Unification News for July 2000
"Soli Deo Gloria" Beauty and Art in the History of Philosophy
Understanding the Divine Principle and God's purpose of creation, it comes naturally to assign a preeminent role to art and beauty in human life: God created man and the universe for the purpose of joy and likewise the artist creates through the work of art to produce joy for himself and others.
Rev. Moon has often talked about life in the Kingdom of Heaven and in the eternal spiritual world as a life centered on the realization of each individual's creative potential: dancing, singing, artistic activity will be the core of that life, eternally giving joy to creator and appreciator.
Analyzing the history of western philosophy we can see that aesthetics has mostly been put aside for more substantive and traditional areas of philosophical search such as ontology, epistemology, gnosiology, etc.
With this article we would like to do an analysis of the thought of some of the great thinkers of the past that have understood the existential value of art and beauty in man's life in an absolute sense and then analyze that at the light of the Unification Thought's Theory of Art, to see how God has been building in every area of life the foundation for the ultimate truth and philosophy through human history.
Philosophers like S. Thomas Aquinas and S. Augustine have placed the metaphysical aspect of art and beauty in a truly central position in their systems of thought and assigned to it practically ontological significance.
Man has been doing philosophy over art and beauty since the beginning of the philosophical quest, but as we mentioned aesthetics has not come up as a branch in its own right until relatively late. A powerful analogy comes directly from the Principle of Creation: God is the creator of everything and His relationship to creation is the same as that of the artist to his work of art; the order, the beauty and the grandeur of the universe are comparable to the harmony of a work of art; such magnificence testifies to the greatness of the Creator of creators. Man, intuitively, feels that through art, even bypassing the ascetic way of religion and spirituality, he can connect with a metaphysical reality, the realm of creative intuition where the divine gift of creativity, which reigns supreme and which is fundamentally God 's and God given, can be experienced; that gift the Creator gave to each man in a slightly different form so that we all, his created beings and children, can be unique, eternal and eventually unchanging as He is.
God made us all unique, special and reflecting His original image (in Divine Principle, individual embodiments of truth). Because of the metaphysical element inherent in art and creative activity, art is a pure gift of the spirit from God the creator to man; philosophers have in their turn analyzed art and beauty but in contest with ontology and metaphysics, later however, aesthetics became not only independent but with some philosophers acquired predominant role.
From the Unification Thought point of view we know that beauty is one of the three God given eternal values for man to pursue: truth, beauty and goodness, beauty in fact is in life an undeniable reality and need for all human beings. No one can escape this powerful, eternal law of search and longing for the beautiful within and without; such an ideal is eternal, unchanging and absolute; this is so simply because God created things that way; beauty stimulates love and love centered on the purpose of creation is the ultimate reality of the universe and of all created beings; God created beauty and beautiful things because He wanted to give something powerful and worthwhile to stimulate the love of His children. We long for it because God created the universe according to the symbiotic and absolute principle of True Love and True Beauty which is eternally self generating: beauty ensures that love keeps flowing unimpeded and ever growing, love increases beauty and beauty increases love, for ever: amazingly perfect plan.
The quest to understand the ontological significance of "the beautiful" has created philosophy of art itself. Benedetto Croce, the great Italian philosopher and aesthetist of the XX century, said that "from this character of Aesthetics it follows that its history cannot be separated from that of philosophy at large, from which aesthetics receives light and guidance and gives back light and guidance in its turn".
Interest in the philosophy of art and beauty starts at the very beginning of philosophy in the ancient Greece. Both Plato and Aristotle considered art mainly in the practical life of the Greek polis; however, the Platonic distinction of social and ideal laid a foundation for Neoplatonism to follow with its mystical theories. Plotinus later will elevate that to metaphysical speculation; finally beauty in S. Augustine, one of the champions of God centered philosophical thought in the Middle Ages, receives a quasi-sacred and transcendent status, it becomes substantially property and part of God's creation as we know, from the Principle, it ought to be.
Interesting to note is that since the artistic activity represents one of the most noble and peculiar characteristics and rights of the human spirit, having we inherited it from God our Creator and Heavenly Parent, beauty in its disparate forms represents a strongly desired reality in man's life: we seek beauty in other people, in nature, in things, in beautifying the personal and public environment, in the works of art, etc. Based on this human need we see that Aesthetics becomes an important element in the speculation of the philosophers of the late classical and early medieval period. The medieval philosophy looks at life not so much from the viewpoint of ontology and metaphysics but from that of logic and theology. The religious element receives a primary role and art comes to celebrate in transfigured beauty and form God's created world.
Beauty is no longer an immanent reality pertaining to the horizontal world but it becomes an expression of the original beauty of God the creator.
St. Augustine states that "finally a justification can be given for the inevitable and relentless human search for the beautiful", this is because we are searching for a projection of God's original beauty which is latent in all created things. It is very interesting to see St. Thomas thought regarding the principled original values of truth, beauty and goodness. Thomas says that true art must symbolize truth, namely it must have absolute value, and he continues "What the artist creates is valuable as long as it represents truth; truth can be gained by what pleases eyes; what's beautiful inspires love and the aspiration of love if guided by faith in God leads towards truth." So the equation art and truth is firmly established for the first time in an ontological sense; also, the Aquinas considers philosophy of art pure theology.
