Ign Should Follow a Sacred Ecology

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In his essay on "Form, Substance and Difference," Gregory Bateson :-.:. The individual mind is immanent but not only in the body. It is im-rnt also in pathways and messages outside the body; and there is a ;r Mind of which the individual mind is only a sub-system. This larger r. is comparable to God and is perhaps what some people mean by God, : is still immanent in the total interconnected social systems and plan-ecology.'" This undifferentiated interconnectedness of the human and ..ral worlds in an unknowable "metapattern which connects" is what we r come to think of as sacred ecology. It is the foundation and the sum-.on of all the preceding precepts of design. At the Solar Village Confer ence Keith Critchlow had reminded us: "The necessity of the sacred titude is one of remembering-remembering the larger context of o existence, one's duties to one's environment and to the invisible princi that regenerate life constantly." The Native American leader Philip De of the Muscokee tribe added: "You cannot destroy our kind without stroying nature and you cannot destroy nature without destroying Creator." Philip Deere and his people treasure the past and present in t' active manner that Keith Critchlow and the poet Annie Dillard imply. Th incorporate the sacred into a living context as do many other tradition cultures whose ways have become peripheral to the dominant thrust global events. At the Solar Village Conference the Chinese American architect Paul Sun described the world view of Feng-Shui, traces of which can still be found in modern China. Feng-Shui had its beginnings in celestial observation and profound spiritual reflection. The system translated into daily life and practice. Feng-Shui, literally, "Winds and Water," is also known by the more poetic name of Kanyu, "The canopy of heaven and the chariot of earth." It is the art of cooperating and harmonizing with nature so that a balanced life will result for the inhabitants and their descendents in a given dwelling. Feng-Shui determines where houses and other structures should be sited, as well as gardens and fields, in relation to land forms and the presence and movement of wind and water. The superstition that cloaked the ecologically sound pragmatism of Feng-Shui behind lurking threats for evil or inauspicious acts, gave it authority over uneducated farmers and villagers who might have abused the land.

Like modern solar and earth sheltered architecture and the underground designs of Malcolm Wells, Feng-Shui recommended that, when possible, a house should face a southerly direction with its back to a large hill. Like Druidic tradition, Feng-Shui specified planting, growing and harvest instructions. It would advocate, for example, that plum and date trees be planted to the south for sun, apricots to the north as they prefer cool shade, willows to the east where they create leafy shadows, and pines to the west for shade from the slanting rays of the sinking sun. Embracing the profundity of Taoist wisdom, Feng-Shui was yet totally accessible for guidance in humble matters. It was a world view that informed, directed, and gave meaning on a daily level to a stable culture.

In ancient times and from time to time since, a larger construct, one that reflected a larger reality, has held sway in the minds of cultures everywhere. The universe was the source of understanding for life and perceived as mysterious, relevant, and alive. The stars were thought to be the origin f gods.From generations over millennia who traced their courses, the sci-:ices of astronomy, numbers, and music developed. The patterns of celes-al movement were seen to be closely connected to human and universal estiny. They provided for a world view, and gave a framework in which the niverse was comprehensible. Humanity had a clear place within this de-inv. Almost everywhere on the planet there can still be found reminders ; other ancient cultures that saw the sacred as the focus for their lives. We .ive been reluctant to acknowledge the superb intelligence of these ancient copies. Their structures—Stonehenge, Glastonbury, the Pyramids, .¿huanaco, Machu Picchu, and countless other less monumental or less e 11-preserved remnants describe what could only have been high cul-:: es. With all our complex structures, we have built little that will have • aver as compelling in as many thousands of years again. Our unquestion-acceptance of the concept of technological progress has blinded us to of the wisdom of the past. It seems as though we have lost a subtle : c-r of what our Wampanoag friend called our instructions—or do not . '< >se to remember them. Yet as our world view slowly begins to change to >r porate the new paradigm indicated by recent discoveries of science, .-.rticularly physics and biology, a continuum is becoming apparent that s it increasingly plausible to forge links between an ecologically based smology and a sense of the sacred.

A concrete embodiment of this understanding is finding expression :he Chapel at Lindisfarne in Crestone, Colorado. Also called the Grail, it ' msecration of William Irwin Thompson's vision of a new harmony be-- r n nature and culture. Dr. Thompson has said, "It is not enough to raise -ciousness. One must lower the spirit into the earth to embody a change : :ngs as basic as food, shelter, and livelihood."2 Originating in an idea of Thompson's and designed by Keith Critchlow working with Rachel her and Robert Lawlor, the Grail has neither decoration nor iconog--: :r-. Its design is based on principles of sacred geometry which lie above . behind all temples from Islamic mosques, to Shinto shrines, to Gothic _ edrals. The intent, in the words of Keith Critchlow, is to bring to con-.-ness "the mnemonic or awakening quality that number and spatial : . als can have, to help us remember the underlying structure of the i and our relationship to it.":1 The Grail embodies a universal spiritual-It attests to and honors the highest insights of all religions. Dr. ".ipson and the associates of Lindisfarne intend it as a crucible of the ualitv of the new planetary culture, in which everyday life, not technical progress, wealth or materialism, is again understood as sacred.

