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Title: Beauty and the Beast - An Essay in Evolutionary Aesthetic
Author: McDowall, Stewart A.
Language: English
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Beauty and the Beast






    BOMBAY   }
    MADRAS   }




                          Beauty and the Beast

                                AN ESSAY
                         EVOLUTIONARY AESTHETIC


                       STEWART A. McDOWALL, B.D.

          Chaplain and Assistant Master at Winchester College
            Author of _Evolution and the Need of Atonement_,
             _Evolution and Spiritual Life_, _Evolution and
                  the Doctrine of the Trinity_, _etc._

                        AT THE UNIVERSITY PRESS

    For verily all men by nature were but vain who had no perception
    of God, and from the good things that are seen they gained not
    power to know him that is, neither by giving heed to the works
    did they recognise the artificer; but either fire, or wind, or
    swift air, or circling stars, or raging water, or luminaries of
    heaven, they thought to be gods that rule the world. And if it was
    through delight in their beauty that they took them to be gods,
    let them know how much better than these is their Sovereign Lord;
    for the first author of beauty created them: but if it was through
    astonishment at their power and influence, let them understand from
    them how much more powerful is he that formed them; for from the
    greatness of the beauty even of created things in like proportion
    does man form the image of their first maker. But yet for these
    men there is but small blame, for they too peradventure do but go
    astray while they are seeking God and desiring to find him. For
    living among his works they make diligent search, and they yield
    themselves up to sight, because the things that they look upon are
    beautiful. But again even they are not to be excused. For if they
    had power to know so much, that they should be able to explore
    the course of things, how is it that they did not sooner find the
    Sovereign Lord of these his works?

                                                       Wisdom xiii. 1-9.


I wish to take this opportunity of expressing my gratitude to Mrs R.
B. Goodden and Mr R. M. Y. Gleadowe for the help they have given me
in writing this book. With Mrs Goodden the theory was discussed point
by point, and her criticisms and suggestions are largely responsible
for the final shaping of the argument, as well as for an important
development of the theory. To Mr Gleadowe I am indebted for some useful
hints, which led to a partial rearrangement of the material, by which
the form of the book has been greatly improved.

                                                              S. A. MCD.

    _October 1919_.



    INTRODUCTION                             1

    PART I. THE THEORY                      17

    PART II. BEAUTY IN EVOLUTION            51

    CONCLUSION                              65



Are we to look at the Beautiful with our feet firmly planted on
the Natural, or are we to look at the Natural from the apparently
precarious height of the Beautiful? This, after all, is the dilemma
of aesthetic, slow though men have been to realise it. As we read the
history of Aesthetic Theory we are puzzled by the tentativeness and the
uncertainty even of those philosophers who played the greatest part in
moulding human thought, until it dawns on us that, idealist though they
might be in all else, in this they were unconsciously disloyal to their
own systems, being in some measure materialist.

An attempt to form a philosophy of religion which should start from
the generally accepted facts of biological science and pass, through
the common experiences of personal relationship, to the ultimate
problems of Godhead and manhood, left at the close a keen sense of
something lacking--something more than the lack of unity and balance
inevitable in work written and published step by step. I had tried to
find in Love, which is the very nature of Godhead, an essential impulse
towards creation. It was clear that this creation must be the creation
of something _new_, if it were to be justified; and the conclusion
which forced itself upon me was that the creation of personal beings
fulfilled this demand.

Yet an unsatisfied sense remained either that even the experience of
love reciprocated by fresh personal beings could not be new for God
with that utter newness which belief in Him as Transcendent and Perfect
required, or else that His experience was not always perfect. At any
rate something that would make this newness self-evident was missing.
Something vital had clearly been left out. The one thing of which no
account had been taken was Beauty; and I began to consider whether this
missing something, all-pervading yet intangible, was not Beauty itself.
And in Beauty I seemed to find what I had missed.

To Aesthetic has generally been assigned the fate of Cinderella. Her
uglier sisters, Epistemology and Metaphysic, have monopolised the court
invitations, for the most part. Might she not, after all, be destined
to marry the Prince? A little thought made it clear that, properly
arrayed, she would bid fair to outshine the others. This book is not an
effort to dress her in a new fashion. Fairy godmother I cannot claim to
be, nor have I a magic wand. I shall only try to strip off some of the
rags, leaving her, like Psyche, to proclaim her own loveliness.

It is not my intention to give a systematic account of the development
of aesthetic theory. Such books as Dr Bosanquet’s _History of
Aesthetic_, and the historical portion of Croce’s _Aesthetic_, from
which works the following summary is chiefly derived, fortunately
make the task unnecessary. Nor does any detailed criticism of the
work of others fall within the scope of the present essay. My aim is
merely to suggest an idea, avoiding technicalities as far as I may,
and then to link it up with the Christian idea of God on the one hand,
and with the development of the human soul on the other. The very
briefest note on the course of speculation concerning Art and Beauty
will suffice to introduce the point of view that I wish to suggest,
which is that Beauty must be a first and not a last consideration for
metaphysic. To advocate this is to turn his own weapon against Croce;
but that is inevitable. Croce claims that Beauty is the expression
of that intuition of Reality which constitutes the first stage of
knowledge; but the philosophy of Croce is anti-metaphysical. Since
many, while agreeing with the great and original discovery involved in
his affirmation, must disagree profoundly with his negation, it follows
of necessity that sooner or later they will endeavour to hoist him with
his own petard.

Aesthetic theories show a steady and yet very remarkable change in
the views of philosophers concerning Art and even Beauty itself. The
Greeks tended, on the whole, to regard Art as mere imitation. Thus, at
best, the beauty produced by artistic creation was inferior, because
second-hand; in fact, as Plato argued, the artist’s representation
was really third-hand, for there is first the idea, then the concrete
individual object, then the representation. Stress was laid on
harmony, rhythm, order, as being indicative of the homogeneity of
an ideal world and therefore admirable. But, being an incomplete
reproduction of nature[1], art could have no primary importance. It
might be evil or good, in its own degree; and from the moral standpoint
it might be judged, for the beautiful and the good are not completely
distinguished. Being so judged, it was found wanting. It is one of the
tragedies of thought that the beauty-loving Plato should have been
driven to formulate a theory which is the negation of art, because it
seemed to him that art was simply the false endeavouring to masquerade
as the true. In Aristotle we find the beginnings of a freer idea.
Symbolism in art is implicitly recognised, and there is some escape,
though not much, from the moralistic bond; some dawning conception,
though not much, of the concrete expressiveness of artistic creation.
In the Middle Ages the mystical symbolic conception, characteristic
of Plotinus, was developed. Symmetry and rhythm are beautiful because
they symbolise reason and divinity, and relate the human soul, through
the perception of order, to the divine which created that order. St
Thomas Aquinas even goes so far as to say that in beauty desire is
quieted[2]--presumably because satisfied. We shall be led to disagree
profoundly with this statement.

Of Vico (1725), to whom Croce acknowledges so great a debt, we will
only here say that he was the discoverer of the creative intuition,
and this discovery entitles him to the honourable position of first
founder of a coherent theory of aesthetic. Vico was primarily concerned
with the nature of poetry. He showed that poetry was a ‘moment’ of the
spiritual consciousness, by which a man was brought into contact with
reality--that it represented a stage of knowledge _before_ reflection
(and was therefore an intuition) and that it expressed this knowledge
(and was therefore creative); while it was distinct from feeling, and
therefore free from the stigma which Plato attached to it, and which
led to his banishing it from his _Republic_.

    Men first _feel_ without being aware; they then _become aware_
    with troubled and affected soul; finally they reflect with pure
    mind. This dignity is the _Principle of the poetical feelings_,
    which are formed by the senses of _passions_ and of _affections_,
    as distinct from the _philosophical feelings_, which are formed
    from _reflection by reasoning_. Hence the philosophical feelings
    approach more to truth, the more they rise to _universals_; the
    poetical feelings are more certain the more they approach to

Poetry is thus placed on the imaginative plane, says Professor Wildon
Carr, as distinct from the intellective, and this imaginative plane, or
as Croce calls it, degree, is furnished with positive value.

By Kant we first find the problem of aesthetic faced boldly and at
close quarters. Kant’s thought had led him to the formulation of two
Critiques, the one dealing with the world of abstract reason, the other
with the world of concrete, practical experience; and no systematic
bond yet existed between them. The unity of life itself made such a
dualism intolerable, and Kant sought the unifying medium in aesthetic
judgment, for judgment is pre-eminently a synthesis. The domain of
aesthetic consciousness, if purely subjective by Kant’s interpretation,
is yet clearly determined. It furnishes decisions on the quality,
the quantity and the relation of those objects with which practical
experience makes us acquainted, and with whose existence the intellect
is occupied. Yet beauty is for Kant subjective, devoid of abstract
conceptions, pleasing without interest, destitute of content; though he
fails in achieving more than a verbal consistency in this matter[4].
Subjective or not, however, it is symbolic of the moral order, and owes
its apparent rationality to the Order which it symbolises. No doubt
it is through the doctrine of symbolism that Kant is led on to his
discussion of the sublime as another species of the aesthetic judgment,
yet more subjective, yet more abstract.

With Schelling we reach the stage of philosophical appreciation of the
objectivity of beauty; and, with this objectivity, of the relation
of beauty to historical continuity, both in its own expression in
the mind of man, and in the sequence of objective episodes. The
artist recognises the eternal idea in an individual, and expresses
it outwardly, transforming the individual into a world apart, into a
species, into an eternal idea[5]. The divine, successively expressing
itself through man, gives a unity and absoluteness to all reality; and
reality is the object of the aesthetic judgment.

We have not stayed to discuss, or even state, the many definitions
of the Beautiful that have been given. Neither have we attempted to
represent the contribution of countless writers to the problem. Our
only object in this brief page of summary has been to indicate the
changing trend of thought.

The Greeks reared their philosophic system on an unstable foundation,
because they looked on Beauty as mere imitation. For them Art mimics
life as crudely as a company of strolling players at a country fair
mimics the doings of the great. Art is dramatic rather than true.

But with less rigorous and honest minds than Plato’s the instinctive
love of beauty weighed more strongly. Beauty was, at highest, too
ennobling to be wholly false; it must at least symbolise the true. And
when a more disciplined thought was once more turned upon Reality,
without beauty the world seemed dual--hard and cold, with theory and
practice divorced. The only bond appeared to lie in the region of
the judgment of values, itself essentially aesthetic. Men born out
of due time there were who showed here and there flashes of deeper
insight before Kant’s systematisation was effected, but to them
came only sporadic glimpses of the truth. These for the most part
were men deeply versed in the life and soul of man--the Dantes, the
Shakespeares, the Goethes. Only one was pre-eminent in the realm of
pure thought--Giambattista Vico. With other thinkers the tide rose and
fell alternately, yet always moved from the neap of Platonism towards
the spring.

Then, at the end, in our own time, Benedetto Croce set himself to
formulate the first adequate theory of the Aesthetic.

The importance of Beauty to any system of philosophy that could pretend
to completeness had been more and more recognised. It was left for
Croce to grasp the truth that Beauty is not judgment, but expression:
the expression of the intuition which is our first contact with
Reality; and that Aesthetic is the science of expressive activity.
Given this first movement of the spirit, the other modes of approach
to Reality follow--or rather are involved, since no temporal series is

Croce’s philosophy as a whole, and especially his extension of the
logical _a priori_ synthesis on which it is founded, is difficult to
grasp; and for the sake of those who may not have made acquaintance
with his own exposition or with Professor Wildon Carr’s summary, a
brief discussion of one or two salient points may be forgiven. It is
only fair to state, however, that it is not possible to give a really
short and clear _résumé_ that will do justice to the most interesting
and elusive of modern philosophies.

We may begin by explaining what Croce means by an intuition, what he
means by the _a priori_ synthesis, and what part the relation of the
double degree plays in his system.

When you perceive an object, already you are using two mental
processes, which cannot in fact be separated, or exist the one without
the other. In the first place there is simple awareness of a reality.
You objectify an impression without arguing as to its reality at all,
or relating it to yourself or anything else. You merely characterise
the thing, and are aware of it as concrete and individual. This is the
Pure Intuition. It has no admixture of intellectual process. And its
salient characteristic is _that it is made or expressed by the mind_,
and is indeed identical with this expression. You cannot separate the
intuition from its expression. Moreover it is aesthetic in nature. Its
character is identical with the character of the mind-process which
makes the vision of the artist and the poet.

But this intuition is at once generalised, and related. The process of
generalisation is the formation of the Concept, and is characteristic
of the logical or intellectual activity. Moreover the Pure Concept is
universal, and expressive, belonging to all individuals; concrete, and
therefore real. Pseudo-concepts, which fail either in universality,
expressiveness or concreteness, do exist and are of great value, but
this value belongs not to the theoretical, but to the practical,
activity. ‘Evolution’ is a pure concept, ‘chair’ a pseudo-concept. For
our purpose it is not necessary to elaborate this point.

What does interest us is the relation between the two theoretical
activities of the spirit--Intuition and Concept. They are ‘moments in
the unity of a single process.’ Neither takes a prior place. “We cannot
think without universalising, and we cannot have an intuition without
thinking[6].” In other words, they are related in a synthesis that is
_a priori_. This means that the intellectual activity which relates
and generalises the intuitions or presentations does not depend upon
them, but is as much a condition of experience as are the presentations
themselves. Each of the two things, the intuition and the concept, is
essential to knowledge; the concept is empty of content without the
intuition, but you cannot have an intuition without thinking it. The
two form an indivisible, organic unity; neither able to exist without
the other. You cannot think without universalising, nor intuit without
thinking. This is the logical _a priori_ synthesis discovered by Kant.
But Croce proceeds to use it in a wider sense, as we shall see.

These two elements then, the intuitional and the conceptual, together
constitute the whole theoretic activity of knowing.

Now the first of these elements, the intuition, is expression of a
reality to the self. It is essentially aesthetic, for aesthetic is the
science of expressive activity. In forming an intuition, and expressing
it, we compass Beauty, for Beauty is expression.

But there is another side to the activity of the spirit. Thinking and
doing, willing and acting, go hand in hand.

The Practical Activity begins as Economic, directed towards
particular ends. There is individual action; but there is also action
universalised: directed to general ends: and this action is Ethical.
Utility passes over into goodness: there is no good action which is not
in some way useful, there is no useful action which is not in some way

Here again, then, we have two inseparable activities, related, as
are the theoretic activities, as a first and second degree, yet each
involving the other. The relation is identical with that of the _a
priori_ synthesis, and the term may be extended to cover this relation

Finally, the two sides of the activity of the spirit, the theoretic and
the practical, are themselves related in this same double degree by a
relation of synthesis that we may again term _a priori_. The theoretic
activity cannot exist apart from the practical, nor the practical
apart from the theoretic. The relation is again the same as that which
obtains for the relation of the elements constituting each pair of the
four ‘moments,’ and for the pairs themselves. The _a priori_ synthesis
is extended to cover all these relations.

