The spiritual essence of beauty

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Ulrich Mohrhoff has just offered what I consider to be a very fine essay on this, debunking the scientistic claims of so many New Atheists and other materialists who deny any real significance or importance to this uniquely human-perceived quality. Though he is somewhat wordy he is profound, and here doesn't go off into the almost impenetrable and abstruse depths that he has usually resorted to in his essays.

Even though many scientists recognize the beauty of nature, they intellectually of course do not consider this to have any particular universal or spiritual significance. Not so Mohrhoff, or myself for that matter. From the essay:

Quote:"More recently (than the New Atheist expositions of the likes of Dawkins for instance), another series of extraordinarily successful books and articles have appeared concerning the advancement of scientific knowledge about the human brain: how it works and how it possesses (produces, accounts for) those mystifying capacities commonly known as consciousness, emotion, and creativity. Unlike those scientists and critics at war with religion, it is much less clear that these writers have an antagonist, but it is obvious that neuroscientists are trying to explain phenomena that until the last few decades were thought to be in the field of philosophy, the arts, and the humanities."

Mohrhoff remarks on the remarkable delight many scientists and science writers seem to take on the beauties of nature. He points out how inconsistent this is with the claims of scientism that such qualities of beauty are merely epiphenomena of the workings of the physical brain:


Quote:"If science writers were to be consistent, wouldn’t it make more sense for them say something more like: “That? That’s the Eagle Nebula. It’s nothing special. There are billions of nebulae. Some of them make stars, like we need more stars. We can barely see the ones we’ve got. Dazzling? I don’t know what you mean. It’s a nebula.” Wouldn’t that be more consistent with their assumption that everything is just a product?

— a product of physics, natural selection, brain chemistry or any other mechanical process. In other words:

There is an unacknowledged system of extra-scientific value at work that science refuses to take responsibility for, either because it is unaware of the presence of the system or because it doesn’t wish to disturb its own dogmatic slumber."


Quote:Where the greatest and most powerful creation of beauty is accomplished and its appreciation and enjoyment rise to the highest pitch, the rational is always surpassed and left behind. The creation of beauty in poetry and art does not fall within the sovereignty or even within the sphere of the reason. The intellect is not the poet, the artist, the creator within us; creation comes by a suprarational influx of light and power which must work always, if it is to do its best, by vision and inspiration.

Genius, the true creator, is always suprarational in its nature and its instrumentation even when it seems to be doing the work of the reason; it is most itself, most exalted in its work, most sustained in the power, depth, height and beauty of its achievement when it is least touched by, least mixed with any control of the mere intellectuality and least often drops from its heights of vision and inspiration into reliance upon the always mechanical process of intellectual construction."

Mohrhoff quotes Sri Aurobindo in the conclusion:

Quote:"The conscious appreciation of beauty reaches its height of enlightenment and enjoyment not by analysis of the beauty enjoyed or even by a right and intelligent understanding of it, — these things are only a preliminary clarifying of our first unenlightened sense of the beautiful,— but by an exaltation of the soul in which it opens itself entirely to the light and power and joy of the creation. The soul of beauty in us identifies itself with the soul of beauty in the thing created and feels in appreciation the same divine intoxication and uplifting which the artist felt in creation.

(The search for beauty) is in truth seeking, as in religion, for the Divine, the All-Beautiful in man, in nature, in life, in thought, in art; for God is Beauty and Delight hidden in the variation of his masks and forms. When, fulfilled in our growing sense and knowledge of beauty and delight in beauty and our power for beauty, we are able to identify ourselves in soul with this Absolute and Divine in all the forms and activities of the world and shape an image of our inner and our outer life in the highest image we can perceive and embody of the All-Beautiful, then the aesthetic being in us who was born for this end, has fulfilled himself and risen to his divine consummation. To find highest beauty is to find God; to reveal, to embody, to create, as we say, highest beauty is to bring out of our souls the living image and power of God."
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