The Nature of Order

Summary of Book Four:


The foundations of modern scientific thought, four centuries old, are firmly rooted in a conception that the universe is a machinelike entity, a play of baubles, machines, trinkets. To this day, our real daily experience of ourselves has no clear place in science. It is little wonder that a machinelike world-view has supported the deadly architecture of the last century.

This mechanistic thinking and the consequent investment-oriented tracts of houses, condominiums and offices have dehumanized our cities and our lives. How are spirit, soul, emotion, feeling to be introduced into a building, or a street, or a development project, in modern times?

The Luminous Ground, the fourth book of The Nature of Order, contains what is, perhaps, the deepest revelation in the four-volume work. Alexander addresses the cosmological implications of the theory he has presented. The book begins with a critique of current cosmological thinking, and its separation from personal feeling and value. The outline of a theory in which matter itself is more spirit-like, more personal in character, is sketched. Here is a geometrical view of space and matter seamlessly connected to our own private, personal, experience as sentient and knowing creatures. This is not merely an emotional appendix to the scientific theory of the other books. It is at the core of the entire work, and is rooted in the fact that our two sides - our analytical thinking selves, and our vulnerable emotional personalities as human beings - are coterminous, and must be harnessed at one and the same time, if we are ever to really make sense of what is around us, and be able to create a living world.

Alexander breaks away completely from the one-sided mechanical model of buildings or neighborhoods as mere assemblages of technically generated, interchangeable parts. He shows us conclusively that a spiritual, emotional, and personal basis must underlie every act of building or making. And then, in the middle of the book, comes the linchpin of the work - a one-hundred-page chapter on color, which dramatically conveys the way that consciousness and spirit are manifested in the world.

This is a new cosmology: consciousness inextricably joined to the substrate of matter, present in all matter. This view, though radical, conforms to our most ordinary, daily intuitions. It may provide a path for those contemporary scientists who are beginning to see consciousness as the underpinning of all matter, and thus as a proper object of scientific study. And it will change, forever, our conception of what buildings are.


"As we attempt to repair the distortion in the western worldview that disconnects spirit and matter, we find inspiration, encouragement and practical guidance in the visionary work of Christopher Alexander. He is a giant among our generation."
       Miriam MacGillis, O.P., Dominican Sister, Founder & Director of Genesis Farm, New Jersey

"His mission is to overcome the split between inner and outer, subjective and objective, feeling and reason, humanity and nature, value and fact. Nothing less is required for the renewal of our culture, and Alexander makes a substantial contribution to this process."
       David Lorimer, Program Director, Scientific and Medical Network, Scotland


Book 1:
The Phenomenon of Life

Book 3:
A Vision of a Living World

Book 2:
The Process of Creating Life

Book 4:
The Luminous Ground

About Christopher Alexander

Buy the books

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