With Croce’s theory of Beauty we have already made acquaintance. As
we have seen, Kant laid the foundations by his discussion of the
judgment of taste; Vico, by distinguishing the imaginative from the
intellectual plane, had supplied the basal idea; but it was left to
Croce to see that Beauty is expression, or the form given by the spirit
to its intuitions, through which it makes contact with Reality. It
must, however, be borne in mind that Croce draws an absolutely definite
line between the expression, which belongs to the Theoretic Activity,
and the technical embodiment of that expression, which belongs to the
domain of the Practical. The work of art affords simply the stimulus
which enables us to recreate the artist’s expression; and it is the
expression, not the work of art, that is beautiful. The Beautiful
is a distinct concept; the Ugly is ugly in so far as it fails in
distinctness, through failure to express. Beauty is simply aesthetic
value--the value of the expressed intuition; ugliness the lack of
aesthetic value, through lack of clarity in intuition and expression.

It is needless for us to follow out the rest of Croce’s system. The
chief point that remains is his identification of Philosophy with
History--the _thought_ about the presentation of Reality (Philosophy)
with that presentation itself as an unfolding of immanent life
(History). This identification really follows from the relation of the
double degree between the theoretic and the practical. In thinking
past history you bring it into the present as a practical issue; and
you introduce the logical element in thinking it, but you could not
do so if there were not an intuitive element in it intrinsically.
Philosophy is historically conditioned; without philosophy there could
be no history. With this line of argument, whose affinities with
the philosophy of Bergson are obvious, Croce rounds off his system,
completing his demonstration that the only Reality is living Spirit,
immanent and unfolding.

Thus, according to Croce, the expressive nature of the Intuition, as it
objectifies itself, and so differentiates itself from mere sensation,
is appreciated by the mind, and serves as the first step in the
formation of the Concept or judgment of definition. For the Concept
is expressive, universal, and concrete. Through the Concept we arrive
at knowledge of Reality; and this Concept reacts upon the Intuition,
giving rise to the individual judgment. Croce shows, by demonstrating
that analysis apart from synthesis, and equally synthesis apart from
analysis, in any act of thought, is inconceivable, that one must, by an
extension of the logical _a priori_ synthesis, identify the judgment of
definition and the individual judgment. You cannot, like the idealists,
separate the concept from the facts, nor, like the empiricists, the
facts from the concept. But neither in the realm of aesthetic interest
can you separate the fact from its expressive intuition, or _vice
versa_. The whole of Croce’s system is, as he says, a philosophy of
the spirit, which is itself all Reality. The activity of the spirit is
twofold. In its theoretic activity there are two stages, Aesthetic and
Logic, each involving the other, yet the first in a sense independent
because primary, the second dependent on the first. In its practical
activity there are also two degrees, the Economic and the Ethic,
related to each other in the same way. Yet of these two activities,
theoretic and practical, each involves the other, and in an _a priori_
synthesis each substantiates the other.

It is not our purpose to examine the philosophy of Croce as a whole.
Some points of disagreement with him will become manifest as we proceed
to develop our discussion of the nature of beauty. Notably, we shall
disagree with his rejection of a metaphysic and his denial of a God;
since their inclusion is not really so inimical to his system as he
supposes, their rejection by him would seem to be in a measure an
accident of his circumstances, while their omission leaves the why? of
spiritual and personal being unanswered. For the moment all we need
is his discovery that Beauty is Expression, Aesthetic the Science of
Expression; that to appreciate a work of art is to create it yourself
by entering into the mind, and following the same path, as the original
creator of it; and, first and most important of all, that our knowledge
of the Real owes its possibility and its first beginnings to the
movement of aesthetic intuition. It is a far cry from Plato to Croce.

If the fine arts be utterly distinct, having nothing in common save
a background of emotion, this Essay is a meaningless attempt to
express something which does not exist. It stands condemned; and
this condemnation it shares with many nobler works. But if, as Croce
urges, each art aims at presenting, through the practise of its own
conventions, aspects of Truth which are suitable to that special
medium, no effort to find a highest common factor of all arts is
necessarily doomed to failure.



What is Beauty? Many have asked it, and could find no answer because
they understood their question no more than jesting Pilate understood
his ‘What is Truth?’ But many beside have asked it with at least a real
desire to understand. It was already in the mind of the prehistoric
artist who was the first to draw a pattern or to sketch the mammoth,
though no doubt he did not put the question to himself. It has been
there, expressed or unexpressed, wherever a man has had vision enough
to find his spirit stirred by a flower or a cathedral; a fabric or the
low October sun upon a sheet of gossamer; wherever a man has tried
to reproduce nature on canvas or pour out his longing and triumph in
sound or written words. He has cried out that beauty dwells only in his
own spirit, for there have been moods and days when he could see no
beauty in that which at other times moved him deeply. Yet the agreement
of civilised mankind, at all events, that this or that particular is
beautiful is so widely diffused that he cannot but admit that something
in the object itself must suggest the idea of beauty. Taste may change,
but the sunset and the rose are universally acclaimed by all who have
any aesthetic perception at all. On the other hand, faced with the
vagaries of artistic fashion a man finds no absolute beauty, and is
driven to a subjective theory, for he cannot admire the protruding,
distorted lip so persuasive to certain savages. But no sooner is
this theory constructed than he is brought up once more against the
difficulty that an object is required before the sense of beauty is
aroused, and that men do agree in attributing beauty to many things.

Because the perception of beauty involves a judgment (which really
belongs to the intellectual process, and not properly to the
aesthetic), beauty itself seems too elusive for definition. It has been
left, as we have said, for Croce to formulate the first satisfactory
concept of beauty. He saw what no one else had seen--that man’s first
contact with the Real, the first movement of the spirit that stretched
beyond a mere sensation, was a creative act, an intuition not a
judgment, expressing the reality to himself. Beauty, says Croce, is
expression. Afterwards the man might give his expression objective
form through some technique. Hence derive pictures, sculpture, music,
dancing, poetry, drama, architecture, language itself; all the arts.
Or the expression of his intuition may remain simply as a formative
agent of his spirit. There are many mute inglorious Miltons. But he
has expressed his intuition to himself, and it has formed a new
material for his conceptual activity, whether or no he brings it far
into the domain of the practical, through technique, in order that it
may subserve some economic or moral function for himself and other
men. That he must bring it into the practical in some measure, whether
he does or does not give it technical form, is clear to anyone who
has grasped Croce’s main thought. The aesthetic intuition is for the
individual, but he is driven to universalise it by thought (_i.e._
logic). It is of practical value to himself (economic motive) and it is
capable of being made of use to others (ethical motive). Theoretic and
practical cannot be isolated from one another.

As aesthetic is to logic, so is economic to ethic, and so is theoretic
to practical; it is the relation of the double degree.

_A priori_ synthesis unites each of the theoretic and of the practical
activities with the other, and the same _a priori_ synthesis unites the
theoretic and the practical themselves, of which neither exclusively
precedes the other in the circle of Real Being. This _is_ the life of
the spirit.

Now in considering this theory of Croce’s we notice at once that mind
or spirit is for him a datum, and that he assumes further that spirit
is active and is definable only by its activity. He gives no reason
for this activity. The cause of this is not far to seek, for his whole
system is confessedly anti-metaphysical, and so, of necessity, stops
short of ultimate things. Life, spirit, is for him the true mystery,
and this is immanent. There is no room for transcendence. All he can
say is that no philosophical system is definite because Life itself is
never definite[7].

    Truth is always surrounded with mystery, an ascending to ever
    higher heights, which are without a summit, as Life is without a

    The spirit, which is infinite possibility passing into infinite
    actuality, has drawn and draws at every moment the cosmos from
    chaos, has collected diffused life into the concentrated life of
    the organ, has achieved the passage from animal to human life, has
    created and creates modes of life ever more lofty. The work of the
    spirit is not finished and never will be finished. Our yearning
    for something higher is not vain. The very yearning, the infinity
    of our desire, is proof of the infinity of that process. The plant
    dreams of the animal, the animal of man, man of superman; for this,
    too, is a reality, if it be reality that with every historical
    movement man surpasses himself. The time will come when the great
    deeds and the great works now our memory and our boast will be
    forgotten, as we have forgotten the works and the deeds, no less
    great, of those beings of supreme genius who created what we call
    human life and seem to us now to have been savages of the lowest
    grade, almost men-monkeys. They will be forgotten for the document
    of progress is in _forgetting_; that is, in the fact being entirely
    absorbed in the new fact, in which, and not in itself, it has
    value. But we cannot know what the future states of Reality will
    be, in their determined physiognomy and succession, owing to the
    ‘dignity’ established in the Philosophy of the Practical, by which
    the knowledge of the action and of the deed follows and does not
    precede the action and the deed. _Mystery_ is just the _infinity of
    evolution_; were this not so, that concept would not arise in the
    mind of man, nor would it be possible to abuse it, as it has been
    abused by being transported out of its place, that is to say, into
    the consciousness of itself, which the spiritual activity should
    have and has to the fullest degree, that is, the consciousness of
    its eternal categories.

    The neglect of the moment of mystery is the true reason of the
    error known as the _Philosophy of History_, which undertakes
    to portray the plan of Providence and to determine the formula
    of progress. In this attempt (when it does not affirm mere
    philosophemes, as has very often happened), it makes the effort
    to enclose the infinite in the finite and capriciously to decree
    concluded that evolution which the universal spirit itself cannot
    conclude, for it would thus come to deny itself. In logic that
    error has been gnoseologically defined as the pretension of
    treating the individual as though it were the universal, making
    the universal individual; here it is to be defined in other words
    as the pretension of treating the finite as though it were the
    infinite, of making the infinite finite.

    But the unjustified transportation of the concept of mystery from
    history, where it indicates the future that the past prepares
    and does not know, into philosophy, causes to be pointed as
    mysteries which give rise to probabilities and conjectures,
    problems that consist of philosophical terms, and should therefore
    be philosophically solved. But if the infinite progress and the
    infinite perfectibility of man is to be affirmed, although we do
    not know the concrete forms that progress and perfectibility will
    assume (not knowing them, because now it imports not to _know_, but
    to _do_ them), then there is no meaning in positing as a mystery
    the immortality of the individual soul, or the existence of God;
    for these are not _facts_ that may or may not happen sooner or
    later, but _concepts_ that must be proved to be in themselves
    thinkable and not contradictory. Their thinkability will indeed be
    a mystery, but of the kind that it is a duty to make clear, because
    synonymous with obscurity or mental confusion. What has so far been
    demonstrated has been their unthinkability in the traditional form.
    Nor is it true that they correspond to profound demands of the
    human soul. Man does not seek a god external to himself and almost
    a despot, who commands and benefits him capriciously, nor does he
    aspire to an immortality of insipid ease; but he seeks for that God
    which he has in himself, and aspires to that activity which is both
    Life and Death[9].

Thus Croce affirms that evolution, development, is demanded by the
very nature of spirit. In spirit the problem of the one and the
many is solved. The yearnings of man towards something higher, and
towards a unity that shall lie behind and stabilise all thought, are
but expressions of the nature of Life. The dissatisfaction of such
a thought is due to psychological illusion, comparable to a “dream
of an art so sublime that every work of art really existing would by
comparison appear contemptible.” There is no intuition that cannot
be clearly expressed; vague dreams of the Madonna of the Future end
inevitably in an empty canvas. So too, according to Croce, is a dream
of transcendence empty of content, because inexpressible; based on no
clear intuition, but on a confusion between the historical judgment and
some vague conception of the transcendental. And thus the life of the
spirit is left a mystery.

We will not attempt any discussion of Croce’s fundamental pantheism,
neither will we as yet criticise his definition of Beauty. Instead,
we will begin our constructive work by considering the psychological
accompaniment of a perception of beauty and from that starting-point
try to reach a conception and a definition that will carry us beyond
Croce’s into a region less empty of love, a region that shines with a
light of its own. Dead moons are lovely, but they owe their loveliness
to living light. Cold philosophies too are only beautiful when a
beautiful spirit makes them seem to live.

Let us, then, turn to the psychological effects of that which appeals
as beautiful to some individual mind, leaving on one side, for the
time, all consideration of the reason why a particular object should
rouse a sense of beauty in a particular mind.

Now unquestionably the beauty we perceive is never satisfying, or
if it satisfies at all it does so but for a moment. Almost at once
dissatisfaction follows, or rather unsatisfaction.

There is a yearning for something, a sense of something lacking.
It is vague--so vague that the only representation of it that has
ever adequately expressed at once its aspirations, its lack and its
indeterminateness, is Blake’s drawing “I want--I want.” Of these three
things it is compounded, of lack, of aspiration, and of self-ignorance
that knows neither what it lacks nor what it desires; and these three
determine its salient character--that of an impulse. That it is really
an impulse becomes clear directly we examine its effects. It produces
a desire to create. In the young, the uncontrolled, the illiterate,
the creative impulse may be definitely sexual. Passion is undoubtedly
stimulated in simple natures by the beautiful, and we shall see when we
come to discuss the evolution of aesthetic sensibility that this fact
is of the profoundest spiritual import. For the moment we need only
note that this sex-impulse is creative. In natures artistically more
developed yet not truly originative, the creative impulse is a desire
to repeat the thing that has given this sense of beauty--to paint the
sunset, to play the sonata, to declaim the poem. Yet even here we must
note the germ of originality. The repetition is no mere reproduction.
Elimination and emphasis make it in some measure a new creation. This
is obvious in the less rigid arts, painting and music; but it is
present even where the form is definite. Hear two different people, or
the same person in two different moods, read the same poem, and see
how different a thing it can be! In more artistic natures still, truly
original, the desire to create is conscious, the desire to reproduce
less. The thing created need not, probably will not, be of the same
kind. The moon-glade on the sea enriching by contrast the blackness of
the rocky headland, will inspire the musician to write, not a moonlight
sonata, for true music is free from sensuous symbolism, but a pure
rhythm of sound. To suggest visual symbols in sound is to prostitute
music, to drive it back into the sensationalism from which it has freed
itself. It is, further, to confuse the mind by attempting to combine
two incompatible media of technical expression. As animal passion is to
love, so is Carrier’s “La Chasse” to a Bach prelude[10].

We see, then, that the psychological effect of the beautiful is to
produce a creative impulse, based on the lack and the aspiration
which give rise to a sense of yearning desire. We see that it is
indeterminate, for it attempts to satisfy itself in very various
ways. We see that in so far as it creates successfully, it finds some

Now all this fits admirably with Croce’s theory of beauty. Beauty is
for us the expression of that of which we have intuition. In realising
the beauty of a symphony or picture we have ourselves re-created the
intuition of the artist. In realising the beauty of a natural scene
we have expressed an intuition of the reality that lies behind that
scene; a creative act. We shall later go beyond Croce in this matter,
referring our creative act to a re-creation of the intuition of God,
and this will lead us to consider the aesthetic meaning of God’s
creation; but for the time we need not pursue this thought.

