On the surface, Beauty appears to be entirely positive, yet in Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov, Dmitri refers to Beauty as a “terrible and awful thing” and goes on to state that “God and the devil are fighting there and the battlefield is the heart of man.” What does this mean? How can the Divine’s invitation to grace, awe, and reverence be a “terrible and awful thing” and how can the Devil utilize Beauty as a battlefield in the heart of man? Much depends on how the invitation the Divine extends through Beauty is approached. In other words, Beauty’s potential to save the world depends entirely on how the invitation is accepted. Many simply ignore the invitation through sheer apathy. Others react to the invitation with hostility. Others interpret Beauty’s invitation as an incitement to selfishness, lust, and evil.
The invitation Divine extends through Beauty is often repudiated and rejected. Not all who perceive Beauty appreciate the Truth and Goodness it contains. On the contrary, some vehemently reject and scorn Beauty, Truth, and Goodness altogether because they contradict the central beliefs of the modern world - determinism, materialism, atheism, relativism, and hedonism. People of this type have rejected any notion of God and exist in a world where “everything is permitted.”
In this regard, the Divine’s invitation to Beauty becomes an affront, something to be mocked and spurned. Rather than inspire love in the Divine Self, Beauty’s invitation provokes only selfish lust. Instead of motivating the Divine Self, Beauty inadvertently activates the Demonic Self, which rejects the recognition of Divine Creation and the call for co-creation in favor of nihilism and the call for destruction.
Those who approach Beauty with lust only see opportunities for pleasure and power. Divine Creation is reduced to a world of predators and prey. Beings are regarded as Things. Subjects become objects. Beauty, a means for selfish gratification. Pleasure is derived from the dismantling of the Sacred and the promulgation of the Profane. Nihilism is equated with ultimate freedom – meaninglessness becomes life’s only meaning. The abyss opens, and the desire to have it consume everything takes control.
Whether Beauty saves the world or destroys it hinges on how we respond to the invitation Beauty extends. Beauty is indeed a battlefield in the hearts of men. Whether God or the Devil prevails on this battlefield depends entirely on us. The connection between in the Divine and Divine Self is only possible if Beauty is accepted with love, for only love can perceive the essence of Divine Creation and understand the Heaven it offers. Love recognizes the Resurrection after the Crucifixion without denying the necessity of the Crucifixion.
Conversely, the connection between the Divine and Divine Self becomes impossible if Beauty is interpreted as to incitement to lust – as an open invitation to evil – because lust rejects the essence of Divine Creation and the Heaven it offers. Lust openly scorns and denies the reality of the Resurrection. When lust perceives Beauty, it sees only the Crucifixion and the profane pleasure it can derive from cruelty, suffering, destruction, and death.