Origin as an aesthetic experience: creation as art
Creation as an expression of truth and truth as beauty
In the previous post, I have put forth a view on the origin of aesthetics, and perhaps even a reason for its existence, endorsing the idea that creation always arises from the duality of reconciliation. The notion of the niraakaara (formless) and the nirguna (quality-less) is not evaded in that discussion. Rather, I have argued that it is the need for expression and the need for relation in order to define the tangible that gives rise to the reconciliatory forces from within the emptiness. As a means to illustrate this process, as well as to define the purpose of art, I also talked about how the world itself may be viewed as the work of an artist. The world as an art is the play of Brahma revelling in image making. Try to find out the ingredients — they elude you, they never disclose their eternal secret of appearance. In your effort to capture life, as expressed in the living tissue, you will find carbon, nitrogen, and many other things utterly unlike life. The appearance does not offer any commentary of itself its material. This, we call maya. We pretend to disbelieve it. But art is maya! It has no other explanation but that it seems to be exactly what it is. It never tries to conceal its evasiveness. It even mocks its own definition and experiments with continual changes.
And thus, life, which is an incessant explosion of freedom, always finds its meter in the eventual fall back in death. Every moment is a death, signifying the birth of the next moment. If not, there would an eternal dumb desert of placid deathlessness.
So life is maya. All that can be found in it is the rhythm through which it shows itself. Has not science shown us that the difference between one element and another is only that of rhythm? The fundamental distinction of gold from lead lies in the difference of rhythm in their atomic constitution. The difference in the dual wave natures of the particles is what makes them different in appearance. The word devataa offers an interesting explanation in this context. Commonly, we understand it as a synonym for God in Sanskrit. But, when we break the word down into its fundamental fragments, we find that it derives itself from the word dyotanam, meaning “vibration”. The word “devataa” means “that which vibrates”. This explanation is consistent with the view that there is eternal consciousness in all matter. The difference between gold and lead is like the distinction of the king from his subject, which lies not in material constitution, but in the different meters of their situation and circumstances.
What is this rhythm? It is the movement generated and regulated by harmonious restriction. This is the power — the creative force — in the hands of the artist. So long as words remain in uncadenced prose form, they do not instill in the reader a feeling of lasting reality. The moment they are taken and put into rhythm, they vibrate in their radiance. Consider the rose. In the pulp of its petals you will find all that went into the making of the rose, but the rose itself, which is an image, is lost. The rose appears to me of movement within that stillness, which is the same as the dynamic quality of a still picture that has perfect harmony. Had the picture consisted of a disharmonious aggregate of lines and colours, it would have appeared deadly still.
A great picture is always speaking. But news from a newspaper, even of some tragic happening, is still born. That is why we are able to watch wars over dinner, but we cannot help reacting, however privately, to the death of a good protagonist in a great novel. When we talk of aesthetics in art, we must know that we are not about beauty in its ordinary meaning, but in that deeper meaning which a poet has expressed in his utterance: truth is beauty, beauty truth. An artist may paint the picture of a decrepit person not pleasing to the eye, yet we call it perfect when we become deeply conscious of its reality.
Hopeless tragedies of life can never technically be called beautiful. But when appearing on the background of art, they delight us (just like the death of a good protagonist) because of the convincingness of their reality. It is not sadistic to find it beautiful. It only proves that every object that fully asserts its existence to us because of its inherent finality, is beautiful. That is why beauty has been called manohara in Sanskrit — the stealer of the mind — the mind which stands between the knower and the known. We have our primal sympathy for all things that exist, for when realized, they stimulate the consciousness of our own existence. The fact that we exist has its truth in the fact that everything else does exist.