Excerpts from Christopher Alexander, The Nature of Order, Vol. 4, “The Luminous Ground”
“Somehow – whether it be in color, or in a harmonious garden, or in a room whose light and mood are just right, or in the awesome wall of a great building which allows us to walk near it – some placid, piercing unity occurs, sharp and soft, embracing, tying all things together, wrapping us up in it, allowing us to feel our own unity. What, physically, is this unity which seems to speak to us of I?
“When I look at a thing which has a living quality, sometimes I am aware of it, almost as if it is faintly glowing. I am aware of something like light – not actual light itself, but something softer, something very like it – in the thing. The more it is alive, the more it seems faintly to shine.
“In my later years, as I have encountered this sensation more and more concretely, and with more and more certainty, it seems to me, that I am seeing God, the glowing of all things, shining out from that old brick wall, or from that bush, or from that face, or from the flowers in a vase.
“It is the same life, already described so many times. But in the end, this is what I am left with, the sensation that somehow, in this living thing, there is something faintly luminous, there is something streaming from it, something visible, and something real.
“It has been said that God is immanent, that all matter is imbued with God, that God is the ultimate material of the Universe. And that may be so. But if so, why is it that this shining forth of God is visible more in some things than others; why is God visible more in some events, and less in others. What causes the life in things; what causes God to be more visible in one thing, more visible in one moment, less visible in another?
“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, but nevertheless there in fact, at every point of what we think of as space and matter… [According to this I-hypothesis], we postulate that there is, in the universe, and underlying all matter, a single plenum or Ground. Above all, it is single, and it is personal. 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. I am viewing this plenum as being perfectly connected to all the physical reality that we know about, like a deeper reality which shadows and underlies the first. For the time being I shall say that this plenum is either “I” or “Self,” a huge, single Self, underlying all the matter in the universe.
“[This Self] is not a metaphor. It lies behind, and inside matter and space. It is enveloped by them, and communicates with them, stands behind them 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. I use the word “tunneling” in the sense that modern physics uses it, to mean a direct connection between two regions which are in different dimensions. I am asserting that some connection can occur between the physical structure of the everyday world of matter and the underlying I.
“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 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 if it 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 in 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, but a partial connection of our own physical matter (my body) to this very great, and single, plenum of I-stuff.
“Now I am going to say, much more generally, that every living center in the matter of the universe – even the smallest center which is induced in space – starts this kind of tunneling towards the I-stuff. And, the stronger the center is, the bigger the tunnel, the stronger the connection of matter to the I. That means, that every beautiful object, to the extent it has the structure which I have described, also begins to open the door towards the I-stuff or the self.”posted by Justin Vood Good @ 2:27 PM