"The Laws of Chaos" (T-23.II) is one of the more challenging and provocative sections in the Text. It lays out a series of five laws that claim to describe the rules by which we live. Yet these laws seem too cruel and inhuman to accurately depict our lives. The following descriptions of the laws, and questions for personal reflection, are meant to help us get in touch with how the laws actually do operate in our lives.
First law: "The truth is different for everyone" (2:1).
This principle rests on the following assumptions:
- Some illusions—some false beliefs—are more valuable, and this makes them true (even though, in fact, all illusions are equally untrue; they are all just nothingness taking different forms).
- Each person is separate.
- Each person prefers different illusions, thus constructing his own personal hierarchy of illusions, his own value system.
- Each person makes his hierarchy true by attacking the hierarchy of others. This is how illusions are made "true"—by successfully attacking other illusions.
- This attack is justified because, by carrying a different value system, the other person seems to be truly different and appears to be in competition with the attacker.
1. You have obviously constructed your own value system that is different from that of others. Can you see your value system as a hierarchy of illusions? Is it possible that your value system is just your own special form of nothing, designed to set you off from others? Does your value system seem to make you better than others?
2. How do you look on someone who holds a different set of values?
3. If you think about someone with whom you have frequent conflict, do you think that a great deal of the conflict comes down to conflicting value systems?
4. If you notice yourself attacking the value systems of others, could it be that you do this in order to make your value system true?
Second law: "Each one must sin, and therefore deserves attack and death" (4:1).
If we are separate and have to compete against each other to establish our personal system of values, then attack is inevitable. If attack causes real destruction, then it is not a harmless mistake, but a sin. And sin demands that the destroyer be himself destroyed.
5. As you look out at the world, do you assume that most everyone has some inner flaw, defect or selfishness that drives them to act at the expense of others?
6. If you answer "yes" to the previous question, do you feel that this fact makes people somewhat less than deserving of total, pure love? Doesn't it make them deserving of some sort of recrimination, if only in the form of a "natural" lessening of love toward them?
7. Is it possible that no one has ever really attacked anyone? The previous section said that only illusions can be attacked, which means that nothing real ever gets attacked. Can you conceive of such a thing?
8. Is it possible, therefore, that no one deserves anything but unbridled, infinite love? Is this perhaps true of that person you got upset at recently?
Third law: "God…must accept His Son's belief in what he is, and hate him for it" (6:6).
• If it is true that everyone must sin and so deserves attack and death,
• And God, being God, cannot be mistaken,
• Then God must accept this view of His Son.
• He must therefore punish His Son for his sins.
9. Do you think, somewhere inside, that God would be naive if He just constantly smiled on everyone, as if they had done nothing wrong, as if they had never hurt anyone, as if they were as pure as the driven snow?
10. When someone experiences misfortune, does it ever cross your mind that you have just witnessed divine justice at work (at last!)?
11. Do you hesitate to turn to God for help, out of the hidden (or not-so-hidden) belief that He is the One Who caused your suffering and misery in the first place? Or in the belief that He, having been asked, will bring a cure that is worse than the disease, will ask for sacrifice, or will just not care?
12. Is it possible that any lack of faith in God being totally loving and responsive all the time, comes from the belief that He sees our sin and responds with attack, perhaps even very subtle forms of attack like demands for sacrifice or lack of caring?
Fourth law: "You have what you have taken" (9:3).
The previous points describe a world in which everyone is competing with you and attacking you, in which everyone, to one degree or another, is your enemy. And enemies won't voluntarily share with you what they have. Instead, they will hide whatever valuables they have from you, especially valuables that should be yours . In fact, if they are your enemies, chances are that you see them as having valuables which should be yours, and which they have hidden from your sight, refusing to give you what belongs to you. All this means that you are justified and innocent in attacking them and taking what is rightfully yours. Under normal circumstances a nice person like you would not behave this way, but here you had no choice.
13. Have you ever felt like someone wasn't giving you the thing you deserved? And that if this person would just give you this thing, your life would be different?
14. Have you ever loved someone, but been driven crazy by the fact that he had the very thing you want but never found—that it was inside him to give, but he refused to give it to you?
15. Did this make you feel that you were justified in trying to take this thing from him? Wasn't your punishment of him (in whatever form that took) an attempt to wrest from him the treasure that was rightfully yours?
