9 Ultimate Questions; 6
The following program was originally released in 1969. Nine ultimate questions a series of explorative talks citing contemporary perspective to the vast legacy of world philosophies with Dr. John Theobald beauty is the subject of this six of nine ultimate questions the remaining questions will concern themselves with God peace and what we should do. Here is the six the nine ultimate questions with Dr. John Theobald. What is beauty this time. If you try silence about the idea of beauty the silence quickly turns to something that may include horrors. But it must in the end mean Joy. Most of our other questions can and do become involved with sorrow and defeat. We lose confidence in man. Doubt God become alienated from the self. A hurt by love foolishly fear death but
beauty is always for everyone some sort of final diadem about what beauty is. Many women have written a prodigious number of books and essays taken and taught in the college courses and come up baffled still. The fact is that our real delight is not in defining beauty but in watching her movie making her dance. Looking at her always changing face and hearing her lovely voice. If there is distrust is never really beauty we distrust but our own weakness against that enchantment and our own either a blank inability to account for precisely what happens when the land and flame of beauty is kindled. I rest distortion of the significance of what happens. Such distortions. Do you remember Plato's rejection of art and poetry. Plato one of the greatest poets and how it required the brightest of his students though very much a non part to straighten him out. Both the distortion and the correction took place on two grounds.
The metaphysical and the ethical and OTAs the subject is I think it would be rather instructive to glance again at all for that is to say the right and wrong side of each of these two born each case. The paradox is made complete by the fact that it was the poet and master whose view is short sighted and the essential student whose understanding drew close to the heart of man. Purchased metaphysical objection to us and poetry in the Republic I should recall is grounded in his assumption that reality does not reside in the manifold of sense but in the pure ideas preconditioning that manifold in the mind of God. This microphone is not really real. Only the idea of the microphone in God's mind. The artist who draws the mike on the point who makes a point about it if you're going to make a point about it Mike is giving us an imitation of an imitation and hence he has to move away from reality. But as a whole because he of course was that bright pupil when he set himself to observe how
especially poetry at its best which he thought of as a drama did its work. Aristotle observed that the object of the artist imitation was not the particular manifold but what he called the universal not true. But truth not this or that man a woman accidentally encountered that keeps you out of a job all your shop all makes noises from a platform or bitches you after being fetching to you but man and woman as essentially good or evil or both. The act that burns and shines authentically and inevitably the statecraft merciful or cruel in a way that belongs as intrinsically as the rain or the midday sun. A conception which actually approximates those pure ideas of Plato's but not just embodied like his. So if I want to write a play and I am a true playwright or poison has total sense not just a reporter or a here today gone tomorrow sensationalist. I don't take a tape recorder into a bus
and claim it as a play. The resulting transcript of conversation in the bus. No I listen to the conversation I go away and brood on the people and their conversation. Then I invent new people and new conversations that distill the essence of the meanings that I found. So I'm imitating not the particular conversations but the universal truth hidden in them implied by them would have to be people either it could be could be yellow beads he will watch from dawn to bloom the yellow bees in the ivy Bloom nor heed nor see what things may be but from these create he can forms more real than living man listings of immortality. But more important to pleasure than this metaphysical difficulty I believe was the model ground of his objection to the beauty of art and poetry. I suppose you could say it was a tribute to his sense of the power of beauty that he feared so much what he felt to be its moral impartiality its indifference to right and wrong. Quite a place
of course meant almost entirely Homa. And Plato saw the apparent impartiality with which the Iliad would put the garland of poetry alike on good and evil Hector's domestic virtuous and Achilles palpable zest for all the blood. And no better with a god status tenderness for her ruthless sulky son and Athena's dirty pool to ensure Achilles slaughter Hector not to speak of the way Zeus himself would cheat on his wife under the various crummy Incognito's and she exploited her sexual partner with a lot of gods. Therefore said Plato when these glamorous Sundance poets arrive in the ideal city wind them die numb then quickly show them the gates since otherwise they're a model eloquence is liable to seduce the populace. It's here that asked on again what comes to the rescue of poets with a famous doctrine of catharsis a coarse enough word which is you know survives in English as I would for a bulk purge his model again is great drama especially
Sophocles and far from the audience being corrupted he says by these grievous happenings maîtresse side in rebellion against the gods and the oracles. The emotions of the audience are purged by the exercise of pity until it has to be both these emotions. If the prescription is going to work properly. Pity and terror. So that having experienced by proxy the worst that life can do. Then later when in their own lives they experience pain and evil in the raw. Sooner or later they must. They will not be on ready now to thoughts about beauty arise from these two very cogent rejoinders of that eminent student two eminent Prof. One of these thoughts from each objection. First as regards the metaphysical thing if I may be forgiven here a personal note though I would range myself devoutly on the side of the place of this rather than the tough as the Judeans. Yet I have to confess that asked awful fusion of the universal in the particular.
