A connection to the self
The core of what I want to say, is that I believe many traditional religions did, in their search for God, create the conditions for the perception and creation of buildings which were profoundly connected to the human self. They did this out of a search for ultimate truths in the universe. Indeed, I am suggesting that it is even possible they may have come much closer to discovering, or ganging access to, the actual nature of the universe, than we have allowed ourselves to think.
Yet the existence of this self — let us call it “a something” which lies in me and beyond me — is the basis of almost all human religion: certainly of all mystical religion. Time and again, in one discipline and another, it has been reaffirmed that a pure life can be led only under conditions where one recognizes, and lives, in connection to this eternal something — what some mystics also called “the ground” or “the void”. The fact that this something is nameless, without substance, without form — and yet is also intensely personal — is one of the great mysteries at the source of art.
In every case, the essential point concerns the existence of some realm, or some entity, variously referred to as the Void, the great Self, maha-Atman, God, the Friend, and the fact that human life approaches its clear meaning, when and only when, a person makes contact with this Void. The belief, widely expressed, is that as this connection occurs, the person becomes connected to all things, and at one and the same time more personal, more human, more transparent, and more peaceful.
So human beings have felt the existence of the Void, have contemplated it, have tried to define it, have sought union with it. And it has, for the reasons sketched above, also been the source of practical results in making living structure.
What I call the eternal self it yet another name for it. The use of the word “self” focuses concentration on the fact that this void does contain all that is in us: it gives primacy to the fact that this void is already in us: that it is a part of the human being which exists already, and is available to us. In this sense, no matter what its ultimate character may be in the universe, or as a substrate of the universe, it is something which appears in you and me, every day, and is there for the asking.
It is that which makes it powerful, which makes it useful. And this self — or “I” — is the core of every living center.