Spirituality, Philosophy and Art

In what follows, a detailed account of art as the quintessence of aesthetic experience as a whole — which promises new spiritual perspectives to the contemporary person, is presented. On the basis of the experience of the previous generations, “homo-post-secularis” intuitively feels that one can reach spiritual heights by way of mastering and experiencing high art. As a rule, however, they do not know nor care to articulate what exactly this experience provides for them. Therefore, we remind ourselves here of the metaphysical foundations of art (upon which, as a matter of fact, all world religions have learned from time immemorial).

So what is art, as far as its essential foundations are concerned? At present, we can provide a more or less articulate answer to this question on the basis of the almost three-hundred-year period of existence of aesthetics as a discipline, which has been mostly devoted to searching for an answer to this notoriously difficult question.

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“Art is an event“ –

It is an event that is tremendously important and vital for the human being. It is not an accident that art, together with rudimentary forms of religion, appeared at the very dawn of the existence of homo sapiens as a species and remained with us over the entire period of our history. The main significance of this event is that, in it, the aesthetic experience of the human being and humanity as whole is expressed and manifested in a concentrated form during particular periods of human history.

It appears that this experience, as well as religious experience (it is not an accident either that the two have been intertwined since times immemorial), has participated, over many thousands of years, in the formation of the human being, of the human psyche, its mentality, and Culture itself. (Note: Aesthetic experience should not be reduced merely to art; it permeates almost all aspects of human life. However, in this particular case, we speak of art where aesthetic experience is expressed in a concentrated form; essentially, art appeared in order to express this type of experience.)

The essence of aesthetic experience as far as art is concerned, i.e., the essence of art itself, can be reduced to several key functions:

#1. The entire system of artistic devices expresses certain meanings that are vital to human beings. These meanings in principle cannot be verbalized; they cannot be expressed or grasped by the human being in any other way. This method of expression rests on artistic images and symbols, which constitute artistic language.

The entire system of artistic devices expresses certain meanings that are vital to human beings. These meanings in principle cannot be verbalized; they cannot be expressed or grasped by the human being in any other way. This method of expression rests on artistic images and symbols, which constitute artistic language.

#2. At the instant of aesthetic perception, art thereby performs an anagogical function by lifting human beings from their day-to-day life and elevating them into other, higher worlds. This is accomplished by means of immersing them into artistic space.

#3. Art contributes to creating harmony: within the human being; between the human being and society; and even between the human being and the Universe as a whole. Art thereby induces a feeling of fullness of being, of one’s participation in this fullness, and therefore of one’s self-worth in the Universe.

 #4. Finally, art is one of the principal conveyors of one of the most important values: beauty.

By and large, artworks from times immemorial were cherished precisely for their beauty (or, to use current parlance, for their aesthetic quality). It is well known that it is precisely beauty that many eighteenth-century philosophers considered the subject of aesthetics. it is in this sense that the arts were understood, both in aesthetics and in habitual references to the arts, until the middle of the twentieth century.

In many respects, art performs all of its principal aforesaid functions (expressive of vital meanings, harmonizing) precisely thanks to the fact that it both expresses and creates this value. It is quite clear and commonly known that, historically, art did not seem to have emerged in order to actualize this value. Almost always, art has performed most important non-aesthetic functions in Culture: religious, political, social, ethical, narrative, etc. It is first of all for these reasons that art has been highly valued in society.



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