I took this excerpt from a fictitious book called The Art of the Ages that I included in my novel The City of Earthly Desire. I wrote the paragraph above to explore the concept of art as means through which to approach the Divine. Though I embrace the concept theoretically, it has been my experience that art has more commonly been utilized to achieve the opposite objective – that is diverting and turning people away from the Divine. Regardless, I feel if art has the power to turn people away from the Divine, then it must surely also contain the power to turn people toward the Divine.
In the following, I present some my observations and conjectures regarding art and its possible role in establishing a potential path toward the Divine. As with anything in the domain of thinking and writing, many of these observations and conclusions have invariable been drawn from other works of art, theology, and philosophy I have engaged with over the years.
To begin with, art resides in the realm of Beauty, one of the three transcendentals, yet beauty alone is not enough to establish the potential of drawing closer to the Divine. As Dostoevsky notes in his novel The Idiot, the phrase “Beauty will save the world” reveals a partial truth, at best. Beauty alone is a fine thing, but in art, as in life, beauty alone is insufficient. Thus, only art that successfully incorporates all three transcendentals simultaneously into a seamless unity creates the potential for a pathway toward the Divine.
In other words, art must manifest a unity of Goodness, Truth, and Beauty to be truly higher than politics or economics. It must also contain this unity to serve as a total expression and freedom of the human spirit, one that offers us the potential to transcend our earthly circumstances and draw nearer to the Divine.
Art that fails to unify the transcendentals or purposively eliminates one or more of these transcendentals from its form cannot succeed as a pathway to the Divine and remains firmly in the material realm where it may serve some utilitarian function such as propaganda, décor, or mindless distraction/entertainment.
This lower sort of art can serve both harmful and beneficial utilitarian purposes. On the beneficial side, it can provide mild distraction or trivial satisfaction, and perhaps induce certain levels of relaxation or stimulation. On the harmful side, non-unified art offers a perversion of the unified transcendentals by giving the appearance of a unified work while hiding the transcendental element or elements it lacks. Non-unified art can also invert the transcendentals and offer their opposites in their place instead. Propagandist art, for example, may offer some partial good, but its inherent lack of Truth inevitably renders propaganda harmful.
Therefore, only art unifying the transcendentals can advance the potential for contact with the Divine, which entails that only artists possessing, at the bare minimum, a subconscious understanding of the transcendentals can produce such art. Nonethless, I feel artists who produce unified art through a subconscious comprehension of Truth, Beauty, and Goodness may only manage to do so through some source of Divine inspiration. Otherwise, unified art seems to precondition a level of consciousness that matches, or at the very least, orbits the art it has created.
Art offering the potential to step closer to the Divine cannot evolve beyond potential if it does not encounter an appropriate level of consciousness that can perceive the transcendental unity the work of art offers. Put another way, only heightened or deepened consciousness can fully appreciate the path to the Divine a unified work of art makes potentially available. The encounter between a unified work of art and the heightened consciousness recognizing the unity within the work of art may also make approaching the Divine possible.
I have shared these observations and conjectures because I intuitively feel art will have to play a minor yet important role in moving people away from what Bruce Charlton has identified as the twin problems of modern people – atheism and alienation - and moving them toward a renewed and reconstructed metaphysics in conjunction with a development of consciousness. Professor Charlton defines this as Romantic Christianity, which he considers the only viable way forward for individuals and, perhaps society in general. The more I understand Romantic Christianity, the more I am drawn to it, and I am curious to see what role, if any, art may play in its development/unfolding. I might be wrong, but I have a feeling art has the potential to play a quite significant role indeed.
So, if you fancy yourself an artist, what are you waiting for? Get to it. There's work to do!
Note: I do not profess to be an artist of heightened consciousness; nor am I promoting my own artistic endeavors as successful examples of unified art (I sincerely believe my one and only novel falls well short of this ideal). Having said that, I do aspire to be a writer of higher consciousness whose work may inch a little closer to the ideal of unified art as time goes by.