I derive considerable aid and comfort for an old and early difficulty that I have a place which I would like to try to explain. It has seemed to me that although Plato is the poison our startle is the the lab man not only has the effect of Plato's thought about beauty been poetic. But that of Aristotle has in this regard anyway been contra to the effect that I associate with science. I don't have to remind you that we live in an age of science which has had all these spectacular recent conquests and the way of stands is Ratio said native that is to say Science measures and classifies it evaluates facts and events as steps towards conclusions. Hence the fact that events in themselves have a subordinate inferential value. The means of getting from point A to Point B. Not elements vital for their own sake. So the claims of the future by implication always in science pitted against the claims of the present moment. The now you could say
that SAS gives you the score but not the game tells you how wide and deep and salty ocean is and when it will be high tide and not what the water says at night when you are sunny and it tells you where a star will be in relation to the sun three thousand years from now. Not what that star is doing with its light now. The air and the mind the hot. Poetry in or on its forms is the now an intensification by every resource that has come out of the present moment of experience the actual blow on the head and kiss on the mouth or circles that spread from these stones dropped in the lake of what goes on right now. But this concrete now is not so dreadful and needs to be intensified today more and more we really live less unless we live by the clock. And meanwhile we substitute a series of labels for the real stuff of reality. These labels usually come in opposites of tools like the animals and the ah good an evil spirit and matter are abstract concrete subject
object spirit corresponds with abstract we say and matter is nature which is concrete. The things of the Spirit. We have various other labels such as. So God goodness beauty. And some of our most exalted thinkers have followed Plato in widening the gulf between what he called the one beautiful and the many beautiful Zz and to all these words for the things of the Spirit God so goodness its utter come to represent less and less the concrete world they're supposed to underlie that world in some way in the beginning was the word we say a divine idea a wholly abstract. After which the universe was made the universe which is it was a cloud and this pure Platonic idea with a lot of material stuff and a lot of water like roses or Manila. I remember I used to think that the splitting up of the world the way Plato did it into spiritual matter I wonder why I did it. It surprises me now that at the same time as I was
admiring all the spitting up all this a proper priority game I was actually trying to get closer to nature and to write my poems. Well as a matter of fact it was nature and poetry that really saved me from the worst consequences of these supposed ideas in the mind of God. Severed from the lovely conifer a smell that triggered the memory shocks of those pines that tower in the Himalayas of my childhood. Poetry gives pardons to those moments in which the subject object runaround is transcended into the experience which no longer suffers from this little egos greed to own it's own life in distinction from the life in the smell of the pylons and the the diamond glitter of the stars. To transcend that greed of ownership is to stand a chance of achieving a realisation for our selves. Nothing's of any use to it has been grasped by our selves in the gut realisation in the gut. Of the soul. Absolutely vital knowledge that is evidenced in the true part. It is a knowledge the pierces the surface of experience. At one point
and emerging with the emotions special to that moment it communicates the emotion and with it the knowledge by devices that break the stranglehold of separate things. But partly a shadow says binds under its light yoke all irreconcilable things. It's all Sandburg synthesis of hyacinths and biscuits. Or as TS Eliot puts it the ordinary man falls in love and reads Spinoza the poet out of these two disparate experiences for one's new home was together with the sound of the typewriter and the smell of cooking in the kitchen. After all these four samples of experience for you love reading Spinoza sat on the typewriter smell of cooking. Up perfectly able to be one seamless robe as anyone in lab would have to testify who was tried without success to prevent that all penetrating emotion from seeping into everything else that does what we just call the Seamless Robe corresponds to the world it is meant for all non-verbal state. It's such a mess as the Buddhists would say. I