Our next business is, clearly, to analyse the yearning which precedes
the creative act. We have said that this originates in dissatisfaction.
What is this dissatisfaction? One other thing produces a feeling that
is not merely analogous, but absolutely identical. When you love a
person intensely and are uncertain if it is reciprocated, because
no sign, or no sufficient sign, is given, you experience the same
dissatisfaction, the same yearning and the same creative impulse. In
primitive natures the impulse may fulfil itself in sexual excitement;
in higher ones it is expressed in art. It is a commonplace to say that
some of the world’s greatest creative work is done under the stimulus
of love. The poems of lovers furnish the most prominent example, not
only their love poems, but the poems inspired by their love, like the
_Divina Commedia_; but we need not seek far for examples in the other
arts. Beethoven’s Fourth Symphony was inspired by his love for the
Countess Theresa von Brunswick. Tchaikovsky found inspiration in his
Platonic love for Nadejda von Meck, whom he had never seen. His sad,
abnormal friendships were an inspiration to Michael Angelo.

Now in both cases, paradoxical as it may seem, the dissatisfaction
is due to receiving without giving. At first sight this seems to be
exactly the opposite of the truth. Surely a man is pouring out his
love, and receiving no return, one is inclined to say. But a moment’s
thought will convince us that the first statement is the true one.
All the beauty, all the grace, all the interest and the charms of the
loved one are given to us in unstinted measure, and we can give nothing
in return. We may not even express our love, our desire to serve,
but in the trivial services that convention allows. Yet how we prize
these little services that we can render! How we seek out opportunity
of rendering them! We receive; we can give no adequate return. It is
that which determines our dissatisfaction. If the gift of our love is
refused, dissatisfaction is most poignant. Commonly we say that the
beloved refuses to give anything in such a case. Exactly the reverse
is true. The beloved gives, and cannot avoid giving, but will receive
nothing from us.

Now think of a perfect marriage or a perfect friendship. There is
little trace of dissatisfaction there; only rest and happiness. We
receive, but we give again, and our gift may be given without measure;
may equal, or nearly equal what we receive; may at least be all that we
can give. There is perfect reciprocity, and in reciprocity we find rest.

The creative impulse does not cease, service and gifts do not cease,
but the spirit is free from longing dissatisfaction.

Turn now to the dissatisfaction produced by appreciation of the
beautiful. We receive everything, we can give nothing at all (to the
beautiful thing); and so dissatisfaction is at its highest. We love
the thing in which we find beauty, but the love is one-sided. The
cases are identical. It is no mere phrase when we speak of the love of
beauty and the beauty of love. Unwittingly we express the truth of an
absolute interdependence. _Love is relationship, beauty the expression
of relationship._ In this sentence lies our thesis. Croce calls Beauty
the expression of an Intuition; we shall define that intuition as
the intuition of Relationship, Love being the relationship itself,
intuitively known; known, that is, as Reality--as the fundamental
quality of Personal Being, which is the only ultimate Reality. Because
the intuition of Love is expressed, it enters immediately the domain
of Aesthetic. Doubtless it is conceptualised; and hand in hand with
this theoretic activity of the spirit goes the practical. Love is
essentially practical, and, as Croce says, you can never separate or
give priority to either the theoretic or the practical activity. The
difference, then, between beauty and love that is returned lies in the
fact that in the second there is reciprocity. You give, as well as
receiving. In all love there is some reciprocity; the loved one cannot
help being conscious of, and receiving, something of the spirit that
moves out in such wise. The love of a being seen but once is purely
aesthetic. Only this corresponds to the aesthetic appreciation of a
scene, and even this not exactly; for the being is potentially capable
of receiving, the scene is not.

It is worth noticing at this point that, though Greek thought arrived
at no adequate idea of beauty, Greek Mythology did arrive at complete
understanding. And this gives little cause for wonder, considering to
what a level the love of the beautiful developed in ancient Greece,
and considering too how myth represents the unreasoned, intuitive
wishes and ideas of an infantile age[11]. We often wonder at the depths
which mythology plumbs. Accepting Croce’s scheme, it is the more easy
to understand. The myth of Pygmalion is subtly suggestive. Pygmalion
created beauty, and longed for it to reciprocate his love, and out of
his longing life and love were born. Beauty was for him one-sided love;
hence his yearning and his dissatisfaction.

But we are not Pygmalions. Our Galatea never comes to life. Why
then should we strive still to create? Why like the man in the old
play, should we proceed with an endless task: “When will you finish
Campaspe?” “Never finish, for always in absolute beauty there is
somewhat above art[12].” Croce simply takes activity as the character
of spirit and leaves it at that, admitting, but not really explaining,
the fact that men are dissatisfied with the mystery of it all. We,
approaching with a different presupposition, accepting God and not
rejecting metaphysic, may hope to find some fuller explanation. We
do in fact go on creating something that cannot reciprocate. Why?
First of all, by our creative act we learn more of the meaning of the
Reality that is around us, and the Reality that is ourself. We find the
creative godhead of our personality, we exercise our self in its true
function of godhead. Moreover, we create a gift to other men, whether
technically or otherwise. If we cannot give to nature, we can at least
give our understanding of nature to our fellows:

    Better to sit at the water’s birth
    Than a sea of waves to win,
    To live in the love that floweth forth
    Than the love that floweth in.

    Be thy heart a well of love, my child,
    Flowing, and free, and sure,
    For a cistern of love, though undefiled
    Keeps not the spirit pure[13].

And neither does the spirit that is a cistern of beauty fulfil itself,
nor remain pure.

Our aesthetic activity is, then, our first contact with Reality,
paving the way to an understanding of the meaning of that Reality.
In spite of Croce, we cannot agree that a full appreciation of
this meaning could be considered as achieved if the end is simply
longing--dissatisfaction. In the very fact that beauty produces in us
a yearning, that issues in a creative activity which does not, and
cannot, satisfy the yearning, we have evidence that the solution is not
found. In the identity of psychological content produced by beauty and
by unrequited love we find the clue we seek. In the restfulness of a
perfect friendship, of an intercourse which knows no subject that must
not be touched upon, fears no jarring note, whatever matter comes upon
the scene, can give all the keys in perfect trust, knowing that trust
will never be regretted, and hold the other’s keys knowing there is the
same confidence on that side; that can see with the other’s eyes, and
never fear to be itself misunderstood; in that restfulness the problems
of beauty, of life, of Reality itself find answer.

Let us repeat. The unsatisfyingness of beauty is due to the fact that
you are taking and not giving. In order to give _something_, to others,
though not to the object that roused in you the sense of beauty, you
create by some technique. What is it you are receiving? An intuition,
which you express to yourself creatively and to others through its
effect on your character;--to which further, if you are an artist,
you give external, technical expression. This intuition which you
receive is the first stage of knowledge--of the knowledge of Reality.
So far, agreeing with Croce, we agree with Bergson; and moreover we
leave room for mysticism, since mysticism becomes the appreciation of
relationship, and logic paves the way for suitable activity to develop
our side of the relationship. The meaning of this becomes clearer when
we consider Croce’s explanation of the process of perceiving beauty
in the work of an artist, be it picture, symphony, or poem. He points
out that in appreciating a work of art you enter into the mind of the
creator, follow his intuition, and create the expression afresh for
yourself. On the degree in which you can do this depends the fullness
of your appreciation of the work.

But when you see beauty in a natural object the matter is less clear.
Croce would say that you are in the first stage of knowing that object,
and he is unquestionably right so far. But can we not, using the
analogy of the picture or the poem, go on to say that you are following
out the idea of the creator of the natural object--that you are in
touch with the Cosmic Idea, which is the Idea of a Personal God? If so,
there is indeed room for mysticism, for mysticism becomes simply the
realisation that you are in fact doing this. Moreover, Beauty and Love
at once fall into relation. Beauty is not simply expression, but the
expression of a relation, and it is incomplete because the relation is
not yet reciprocal. Love is that relation itself.

In another aspect, beauty is seen as the meeting-place for love, since
it is the expression of an intuition of Reality, and Reality is rooted
and grounded in love. Where there is limitation either of one or both
of two persons, expression is needed to provide a meeting-place--speech
or sign for the lesser artist, music, poetry, or picture for the
greater. Each expression is a symbol of the reality it incarnates;
in so far as it reaches out beyond its own immediate apprehension of
that reality. All expression, all art, is symbolic and has a mystical
aspect, else it would be either complete and all-embracing or devoid of
real content. So far the symbolists are right.

But this opens up a wide problem. If Beauty be the formulated intuition
of Reality, which, because of its incompleteness, represents in symbols
things that are beyond its immediate purview, and if Reality be, as
we have elsewhere argued[14], grounded on Personal Relationship, the
self-expression of Love, does beauty cease when personal relations
become perfect? For we have argued that a symbol belongs to the domain
of the imperfect, not the perfect[15]. If so, has beauty any meaning
for God? At this point we clearly come into contact with the problem of
God’s creative activity. We have said[16] that the creation of God must
be the creation of something new. We have said that Love, of its own
nature, demands expansion, is centrifugal as well as centripetal, and
in this centrifugality of love we sought the Divine Impulse to create
new personalities. But behind lurked always the question “How could
a God whose experience was perfect and embraced already all Reality,
create anything that was new?” The reciprocity of perfected love would
be new for the personal beings He had created; but His self-limitation
which the freedom of those beings necessitated would not be new for
Him, for self-abnegation is an eternal part of love, since love is
substantiated as itself by creative self-surrender, transcendence by
immanence. Would the _result_ of His self-limitation be new for Him,
implicit as it is in His Being as Love? Would the experience of the
reciprocal love of His children be a new thing for Him?

No doubt the problem, as belonging to the domain of the Transcendent,
is not soluble for us, whose transcendence, whose intuition of the
Real, is so incomplete. But because in such measure as we do know the
Real we are ourselves transcendent, we can at least hope to touch the
fringe of His garment; and Croce’s proof that pure intuition--which
Bergson also urges to be our _point d’appui_ with the Real--belongs to
the domain of aesthetic, gives us a fresh clue in our investigation.

Beauty is expression. This is Croce’s statement; and in it we find
what we need, provided that we expand the definition into ‘the
expression of Relation.’ If there be a Personal God as we believe,
whose experience is Reality, He must always be expressing that Reality.
There is no consciousness without expression. But the expression
of knowledge of the Real is Beauty. God’s Being must be full of an
overwhelming Beauty. But part of His Nature, as Love, is centrifugal.
That centrifugal part must also be expressed. The artist follows his
expression by technical application; he paints for eye or ear, to
satisfy himself and to communicate his intuition. In so far as he
fails in his expression, the result is ugly. In so far, also, as God’s
creation fails, through its own inevitable condition of the freedom
of man, the result is ugly. Ugliness is the aesthetic, or theoretical
aspect of sin; in its practical aspect sin is uneconomic, un-moral.

Now if one thing is more certain than another, it is that Beauty is
for ever new. Each sense of beauty is a new creation, a fresh activity
of the spirit, be it inspired never so often by the same object. And
this means that to know the Real is for ever a new thing. God’s love
is always new for Himself. His self-knowledge is creation perpetually
renewed. It follows, _a fortiori_, that His knowledge of the beings He
creates and is creating is each moment new. Because knowledge is in its
first movement Beauty, there can be no stagnancy in Eternal Being, no
dead level of satiety in Eternal Life.

Beauty is expression. For God it is the expression of His relation to
Himself as transcendent, and of the substantiation of His transcendence
through His relation to others as immanent, in the first stage of
the movement of that relation towards and into transcendence. Beauty
is the expression of a relation, and is ever new. But the relation
itself is Love. God is Love; that love is expressed as Beauty; and
Beauty is necessarily eternal, because it is the knowledge of Reality.
God is Love. This is to say that God IS because He is a relation,
to Himself and to others. Here is the inmost heart of Trinitarian
Doctrine, as we have seen[17]. Because He is Love, He expresses that
Reality in activity. But activity has two sides, the theoretical and
the practical. His expression is, on the theoretic side, Beauty, and
is hence for ever new for Him. He is for Himself a Relation, known
intuitively and expressed as Beauty, and His intuition of this Reality
is ever new. On the practical side it is Creation, full of purpose
(economic aspect) and of goodness (moral aspect); new for us, His
creatures, but only achieving, for us even, its full newness as we come
to know the Reality which is the experience of the Love that is perfect
in Him alone; only achieving its full newness as we begin ourselves to
know, to express, and to create: as we become gods ourselves. And what
He creates is real, beautiful, and new.

Beauty is eternal. It is the meeting-place of personal beings for ever;
but it is a symbol only so long as these personal beings are imperfect,
and their knowledge incomplete. Beauty and knowledge become coextensive
as immediate intuition extends its boundaries till logic has no more
a place, or rather till logic and intuition cover the same ground. So
too with the practical; the useful extends its boundaries till it is
coextensive with the good, and the two become one and the same. The
activity that remains is as God’s activity. Love is itself because it
is both knowing and doing; absolute Being is the circle of these two

Before we proceed it will be as well to remind ourselves once more of
the psychological fact that has caused us to modify Croce’s definition
of beauty by introducing the idea of relation. This characteristic
consequence of a vision of the beautiful is the sense of longing, akin
to the longing of unreciprocated love, which issues in some creative
act. This act may be a conscious attempt to produce something of
aesthetic value--a work of art--or it may simply be an attempt to make
our _milieu_ harmonious. The housewife may be stimulated to re-cover
the cushions, to tidy the house, or to re-arrange the room; the mother
may try to make her children happier; the selfish man or the fractious
child may try to make life more complete and harmonious by loving
deeds, however short-lived. The most commonplace mind may feel a
religious impulse; a sense of wonder and reverence. Men have always
been perplexed by the apparently close connection between the beautiful
and the good, between the beautiful and the sublime. This connection
becomes clear in the light of our definition. Beauty is seen as the
first step towards an understanding of Reality, and that Reality is
Love, personal relationship, reciprocity. Relationship between finite
persons first (yet not transient even here, because personality is
essentially infinite, and persons are only limited in so far as they
have failed as yet to achieve personality), but relationship that finds
its origin and explanation in the personal, creative, Triune Being of
God[18]. The perception of beauty is accompanied by emotion; free, as
emotion is in itself, though aroused by external conditioning[19];
yet unsatisfied, thwarted, and so with a vein of sadness in its joy.
Its joy is the joy of beginning to understand. All understanding is
pleasure. One smiled with pleasure when one first grasped Euclid’s
forty-seventh proposition, even. But here we understand the beauty as
a symbol and a meeting-place. It makes us feel less lonely and less
isolated. Its sadness is the sadness of an incomplete understanding.
We see in a beautiful thing a thing that can receive nothing from us,
while it gives much to us. Yet the very fact that beauty does make us
‘feel religious’ shows that somehow we do realise that we can give
something to God, and find a little satisfaction in doing so; that even
nature is not so impersonal as we were inclined to think. Our desire to
create beautiful things is a sign that we understand our self also, our
destined godhead, and that we too wish to reveal our self by creating
for others, and giving to others. It is a sign that we understand that
our relations with God and with our fellows are reciprocal.

