The Nature of Order: The Luminous Ground (Book 4)


  1. Quantum mechanics would not have been of more than academic interest to a few university professors if it were not for its immense field of practical applications, such as in electronics. Here, too, in the sphere of building, we have a practical aim. We wish to create living structure in the build world; we wish to apply this model of the universe in order to reproduce the phenomena that we are interested in.

Key Takeaways

  1. The “I” is that which connects all of us. It may occur in a leaf or in a picture, in a house, in a wave, even in a grain of sand, or in an ornament. It is not ego. It is not me. It is not individual at all, having to do with me, or you. It is humble and enormous; that thing in common which each of us has in us. It is the spirit which animates each living center. When I am building, I am searching for the “I” – the myself, lying within all things. It is that shining something which draws me on, which I feel in the bones of the world, which comes out of the earth and makes our existence luminous …I can feel it, nearly always, almost before I start. Or, rather, I do not usually let myself start until I can feel this thing.
    1. The life in a structure can be measured by the extent that it awakens this connection to the personal
  2. My hypothesis is that all value depends on a structure in which each center, the life of each center, approaches this simple, forgotten, remembered, unremembered “I”…that in the living work each center, in some degree, is a connection to this “I”, or self…that the living steel and concrete bridge is one in which each part is connected to this self, awakens it in us…that the living song is one in which each phrase, each note, is connected to this self, awakens it in us, reminds us of ourselves…I believe that the ultimate effort of all serious art is to make things which connect with this I of every person. This “I” , not normally available, is dredged up, forced to the light, forced into the light of the day, by the work of art…Effectively, what all this amounts to is that in the process of making things through living process, gradually I approach more and more closely knowledge of what is truly in my own heart…I learned to value only that which truly activates what is in my heart. I came to value those experiences which truly activates what is in my heart. I came to value those experiences which activate my heart as it really is. I sought, more and more, only those experiences which have the capacity, the depth, to activate the feeling that is my real feeling, in my true childish heart. And I learned, slowly, to make things which are of that nature
  3. Gradually, I began to recognize that in the midst of that cleverness, which I never truly understood anyway, the one thing I could trust was a small voice, a tiny soft-and-hard vulnerable feeling, recognizable, which was something I actually knew. Slowly that knowledge grew in me. It was the stuff which I was actually certain of – not because it aped what others had taught me, but because I knew it to be true of itself, in me
  4. Flaw of a mechanical world view is that it does not and cannot take into account our inner, subjective lives. Matter and mechanisms compared to actual experience. This is what Whitehead calls the bifurcation of nature and I believe we can again weave them together into a united, single picture
  5. One of the key questions I’m seeking to answer is “What is the life that we discern in these things?” The buildings that have life create relatedness between the person and the universe. This relatedness is primary, inherent and not there because of you. Centers are ‘beings’ – having life and related to you – becoming “I-like”. With practice, you can discern the things that have more life – those that are genuinely related to your self – and those which are less so typically found in innocence, playfulness, openness, coupled with iteration and unfolding
  6. 4 Propositions
    1. Each center is a focused zone of space which may be characterized by saying that, to some degree, space in that zone itself comes to life. Life is an attribute of space itself and increases in some measure according to the organization of the space. The degree of life of any given portion of space, thus appears like a color, or like an overall attribute – a quality which appears in the space itself, along with the structural organization that also signals its appearance
    2. To the degree a c enter is a living center, it is also a picture of the true self, and – very startlingly – has this character for all people, not just for any individual
    3. The structure-preserving transformations which continually modify one wholeness in space and replace it by another that preserves the structure of the first, slowly cause space to be filled with unfolded I-like centers
    4. Only a deliberate process of creating being-like (or self-like) centers in built structure throughout the world, encourages the world to become more alive
  7. The more life something has, the more it seems to internally glow
  8. The self exists ‘underneath’ all things and the greater the connection to this, the brighter a thing shines, the more life it has. It is luminous, connected directly to wholeness, to heaven, to “I”, to unity
  9. Color Properties
    1. Hierarchy of colors
    2. Colors create light together
    3. Contrast of dark and light
    4. Mutual embedding
    5. Boundaries and hairlines
    6. Sequence of linked color pairs
    7. Families of color
    8. Color variation
    9. Intensity and clarity of individual color
    10. Subdued brilliance
    11. Color depends on geometry
