Symposium Of Dreams

(Mere Beauty In Truth)

By E. Kyle Richey

Beauty assembles itself in many forms. Nature, Art, Humanity, and Architecture are all designs that can culminate beauty. Architectural design requires a synergistic adaptation to its environment either urban or rural, natural or manufactured; there must be a harmony between that which is and that which is becoming. A biomimicry between the incoming architecture and that of the existing world…

Bode Museum, Berlin Germany

Construction for the Bode began in 1897 with Eberhard von Ihne as the museums architect devoted the Bode to a Renaissance design. A masterpiece respectable to the period while symmetrical and honorable to the surrounding city environment.

What fails in respect is the atrocious Soviet Fernsehturm TV Tower seen in the background. An eye sore lacking in respect to the historicity of Berlin, the tower is protruding a modern gaucheness that pollutes the surroundings.

Indoors the Bode, however, continues the synergy between the City of Berlin and the Classical Renaissance design inside the Museum, as though the indoors and outdoors carry semblance in purpose and meaning for the German people and all those who come to visit its humble grounds.

Modernity produced a post-modern movement; an accolade of its success turned rebellious child. Do all thing modern and post-modern automatically lack a Mere Beauty In Truth? Hardly. Rather it is a matter of tact and a real desire to mimic the environment that make a community whole and wholesome by producing an air of remembrance that is transcendental, immanent, and traditional in a way that everyone wants to stay or return again; I would describe it as grandmas café’ where the coffee is always hot, rich in aromas of delicious food, and there is a seat that always feels reserved just for you.

Sultan Ahmed Mosque (Blue Mosque)

Temples, Churches, or Mosques like the Blue Mosque are fundamental to the whole design of a community as they represent real meaning and purpose as expressed through the architecture outside with its six minarets which call the people of Islam to their daily prayers. Indeed the Western, liberal, and secular mind tends to see religion as an affront, but such minds excuse the quintessential desire of the sacred; a root need to recognize God and the Heavens. Nothing is perfect, but the beauty of Islam for billions is portrayed in their belief of One God.

Sir Roger Scruton was a friend to Islam. Scruton writes that in Muslim philosophy there is a tradition where God and His oneness is definite, “that he is one, the possessor of an inimitable tawhid or oneness, which attaches to him precisely because it does not attach him as a property that might be shared” (Scruton 2014, Soul of the World, p. 190). Any attempt to eradicate the structure of mosques or churches or temples, in most cases, demonstrates a level of unrequitedness toward the higher ends of culture.

Al Masjid an Nabawi (Prophets Mosque)

Not everything in a culture requires such delicacy but areas of faith are part of the biomimicry, the DNA of societal wellness. And of course I say that as a Christian just as Sir Roger comprehended Anglicanism and the Church of England as sacred for England.

Canterbury Cathedral

Aesthetic moral worth is as much immaterial as material

Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore

To speak of beauty is to enter another and more exalted realm—a realm sufficiently apart from our everyday concerns as to be mentioned only with a certain hesitation. People who are always in praise and pursuit of the beautiful are an embarrassment… — Sir Roger Scruton, The Soul of the World

Humble harmony: the street as home, taking the term from Scruton, that is what the town of Florence represents, and the Florence Cathedral is the manufactured mountain side one witnesses in awe as they weave through a large river, never too sure what is exactly around the corner, until you see its immanent precipice; a refreshing liturgy from the day to day. Beauty is not merely ravishing architecture but more so it is humility in the midst of what it is trying to accomplish. Take for example the Sikh Golden Temple:

Think whatever you may of its intended space with which it mimics the surrounding environment (physical/cultural), but consider its purpose of worship and feeding roughly 40,000 people a day for free. Even Christians would do well to remember what good is our churches should they fail at helping the Samaritans in their surrounding communities who are in need of the eternal spiritual nourishment of the Gospel and failing at feeding the hungry or caring for the sick? True beauty, a Mere Beauty In Truth, has intention within its aesthetic value.

Radcliffe Camera, Oxford University

Radcliffe Camera,  Oxford University’s Science Library

I want to end with Radcliffe as it captures the centrality of Oxford University (old Oxford at least) where truth and knowledge intersect, a temple of knowledge surrounded by devotees and a city that exudes humble harmony.

Aesthetic moral worth is as much immaterial as material, not that the material has no worth, rather the moral worth is determined by factors outside of architectural material preferences. Feeding the hungry is a far more valuable material act than choosing a neoclassical design to match the exterior environment, but considering how an appearance creates or diminishes worth, not just monetary, but having a immaterial or spiritual respect for people and their needs is also a value worthy of consideration as we feed the hungry and care for the sick.

If we can build a community that has self-respect for its surroundings than there is a possibility in creating a respect for one another. Seeing the streets as a home instills eternal values for the soul. Entering a space of learning that inspires, like Radcliffe, can and must be applied to the baker shop, the gas station, and our homes. God created time, space, and matter that includes us; as Imago Dei there is a universal condition of self-worth places upon every human-being regardless of differences and conduct. In some manner, the aesthetic plays a central role in upholding that value.

