The Spirituality of Art

The Alt-Right has struck me as being mostly devoid of spirituality in recent days. Much is done in the way of discussion regarding spirituality, unquestionably, but very little is accomplished in actually establishing a concrete foundation of spirituality; religion has taken almost total precedence in spiritual discussion. To clarify, I understand, very much so, the primary importance of discussing religion when examining the ideas of spirituality as a whole, but even as we continue to bicker back and forth over what religion our eventual society will adopt (I shall ruin the surprise by answering: Christianity), and champion the cultural significance of race and ethnicity in establishing a spiritual commonality, we should be pushing into the limelight that universal sense of beauty with which we are imbued. The understanding of beauty, along with the capability of existential thought, is one of the foremost elements that elevates us above that of the typical animal and, thus, is something that we should seek to make use of with far greater regularity than we do. This particular line of thought, mind you, is extremely relevant not merely to the Alt-Right, but to the Right side of the political spectrum as a whole, which has fallen as it has, perhaps, precisely because it lost the understanding of the human spirit and those things that nurture it. It is then necessary to understand that we, as the potential vanguard of tradition in a traditionless world, should fully understand the importance of art by the time of our eventual replacement of the functionally dead “Right-wing.”

But first, why is art spiritually nourishing? The atheist is likely prone to an explanation similar to: “Because art is a reflection of your people, and beautiful art demonstrates that your people better than others. After all, you don’t see African art praised nearly as much as that of European and Asian art!” Now, within this explanation is a great deal of truth, but it is ultimately merely “exoteric.” To delve deeper, now into the “esoteric,” I believe art to be spiritually nourishing due to the nature of beauty itself; that is, we appreciate beauty for the same reason that we engage in existential thought, in that our Creator (who is obviously the Christian God) planted within us these seeds that cause us to naturally seek closeness with Him. Beauty in particular is interesting because instead of leading us to question the existence of God and thus be satisfied when we learn of the Absolute Truth that is God, beauty is a link to God, as a reflection of Himself, who is the ultimate form of Beauty. Thus, to look upon a fine sculpture or a tremendous painting, or to listen to the evocative melodies of some concerto or what have you is to experience an aspect of the Lord God Himself. This is why Catholic and especially Orthodox churches put such effort into being beautiful, for a House of God becomes far more spiritually effective when it demonstrates within it the beauty of God for all to see. Indeed, I would say an element contributing to my original fall into nihilism was caused by the Protestant tendency towards barren places of worship and, by extension, a barren understanding of the human spirit.

gian-bernini-the-rape-of-proserpina-persephone-1632
Gian Bernini, The Rape of Proserpina (Persephone), 1632

Thus we arrive at the state of art in modernity. To put it simply, it is absolutely dead in a general sense, as the modern, post-modern, and contemporary eras of “art” conspired to rob art of its beauty and, thus, its ability to evoke strong emotion from the ones experiencing it, and replace it with a false sense of hidden meaning to disguise to the average individual the spiteful hideousness of it all. To examine modern to contemporary art and state aloud a potential “meaning” to a piece is met with negativity. This is because proposing a meaning to such art is pointless, as it generally is nothing, means nothing, and evokes nothing, (with certain exceptions including the now-infamous Piss Christ, which is a blatantly hateful “work”) and the taboo of trying to assign meaning to meaninglessness is now universally understood even though many don’t understand why it is understood. Art then, as it always has been, is a reflection of the times in which we live, and art has never been uglier. It is the perfect fit for a nihilistic society, one that has no principles or values, no beauty on the inside nor out, and seeks nothing more than self-gratification that, ultimately, means nothing subsequent to life. Art of today plays this part not merely in terms of “aesthetic,” but in the material sense as well, since it isn’t uncommon to hear of artists that have painted virtually nothing sell their pieces for ludicrous sums of money (though any sum of money is more than this vile nonsense deserves, to be perfectly frank).

what-the-hell-is-this
What the heck is this?

