The following is a meditation culled from ideas and phrases emerging from time spent this morning with Plotinus, namely with his treatise “On the Intellectual Beauty” from his Fifth Ennead, written between the years 300-305 A.D. Plotinus was of the group of Neoplatonists that located reality “in a transcendental spiritual realm that gives meaning to the visible world” (from the Norton Anthology introduction).
Plato may have distrusted the storytellers, but I’d rather hear them than any new ideas.
Rather than pale imitation of more perfect forms, art is the access point for transcendence.
Nature is an emanation from a higher realm, its source the same as art. Here we are, between the worlds.
Let’s go to the realm of magnitudes. Suppose two blocks of stone, side by side: one untouched, another wrought by an artist’s hands into a fine statue, concentrating all loveliness of form. Is it the stone that makes the statue beautiful, or something else?
The form is not the material, but the design, held not by crude equipment, but participation. Revelation happens when the resistance of the materials is subdued. The resistance? Stone, yes, but also these hands, these eyes, this stubborn heart. Every prime cause, indwelling, more powerful than its effect. What is musical comes from music itself. You may call it God, although I won’t.
Also note how the elegance will not depend on magnitude. Where does it come from, if not an original power? All gods are august in grace beyond our speech, and why? All there is, is heaven. Truth, then, is mother and nurse. All transparent, light running through light, all only mirrors.
Eyes in the divine, no satiety to call for its ending: to see is to look at greater length. Wisdom is not built of reasonings, but primal, complete from the start.
Powers of fire and the like may be thought great, but it is through their failure in true power that we see them burning, destroying, wearing things away––slaving toward production, they destroy because they belong to the realm of the produced.
There is no beauty outside being. Only in self-ignorance are we ugly. Light upon light, shine.