BUILDING WITH THE BREATH OF LIFE - Tom Bender - revised draft text 8 Jan.19


Our surroundings truly do act as mirrors, reflecting the values, dreams, fears, and fascinations of the individuals and societies that have shaped them. We can, if we wish, read them like a book, pointing out item by item what was in the minds and hearts of those who created and shaped a place.

An interesting curiosity. Yet more than that. These images in stone and steel, those dreams in faded neon and spalling stucco deeply affect and shape us. They affect us as strongly even as they in their turn were affected and shaped by their makers. [Fire escapes]

They affect us in part because they convey the true fears behind our painted smiles, the cruelty behind the benign surfaces of actions, the love behind the modest gesture.

They affect us because they clarify and embody our dreams, marshaling our inner resources to their achievement.

They affect us as they show, often with a beauty or ugliness which makes their message even more poignant, the confusion of our goals, the inconsistency of our actions, the humanness of our lives.

They affect us because they do not lie, and stand witness to our lives as they are - in their fullness or in their emptiness.

Imagine what it would have been like to be a 19th century architect in Rome, surrounded by two thousand years of the greatest masterpieces of the Roman Empire and the Italian Renaissance. Quite an achievement to live up to or be measured against. Some might have been encouraged to do their greatest, inspired by the achievements of their ancestors. Many others gave up before they began, feeling incompetent in comparison. Whole societies have fallen into the doldrums in such cases, stifled by the context of history. [Campidoglio]

Consider what the physical environment of most public housing says to its residents - of bureaucratic bungling, lack of caring for our real well-being, and disregard of community. It speaks of warehousing "problem people", of crime, and lack of love or caring for surroundings. Think what it says to its residents of the basic value of greed and inequity that made even provision of minimal housing impossible for so many. It is impossible for people's lives in such places not to be weighted down by what their surroundings tell them of their value to society. Such places become themselves a vehicle of further impoverishment of their residents.

In contrast, feel the inspiration given the entire community by the transcendental beauty and power of a Gothic cathedral in a French village, or what the tree-lined boulevards and sidewalk cafes in European cities create today as support for community life. [Amiens]

The consistency between our beliefs and our actions which our surroundings reflect is also important. A university computer science department may talk about how its work is transforming society, eliminating need for work spaces. If housed in a standard campus building filled with faculty offices and classrooms like every other campus building, their claims become unbelievable to others, and eventually to themselves.

The way our surroundings reflect our values usually occurs unconsciously and without direct attention. But in those rare times when society is undergoing fundamental change, we suddenly see the disparities and implications of our beliefs and actions, and can actively move to establish new touchstones in both.

Today is one of those times. We are beginning to see through the contradictions in our sciences and beliefs to a deeper and clearer basis for our lives. In the process, a new and encompassing sense of the role of the sacred in our surroundings and a new operative vision of how it affects us, based on chi energy is emerging. Interestingly, this is occurring at the same time as the fundamental nature of the society is undergoing an elemental change from a growth orientation to one which can be sustained over long periods of time.

One of the unexpected new elements of this understanding of the sacred has to do with chi energy. This new element has emerged strongly in health and healing, but also in the sciences, and in the arts of relationships among people, place and things. Verifiable through our own senses, giving deeper and more fecund power to our awareness of self and touching of our outer world, this new vision is transforming all aspects of our perception, experience and living.

The world of chi is at once new and timelessly ancient. It is a vision of the energy rather than material basis of all creation, of the intimate interconnectedness of all life. It is a vision of the rhythmic iteration of sound, of song, of complex vibration, harmonics and overtones, that give rise to and maintain all the complex interfolding structure of the universe. [Cymatics]

Virtually every culture other than our own has experienced and incorporated an understanding of this breath of life into all aspects of their culture. Ours alone seems to have lost this understanding. Chi, prana, kundalini, ki, vis medicatrix naturae, mana....the names are as many as the cultures which have known it, but the consistency and accuracy of the description and understanding is awesome.
1 The personal experience of this breath of life through yoga, tai chi, qi-gong, martial arts, meditation, or spontaneous occurrences is acknowledged by increasing numbers in our own culture. We are experiencing it today with the same consistency and replicability as in past cultures.

