“The art of a warrior is to balance the terror of being a man with the wonder of being a man.”
Carlos Castaneda

Journey to Ixtlan

Christoppher Alexander on Windows to the Ground


This (kind of?) makes up for my not excerpting sooner about centers … but without the previous, softer, experiental introduction, this may be harder to swallow ..anyways … here it is:

“I am going to start with the idea that the I exists physically, that there is some plenum, not part of the physical space and matter, as have modeled them in Cartesian science, but nevertheless there in fact, at every point of what we thing of as space and matter … This plenum is the ‘something’ which shall simply be called ‘I.’

however, I now add the idea that it really exists everywhere, it is single, underlying all things. It may exist in another dimension curled up in space, or it may exist in some other linkage we cannot yet imagine … It is not a metaphor. It lies behind, and inside matter and space, It is enveloped by them, and communicated with them, stands behind tem and beneath them. It is everywhere. Wherever matter is, this I is also there.

Now I am going to say that some kind of tunneling can occur, to connect physical structures in our familiar physical domain with the single I-stuff of the plenum

The most common example of this tunneling would be the one which occurs in the experience of I and self which each person has. In a human body, which is at least in part a structure of matter alone, the experience of I or ‘self’ arises. In spite of various sociological attempts at explanation, this everyday experience of our own selves is not yet understood in a satisfactory way by physics. But it would be relatively easy to understand if we postulate the plenum of I, universal and general, linked to matter, and it if were a fact that the matter in a body, once organized, is able to make direct connection with this I. we would then experience the bridge or tunnel to the I as our own self, not realizing that it is in fact merely one bridge, of a million similar bridges, between the matter n different beings and the I.  That is to say, in such a conception the I which one of us experiences as his own self is not a private and individual thing, as most of us imagine it to be …

Now I am going to say, much more generally, that every living center in the matter of the universe … starts this kind of tunneling towards the I-stuff. And the stronger the center is, the bigger the tunnel, the stronger the connection of the matter to the I

What is the structure of this domain? Could it, for example, ever be given a coherent mathematical description? The answer is that it could not, in principle, for a very simple and fundamental reason. Of necessity, those things which we describe as mathematical structures … are not truly one. They are … necessarily made of of various elements with relationship between them … But what is achieved in an actual thing when wholeness occurs? It is not some multiple phenomenon of interacting structures but actual unity … This actual unity cannot be described as structure. Yet it s this actual unity which is the source of life in the things we admire

I assert that this domain exists as a real thing; that it is parallel to the material world, but that it is inherently incapable of having structure because it is pure ‘one’. But it is occasionally visible … this pure ‘one,’which may be like a blazing furnace or intense light, is partially available to our inspection …

What [then] is a center? If you go with me… Each center, then, would be a window on the eternal blinding light of this domain … Any center which appears in space, to some extent, opens a window to the I. If the center is a weak center, the window is tiny. If the center becomes more powerful, the curtain is pulled back a little more. If the center is very powerful, and has life, the window is bigger, and the center allows is to experience the I or self, permanently.

… each center which is formed is in essence a window to the ground … When we are in contact with a living center, in some degree the center itself enables us to see through to the domain of I, to blazing unity itself …

Now, I would go on to say further that the life of a center is a phenomenon in which the center, like a window, makes contact with the plenum of absolute unity. At the same time, because this plenum of absolute unity has a personal and self-like character, the center itself – when it is living – seems personal and full o feeling according to the degree of life it has ..

I suggest that, so long as space/matter remains undifferentiated, the I which stands behind it remains incommunicado, not reachable, not connected with the matter. It becomes connected with matter – and visible to us – only as centers form … In this hypothesis, a center is, in the last analysis, any zone of matter which to some extent opens a window towards this I, and so allows us – however partially – to see the I directly …

The proposal I am making here … partially reunites us, part of the way, not all the way, towards a world of spirit …

The plenum model of the Ground – the idea that the I is actually real in the universe, not only in the mind – is harder to accept. But in the rare moments when I dare to consider it, it helps me, because it enlarges my understanding. It also nourishes my mind and stimulated my inspiration. In this view we see the same ground – but we now think of it as a great thing in the universe, far beyond ourselves, haunting, otherworldly, ultimate in its beauty and light. It is reached only when a great walk breaks through to it …

When I do my work in this conscious spirit, then all that living structure which is so hard to reach does become slightly more attainable, slightly easier. It then seems to be within reach, as as a practical matter, it can then sometimes be reached.”

Christopher Alexander – The Nature of Order – Book 4: The Luminous Ground


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