Rejoicing with Chaos || Mary Coday Edwards

Blog 8: Rejoicing with Chaos!

final chaos pic

August 30, 2016

By Rev. Mary Coday Edwards.

“When the persona is gone, chaos remains. To know that has a magnificence,” said John Heider (1).

Persona literally refers to the mask worn by actors in ancient Greece – the characters they played in their performances.

Our own persona, or mask, begins to form in early childhood in order to adapt to the desires and expectations of parents, teachers, and peers. Children quickly learn that certain behaviors and attitudes are acceptable and will win approval while others may earn punishment. These suitable qualities are then woven into the persona, while what we perceive to be unsuitable gets sent to the basement of our unconscious, stored away in the dark, which Carl Jung called the shadow.

And our ego has a vested interest in keeping this mask intact, as our ego has spent decades perhaps protecting us from what it perceived could harm us, and the persona plays a valuable part in ensuring that safety. Unfortunately, that safety also required the ego to shut out valuable pieces of our true selves.

Now, I do believe ego gets an undeserved bad rap as it’s because of the ego that consciousness arises; i.e., as we begin to wake up to our true selves, our ego is that part of us that reflects on what is arising from within, that necessity within that is calling us to incorporate that which we have denied, have relegated to the shadows; that which is calling us to return to our true selves, our essence. Jung used the term “Personality No. 1” to refer to our outward, adapted personality, and “Personality No. 2” to refer to our true essence buried under the layers.

This persona can begin to crack and fall apart at any point in our lives. In last month’s blog, I wrote how the path of growth includes bumping up against the scary unknowns, which are designed to wake us up.

“ … chaos remains.”

About chaos theory, physicist John Polkinghorne  says that “… there are many complex systems [in nature] whose extreme sensitivity to the effects of very small changes makes their future behavior beyond our power to predict accurately”(2).

A few ideas regarding this annoying inner and/or outer chaos: first of all, our psyche, our unconscious, can be sending up through dreams, synchronicities, and shifts in our moods and our body VERY SMALL CHANGES and we just need to be paying attention, mindfully.

We don’t have to go through life-altering, heart-rending circumstances for what appears to be random chaos to emerge. 

Ruth McLean, in the first verses of her poem Awoken exquisitely describes living with her chaos:

I awoke, one morning,

from shades of sleep,

to find my world had changed …            


The ground on which i had always placed my feet,

had subtly shifted with the darkness.


The firm beliefs and solid suppositions

that ordered my daily decisions …

had evaporated before my eyes …


… caught and helpless,

uprooted and airborne,

I existed …


dangling in space

between the old

and the new …


one eye was fixed with longing to the past

   the other,


with an urgent expectancy,

to what might lie ahead …


Next, this chaos is temporary, if we can go with the flow, if we can just allow it, staying with the experience non-judgmentally.  

Lastly, part of staying mindfully with chaos is like the theory: we must remember that there’s a good chance our future may look drastically different from our present – if only in our outlook. 

“…To know that has a magnificence.”

But KNOWING this, PERCEIVING this, that this chaos is a result of personal growth and subsequent transformation, has a MAGNIFICENCE, has a SPLENDOR, has great light, a brilliance.

Metaphorically, this perceiving brings the light of understanding into our circumstances. It does NOT mean that now life is good and I have great wisdom as to what’s going on and what the next step in my journey is.

But we DO know that this seemingly random chaos in our lives has meaning, has purpose, and that we can work with our ego, our persona, and our unconscious to bring out more of our true essence, Personality No. 2, to life every day, that we can truly give the gift to the universe of who we are.

So while we’re stumbling around in the dark, or up on that plateau where the path is difficult to find, keep in mind that magnificence of chaos!


Note 1: John Heider, among other things, studied and helped direct long-term programs at Esalen Institute, taught at the Menninger Foundation of Psychiatry, and directed The Human Potential School of Mendocino, California. He is the author of The Tao of Leadership.


Note 2: Polkinghorne, John. Quantum Theory, A Very Short Introduction. Oxford University Press, New York, 2002: pg. 68


About the Author: Rev. Mary Coday Edwards is a Spiritual Growth Facilitator and People House Minister. A life-long student of spirituality, Mary spent almost 20 years living, working and sojourning abroad in Asia, Southeast Asia, East Africa, and Latin America before finding her People House “tribe” and completing its Ministerial Program. Past studies include postgraduate studies from the University of South Africa in Theological Ethics/Ecological Justice, focusing on the spiritual and physical interconnectedness of all things. With her MA in Environmental Studies from Boston University, abroad she worked and wrote on environmental sustainability issues at both global and local levels, in addition to working in refugee repatriation.

People House: a Center for Personal and Spiritual Growth