That is a Mere Beauty In Truth.

— EKR

Visual Philosophy

(Month of August, Series 2020)

Mere Beauty In Truth

Mere Beauty In Truth (click link for Instagram) is my theory of the Aesthetic. Influenced by the late Sir Roger Scruton I aim to use art, nature, architecture, and other mediums to witness a higher form, reality and truth about life through perception. 

Beauty requires us to recognize the ugly, the profane, and the false through a keen sense of what is true beauty i.e. that which strikes a profoundness inside us all putting us at its mercy. We do so by training our heart on the full range of emotions experienced in our lives. Fear, anger, happiness, and anxiety all mean something deeper within us. A friend once explained that to recognize a forgery one must study the real thing in complete and absolute detail. Mere Beauty In Truth is the study of the real thing we call beauty.

My ultimate hope it to show the Transcendence and the Immense of God through beauty and design, the ugly and the broken, so as to help us grasp truth and ultimate reality to the best of our limited ability. 

Aesthetic value is not merely art. Art is simply one principled medium of interpretation. We would not necessarily call a person or nature art but each can serve as an expression through a medium. Aesthetics targets the full range of expression through taste, smell, sound, sight, and intuition. 

Please enjoy.

L’Apparition by Gustave Moreau  

Overview:  Classic biblical story of Salome demanding the head of John the Baptist from King Herod after her mother, Herodias, out of her own fear of John enraged her daughter.

Beginning with Salome (Top Half)

At First Glance: Looking first at Salome’s upper body one notices quickly she is clothed in jewels which are an expression of her vanity, but she is partially nude before her own mother and step-father; a signal of her youthful delirium and all of their sickness, the madness that binds them. Salome stares out in a trance at the apparition of John the Baptist head floating in midair, reaching for the severed head, as if slowly as seen with the distant reach of her left arm as her right hand slightly grasps the jeweled neckless, almost afraid of what has occurred but more so lusting over the severed head. Salome is naked yes, but emotionally covered in dread and hatred as her facial expression layers her body language saying, “I distain you,” “I fear you.” Ultimately Salome has become intoxicated by her own passions that were fed by her own mother to kill a man of God. 

Key Point: Salome represents human frailty when ruled by passion and the gullibility of the youthful. 

King Herod Antipas & his wife Herodias:

At First Glance:  Herodias is the real mastermind. Hands folded, expressionless but clearly tense by the moment. Herodias wanted John the Baptist dead, it was Herodias who feared the holy man, and it was Herodias that whispered deceit into her daughters ear. Fully clothed almost as though seeking to disguise herself from him. With her head veil it can be said that Herodias took the place of Mary, an anti-Mary figure similar to an anti-christ in a worldly attempt to coverer the sins that lay bare on her daughter.  

Key Point: Herodias is the power behind the curtain, deception itself, yet inwardly a coward. She represents our desire for power which arises from our weakness. 

At First Glance: Herod Antipas, decrepit and frail, a ghostly figure ruled by nothing godly, just fleshly desire to appease and be pleased. He is adorn in robe and riches upon a throne but life seeps out of him. Herod has become nothing but a tomb, a sepulcher whose hour draws near. Beyond salvation, nothing will raise him from the dead due to his own binding guilt and falsity. 

Key Point: Herod’s state of mind and body represents the decay of the human soul when away from God and truth. 

The Guard

At First Glance: Stoic with his broad sword pointed down; face covered with eyes that lack coloration; the deed has been completed. Blood covers the serving plate at his feet. This solider though has committed a grave crime against an innocent man whom God loved. It is possible that his eyes represent blindness, he is as they all are, blinded by their desires including the soldier who wished only to do what he was told rather than consider the reality of the situation that he murdered an innocent man. 

Key Point: The guard represents the harmful cost of willful ignorance. 

Returning to Salome

At this point it is important to recognize the direction of Salome’s foot. She is not yet moving toward but around the severed head. Circling like a shark. Her long robe touching the ground as she dances and no one is watching her as everyone in the room looks away into their own guarded trance except Herodias. Herodias though coy, cannot look away at the head of John the Baptist. Her fascial expression appears sad yet that cannot hide the blood on her hands, the guilty verdict over her head. Salome and Herodias fates are eternally intwined.

The Lutanist

At First Glance: Probably the only person in the room whom is a victim of circumstance; a servant girl now a woman playing for the king and his court. She holds distain over their decadence, perhaps giving the viewer a degree of credence to their own views about the events taking place. 

Key Point: Represents the credence table of a eucharist i.e. a testimony of bare reality before us all. 

John the Baptist

At First Glance: Even in death God shows his pleasure over the man who was the final prophet before Christ the Savior took position to reveal himself as the Messiah. Rising above with halos circling around him, Salome and Herodias have his head but they can never have his soul which belongs to God. Brutal yet victorious. 

Key Point: John represents the good and faithful servant.