Sacred Laws of Psyche: The Connection Between Entropy and Social Learning


“The increase of disorder or entropy is what distinguishes the past from the future, giving a direction to time.” Stephen Hawking, A Brief History of Time

Last week I addressed Oneness, an ideal state in which all pairs of opposites are consciously connected and united. Oneness is rare, but worth the effort because it is the path to renewal, peaceful thinking, right action, and the survival of our species.

Like the universe itself, we are in a constant state of flux. Psychologically we are evolving in the direction of greater consciousness. Spiritually we’re evolving toward the highest ideals of every authentic religion: to love God with all our heart, mind and soul, and to love our neighbor as ourselves. This requires awareness — the ability to remember that everyone and everything we meet is our neighbor, and to choose to treat everything with compassion, kindness, forgiveness, honesty, patience, gentleness and self-control.

Most of us aren’t self-aware enough to do this all the time. Despite our best efforts we fall short every day. Yet, there is hope. The disorder can be reversed and we can continue to evolve. But if we refuse to budge from our ego opinions, we will grow more disordered and toxic. We have to surrender before we can evolve. This is the law of entropy.

4.The Law of Entropy: When opposites remain isolated from one another, any disorders within them remain constant or increase.

The law of entropy is a doctrine of inevitable social decline and degeneration. It says that when disorders in us and around us increase, our ability to act in accordance with our highest values decreases. For example, throughout history and until a few hundred years ago in the U.S., it was common for people to have the power of life and death over their slaves. This not only goes against the values of all authentic religions, it goes against the core values of the Self.

We all contain these core values — like love, freedom, and justice for all — but fearful and ambitious egos prefer to ignore them. When we focus on our outer needs and separate from the Self’s truths, we perpetuate personal and societal entropy.

In the U.S., many justified slavery until the Civil War ended it. Some still do. Some believe men are preordained to go to work and women to stay home. Some, even if they won’t confess it, believe that rich, white, males are entitled to be bosses and leaders.

Today, our limitless avarice for more power, material objects, status and prestige; our hatred of ourselves and each other; our mindless destruction of the earth’s creatures and resources, are modeled for us daily via television, cell phones, and the internet. Disordered ways of thinking are gaining momentum because we are seeing more of them while being separated from our spiritual cores.

While it seems that people are no longer isolated from one another because of these technological advances, the truth is that technology is neither good nor evil. We are the problem. if we refuse to see the truth about ourselves, help our neighbors, or curtail our daily diet of disordered images and ego-driven role models, our children will learn our disorderedness and civilization will decline and die. It’s inevitable.

“When I began studying the notion of entropy it became clear to me that thermodynamic entropy was merely one instance of a concept with much broader applications … I became convinced that entropy applied to social phenomena as well.” Sociologist Kenneth Bailey 

How can we reverse the decline?  In graduate school I wrote a term paper on a book called Social Learning Theory (1977), by psychologist Albert Bandura. He formulated his ground-breaking theories in part by putting children in a room containing a variety of toys and watching them play  through a hidden mirror. Here’s a summary as best I can remember. (This was 40 years ago!)

The first group of children saw an adult playing with a Bobo doll — one of those large blown-up plastic clowns that’s weighted in the bottom so that it won’t tip over. The adult had a grand time striking it. After telling the children to play with the toys, the adult left the room. Then another group of children entered the room. The adult told them to play with the toys, then left.

Many of the children in the first group immediately went for the Bobo doll and began aggressively punching and kicking it. Most children in the second group dispersed and played with different toys. A few playfully pushed the Bobo doll around.

Bandura formed three main principles of social learning from his research:

  1. You can learn through observation.

  2. Learning a new way of thinking and behaving through observing it will not necessarily change your behavior.

  3. You are more likely to adopt a modeled behavior if it results in outcomes you value. You can attain your highest level of observational learning by organizing and rehearsing the modeled behavior symbolically and then enacting it overtly.

“The … ultimate purpose of life, mind, and human striving: to deploy energy and information to fight back the tide of entropy and carve out refuges of beneficial order.”  Steven Pinker

Our bodies will decay and die because our genes are subject to the law of entropy. But in every death there is new beginning and unlimited opportunity to better ourselves. We can surrender our ego’s ignoble ambitions. We can evolve while we are still alive and be so renewed that we can “carve out refuges of beneficial order,” and observe our physical bodies die with joy and meaning.

We can aspire to attain our god-like potential through rituals and practices that mature us.We can transform our lead into gold, our suffering into excellence. We can model our growth to our children and neighbors. The more we try, the better our chance of reversing the death of civilization. And even if our current conceptions of civilization die, those who are left can do the work and model their integrity and boldness.

Whatever we choose, our children will learn from us.

Image credits: book cover; Google images, unknown.

Jean Raffa’s The Bridge to Wholeness and Dream Theatres of the Soul are at Amazon. E-book versions are also at KoboBarnes And Noble and Smashwords. Healing the Sacred Divide can be found at Amazon and Larson Publications, Inc. Watch for her new book, The Soul’s Twins, to be launched later this year.

