Arch. Myriam B. Mahiques Curriculum Vitae

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Architecture, Urbanism and ¨Cosmovision¨

It was Geoffrey Chew who introduced the term Bootstrap in 1968; from a philosophical perspective, Geoffrey's vision included a strong relational cosmology which included consciousness as a fundamental part of the universal bootstrap. Fritjof Capra's The Tao of Physics (1975) made liberal use of this idea to support a Zen based model of physics. In his book, Capra makes a particular contribution on the parallelism between Physics and mysticism, bringing the science to a more popular approach; what has become the belief of the New Age movement. Capra’s claim is that Oriental misticism provides a consistent and relevant philosophical background to the theories of contemporary science, though the parallels strictly apply to the verbal formulations. In this theory, it is implicit the criticism of current non-holistic (reduccionist) assumptions about the nature of reality. (W. Hanegraaff) What is important, indeed, is that higher understanding can be built on deeper roots with a holistic framework; a possibility that cannot be considered in Western scientific paradigm because its presuppositions are directly refuted by the evidence of advanced physics (W. Hanegraaff). Resuming, Oriental philosophical points of view make sense of science, but do not explain it. Professor Geoffrey Chew’s theory of Bootstrap, states that there are no fundamental entities (laws, particles, fields, principles, equations) in nature, which in turn cannot be reduced to its fundamental entities, it can only be fully understood through the autoconsistency of its elements: there is no entity of main law, since the Universe is seen as a dynamical web of interrelated events. The global consistency of its interrelations determines a spontaneous process of self-organizing emergence that conforms the total structure of the web. Capra considers bootstrap as the culmination of his hyphotesis, and he finds the metaphor in the Avatamsaka Sutra idea of penetration, expressed in the 2500 years old metaphor of the Hindu god Indra’s net: his heaven is portrayed as a network of jewels arranged in such a way that looking at any of them you can see all the others reflected in it. (Sal P. Restivo)

Indra’s net artistic interpretation.

“Since motion and change are essential properties of things, the forces causing the motion are not outside the objects, as in the classical Greek view, but are an intrinsic property of matter. Correspondingly, the Eastern image of the Divine is not that of a ruler who directs the world from above, but of a principle that controls everything from within:
He who, dwelling in all things,
Yet is other than all things,
Whom all things do not know,
Whose body all things are,
Who controls all things from within-
He is your Soul, the Inner Controller,
The Immortal.”
(excerpt from the Tao of Physics)
These concepts are tied to Eastern thought, in clear opposition to the Western thought. Philosophies such as Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism, Zen, practiced by Chew and other physicists and Western thinkers have contributed to other scientists perceive the physical world differently with a new view of reality based on the territory in harmony with spiritual traditions. Traditional Western science, working with questions formulated with total clarity and experimentally verified, did not accept the ambiguity of Chew’s theory and hence did not assigned to the Bootstrap approach the character of science.
My reference to this theory is to emphasize the contribution of Eastern thought on the idea of a new paradigm closest to reality, where knowledge is a network without a solid foundation, where the man lives in connection with mysticism and religious beliefs that are often manifested in humble offerings to beings “from beyond”.
In urban morphology, for example, the anthropological studies of the 70’s, focused in the theory of “Central Place¨ postulated by the German geographer Walter Christaller, have been replaced by current theories competing for an explanation of fractal morphologies related to more domestic shapes of smaller scales, especially in workers’ homes of Mesoamerican cities. Current trends have been to link all the cities, or parts of them, with the elements of a “cosmovision”, cosmology or cosmogony, documented through ethnohistoric writings and images.

A local “Radha” throws flower petals during celebrations ofHoli in Khatraj, India. Photo: Ajit Solanki

Nowadays, it is imperative to have additional research to help clarify the morphologies of the cities inhabited by indigenous people or their descendants, and their relationship with the physical environment and the objects of their daily veneration, including the creation myths. We cannot complete our knowledge of the social practices and the consequent architectural-urban morphologies utilizing only mathematical models borrowed from the Physics, without taking into account the representational spaces derived from the history and spirituality, led by the gestures and actions of those who inhabit it. These representational spaces can be analyzed from mathematical models in combination with other disciplines such as history, sociology, anthropology, among others.

“In the Penal Colony” by Oscar Grillo. 2007

In a way, this application of cultural-historical concepts in architectural and urban theories takes us back to Kafka’s story, ¨In the penal colony”, where the meaning of the sentence was not understood by the prisoner until the words literally penetrated his skin with needles, and were slowly clarified in his mind. An outsider to the process, could not read the words embellished with several mannerisms, therefore, was not part of the prisoner’s knowledge of the sentence, as we are not part of the knowledge and inner meanings of others’ imaginary. But we can try to be.

Hanegraaff, Wouter J. New Age Religion and Western Culture. Esotericism in the Mirror of Secular Thought. E. J. Brills, The Netherlands. 1996
Capra, Fritjof. The Tao of Physics. 1975
Restivo, Sal P. The social relations of physics, mysticism and mathematics. D. Reidel Publishing Co. Holland, 1985

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