Lesson 24- Entropic And Negentropic Forces
As I ended my last program, I was describing how Jesus, the Wisdom and Logos of God, entered history to show the right lobes of our brains the way to the "fullness of life" and eternal salvation. He knew that to the natural man, who lived according to the flesh and bodily sensation, any path that required pain, struggle, humiliation, or death was unacceptable. Our animal nature would never consider doing good in the face of pain or avoiding evil when it promised pleasure. And it seemed hopeless to expect that our logical faculties, which could see that the statement "everything that gives me pleasure is good and everything that gives me pain is bad" is false, could ever gain the upper hand over our impulsive animal nature. And, yet, unless we were able to overcome our natural resistance to pain, struggle, humiliation, and death, our beings could never moved from the natural level of animal existence based on feelings and impulses to the supernatural level of rational existence based on logic and truth.
Thus, the Church sets aside times like Lent for prayer and fasting when we are required to deny and overcome our animal appetites which hinder our salvation. Our carnal nature, on the other hand, sensing this period of self-denial when its natural impulses and needs will be thwarted invents the Mardi Gras in New Orleans and the Carnival in Latin America to allow itself one last fling before the cage door is shut. Thus every Lent begins, at least for some of us, with an orgy of drinking, sex, and wild revelry.
The conflict between the spirit and the flesh is taking place all the time. For as quickly as the spirit tries to bring the flesh under control, the flesh turns the sacred into the profane. Thus Holy Week for the flesh becomes the Spring Break when college students from around the nation converge on Fort Lauderdale, Florida or some other designated spot and spend the Holy Week doing unholy things. This is not just a tradition only among U.S. college students. In ancient history, similar orgies took place under the guise of religion when religious festivals were held honoring the god, Dionysus or Bacchus, the god of wine and pleasure, in which the worshippers "let it all hang out" by removing all restraints on rational behavior. (In fact, historical anthropologists describe two type of personality in the ancient world. One was the Apollonian, based on the god, Apollo, and the other was the Dionysian, based on the god Dionysus. Thus, there has always been a conflict between the arational, non-reflective, impulsive, amoral, hedonistic animal nature and the rational, reflective, thoughtful, moral, pragmatic human nature.)
It appears that our human nature is irreparably flawed and that the possibility that our rational nature might one day overcome our animal nature seemed not only improbable but rather impossible. From Gods point of view, we must have seemed a flawed model destined for the trash heap because most, if not all of the evidence indicated, that Pleasure, rather than Truth, was the major motivator behind our behavior. (In an earlier program, I quoted Eusebius, who was born in 264 A.D, and was one of the historians of the early church. Concerning the nature of man in the ancient world, he wrote: "From the first moments of organized life until later ages, all the rest of men (other than the Hebrews) put their trust only in bodily perceptions, and because of this they knew nothing of the soul within them, nor did they believe in the existence of anything more than visible reality. They recognized beauty, right and goodness only in terms of bodily pleasure. This alone was worth striving for since it alone was good, pleasant, sweet, and sufficient to be the greatest of the gods, and they placed no value on life if it lacked a share in the pleasure of the body. They welcomed life, not for the living of it but for the pleasure during it. And they recommended this to their children as being the only good. (god)."
This being the case, it seems clear why St. John wrote, "Why does God condemn Man? Because the Light (of Understanding) came into the world and Men loved Darkness." Thus, throughout most of history, our rational nature has run a poor second to our animal nature. As the scriptures say, "The spirit was willing but the flesh was weak." But maybe there was hope. Maybe there was someone with a human nature that could overcome the power of the Unholy Trinity of the "world, the flesh, and the devil" and prove to the Creator that the being that was supposed to be made in His own 'image and likeness" was capable, if shown the way, of moving from the Kingdom of Mental Darkness or Gehenna to the Kingdom of Mental Light. Maybe if Truth, Itself, showed them the way out of Darkness, they might be able to follow even though it contradicted their hedonistic nature.
