Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The Empirical Connection Between Good Architecture and Traditional Religion

This is why, from a practical point of view, there is a connection between building and religion. The connection is not historical. It is empirical, because the religious disciplines are just those which have taught people how, practically speaking, to lose themselves. Not only how to become not-separate but – far harder – how to become willing to become not-separate.

Because a great work cannot be made except by a person who has become willing to be not-separate, it follows that the great works of history are associated with religion. It has been that way simply because the great religions all taught an essential prerequisite for making work of oneness. Few other disciplines have done so.

Let me repeat the argument in slightly different terms. Not-separateness, like everything else we have discussed, is a physical attribute of order. It is something which is visible within any building that has life. But when we concentrate on the problem of creating it, it arises only from a certain state of mind. thus not-separateness simply means that a thing which is whole will be made, in the end, only by the genuine desire, on the part of the maker, not to be separate from the world. In other words, it is the state of mind in the maker, in the end, which produces the deepest forms of order – and these deepest forms cannot be produced except by this state of mind. It requires the definite intention to become one with the world.

This idea cannot be realized in a building without a change, a quietness, in the maker. It requires absolute removal of the individual ego, because what is created can no longer stand out and be separated from everything else, and therefore loses its personal identity. And yet, paradoxically, in the moment where this absolute identity and not-separateness is attained in a thing, and it truly becomes one with the things which surround it, it stands out shining with an extraordinary power which could never be reached under any other circumstances.

This is, perhaps, the central mystery of the universe: that as things become more unified, less separate, so also they become most individual, and most precious. – Christopher Alexander, The Luminous Ground, page 309

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