The life of those who dwell in the secret place of the Most High may be called a Hidden Life, because the animating principle, the vital or operative element, is not so much in itself as in another. It is a life grafted into another life. It is the life of the soul, incorporated into the life of Christ; and in such a way, that, while it has a distinct vitality, it has so very much in the sense, in which the branch of a tree may be said to have a distinct vitality from the root.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Divine Guidance and the Arts

If a divine guidance is necessary to make a man perfect in the more common arts of life, so that he cannot build his own habitation, or do any other mechanic work as he ought to do, without God to help him, still more is such guidance necessary in those arts which imply higher exercises of the intellect, such as painting and sculpture. Give a man all the requisites of a great painter, a practiced hand, an eye alive to all the beauties of external nature, a creative imagination; — and then add a heart in alliance with God, and rich in holy feelings, and it is not easy to limit the beautiful and sublime works which his pencil will give rise to. The same may be said of sculpture and of architecture in its higher forms.

And such are the difficulties attending these arts, when it is proposed to carry them to their highest results, — so much invention is necessary, so much care in the relative adjustment of the parts which a happy invention has given rise to, so much wisdom and skill in conveying inward thought and feeling by outward form and gesture, — not to speak of other difficulties and other requisites, that all great artists, if they sympathize with their own aspirations, and are true to the instincts of their own nature, feel very much their need of a higher power to guide them. They know that nothing but God could carry out and complete the outlines of beauty and grandeur, which often float vividly before them; — and, under the pressure of this conviction, their souls instinctively yearn for the possession of that divine presence and aid, which would enable them to complete what their imaginations have conceived.

The subject of one of the great paintings of Raphael is "Paul preaching at Athens." The conception of the apostle as the living embodiment of a new and purer religion, his position in the front and on  the steps of a heathen temple, the mighty power of truth and Christian benevolence which struggles forth in his dignified but fervent attitude and action, the different groups that stand or are seated around him; — some calmly indifferent and skeptical; — some expressing in their countenances the mingled feelings of fear and hatred; — others yielding a rational conviction, and showing the signs of true sensibility and rising hope; — all combined together present a scene of the greatest conceivable interest. How is it possible that a great painter, who appreciates the magnitude of such a work, the exceeding difficulties attending its execution, and the mighty moral influence which follow a successful result, can enter upon it,  without first praying to God for wisdom and help, and without continuing to pray for them at every successive step?

— edited from A Treatise on Divine Union (1851) Part 7, Chapter 7.

No comments:

Post a Comment