“In Michael Moorcock’s universe, a war is fought by two separate yet equally important groups: Law, which provides the fundamental capability of existence, and Chaos, which provides the ability for change and development. These are their stories.”
Awhile back I wrote a post with four moral dichotomies that were not so simple as “Good vs. Evil.” I mentioned that I would probably do an article specifically treating Order and Chaos and, what do you know, that day has come.
Most people are most familiar with this dichotomy through Dungeons and Dragons, where the Lawful-Neutral-Chaotic axis is joined by the Good-Neutral-Evil axis (and then apparently that got changed up in the fourth edition, but I don’t really know anything about that). In other systems, the two are merged.
Personally, I prefer a simply binary alignment system of Order vs. Chaos, but without conflating Order and Chaos with Good and Evil. Why can’t the one be one, and the other be the other, without either being an inarguable good?
So here are a few ideas for you to peruse, use, and/or be inspired by.
- A focus on the present
It doesn’t matter what was or will be. There’s no golden age or Edenic state to which either side is trying to return. All that matters is what’s happening now.
The forces of Order simply strive to maintain the status quo for better for worse. They’re a kind of ad hoc force for law, fighting for any laws, whatever they may be. It doesn’t matter how good or bad the laws may be to your point of view, they have to not change.
Chaos is about fighting the status quo, but they get into some bad behavior too. Theirs is a conflict that can never end, because they’re not trying to change things into anything in particular. They’re just trying to change things. Chaos will keep fighting even after it wins, because the status quo must change, by definition.
- Order has the advantage
Look at this for a moment and tell me what you see: Order vs. Chaos. What do you see?
Those are categories, dear reader. Those are, by definition, a product of Order, of ordering the conflict into something coherent. And with that done, the conflict was itself defined and ordered.
It was the first blow dealt by Order, and it is a blow that has never been undone or even matched.
- Order and Chaos in Hell and Heaven
God spoke, and the beginning was the Word, and creation was the Word. Thus it was.
But angels are not a force of Order. They are of Chaos, raw creation. They are the force of endless production with neither rhyme nor reason, and even their bizarre forms are a kind of rebelling against the physical constraints of this universe. They are many, they are one, they are the Host. And their creation is destruction and their destruction creation, like a hurricane moving through the land.
The Fall of Satan was the assumption of identity that became rooted, which Satan refused to cast off. A mask that was chosen to become a face. Even our present reality is much too chaotic, too prone to change, for Satan’s tastes, but the universe as we know it is only possible in the first place because of the struggle of Hell to categorize and set in order every aspect of creation.
(Without realizing it until just now, I think that I just made another conception of Hell that Screwtape would feel at home in. Bureaucracy must be endless in Hell.)
- The Natural and Unnatural
There is a cosmic struggle between Order and Chaos, but they are not an Order of dystopic mind control and a Chaos of storms and tornadoes. They are the natural order and the chaotic perversion, the way that things should be and what they sometimes are despite this.
A paradise red in tooth and claw is for Order if that is how it should be (and it often is) and a society of peace and acceptance is for Chaos if it has been achieved by making the people into things conflicting with their essential nature (we are beings capable of making choices for ourselves, and so mind control is Chaotic).
Genetic engineering is generally a force for Order since it does not make us conflict with our nature any more than evolution does, but instead changes our nature.
One might question whether there is a Good vs. Evil dynamic here or not. I suppose that it comes down to the is-ought problem: just because things are a certain way, that doesn’t mean that they should be that way.