We are dissipative structures

Ever since God created the world, his power and deity, however invisible, has been there for the mind to see in things he has made. Romans 1:20

footprints       When St. Paul talks about the hidden self in Ephesian, he is talking about transformation. It is the transformation of our inner selves into an awareness of the Christ-self that is alive within us. It is the possibility that we might become who we are meant to be.  It is a becoming that is grounded in what Jesus and what Jesus as the Christ stand for in life. In that knowledge comes the ultimate transformation of the person into what Paul calls the fullness of God. It is this fullness of God which is our ultimate destination on our journey of transformation.

Paul knew something that science  has just caught up to. A theory in science that has long been mirrored in the human person. Something that has to do with the transformation process that is at the heart of his writing and at the very heart of the dynamic of our physical, psychic and spiritual lives.

 In 1977 Ilya Prigogine received the Nobel Prize for his theory of dissipative structures. When I first heard about this phenomenon it struck me that we humans are dissipative structures. My simplistic understanding of this theory is that in living systems there is continual growth (energy) going on. And inherent in this growth is the idea that as growth and change take place we slough off (dissipate) what has died, or we no longer need, what is dead and decayed, in order to make room for and give rise to the new. At the center of this dynamic, for Prigogine, is chaos.

 At the outset of his letter to the Romans Paul talks about the way in which God created the world. Ever since God created the world, his power and deity, however invisible….has been there for the mind to see in the things he made. (Romans 1:20)

 In the created world we can see the (invisible) workings of the Creator. If we look closely enough and understand well enough the world of nature all about us, we will come to know something about God and about ourselves as well.  We have only to look around, look into ourselves, to see that change is inherent in all living systems. How we work. What we are made of. How our lives are reflected in the seasons and cycles of the universe from the smallest seed to the largest globe.

 And it would seem that this is one of the realities that we are to see in both our outer and inner lives.

 I believe that Prigogine’s theory of dissipative structures applies to human spiritual development as well. Even in the realm of spirituality we can see that in the inner workings of our human nature we are dissipative in nature. We are continually in the state of flux. And we know that it is also out of chaos, the difficult times that we often make the most progress in self-awareness and spiritual transformation.

 It was Carl Jung who said something to the effect that as science advances making new discoveries it will find that spirituality has already made it over the hill, ahead of it. What took science almost 1500 years to articulate, St. Paul saw this dynamic working in the transformation of a radically changed human person. Perhaps science and faith might be more congruent than we first thought.

 Throughout Paul’s letters he keeps coming back to this idea of transformation, how our lives are changed as we begin to live our new lives in Christ. (Romans 5:6-11). He writes that the Spirit of Christ is the Spirit of transformation, transforming us. (2 Cor. 3:18) There is no growth without this dissipating, the sloughing old of the old skin for the new.

 My geraniums have been blooming wonderfully. But today I went out and the blooms are off the stems. I will have to pinch them back. I always dislike doing this because for a few days there will not be as much beauty. However, I know, that in a few days, they will be blooming even more bountifully. We are not only dissipative structures we are knowing beings as well. The experience of living in the world of nature speaks to us about the nature of our souls.

Eventually all will fall away as we fall into the lasting embrace of the sacred. But before we do, we make our way, clumsily and with effort, straining and sometimes sprinting ahead, but always, always, sloughing off the old, that which we of necessity must let go because it no longer serves, that which we cannot take with us into the light of that new day. We mirror the universe, our lives and our art, imitating nature, dying and rising with each spring, the God who created the world seeding it to seek and find, grow and transform, out of the dark void, up from chaos, until we have achieved to the fullness of that sacred seed.

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