The Passion and Death of Jesus is the ultimate example of our human nature overcoming its fear of pain, struggle, humiliation, and death. As the Logic of God, which had taken on flesh, through His Passion He showed us the way out of Gehenna and the path to the Kingdom of Light and the "fullness of life." And by this example, He became a convincing sign to us and to His Father that our frail human nature is capable of overcoming its fear of crosses and thus experience the Resurrection to higher levels of existence. Someone once described Jesus as "our frail nature's solitary boast" by which was meant that only He had overcome the "world, the flesh, and the devil" and thereby demonstrated that it was possible for the rest of us to do the same if we would allow His Spirit to live within us.
In Eastern thought there is the term "koan" which refers to something that one uses to meditate upon and, the more one meditates upon it, the more levels of understanding are revealed. It is like a diamond that, each time it turns, the light is refracted in a different way and a new brilliance is revealed. The Cross is a "koan" for Christians because it has levels of meaning that reveal themselves the more one meditates upon it. One great Christian thinker, whose name I cannot recall, once said, "Everything I ever learned, I learned at the foot of the Cross."
Jesus Passion, Death and Resurrection are images filled with deeper and deeper levels of meaning. For example, just to mention a few. By freely accepting His Passion, He demonstrates that our rational nature can conquer the flesh. By His death and resurrection, He is convincing evidence that there is life after death. By shedding His blood, He is the Pascal Lamb of the Old Testament whose blood saved the Hebrew from the Angel of Death when its blood was smeared on their doorpost. As the priest says in Mass, "Behold the Lamb of God..." By dying for our sins, He is the scapegoat of the Old Testament which the people, after confessing their sins over it, killed so that their sins would die also with it. And thus the priest adds to the former statement "who takes away the sins of the world".
By sacrificing Himself, He is "image of the invisible God" whose very nature is, Agape or "sacrificial Love". So if you want to know who God is and what He looks like, look at Jesus on the Cross. By struggling up the hill of Calvary, He is the Suffering Servant of God who struggles unto death to do the will of the Creator. By giving us this example, He is the Way and the Truth that leads us to "eternal life." By rising from His tomb, He shows us that nothing, not even death, can conquer the Truth. In some symbolic way, He is showing us something that has to do with the "laws of the universe" and their eternal push towards the "fullness of life." He is showing us that death is just another doorway to life and that, like the seed that must die to become the plant, we must die to what we are so that we can become what we ought to be.
Years ago, when I was attending the University of Pennsylvanias Graduate School of Social Work, I complained to my wife about one of my homework assignments. The assignment was to write a paper on how it feels to be born. I said to my wife, "Marian, those professors are crazy. How am I supposed to write a paper on this? Sure, we all went through the experience of being born but who remembers it? Nobody! So where can I go to find any information about it?" After dinner, I sat down to work on the paper and, deciding that the whole things was a joke, I began to treat it as a joke. So I wrote:
Oops! What am I doing here? Im in this little room with no windows. Boy its nice and comfortable in here and I seem to be surrounded by this warm liquid. Hey this is nice! The food arrives on time and all my physical needs are being taken care of. Well, Ill just hang some of my favorite pictures on the wall. Put my TV in the corner and sit back on the couch and watch my favorite programs.
As time passed, I began to become alarmed because I was convinced that I was a freak. There were things growing out of my torso that didnt make any sense. On both ends of my torso, there were two appendages with five smaller appendages growing out of them. "What were these for? I wondered. "It's already crowded enough in here. Something must be wrong because none of these things made any sense or seem to have any purpose." Of course, later I was to enter a world where arms and legs would be essential to my survival but in the womb they were just so much extra baggage. As time passed, I began to have an urge to put one of these appendages, which I later came to know as my thumb, into my mouth and to suckle on it. "What wrong with me?" I wondered. "Why am I doing this crazy thing?" Then I had another urge to draw the liquid in my room into my chest and then push it out. Later, I would learn that this is what is called breathing but in the world of the womb, where oxygen arrived through the umbilical cord which attached me to my mother, it had no discernible purpose at all. As the months passed, my room became more and more crowded as parts of me became larger and larger. Nevertheless, I loved this world which was so warm and nurturing and, if it were up to me, I would never have left it.
