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Truth, Beauty and Goodness: Standing on Holy Ground

Friday, November 25, 2016    

 

Do you ever wonder why you know what beauty is even though you can’t define it? (The Daily Motivator, Ralph S. Marston Jr., 11/13/09)

The art critic, Robert Hughes, once said about the Spanish painter, Francisco de Goya’s work, “It tries to be true, not beautiful.” Goya was known for painting the extremes of human experience, “not the mild quotidian middle ground,” as writer John Updike described daily life in his New Yorker review (of the Goya show).

Beauty without truth content can be merely sentimental. The work of artist Thomas Kincaide, the romanticized lighthouses and cottages, is a good example of someone who’s criticized for this aesthetic flaw. Whatever critics might say, Kincaide’s financial success and enormous popularity have made it clear—not everyone rejects purely sentimental art.

On the other hand, if art is presented with too much truth and no goodness to balance it out, it can come off as harsh or unpleasant like some modern expressionism does, or “disturbing” and “pessimistic” as Goya is described. Truth without hope is one way of describing this type of art.

If we include a philosophy of goodness, a picture of the universe as “friendly” in spite of appearances to the contrary, such an insight leads us to offer hope along with our truth. The Urantia Book (The UB) equates “sublime hope,” a higher, spiritual and transcendent hope, with faith, as Jesus taught Nabon, a Greek and Jewish leader of the Mithraic mystery cult (now there’s an interfaith achievement for you!)

“But truth can never become man’s possession without the exercise of faith. This is true because man’s thoughts, wisdom, ethics, and ideals will never rise higher than his faith, his sublime hope.”(The UB, 132:3.5)

I find it a satisfying and more complete vision that, not only is there a law of conservation of energy on the scientific-physical plane, but also one of goodness on the spiritual-emotional plane as The UB confirms. “On the mansion worlds [the seraphic evangels] proclaim the great law of the conservation and dominance of goodness: No act of good is ever wholly lost; it may be long thwarted but never wholly annulled, and it is eternally potent in proportion to the divinity of its motivation.” (48:6.7)

Truth, beauty, and goodness provide a kind of working grid for an artist, poet, musician, writer, etc., seeking spiritual progress, striving for creative achievement, and as Integral philosopher Steven McIntosh said, these values can be understood as, “the actual directions of evolution.” We use these Perfect Forms or Ideas originally derived from Plato’s Republic (380 BC) as a guide to finding God, and/or as McIntosh further observed, for “guiding cultural evolution toward a more positive future.”(http://www.integralworld.net/mcintosh4.html) Those building a conscious philosophy of life may discover what is known as a teleological model, the purpose for their work.

One morning, as I was driving to a Urantia readers gathering, I thanked God for his presence in my life. The sun was coming up over the hills on a beautiful spring day. Recently, people had been hurling the familiar, old rebuff my way: we religionists and truth seekers were in the grip of an illusion. But that old Greek philosopher had revealed to me Truth, Beauty and Goodness (or Justice, all unified by Goodness) as the holy foundations of the earth. The Platonic triad was also a signpost on the road for “understanding where evolution is headed.” (McIntosh) Through Plato, I’d first experienced the insight that random evolution without purpose did not adequately explain the origin of the universe for me. This beautiful sunrise over the mountain vista I passed on the freeway was not a random, coincidental, accidental result of nature’s earth movements, not just another event in an endless sea of dark space, it gave expression to a divine purpose.

When in Alexandria, Jesus had a “heart to heart talk” with Ganid about Plato’s teachings, he wanted to teach some “qualified” enhancements to Plato that were needed for “a more trustworthy foundation.” Having more insight into the cosmos, Jesus added absolute personality, and a new concept, “the knowing of the Supreme.” In addition to the changeless “Absolutes,” that Plato introduced, Jesus further told his eager, though sleepy, apprentice about the importance of recognizing the Universal Father’s “Original Personality,” and the “creative bestowal of personality,” which “can coexist with unlimited change and at the same time retain its identity.” (130:4) Although Plato’s philosophy of the absolutes had not included personality, nor seen its capacity to synthesize Truth, Beauty, and Goodness, “Personality inherently reaches out to unify all constituent realities.” (56:4.2)

“Even truth, beauty, and goodness—man's intellectual approach to the universe of mind, matter, and spirit—must be combined into one unified concept of a divine and supremeideal.As mortal personality unifies the human experience with matter, mind, and spirit, so does this divine and supreme ideal become power-unified in Supremacy and then personalized as a God of fatherly love.” (56:10.15)

The disciplines of art, music, literature, and philosophy, serve as stepping stones for seekers to experience a revelation of truth, beauty and goodness. “The supreme beauty, the height of finite art, is the drama of the unification of the vastness of the cosmic extremes of Creator and creature. Man finding God and God finding man.” (56:10.3, p. 646)

Creativity, a “function of the inner life,” (111:4.11) aids us in the achievement of closeness and communion with a seemingly distant God. These are the beginning baby steps to our eventual unification as mature spiritual beings with a personal God and the Supreme Being.

 


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