  10. A thing does not get its unity from being beautiful. The unity comes from the fact that the various centers are harmoniously connected, and that every center helps every other center. That is the great thing and it is this which causes real unity to exist. But above all, it comes from the fact that in the thing, throughout the thing, we see the I in every part, at every scale. We see only one I, the same I, shining out from every part.
  11. Making wholeness heals the maker – When you make a beautiful thing, the depth of the person within becomes more vivid, lives more intensely for a moment. In each of us, a person is existing or waiting to exist. This person – the most free version of that person – does exist, occasionally, for brief glimpses. When one of us becomes free, this latent person inside comes to the light of day, exists then for a few moments, more vividly, more intensely. People are deeply nourished by the process of creating wholeness because there is a direct connection between the living structure of the world and the achieved person-ness we experience in ourselves…Here we come to the core connection between the field of centers – the phenomenon of life in the physical world – and the process of human growth, self-knowledge, insight, and human discovery of the true self which resides in every person. They are profoundly linked. It means that at root, the process by which a person comes in touch with wholeness – as it is in the world and as it is in the world around them, and as it is inside themselves – the more, then, that person actually discovers the meaning of their own existence, sees himself accurately in relation to phenomena, and the more  that person becomes aware of the real structure which exists inside him and which links him to the universe.
  12. In order to create living structure, we need to please ourselves. And you need only please yourself. But you must please yourself truly. And to do that you must first discover your own true self, come close enough to it, and to listen to it, so that I can be pleased. It all comes down to self-awareness and authenticity
  13. The best things are always childlike, vulnerable. I move towards the vulnerable by asking what I would really like, if I were doing it for myself and only myself. Therefore, the fundamental question we have to ask as we produce order is: does it create feeling in me, does it make me feel more whole within myself, when I confront it? This childish level of awareness is not normally available to us. Indeed, paradoxically, it is only the awareness of order which can allow us to release ourselves enough to even get this level of awareness…What I have described in these 4 books is the structural part of what you need in order to reach this human childlike part of yourself. It works because living structure – what I call the field of centers – really is a mirror of the human heart. It is only knowledge of this structure, and the practice of making it, which gives you a key to unlock your own heart
  14. What pleasing yourself truly IS, is the process in which we create living structure…Creating living structure is to be attained, in the end, by the greatest and most sublime process which can happen: that each person lives, works, exists, in such a fashion that they truly please themselves
  15. It is worth really contemplating this fact. For when you finally realize that these two things, 1) pleasing yourself and 2) doing what is right is one and the same, you will not only feel free to do them, but you will also have reached a deeper level in your understanding. At that stage, you will finally understand how the oneness of some system in the universe is not only an abstract thing outside your own self but that it is also finally and truly personal, the most personal thing there is. All that I have written in these four books leads, in the end, to the core of what is most vulnerable, most personal in us.
  16. This brings me, then, to a last aspect of the process which produces life in things, a necessary state of mind. The core of this necessary state of mind is that you make each building in a way which is a gift to God. It belongs to God. It does not belong to you. It is made to serve God, to glorify God. It is not made to glorify you. Perhaps, if anything, it humbles you. Of course, I do not say this with any intention to suggest that this state of mind is specifically Christian…The essence of this state of mind is that the building must not shout. Emotionally, it must be completely quiet…The reason why I must try and make the building as a gift to God is that this state of mind is the only one which reliably keeps me concentrated on what is, and keeps me away from my own vainglorious and foolish thoughts
  17. The more any portion of space is unified, the more inseparable it becomes from all the rest. So, in the end, the intricacy and richness of a beautiful thing does not arise from the desire to make something rich or intricate, it only arises from the particular desire to make it perfectly one in itself, and with the world. It is perhaps surprising, but necessary to recognize, that I cannot make a thing which has this not-separateness, unless I honestly want it. That means I must give up my wish to draw attention to myself. I must honestly want the thing which I am making to become part of the greater world, inseparable from it. In order to see, or feel, or listen for the glimmers of the I, it is necessary to be in a very definite state of mind. I have to want to be not-separate…It requires definite intention to become one with the world
  18. 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

What I got out of it

  1. A beautiful, thought provoking ending to what was a life changing series for me