Croce gives the clue when he shows that aesthetic is the first stage of
the spirit’s activity. Bergson strikes a note that wakes an answering
harmony when he urges that intuition brings us nearer to Reality than
does intellect directed toward practical aims, even though some of his
deductions displease; Kant and Hegel indicate the eternal value of
aesthetic when they urge that it belongs to the highest and last stage.
But Croce gives no reason for the longing that beauty forces upon us;
nor indeed for the activity of spirit at all; he merely assumes spirit
as a datum, and is defined by its activity.

But if we regard beauty as the expression of a perceived relationship,
almost as one-sided love, the whole falls into place. Through beauty we
get into touch with Reality, which Reality is, in its completeness,
the mutual activity of Love. The basis of Love’s activity is Love’s
freedom, even its freedom to limit itself. Mankind is winning freedom
out of determined conditions; which conditions are the creation, the
expression, of God’s love, through self-limitation. Because they are
the expression of God’s knowledge of the Reality of Love, they are
beautiful. The winning of freedom by man is achieved through adaptative
relation to the environment. As this adaptation becomes conscious--as
we gain intuitive knowledge of the environment--the sense of beauty is
born, for we express our knowledge of this relation to ourselves; and
make efforts towards further adaptation. These efforts are creative;
and as we progress our creation becomes more and more altruistic; a
creation for others with our relationship to them held consciously
before us. These few words will suffice to show how perfectly our
thesis fits in with the evolutionary views we have previously
enunciated. The development of this side of the argument may be left
for the present.

One other matter requires a brief consideration, and then we can
leave the general outline of our theory and proceed to a more
detailed treatment of certain parts of it. This is the old, unsolved
problem whether beauty is subjective or objective; whether a thing is
beautiful in itself, or whether it is only our thinking that makes it
so. Croce has made it perfectly clear that the thing or the scene
which we erroneously call beautiful, meaning that it is beautiful in
itself, physically beautiful, is simply the “stimulus to aesthetic
reproduction, which presupposes previous production. Without preceding
aesthetic intuitions of the imagination, nature cannot arouse any at
all.” Perhaps Croce’s own thesis would gain in clearness and coherence
if, starting from the sense of beauty aroused by a work of art as the
re-creation of the artist’s intuition by the spectator, he had accepted
the religious implication, and argued that appreciation of so-called
natural beauty, was the re-creation by man of God’s intuition. But,
with his prejudice against religion, he naturally could not boldly
accept God as the Primal Artist, even though to do so would have made
his theory far more complete, and would have saved him from relegating
the chief factor of man’s life to the realm of psychological illusion.

To return to the immediate question, there can, of course, be no doubt
that since beauty is an activity of the spirit, the expression of an
intuition, beauty itself must be purely subjective. Equally, there
can be no doubt that without the objective Reality the intuition
could never be called into being. (We call it definitely objective
for man, since all our argument in previous works has driven us to
the conclusion that there is a necessary dualism for man as long as
freedom is incomplete, love imperfect; as long, that is, as man is

This grows more and more clear as one analyses the things that have
roused in oneself the keenest sense of beauty. I think of a copse
starred with snowdrops and aconite amid bare trunks under a steel-grey
sky--a day in late autumn in water-meadows; emerald peacock-tails of
weed in the river, and lights of madder and old gold--blue sea covered
with pearly Portuguese men-o’-war and white surf breaking on black lava
rocks--perhaps a dozen such landmarks, to me a priceless possession,
to another about as interesting as an album of picture-postcards from
somebody else’s travels. In mercy partly, partly in self-defence, one
withholds these things from all but the few who care to understand.
Let each fill in his own; for there are in every life such moments,
when one is in touch with a larger life, and it is these moments which
make a man, as Masefield has wonderfully shown in his poem _Biography_.
Then there are the hours when human triumphs rouse in us the same
ecstasy. Bach preludes and fugues, with their palaces reared by perfect
stone added architecturally to perfect stone; the dainty certainties
of Mozart; the sad gaiety and foreboding meditations of Chopin;
the delicate cadences of Swinburne; the lusty, open-air searchings
of Masefield, saddened by the obsession of sunset transience; the
gentle longing of the refrain of the _Earthly Paradise_; the
massive synthesis of the _Dynasts_; the sorrow of _Deirdre_ and
_Violaine_; the ethereal atmosphere of _A Midsummer Night’s Dream_;
pictures--architecture--it is all endless. Now the first thing we
notice is that if we are in the wrong mood these things may have
little or no appeal. I may walk in Water-meads and feel nothing of
their charm. Bach may be mere noise, if I want to think of something
else. Again the Madonna of the Magnificat may leave me unmoved, if my
attention is on other matters. Those whose sense of beauty is really
keen can never be unstirred by the beautiful, unless their attention
is so rivetted on other things that they do not observe it at all, but
most of us are of commoner clay; we can notice a thing yet hardly be
aware of its beauty.

Here, in either case, our ordinary speech hits the nail exactly on
the head: “I am not in a receptive mood,” we say. I do not receive
what these things have to give. In an appreciative mood I take
something from the thing that seems to me beautiful--this act is my
intuition--and use it as the basis of my creative work--my expression.
I need the presentation of an external object, or its memory, for that
creation. Now, as we have just seen, a host of very different objects
excite in an individual emotion of beauty in a pre-eminent degree,
while if we reckon the objects which excite it in a less acute form,
the tale is endless; yet the emotion all excite is sufficiently
the same in content, in spite of its multiplicity of form, to be
expressed by the single term beauty. One is tempted to speak loosely
of this effect of the beautiful on us as an emotion, though clearly
it is not one, since it is expression. An emotion may be beautiful
immediately it is known and expressed in this act of knowing, but the
emotion is not beautiful any more than any other object is beautiful.
Nevertheless, this loose usage of the term has one advantage. It draws
our attention to the close relationship that binds together beauty and
emotion. We have seen elsewhere that in the realm of emotion exists
the freedom that lies between the incoming perception and the outgoing
activity, forming the bond between the first and last, and determining
the form of the response to the stimulus[20]. In the recognition of
beauty there is freedom and emotion, as there is in every creative
act. But the activity is dependent on stimulus, and every stimulus is
primarily perceptual, though not necessarily in the strict sense of
being perceived by an organ of sense. The perception may be wholly
internal, the self being its own object in introspection[21]; the
intuition may be the intuition of love itself. Here we see the origin
of the common, yet I believe erroneous, statement that “beauty, as we
understand it, is only for sense and for sensuous imagination[22].” If
Beauty be the expression of an intuition of Reality, as Croce says, and
Reality be ultimately the activity of Personal Being, which activity
is relationship, as we have seen reason to claim[23], Beauty is not
dependent on sense perception alone. Further, because the activity of
personal relation is Love, we see in Beauty the creative knowledge of
love, which is necessarily linked in closest intimacy with freedom
and emotion. Love is not beautiful; it is simply the activity of
relationship. The knowledge of love is Beauty’s very self. The world
is not beautiful, but knowledge of the world as the expression of
a part of Reality--of that portion of Reality which is limited and
determined by the self-abnegation of God’s love--is Beauty. In so
far as we merely perceive matter the aesthetic side is in abeyance.
At this moment we know, not Reality, but Appearance. Our unaesthetic
moods are determined by our more or less complete practical concern
with Appearance, our more or less complete blindness to Reality.
We have gone back to a lower, more primitive stage. In our limited
and still largely determined existence we are bound to be occupied
in a great measure with appearance. The practical must dominate the
theoretic activity; the spirit must be unbalanced, asymmetrical. Even
in our moments of greatest symmetry our apprehension of the Real is
largely at second hand. _Pace_, Croce, we would say--as we have said
already[24]--that the Immanent cannot have immediate contact with the
Real; man’s intuitions belong to his transcendence where they deal
with the absolutely Real. Man immanent and limited is immediately in
contact with God immanent and self-limited; only in so far as man is
transcendent is he in contact with God Transcendent, and so in touch
with the Whole. In his immanence man lives by symbols, which are
sacraments; and here we find the symbolic aspect of Beauty. It is the
material basis of this symbolic side of Beauty, rather than Beauty
absolute, that has of necessity received most attention hitherto;
and the puzzles of rival theories have arisen through failure to
realise that a symbol is a partial expression of a reality, and that
it can only be fully grasped when the reality which it symbolises is
understood. A symbol has something of the reality itself, or it would
not be a symbol, but it does not represent that reality adequately, or
it would be co-extensive with it; would _be_ the reality itself. Beauty
is thus subjective, in so far as it is necessarily the work of the
spirit. But it is objective in so far as the reality of which it is the
knowledge is personal and external to the self, and will always remain
external, however complete the interpenetration of personalities, since
personalities cannot be merged and lost in each other, but remain
eternally in their self-identity[25].

A natural object _per se_ is not beautiful; only so far as it is
understood as a partial representation of Reality, a symbol, is it

Naturally, this statement arouses the objection that to most people
the music of Grieg, if not of Bach, the pictures of Leighton, if not
of Utamaro, are beautiful; and that there is a general consensus of
opinion that the view over the Severn from the Windcliff, or the view
of Lisbon from the harbour is more beautiful than Wormwood Scrubbs.
The answer to the first part of this objection is obvious. In music,
painting, verse, we are re-creating for ourselves the artist’s
intuition. We know that he found beauty, and he has abstracted in his
art in such a way as to render the beauty more easily recaptured. The
artist is then our guide. He was an artist because his spirit was more
sensitive to the reality than ours, and we follow him.

But in natural beauty, too, is not this true? Primitive peoples who
live amid the most lovely scenery have little or no perception of it.
But there are places and scenes where nature seems to have performed
a sort of process of abstraction for us. The elements are simplified
and harmonious, and there is little to distract the attention from
certain main features. A comparatively large number of people will
have a sufficiently developed spirit to get into touch with something
beyond the mere object at such places. More education in abstraction
and intuition is required to perceive some kinds of beauty; we see the
same thing even in the artistic creation of men. Mendelssohn appeals to
far more than Bach; Leader to far more than Botticelli. Moreover, the
more obvious kinds of natural beauty, as we may loosely term them, will
appeal to many lesser artists, who will give technical expression to
them. We shall be thus familiarised with these representations, through
pianolas and art-magazines and penny readings, or through concerts
and picture galleries and study; and shall be the more prepared to
intuit for ourselves when we meet with objective elements of a somewhat
similar type. And we have further argued that even in natural beauty we
are really following the intuition of Creative Mind.

One other point is perhaps worthy of remark. Natural science appears
to compass a very large achievement in knowledge, and to express this
knowledge with singular felicity; yet in science there is little that
can be called beautiful, except in a highly metaphorical sense. The
explanation of this anomaly is clear and incontrovertible. The work of
theoretical science is essentially abstract, and is concerned wholly
with Appearance, not Reality, except where it impinges upon the domain
of philosophy. The intuition of Beauty is an intuition of Reality.

We may now put down our conclusions in a brief and more regular form:

(1) External things are required to rouse in me a sense of beauty, but
they are not in themselves beautiful.

(2) I create their beauty, by understanding them as parts of a Whole
which is Reality.

(3) Beauty is expression; I must therefore form a clear intuition and
express it to myself. This is my creative act; to which I may, or may
not, give a technical embodiment.

(4) But I am not merely creating a photographic image, an imitation. I
am getting into a certain receptive condition in which I can abstract
from what I see its essence and fit this into my knowledge of Reality.
I cannot see a thing as beautiful unless in some degree it gives me
this impression of relatedness to Reality and to myself--linking me
with the Reality of which I am a part. Beauty thus comes to be a felt
relationship. My creation is the creation of a fuller understanding of

(5) I am always dissatisfied with Beauty, which wakes in me a sense of
longing exactly the same as the longing of an unreciprocated love. I
receive and cannot give. Yet in this beauty and this love there is joy
as well as sorrow.

(6) My life is part of an organic Whole whose ultimate meaning and
purpose is personal relationship--interpenetration. The dissatisfaction
is due to a sense of imperfect interpenetration. What is needed, and
is felt to be needed, is equal give and take--reciprocal creative
activity. Dissatisfaction comes when giving and taking are not balanced.

(7) Beauty is eternal, since the creative expression of Love
is eternal, and Love knows eternally what it is--is eternally
self-conscious. Love is relation, beauty the expression of the
immediate knowledge of that relation.

(8) This knowledge is always a new, creative act. God must continually
express His Being as Love else He would cease to be Love and so to be
at all. In Creative Expression He renews Himself. He is for Himself
ever new. And, because Love is centrifugal as well as centripetal, He
must for ever express Himself _outwards_, so to speak, in the creation
of other beings, and this His work of self-abnegation is new and

(9) We have hardly touched on the problem of the ugly. We have little
to add to Croce’s explanation of it as the failure of expression--as
the failure to express coherent unity--which involves the failure of
intuition. We shall just touch upon it hereafter; at the moment all we
need do is to remind ourselves that the ugliest thing in the world is
sin, because it is the failure to understand the whole, and to express
the fullest, greatest beauty.



Theories of aesthetic, so far, have paid little attention to the
development of the sense of beauty, except perhaps in the individual.
This was natural enough so long as the idea of evolution was
unformulated, or, if touched upon speculatively, played little part in
men’s general attitude to life; and since the doctrine of evolution
came to its own, little original work, beyond that of Croce, has been
done in this region. Croce touches the evolutionary aspect but lightly,
though it is implicit in his identification of History with Philosophy:

    “Since all the characteristics assigned to Philosophy are verbal
    variants of its unique character, which is the pure concept, so all
    the characteristics of History can be reduced to the definition
    and identification of History with the individual judgment[26].”
    “If History is impossible without the logical, that is, the
    philosophical, element, philosophy is not possible without the
    intuitive, or historical element[27].” “Philosophy, then, is
    neither beyond, nor at the beginning, nor at the end of history,
    nor is it achieved in a moment or in any single moment of history.
    It is achieved _at every moment_ and is always completely united
    to facts and conditioned by historical knowledge.--The _a priori_
    synthesis, which is the reality of the individual judgment and of
    the definition, is also the reality of philosophy and of history.
    It is the formula of thought which by constituting itself qualifies
    intuition and constitutes history. History does not precede
    philosophy, nor philosophy history; both are born at one birth[28].”