Today also, we have arrived at the moment in time when the effects of our culture's values of greed, growth, and violence are becoming unsustainable and when they must be released. It is wonderfully apt that at this very moment a new, clear, and powerfully appropriate vision is emerging upon which to base the transformation of our lives to ones of sustainability, giving, and love.

The values of a greed- and growth-centered society have forced us to build walls around our hearts to isolate ourselves from the bitter pain and anguish resulting from what our culture dreams into being around us. That isolation, in turn, has created its own inner pain, as well as surroundings of inconceivable emptiness and meaninglessness.


Our ways of building - what we call today architectural, landscape, interior, urban and regional design and their allied construction arts - are constantly redefined in our minds and hearts in every era, as those arts and our values co-evolve. In medieval France they were the means of expressing heavenly harmony and radiance. During the Enlightenment in Europe, expression of the power of reason and order of mathematics. In the 19th century, a celebration of the ability of an industrial culture to transform and tame nature. In our lifetimes alone, architecture has been redefined from decade to decade as a visual art, a means of self-expression, the business of design, the packaging of development, and now as a plethora of intellectually incoherent neo-'s and post-'s. [Versailles plan]

In the process, dimension after dimension of meaning and power have been stripped from these arts. Today, truthfully, there is little inner basis for self-definition. Architects today can probably remember even now their own bewilderment as beginning design students being asked to make an "abstract composition". There were unspoken rules, of course, even for this, but even the most hallowed examples never moved our hearts, held meaning, nor seemed an adequate basis for design.

This systematic removal of meaning from the shaping of our surroundings has resulted in undue emphasis being given to what little remains. Esthetics, for example, is given great weight in current design work. Yet sources as ancient as the I-Ching specifically warn against such emphasis on esthetics:

"Grace - beauty of form - is necessary in any union if it is to be well ordered and pleasing rather than disordered and chaotic. Grace brings success. However, it is not the essential or fundamental thing; it is only the ornament and must therefore be used sparingly and only in little things.

Esthetics is copying or measuring something against the past - against standards that we already hold within us from our culture. It is not part of any living art. Such art requires forging afresh a sense of wholeness in each act of creation. Different aspects of this can be seen dramatically in Inuit "art" or Navajo and Tibetan sand painting, where the process of making is all and the product tossed aside on completion. It is found in certain temple traditions in India, where once an offering of sculpture or architecture was completed, it was left to return to dust unrepaired. It is also visible in the Shinto temples in Japan, such as at Ise, where the ongoing total replacement of temple structures every twenty years keeps the work of the temple builders as a spiritual practice intact and alive. Similarly, over-fascination with expression of structure and concern with space rather than place reflect this same imbalance in meaning.

Lack of deeper dimensions can mean that landscape design, for example, ends up being merely a cover-up for bad architectural design, or a visually pleasing setting for a building. It is extremely rare today that interior and exterior places are designed congruently to intensify experience of nature, or that gardens are designed specifically as places of nurture for our souls.

As our society moves from a period of growth into a period of mature sustainability, it needs a renewed and deeper touchstone with the forces which give life to our existence and our surroundings. This new subtle-energy based vision gives powerful and appropriate guidance for transforming our placemaking arts. It gives an inner kernel of power to these arts out of which a deeper, richer, more meaningful, and more unified expression can unfold. It gives the means to create more bountiful surroundings in harmony with both our inner vision and our connection with all of Creation. [Masjid-i-shah]

Perhaps a good way to get a feel for what we are lacking is to take a look at what distinguishes the art of place-making in a culture which clearly acknowledged the central spiritual role of human actions and the core role of the breath of life. One of the few design frameworks from sustainable societies whose record has come down to us relatively intact is the Chinese practice of feng-shui. Many sustainable societies did not practice codified design. Others restricted it to sacred, or religious structures. The record of others has been lost.