Then one day, I felt a small earthquake. "Boom!" My whole room shook and I became alarmed. "What happened?" I wondered. Then similar earthquakes began to occur every twenty minutes; then every ten minutes; then every five minutes. I was terrified. "What's happening?" My safe world is falling apart. Then suddenly, the walls of my room started to contract and push against me. I heard a "whoosh!" and my warm watery environment went gushing out of my room, pulling me along with it. I was going down this long, dark tunnel with a bright light at the end of it. Then, I felt someones hands grab me and they pulled my out of my world into a new environment that was full of bright lights. This crazy person was holding me and was getting ready to cut the lifeline that connected me to my mother. Inwardly I screamed, "Don't! Dont do that or Ill die!" He cut it and suddenly I felt my body suffocating from the lack of oxygen. "I'm dead!" I thought. "This is it! Im a goner!" Then suddenly, I felt a stinging smack on my rear end and, instinctively, I let out a loud scream which caused me to expand my chest and draw lifesaving oxygen into my lungs. "I'm alive! I'm alive!" Im in a new world and, in many ways, it is different from the only world that I knew but now Im beginning to see the purpose of all the unessential equipment that I complained about in my old world. If I hadnt developed it then and practiced using it, I would not have been ready for this world. Thank God that I didnt refuse to cooperate with those urges that were preparing me for a world that I could have never imagined."
I got an "A-plus" for that paper because, while fooling around, I had stumbled upon the very thing that the assignment was suppose to teach me. And what was that? It was the fact that birth and death are the same thing. The child at birth believes that he is dying as he is ejected from the only world that he knows into a world that he could never have imagined. If he had been given a choice in the womb, believing that it was the only world, he would have refused all the developmental steps that were necessary to prepare him for the world to come. And this would have been a tragedy because, being unprepared for this world and being unable to survive in it, psychologically he would want to return to the womb which was the only world that he was prepared to live in and, not being able to do this, he would perish in the new world. It is interesting to note that people who have had "life after death" experience describe dying as going down a long dark tunnel with a bright light at the end. Sounds like birth, doesnt it?
My next paper, by the way, was how it feels to be weaned from breast-feeding. However, by now I knew that there was meaning in their madness. What they were trying to teach me was that life was a process of growth and development that was moving each of us from total dependency on our mother to independency as we learned to take over function which were once performed by her and others and we began to learn to do them for ourselves. Yet, each step in this growth process is another part of the birth process because it requires that we leave what is known and comfortable and move on to the next step which is unknown and threatening. Yet, as Jesus said, "Unless the seed dies, it can't become the plant." In other words, we have to learn to die to the old so that we can move on to the new." Those who fail to do so either through fear or laziness will never experience the "fullness of life."
So what is this saying? It is saying that all of your life is a "birth process" in which you are giving birth to your "real self" because, you see, we are all unfinished products which are full of unknown potentials that will never actualize unless we are willing to follow the developmental "laws of the universe."
Eric Fromm, a noted psychologist, said that life is the process of giving birth to ourselves and that we should be fully born when we die but most of us die before we are fully born. What he means by this is that life is developmental and thus, throughout our lives we should be bringing into existence new dimensions of ourselves. However, this cant be done unless we are willing to risk our security be stepping out and responding to the important issues of life. Most people, according to him, play it safe and fill their lives with "amusement", a word that means "without thought" and thereby avoid the very things in life that are designed to stretch and develop them. In doing this they have accepted a life of mere existence instead of constant development and, consequently, they never get to see or know their real selves. Their lives could be symbolized by a repeating circle in which the same old patterns are repeated over and over again. Having reached a point in their lives of mediocre existence, they avoid new challenges and spend the rest of their lives circling. By doing so, they have rejected the "fullness of life" promised by Jesus and have joined the ranks of the "living dead" who are just waiting for the coffin to arrive. It really doesnt matter whether you bury them now or twenty years from now because nothing will have changed in those twenty years and its the same person, only a little older.