believe that the arts may be the only species of symbology able to come anywhere near verbalizing the suchness directly are non portress stops trying to find words for it. It does not ask the question What is it but in what class is it. This enormously general classifying process by which reality is reduced to separate things in logic. But again separate bundles. All this inveterate classify is a very unfortunate human invention coming much later than poetry and music and drawing which were man's first speech. And we can't now begin to go into the sort of trouble that this ingrained habit of classifying and labeling as gods and do it religion literature philosophy politics. Not to speak of only human relations. We should content ourselves with pointing out that this had it together with the equally bad one of subordinating the present to the future eventually results in a sort of creeping paralysis symptomatic of the pernicious anemia which corrode
the very ability to relate ourselves invited it with what is going on now. The Still Point of the turning world how soon we can forget altogether that the natural world is not given to us in cans with labels. If you ask what it is in its natural state the answer is to point at it. And if you have to speak then the language will be a part for a true poem or picture. Does not substitute a label for the thing observed or rather thought of it for the segment of experience. A true poem makes it happen so that you feel it as it is. Poor poetry was far from being another problem or trip or some sort of extra thing filled existence is a magical means of restoring to life the real unbroken nature of life restoring the total dimensions of life in the now by trips we just dodge what it is by solving problems we too often create more problems to solve. But as Henry thorough said whatever things
I perceive with my time these let me record that it will be poetry. I speak of poetry as the expression of beauty that I know best. But the idea of the fusion of the universal in the particular now experience which is the idea that I was really arguing for emerges just as clearly in the other arts whenever they understand their proper function. Beauty is a meaning recognized with emotion. What's it matter with the meaning recognized as cotton fused in a word or color or model or notes or the cinema or the dance. You must have noticed how certain of the same expressions are implied by all these arts when they seek to focus the conceptions that match what is most characteristic of the act of communicating beauty such expressions of truth intensity imagination rhythm struggle harmony beauty itself.
This is brought us to the thought of rising from Aristotle second to Giant that I believe that the vital clue to beauty is harmony and it not particular it is the two as titles so to Plato's man objection to art. And I believe it is the clue to more than just that. Look again at what Plato did object to. Great is the issue at stake my dear Glaucus. SOCRATES greater than appears whether a man is to be good or bad. And what will anyone be profited if under the influence of power or under the excitement of poetry he neglect justice and virtue then back he goes to his old pitch that these arts indifferently exalt the accidents of mortal life both good and bad when the soul's business should be stayed upon the eternal. But if no man has ever managed to live in this dark world and wired without having to deal with evil in himself in others would it not be the way of sense and courage to get to the bottom of