We have chronicles of the Vintana in Madagascar and the Hindu Vastuvidya in India, as well as the systems of feng-shui in China. The design sciences from the Mayan world, though fascinating, are only now being partially reconstructed after the Spanish burning of records in the 1500's. The feng-shui history is unique, perhaps, in its extensive written documentation and its application to cities, temples, homes, interior design, and the landscape as a whole.

Feng-shui (literally "wind and water") is the traditional basis of Chinese placemaking arts. Chi is central to its practices. It speaks of locating favorable sites for buildings, cities, and tombs based on the flows and varying concentrations of chi energy in the earth. [Imperial Traveling Palace]

Documentation of the sun's influence on electromagnetic fields in the earth's crust and atmosphere during the early space program showed that there is a verifiable geophysical basis to at least some parts of the feng-shui practices. Comprehension has also come together concerning other, more alien, aspects of its theory and practices. And, piece by piece, through twenty-five years of incorporating feng-shui principles into architectural practice in our culture, its application and mechanisms of operation have been demonstrated.

With the value of energetics of place demonstrated by feng shui, practices in other cultures which parallel feng-shui have been discovered. They have shown alternate ways to accomplish good energetics of place, or aspects of energy design not considered by the Chinese. What works in our culture is sometimes similar, sometimes different from that of the Chinese, Hindu, Buddhist, Mayan, Egyptian and other traditions.

Over several thousand years, feng-shui practice became separated from the active shaping and altering of place. It accreted layers of superstition and became focused on largely symbolic actions to improve the energy and power of place (not to belittle the effect of symbolic actions.) Yet its basic scope and content uniquely match the needs of reconceiving our design arts today. Reintegrating the kinds of principles it was based on into active design, and applying them freshly in a new cultural context gives us a good place to start in generating a much needed new wholeness, power, and rightness in our surroundings.


The basic principles of a sacred or subtle-energy based design system are found partially in the details and practices recorded in its books and manuals and taught by its masters. Perhaps more important to us, though, are the frequently unstated assumptions that underlie a range of specific rules and practices. These were so integral a part of the culture that no one considered the need for stating them. But to a totally different culture such as ours, they are essential to seeing the differentness and fundamental roots of sustainable design.

There are ten principles that systems such as feng-shui suggest underlie the practice of design in any sustainable society. For a person brought up in the beliefs of our society, some of these may initially seem strange, or their design significance difficult to grasp. Those principles are:

1. Life force energy, or CHI, is the vehicle of all Creation, arising from an origin in the Spirit World.

2. The energy fields of the earth are a source of energy and information to all living matter.

3. The breath of life, or "chi" exists in all people, places, and things, and is vital to their interaction.

4. The astrology of people and places, and the timing of their interaction play an active role in the outcome of those interactions.

5. The health of all Creation is essential to our well-being.

6. Our minds and hearts are an integral and powerful part of our interaction with the world on both sides of our skins, and must be addressed in design and use of place.

7. Our relationships with the past and the future - towards our ancestors and our descendants, what preceded us and what evolves out of our existence - are important to the outcome of interactions with our surroundings.

8. Harmony with our cosmology needs to be integral to the design of our surroundings.

9. Sacredness is central to meaningful lives and an enduring society,

10. Design and use of our surroundings are spiritual paths, based on love and giving.


Let's look in a little more detail at what these principles entail:

1. Life force energy, or CHI, is the vehicle of all Creation, arising from an origin in the Spirit World.

Our bodies and the physical world around us are particular patterns of matter that have gelled around specific matrices of chi energy. In this sense, our energy bodies are more primary than our physical ones, and the processes and relationships there more basic than in our physical bodies. And they are profoundly interconnected.

