Stone and Space


“The worked stone . . . has considered limits and measured form; what it is is what it has become under the sculptor’s chisel.”

The statue wants nothing, it rests upon the ground, complete and beautiful. It is what it has become.


“The symbolising of extension, of space . . . and we find it alike in the conceptions of absolute space that pervade Newtonian physics, Gothic cathedral interiors . . .”

Unlike the statue, the cathedral yearns, it rises up into space, a place of longing, we notice less the worked stone and more the sheer vastness of it, how high that vaulted roof above us. Vast emptiness. It tells us of the infinite spirit of God, of infinite possibility for humankind, and of our own yearning.


“It was principally in Germany that the organ was developed into the space-commanding giant that we know, an instrument the like of which does not exist in all musical history. The free organ-playing of Bach and his time was nothing if it was not analysis – analysis of a strange and vast time-world.”

Analysis, untangling the emptiness to find a world within it. Commanding the void to bring forth the world that it contains. But the emptiness stretches on and on, rises up and up. Can it ever be filled? The analysis continues. The music continues to bring its light and order and energy to the endless space. Sometimes as we listen to the organ play it seems for a moment that the world is indeed full of light. God breathes among the arched and tangled stonework, and we feel the vibration of the cosmos.

(I’ve been reading The Decline of the West by Oswald Spengler, the abridged edition published in 1991, translated by Charles Francis Atkinson.)

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