The Universal Order - Study Group Paper 5


Integral Art

"The Nature, then, which creates things so lovely must be itself of a far earlier beauty; we, undisciplined in the discernment of the inward, knowing nothing of it, run after the outer, never understanding that it is the inner which stirs us; we are in the case of one who sees his own reflection but, not realising whence it comes, goes in pursuit of it." Plotinus

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I. Beauty

All human action is the exercise of some species of art, even as all human thought is the expression of some aspect of knowledge or science.

All true art is fabricative, productive, or creative, because it is the means whereby the soul interprets and makes manifest innate ideas contained within it.

The highest forms of inspiration, imagination and intuition are stirrings within the human soul of ideals or spiritual realities. These ideals and spiritual realities are forever in a process of being made actual upon the normal plane of human consciousness. And so even in the realms of time and space, the soul may receive glimpses of that supernal Beauty which subsists ideally and eternally above all temporal and spatial limitations.

Beauty is that which delights the human soul, for in contemplating it the soul returns, as it were, from the far country to that which is its own.

Always and everywhere it is beauty and beauty alone that gives the highest joys. If there is an over-emphasis of one of its aspects, the pendulum swings to the opposite extreme and a reaction against that particular expression of beauty is produced. It is still beauty, however, that is pursued, although perhaps found by the artist in hitherto unsuspected places.

The true artist is one who, knowingly or unknowingly, is dedicated to the service of beauty, who seeks to find beauty everywhere, and who labours to make manifest to others the vision which he himself has beheld.


II. The Purpose of Art

The purpose of art may be described as the expression in the external realms of that inner beauty which belongs essentially to the realms of the ideal.

This inner beauty is that which all artists desire, and - directly or indirectly - is the cause of all quests and all longings. When man contemplates the expanse and wonder of Nature in its entirety, he is impressed - even unconsciously - with its beauty; but behind the beauty of the outer is the beauty of the inner; and behind the beauty of the symbol is the beauty of that which is symbolized. And so, beginning from the beauty of the natural universe, man may ascend to the beauty beyond beauty, until at length he arrives at the Source of all Beauty, to the Beautiful Itself.

Man has an affinity with that inner Ideal Beauty and his inner nature is beautiful, though in a more or less latent or unawakened condition. The artist, who looks beyond the outer to the inner, who expresses and at the same time interprets in the symbols of the outer world his own vision of the inner beauty, is thereby bringing into actuality the beauty latent in his fellow men.


III. The Five Arts

It is possible to divide art into five branches:-

The Pragmatic Arts - The "useful" arts. These embrace the arts and crafts which minister to man's mundane requirements,

The Expressive Arts - All art is necessarily expressive, but these are arts which are expressive in a special sense, such as music, poetry, literature, painting, dance, etc.,

The Ordinative Arts - These are perfective, remedial, and ordinative, and include the sociological, therapeutic, ethical, legal, moral, political, and all those arts dedicated to the Ideal of Harmony and Goodness,

The Interpretative Arts - These teach man to know the reason of life and the means whereby to control it. Philosophy, pure mathematics, and education may be regarded as aspects of these arts. All sacred writings, all pure intellectual arts, all sacred myths, all prophetic utterances, are aspects of this form of inspiration,

The Elevative Arts - Religion, which is the art of living in accordance with the principles underlying man's relations with God, is essentially an elevative art, and all its accessories - sacred music, ritual, symbology - are the means for lifting the human consciousness to the above.

Man is a work of art in the process of being made complete. His lower nature is material, his higher nature is the artist. Even as the Light of God is in the Soul, so the Divine Master Artist is within the human artist.

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 "He who has been instructed thus far in the things of love, and has learned to see the beautiful in due order and succession, when he comes towards the end will suddenly perceive a nature of wondrous beauty - a nature which in the first place is everlasting, not growing and decaying, or waxing and waning; secondly, not fair in one point of view and foul in another,…but Beauty absolute, self-sufficient, simple, and everlasting, which without diminution and without increase, or any change, is imparted to the ever-growing and perishing beauties of all other things." Plato (Symposium)


"Withdraw into thyself and look, and if thou dost not find thyself beautiful as yet, do as does the creator of a statue that is to be made beautiful: cut away all that is excessive, straighten all that is crooked, bring light to all that is overcast, labour to make all one glow of beauty." Plotinus


© The Universal Order 2001