Chi energy is distinct from the electrical energy in a house that we plug our stereos into. It is the life force, breath of life, or prana which has been the basis of healing, spiritual practices, and cultural organization for millennia. What this "energy" actually is remains unclear at this time, as our sciences are only beginning to examine it.

The aspects of chi which we can experience today fit so exactly into the descriptions given in classical literature and living traditions that few doubts can remain as to its existence or efficacy. Its clearer and more technical understanding and application would be wonderful. But the leadership role today is in experiencing and acknowledging its existence, its roles, our connections with it and discovering how its acceptance and use can transform our lives and culture. The other will follow.

Experience of this aspect of existence profoundly changes our view of our lives and our world. Energy flows through and nurtures our bodies except when we block it off. We experience our existence as nodes in a continuous interconnecting field of energy rather than discrete, separate objects. We feel our own chi performing what was long known as spiritual healing. We find ourselves so coherently interlinked with others that our thoughts and memories are one. We walk in the fields of incipient form where things and events take shape. Strange and unexpected new worlds open before us.

This energy dimension of existence is key to understanding esoteric practices of many cultures that we have found difficult to comprehend. The Australian Aborigines talk of healing broken bones within a few hours. Tibetan Buddhism lung-gom and tum-mo practitioners can run with extraordinary swiftness over fields of boulders, and keep themselves warm in snow and ice without clothing.

The !Kung people of the Kalahari Desert in Africa practice a particular dance to "heat up" their n/um, or what the Hindus call kundalini, so that a state of transcendence can be attained. In those dances, more than half of the tribe can attain such states. In the !!kia state, extraordinary feats are possible. Native American tribes use trance drumming to attain similar states.

Even today, tens of thousands of otherwise normal people have experienced fire walking, acupuncture, shamanic journeying, and other practices which our sciences can't explain. The traditions of those practices have always stated, however, that they were tied to chi.

The role of our familiar material world in all of this is very different from a universe in which that material world was all that existed. And building design which acknowledges, responds to, and incorporates both of these worlds in their complex interaction is very different from merely creating pleasing spatial designs.

2. The energy fields of the earth are a source of energy and information to all living matter.

The visible light that fuels photosynthesis and supports all life on earth constitutes only a minute fraction of the Sun's energy that is intercepted by our planet. The "solar wind" is comprised of plasma radiations as well as electromagnetic waves. When intercepted by the Earth's magnetic field, the solar wind shapes the magnetosphere and the plasmasphere of our planet. [Solar prominences] [EMF]

They, in turn induce much of that energy into the earth's atmosphere and mantle in the form of electro-magnetic energy. As those charged particles oscillate back and forth along the magnetic lines of the earth between the north and the south poles, their intensity is visible through the ionized gas effects of the northern and southern lights - the aurora borealis and the aurora australialis. [Aurora 1&2][Apollo 9]

In turn, electromagnetic fields induced into the mantle of the earth, and variations in topography and geology create variations in local electromagnetic fields. Like any available energy source, these have been seized upon by the multitude of life forms that have emerged on this planet to fuel and inform their life. It remains a question today what of these "earth energies" consist of pulsed electromagnetic fields, and what of other forms of "energy". For now, we have to be satisfied in the knowledge that they have been and are apprehensible and useful. [Ivory's Rock]

For millennia, these "power spots" have been used by animals and humans - for birthing places and healing; for shrines and churches; for propitious location of cities, homes, temples and tombs. Divination, or dowsing, for temple siting is recorded in almost every culture. [Athens]

Temples of some sects in India were even built of bricks fired in place after the building was built. Constructed that way, the magnetic field orientations of each particle of clay of the bricks would be in full alignment with that of the place at that time. No repairs or changes were permitted in these temples, to preserve that purity of alignment. They were allowed to fall to ruin in their own time, rather than alter the purity of the fields established in their making.

This is use of the chi of place for specific and sensitive situations. Our everyday activities may, or may not, be as susceptible to such subtle effects of the natural chi of place.

