“To die with elation is a crappy way of dying… A warrior dies the hard way. His death must struggle to take him. A warrior does not give himself to it.”
Carlos Castaneda

Tales of Power

Christopher Alexander on Schrödinger’s Yellow


“Schrödinger, the physicist who discovered the matter-wave equation of quantum mechanics, has a great deal to teach us about color and its real existence. He outlines [in his short book Mind and Matter] the following argument.

‘You and I, both see yellow. But according to the prevailing view of science, there is no way of knowing whether the interior experience you have when you see yellow is the same as the interior experience I have when I see yellow. Of course, we know that we shall both say the word yellow when we look at a buttercup, or at light of 5,00 angstroms. But this says nothing about the inner experience we have.’

Schrödinger goes on to say, that although this point of view is logically consistent, it seems intuitively absurd. Intuitively it seems to him that the inner experience of yellow, its yellowness, is something real. He guesses that we all experience it in the same way – in short, that ‘your’ yellowness and ‘my’ yellowness are one and the same thing, not two different things … If it is indeed true – as many people probably believe intuitively … then this would imply that there is some domain where this yellowness actually exists. Where is it?

After thinking carefully about this problem, Schrödinger says that he has been able to find no other possible way of explaining this except to say that there is, in the world, only one single mind where the yellow occurs, and that our individual minds are all part of this one mind, and somehow all have access to it. This would explain why we all have the conviction that the yellowness we see is not private, but objectively real and shared.

… Schrödinger talks about color sensation in general without reference to good or bad, shallow or profound. He says, in essence, that when we see color, we experience some domain beyond the immediately material one.

.. I extrapolate from Schrödinger’s argument, go beyond it, and reach my own conclusion. I suggest that inner light, which is revealed, seen, when very great color occurs … allows us to experience the great self, in greater degree or in lesser degree, and that our experience of inner light is the experience of the great self directly and openly seen, openly experienced.”

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


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