This view, however interesting and suggestive it may be in the realm
of pure thought, for the simple reason that it does not boldly grapple
with the fact of _practical_ dualism, is difficult of application to
the process of the dawn of consciousness. Croce’s whole philosophy
is directed to the denial of dualism; it is a new form of idealistic
monism. We have been led in our earlier reasonings to deny an ultimate
dualism[29], but we have also been led to affirm dualism as existent
in Time, through the self-limitation and immanence of Eternal Spirit.
On this basis, at which we arrived through a detailed consideration of
the process of inorganic and organic evolution, we reared our whole
superstructure. On this same basis, then, we will attempt to reason
out a view of the evolution of beauty that shall be in harmony both
with the facts of evolution and with the theocentric system that issued
from our discussion as apparently the only possible explanation of the
universe, so far, at least, as its broad outline was concerned.

If beauty be the expression of an intuition, and if, further, the
intuition required involves a sense of relation, there can be no
true perception of beauty until self-consciousness arises. Broadly
speaking, this is to say there can be no sense of beauty except in man.

But here at once we are brought up against the fact of sexual
selection. Surely the posturings of spiders, the dance of the ruff,
the display of the peacock and the Bird of Paradise, the song of the
warbler (if indeed this be a courting and hymeneal song) do imply
some aesthetic preference in the mate? Still more does the elaborate
performance of the Bower-bird, with its love-chase through the gay
parterres of its carefully decked garden and in and out of the
double-doored bower, suggest some sense of beauty.

This fact, which at first sight seems fatal to our whole theory, really
supplies us with the clue we lacked.

Perhaps, even at this moment of courting, there is no true
self-consciousness. Our previous discussions have led us to question
whether this exists at all in animals, except possibly in a few
of those most developed through contact with man. But there is
unquestionably a sense of relation. The male and female are urged to
love-play by the sexual impulse, and this necessarily involves a sense
of inter-relatedness. It may not be--probably is not--sufficiently
conscious of the self and the other to be termed love. It is a mere
sense of the necessity of the other for fulfilling a need as urgent and
as little understood as hunger.

But in the sex-impulse we find a beginning of the fact of
inter-relation; and this is the foundation we require. The elaborate
instances we have mentioned go a step farther than the simple
sex-need. There is a definite attempt to make that need reciprocal by
stimulating the dormant sense of relation in the mate through the use
of objects to which a _meaning_ is given through emphasis or through
arrangement and juxtaposition. And this meaning is recognised, though
perhaps not as beauty exactly; that would imply the expression of
the meaning to the self, and it is doubtful if the self yet exists.
But it is very hard to draw any line. At all events we can say that
here there is relation--and _self-conscious_ relation is love; and
that here is expression of a meaning and a need--and a _recognised_
meaning, or intuition, when expressed to the self is beauty. We are
on the confines of aesthetic. Now at first sight this idea may raise
a feeling of antagonism, almost of disgust. We seem to have reduced
beauty to terms of the sexual impulse. Further consideration will serve
to dispel this sense of a derogation of beauty, and will even give
to the sex-impulse itself a nobler significance, making it appear as
the first stage in the emergence of Love and Beauty; rendering to it
the honour due from an understanding of the end which it subserves.
There can be little doubt that in man the perception of beauty in
the opposite sex--not _as_ beauty perhaps, but as simple attraction
to a beautiful person--does very generally precede that of more
impersonal forms of beauty. Amid savage races this is unquestionably
the case. The strange decoration of the body and other rites in the
initiation of the adolescent, are undoubtedly expressions connected
with sex-relations. To us they are ugly because they fail to express
our fuller understanding; to the savage they are beautiful. And I
believe that in the children of a highly developed artistic race it
is true also in some measure. The love-admiration of boys and girls
begins at a very tender age; and the psychoanalytic work of Freud and
Jung gives a significance, no doubt often exaggerated, to acts and
thoughts and dreams of children which, if not strictly sexual in the
common sense, are yet connected with the impulse--called by Jung the
_libido_--that underlies the evolution of the race. If we employ the
terminology of Bergson and Driesch, we may say that the _élan vital_,
or _entelechy_, is the _libido_ of Jung; that, as the animal progresses
along the path of evolution, it becomes the sexual impulse in the
wider sense given to the term by Freud; and that in one aspect it
finally becomes the sexual impulse in the sense in which the term is
commonly understood, while it achieves infinitely higher levels in the
direction of spiritual progress at the same time. But observe what this
implies. We have just noticed the obvious fact that the sex-impulse
involves a sense of relation. It is probable that the first dawnings
of relationship, albeit in a primitive, almost sensational form, arise
here. The using of inanimate objects as tools is probably evolved later
than conjugation, even in the protozoa. _Difflugia_ may make use of
grains of sand to form its test, but all protozoa conjugate. Anyhow,
this is a minor matter. The important point is that in the sex-impulse
arises first the sense of a relation between individuals, which is
destined, far later, to grow into the first stages of love; and in the
development of the child we find traces of this origin, distorted and
chronologically misplaced, exactly as one would expect from the Law of

Another point of interest arises here. Many psychoanalysts, and notably
Jung[30], have shown that mythology has an overwhelmingly sexual
content. Further, Rivers[31], and others, have extended the conception
of the primitive, or infantile, character of myth in relation to the
primitive or infantile character of dreams, showing that both belong
to a lower level of culture than does the waking self. As time goes
on more and more, not only of the minor activities of the individual,
but of the earlier activities of the race, are relegated to the
unconscious. Psychologists have long recognised this fact in dealing
with habit-formation, but these recent writers have given it a deeper
significance. The spirit uses the past as something on which to build
the future. In old days, and among primitive peoples still to-day, the
explanation of life was sought in a very childish manner. The impulse
of sex was not understood, its relation to procreation was largely
hidden, as witness the ceremonies of Intichiuma, and many others
that, by symbolic magic, should confer fertility. It was mysterious,
yet immensely powerful. It had some sort of relation to the birth of
children and animals. The creation of all things was mysterious, but
since the new was born these two mysteries must be connected. Hence
the sexual symbolism of myths that were predominantly aetiological in
character--that were predominantly attempts to answer the great Why? of
the universe.

In the present connection, then, the chief interest of the work of
Freud and Jung on infantile phenomena associated with sex, in so far
as it is not exaggerated, lies in the fact that here too we have an
instance of the working of von Baer’s Law of Recapitulation. In the
animal the sense of relation begins with sex; in the child we have
strange, fragmentary primitive sex-phenomena (if these psychoanalysts
be right), dissociated from many of their natural concomitants;
phenomena suggesting some close analogy with the temporary appearance
in the embryo of structures that disappear again, having lost their
significance. Can it be that the purely animal basis on which man’s
great structure of relationship is raised, is merely a foundation,
becoming gradually hidden, covered up?

Love is, no doubt, in origin an impulse of sex. Yet the highest love
we know and experience in ourselves has nothing sexual in it. When a
man and a maid fall in love there is no thought of such things in the
mind of either. Primarily, true love is utterly pure from admixture
with animal instincts, though it may be, and is, founded on them in the
evolutionary sense, and though they still play a vastly important part,
made beautiful by the love they subserve. But the love that _begins_
as conscious sex-instinct is no love at all. There is love between
men and women, even young men and women, as well as between those of
the same sex, that is either utterly free from all sexual content,
or in which that content is so trivial in amount, and so completely
dismissed from attention, that it is practically non-existent. If
one is conscious of it at any moment, one is so by a definite effort
of the mind, and for the specific purpose of bringing before oneself
the wonderful emergence of the purest and highest activity of the
spirit from so lowly and physical an origin. Such love is far higher
than the love between husband and wife often is, where the sexual
side is primary as well as primitive, and friendship secondary. Only
when husband and wife are first friends, and then, after that, live
together with a full realisation of the sacramental meaning of sex as
the foundation on which the eternal temple of love has been and is
being built, can their union approach the highest level. Then it is
indeed the best of all in this life. It takes them closer to the heart
of things than mere friendship would, and enables them to make their
other friendships perfect through the understanding which it brings.
The physical subserves the spiritual, and even in the physical the two
are united. The physical and the spiritual are for them one--parts of a
whole. Their own friendship is perfect as far as anything human can be
perfect, and by it their friendships with others are made perfect.

We see, then, in the founding and development of the sexual impulse the
first movement of the _élan vital_ along its true path of evolution.
The _élan vital_ determines progress; it is the unrest, the divine
discontent of spirit creating itself in matter[32]. It progresses along
various roads, but the road that leads it to its own fulfilment lies
through sex. The _élan vital_ becomes _libido_ in an even narrower
sense than that, almost co-extensive with Bergson’s term, which Jung
gives to the word. For through sex the sense of individual, and
subsequently personal, inter-relationship comes into being[33]. With
the arousing of self-consciousness we find the dawn of love. This
is the beginning of understanding. In the intuition of love is born
the knowledge of Reality. Faint, partial, obscured by the sex-basis
on which it is built up, it is yet the key to the mystery of being.
Gradually, slowly, amid disappointing foulness and blind passion, it
still grows. In its insistence on relationship it is manifested as the
human aspect of religion. Side by side with it grows the knowledge
and love of God. This is the divine aspect of religion, and the two
together make the world and the activity of the spirit an intelligible
whole. The “What is Truth” of jesting Pilate finds here its answer. All
truth, all life, all process, in short Reality itself, is known in the
knowledge of the creative love which is the activity of spirit. We see
sex growing to greater and greater importance until we reach man. Then
self-consciousness intervenes; the ideas of relation and of fellowship
dawn; love finds a beginning, and then sex begins to lose its
privileged place. From pre-eminence it sinks to a secondary position.
Its spiritual part is nearly played, and something higher carries on
the work. Love is more than passion. Sex must continue to function,
for man has still a physical body; but its spiritual significance is
understood, and that is a thing far greater than itself. As love grows,
passion sinks and sinks from its first prominence, till love is all.
“They neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels.”
If this means anything at all, it means that in the end the physical
body will have played its noble part and pass away, with its passions
and its failures; while the life goes on, revealed in a body spiritual.

In the light of this understanding nothing is left unclean. Even in
the work of Freud, in so far as it is true, and not coloured by the
overstrained interpretations of a pathologist, there is nothing to
shock, though much to sadden us. Where in man there is over-emphasis
of sex there is a return to the lower, animal stage. Men are
regarding life in terms of what has been, and not of what shall be.
They are falling short of their own possibilities. In what degree
this phenomenon is pathological, due to some neurosis or psychosis,
we may not judge them; in what degree their over-concentration on
animal passion, to the exclusion of true spiritual activity, is
under the control of the will we are in presence of sin. For, from
the evolutionary point of view, sin is the refusal to live up to the
standard that is at present possible, the acquiescence in a standard
that belongs properly to a stage outgrown; lower; more animal, less
divine. It is content with an anachronism; the willing acceptance,
the welcome of failure to progress--and this means _refusal_ to

But to see in the sex-impulse the _explanation_ of love is to fall into
the same error as do the materialists, though the error has assumed a
new and more subtle guise. You can no more explain love by sex than you
can explain mind by matter. In both cases you are using terms to which
you can attach no meaning. Ultimately I cannot think of matter and yet
exclude mind; I cannot think of sex and yet exclude relation, and so,
ultimately, love. For scientific purposes no doubt I can do both, for
science is a process of abstraction in which we disregard everything
that is not relevant to an immediate and narrow purpose. But philosophy
may not abstract. She deals with the concrete and the real.

We have apparently lost sight of the question of beauty; but those who
have followed the thought of the first chapter will realise that we
have not in fact gone far afield. Upon the foundation of sex, as we
have seen, the sexless activity of love is being slowly reared; and
love is relation--relation is the reciprocal, creative activity which
is spirit, and spirit is Reality. God is Love; men perfected are,
or will be, love. The being of God and men alike is the activity of
personal relationship, made perfect in union while yet each retains
his self-identity[35]. The knowledge of this relation, the expression
of it, is Beauty; and in Beauty the whole theoretic activity is
comprehended in the ultimate resort, when intuition, the immediate
contact, and logic, the mediate contact, are made one through perfect

Since then, the first origin of the realisation of relationship is
born in the sex-impulse, here the beginnings of beauty must be sought.
But to search for them in any developed form--to search for what we
understand by beauty--in the animal consciousness is vain. There can
exist in it only some dim fore-shadowing, some preference. Not until
true self-consciousness arises can there be any real sense of beauty,
if beauty be the intuition of a relation expressed to the self and
to others. And arguing from the psychological effect of beauty upon
ourselves--the longing it produces, and the creative impulse--we have
been driven to define beauty as the expression of a relation. The
germ from which love and beauty will spring is already there in the
relation between animals, but who would guess that from the least of
seeds should be born so great and noble a tree?

Many have sought the origin of the sense of beauty in the attraction
of sex, and have then hanged Beauty under this bad name. To do this
is to proclaim oneself a materialist. Our idea is far different.
Reasoning from the standpoint to which we are driven by an examination
of evolution that does not neglect the phenomenon of personality;
finding the only explanation of evolution itself in free personal
relationship; we see in sex the primitive ground-work of that
relationship. Physically, the sex relation subserves many purposes;
it provides a chief mode of introducing variation, it blindly helps
on the evolutionary process through selective mating, it provides the
chemical stimulus to the development of a new organism from the gamete
or sex cell. But it does more. In the light of the end we see in sex
a far nobler function; of a significance not transient but abiding.
In the great adventure of Creative Love, to sex is given the task of
bringing about those relations which constitute the ground-work of the
personal union which is Love. Of the understanding and the expression
of this relation is born the sense of beauty, destined gradually to
transfigure the world for man, as he learns to see order and purpose
and significant relation in the whole, and to endure eternal and yet
always new.


Throughout this essay, in our quest for the meaning of Beauty we
have been driven to reject the ground of the Natural as the proper
standpoint for viewing the Beautiful. Rather, in Nature regarded from
the point of view of ultimate Reality, we have found a value only
through relation; and it is the intuition of this relation, expressed
to conscious mind, that constitutes Beauty. No relation is, however,
satisfying but one which is mutual. There is beauty in all expressed
relations, even those of mathematics and physics, but because these
relations are primarily expressed for the purpose of the science as
between thing and thing, and their relation to the perceiving mind is
relegated to the background, the sense of beauty is not roused in any
great degree. By scenery a far more vivid sense of beauty is kindled,
and hand in hand with this goes a keener sense of dissatisfaction and
creative longing. By pictures and the like we are brought into touch
with the mind of the artist; he has felt a relation and given to it
technical expression, and we follow anew his creative intuition. In
doing so we get in some degree into relation with his mind as well as
with the thing in which he saw beauty; and we derive additional joy
from this personal relation, mediate though it be. But still there is
dissatisfaction, as well as creative desire. This longing is identical
with the longing of one-sided love. We receive and cannot give. Only in
perfectly reciprocal love is the longing absent, while yet the creative
aspect is most vividly present.

