As an expression of beauty, awe, and awakening, art has always played a great part along our journey to our Higher Self. Throughout the world, holy places have been built to hold the polar tensions of spirit and matter, inner and outer space and light, as well as the community that shares the transcendent experience within the architectural space.
Assagioli noted that:
“Matter is the highest form of Spirit and Spirit is the lowest form of Matter.”
In this way, spirit seeks matter to express the full beauty of the transcendent. Assagioli also noted that Plato, Plotinus, and Christian mystics have recognized and proclaimed that “beauty is the essential attribute of the Supreme.”However, beauty holds a paradox, as we often and easily can become tied to the form beauty takes. While the external form of something or someone beautiful can captivate and fascinate us, we can become overwhelmed with the desire to possess it. We see this fascination working against us all the time – in the way the advertising industry entices us to buy products and movie star images sell us magazines.
But Assagioli shows us a noble way to overcome our sensory attachment to beautiful things. First we must enlarge our idea of beauty across the horizontal plane to include more and more forms. And then we must elevate our eyes vertically from the form, to its cause – to its invisible and infinite source.
Assagioli quotes Plato to illustrate this idea:
“One needs to progress from love of a beautiful form to love of all beautiful forms and of physical beauty in general, then from love of beautiful bodies to love of beautiful souls, beautiful actions, and beautiful thoughts.
As one ascends through moral beauty, one will reach the point where a marvelous eternal beauty appears, free form any corruption, absolutely beautiful. This beauty does not consist of a beautiful face, a beautiful body, a thought or any particular science or art. It resides in no other being than itself, neither in heaven nor on earth, it simply exists in itself in eternity and exists for itself in absolute, perfect unity.”
Assagioli suggests that our first step up the Platonic ladder is to spend time in nature. As we learn to notice the infinite variety and beauty of natural phenomena, we learn to really see more and more beauty – and expand our understanding of it.
We can also spend more time looking at art. “The true function and goal of art,” Assagioli says, “is to reveal the hidden beauty or the divine imprint in all things.” Great art helps us to recognize the seal of divinity on all matter.
Chris sent me this comment via email:
Beauty in the eye of the beholder
The Christian Mystical Tradition indicates that if we contemplate a beautiful picture, flower, scene and do it deeply we can, if we wish, then step aside mentally and observe ourselves doing it.
What we are observing is our own Soul taking part in the contemplation. Meditating on this observation makes us lose the contemplation of the beautiful item as it is overtaken by the enlightening thoughts engendered by our Souls activity.
Normally our Souls activity is hidden unlike our Mind, Heart and Body who are all to ready to demand our attention.
Our Soul is responsive to our Christian God, and in being able to observe communication with our God, we enlighten our views.
Of course, we have to test the information received for authenticity and our knowledge of the Christian Gospel will do this.
The easiest book to understand this is ‘Practical Mysticism a little book for normal People’ by Evelyn Underhill, which is readily available on the Web
Well, job done. I hope, job done well!
Thank you Chris.
This practice of “stepping aside mentally and observing ourselves” is what Assagioli refers to as disindentification. As you know, he references much of Underhill’s work. See: https://loveandwill.com/2018/07/12/a-mystics-gift/