Posts tagged ‘beauty’

November 28, 2014

What beauty saves the world?

Is it true, prince, that you once declared that ‘beauty would save the world’? Great Heaven! The prince says that beauty saves the world! And I declare that he only has such playful ideas because he’s in love! Gentlemen, the prince is in love. I guessed it the moment he came in. Don’t blush, prince; you make me sorry for you. What beauty saves the world? Colia told me that you are a zealous Christian; is it so? Colia says you call yourself a Christian.” The prince regarded him attentively, but said nothing.

From The Idiot by Fyodor Dostoyevsky.

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November 22, 2014

the unimpeded movement of the most perfect impulse towards the most perfect object

From “Imagination and Thought in the Middle Ages” by C.S. Lewis, first delivered as a lecture in 1956, the piece was published posthumously in the 1966 collection of essays called Studies in Medieval and Renaissance Literature:

Go out on any starry night and walk alone for half an hour, resolutely assuming that pre-Copernican astronomy is true. Look up at the sky with that assumption in mind. The real difference between living in that universe and living in ours will, I predict, begin to dawn on you.

…You will be looking at a world unimaginably large but quite definitely finite. At no speed possible to man, in no lifetime possible to man, could you ever reach its frontier, but the frontier is there; hard, clear, sudden as a national frontier.

…We find (not now by analogy but in strictest fact) that in every sphere there is a rational creature called an Intelligence which is compelled to move, and therefore to keep his sphere moving, by his incessant desire for God.

…The motions of the universe are to be conceived not as those of a machine or even an army, but rather as a dance, a festival, a symphony, a ritual, a carnival, or all these in one. They are the unimpeded movement of the most perfect impulse towards the most perfect object.

May 1, 2014

He questioned softly why I failed

Poem by Emily Dickinson.

I died for beauty, but was scarce
Adjusted in the tomb,
When one who died for truth was lain
In an adjoining room.

He questioned softly why I failed?
“For beauty,” I replied.
“And I for truth, — the two are one;
We brethren are,” he said.

And so, as kinsmen met a night,
We talked between the rooms,
Until the moss had reached our lips,
And covered up our names.

May 6, 2013

united with the beauty we see

We want something else which can hardly be put into words—to be united with the beauty we see, to pass into it, to receive it into ourselves, to bathe in it, to become part of it. That is why we have peopled air and earth and water with gods and goddesses and nymphs and elves—that, though we cannot, yet these projections can, enjoy in themselves that beauty grace, and power of which Nature is the image. That is why the poets tell us such lovely falsehoods. They talk as if the west wind could really sweep into a human soul; but it can’t. They tell us that “beauty born of murmuring sound” will pass into a human face; but it won’t. Or not yet. For if we take the imagery of Scripture seriously, if we believe that God will one day give us the Morning Star and cause us to put on the splendor of the sun, then we may surmise that both the ancient myths and the modern poetry, so false as history, may be very near the truth as prophecy.

From “The Weight of Glory” by C.S. Lewis. (Preached originally as a sermon in the Church of St Mary the Virgin, Oxford, on June 8, 1942: published in THEOLOGY, November, 1941, and by the S.P.C.K, 1942.)

December 13, 2011

we are attracted to goodness first by its beauty

Two passages from C. S. Lewis as Philosopher: Truth, Goodness and Beauty:

The great classic triumvirate of Truth, Beauty and Goodness is a particularly apt framework for engaging C. S. Lewis and philosophy. These magnificent ideals are not only at the heart of the classic philosophical enterprise, the tradition into which Lewis was initiated in his Oxford philosophical training, but they are also of crucial significance in the Christian vision of reality he came to embrace.

From the essay “Introduction: Jack of the Philosophical Trade” by Jerry L. Walls (p. 17).

God has not left himself without witness in any of the three distinctively human, more-than-animal powers of the soul, the three aspects of the image of God in us: the mind, which knows and understands the good; the will, which chooses and enforces it; and the emotions, which love and appreciate it. This threefold structure of the soul is also the reason why so many great classics in our literature have three protagonists corresponding to these three psychological faculties and social functions: prophet, king and priest.

…The order of these three transcendentals of truth, goodness and beauty is ontologically founded. Truth is defined by Being, for truth is the effulgence of Being, the revelation of Being, the word of Being. Truth is not defined by consciousness, which conforms to Being in knowing it. Goodness is defined by truth, not by will, which is good only when it conforms to the truth of Being. And beauty is defined by goodness, objectively real goodness, not by subjective desire or pleasure or feeling or imagination, all of which should conform to it. However, the psychological order is the reverse of the ontological order. As we know Being through first sensing appearances, so we are attracted to goodness first by its beauty, we are attracted to truth by its goodness, and we are attracted to Being by its truth. But ontologically, truth depends on Being, goodness on truth, and beauty on goodness. Truth is knowing Being. Goodness is true goodness. And the most beautiful thing in the world is perfect goodness.

From the essay “Lewis’s Philosophy of Truth, Goodness and Beauty” by Peter Kreeft (p. 24-25).

June 20, 2011

delight of the eye

Another passage from Wilken:

When speaking of how God is known early Christian thinkers favored the metaphor of seeing, not hearing. In his response to Celsus, Origen cites a series of biblical texts that have to do with seeing: “Blessed are the pure in spirit for they shall see God” (Matt. 5:8); “He who has seen me has seen the Father” (Jo. 14:9); and “Christ is the image of the invisible God” (Col. 1:15). From these he draws the conclusion that people come to know the “Father and maker of this universe by looking at the image of the invisible God.” Beauty is the corollary of seeing. In the Scriptures many of the key terms used of God’s self-disclosure, words such as glory, splendor, light, image, and face, have to do with the delight of the eye. When we speak of the pleasure the eye takes in what it sees the term that comes to mind is beauty. The psalmist wrote, “One thing have I asked of the Lord … that I will behold the beauty of the Lord” (Ps. 27:4).

As early as the second century the apologist Athenagoras of Athens included the term beauty in a list of words depicting God. The God we set before you, he says, is “encompassed by light, beauty, spirit, and indescribable power.” In his commentary on the Song of Songs Origen wrote that the “soul is moved by heavenly love and longing when it beholds the beauty and the comeliness of the Word of God.” God’s revelation can be seen from the perspective of its ineffable beauty as well as of its truth and goodness.”  (p. 20)

This point is central to the thesis of Wilken’s book (The Spirit of Early Christian Thought: Seeking the Face of God) and shows how the medieval triad of goodness, beauty and truth started to be understood as three modes of knowing God and his revelation.

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