Jesus, you might remember, was a goal directed person whose life was consumed with a sense of mission. He had come to build a kingdom and he was looking for apostles and disciples who wanted to join in the enterprise. When one young man asked to join but requested that he be allowed first to go and bury his father, Jesus abruptly said, "Let the dead bury the dead." In other words, let those who are simply existing bury those who life was simple existence. He was looking for goal directed individuals who are willing to go out and spread the vision that He had. And He said that once you put your hand to the plow, you couldnt look back. If you want to experience the "fullness of life", you must follow the "laws of development."
And what are these laws? Well, one of them is that unless you face the problems and difficulties that life presents to you, you will never develop the strength and skills that lay dormant within you. Theses difficulties are growth producing agents designed by God to lead you away from your self centered existence into a life of self giving and sacrifice. However, your natural being does not understand this and believes that they are to be avoided at all cost." As one sage once put it, "Whatever (problem) doesn't kill me, strengthens me." Or, as Jesus might put it, "Unless you pick up the crosses and difficulties that life presents to you, you will never develop into your true self. For, following every Crucifixion or "life challenge" is a Resurrection to a higher level of performance or existence. In fact, it is in the giving of your talents, or the sacrificing of yourself, for the benefit of others that you receive. This is the foolishness of My Cross that those who belong to the world can not understand." They dont understand that the central message of the Cross and Crucifixion is that sacrificing yourself out of love for others is the only path to salvation.
So what is it that Jesus came to show the right lobe of our brains? Is the message of the Cross pain and suffering for the sake of pain and suffering or is it the day-to-day struggle of sacrificing ourselves out of love for others? Is this the road to the "fullness of life" which everyone must travel if they want to grow and develop those qualities that make us most like God? Mother Theresa of Calcutta once observed that by responding to the need of the poor, she developed in herself a deeper capacity to love. And St. Paul said, "Why do I believe in Christ Jesus?" And, he answers his own question by saying, "So that my hidden self may be revealed."
I know that one of the greatest mysteries for me, at least, has always been why Jesus had to die on the Cross for my sins. What is the connection between His passion and death and my sins? Why does His Father even require payment for sins if "sin" is simply "missing the rational mark or target" for rational behavior? Isnt it enough that we just stop sinning? What is this thing about reparation for sins? And how, according to the nuns, does my sinning add to His suffering and how does my suffering, when offered up, reduce Jesus suffering on the Cross?
I dont want to seem impudent but these, I think, are the kinds of questions that Jesus wants us to ask when He says, "seek and you will find; knock and it will be opened unto you." These are the kind of questions that seek answers to the deeper mysteries of the universe and ultimately the kind of knowledge that they produce is called Wisdom. They are the kind of questions asked by mystics and great scientists like Albert Einstein who once said that all he wanted to do was to know the mind of God. To know the mind of God is know God in His deepest being which is what is known as "intimacy." And "intimacy" is what we all yearn for. If only someone knew us in the deepest level of our being. If only someone knew the real me then the words "I love you" would have real meaning. The problem with human love is summed up by the title of a book I once saw which said "Would You Still Love Me Even If You Knew Who I Really Am?" However, only God knows all of us on this level because the scriptures say that He knew us before we were formed in our mothers womb. Now that is real intimacy. He not only knows who we are. He knows who we are suppose to be even when we dont. That is why He is always calling us out of Darkness to become all that we were meant to be because only then will we experience the "fullness of life" instead of the "emptiness of it." So the questions remain, what has this to do with Jesus, His Passion, Cross, Resurrection and my salvation? Why did He have to die for my sins?
