Historical Reprints Science Architecture, Mysticism and Myth

Architecture, Mysticism and Myth

Architecture, Mysticism and Myth
Catalog # SKU1625
Publisher TGS Publishing
Weight 1.00 lbs
Author Name W. R. Lethaby


Mysticism and Myth

W.R. Lethaby

THE history of architecture, as usually written, with its theory of utilitarian origins from the hut and the tumulus, and further developments in that way-the adjustment of forms to the conditions of local circumstance; the clay of Mesopotamia, the granite of Egypt, and marble of Greece-is rather the history of building: of 'Architecture' it may be, in the sense we so often use the word, but not the Architecture which is the synthesis of the fine arts, the commune of all the crafts.

As the pigments are but the vehicle of painting, so is building but the vehicle of architecture, which is the thought behind form, embodied and realised for the purpose of its manifestation and transmission. Architecture, then, interpenetrates building, not for satisfaction of the simple needs of the body, but the complex ones of the intellect. I do not mean that we can thus distinguish between architecture and building, in those qualities in which they meet and overlap, but that in the sum and polarity of them all; these point to the response of future thought, those to the satisfaction of present need; and so, although no hut or mound, however early or rude, but had something added to it for thought's sake, yet architecture and building are quite clear and distinct as ideas-the soul and the body.

Of the modes of this thought we must again distinguish; some were unconscious and instinctive, as the desire for symmetry, smoothness, sublimity, and the like merely æsthetic qualities, which properly enough belong to true architecture; and others were direct and didactic, speaking by a more or less perfect realisation, or through a code of symbols, accompanied by traditions which explained them. The main purpose and burthen of sacred architecture-and all architecture, temple, tomb, or palace, was sacred in the early days-is thus inextricably bound up with a people's thoughts about God and the universe.

Behind every style of architecture there is an earlier style, in which the germ of every form is to be found; except such alterations as may be traced to new conditions, or directly innovating thought in religion, all is the slow change of growth, and it is almost impossible to point to the time of invention of any custom or feature. As Herbert Spencer says of ceremonial generally: 'Adhering tenaciously to all his elders taught him, the primitive man deviates into novelty only through unintended modifications. Every one now knows that languages are not devised but evolve; and the same is true of usages.'

It has, rightly, been the habit of historians of architecture to lay stress on the differences of the several styles and schools of successive ages, but; in the far larger sense, all architecture is one, when traced back through the stream of civilisations, as they followed or influenced one another. For instance, argue as archæologists may, as to whether the columns at Beni Hassan are rightly called proto-Doric, it is a fact to be read as in an open book, that a Greek temple and an Egyptian temple are substantially at one, when we consider the infinite possibilities of form, if disassociated from tradition.

It has often been pointed out, how early examples of stone construction still repeat the forms of the manner of building in wood that went before, and so is it always. How long the steamship retained survivals of the sailing vessel, and how the vocabulary of the coachroad still answers for the railway.

What then, I want to ask, are the ultimate facts behind all architecture which has given it form? Mainly three: First, the similar needs and desires of men; secondly, on the side of structure, the necessities imposed by materials, and the physical laws of their erection and combination; and thirdly, on the side of style, nature.

It is of this last that I propose to write; the influence of the known and imagined facts of the universe on architecture, the connection between the world as a structure, and the building, not of the mere details of nature and the ornaments of architecture, but of the whole-the Heavenly Temple and the Earthly Tabernacle. 'Has anyone,' says Mr Lillie in his "Buddhism in Christendom," 'puzzled over the fact, that the only modern representative of the initiates of the ancient mysteries should occupy themselves entirely with the business of the hodman and builder; what is the connection between the kingdom of heaven, and matter of fact mortar, tee-squares and trowels? Esoteric masonry occupied itself in reality, with a temple built without sound of hammer, axe, or tool of iron. It was the temple of the skies, the Macrocosmos, in point of fact.'


Chapter I The World Fabric
Chapter Ii The Microcosmos
Chapter Iii Four Square
Chapter Iv At The Centre Of The Earth
Chapter V The Jewel-Bearing Tree
Chapter Vi The Planetary Spheres
Chapter Vii The Labyrinth
Chapter Viii The Golden Gate Of The Sun
Chapter Ix Pavements Like The Sea
Chapter X Ceilings Like The Sky
Chapter Xi The Windows Of Heaven
Chapter Xii The Symbol Of Creation

Softcover, 8¼" x 10¾", 195+ pages
Perfect-Bound, Large Print, Illustrated

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