The study of Philosophy irradiates the world for us, increasing our
sense of the beauty that is in it. We understand more; the world’s
relation to us is more real, deeper, wider. Religion has the same
effect, though in so far as it sometimes belittles the world it tends
also to deaden our understanding of the world’s beauty. But if our
philosophy coincides with our religion and our scientific theory is a
part of both, Beauty has a chance of winning her proper position. If
this philosophy and this religion find their ultimate Reality in the
personal relationship we call love; if in their ‘science’ the creative
process of that love’s activity in self-limitation stands revealed;
Beauty indeed comes to her own. In our intuition of the world’s beauty
we are in touch with the creative idea of the Master Mind. Only a
philosophy and a religion that are rooted and grounded in the God
who is Love, yet take the fullest account of the time-processes of
love which we call evolution, can reveal the fulness of Beauty. Then
Beauty is seen as Spirit’s grasp upon the relation between all the
parts of the whole--a relation that is not yet complete, and can only
be complete when the sole relation is that of love between personal
beings, of whom God is the first in timeless Being. Then, when matter
is seen as the expression of God’s self-limitation for the sake of His
people’s freedom, realisation dawns that matter is instinct with beauty
for the understanding mind. Aesthetic becomes the link that binds all
our theoretic knowledge together, making it one--serviceable as an
equal partner with the practical activity. In this partnership the
activity of the spirit is perfected[36]. The beauty of relationship is
always new, just as love is always new. Our creation is our expression
of our personal being in relationship, which is ultimately love. God’s
creation is the expression of His Personal Being in relationship.
Without relationship He would not be personal; but more is implied in
this statement than merely internal relations. Personality, the δύναμις
of κοινωνία, is centrifugally creative, as we have seen elsewhere,
and the thing created, because it is a relationship, is beautiful,
and is new. In the perennial newness of beauty we find the key to
God’s creative activity. He creates new persons, because His relation
to them is new and beautiful. Just because His experience is the
experience of Perfect Personality new things are perpetually added.
Without this activity His Being would not be perfect. Its perfection
is substantiated by its power of finding beauty new. Only the inactive
dullard fails to see beauty and is bored, and in his very dulness he
loses the prerogative of personality.

From the height of such a conception, standing upon ultimate Reality,
we have looked down upon the humble beginnings of the intuition of
relation, or of beauty. These we found pre-eminently in sex, and so
far we were in accord with the psychoanalytic schools of Vienna and
of Zurich. But we saw sex transformed and made beautiful, because our
eyes were fixed, not on low, immediate purposes, but on the wonderful
things that were to come. Mainly out of the relationship of sex spring
music, art, literature--all the beauty that is so far removed from
its physical origin--and it is in these things of eternal value that
we find the true purpose of sex, as opposed to its immediate physical
meaning. In music, art, literature we see the expression of growing
understanding. The Reality is brought nearer and nearer to man.

Could Philosophy but bring our thought in closer contact with
Aesthetic, as Croce has nobly endeavoured to bring it, understanding
would quicken marvellously. Could religion embrace the arts and use
them, the world would move Godward with fresh inspiration; the arts
themselves would be enriched, coming into their true heritage. Croce
has paved the way to understanding, but he missed the goal because he
did not perceive that the content of Reality is relationship. This
essay attempts to indicate how much is lost by his omission. God is
Love; Reality is Love. Love is relationship. Beauty is the expression
of our understanding of that relationship. The Good, the True, the
Beautiful are seen as different aspects of the same Reality; each
definable only in terms of another; each involving, and indeed being,
the same system of relations seen from a different angle. Goodness is
the relation of spirit to spirit, Truth the relation of part to part
and part to whole, Beauty the expression of the spirit’s knowledge
of the relations that make up Reality. Our understanding of these
relations--yes, and God’s understanding--is perpetually creative, and
its creation is a new thing for Perfect Being; for the Perfection
of Being is only substantiated by its power to create the new, the
beautiful, the related. Matter is beautiful because it is understood
as the expression of the infinite activity of the spirit of love. As
Personal Being is the one thing that lasts beyond Time, and carries in
itself the character of absoluteness, so it appears that Beauty, the
knowledge and expression of the relationship of Personal Being, is also
eternal. Beauty can never cease, for it is a necessary part of God’s
experience and ours.



Although any detailed treatment of the concrete forms of art is
entirely foreign to the intention of this essay, it is desirable that
we should devote a little consideration to the way in which these
technical expressions arise and to the psychological effects they
produce. In doing this we shall refer to the work of various artists,
but only for purposes of illustration. The part of the art critic is as
unnecessary to our purpose as it is beyond our powers.

To omit all reference to concrete matters seemed undesirable, as
leaving the theory rather in the air. On the other hand any detailed
discussion of the theory as applied to the development of concrete
art-forms must necessarily introduce debatable propositions, and must
be tentative. It therefore seemed desirable to relegate the discussion
of concrete matters to an Appendix, and to state clearly that what was
there said was meant rather to suggest ideas than to lay down definite
principles. Applications that may be open to question do not invalidate
a theory, while they do make for clear understanding of it.

The question whether beauty itself is a universal or a particular
has already found implicit answer. Since beauty is the expression
of a relation that is understood as an essential determination of
Reality, the concept of beauty is a pure concept. It is expressive,
it is concrete, it is universal. It is clearly expressed to the self
as a cognitive product, expressible in words (definition) and symbols
(technique). It answers to Croce’s test that though “universal and
transcendent in relation to the single representation, it is yet
immanent in the single, and therefore in all representations,” and is
therefore concrete. It also transcends the single representations, “so
that no single representation, and no number of them can be equivalent
to the concept” and so is universal.

But the foundation of every universal concept exists in an intuition
of the particular. The intuition and its expression to the self come
first, then follows the extension of the theoretic activity in logic.
The concept of beauty must, then, have arisen, and at every fresh
realisation must still arise, like all concepts, from an intuition of
Reality as existent in a particular; and we must therefore seek its
origin in specific individual cases.

Now we have argued that beauty is most probably associated initially
with sex, since with sex the idea of personal relationship first
arises. Our main thesis would not however be invalidated if it could be
shown that a vague intuition of relation with inorganic or non-personal
objects arose first. The intuition of relation may well have several
separate starting points. Only, in this case, the reciprocal element
would be absent (though its lack might not be felt except as a vague
dissatisfaction) and could only arise when the sex-relation was the
subject of a similar intuition. But most likely the intuition of
relation did arise with sex, and, since our argument is concerned to
show that ultimately the intuition of beauty leads to the expression
of mutual relationship--love--and finds there the explanation both of
its peculiar quality, and of the creative longing it produces, we will
confine our argument mainly to this aspect.

Now if this be so, the sense of beauty is likely to be associated in
its earliest stages with sight, and only in a secondary degree with
sound, in the mating-call and in the beginnings of language. This is
borne out by the fact that music usually lags behind, and is more
primitive in expression than the visual arts--personal ornamentation
and even decoration of objects. True, the first formal _expression_
is likely to be in sound--in the beginnings of language. The dynamic
relation between persons maybe accompanied and expressed throughout by
speech. But at this primitive level it will be a very limited intuition
or understanding that is expressed, and moreover, an intuition that
is based on visual stimuli. We may therefore leave the question of
language for the present. Its importance in the earlier stages is
mainly practical. Through sight (when the stage of simple chemiotaxis
is passed) arises the perception of desirability in the opposite
sex[37], which is the animal starting-point from which love is evolved.
This desirability and this relation are expressed to the self, and
this expression is beauty in its humblest beginning. Then, later, the
creative aspect enters into consciousness. At first it was satisfied,
unconsciously, in mating; but soon this unconscious satisfaction is
felt to be inadequate. The representative process begins.

Now here we find a difficulty. According to our theory, the earliest
attempts at the pictorial art should be pictures of men and women,
but this is not, I believe, the case[38]. We must, however, remember
that the idea of symbolic magic arises very early. This is natural.
The representation of a thing is that thing in some degree. You have
power over your representations, therefore you have power over the
thing. The use of such power has an anti-social aspect, which forbids
its common or public use except in the form, of a magico-religious
ceremony. It is unlikely, therefore, that if such representations were
made, they should have come down to us. Moreover, it is unnecessary
that the magic object should bear any superficial resemblance to the
thing it symbolises; indeed it is undesirable that it should be
recognisable by others, since the practice for which it is destined
is nefarious and illicit. An esoteric significance is enough. There
is a very close connection between primitive art and religion. Thus
the Palaeolithic drawings of animals in the dark caves of Périgord and
Altamira, are undoubtedly connected with magico-religious ceremonies
to give power over the beasts. For this reason then--the acquiring
of a _prise_ over the object represented--we should hardly expect to
find many early drawings of men and women, other than divinities.
Even to-day many savages evince the greatest fear of having their
likeness drawn. Nevertheless, these Neolithic drawings do exist,
proving that there was no universal tabu on such representations.
Moreover such drawings as those of the Bushmen show that primitive
art at times uses drawings to record historical events, such as raids
by other tribes. The comparative scarcity of primitive drawings is,
however, easily explicable when we take the fact of magical beliefs
into account. And there are sufficiently numerous examples of drawings
of animals--bear, rhinoceros, lion, mammoth, bison, reindeer, to show
that prehistoric man did have an intuition of his relation to other
creatures. Furthermore, since the creative impulse does receive some,
if unconscious, satisfaction in sex-relationship, expressed in word and
action, there is the less need for technical expression in the early
stages. We find at all events enough prehistoric drawings to show the
recognition of relation, and the expressive activity, and these are the
desiderata for an aesthetic fact.

Leaving the most primitive level, we find the development of
decoration. Pottery is shaped with some regard to form and symmetry,
and simple ornament of a geometric character makes its appearance[39].
Much might be said on this subject, but we will confine ourselves to a
few fundamental considerations.

In the first place we notice that here man’s art is practically
unfettered by religious and magical inhibitions. Geometric forms do
not generally represent any person or power[40]. Artistic creation
therefore can move freely. Next, we observe that the art is reaching
a higher level, and that consciously. There is conscious elimination
and abstraction at work in the construction of patterns made of simple
lines and curves. We find also the rudiments of an endeavour to find a
harmony and rhythm that may give a sense of satisfied understanding.
Men are beginning to feel the need of unity and harmony and order,
and in so far as geometric ornament gives the feeling of these and
of purpose, it is beautiful, for it expresses their intuition of an
ordered reality.

It is unnecessary for us to discuss the intrinsic beauty of curves, or
the mental satisfaction afforded by the golden section. The Greeks,
and later writers such as Fechner, have expended much ingenuity in
doing this. But their conclusions amounted to little more than that
the aesthetic pleasure given by geometric form was due to the sense
of symmetry and order and unity that were brought about by elaborate
differentiation of detail subordinated to a single idea. As we have
just said, Geometric ornament expresses man’s intuition of an ordered
relation and interdependence in Reality.

We have introduced the ideas of elimination and abstraction. These
are present in all artistic representation, and probably in all
artistic perception. Because the power is rare in any high degree of
development, artistic genius is rare. Moreover it frequently happens
in ordinary people that the perception of beauty is first aroused
consciously by pictures rather than by natural scenes. A flower is
simple enough for a child to understand, and we find that in many
children, especially artistic ones, the perception of beauty is first
awakened by flowers. The elements of a sunset, or a moonlight scene
with clear tones and silhouetted outlines, are simple enough for the
untrained mind to appreciate. But it requires an artistic genius to see
the beauty of a complex landscape. In representing this technically
he simplifies, emphasises, eliminates and abstracts. The man who
looks at his picture follows the creative process of his mind, and,
the elimination being already done for him, is able to appreciate.
Moreover he receives training in the process, and is the more ready
to eliminate for himself; to appreciate natural beauty of a complex
order. Even if our artistic development is not high, we love pictures
because in looking at them and understanding them we perform a creative
act ourselves; but it is the artist who has made it possible for us to
perform the act by his simplification of the problem. Browning clearly
understood this, for he wrote:

    We’re made so that we love
    First, when we see them painted, things we have passed
    Perhaps a hundred times nor cared to see[41].

Sometimes the artist achieves his emphasis by means not wholly
agreeable to the medium which he is using. Many artists of
great technical ability link human sympathies with an admirably
interpretative _mise-en-scène_ which carries out their vision.
Nevertheless the picture that tells a story calls in adventitious aid.
It is like the illustrated reading book of a child; by the child mind
it is created, and to the child mind it appeals. It cannot express a
clear intuition by a simple representation in a single medium, but
uses two, appealing not only in pictorial symbols, but in dramatic as
well, and the intuition itself is obscured by the process. Owing to
this confusion of media and of intuition the result is unsatisfactory
to minds more developed aesthetically, for reasons that we shall adduce
later, while yet the double appeal makes the meaning more evident to
the beginner. Again certain landscape artists of the second rank by
insistence on simple elements of natural beauty, by emphasis, and by
elimination of distracting ideas, open a new vision to minds hardly
prepared yet for such intuition in face of the natural object. Add to
this the half conscious yet acutely pleasurable process of following
out the technical means by which the artist has impressed his intuition
upon canvas, and we can understand the joy of looking at their pictures.

But where the artist’s vision goes deeper, where the reality is
more clearly seen, and where in order to express this intuition, to
represent it, and to bring out its less obvious harmony and order,
a more sweeping process of elimination and abstraction is needed,
the simple mind is unable to follow. Not everyone is at the stage to
appreciate the subtle symphonies of Whistler, the bare simplicity of
D. Y. Cameron, the rigorous certainty of Botticelli. The conventions
and purposeful line of an early Japanese print; the vibrant light
of the post-impressionist landscape artists; the wilful, obtrusive,
almost harsh insistence of the cubist that you _shall_ turn your mind
away from curves that hitherto you have deemed essential, in order to
grasp other truths, not only seem ugly--that is to say, meaningless--to
the mind whose artistic perception is little developed, but may even
distract it, in rebellious protest, from the truth the artist wishes
to proclaim, though others further advanced find in some of their work
a very high type of beauty. And, be it added, the artist himself fails
in his expression if he overdoes the emphasis in such a way that his
representation of the Reality becomes lopsided and inharmonious, as is
too often the case. Further where he is not a creative artist at all,
but a slavish imitator of a method not really his own, we are presented
with the meaningless monstrosities that here and there defile the
Salon des Indépendants--and other less catholic exhibitions! In some,
too, the animal basis is the only intuition expressed, and art gobbles
greedily at its mess of pottage.

Yet as a whole we have moved a long way from the animal expression of
a need of its complementary animal. The whole world is related to us,
and in that relation we find beauty. And beautiful as it is we find it
very lovable, even though we cannot but feel that our love can never be
satisfied since we can give nothing back.