For the sake of amusement, I should like to point out that Nazi Germany considered such art as this to be “degenerate,” which it absolutely is. They also disliked modern art for another unsurprising reason that I feel somewhat obliged to point out: Certain people with an affinity for dodging ovens and hand-rubbing, and who are often responsible for the promotion of degeneracy were, well, responsible for just that regarding modern/post-modern/contemporary art.

Now, in the same way as society will not get better until we better understand what produces good societies and good people, and move towards it, art will not get better until we begin rejecting the modern”aesthetic” and replacing it with work of unquestionable, obvious quality. Before we can replace, we must understand and appreciate to the greatest possible extent the merit, skill, and spiritual significance of the art of aeons past, whether that art be paintings, sculptures, architecture, opera, orchestral music, or any other artform that has been ravaged then abandoned by the scourge of nihilistic modernity. I suspect, even, that the answer to the religious problem for many in the Alt-Right sphere and, eventually, in the somewhat Godless West, could be answered by art and the natural connection it forms between us and God.

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Aedan Clarke

Orthodox Christian. Reactionary.

20 thoughts on “The Spirituality of Art

  1. One thing that greatly distresses me, especially in the UK where I live, is that due to the collapse of the Church of England (which seems to be approaching something of a schism), the number of churches it has been unable to maintain and has thus sold off is breathtaking. Many of these are post-Anglican split constructions, but many had been Roman Catholic churches before that. The old architecture, pre-industrial revolution is only represented in churches and a few other choice well known landmarks and castles. And yet, I see former churches converted into bars and night clubs! Others are in states of advanced decay, half covered with tarpaulin. I fear that this style of construction will be hard to retrieve once lost. Have men forgotten how to craft beautiful architecture such as seen in the Gothic and classic Russian cathedral? Do they now only know how to build Soviet-style ‘squarecitecture’, twisted ‘New Art’ abominations, and symmetric brick houses?

    We have lost a sense of space. What happened to the great halls, which leave man in a state of breathtaking wonder? What was the last room you entered which had an echo like a vast subterranean cavern, and was built post-1800? I cannot think of one. Why did we used to construct such superstructures, too big for man? Because they were not oriented towards man, but towards the Divine Realm, the expanse of which is measureless.

    I have spoken a couple of times on right wing aesthetics, noting a growing popularity for a kind of blend of aspirational science fiction and Traditionalist grandiosity with ecological and religious themes (see http://post-anathema.tumblr.com/), and then strangely a semi-ironic attraction to 80s kitsch (I guess because it was somewhat aspirational over what the 80s actually looked like, a kind of broken promise). For a long time, the right has ceded aesthetic ground to the left over and over again, of course due to Liberal dominion of art’s institutions, but there’s nothing to say this is irreversible. Can those among us of talent be inspired as our ancestors were, that is the question.

    1. The throught hadn’t occurred to me that these old structures were designed for the divine and not for man. It shows how selfish man has become in his unwillingness to consider anything beyond himself. We destroy old, beautiful architecture and replace it will condominiums shaped like cubes. We have no visual expression of divinity, because we deny it an existence. By we I mean society in general.

    2. Indeed, this is why I mentioned the beauty of churches in the article, and wouldn’t mind, one day, writing something more in-depth regarding architecture. But yes, man has lost his sense of… well, most things: of the sacred, of tradition, of beauty, of space, of place, of reality, of humility. But then, the important term within all of that is ‘lost’, which implies that something is not destroyed, but merely misplaced. With time and effort, I believe man will once again find those aspects of himself that truly differentiate him from mere beast.

  2. I’ve taken up classical piano again, with a view to teach it. The impressionists like Debussy are particularly great, although Baroque music by the likes of Bach and Scarlatti are also beautiful.

  3. The artistic excellence of a civilisation is usually a good reflection of its moral/spiritual character. It also an important hallmark of identity. The Australian Impressionist movement was highly influential in building Australia’s national character in the late 19th to early 20th centuries.

  4. “…art will not get better until we begin rejecting the modern”aesthetic” and replacing it with work of unquestionable, obvious quality.”

