Chaos, Order, and Scale: Thoughts by Alan Watts

Another way of talking about the web [of life] is that there are different levels of magnification. For example, supposing you take a piece of embroidery, and here it is, obviously, in front of you, an ordered and beautiful object. Then you take out a microscope and you look at the individual threads. At a certain point as you turn up the microscope you’ll get a hopeless tangle which doesn’t make any sense at all. The wrapped fiber that constitutes the thread is a mess, hasn’t been organized, nobody did anything about it, but at the level of magnification at which you actually see it with the naked eye, it’s all been organized.

All right, now keep turning up that microscope. Take one of those individual threads in the fiber that seems to be so chaotic and go into the constitution of that, and again you will find fantastic order, you’ll find the most gorgeous designs of molecules. Then keep turning it up and again at a certain level you’ll find chaos again. All right, keep going, and at another level you’ll find this marvelous order. Now, you see, order and randomness constitute, in other words, the warp and the woof.

“The Web of Life,” from which the above was excerpted, is one of four complete seminars selected by his son and archivist, Mark Watts, and released as a Special Edition Seminar on an eight-CD set. More information about Alan Watts and his legacy can be found at

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