In the Renaissance, after medieval philosophy, aesthetics timidly begins to be accepted both as a traditional philosophical topic and part of man's life. We see then a revival of some of Plato's ideas about beauty together with some elements from the Augustinian and Plotinian vertical view of art: Shaftesbury, an English philosopher considered by many the father of all modern philosophies of art, embraced in fact Platonic idealism.
Later in England some speculative trends aimed to connect the inherent elements and the external form of a work of art to the psychological approach and predisposition of the appreciator of the same. This is not far away from the viewpoint of Unification Thought that states that beauty in a an object is relative to the appreciator' s desire to seek God's original value and purpose inherent in a work of art or object of nature.
Addison, Hogarth, Gerard and Hutcheson thus create a sort of psychology of aesthetics that will eventually usher in aesthetic phenomenology.
In Germany (where it was Gaumgarten who coined first the term aesthetics from the Greek, aisthesis) aesthetics became established as a basic philosophical branch based on Shaftesbury's Neoplatonic and Leibnizian vision of the cosmos in spiritual terms.
However, above all through Immanuel Kant, aesthetics becomes one of philosophy's main discipline: in an introductory statement from his The Critique of Judgment he places aesthetics as a connecting bridge between the theoretical philosophy of his The Critique of Pure Reason and the practical philosophy of his The Critique of Practical Reason.
Kant was an Abel type philosopher using his genius just like S. Augustine had said: "Reason is a mental operation capable of distinguishing and connecting the things that are learned. But only a rare class of men is capable of using it as a guide to the knowledge of God or of the soul." Kant's concept that nature and art in their countless beautiful expressions are a projection and symbol of a spiritual dimension of the universe is true and principled. Art is a link between the visible and the invisible worlds that comes into play in the moment of the love-beauty relationship with the work of art; around the sacredness of the beautiful that we admire or even may come to adore, we come to feel the ideal in its true original splendor; the beauty of the work of art touches the need of original beauty within us and we feel joy, hope, release, sweet longing for the ideal. Thus the miracle takes place: art fulfills its cathartic role in this fallen world as wonderful gift from heaven.
What previously said is propedeutic to German Absolute Idealism which acknowledges that the fundamental substrata of the universe are spiritual and it positions aesthetics in the highest realm of philosophy.
In the GAI art is considered at the very center of the philosophical quest and at the center of the highest philosophical speculation. The GAI defines itself as a very Abel type current of thought especially in its effort of placing art as emanation of a spiritual reality that permeates the entire universe: such a notion will be inherited and expressed in full force in Romanticism.
From the view point of the Divine Principle this is an Abel like thought and corresponding to truth; in a world without the fall, art should have been a natural link centered on the eternal interrelated dualism of true love and true beauty between God and man: the beauty of art would naturally match man's internal spiritual purity and enhance it. In the fallen world as we have today true art, just like unfallen creation, emerges brighter and has a cathartic and healing role for fallen humanity, almost in a quasi-divine like position. Legend has it that God gave the gift of art to man after the fall as comfort, solace and guiding light towards the moment of reunion or religo: an inspiration and reminder of the world to come for all human beings, for all God's children.
The relationship between Absolute Idealism and philosophy is analogous to that of Romanticism and art. Because art had to abide by the law of the scientific method in England and in the United States, in these countries it has received less support in the realm of thought than it deserved. Naturalism that derives from Romanticism, sees art as one of the loftiest element of the human spirit that stands at the pinnacle of reality and this is validated by the act of original Creation itself which is the first and greatest work of art and "the Creation" of all creations. This modern naturalism has helped improve the standing of art in philosophy.
In German philosophy, Heidegger in his existentialist views stated that man's existence itself will help understand the ontological question and the nature of the universe, and to this end art, in the realm of existence or being, is fundamental.
Marxist and socialist thinkers have looked and used art as an expression of their ideology, the fallen imitation of God's original plan of creation; art indeed is the heart of the culture of a society and it comes to reflect the ideology and the thought of the people and the period in which it is created.
According to Unification Thought creation is done in order to realize value, appreciation is done in order to seek value. Thus, dictatorial societies have imposed their own set of values to their people and have manipulated art using a certain ad hoc artistic output to keep such control. In an ideal God centered society and in the process of realizing it art should be free and centered on absolute values to reflect God's eternal principles and to stand as a true object of admiration for mankind seeking value through appreciation of artistic works.
According to the Unification Thought, culture "refers to the totality of human activities among which the most central is art, therefore art is the essence of culture". As a God centered society it is important to produce heavenly culture for us and the future generations: to produce art that would reflect the heart; a culture that represents absolute values and the tradition of our True Parents.
We can summarize Beauty and Art in the history of philosophy at the light of the Divine Principle in the following way: God is the creator, man the created being; God bestowed upon man the precious gifts of freedom (libero arbitrio) and creativity; art, for the artist or the appreciator, remains simply the activity to produce true joy by creating or appreciating true beauty for the joy of God and the joy of other human beings.
Johann Sebastian Bach, the great music composer of the Classical period was writing his Cantatas and Passions "Soli Deo Gloria" (only for the Glory of God); that in the end symbolizes the position of a true artist and a true art appreciator. Still in this fallen world art has a connotation of solace, inspiration and catharsis, it wants to show to what heights human life aided by art in harmony with the universal law, can lead. Eventually as purification takes place within this world, heart and art will be able to freely and joyously run together in the beautiful fields of the heavenly world hand in hand.
Francesco Santelli is the Music Minister of the NJ FFWPU
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