power is involved in creating the non-conforming, low entropy structures that material reality consists of. In a certain sense, even small objects contain enough energy to power a sun in them.

Yet for reasons that are not understood, even by the most advanced scientists of our time, this (on the universal scale) very nearly immeasurable amount of energy is bound into form. Even binding one atom into form already involves energies on a scale we can barely comprehend; yet this act is repeated an infinite number of times across the depth and breadth of the cosmos.

This structural obedience is the absolute demonstration of God's power; a demonstration quite different than the kind of power we hope will save us (usually, from ourselves) but a compelling one, nonetheless. We live in an obedient universe created by commandment—not the kind of commandments carried down from mountains carved on stone tablets, but those issued by physical laws, which are, in every sense, commandments imposed for reasons physicists definitely do not understand. (The reason our universal laws are the exact way they are has never been adequately explained.)

Matter is active only within the context of this obedience; and all of it is ultimately in service to higher principles.

Perhaps all of this seems to impersonal; yet we ourselves inhabit this condition—we are expressions of it. Not only our bodies, but our Being, arise within the context of this obedience.

So while the ideas are on the scale of the universe, the experience of the truth of this condition is intimate.

I respectfully hope you will take good care.

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