this destructive element. And if so before a man begins to tackle the problem wouldn't it be better for him to try assuming that what seems so painful in the sky thing might make sense rather than nonsense. And he certainly could not arrive at what makes sense and what sense it does make by looking away and shutting the door. Let him rather in the destructive element in the moon through the fierce dispute between damnation and impassioned play and then see what. It's very unlikely that he will be able to avoid this involvement anyway sooner or later you wake up to find his nightmare true and there's the bloody gun butt butting at the door. But if he says if he says I'll make for the forest the desert the hills I'll I'll build a coke lined chamber I'll sink into the silence and meditate all day on what is beyond staying. Guess what he needs in the desert in the forest in the hills in secret in a room. Yes is own riving heart
gone a bit sour like centers. If evil is your problem lighten seclusion will never solve it. I cannot praise a fugitive in close to an exercise that UN breeds which slinks out of the race where that immortal god understood the run for not without dust and heat as a rugged individualists called Milton speaking who who might well thought out after the Pilgrims on the Mayflower if he had not held high office of state and ledger on guard line if escape then is no solution to evil what is. I just wonder if the answer to the problem of evil may not live very close to what I asked of tackled as the problem of difficult beauty. Why is it that this beauty which encompasses distress is the beauty which rises highest and gives the deeper satisfaction for the committal doubt that this supreme Cheavens of the world's literature are things like the wrath of Achilles those slashed eyeballs at the tipis. The rending cries that pierced the gloom of Dante's
Inferno King Lear raving on the blasted heath job sitting in his saws and howling Though He slay me will I trust him. But but if Dawn and sleep and children's laughter are beautiful if it of such is the kingdom of unity what does all this talk of injustice and despair have to do with that kingdom. Harmony we said the clue was form a shape a coming together a. of the constituent elements a reconciling whether in a two landscape a face a law an event or a life. All life is a arrangement either more or less. Again and again the impression of the random and haphazard will yield sometimes with a sudden shock. To the recognition of significant arrangement pattern order meaning much of the time the impossibility of seeing that it's due to elements as distinct as obvious place three dots on the page. And it's perfectly impossible not to see a triangle. Look at the face nearest to you or your own in a mirror. And again
it's quite impossible to see an isolated mouth nose eye a brow that do not contribute to a countenance there or. Just talks the German word for form which is given its name to the only systematic school of psychology that is also a philosophy fully equipped with an epistemology. All experience is deployed in Gestalt. The recognition of its form is most often all that is needed in order to recognise its meaning. Now poetry extends this recognition to meeting and tries its edge on the hot. The ordinary man too. As we. Just saw his flashes of poetry seize the gestalt in the sound of the typewriter the smell of cooking or the sensation of being in love. Seize it by getting rid of the superimposed packaging that keeps them artificially separate. The recognition of any meeting especially that meeting has been hitherto obscured is necessarily accompanied by the pleasure which always mocks the sense of beauty. A
pleasure deriving perhaps from nothing more complicated than that the recognized gestalt belongs to the nature of truth with no limits to its reign. The harmony is true of things and that Truth is everywhere ushering us therefore into the infinite freedom of things as they really are a world which is always joyful. Mastery of the devices precise and passionate by which that meaning is captured and communicated is the beauty making power possessed by the artist. A part of blessedness. But like all power in man accompanied by frustration because this power is very far from being infinite it is not even the most powerful when most needed and employed. Now might not realising the meaning that is the harmony of something obviously harmonious such as Dawn or Rose is the expected to cost less and they worth less than realizing the implied harmony of what cash is. If this were not so there would be nothing gained by discord in music.