I dont know if there is one answer to this question but I suspect that at least part of the answer is connected to the nature of the universe. Jesus, according to the scriptures, is the Logos or Logic of God who, in the beginning was given a job by the Creator, His Father, of moving the creation towards its final goal. Like our own logical left lobe which is the goal directed linear brain which struggles through a step-by-step process to build what our creative, artistic right lobe conceives, Jesus has been struggling since the dawn of time to fulfill His Fathers will or Plan. How long has He been struggling. Well, if the scientists are correct about the age of the universe, its been about four to five billion years. During this time, He has been moving the universe from chaos to order which is the same thing that our own logical left lobes do. The left lobe of our brains is the great organizer, the one that brings structure to reality and thus it seems that Gods Logos, after which our left lobe is patterned, does the same thing.
According to the scientists, the whole universe is following the Second Law of Thermodynamics, which is known as the Law of Entropy. This law says that everything is "running down from higher levels of order to lower levels of order and eventually the universe will return to chaos." Other scientists point out that this is not totally true because life and civilization are "running up" towards higher levels of organization. Life is moving from simple forms, like single cell creatures, to higher form, like ourselves. Civilization is moving from primitive tribal existence to highly complex societies like our own. In other words, both of them are swimming against the flow of the stream by struggling against the Second Law of Thermodynamics and this could happen only if there were some type of energy being inputted into them.
In fact, the struggle involved is the struggle between the forces of life and the forces of death. Life from a philosophical point of view means "integration" because its basic impulse is to take things that are separate and integrate them into more complex wholes. Thus, I am not one living being. I am billion of living cell which have integrated and organized themselves into one living body for the purpose of mutual survival and a "fuller expression" of life. Death, on the other hand, is disintegration which occurs when the organizing principle of my brain dies and all the cells that were integrated into "me" begin to separate, die, and disintegrate. Thus, we could conclude that death, which means disintegration, is following the Law of Entropy, and is entropic; while life, which is going against it, is negentropic. In fact, we could say that anything that goes towards chaos is entropic and anything that goes towards higher level of organization is negentropic.
If this is so, then "sin", which wars against the orderly forces of the universe, is an entropic force which is pulling the universe back towards the original Darkness or chaos from which it came while virtue, which is an orderly force in the universe, is negentropic because it is struggling to overcome the Darkness by taking the creation to higher levels of order. In a sense, the universe is involved in an ongoing struggle between the Forces of Darkness, which are anti-life and entropic, and the forces of Light, which are pro-life and negentropic. The leader of the Forces of Darkness is the Devil, which is LIVED spelled backwards, and the leader of the Forces of Light is the Logos of God who, as the organizing principle in Gods mind, is pro-life because it is creating higher levels of life by integrating reality into more complex wholes.
This Logos, who is Jesus, has been referred to as the Suffering Servant because, as any of us know who have been involved in tasks of organization, it is one of the most difficult things to do especially when our own attempts are been disrupted or counteracted by other forces.
A friend of mine who was very good at working with young children used to do a skit called "The Rag Tag Army of God" in which he dressed up like a Scout Master who was intent on leading a line of children to Camp Happy-Happy which was just over the next hill. Each time he would organize them into a straight line, which is a negentropic act, to prepare them to march to their destination, the line would disintegrate, which is an entropic act, as soon as he turned his back, blew his whistle, and began to march off towards Camp Happy-Happy. Time after time, after just taking a few steps, he had to stop and reorganize the children who were now wrestling, chasing butterflies, wandering off into the woods, or throwing stones. Once again he would reorganize them, only to see the line disintegrate again. Finally, an onlooker asked, "How far is this camp?" He said, "It's a five minute walk over the hill." ... "And how long have you been trying to get these kids there?" ... "Ahhhh! For a long, long time. Sometimes it seems like forever." ... "Well," replied the onlooker, "Why don't you just tie them together so that they cant get out of line." ... "No! he said. "My father, who is the Head of the Scouts, says that the only way that I can bring them to CampHappy-Happy is if they go willingly. He has this big things about allowing people to be free to make their own choices."
