Across time and place, we are constantly finding new ways to describe the order we see in the universe and adjusting our worldviews and behaviors accordingly. This diversity of beliefs and ideas across cultures and religions turns the mysteries of the universe into something beautiful and exciting, rather than terrifying. Is there some fundamental order in the universe? Is there some higher power behind it all? Do we truly have free will if the universe is predetermined in this way? Or is all this perceived order something that exists primarily in our minds? What should our response be to this sense of order around us? These are the questions that all religions have grappled with.

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The Hebrew Bible
Jewish scripture

“And God said, ‘Let there be lights in the vault of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark sacred times, and days and years, and let them be lights in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth.’ And it was so. God made two great lights—the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night. He also made the stars. God set them in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth, to govern the day and the night, and to separate light from darkness. And God saw that it was good.”

Lao Tzu
Daoist sage

“All the world knows beauty
but if that becomes beautiful
this becomes ugly
all the world knows good
but if that becomes good
this becomes bad
have and have not create each other
hard and easy produce each other
long and short shape each other
high and low complete each other
note and noise accompany each other
first and last follow each other.”

The Qur'an
Islamic scripture

“Do they not see the sky above them––how We have built and adorned it, with no rifts in it; how We spread out the earth and put solid mountains on it, and caused every kind of joyous plant to grow in it, as a lesson and reminder for every servant who turns to God.”

Chuang Tzu
Daoist sage

“The cosmos gives me form, brings me to birth, guides me into old age and settles me in death. If I think my life good, then I must think my death good. A good craftsman, casting metal, would not be too pleased with metal that jumped up and said, “I must be made into a sword like Mo Yeh.” Now, given that I have been bold enough to take on human shape already, if I then said, “I must be a human, I must be a human!”, the Maker of All would view me somewhat askance! If Heaven and Earth are like a furnace and Nature is the craftsman, then is it possible he could send me anywhere that was not appropriate? Peacefully we die, calmly we awake.”

The Qur'an
Islamic scripture

“It is He who made the sun a shining radiance and the moon a light, determining phases for it so that you might know the number of years and how to calculate time. God did not create all these without a true purpose; He explains His signs to those who understand.”

Baha'i prophet

“Nature in its essence is the embodiment of My Name, the Maker, the Creator. Its manifestations are diversified by varying causes, and in this diversity there are signs for men of discernment. Nature is God’s Will and is its expression in and through the contingent world. It is a dispensation of Providence ordained by the Ordainer, the All-Wise. Were anyone to affirm that it is the Will of God as manifested in the world of being, no one should question this assertion."

Martin Buber
Austrian-Israeli Jewish philosopher

“There are moments of the secret ground in which world order is beheld as present. Then the tone is heard all of a sudden whose uninterpretable score the ordered world is. These moments are immortal; none are more evanescent. They leave no content that could be preserved, but their force enters into the creation and into man’s knowledge, and the radiation of its force penetrates the ordered world and thaws it again and again. Thus the history of the individual, thus the history of the race.”

Wendy Doniger
Indologist and historian of religions

“In the Rig Veda, the Hindu universe was an egg, the two halves of the eggshell forming heaven and earth, with the sun as the yolk in the middle; it was a sealed, perfectly enclosed space with a given amount of good and evil and a given number of souls.”

Sigmund Freud
Austrian psychologist
Science, Psychology, & Philosophy

“[Civilization] includes on the one hand all the knowledge and capacity that men have acquired in order to control the forces of nature and extract its wealth for the satisfaction of human needs, and, on the other hand, all the regulations necessary in order to adjust the relations of men to one another and especially the distribution of the available wealth.”

Gustav Meyrink
Austrian novelist
Art & Literature

“How loud, my friend, do you want life to shout its answers to you? It’s not necessary, of course, for you to know that Tarock, or Tarot, is the same as the Jewish word Tora, ‘the Law’[…]And just as the Juggler, the lowest trump, is the first card in the pack, so man is the first figure in his own picture book, his own double: the Hebrew character Aleph, which is formed after the shape of a man, with one hand pointing up at the sky and the other downwards, saying, therefore, ‘As it is above, so it is below; as it is below, so it is above.’”

Thomas Gilovich
Professor of psychology
Science, Psychology, & Philosophy

“We are predisposed to see order, pattern, and meaning in the world, and we find randomness, chaos, and meaninglessness unsatisfying. Human nature abhors a lack of predictability and the absence of meaning. As a consequence, we tend to “see” order where there is none, and we spot meaningful patterns where only the vagaries of chance are operating.”

Robert C. Fuller
Scholar of psychology and religion
Science, Psychology, & Philosophy

“Humans must create a world in which to live. They cannot simply conform to the physical environment as it is. Active, willful mastery of the environment is required of us if we are to build and order a world.”

Robert C. Fuller
Scholar of psychology and religion
Science, Psychology, & Philosophy

“Both mathematics and musicians create patterns. These patterns bring order out of chaos and bring otherwise disconnected entities into relationship[…]The most commonly cited example of how mathematics can unleash the emotion of wonder is the mystery surrounding the number Phi[…]What is so astonishing about this number is that it spontaneously appears in the most unexpected places. If we count the female bees in a beehive and divide that number by the total of male bees, we approach the number Phi. Or if we examine the ratio of successive spirals on a mollusk, we again arrive at Phi…Nor does it end there. Instances of Phi appear throughout the world in great works of architecture (e.g., the Great Pyramid) as well as great music compositions (e.g., Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony).”

The Bhagavad Gita
Hindu scripture

“Under my watchful eye the laws of nature take their course. Thus is the world set in motion; thus the animate and the inanimate are created.”

Martin Palmer

“Taoism is the search for the Tao, the Way of Nature which, if you could become part of it, would take you to the edge of reality and beyond.”

D.C. Lau

“In the first place wen signifies a beautiful pattern. For instance, the pattern of the stars is the wen of heaven, and the pattern of the skin of a tiger is its wen. Applied to man, it refers to the beautiful qualities he has acquired through education.”

Peter Singer
Science, Psychology, & Philosophy

“[Religion is] an audacious attempt to perceive the entire universe as a humanly significant system of order.”

The New Testament
Christian scripture

“For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.” (Romans 1:20)

William James
American psychologist and philosopher
Science, Psychology, & Philosophy

“[Religion is] the belief that there is an unseen order, and that our supreme good lies in harmoniously adjusting ourselves thereto”

Jonathan Sacks
British Orthodox Rabbi and author

“A creed that tells us that we are no more than selfish genes, with nothing in principle to separate us from the animals, in a society whose strongest motivators are money and success, in a universe that came into existence for no reason whatsoever and for no reason will one day cease to be, will never speak as strongly to the human spirit as one that tells us we are in the image and likeness of God in a universe he created in love.”