Final law: "There is a substitute for love" (12:4).
This is the reason you try to take from your brother. This is the precious elixir you are trying to wrest from him. The substitute for love is something that looks like love, masquerades as love, but is really the opposite of love. It actually is fear dressed up as love.
16. Have you ever felt like some person possessed "the magic that would cure all of your pain" (12:5)? Didn't you call this magic "love"?
17. Can you see at least the possibility that "all your relationships have but the purpose of seizing it and making it ["love"] your own" ( 12:12 )?
18. Have you ever felt like killing someone because he or she wouldn't give you this special magic?
19. Is it possible that this "love" is not only a counterfeit love, but is really the opposite of love, is actually fear and death dressed up in love's clothes? After all, aren't they a great deal of what you received at the end of your search for this "love"?
The total picture of the laws of chaos
The laws of chaos suggest that our guiding framework in this life looks something like this: Each one of us is separate and is trying to steal from our brothers in order to support the illusion we call our "self." We battle with their value systems in order to make true our own value system, which is really nothing but a pile of nothingness in a special form we call our own. We believe that our brothers' bodies could give us a priceless pearl which we call "love," a magic ingredient that will make us complete. But they won't give it to us, even though it is rightfully ours. And so we feel forced to attack them and take it from them, even if it means killing them. All of us are therefore compelled to attack, like vampires who are forced to drink blood to stay alive. We are driven to sin. Therefore, we all deserve to be attacked and killed in return. God, though He would like to love, is forced to acknowledge that this is the state of affairs, and so He is driven to enter into the melee, like a reluctant policeman, and punish us all in an attempt at justice. He also enters because He, too, wants that magic we call "love." He too wants—and feels He deserves—our love and devotion, which we are so reluctant to surrender to Him. What option does He have but to punish us?
The laws of chaos result in, obviously, chaos: total, absolute chaos and meaninglessness. The principle cause of this lack of order is that all of the parts of the picture—all the Sons of God and even God Himself—are out for themselves. None of the players are integrated into a larger whole because their interests are in competition with the rest of that whole. Since there is no integration, there is no order. There is chaos .
These, says the Course, are the laws which give us a sense of stability and order. They are what holds our "sanity" together. They are what makes the ground seem solid, what makes reality seem stable. They are what makes life seem to make sense.
Why does it seem, however, that these are not the ideals by which we live? Who of us would look at the above picture and say, "Yep, that is how I live"? Why does it seem that our value system actually rejects primitive and inhuman concepts such as these? Because, even though these ideas are the content behind our values (see an emphatic statement of this in 18:3), we have chosen to believe in "loving" and "kind" and "civil" forms of this content. That's what our values amount to: "loving" forms of murder.
20. Think about a recent conversation with a friend. Did it not cross your mind, at some point in the conversation, that your value system was superior? Did not some of your comments reflect this thought, subtly attempting to establish your system as more true?
21. Did you not hope that this person's body would cough up some of the "love" that is rightfully yours? Did you in any way (even subtly) remind this person that this "love" is your due?
22. If your answer is "yes" to any of the above questions, did you not carry out your attack in a very gentle, appropriate, civilized, socially-acceptable manner? And isn't that why your attack was seen as something other than attack?
23. Aren't your values seemingly better than those of others because yours are more considerate, fair, decent, responsible, civil, kind, etc. (various code words for "loving")? Isn't that what makes your value system valid and even superior? But doesn't the fact that these values are used to elevate you above others reveal that they are a form of attack, just put in a "loving" form?
24. If your answer is "yes," is it possible that the laws of chaos are your personal rules for living, but that you have obscured that fact by dressing them up in "loving" form? And that that is why you don't see that the laws of chaos are your rules for living?
25. Now can you see how the laws of chaos make madness and murder seem like truth and love? Now can you see how, in the guise of seeking "love," they actually elevate fear onto love's throne?
Because the laws exist by hiding within "loving" disguise, you discover whether you believe them, not by how you intellectually respond to the laws as stated, but by how you feel, by whether or not you are experiencing their results. If you lack peace and the certainty that your future stretches before you as a straight, smooth road to the joy of Heaven, you are experiencing chaos and so must believe in chaos. "Ask, then, your Friend to join with you, and give you certainty of where you go" (22:13).