But although the greatest music can thrive for a little while a little while in the absence of discord it's hard to see how you can have any drama at all whether the stage or in fiction or the highest levels of poetry frequently fused with drama unless there is top class struggle paid all the way from the simplistic conditions of a bar room brawl or a sex triangle to the appalling conflicts between country impulses that bring Othello to madness or that spelled doom for Napoleon's armies in hottest Dynasts of Tolstoy's War and Peace. But quiet struggle. Why the pain. Maybe once more recap the famous so-called problem of evil in its starkest form you call it it's a theological problem of a crassly anthropomorphic sort one which strictly doesn't arise in this you have a humanoid God who is both all powerful and all good. For if he is only or powerful he could have the ability to prevent the late president from being shot in the head but not the benevolence to wish to act in the matter. And if you
only all good he could wish to prevent the child from being run over by the drunk but he might not have the ability. But if God is both all powerful and all good. Why do mothers have to watch their babies said screening out of this world by napalm Baba cetera et cetera. Could it be that the statics comes to the aid of theology here and that the problem of difficult beauty may lead us out of the problem of evil. If anything can without involving us in a callous perverse it is which we instinctively reject. We certainly can't speak with any degree of ease about drought stricken mother. Nevertheless the beauty that undercuts all others is written in the anguish of her face the coords of the scourge our twined together out of love. We are put on earth a little space that we may learn to bear the beams of love. What's it mean that we should be so wrecked on this planet rushing from one turmoil to another born in other's pain perishing in our own. Is it just making the best of a terrible situation that our sweetest songs are those that tell us that is
thought or could it actually be that tragedy in the Roar has the same name as the supreme theme of Shakespeare and Sophocles that they're both called tragedy because both are rooted in some ordeal privileged to be an ordeal. The Buddha taught that the reason for Sabbath Duke our sorrow is everywhere is that we provoke sorrow by a fixed proclivity to craving which must be rooted out before there can be peace. And yet this piece is scarcely to be found on the hidden side of death. It is gone gone gone to the other shore. And according to the bodhisattva ideal the compassionate one chooses to return life after life. Until that calm is possessed by all creatures the same calm of mind all passions stand with which the audience is dismissed at the end of Samson Agonistes disease or the M.S.. Here the final Christian symbol corresponds to the Bodhisattva idea as distinct from the karma of that figure seated
under the boat tree. It's the crucified figure with nailed hands which resembles Prometheus chained to the rock. It's the prerequisite of resurrection and Prometheus to ensure his version of the drama was to do that by the son of Zeus and then to the final outcome as a psalm of triumph neither to change nor thought are not apparent. This lack by Claudia Titus to be good great and joyous beautiful and free. This is a love life joy empire and victory. But the prerequisite always paved birth is always birth pangs and thereafter difficulty at every step. It may be as book title says that pain is the recognition that the body is being deprived of its likeness to the soul. I think beauty is no deprivation. But in any case the struggle is the built in proviso against the stagnation of complacency. The only reliable foothold for thought or assent. This is this
functional anguish is the unconscious reason for the questions frequently morbid sounding hymns about the cross in the cross of Christ like Gloria cetera. The surest tidings are always unconscious anyway. This Since innocent scenting diva bigger than our unaided interdict can discolor send us back after all to Plato who did believe in inspiration. The operation of the God of the unconscious even sends us to the neo platonists the greatest of whom it was that said never to the eye of man see the sun unless itself was sun like. Never can the so have vision of the first beauty and as itself be beautiful. And yet we must insist that you can't have walked on Tana's refers to as the beauty of courage in a majestic face without first having a face you can have what is beautiful beyond the beauty of the evening and Dawn unless there is thirst be the pigmentation of the air in the engine no I see no needed irreconcilable there between the tonic and the iced tea and positions in regard to beauty in Plato's
Symposium you remember beauty is represented on an ascending scale from the many beautiful to the one. And if we've had any quarrel with this model as a lad it was nothing but a protest that at any stage in the Ascension had to be repudiated must we turn against the humble stratagems of love. If what we may arrive at through all fair forms their practices their notions is the absolute essence of beauty which just because a chain sends all these particulars may surely nonetheless transfuse them. Shelly is always yearning away to a world far from ours where music and moonlight and feeding all one. I think there's a world far from ours. A light more annoyed and stainless from which our best and brightest must be pinned. But I think that that will that light unfolds our road. It is what must abide
whilst they manage change and pass and defy many colored dome of glass is staying by the white gradients of the two unity. I see that sting with all his frustrations. Not as a blemish but as a tinted splendor. Whose right name is beauty itself. I see no great gain for us in blurring the distinctions of music and moonlight and feeling and no necessity since just because this colored manifold has become the bed lineaments of the snow that we know something imperishable fine is going on in the world and it is a world far from ours on which this beauty depends. We could not see it we certainly could not have guessed at the existence of that world if it had not been made palpable for us from our earliest years until this day. By beauty beauty then is the ten Jubal incarnation of that to which we give the name God. Our next overweening subject.
- 9 Ultimate Questions
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