I was watching a BBC programme about entropy, the idea that the universe gets more disordered over time. As one scientist put it, in non-technical language it means things are getting worse. And I thought what a strange way of looking at the world.
I learned about entropy at school, but it wasn’t until more recently that I felt able to question accepted scientific theories. They are so battened down by proofs and equations and authority that it doesn’t seem like one can question them. This is probably the biggest fundamentalism of our age, every bit as rigid as the Islamists or Christians can get. And of course, if you are in it, you can’t see it.
The guy who came up with entropy, Ludwig Boltzmann, suffered from depression and eventually killed himself. I wonder if there is a connection. And what kind of culture is it that thinks things can only get worse? The eventual fate of the universe, according to this kind of thinking, is ‘Heat Death’, a vast cold empty nothingness.
My experience is NOT that things unravel over time. Our particular culture is making things worse, but that is particular to us. Just look at life, in its abundance and beauty and complexity. It has been there a long time. We are the babes of creation, the ones who do not know who they are and are making a mess. But our elder brothers and sisters, all the animals and plants – they don’t make things worse, they don’t make things gradually unravel, because they know how to live. They know about balance.
So, here is a big question: my experience is that the world does not unravel over time. But accepted scientific theory says it does. Which should I go with, and do I even have the right to think in this sort of way? And almost as a matter of principle I say we need to go with our experience, because if we can’t do that, then what do we have? It is part of the disempowerment, the brainwashing of our complex culture, that needs people to be productive and to conform, that we have learned not to trust our own experience anymore.
Another example is the Sun going around the Earth. That is something we experience every day, it is a basic part of being human to see this happening. And yet we are told it is not so, that it is the other way round, and we believe that, because we are told it. This, in my view, is degenerate, we have lost our power as humans. Humans that have that power are seen as ‘primitive’.
And the other big question is what kind of culture sees things as inevitably getting worse?
According to Buddhism, everything is Mind. Not mind in a narrow sense, more in the sense of the primordial imagination (in astrology, Neptune) that throws up the world around us. The world is produced by the imagination, life imagines the world into being, and it is real, but not ‘objective’ in the way that science would have us believe. Nor is it a solipsistic fantasy. It is something else, ineffable, that takes a lifetime of contemplating.
So the world is a product of the imagination, and that is what keeps it buoyant and creative, it has that force of life behind it. That is why, left to its own devices, the world does not unravel.
But we have become unmoored from that imaginative link to creation. We think the world is material and separate from us: that is a basic assumption behind the scientific method. So the world around us is no longer being maintained by the forces of our imagination, it has been unmoored, and that is why it is gradually falling apart over time. Hence the theory of entropy.
‘Primitive’ cultures understand this link. That is why, some, for example, participate in the rising of the sun every day, in the belief that if they ceased to do so, the sun would cease to rise. We are a literal-minded culture, and think that people must be primitive indeed to think like this. But welcoming the Sun every day is based on a profound truth, it really does make a difference to the nature of the world.
Anything said or done in a heartfelt way affects the world, contributes to its aliveness, stops it unravelling. This is how prayer and magic work. This is a form of cause and effect that is outside the scientific remit, but it is the most important form of all. Contributing to the world – saving the world, even, as if we could possibly know how – is not just a matter of direct action, though that has its place. It is also about inner work, of heartfelt intention, of prayer. And that connects us to the deeper soul of the world. It is that thing beyond us, that is vastly bigger than us, that makes the difference.