Further Reflections on Art, Beauty and the Spirit
For the spiritual aspirant, art and beauty are not merely entertainment or worldly distraction, but an occasion for vertical recollection of the higher world. Beauty is the splendor of Truth, a quaint truism no longer recognized in the mechanistic desert of higher criticism. It is an ingression of the divine plenitude from the nonlocal into the local mind.
Although art emanates from a realm that is suprahuman in nature, it requires an agent to manifest locally. Apparently, the universe is filled with these empty fields of pure logos awaiting a nervous system sophisticated enough to evoke their potential and give them concrete form.
The problem with much contemporary art is that it is merely human--it is wholly man-made, severing the divine-human partnership that is required to produce truly transcendent art. Part of this has to do with the relatively recent emergence of the individual self on a mass scale, which has only been going on for perhaps 400 years now.
That is, human individualism was only gradually wrested from the more primordial group mind, and although it is a necessary stage in human evolution, there is obviously a dark side to the ontologically isolated ego, as it brings with it spiritual inflation, self-aggrandizement, rebellion against the divine order, and the illusion of self-sufficiency. Instead of cooperating with God, artists have by and large attempted to replace or become God. (For the same reason, museums are the temples of our highly cultivated but spiritually bereft Last Men.) As Fritjof Schuon noted, the type of deviant art produced by and for such individuals should properly be called "subrealism" rather than realism or surrealism, for it operates on a level below the realm from which true art arises.
Art is literally divination: it is to discover or locate, as in "divining" water. However, it is also to make divine, to divinize. It is a kind of real magic, a communion between the inner being of the human Self and the inner being of whatever medium the artist is working with: sound, stone, words, color. How can sound convey something that isn't sound? How do words express states that are so far beyond words? How can color be the medium through which a noetic light far beyond color passes through?
Indeed, why is the world so beautiful? Why does it "speak" so endlessly to us? Who is speaking? Why are cloud patterns moving across the sky or the changing conditions of the sea so fascinating? Where is that beauty? Is it in the world? Why? Or is it in us? How?
Could it be that the human mind is a membrane through which the infinite passes through the finite, the meeting place of time and eternity, the interior of the cosmos contemplating its outward aspect? Is divinity so thoroughly entangled in the cosmos that the outside is in and the inside is out?
Yes, art imitates nature. But it is equally true that nature imitates art. And our greatest artists are mirrors--better yet, the windows--through which the logos shines. Through art, an unknown quality of ourselves is given birth and returned to us.
In a way, spiritual work is very mundane. It involves nothing more than cleaning windows, so that what is invisible can become visible. At the same time, a channel is opened through which the immense reality of the human soul is revealed from behind the veil. Who is the dreamer who dreams our dreams? Surely not the ego, which is an object the dreamer employs like a bit actor in a play. Who is the artist who dreams the art? Surely not the little man with the paint brush.
The cosmos is not merely what it is. Nor are we. Everything is perpetually passing beyond itself, revealing more of itself in the fulness of creative time. From the first cave paintings 40,000 years ago to the Sistine Chapel--and everything in between--is but a day's work in the interior life of the divine imagination.
As Petey has often muttered under his breath, "Give us this day our daily crock, that we might dip it into the sacred river and trundle back with some portentous bloviating to post this morning."