Thursday, 21 August 2014

Beauty as an index of the *quality* of Goodness

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Following from:
http://charltonteaching.blogspot.co.uk/2014/08/beauty-as-index-of-godliness.html
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Beauty has quantitative and qualitative aspects.

The Beauty of a great Gothic Cathedral such as York Minister



 is quite different from the Beauty of Briggflatts, the seventeenth century Quaker Meeting House:



Both are very beautiful; and the Beauty of each indicates - because it derives from and is an expression of - the nature of the devout Christian denomination from which each was sprung.

The richness, complexity, intellectuality, hierarchy, formality of Medieval Western Catholic Christianity (conceived in the 13th Century) - compared with the simplicity and plainness and clear-burning individualistic intensity of early Quaker spirituality.

So the Beauty of the best buildings is a precise-but-incomplete picture of the faith which enabled that Beauty to be achieved.

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The best of modern Christian spirituality is - in my opinion - to be found in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints; however I have not personally explored or experienced any of their meeting houses or main Temples (analogous to cathedrals) in the way I have explored the two examples above.

But I would say that it looks from photographs as if the most beautiful of Mormon architecture reflects the quality of the LDS faith as precisely as do the above two examples.

It seems to me that the best Mormon architecture is as exact (albeit incomplete) a picture of the faith as are York Minster or Briggflatts - and therefore the gives us a picture of both the quantity and the qualities of the best Christianity which is attainable in the modern world.

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To make a comparison between denominations using Beauty as an index, it would be necessary to 'control for' time and place: modern conceptualizations compared, and in the same locations.

There would be one question of which was the most beautiful, but the other and equally important questions would refer to the nature of Beauty, the distinctive quality of Beauty.

(For example - it is when a building is conceptualized that is most relevant and revealing - not when it is completed. Creation is very different from implementations; creation is very different from copying.)

So the comparison would need to be modern US Mormon architecture (or other form of production) with modern US Catholics and Quakers - and would involve an empathic feeling as the basis of comparison.

I think such a comparison would bring out and clarify many of the active and operative qualities in these denominations - their biases and incompletenesses, as well as their strengths and depths.

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The same matter of quality applies to the Beauty of women.

Of the four beautiful females described in Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien - the richest and deepest Beauty is ascribed to the golden-haired wise and ancient elf women Galadriel who represents Morning - as she was born in Valinor and came to Middle Earth as one of the first High Elves; and also to the dark-haired and younger Arwen (in some sense reincarnating Luthien) who represent the twilight of the High Elves in Middle Earth and the mixing of elves with Angels and Men.

There is also Goldberry - wife of Tom Bombadil, who has Beauty of a different order: more earthy, spontaneous and primal - as befits a (probable) nature spirit (the spirit of the river, of water).

Eowyn has the fresh, ephemeral, immensely-courageous yet near-despairing beauty characteristic of Mankind - she is probably the most intensely beautiful of all these women: with the brief and burning intensity of a flame.

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Properly understood; the quantity of Beauty is a measure of Goodness, and the quality of Beauty is an index of the nature of Goodness - and when comparing Beauty with Beauty, quality is often the more revealing comparison.

After all, if something is Beautiful, that is enough; and there is something wrong about applying a ruler to actual Beauty, or trying to put real Beauties into rank order.

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