Alexander’s Magnum Opus

I finally finished book 4 (of 4) of Christopher Alexander’s 27-years-in-the-making Nature of Order series. After putting forth theories of structure, growth, and building in books 1, 2, and 3, book 4 leaves such immediately practical matters behind. (Not entirely unexpectedly, since the table of contents for all four books is printed in each) The book is titled “The Luminous Ground” – the underlying plenum of reality, the stuff that shines through, just a little, when living structure is created. You can call it god if you want; Alexander does and doesn’t; the main point he wants to make in that direction is that many of the greatest works of art were made in a religious context – as gifts to god. Ultimately, he spends more time talking about physics – the current criticism of the purely mechanistic worldview, and how these problems are resolved by integrating the “I” (aka luminous ground, aka god, aka etc.) In short, nothing nothing less than a change in our view of reality will suffice to heal the modern malease.

I tend towards what Alexander calls the psychological explanation: there is a perceivable value, and this value is fairly consistent between individuals, but this similarity has more to do with the fact that we are all humans than with the underlying nature of the universe. The best argument against this simplifying explanation is this: better results are achieved, in terms of approaching said ultimate value, when considering it ‘real’ as averse to not.

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