Self-Organization in the Cosmos and in Our Lives

by Kari Risher, Metta Research Fellow

Our world is increasingly devastated by environmental degradation, hunger crises, and violent battles over ever-diminishing resources. We see the effects of a decaying fabric of life in the global economic recession, erratic climate patterns, and the epidemic of depression among industrialized populations. It seems at times that “the machine” of our industrialized system of production is getting away from us, that it is controlling us rather than the other way around. It seems at times that life itself is disintegrating around us into utter chaos. Facing the fears around this reality is enough to make a disillusioned modern human, scraping by in a seemingly isolated world, forget any hope of the world having any sort of larger context that provides meaning and support.

What meaning does our life have? In what context can we place our scientific observations, our ambitions, and our grief, as we perceive the unraveling paradigm around us? The picture of the cosmos that we’ve inherited from science, thus far, has seemed devoid of meaning. Science, by design, asks “how” questions, rather than “why” ones. Its method examines observable data in order to construct theories about the way the world works, which are undeniably useful in providing tools to help us to engage life with more awareness; however, because the scientific paradigm is constantly growing, never complete, we are left bereft of a sense of wholeness when we lean upon its scaffolding for philosophical support.


Nonviolent methods of relating are effective because the world is interconnected, because the world has a context entrenched in wholeness. Though science cannot yet instruct us as to what the meaning behind this context is, it has begun to recognize the mechanisms that contribute to it. Experiments by the High Energy Density Science group at the Laurence Livermore National Lab last month revealed some insight into the cosmic actors that create order out of chaos in our universe, examining how the cosmos may be capable of self-organization on a large scale, each part contributing to the whole in a unique and seamless way. The study, published in Nature Physics, found that, unexpectedly, electromagnetic fields play a role in shaping and organizing ionized gas or plasma in the formation of stars, solar systems, and planets. “We’ve created a model for exploring how electromagnetic fields help organize ionized gas or plasma in astrophysical settings, such as in the plasma flows that emerge from young stars” said lead author Nathan Kugland. “These fields help shape the flows, and likely play a supporting role alongside gravity in the formation of solar systems, which can eventually lead to the creation of planets like the Earth.”

Having more information that indicates that elements of our world are capable of coming together cooperatively, even seemingly inert elements such as ionized gas particles, is a tremendous step towards affirming spiritual wisdom that advises humanity that our true self is a self that functions for the benefit of the whole. Just as an ionized particle succeeds when it comes together with other ionized particles, guided by electromagnetic fields, to create something greater such as a star, we as humans succeed when we come together with other beings, guided by intuitive wisdom (likely electromagnetic fields play a role in our process too), to contribute nonviolently to our communities – social, ecological, and spiritual.

As scientific studies like this one continue to provide insight into the “how” of our universe, we can gain confidence that there is an answer to our “why.” A self-organizing universe indicates that there is meaning and context in our world, that everything is interconnected and that everything we do has an impact on the whole. As we purify ourselves to tap into our “soul force”, we discover the part we have to play in the functioning of an organism much larger than ourselves.