By Roberto Assagioli
(Published by Assagioli’s Archives in Florence and From the Italian Magazine of Psychosynthesis: http://www.psicosintesi.it/pubblicazioni/rivista-psicosintesi/eng/n19-april-2013)
The spiritual awakening happens to be often produced and promoted by Beauty, which expresses itself on some phenomenon of nature, as, for instance, the one described by Rabindranath Tagore.
He says: “One day, on the late afternoon, I walked up and down on the balcony of our house. The wonder of the sunset joined the gloom in the twilight, so that the approaching evening was getting particularly glamour on me. Even the walls of the house close to mine seemed to purchase a new beauty.
I wondered if the disappearing of the usual common aspect of things could be connected with some magic effect created by the turning up of the evening. No, absolutely no! In the meantime, I suddenly perceived that it was the effect of the upcoming of the evening inside my soul: my ordinary Self had been effaced by shadows. Until it had been clear in the full daylight, all what I perceived was influenced and concealed by it. Now it was apart, so I could watch the world on its real aspect. And this aspect is absolutely not obvious or banal, it is full of a real Beauty and wrapped in Joy.
After this experience, I tried many times to intentionally suppress my Self in order to watch the world as a simple witness: always I got back a wonderful sense of Delight.
Later on I purchased a wider field of vision and from then on I never lost it.
One morning on the veranda in our house the sun was rising up and appearing through the leaves of trees in front of me.
Suddenly, while observing this sight, I felt as if a veil had disappeared out of my eyes and I could see a world full of a radiant brightness, while waves of Beauty and Joy rose above me from everywhere.
Swiftly the radiance penetrated through the heaps of Sadness and Depression, which lied heavy on my heart, and it filled it with Universal Light. That very day the lyric poem “The awakening of the waterfall” sprang out of my soul, flowing quick like a real waterfall. The melody ended, but the veil didn’t fall down any more on the joyful aspect of the Universe.
Since then no other thing or person in the world happened to appear uninteresting or unpleasant to me”. Let us try to read and explain these experiences. Why appreciation of Beauty in objects evokes the Spiritual Conscience in man?
The deepest answer took place by Plato. He told that the most beautiful displays are the expression of a wonderful, eternal and absolute Beauty, or of a Beautiful Being. He described in a punctual shape the ascent to the Aesthetic Way and the sequence of the different stages.
The real order -he says- lies in using the Beauty of the earth as steps we climb thanks to the love for the other Beauty, proceeding from one to another, and from that one to all the beautiful forms and actions, from beautiful actions to beautiful actions, until man can perceive the conception of the Absolute Beauty, and from then on he knows what the Ascent to Beauty is.
In different ways the Spiritual Revelation is obtained by the Magnificence of Order and Harmony. To this type of Revelation belong the insight of Pythagoras (the Harmony of the spheres) and the divine law of proportion in architecture (by Vitruvious) and in human body (by Leonardo).
In all these examples the Ascetical Way is connected, or leads to the Illumination Way. It can be described as a vision or a lighting through the Beauty.
There is also a deeper result a more or less whole unification and harmony on our Consciousness between a subject and an object, between the Personal Self and the Universal Reality.
William Mc Dougall, a psychologist who in a clear and moderate way didn’t hesitate to empathize the existence and the inner value of Soul and Spirit, writes: During moments of contemplation of Beauty, limits of our personality happen to fly someway beyond. We approach the Universal Spirit, which -weakly or strongly- lights inside ourselves, so we can find ourselves reabsorbed by it.
The danger of attachment to beauty
As for the Ways all, even the Aesthetic Way may show disadvantages and dangers, the first lying on the attachment to the form, the exterior aspect. It leads to a one-sided accentuation by the aesthete, who searches for pleasures coming from the perception of beautiful things and gets satisfied with it.
The difference between the aesthete and those who attain to the spiritual fulfilment through Beauty resides in the fact that the first one stops at the first step of the Platonic range, and he refuses or is not able to go on further.
The same function revealing Beauty in Nature is accomplished by Beauty in Art, in all its sides. We must anyway clarify that, while Art can have – or it has- this aspect, not the whole Art practices it!
Sometimes it can even produce the opposite reaction, that’s because the psychological level and the maturity of artists can be unlike. Even instincts and causes which are below an artistic creation can be different.
Notice the big difference on spiritual level between Leonardo and Beato Angelico on one side, and Picasso and Salvador Dalì on the other. Human nature appears many-sided. Multi-faceted is also the psychological structure of artists and poets- they can perceive and express images and “voices” originated by the lighting level of the Superconscious or from the abysses of the instinctive and passional unconscious. So, the same creator can create works producing different or opposite psychological effects.
This is the affair of great and noble artists, such as Goethe and Wagner.