Paolo Soleri's Acrosanti is not surpassed by any other community regard to a vision playing out the commitment to a sacred ecology. Ba on a profoundly religious interpretation of human destiny as participato in the spiritualization of matter, Dr. Soleri's work has been to found a c that will move humanity toward the Divine. He has written that, "The vine is practically all in the future and we, life, are responsible for its cr tion. The divine simulation is, or ought to be, our blueprint for creation."4

The city that is the manifestation of his vision is located seven' miles from Phoenix, near the town of Scottsdale, in the high desert coun of Arizona. Newsweek magazine has called Arcosanti, "a mystical vision concrete... probably the most important experiment undertaken in o lifetime."5 To accomodate an intended high population density, the city * designed to be compact and three dimensional. The main structures ^ concrete, steel, and glass are built close to the edge of a mesa, leaving the flat land free for cultivation. The structures themselves look like, sculptures, but they function like orthodox buildings. The city will eventually be self-sufficient in both energy and food. In its planning Dr. Soleri has united concepts of architecture and ecology into a concept he has termed arcology, which utilizes a number of physical and biological phenomena. Cars are not needed in Arcosanti, because it is a compact community. Efficient use of land will leave ninety percent of the land available for farming and wilderness. Industrial pollution is recycled and little is wasted. Acrosanti is a small controlled model, but the principles it is based on could be transplanted to more complex systems. Soleri believes, however, that the smallness of urban scale is one factor in creating livable communities.

Central to Dr. Soleri's principle of design is his theory of the urban effect, a socializing principal he notes exists first on a particle level. At a certain point two or more particles of physical matter begin to interact in ways other than statistical and fatal. Matter moves from behavior governed by the laws of physics into behavior which is organic or living; behavior becomes instinctive, self-conscious, mental, cultural, and spiritual. Soleri sees this urban effect as the natural enactment of human evolution, for which the intensity of urban life-as opposed to socially-isolated sparse rural settlement—is necessary. In his book The Omega Seed, Dr. Soleri describes the urban effect as, "the progressive interiorization, urbanization, of the mass-energy universe, initially deploying itself in space-time and eventually recollecting itself, through the transfigurative process of evolution, into spirit."6

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Cathedral Bioshelter: St. John the Divine, New York City

Almost a continent away from Arcosanti in New York City, The Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine, the largest Gothic structure in the world, has enfolded ecology into its expansive program. The Cathedral is rivaled in size and splendor only by breadth of the mission that has been forged for it by a succession of farsighted men. Under the present leadership of the Right Reverend Paul Moore, Bishop of New York, and the Very

Window Elements: Natural Shading, Glazing, Enameled Steel and Cast Iron

Reverend James Paul Morton, the Dean of the Cathedral, St. John the Divine is pursuing a course that honors the tradition inherent to its history and its architecture. In its time, the medieval cathedral was the center of its community, administering to all aspects of human life. Quoting Dean Morton, "Education, healing, the guilds, the arts, the market were all tied to the

Emerging Precepts of Biological Design

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•rral. It was the symbol of the perfection of urban life."7 Accordingly,

* hn the Divine the arts, crafts, world peace, socialjustice, and ecolog--cerns are all part of the fabric of Cathedral life.

The Cathedral has in residence its own drama, dance, and music and is, in addition, frequent host to performances by innumerable ■ croups, from the internationally known to the dedicated amateur. *t people use the church as much more than space-they are r: :o make a contribution to a community integrating the sacred and

The medieval past is honored at the Cathedral, and so is the dawn r ><->lar age. We have proposed that the Cathedral be solar heated, as of heating it is growing rapidly. Our idea is to replace the copper r ing on the southern face of the existing six-hundred foot long roof i.ass. Such a roof top greenhouse is to trap warm air which would be down into the subterranean vaults of the Cathedral for later use in

- j. Our plan also calls for the interior of the roof area to be used for propagation of fruit, nut, and ornamental trees, which could be

- \ millions to help reforest New York.

The architect David Sellers grafted our ideas onto a new architec-:' >nn for the Cathedral. He has proposed that the south transept, r. « as never built, be redesigned as a Gothic bioshelter. It is named the Dubos bioshelter, honoring a man who fused Christian tradition and ■¿ical thought. David Sellers designed the southern transept with a r: roof through which solar heat is ducted to heat the nave. Sellers' de-place solar hot water collectors on the existing south roof to heat r :o be stored in a vast chamber under the crossing. In this way summer raid be used for winter heating. The bioshelter design expresses a re-ving relationship between Christianity and ecology. The chapel con-garden comprised of an ecosystem specifically adapted to the edral's space and climate.

As the stones are being cut for these towers, under construction alter a fifty-year lull, St. John the Divine grows daily closer to its own

• >t a Cathedral. It will be a statement in stone embracing past and e. serving the people of the Diocese of New York and of the world.

In creating sacred structures or communities which embrace iical principles, projects like the Grail, Arcosanti, and St. John the Di-are affirming an emerging cosmology evocative of the intuitions of :Cs and ancient peoples. So vast a vision may seem far removed from considerations of biological design and solar architecture, from growing food or recycling waste, but it is this vision that informs our work. Working within the framework of a sacred ecology, often at the most pragmatic levels, to implement the changes that would foster a gentler world, we may find that we are beginning, as J. B. Priestley said in Literature and Western Man, "To think and feel and behave as if our society were already beginning to be contained by religion-as if we were finding our way home again in the universe."8

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Getting Started With Solar

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Do we really want the one thing that gives us its resources unconditionally to suffer even more than it is suffering now? Nature, is a part of our being from the earliest human days. We respect Nature and it gives us its bounty, but in the recent past greedy money hungry corporations have made us all so destructive, so wasteful.

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