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13 Responses

  1. Thank you so much Jeanie for sharing another rich helping in this wonderful series! I can’t think where I heard it, but someone once told me this amazing way of looking at the world. They said, imagine that you’re driving your car and with every car that passes you, think to yourself, ahh, there goes another part of myself! Well, the thought stuck like glue and works best for me in supermarkets, when wandering up and down those aisles and “seeing” all my different selves. Naturally, I’m not self-aware enough to do this for very long either, but I have my moments, and enjoy them.
    On the subject of our technological advances (yet social isolation is increasing tenfold!) a few years ago I wrote a Jungian themed article on this very subject, asking others and myself, to consider whether or not we were “pressing the ‘right’ like button” (external vs internal one) alongside the reasons why I chose not to have a like button on my blog which you may find interesting. Perhaps it’s not the death of civilisation, but maybe it could turn out to be the death of any true connection between people. Hmm, I’m sure being an INFP with a strong feeling function has some bearing on this. It’s been a fascinating area to explore though!
    Woah! The worrying implications of Albert Bandura’s Bobo doll observations and your term paper, even 40 years later, are unmistakably recognisable! Children do learn (all too well) from us adults. I agree, by modelling an understanding that surrender (however defined) in order to evolve, is vital in helping us take those small steps needed in order to heal our own and the wounds of the world at this time … an Odyssean adventure which I hope I’ve captured in my new poem, “Per Aspera Ad Astra” which you may enjoy. Warm winter blessings, Deborah.

    1. “There goes another part of myself!” What a powerful practice. Thanks for this. I’m going to try it.
      I remember reading that article about the “‘like” button and admiring your stance on it. There are some social media venues where it does seem inane, as if one is pitifully begging for approval. “Please like me!” However, I have to admit I “like” it when I see that people have “liked” my posts. 🙂 Perhaps it’s because I spend so much time alone every day pouring my heart and soul into my writing. As you know so well, writing is a lonely business, and sincere and thoughtful feedback can brighten a writer’s days. For me, having a public platform from which to share my creative outpourings, and interacting with people who appreciate them, is the best thing about the internet. (Google is second best!)
      Yes, Bandura’s study made a huge impact on me. Especially since I had just stepped away from a job as a television producer of children’s programming at a local TV station. As a young mother, I infused every show I produced with full awareness that impressionable children were watching and this was a golden opportunity for me to model socially desirable ways of thinking and behaving. So when I read Bandura’s book, I grew even more concerned about what television might be doing to our society. As a result, I wrote my dissertation on the values conveyed on the top three most popular television shows with elementary school-aged children in the U.S. This was 1981-82. Guess what the shows were: The Dukes of Hazzard, The Incredible Hulk, and Love Boat. If you’re familiar with those shows, you can imagine what some of the values were, and how television’s powerful visual and auditory techniques reinforced them. And they weren’t all pro-social.
      Thank you for reminding me of your new poem. I haven’t had a chance to read it yet and will hop over to your site right now! Can’t wait. Blessings, dear sister, Jeanie

      1. Oh, don’t get me wrong Jeanie, there’s nothing like sincere and thoughtful feedback to brighten up my day too! And sometimes, I guess a like is a quick way of giving a writer an approving nod. I posted a link to that “Like Button post on Twitter (@liberatedsheep) if anyone’s interested. Ha-ha! In our house we call “Google” the “Oracle”… go ask the Oracle we say!
        It’s great to read how your belief system was positively shaped by Bandura’s study, and how far-reaching the tentacles of this theory spread throughout your career as a television producer. I remember those shows well, most especially “The Incredible Hulk” … looking back I realise he was the first Green Man (but not the last!) I’d ever met. Re my poem, I hope you enjoy.

  2. No, I knew you appreciated feedback as much as I do. 🙂 I’ll read your “Like” button post again. I remember that it resonated with me the first time I read it.
    I did enjoy. In fact, I absolutely loved your epic poem and wrote a long response, but I couldn’t get it to post on your site, so I copied it and sent it to you via email. Enjoy.

      1. That was an incredible comment. Thank you! Yes, the Goddess and Her Green Man have been slowly making their way back into our conscious world for several decades now. Maybe that’s why I loved The Incredible Hulk so much. Love & light, Deborah.

  3. Thanks Jeanie for this explication of entropy, a term that always puzzled me. I remember reading an story of African children who were encouraged to win the running race and their prize was a whole bunch of lovely goodies at the end of the race. Well, these little ones didn’t run to win; they all arrived at the same time. The observers were amazed at their response that they wanted to share!
    Another thought of how important it is too leave our children with none of our baggage and hence the importance of sorting out our own stuff as much as possible.
    The call to love our neighbour as ourselves is so deep, as it is a call to love ourselves firstly, which is a task and a half.
    I also like likes 🙂 – I must check out Deborah’s post on this business of the like button. Her recent poem was extraordinary. And I much like the idea of checking out cars and seeing myself as part of them. Or in the supermarket.
    Thank you Jeanie, these posts have been wonderful!

    1. What a beautiful story about the African children who wanted to share the prize. I really love that.I’ve seen people behave that way. We all have it in us. It only has to be modeled for us to adopt the concept and feel comfortable manifesting it in our daily lives.
      Yesterday I watched a podcast about the shadow in which a psychotherapist says that the shadow often develops around the emotion of shame. When we’re young children, being shamed for who we are or something we’ve done feels so threatening that we want to hide from it, deny it. For some people, the childhood shame is so severe and threatening that they get locked into denial of their shadow and it can’t be healed. They truly can’t see their cruelty, or insensitivity and will deny it to the end rather than experience the pain of their shame. It feels like a matter of survival to them. That’s when the shadow becomes pathological. I thought that was a brilliant insight. The world sees that in some of its most corrupt leaders who were cruelly shamed as children. Shame on the adults responsible for that!
      Thank you for writing, Susan. I’m glad you’re enjoying these posts.

  4. Thanks for reminding me that it was Susan who recommended that podcast series to us. Thank you Susan! It’s a goldmine of information and I’m enjoying it very much!

    1. …. no time as yet to watch any of the others. I’m especially looking forward to Sheila Cowburn’s podcast – she’s an analyst in Cape Town and also a training analyst with SAAJA and a very dear friend – have a lovely weekend ?

      1. Thank you, Susan. You too. I’ve only had time for the first one too, but look forward to watching the rest, especially Sheila’s talk, as time permits. An excellent offering! Thanks so much for alerting us to it!

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