3. The breath of life, or "chi" exists in all people, places, and things, and is vital to their interaction. [S. Germain]

Chi is not just something in the ground or in our bodies. It permeates our surroundings as well - intensely in what are called sacred places, in good and bad concentrations elsewhere. Traditionally, virtually all cultures considered it in finding favorable locations for temples, shrines, homes, businesses, and tombs.

Of importance here is that the chi of people and place are interactive. Our chi alters the chi of places we use, and their chi alters our own. And the chi of built places and the human chi interacting with them is definitely strong enough to alter the lives of people using those places. The good or bad energy of users of a place linger to affect subsequent users. Our interaction with place is additive and cumulative. We need to both design and live our lives aware of this dialog.

4. The astrology of people and places, and the timing of their interaction plays an active role in the outcome of those interactions.

The energy fields of the earth are influenced by heavenly bodies other than the sun, as well as by all life on earth, and possibly other realms of existence. In turn, they convey those influences onto our lives. The energetic tradition of many cultures matches people to room positions, orientation, colors, and other aspects of their surroundings depending on their astrological needs. In what ways and how powerfully this might affect our lives through our use of places, or in what ways we can alter those effects is still poorly understood.

5. The health of all Creation is essential to our well-being.

Our skins are not a meaningful line of distinction between what is and is not "us". What is inside our skins depends upon myriad kinds of food, air, and nurture from outside our skin. What lies outside our skins depends equally on us as a source for CO 2 and for food. The health and well-being of what lies on either side of our skins cannot be separated from that of the other side.

The ecological interconnectedness of all life means that the well-being of all life must be part of our designing in addition to things that influence our specific health and well-being. The health, richness, and latent creativity of our planet's biosystems is one of the most important elements of our wealth and assurance of future well-being.

When our numbers and our appetites press too hard, when our actions deprive other life, we are increasing our own poverty as well as harming and destroying other life. Other life is more than just a reservoir of unknown pharmaceuticals and DNA. It is a celebration of the richness and beauty of Creation. The fewer the voices, the more diminished the song.

The things we eliminate are the essential food or shelter for birds, butterflies, beetles, spiders, and might even be useful for our own health.

Our rapid logging cycles destroy the mycorrhizal fungal mats upon which weave together the health and life of coniferous forests. Our freeways and fencing cut migration routes. Our pesticides kill the food of unconsidered species. Our monoculture lawns deplete the genetic bank of wild species. Our houses rarely have nesting places for birds and bats, or food supply for spiders.

A different awareness can change how we deal with all these issues. It allows us closeness with other life and the joy of being part of a particular ecological community and place.

Our health is part of the health of all Creation. Getting to know other life - from bats to spiders to slugs to fungus, we begin to see the different wonder of each life, and come to respect and protect it.

6. Our minds and hearts are an integral and powerful part of our interaction with the world on both sides of our skins, and must be addressed in design and use of place.

The psychology of our human and cultural nature - our values, our beliefs, our fears, our memories - all direct our actions or block them from certain paths, and determine much of the satisfaction or unhappiness that results from our interaction with places. The surroundings we create inescapably reflect and make manifest these deepest and most hidden values.

Even in a business environment, expenditures on making people happy are worthwhile. A study done for the California State Architect showed that measures which resulted in as little as a 3% increase in productivity would more than pay back even a doubling of the cost of the building!2 Operable windows, natural daylight, human-scaled spaces, adjustable task lighting, and comfortable furniture are all part of such conditions. So is design so that people aren't always worrying about the boss sneaking up behind and checking on them. Such "green office" design has now been shown to bring very profitable improvements to working places.3 But the real bottom line is that paying attention to our emotional needs makes us feel better.

How we feel about a place or a pattern of interaction with place is important. Yet we're never encouraged to trust our gut reactions, and the consideration of the psychological dimension of people and place is virtually non-existent today. It is telling that Christopher Alexander's Pattern Language, the strongest proponent and example of the value of following our noses and tummies, is shunned by mainstream design professionals.