Did you catch the symbolism involved in this skit? Camp Happy-Happy is the Kingdom of God or heaven. The Scout Master is Jesus. The children are we. The line is the path to salvation. And the disintegration of the line is the disorganizing effect of sin which occurs whenever we decide to "do our own thing" rather then follow the guide sent to lead us. Can you sense the struggle that this Scout Master is experiencing? Have you ever faced similar frustrations when you were involved with organizing a group of people who were uncooperative? We could even extend this little story by suggesting that, maybe at first, the children were told the way to the camp but constantly got lost and that is when the Head of the Scouts decided to send his son to find the lost ones and to show them the way. However, even when they knew the way, they continued to delay their own arrival by getting out of line through their entropic, chaotic acts or sins.
So to the question of "why did Jesus have suffer and die for my sins? the answer is to show me the "path of struggle" which is the way to CampHappy-Happy. We live in a universe in which every action requires a reaction. That is what keeps the universe in balance. Thus, for every sin or entropic act that pulls it towards chaos, there must be a counter effort that pulls it back towards order. Jesus, through His effort in saving sinners by bringing them back to the path of order is the great counter force in the universe. The more we sin, the greater must be His effort. And the greater His effort, the great is the suffering that He must experience. Thus, every entropic act or sin, which throws the Creation out of kilter, adds to the total burden that He must carry as He struggles to get the Creation back on track. He makes up for our deficiencies and lack of effort by increasing His own efforts to restore the Universe to the path or goal that his Father has set for it. The more we sin and create disorder and disharmony in the Creation, the harder He has to work to make reparations, or repairs, to the affected area. He is His Fathers Craftsman and like any craftsman, he must be ready to repair any defect in the project. It is interesting to note here that the two human professions which are associated with Jesus are carpenter and teacher. Both are craftsmen. One builds physical structures and the other builds people.
When will He be able to put His burden down and relax? Not until the final nail has been sunk and the task is finished. Not until He has led those who are willing to be saved to the Promised Land, to the Kingdom of God, to heaven. How long will it take? Well, it depends on us just as it depended on the cooperation of the children as to when they would arrive at CampHappy-Happy. As Gods craftsman, He was assigned a project at the beginning of time and he will not be able to rest from his struggle until it is finished. We, of course, can help. How? First, by become negentropic forces in the universe who add our own efforts to His in restoring chaotic condition to order and harmony. Thus, "Blessed are the peacemakers; blessed are the merciful; blessed are those who hunger and thirst for justice; blessed are the meek etc... " These are the children of God who have allowed the Spirit of Jesus to enter their being and, by organizing themselves into His Body, they become material agents involved in the salvation of the world. They do this in two ways. First, by allowing the Spirit of Jesus to enter into them, they open themselves to the graces streaming from His Father, which saves them from the "doing of their sins." They cease being part of the entropic drag on the forward progress of the creation. They get back on the path of salvation and stay there. Second, they become a physical force for repairing the damage that the sins of others have done to Gods creation. In other words, they, like Jesus, make reparation for the sins of Mankind by offering up their own negentropic efforts as self-sacrifice out of love for others.
One of the greatest saints in the history of the Church put it this way.
Make me a channel of you peace.
Where there is hatred let me bring Your love
Where there is injury, Your pardon, Lord.
And where there's doubt, true faith in You.
Make me a channel of Your peace
Where there's despair in life,
Let me bring hope.
Where there is darkness, only light.
And where there's sadness, ever joy.
Oh, Master, grant that I may never seek
So much to be consoled as to console.
To be understood as to understand.
To be loved as to love with all my soul.
Make me a channel of Your peace
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned.
In giving to all men that we receive.
And in dying that we're born to eternal life. (Refrain)
By the way, what is this energy called that causes things to integrate into higher and higher levels of organization? It is called Love because it alone has the power of taking two and making them one.
Well, I see that my time is up. Heres Dom.