Monday, April 07, 2008

Nominalism, Humanism, and Sacred Architecture

The intention is to address sacred and eternal architecture within the individual and unique circumstances given at this point in temporal time.

To begin to look at the unique circumstances of contemporary culture, I will refer to an essay by Louis Dupre titled, ‘Passage to Modernity’. The basis for the essay comes from outlining a history of ideas in which early humanism from the late fourteenth century combined with late medieval nominalist theology to ignite the cultural phenomenon known as ‘modernity’.

What this shift implies, and so many people take for granted, is that God is no longer part of creation. In the idea that universals are divorced from the particular, nominalism relegated universals and God to a supernatural sphere away from everyday existence. The simultaneous rise of early humanism gained acceptance as the human mind became the interpreter of the cosmos. No longer did meaning hold a necessary connection with divinity, but instead meaning was given by the ‘subject’.

Today, the meaning giving subject remains in western culture. To address sacred architecture requires an acknowledgment of this condition of ‘subjectivity’. The problem remains in that the subject-object dichotomy is antithetical to notions of holiness. The fragmentary nature of contemporary ‘subjectivity’ prevents a sacred understanding as unity and wholeness are disregarded.

Sacred architecture therefore requires a synthesis of the subject-object dichotomy. The interior and the exterior must meet. Accomplishing this task is achieved through a sacred architecture whose focus remains on the being of things. Within sacred architecture, subjective understanding is accomplished through allowing the objective thing to disclose itself. At the moment of disclosure, the subject-object dichotomy is dissolved in that the subject cannot possibly be giving meaning to the being of an object, yet the subject is necessary for the concentration of that being. The ‘subject’ becomes a point within the whole ‘object’, thereby allowing for a sacred architecture.