📙 The Nature of Order
Author: Christopher Alexander
Full Title: The Nature of Order
But something far more important was also happening. The piece of information unloosed the possibility of feelings which people had, but were not aware they had. Many people do not experience what they feel, because they are cut off from it. The deeper and more vulnerable feeling that arises in them as they approach the I, especially, may be unavailable to their experience.
They do not necessarily recognize it in themselves when it is happening, sometimes do not experience it at all. But, with an intellectual focus which places attention on the alcove Pattern, a person could become aware—in thinking about an alcove, or seeing one, or experiencing one in use—of the subtle feeling of this one kind, which wells up in those who are related to the existence of the alcove, and make them aware, too, of its non-existence, in a room where possibilities of intimacy are missing.
The effect, then, is an awareness of intimacy as a feature of space, and an awareness of the link that exists between this feeling and the physical geometry of the environment. Thus the person becomes conscious of a more rounded and deeper relation between the shape of the physical world, even the existence of the physical world, and the evolution of their own emotions and feelings during daily life.
The same state of mind, in which I ask myself if what I am making might be a suitable gift for God, leads to another state of mind.
Often, as I work on a thing, I am consciously aware of the ground, the second domain, the “realm beyond." While I work, I am consciously looking for a glimpse of this ground to reveal itself. I wait to catch it. I can see that what I have so far doesn't yet have that thing, and I wait for it, hoping that a little bit of it will shine through.
This is conscious and explicit. I can feel dimly what the ground is like, I have a continual awareness of what it is ... even though I don't know it in the particular case before me ... and I wait to try and move what I am doing in that direction.
I try to sense it. I allow my dim feeling of this ground, this heaven, to unfold in my mind's eye. I try to imagine what I would be looking at if I were looking into heaven, and then ask myself what that thing would be in this particular case.
The observations I have used to build a modified picture of space and matter are observations which are available to anyone. They are not, in themselves, very astonishing. Many of them were well known to traditional artisans and artists. But, precisely because the observational method of Descartes forbade us from seeing these observables, they have dropped out of awareness. It might be said (by an adherent of mechanistic thinking) that they must not be true, cannot be true, because if they were, something would be wrong with the machinelike representation of the universe. I, on the other hand, started with a different kind of observation. I knew, intuitively, that observation of the inner feeling in a work of building, and the fact that different works of art have more feeling or less feeling, is a real thing. I based my whole method of analysis on the observations that I got by following this method, and on the observables which this method exposes to view.
And since, within this method, there is no arbitrary prohibition against discovering a nonmechanical Nature in the structure of space, I was able to consider and discover such a Nature.
Thus the characteristics of the field of Centers which make it potentially profoundwhich make it the basis of great art and building - were available to my inspection, only because I used a method of observation that allowed me to check the feeling of a work as an objective matter.
Let us be clear that this method of observation, like the method of Descartes, still refers always to experience. It is empirical in nature. It dismisses fantasy. It seeks constantly to avoid speculation. In this sense it is experimental, like the method of Descartes. But where Descartes only allowed observation to focus on the outer reality of mechanisms in the world, my method requires that we focus on the inner reality of the observer's feeling of wholesomeness as well.
Thus the results I have reported are based on experience, they report experience, and they describe experience. The results are public. Of course the experience is experience of inner feeling, but the feelings still refer to experience which can be shared. I have shown that each one of us is capable of feeling the existence of wholeness, feeling the existence of value, and that we can use this capability, constantly, to keep on making distinctions and learning things.
In The Process of Creating Life, the second book of Alexander’s four-book series 📙 The Nature of Order, he writes that the importance of the methods he describes is “their capacity to create a living world which is rooted in human feeling, because that will create a world in touch with us, with our true nature, with our humanity.”
This is not a pastiche of pseudo-religious phrasing. In technical language, it is the structure-preserving or wholeness-extending transformations (described in 📙 The Nature of Order and capable of being precisely defined) which show us how to modify a given place in such a way as to give it more life, and when applied repeatedly, this kind of transformation is what brings life to the Earth, in any place.