If our minds feel a place is unsafe, it is unsafe, regardless of its actual security. If we can change how we feel about a place through ritual, or through real or symbolic changes in our surroundings, an important change has occurred. If, for instance, we let our surroundings express how we honor others, it will deepen that honoring and reflect back onto us the importance of that value of caring.

Simply stated, this principle says to listen to your feelings and trust your tummy. If a place doesn't feel good to you, it isn't good for you.

7. Our relationships with the past and the future - towards our ancestors and our descendants, what preceded us and what evolves out of our existence - are important to the outcome of interactions with our surroundings.

It's common knowledge in ecological literature now that many traditional cultures ask that the impacts of actions be considered as far as seven generations into the future. They do this both to see the full impacts of those actions, and so as to not restrict the potentials of that future.

Living now with the results of a society that has disregarded the immense long range costs of their actions, we can see the wisdom of such a perspective. We invariably do receive what we dream of. And when we dream only of the present and ignore the future, we reduce the likelihood of having a future.

Interestingly, at least one culture speaks of those seven generations differently - as three past, the present, and three future ones.

Why consider the past? What is gone is gone, isn't it?

Perhaps not entirely. The past always lives on in us as our inner cultural heritage. Consideration of the gifts from past generations results in humility, acknowledgment of the size of the shoulders upon which we stand, and gratitude for those gifts as a basis for our actions. It provides us a realization that our achievements do not belong to us alone, and requires acknowledgment of our obligation to pass equivalent gifts on to our descendants. Sustainability requires both of these perspectives on duration and relationship over time.

Other cultures assert that our ancestors are actually with us in the present moment. This, amazingly, is consistent with what we are learning today of energetics and the existence of non-material realms of our universe. Research in more and more fields is supporting concepts of the non-linearity of time, of parallel universes, and the contiguous existence of past, present, and future. More connection seems to be occurring between embodied people and those whose existence currently is not on the material plane. Our understandings and awareness in this area are changing dramatically.

If we consider ourselves to be a part of ongoing creation, rather than apart from it, we have very different attitudes towards the possibilities we foreclose or create for the future, as well as how we relate to the entire shape of an ever-evolving history. Having a future implies ongoing Creation. [Chinese tombs]

8. Harmony with our cosmology needs to be integral to the design of our surroundings

A world built upon contradictions and lacking inner harmony destroys itself in the inner battles between differing and competing values. If our beliefs lack consistency and harmony, how can we put the full power of our will behind them, to say nothing of asking others to believe in them?

If our surroundings do tap the emotional, intellectual, and spiritual core of our beliefs, they gain great dominion, and imbue our lives with that same power of coherent and powerful belief. [Ellora]

Every age and culture has a different view of the universe and our place in it. One role of our surroundings, like the results of all of our actions, is to give form to and represent those unique beliefs. Within them, then, we have the opportunity and support to bring our lives into harmony with the cosmos we perceive. [Itsukushima]

The hierarchical order of a Chinese city, the sacred geometries of Islamic ornament, or the bold power of a 20th century skyscraper all reflect unique views of the universe, consistent with the beliefs and the world their builders dreamed into being. In doing so, such creations renew and strengthen the universe within which they are founded, and those who inhabit that universe.

Maurice Freedman speaks of the difference in the meaning of their surroundings to Europeans and Chinese enjoying a view. The Europeans think of the combination of hills and sea producing splendid vistas. Their pleasure is aesthetic and objective, the landscape is out there, and they enjoy it. The Chinese appreciation is cosmological. For them the viewer and the viewed are interacting, both being part of some greater system. The cosmos is Heaven, Earth, and Us. We are in it and of it. So while the European reaction is to find it beautiful, the Chinese may remark that they feel content or comfortable. Their philosophy asserts a human response to forces working in the cosmos, and just as landscapes affect us, we may affect them.

