We will only see God in the world around us if the quality of the architecture is right—an almost unattainable condition in today’s world. Why is it almost impossible? Because in an epoch when God was not acknowledged, it became virtually impossible for people to build the kinds of buildings where God appears. The whole purpose of the work I have done is to show that the presence of God in a matter-configuration is an objectively existing condition, and that there are specific paths and methods and habits of thought through which we may create buildings where the presence of God can be seen and felt.
The two go hand in hand.
We cannot make an architecture of life if it is not made to reflect God—an objective condition. And, by a surprising twist, the search for a true architecture, that is to say, a real architecture that works, and in which this feeling of rightness is present in every bone, in an irreligious era has the unique power to bring back the reality of God to center stage in our concerns.
My work has proven this to me: There is available to us a form of transformation that, each time it is applied, extends and enhances the wholeness of the land, whether rural or urban. The act of transformation also puts us in touch with ourselves by making the land of the Earth become more and more deeply connected to our selves. An environment, when made in this way, may even be regarded as a vision of our inner selves.
The best state for the land—our best actions on the land, in the land, and in the buildings—will come from our awareness of its wholeness and from our awareness of its connection with our own selves—that is to say, with God, the substrate of the universe that is the origin of who and what we are.
As I have said, grasping the wholeness, awakening our ability to see it and to adhere to it—these are all profound and often difficult. In order to understand these operations from a practical and mathematical point of view, we need to be guided by an inner voice, and I believe that voice is tantamount to a vision of God. Thus, although it is formless and shapeless, nevertheless it is this vision of God that draws us on.
That new vision can become a new source of inspiration and motivation. I call it new not because it is at root genuinely new. Of course it is not—it is ancient. But it is entirely new in our era to take such a thing with full seriousness, and to be able to derive from it well-fashioned, scientifically endowed conceptions of what is needed to heal a given place. It will not be governed by money or profit; it will not be governed by social politics; it will be governed simply by the desire and firm intention to make beauty (which is to say, true life) around us.
Perhaps that sounds as though it is not solid enough for sober and enlightened action. Quite the opposite is true. The vision of God we hold in our inner eye, which we draw from the hills and mountains, from the cities, towers, and bridges, from the great oak trees, and the small and tender arbors, from the stones and tiles that have been carefully laid, it is that which is God, and which we encounter as we try to find a vision of God in the world. It guides us, as if with a certain hand, towards a future which is yet more beautiful.
The capacity to make each brick, each path, each baluster, each windowsill a reflection of God lies in the heart of every man and every woman. It is stark in its simplicity. A world so shaped will lead us back to a sense of right and wrong and a feeling of well-being. This vision of the world—a real, solid physical world—will restore a vision of God. Future generations will be grateful to us if we do this work properly.
Taking architecture seriously leads us to the proper treatment of tiny details, to an understanding of the unfolding whole, and to an understanding—mystical in part—of the entity that underpins that wholeness. The path of architecture thus leads inexorably towards a renewed understanding of God. This is an understanding true within the canon of every religion, not connected with any one religion in particular, something which therefore moves us beyond the secularism and strife that has torn the world for more than a thousand years.
Christopher Alexander is Emeritus Professor of Architecture at the University of California, Berkeley, and the author of A Pattern Language, The Nature of Order, and The Battle for the Life and Beauty of the Earth.
by Christopher Alexander