What, then, is a center?
To a scientifically minded person this description cannot help but seem fanciful. To some it will seem absurd. Nevertheless, I have come to believe that it — or something like it — is a necessary feature of physical nature, and that without it we cannot hope to understand the real nature of art, or to understand what we are doing when we make a building. Although the picture is undoubtedly far-fetched, and may be wrong in its detail, I believe the general outlines of this picture are necessary to explain the facts coherently.
I also believe that this proposal helps us to make sense of nature — not only art — in a way which overcomes, once and for all, the dichotomy in our understanding of the nature of things, which we have experienced ever since the era of Descartes. That is because it asserts, essentially, that underlying all matter is this plenum or substance which is entirely “I”. The self is connected to all matter; all matter is connected to the self.
Behind matter, or within matter, there is the ground, or the domain of I. Each center, then, would be a window on the eternal blinding light of this domain. The nature of space and matter is linked to this eternal I in the following way. Any center which appears in space, to some extent opens a window to the I. If the center is a weak center, the window is tiny, the glimpse is tiny. If the center becomes more powerful, the curtain is pulled back a little more. If the center is very powerful, and has life, the window is bigger, and the center allows us to experience the I or self, permanently. A great work of art makes a permanent connection with the I. To the extent that it comes to life, it works as a window to the I, and reveals this I.
According to my thought — or, if you wish, according to my model — it is the nature of space and matter that they are linked to the I in this fashion. They reveal the I to the extent that any center which forms in space, does come to life. In the matter which hovers over the ground, and is anchored in it, in the fabric of matter/space, each center which is formed is in essence a window to the ground. If you prefer, you may imagine it as a camshaft, a structure of centers which has the ability to lift the veil, to lift, as it were, a small trap door like the cover on a flute is lifted off the hole, by the action of the levers. The recursive structure of centers, inherent in the field effect, lifts the trap door, and reveals the ground. When we are in contact with a living center, in some degree the center itself enables us to see through to the domain of I, to blazing unity itself.
Within this picture, space is a material whose most important feature is its capacity to form centers. As I have explained in Book 1, centers are formed by a geometric bootstrap structure in which each center makes other centers more alive. Now, I would go on to say further that the life of a center is a phenomenon in which the center, like a window, makes contact with the plenum of absolute unity. At the same time, because this plenum of absolute unity has a personal and a self-like character, the center itself — when it is living — seems personal and full of feeling according to the degree of life it has.
I suggest that, so long as space/matter remains undifferentiated, the I which stands behind it remains incommunicado, not reachable, not connected with the matter. It becomes connected with matter — and visible to us — only as centers form. The stronger a center forms, the more it becomes window-like, and the more it allows us to see the I. Every center, to some degree, is a window which communicates with this inner plenum of I, reveals it, opens it to view. In this hypothesis, a center is, in the last analysis, any zone of matter which to some extent opens a window towards this I, and so allows us — however partially — to see the I directly. In this view, the extent to which a center is a living center is dependent on the degree to which this window on the I is opened.