Yet something we can give, though not to it--something that makes
things clearer. In our minds we can give to this world a meaning, as
itself subordinate, yet the necessary means of our self-realisation,
and we can share this meaning with others. We find a meaning in life,
and that meaning is fellowship. We find a meaning in nature, and that
meaning dwells in the Creative Being of the God who is Love. Beauty,
more clearly day by day, becomes for us the expression of Reality, and
that Reality is the reciprocal relationship of persons. Religion gives
one pathway of approach, Beauty another, but both join to form the
highway of our God. There is more than room for beauty in religion;
there is more than room for aesthetic in theology; there is an absolute
need, if they are not to be in a measure inexpressive, lopsided, and
therefore ugly. Our concept of Reality must be symmetrical, or fail of

What is true of pictorial art is equally true of other forms.
Style--the higher art of language--demands education before it can be
appreciated. In literature again, the general public prefers Longfellow
to Keats, _The Passing of Arthur_ to _A Death in the Desert_, Ella
Wheeler Willcox to the _Divina Commedia_. Henry James demands a more
intimate appreciation of the spirit of man than does Dickens. In all
these there is beauty--the expression of an intuition--but those who
see furthest and most clearly have the smallest public. Most men cannot
even follow where they lead, and few indeed are the pioneers.

Before we leave the question of literature and language, we may just
glance at its development. This is comparatively an easy matter
to understand. The warning, the expression of satisfaction, the
mating-call are common among animals. The powers of communication and
of speech develop with the development of self-consciousness. They are
expressions of the relation between the self and its ‘others,’ and
especially of the relation between the self and other selves. They
carry the germs of understanding, and as they lead from the particular
to the more general they bear in them the quality of the beautiful.
The relations between the self and the other selves, and between the
self and the environment, become more and more universalised. In speech
they are communicated, but speech is transient. A more permanent
record is required, and here again resort is had to symbolism, less
generally intelligible, more esoteric, than the pictorial symbol,
since there is no one universal language; the symbolism of written
speech. Speech, however, is episodic and dramatic. It moves along with
the march of events. So too with literature, for the most part. The
Pictorial and Plastic arts represent beauty as static; yet they are
not lifeless. Activity, movement, is implicit in them, while yet the
beauty they express is restful, and has in it something of the quality
of absoluteness and transcendence. Language, literature, drama are
dynamic. In them beauty moves; immanent and unquiet at first sight; yet
here too there is something that expresses the eternal meaning. Purpose
moves to its fulfilment, and, while it moves, the end is in view.
Nevertheless in pictorial art the static side is the most prominent, in
linguistic the dynamic side. We may observe, however, that in order to
counteract the transitoriness of purely episodic speech, recourse is
had to visual symbolism as well. The graphic art aims at perpetuating
the episode, and by doing so renders possible the development to which
we shall immediately draw attention.

Now the untrained mind appreciates the dynamic aspect of literature,
whether it be the originative mind or the mind of the reader. This
explains the output and the popularity of the thrilling tale of
adventure. At its lowest we find the Penny Dreadful. Through Stanley
Weyman and Dumas we move towards Conrad and Meredith and Hardy, where
the dynamic element is thrillingly present (as present it must be
indeed even in the most quiet essays) but where it is subordinated to
a clear vision of the permanent and eternal which we have mis-termed
static. In poetry this truth is obvious. Even in drama, though our
attention is distracted by the action, it is the chief quality if the
drama is really great. In Sophocles, in Euripides, in Shakespeare;
perhaps almost too consciously in Galsworthy, and Paul Claudel and
Synge, for conscious art loses the sincerity of a first vision; it is
not the episodic sequence that interests us, except from the point
of view of technique. Our attention is focussed upon the motive,
the fundamental intuition to which the dramatist is trying to give
technical expression. Moreover in all the infinite variety of literary
art the motive is the same. One definite intuition is expressed--that
of relationship; relation between person and person, relation between
person and machine, relation between person and some ever-ruling
Order, be it Fate, Chance, or God also personal. It is the reality
of personal inter-relationship that underlies all literature, be it
love-poem, novel, or some drama of Fate in which personal relationship
is overshadowed by the impersonal, or at least the unsympathetic;
or else it is the one-sided relation of a person to a thing, as in
descriptive science, which has only the beauty of order. But can we
say that the intuition which the pictorial artist represents is the
same as this? Hardly, unless the picture tells a story; and in so far
as it does this we feel that the realm of pictorial art is invaded by
an alien influence. It may at first sight seem surprising that art
should not gain by the introduction of various intuitions of relation;
that it does not, as a rule, is certain. All the arts overlap; we shall
see the most marked example of this when we come to consider music and
deal further with this point; but intrinsically each is peculiar in its
scope and method.

Now it is worth while to observe that the longing aroused by the beauty
of literature is rather different from that induced by pictures. It is
less vague. Because literature deals with the relation between persons
our attention is directed towards the persons we know--our longings
and aspirations reach out consciously towards them and towards God.
We think of particular people and our relation to them. Our creative
longing is directed towards them, in active relation, or towards
creative literary work of which, more or less consciously to ourselves
they are the background. Moreover we always identify ourselves, in a
greater or less degree, with one or more of the protagonists of the
story; in them we suffer, we love, we adventure at second-hand. This
phenomenon of identification, closely allied as it is to day-dreaming,
has of late come much under the attention of psychoanalysts under the
title of phantasy; a term covering all attempts to achieve through
the imagination the satisfaction denied to us in actual life. For our
present purpose this is only noteworthy as confirming the truth of our
observation that in literary creation, whether at first or second hand,
it is human relation--the relation of ourselves and others--that lies
behind our intuition and its expression.

In some pictorial art this relation between persons, this personal
touch, does not obtain. In landscape the artist’s intuition obviously
deals with the relation of things to men--a relation much more
onesided. Correspondent to this, we find our intuition and our longing
far more vague, far more dissatisfied. There needs a higher knowledge
of Reality to understand how man has relation to things. The intuition
of this relation is generally expressed with far less understanding.
Human relations may intrude, and we get the story-picture and the
problem-picture. Moral relations may intrude, and we get the symbolic
picture, such as those of Watts and Blake. Drama, myth and legend may
intrude and we get the Ladies of Shallot, the Ledas, and the Calumnies
of Apelles.

But pictorial art reaches its highest plane in the religious picture
and the portrait. Have we not, here, the intrusion of the story in the
first case; and in the second have we not the purely human relations
between artist and sitter?

I think it is just to say that the religious picture is not episodic.
It represents what, for want of a better word, we have termed a static
intuition. In the greatest Madonnas, even those of the beginning of the
decadence, such as Raphael’s, all the birth-pangs, all the pain, and
all the achievement of life at its highest go to make up the intuition
of the artist. I venture to think that in one picture at least, the
Madonna of the Magnificat, the artist even hints subtly that he is
expressing in an image the whole meaning of the world, by distorting
his figures and modifying his lights as they would be distorted and
modified when reflected in a convex mirror. διὰ κάτοπτρον is for all
art, but the fact is not evident to him who only glances. The artist’s
intuition must be understood, by a mind that follows it creatively;
even if its creation be at times over-ingenious.

The religious picture, no doubt, could not have been painted but
for the historic episode which it represents. But there is a strong
presumption that it does not owe its intuition to one episode, nor even
to the whole history of a life; though a Crucifixion, an Entombment,
and indeed a Madonna, would only be intelligible in their fulness to
one who knew the life of Christ. It is the relation of a whole Life,
Divine yet Human, to the life of each one of us that lies at the bottom
of the artist’s vision. Only a great Christian can paint a great
Madonna, however sin-stained he may be. Magdalene, who loved much,
could see deeper than jesting Pilate, deeper than the self-righteous

There is here no intrusion of an alien element; a vision of Reality
is represented in one medium. The episode no doubt is there, but it
is incidental, and does not constitute the vision. Episode is always
there, even in a landscape; the question is whether the appeal--the
original intuition--is episodic or universal. But no doubt the human
relation is emphasised; and in this respect we have moved far away from
landscape. The relation of man to inanimate nature is however included
and interpreted in the artist’s vision. I think that the half-conscious
perception of this lies behind the frequent introduction of landscape
in such pictures. It may be said that these simply help to complete
the composition, but to say this is to beg the question. Why do they
complete the composition? Why do they satisfy us? Is it not that they
form an intrinsic part of the artist’s intuition; that in the harmony
of figures and landscape he symbolises, and we after him, the universal
harmony which he has seen?

In a portrait, too, we read not only the relation between sitter and
artist, which must be a relation of deep sympathy and understanding if
the portrait is to be anything but an imitation, but also the relation
of the sitter to all the events of his life. Think of Raeburn’s
portrait of James Wardrop. The strength, the kindliness, the rugged
purpose, the humour with which the old man faced his life all through
are there. It is the face of a man who has fought and won, and in
fighting and winning has learned much wisdom. Think of Giorgione’s
Portrait of a Gentleman, with its wealth of refinement; with its
conviction that “manners makyth man,” sustained with gentleness already
many times when courtesy and calm were not easy. Yet here too there is
no representation of episode. The painter’s art is faithful to itself
and allows no alien intrusion. The harmony, the unity of a man’s life,
compounded though that life be of sequent episodes, makes the artist’s
intuition. History has become philosophy. An absolute thing, an aspect
of Reality, is presented, and we feel somehow that it is not set
against the world but includes the world.

The same kind of thing may be said of lapidary art, and we will not
dwell on it in detail. The sculptor sees beauty in the human or
animal form and in three dimensional representation generalises from
it, whether his work represent an individual or an ideal; for the
individual is used to express an ideal, the ideal is localised in an
individual. The problem of the architect is somewhat different, being
on the theoretic side the attempt to portray in three dimensions that
which the designer of geometric patterns expresses in two--rhythm and
order; multiplicity that establishes a unity; unity that interprets
a multiplicity. But here, more than in other arts, the practical has
to be kept in mind, and a harmony preserved between the economic and
the theoretic activities. Generally one or other predominates, no one
clear idea is expressed, and in consequence, much modern architecture,
especially domestic and civic architecture, is unpleasing. To build
a house is harder than to paint a picture, because men have to live
in a house; and in a contention between two ideas the artistic side
is overbalanced by the practical. Moreover the idea of relationship
is comparatively subordinate here just because two ideas are set over
against one another. The relationship of a thing to a man is in view.
The aim is primarily economic, and beauty takes a second place because
the intuition of harmony is vague and its expression imperfect.

If, however, a house is built, as some Tudor and Georgian houses were,
with an eye to simple proportion which must not be violated, but
otherwise with the realisation that it had to be lived in, and that it
must be designed solely with this end in view, the result is eminently
pleasing. There is no falsity, no attempt to mingle irreconcileables,
no striving after a beauty that cannot be achieved because it is
without meaning in such a connection.

We may now turn to music, in some ways the most difficult of all.
Beginning with the evolutionary aspect, as with linguistic art we find
its origin in the relation of beasts to each other and to the world.
The mating-call, the crooning of passion and of satisfied well-being,
the warning of danger, the hunting call, the sound of the wind, the
sea, the river, the “going in the tops of the trees,” provide the
ground-work of both, expressing the relation of beast to beast, and
beast to thing. But, as we have seen, such calls, such sounds, and the
language to which they give rise, are episodic. The sense of unity and
endurance is lost. Just as, over against the visual symbols of episode
which constitute the beginnings of literature we find the visual
symbols of unity and static endurance which characterise pictorial art,
so too we find the auditory symbols of episode that make speech, and
the auditory symbols of unity that make music. We saw that, to preserve
the episode of speech, visual symbolism is eventually called in. Even
to-day the untrained reader has to form the sound with his lips as he
reads; for the more expert the visual symbol definitely represents
the sound: the written symbols have their own timbre. So too with
music. To preserve the unity from being lost, it comes at last to be
symbolised visually, and there are many who can hear the music as they
read the score. Both the letter on the page and the notes on the stave
are symbols of the second degree--symbols of symbols--for what they
symbolise is in itself the symbol of the artist’s intuition of a unity
in multiplicity. This in parenthesis.

We have said that in purely episodic sound such as the danger-call
and the mating-call the sense of unity is absent. Doubtless no call
is really and wholly episodic, in man at any rate, but it cannot be
questioned that the episode is predominant. The sense of relation is
transient; the economic need is all important.

But the theoretic activity cannot be left out of account for long.
The man of to-day, when he feels his whole being in harmony, his
body tingling from the cold bath, sings lustily. When we are well and
cheerful we sing. So too when a bird is well and cheerful, with all his
bodily needs satisfied or soon to be satisfied--so readily satisfied
as to be themselves a pleasure of anticipation--he sings. No doubt the
cave-mother sang to her baby in quiet murmurs; no doubt the cave-father
hummed as he lolled in the cave-mouth after dinner, idly binding an
arrow-head upon the shaft. Somehow, in a rhythmic sequence of sound
the satisfaction of a body in harmonious rhythm with itself and its
surroundings is expressed. Then, we may imagine, the singer becomes
aware of his song, and begins to think about it. The beauty of the song
as a whole, the beauty of a sequence in sound that makes a unity, is
consciously perceived, and a new art dawns. It is an art very similar
to that of the designer of geometric patterns. Unity is established
through infinite multiplicity of details, in forming no one of which
is the unity forgotten. The music mirrors an intuition of harmony in a
Reality that owes its unity to its multiplicity and its multiplicity to
its unity; a Reality that is based on relationship of parts.

In music, then, we find rhythm, order, sequence. It is both episodic
and static, though episode and unity are in symbolic form. In the
individual sequences, the internal multiplicity, the episode is given;
in the whole, the unity of Reality, the static, or better, the absolute

Because in good music these two aspects must of necessity be perfectly
balanced, music can rouse the keenest, highest sense of beauty in a
greater degree than any other of the arts.

But often music falls short of this. Mendelssohn for instance, too
often sacrifices everything to prettiness. The individual sequences are
trivial and empty. Multiplicity of episode is lost sight of in a rather
petty unity; the two are not balanced. The fourth sound is simply a
fourth note, not a star. Not only is the intuition limited, but the
balance is not preserved between the notes and the whole in its
expression. Bach owes his pre-eminence to the perfect balance between
attention to detailed sequence and expression of a great intuition.
Future musicians may see further than he did, but unless they can
achieve his perfect balance they will fail to express what they see,
and in so far as they fail they will be rewarded with ugliness.

The music-hall tune has but a very paltry vision to express; generally
the relationship it portrays is one of vulgar intrigue or animal
desire, at best one of elementary aspiration; and its notes have
a purely subordinate and utilitarian _rôle_. If it is pretty or
ingenious it has got far beyond the average. Generally, moreover,
it is constrained by considerations alien to music. The words are
written, and the tune has to illustrate them. In this it differs
from folk-tunes, where words and music grow together, each shaping,
moulding, modifying the other, till the song is one thing.