Our cosmology has become one of contradiction. We're asked to be rational and efficient in work, yet irrational and inefficient in consumption. We happily consume the very resources that are needed for continued support of our lives. A new sense of the cosmos and our role in it is both needed and emerging. If how we live, work, and govern ourselves is headed in a different direction from our innermost dreams, or fails to incorporate major elements of those dreams, we head for failure and trouble.

Any public expression of sacredness is rare in modern society. It is interesting that there is one particular place where I have felt people publicly and powerfully express a sense of spiritual reverence and awe, of yearning, and of wonder. It is the exhibit in the Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC where you can touch a piece of rock from the moon.

Our urge to embrace, be part of, and reunite with the cosmos is a primal and valid one. It may well not require the massive space program and travel between worlds envisioned in our first outward spasm. Yet how contrary to those dreams it is to live in the cities of our world where incessant electric day shuts out the night and we can't even see the stars!

Until our actions towards the stellar world come from a reverence in our hearts, we will not find a harmony between our dreams and our actions. When our vision of our universe has wholeness, we will see all that surrounds us as part of that wholeness. The aurora borealis will change from being a strange natural phenomena into a visible sign of the energy fluxes channeling into our planet through its poles, and from its mantle into our own existences.

In the same way, our attitudes towards the sacredness of all Creation and all forms of life must come to the same fullness and rightness of expression.

Our world view is turning from one of taking, greed, and violence to one of harmony, sharing and nurture. As it does so, our surroundings must take on powerful expressions of those new qualities if they are to take part in our nurture and become part of a harmony between us and our universe.

9. Sacredness is central to meaningful lives and an enduring society,

Our society stresses freedom - absence of connectedness, responsibility, or effects of our actions. Ours is a legalistic society - of limited commitments easy to break, and with great incentives for those finding new ways to take from others, or to harm and destroy the rest of creation. Fed by its own power of destructiveness, it cannot last, and cannot create an ongoing basis for sustainability.

The only true alternative is a basis for our lives which makes harmful action inconceivable rather than the rule. And nothing less than our holding sacred the health of our surroundings and the well-being of others will ensure that we act strongly enough or soon enough to ensure that health and well-being.

10. Design and use of our surroundings are spiritual paths, based on love and giving.

A sacred world requires that all relationships - including work - be based on patterns that support the health, well-being, and spiritual growth of those involved. The traditions of energetics of place and sacred building demonstrate how design and building, specifically, can be pursued as a process of spiritual growth of the practitioners as well as being an integral part of a sacred society. What we design can only reflect what we are, so a sacred society requires work processes that nurture our own spiritual health and growth.

This implies work patterns that support and encourage the development and enrichment of skills. It implies design and building processes that honor and encourage the creative contributions of the makers and users, that honor the life of materials given up into our construction and the place on the earth that our buildings occupy; that honor all life. [Wilson hall]

Together, these principles constitute and reflect a world view and basis of design profoundly different from what currently exists. Our present world view honors material wealth, freedom from responsibility, deceit, mobility, self-centeredness, and being apart from and outside the laws of nature.

The world-view we need to build on today is one which honors sustainability. To ensure a healthy world, it needs to embrace the needs of the ecological systems that support our lives. It must nurture our emotional and spiritual, as well as physical health. And that requires finding a sense of our universe that gives meaning to our lives. It needs to ensure the health of our relationships - with our selves, with each other, and with the rest of Creation. And it needs a deep understanding of our universe and the on-going Creation of which we are part. It needs, in sum, to find a future worth living for. That future will shape surroundings far different from ours today. [PDX Japanese garden]

38755 Reed Rd.
Nehalem OR 97131 USA
© 8 Jan. 1999

1 See Appendix A for a list of over sixty cultures who have used chi energy .

2 Tom Bender, BUILDING VALUE, Office of the California State Architect, 1976 .

3 Rocky Mountain Institute, GREENING THE BUILDING AND THE BOTTOM LINE, 1994.