Time and Chaos
What we call “chaos”, and what is very much implicated in “chaotic transition”, is intimately connected with time. More specifically, it is intimately connected with the breakdown of the Clockwork Universe and the reflection of that Clockwork in the social order. The irruption of the spontaneous and paradoxical — the uncertain and the unpredictable — offends the clockwork orderliness of things. Something or someone, we say, has “thrown a spanner into the works”. Someone has sabotaged our sense of order, and that sense of order is based on the Clockwork. At such times people cast about for someone who, like a Mussolini, “will make the trains run on time” — that is to say, restore the Clockwork. The Clockwork is the pulsing heart of the Megamachine and is, in many respects, also Blake’s “dark Satanic Mill”.
So much have our notions of kosmos (of order and social order) been infiltrated by the Clockwork that we expect “things to run like clockwork”. When they don’t run like clockwork, we begin to loose our sense of orientation and order. But I suspect that, for people who never lived according to the regulation of time by the clockwork, what we call “chaos” in the contemporary context doesn’t look like chaos at all.
In his short book entitled The Multiformity of Man, and in much of his social philosophy overall, Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy tackled the modern mind’s sense of time and timing — the distinction between lifetime and the industrial time of the Clockwork. The book is available online and is recommended for a number of reasons. One is that it is a pretty good example of his “quadrilateral logic” (or “cross of reality”) where he applies his sociology of the “ecodynamic laws of society”. And another good reason to familiarise yourself with it is his treatment of time and his attempt to reconcile lifetime and clockwork time. In that is reflected the contemporary concern, as with Jean Gebser, with distinguishing between the Whole and the mere Totality and with the possibilities of “time-freedom”.
This also reflects the conundrums about time in contemporary physics, especially since Einstein’s introduction of time as a “fourth dimension”. Many of the paradoxes of contemporary quantum mechanics are related to time and clash with a mentality habituated to a conception of clockwork time as being “one damned thing after another” (effect follows cause). Those who still think that there is some continuity between the Newtonian-Cartesian cosmos and that of contemporary physics aren’t paying attention to fundamentals. The biggest disruption of all today is the breakdown of the Clockwork Universe.
Clockwork and Megamachine (Mumford) are very closely related. Nothing bespeaks “totality” like time atomised and aggregated as milliseconds into seconds, seconds into minutes, minutes into hours, hours into 24 hour days. The atomisation and fragmentation of the individual is connected with this atomisation of lifetime into time fragments — the Humpty-Dumpty of lifetime dissolving into clocktime. This is why Rosenstock-Huessy’s The Multiformity of Man is a rather important book, despite its short length (about 80 pages), because it speaks to Gebser’s issue, too, of time-freedom, and of the distinction between the Whole and the Totality.
Behind most reactionary politics today, and equally what is implicated in “the crisis of paradox” as Jacob Bronowski calls it, is an attempt to restore the Clockwork (correspondingly, the Mechanical Philosophy. I also include in this Jordan Peterson and Steven Pinker).
The breakdown of the Clockwork Universe is also implicated in David Bohm’s physics, in his Wholeness and the Implicate Order as well as his more explicit The Ending of Time. You can imagine the turbulence this “ending of time” (that is, of the Clockwork Universe) has for minds steeped in routine and habituated to the clockwork mechanism. It’s a turbulence, and a chaos, foreseen by Blake in his mythology of the fall of Urizen and of the four Zoas, and I’ld make bold to say that there is an affinity between Rosenstock-Huessy’s four “ecodynamic laws of society”, Gebser’s “four structures of consciousness” (the archaic, the magical, the mythical, the mental-rational) and Blake’s “four Zoas” of the divided Humanity.
Ironically, time is winding down on the Clockwork Universe, and it is, in that sense, truly an “end of times”. There are a lot of implications to this, especially for what we mean by “enlightenment” which is in many respects liberating consciousness from the compulsive routine of the Clockwork. What Gebser calls “irruption” is the spontaneous, the anomalous, the unpredicted and unpredictable — it’s the “spanner in the works”, as it were, that disrupts the routines of time and the Clockwork.
Anyway, have a look at Rosenstock-Huessy’s Multiformity of Man, which can be appreciated as an attempt to come to terms with the post-Cartesian breakdown of the Clockwork Universe.