A physical basis for religious awe
In my mind, what is most important about the picture painted in these four books is that indeed, our present picture of the universe can not contain the idea of living structure, because it contains no natural way of including the idea of value in the idea of space. What I have constructed, on the other hand, has the idea of value in a natural way — first in the relative intensity of different elementary centers as part of the definition of wholeness, and then with more and more depth, as centers are built from living centers, to give structure of real, deep, significant value by essentially the same idea. In this picture, value resides in the structure and is part of the structure. Value is written in the same language as the rest of the structure of space-time, the life of the centers arises from the fabric and structure of space itself.
In this conception, value is not something merely grafted onto space, as a passenger might be who carries no weight and does no work. It is part of the same nearly mechanical picture of space that we have come to believe in, and respect, and trust. Yet, at the same time, in a most subtle way, it is also non-mechanical. After all, what we observe is life emerging from space, as we might say “out of the very foam of space”.
It is a structure, we can (tentatively) calculate with it, and it fits our structural understanding of space and matter. Yet it creates a bridge to life, feeling, and to our own experience of what it is to be a person: the self, which all of us contain, and are connected to.
That is the structural meaning of what I have described.
I claim that the field of centers, or some version of it, is a recursive structure in space, which does precisely serve the function of being the bridge between matter and consciousness, between matter an mind; and that it is, indeed, when these extraordinary living structures arise in space, that mind awakens, that space and matter open a window to the mind, and that the great self behind all things actually comes within our experience and our reach.
I believe that one day it will be possible to demonstrate an experimental connection, where it will be shown exactly how the field of centers does open a door between space and self, and how, ultimately then, self and matter are permanently intertwined through the construction of this mechanism.
A traditional scientific view, held by many during the 20th century, has been that mechanical pictures of matter, can be consistent with any spiritual view of God or consciousness because the two (matter and consciousness) inhabit non-communicating intellectual domains. Such a dichotomy may have been a source of comfort to positivists. But, scientifically speaking, it allows us to get no mileage from the co-presence of the two.
Indeed, I believe continued insistence on the compatibility of the two (“because they do not interact”) is almost tantamount to denying any real or useful interaction, and thus inhibits intellectual progress.
Even today, we continue underestimating the degree to which we are prisoners of the present mechanistic cosmology; we have a strong tendency to underestimate the effect that this interior mechanistic view can have on us.
Ideas about the personal or spiritual nature of reality, no matter how desirable they seem, cannot affect you deeply, even if you think they do, until they can be embodied in some new picture which leaves the facts of physics intact, and also paves the way to a more spiritual understanding of the world by an extended structure which brings in these larger matters clearly and explicitly.
The whole point of the concept which I have described — of wholeness seen as a calculable, recursive, bootstrap field of centers with the consequences that follow from this view — is that within the framework this concept creates, things really are different, and the differences are visible as new aspects of the structure of space and matter. This newly seen structure not only says that things are different. It shows, through the properties of the structure, exactly how things are different.
Within the new view of the structure of matter-space provided by the field of centers, we can reconcile the fact of being a mechanism of whirling mechanisms, because we know that each atom is itself a field of centers, and that in the emergence of these fields, the self comes into view. We… you… I… are thus instances of the field of centers or — if we like to see it more deeply — instances of the self-stuff of the universe, making its way, cumbersomely, from the trap of matter to the light of day.
Armed with this view, we can unite our personal intuition of religious awe with our sensible scientific understanding of the world. It becomes all one, it all makes sense together. Life and religion fall into place and fit together with physics as necessary consequences of the structure of the world — that is, of the way that matter-space is made.
And in this view, the work of building takes on entirely new meaning. It changes in a fundamental way, because we understand what we are doing differently, and realize that our work as builders can — through the forms described in this book — place us in an entirely new relation to the universe.
In this universe, the human self, yours and mine, are indistinguishable, in their substance, from the space and matter where the play of forms occurs. When we make something, its selfness, its possible soul, is part and parcel of our own self.
There is, then, something very like a religious obligation to allow this self to reveal itself. It is our task, as architects, as artists, as builders, to make this stuff, this matter of the universe, reveal itself most fully. This metaphysical obligation will stem directly from our renewed understanding of the substance of the universe. It does not arise merely from our desire to be comfortable, from our desire to avoid alienation. It arises as a supreme spiritual obligation, which is our obligation to the matter/spirit we ourselves are made of.
This feeling, though modern in its form, in its essence, similar to the medieval mason’s desire to make each stone as a gift to God.
But it arises, now, not as a religious or superstitious belief, but as a result of a new understanding of the structure of the universe.