    Part of the problem here is that the artist has to able to make a living, which means getting patronage. I’m going to go ahead and guess that whatever funding is out there right now in the form of public and private grants is strictly allocated to the purveyors of the bad kind, since the bad guys dominate the executive committee of the funding agency. On the other hand, there seems to be a heck of a lot of very rich people out there today, and I wonder how many of them have traditionalist tastes — or alternately, could be made to see that traditionalist art inherently classes up a rich guy’s house, and so comes pre-weaponized for status-signaling. (Let’s face it, this is the real reason the rich historically patronize the arts, and it’s not a bad thing.)

  5. I’d just like to point out that one of the few traditionalist art schools in the world is in *ahem* Israel (Bezalel, Jerusalem).

  6. I suppose it was bitter and lonely Nietzsche who let loose the modern artists upon the world in place of religion and philosophy. His relativity of values and power made artists think they could replace religion and philosophy, but they have done a very poor job of it. They have made balloon sculptures and sunk a crucifix in urine and called it art.

    It is not art that is superior, it is reality that is superior, but art can be a comfort and an affirmation of the sacred, even if it is not superior to reality or to truth. We can escape the garbage art of today with reality first, but then reality needs another version of sacred art, which can be the art of the future and the past.

    What will that art look like? Well reality includes the biological evolution of material life toward supermaterial Godhood, the zenith of beauty, and that leaves open many themes.

  7. Bravo . I completely agree that any reclamation of the soul of a civilization must entail a better understanding of the role of Beauty which is at the very core of the “good” sister as it is to Truth .

    Especially in the case of Medieval churches and architecture of the past where it was an attempt to exemplify the macrocosm of the building as it pertains to the human being (which is why one sees Chartres cathedral , after all , in the proportions of a human person) and to allow the form to transcend to spiritual dimensions , we can see the act of civilization as exactly the “raising up” of horizontal , material elements into something vertical — this is the act of building up a “city” from the foundations to the heights .

    I am reminded of the important documentary Sir Roger Scruton made on the subject of art and how modern art should not be called “art” at all . This is an important topic as obsessed as many individuals are with currents of modern art which have seeped into many a right-wing lexicons and repertoires .

    1. Out of curiosity regarding the documentary by Scruton, did he propose an alternate term? I’d love to adopt a different name because, I concur, modern ‘art’ isn’t art at all and sharing that term with the works of beauty that actually DOES constitute art bothers me tremendously.

      1. I don’t think he deigned to give it any neologistic appelation . The whole documentary was quite influential for me when I was younger on the importance of beauty and the negative effects of so called “modern art” and “modern architecture” . I believe it’s called “Why Beauty Matters” if you’re interested in viewing it yourself which I highly recommend .

  8. ”Indeed, I would say an element contributing to my original fall into nihilism was caused by the Protestant tendency towards barren places of worship and, by extension, a barren understanding of the human spirit.”

    A problem with throwing out the baby with the bathwater given puritan attitude of purging themselves of all traces of catholicism. But of course an argument for beauty can already be found in the scriptures given the existence of the tent of meeting and the temple of solomon as not “Idolatrous”

    Images and beauty have their proper place as shown in scripture.

    However this ugliness is also probably the result of a greater exposure to modernism early on.

  9. I don’t have much of an opinion of modern art.

    I will say that photography is something which, for some reason, has never to my knowledge been used for any great artistic purpose.

    We use it to preserve memories, and some photographers do surely have their place, but it can only be when it neither tries to imitate painting, in terms of form, or capture reality, which it already does in service of memory.

    If one could capture a certain idea, or feeling through photos, that would be another thing altogether. Photos of strength, of power, of beauty and all these other things we value in TRUE art, then that would be a certain direction for right-wing artists to head in.

  10. “And our creator (who is obviously the Christian god” – are you telling me I’m not fashioned after Cernunnos?!

  11. Oh my goodness, I have been thinking about this topic/ the role of beauty in religion and worship so much over the past couple years and intend to devote several blogs to it. I have a somewhat different take on the whole thing, and am itching to discuss, but right now I am laid out a head cold and wouldn’t know where to begin. I’ll have to come back later. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on the subject:)

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