The fundamental process
During the last thirty years I have often asked myself how people in traditional societies were able to make things which had such life and embodied living centers to such a high degree. It is unlikely, I think, that they used such detailed structural formulations as I have given in Books 1 to 3. However, it also seems unlikely that they had no formulations at all to guide them. One needs something clear to hang onto while one is working. It is therefore almost certain, in my mind, that the people of ancient cultures had at least some kind of intellectual formulation to guide them — even if it was very different from what I have given.
Nevertheless, I do not believe that traditional craftspeople — in 14th-century Europe, for example — usually carried such explicit theories in their minds. They worked; they acted; they knew what they were doing.
How did they know what they were doing? I believe that, in some form, they used the fundamental process in virtually everything they did.
How did they carry this process in their minds, and keep it before them? What was their view of it, their formulation? Whatever it was, it must have been brief, simple, to the point. To be passed on from person to person, to have been present in every act, even when a mason was chipping a stone, it must have been easy to remember, and highly compressed.
I believe the following sentence expresses the kind of thing they might have carried, mentally, with them:
Whatever you make must be a being.
Stated at lightly greater length, it could be stated thus:
While you are making something you must always arrange things, or work things out, in such a way that all the elements you make are self-like beings, and the elements from which the elements are made are beings, and the spaces between these elements are beings, and the largest structures are beings, too. Thus your effort is directed toward the goal that everything, every portion of space, must be made a being.
If you follow this rule at all scales, in the large and in the small, whatever you are doing, you get the centers, you then get the density of centers, and you get life. The word “being”, used instead of the word “center”, catches the fact that every center which has life is a self-like thing, and conveys its animated, self-like character. And, because it is very easy to see how the life of each being depends on the life of the other beings, it also contains, in capsule form, the whole of the theoretical idea of the field of centers. It is this formulation of the fundamental process that first led me to consider that “being” is a rather good summary of synonym for “living center”.
The idea of a spirit which might reside in every stone or every speck of matter is a concept that would have been natural in the 14th century, almost anywhere in the world. It is less natural now, but with the idea of beings in mind it is easy to see how, in the mental context of the 14th century, this one sentence would have been capable of standing for very much of what I have said in these four books. I believe that a builder who makes everything a hierarchy of beings in that primitive religious sense, will, with no further instruction, succeed in making life in buildings.
Of course, what this sentence means is simply another way of saying what I have said throughout these four books. Only a deliberate process of creating being-like (and self-like) centers in buildings throughout the world will encourage the world to become more alive. By this I mean that the successful maker consciously moves towards those things which most deeply reflect or touch his own self, his inner feeling, and consciously moves away from those which do not. This does not merely create places which are pleasant, or liked, but this process creates places which are profoundly practical, harmonious, adequate for conduct of life, respectful of ecology and all living forms — even sometimes profound as works of art.
Careful construction of the world, according to the principle that every center is made as profoundly as possible as a being — hence to be related to the true I of the maker — will result in a world which is practical, harmonious, functional. If this is true, astonishingly then it appears that the safest road to the creation of living structure is one in which people do what is most nearly in their hearts: that they make each part in such a way that it reflects their true feeling, that it makes them feel wholesome in themselves, and is, in this sense, related in the deepest way to their own true I.
This is enigmatic. It means that a world constructed in the most personal and individual fashion, made by people who are searching deeply to follow the nature of their own true selves, will be — in the most public, objective, and universal sense — a world which is functional, adequate, and harmonious.
The enigma which arises, then, is that the process by which human beings create the world, in their own image, gradually creates a living world, and this is — I have come to believe — the best and most efficient way a living world can be created.
But, of course, the phrase “in their own image” requires that it be the true self, and the personal search for the true self cannot be separated from this process which each person strives for. This means, then, that the making of a living world cannot be separated from each person’s search for the true self.
This is the most basic formulation of the fundamental process that I know how to give.