This brings us back to a question which we have several times touched
upon, and as often shelved--the question of the overlapping of
different arts. Opera, oratorio, and ballet give us excellent examples,
and from them we will draw the material of our brief discussion.

In Opera we have drama, episode expressed in language, set in a more or
less accordant scene with histrionic accompaniment, and woven in with
a musical interpretation. In Oratorio we have the same thing without
the scenery and the histrionics. In Ballet--and of this art the Russian
Ballet is especially in my mind--we have the drama, the scene, the
histrionic accompaniment in choregraphic form, and the music.

Let us take Opera first. There are two appeals to the ear and two
to the eye. The music and the words; the acting and the scenery.
The scenery, if subdued and perfectly in accord with the action,
does not much distract the attention, for it is purely a pictorial
setting. Nevertheless a sense is growing that in drama it ought to
be so much subordinated that it does not distract the attention at
all, being confined to a few patterns that help in our understanding
of the motive, or to simple draperies. As far as I am aware this has
not yet been attempted in opera[42], but opera is such a jumble of
incongruities that it can never be an artistic whole, much as we may
rejoice in individual parts of it. The words, however, do constrain
the music in a manner thoroughly unjustifiable: “In composing an opera
the stage should be the musician’s first thought, he must not abuse
the confidence of the theatre-goer who comes to _see_ as well as to
_hear_.... The stage often paralyses a composer’s inspiration, that
is why symphonic and chamber music are so far superior to opera. A
symphony or a sonata imposes no limitations, but in opera, the first
necessity is to speak the musical language of the great public[43].”
Moreover the action and the music are so incompatible that we are
forced to leave our sense of humour outside the theatre door. When
the hero explains for ten minutes that the heroine is in acute danger
and that therefore he must hurry away; when Tristan and Isolde sing
their passion with complete detachment for more than half an hour; we
cannot feel that the action helps the music or the music the action. In
Oratorio, since action is absent, we feel this particular incongruity
less, for we manage mentally to eliminate time; but few will be found
to defend the oratorio as a form of aesthetic expression. It is the
anthem prolonged into a “useless Alexandrine,” “which like a wounded
snake drags its slow length along.” The fatal fact about opera and
oratorio is that the music is constrained to do something that is alien
to itself. It is interpretive of episode, and the episode forces it
into shape. It is not free. This is the root trouble always when two
arts overlap. Art must be completely free to express its intuition
technically, subject only to the inevitable restrictions of the
technique proper to it. From _these_ restrictions it even gains, since
the lines of simplification are to some extent determined, and this
very determination helps the artist towards clear expression of a clear
intuition. It would, of course, be absurd to say that music does not
express definite intuitions that are expressible through other media as
well. “I do not in the least agree with you that music cannot interpret
the universal nature of love,” writes Tchaikovsky to Nadejda von Meck.
“On the contrary, I think only music is capable of doing so. You say
words are necessary. O no! This is just where words are not needed, and
where they have no power; a more eloquent language comes in, which is
music. Look at the poetical forms to which poets have recourse in order
to sing of love; they simply usurp the spheres which belong inseparably
to music. Words clothed in poetical forms cease to be mere words; they
become partly music[44].” But if there is a restriction alien to the
art and imposed from without, which prevents full expression in that
medium, the result is bound to be more or less a failure. The dramatic
episode and the verbal form in opera constitute such a restriction,
introducing a vein of unreality that is fatal to aesthetic expression.
In oratorio, where the words demand a representation they do not get,
and where yet the music is bound by the words, we feel the same thing.
Even to take a poem and set it to music is almost bound to lead to
aesthetic disappointment. The intuition of the artist is not single
nor free. The writer of the melody may recreate the intuition of the
poet, he may try to express the same intuition in his setting, but the
setting is none the less constrained by the words. The musician is not
at liberty to form one clear intuition and give it free play[45]. The
form of the expression is already fixed in part, and the knowledge
of this fixation forms a second intuition which generally obscures
and confuses the main one. Moreover both expressions appeal to the
same sense, that of hearing, and this, apparently, produces greater
confusion, more lack of clarity, in the auditor. The same fact accounts
for the unsatisfactoriness of music which moves out of its proper
sphere and endeavours to tell a definite story or paint a definite
scene. The 1812 Overture, fine though it is, can never be said to be
pre-eminent as music; nor can Haydn’s Creation, nor any of the music
that, intentionally or unintentionally, is not single-hearted, but
calls up visual images as well as depending on them. This statement
does not constitute an indictment of programme-music. The _Adagio_
of Beethoven’s Fourth Symphony cannot be thus lightly dismissed[46].
In Tchaikovsky’s introspective letters we find most interesting
accounts of the inspiration from which he worked, and an eloquent
defence of programme-music in general, and his own Fourth Symphony in
particular[47]. To N. F. von Meck he writes[48]: “Laroche is entirely
opposed to a programme. He thinks the composer should leave the hearer
to interpret the meaning of the work as he pleases; that the programme
limits his freedom; that music is incapable of expressing the concrete
phenomena of the physical and mental world.... If you care to hear my
opinion on the subject, I will give it in a few words.... I think the
inspiration of a symphonic work can be of two kinds: subjective or
objective. In the first instance it expresses the personal emotion of
joy or sorrow, as when a lyric poet lets his soul flow out in verse.
Here a programme is not only unnecessary, but impossible. It is very
different when the composer’s inspiration is stirred by the perusal of
some poem, or by the sight of a fine landscape, and he endeavours to
express his impressions in musical forms. In this case a programme is
indispensable.... To my mind, both kinds of music have their _raison
d’être_, and I cannot understand those who will only admit one of these
styles. Of course every subject is not equally suitable for a symphony,
any more than for an opera; but, all the same, programme-music can and
must exist. Who would insist, in literature, upon ignoring the epic and
admitting only the lyric element?”

Tchaikovsky seems to me to ignore the deepest side of music, however;
that intuition of an ordered, universal harmony which gives to Bach his
pre-eminence. Programme-music, then, is not necessarily limited to any
great extent by that which it represents, provided the representation
is sufficiently generalised to allow the music free scope. But it is
always in danger of losing touch with the universal in over-emphasis of
the particular, becoming constrained by its subject. Moreover it loses
something of the freedom, and independence of phenomenal existence,
which is the peculiar privilege of music and its unique prerogative
among the arts, taking on something that belongs to painting or
language. In so far as the wrong technical medium is used, just so far
aesthetic expression fails.

These strictures do not apparently apply, at any rate in the same
degree, where two media appealing to two different senses are used
simultaneously. We are accustomed to correlate sight and hearing
and to form through them a single intuition. This may explain the
extraordinary satisfyingness of the Russian Ballet, in spite of its
frequent artificiality and the perverted themes and imagery that pass
unnoticed by the more healthy-minded public of England. The episodic
side, made rhythmical and ordered in its choregraphic presentation,
parallels, but does not constrain in any great degree, the musical
side. In Les Sylphides especially the same intuition is expressed in
two media. The choregraphic artist has studied and followed out the
intuition of Chopin, and has expressed it in a different medium. But
music and dancing have much ground in common, and consequently both
are capable of serving as the technical medium for one or the same
intuition. Therefore Les Sylphides[49] is more of an artistic whole
than almost any other compound aesthetic expression. Art must be free,
and if it use two media, both must express the same intuition--this is
the root of the matter. You may appeal simultaneously to two senses,
but you must do so in the medium proper to each sense and the intuition
must be capable of expression in those media. To appeal to one sense
through the medium proper to another is to court disaster. We see that
this must be so if, as is the case, the aesthetic intuition has to
be founded on the particular before it can move out to discover the
universal; and the particular cannot be faithfully represented if the
representation is not as clear-cut as the intuition and the reality
intuited. Art must be free, for it is the intuition of a relation free
on one side at least, and not finally satisfied till it finds rest
in mutuality, love, free on both sides. It is the expression of our
growing understanding of the meaning of Reality.

No doubt music, like all other arts, has been transformed from its
original character. It is no longer imitative, though it may have been
first roused by imitative attempts; it is no longer dependent on the
harmony of bodily well-being, though it may first have expressed such
harmony. In it spirit calls to spirit, no longer body to body. But this
need not surprise us. The foundations contribute nothing to the beauty
of a building, though upon them the building is reared. All that is
greatest in man had a very humble beginning. Even his limbs and lungs
had a plebeian ancestry.

We have said nothing of the aesthetic problem of simple tone and
colour. Though Plato, and even Hegel, discussed these, it is generally
accepted to-day that they do not in fact exist in isolation from other
suggestions. They always derive a value from their suggested relations
and cannot be conceived apart from these. Such aesthetic value as
clear tones and colours have is due to the fact that the elements they
suggest and imply are few, like a sunset sky, and therefore they do not
demand any great degree of elimination in the mind of the observer.

Neither have we dealt with the problem of the relative importance of
colour and form, except implicitly. The essential factor here is, of
course, that colour does not exist _per se_. You cannot isolate a thing
from its colour, in aesthetic intuition. To begin with, colour is the
basis of visual perception, for the light by means of which the eye
perceives an object must be of some definite series of wave-lengths of
certain amplitudes balanced against one another in some definite manner
through the selective absorption of that object, and wave-length is the
physical basis of colour. Then, secondly, colour belongs to, and is
an integral part of form. Form is not mere shape; it is determined by
tone (or wave-amplitude) and colour (or wave-frequency) as well as by
outline; and these are essential factors in the unity and order of the
whole, and so are essential factors of the intuition.

What we have said, then, of symmetry and geometric form, and of
clearness of expression, together with what we have said of the
elimination that is involved in aesthetic intuition, really covers the

Together, yet each in its own way, colour and form arouse in us the
sense of unity and appeal to us as being in harmony with the intuition
derived from other particulars; that in the world, under all its
apparent multiplicity, there subsists a unity which relates all things



[1] Bosanquet, _Hist. Aesth._ p. 18.

[2] _Ibid._ p. 148.

[3] G. Vico, _Scienza nuova seconda, Elementi liii_, quoted in Croce’s

[4] Bosanquet, _Hist. Aesth._ p. 267, _seq._

[5] Croce, _Aesthetic_, trs. Ainslie, p. 303.

[6] Wildon Carr, _The Philosophy of Croce_, p. 97.

[7] The clearest summary of Croce’s position is to be found in the
brief third section of the first part of his _Philosophy of the
Practical_. Prof. Wildon Carr also has given a very clear account
of Croce’s philosophy as a whole in his book on _The Philosophy of
Benedetto Croce_.

[8] _Philosophy of the Practical_, p. 591.

[9] _Philosophy of the Practical_, pp. 258-261.

[10] This is not to condemn programme music altogether, for much of the
best programme music does not attempt to paint a scene in such a way as
to call up visual images. _Vide infra._

[11] Cf. the work of the psychoanalytic school, especially Jung’s
_Psychology of the Unconscious_ and Rivers’ _Dreams and Primitive

[12] Lyly’s _Campaspe_.

[13] G. Macdonald, _Phantastes_.

[14] _Evolution and Spiritual Life_ and _Evolution and the Doctrine of
the Trinity_.

[15] _Evolution and Spiritual Life._

[16] _Opp. citt. passim._

[17] _Evolution and the Doctrine of the Trinity._

[18] I make no apology for not entering here on any discussion of how
God can be Love. I have endeavoured to offer suggestions on this matter
in my earlier books, and especially in _Evolution and the Doctrine of
the Trinity_.

[19] _Evolution and the Doctrine of the Trinity_, ch. III.

[20] _Evolution and the Doctrine of the Trinity_, ch. III.

[21] _Ibid._ See also Strong, _The Origin of Consciousness_.

[22] Bosanquet, _History of Aesthetic_, p. 37.

[23] McDowall, _opp. citt._

[24] _Evolution and Spiritual Life._

[25] _Evolution and Spiritual Life_, ch. VI, and _Evolution and the
Doctrine of the Trinity_, ch. VI.

[26] Croce, _Logic_, p. 279.

[27] _Ibid._ p. 310.

[28] Croce, _Logic_, pp. 324-325.

[29] McDowall, _opp. citt._

[30] _The Psychology of the Unconscious._

[31] _Dreams and Primitive Culture._

[32] For the exact sense in which these words are used, and for their
implications in regard to God’s creative activity, see _Evolution and
the Need of Atonement_.

[33] A word may be said concerning the personal relationship of fear
and hate. Here in self-defence the ‘other’ is not regarded as in
personal relation to the person threatened, at all events in early
stages of development; he is as external as a flood or a precipice.
Nevertheless in fear and hate, when they have reached a high stage of
development, there is a feeling of personal relation. But only in one
sense can this relation be termed personal; the ‘other’ is recognised
as a person, but in concentrating our attention on the things in him we
fear and hate we concentrate it on his ‘otherness’--on his lack of any
but an external relation to us. There is nothing reciprocal; we refuse
to give or receive. It is this externality of relation that makes hate
and fear so poignant and so bitter.

[34] Cf. _Evolution and the Need of Atonement_, ch. IV. _et passim_.

[35] McDowall, _opp. citt. passim_.

[36] For detailed consideration of the nature of evolutionary process
in material conditions reference may be made to my earlier works, to
which the present essay constitutes a postscript.

[37] Even though there may be a mating-call.

[38] I believe that I am right in saying that it is not until the
Neolithic period that human (female) images are found, and some of
these are probably divinities, though Dr A. C. Haddon informs me that
there are Neolithic paintings of human beings on rocks in Spain which
presumably do not represent divinities.

[39] Really, geometric art seems to have arisen nearly contemporaneously
with representative art, for patterns of considerable complexity and
symmetry are found in the later palaeolithic period.

[40] Though the representation of an eye is frequently included in
the pattern as a counter-charm, and indeed many of the patterns _may_
originally have had a magical significance, though most seem to be
merely inspired by woven basket-work and the like.

[41] _Fra Lippo Lippi._

[42] I understand that Purcell’s _Fairy Queen_ has just been played at
Cambridge with draped scenes only.

[43] Tchaikovsky, letter to N. F. von Meck, Nov. 27th, 1879.

[44] Tchaikovsky, letter to N. F. von Meck, Feb. 9th, 1878.

[45] Tchaikovsky’s letters to N. F. von Meck give an interesting
insight into the process by which the intuition comes to the composer,
and his method of working it out. See especially the letters of Feb.
17th, March 5th, and June 24th, 1878.

[46] If one can say that it has a programme and not simply an

[47] Letter to Taneiev, March 27th, 1878.

[48] Dec. 5th, 1878.

[49] Petrouchka is said to be equally homogeneous, but I have not seen
it, and Carnaval approaches this level.

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