In modern times, this word has become associated with disorder and destruction.

In the original Greek, though, chaos meant “the unformed and undefined state preceding all things”, in direct word-tension with cosmos, referring to the specific ordered and structured world somehow brought forth out of chaos.

In that older sense, the Greeks were much closer to Chinese ideas about the Tao, which is also a formless and unshaped state that represents the totality of possibility and the source of all defined things. Far from being a degenerate state, chaos is unlimited potential. It’s only when things are ordered in a particular way, thus losing their ability to be ordered in other ways, that potential is lost. It’s moving from chaos to cosmos that is, in many ways, a degeneration.

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