Art and Truth – Part 2

The cultural mirror of the soul has many shades today. Rarely have individual views of what is beautiful been more complex than in the modern cultural world.

Art and Truth – Part 2

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When the values of culture flatten

Goethe immersed himself in nature in the Beautiful and the True. He tried to uncover the basic patterns of nature by searching for the primordial plant. Since the soul can only perceive what corresponds to its own structure, this search must be synonymous with the search for the primordial soul. Which was certainly the content of Goethe’s and many artists’ artistic ambitions before his time. Hölderlin describes this artist when he says: “We do not live to shine, we live to do good.”

This “beneficence” can certainly be equated with the need to create, as an artist, a work of art through which the splendor of the eternal “One” can shine or which captivates through its harmony. In the development of mankind, we have repeatedly seen artists who have created such works of art in all cultural fields. Today, collectors pay unprecedented prices for such works of art. Thus, art experiences a certain change in its meaning.

This change was probably initiated less by the artists themselves than by the Zeitgeist. Art has become an object of value and has long since ceased to develop for its own sake or to develop in order to create possibilities for the soul to remember its forgotten roots or to give expression to the Beautiful, the Good and the True in the matter of phenomena. With the development of product design and advertising, a mass art developed, in which the search for the archetypes or, in other words, the utopian potential receded more into the background. The utopian potential forms the connection to the world of ideas. It may be frightening for the soul when, unexpectedly, this potential suddenly shines straight into it, passing the senses. For the artist such moments are special and impressive. The fast-moving field of product design and advertising, however, cannot really grasp this form of art.

The modern, newly developed artistic fields have a completely different intention. They attract the attention of the soul to the material areas. They are often short-lived mass products. Against the background of their original purpose, these works of art can probably rather be called a lie. They are not concerned with creating a utopia that makes the soul aware of its origin and by that leads it to freedom; it is not an art of unintentional beauty. The point here is to encourage people to act within the material world of phenomena. This leads to a flattening, which is a special feature of our current zeitgeist.

With the strengthening of the materialistic mindset the beautiful became the “artificial beautiful”, the true became the “artificial true” and the good became the “artificial good”. This development began long before the development of mass art. But since man, and thus also the artist, cannot by his very nature deny himself, he can realize that art becomes a lie, and in this way ultimately the truth becomes visible again. Art is an expression of the eternal romance – or argument – between the beautiful and the beast.

Man experiences this romance as a battle between two souls, which every human being carries within. The French fairy tale “The Beauty and the Beast” tells of the hope that the beautiful, through love and devotion to the good and true, will redeem the prince in the beast.

What is special about our Zeitgeist?

We do not want to conclude this article without taking a look into the future. We have discussed that art as well as science have made their way into abstraction. At the same time, or perhaps a little earlier, a development has begun that might be called feuilletonism. It is no longer just about the goal of artistic ambitions but to write about philosophy, science or art. This gave rise to lectures, films and radio plays that no longer focused on the essential values but served mainly as a diversion. These easy-to-understand feuilletons enjoy great popularity and continue to flood the media to this day. The Beautiful, the True and the Good are made ready for mouth, easy to understand and to digest. They are stripped of their power to lead people to an encounter with their depth.  The reader has the feeling to understand and thus to be at his goal. Answers are given to him which are none and  that flatten cultural values. Furthermore, probing questions that go deep do not seem to be necessary anymore.

In our discourse we spoke of the harmonious measure of all things as an expression of Beauty. This feeling is also of a sensual nature. There have always been phases in cultural development in which the measure of things experienced through the senses was the main content and goal of life. We, too, are living in such a phase right now. We experience how this attitude is strongly leading us towards flattening.

In contrast, the glory of the “One” goes beyond sensory experience. The soul is suddenly confronted with impressions that frighten it deeply, because in such moments it perceives fragments of another reality beyond the sense organs. This may often be associated with fear and terror, but it leaves deepening impressions. Science has had such deepening experiences in physics to the point where all the research has led to paradoxical results. Perhaps art still has this development ahead of it, a development in which the glory of eternity takes art to the limits of the expressible. Such phases of periodic deepening have always existed, and they will exist again.



Henry Keazor, „Kunst ist eine Lüge, die uns die Wahrheit begreifen lasst.“ Manipulation und Fälschung in der Kunst, Heidelberg, 2018
Hermann Hesse, Das Glasperlenspiel, Frankfurt 2003
Platon, Gesammelte Werke als E-Buch Ausgabe von 2016
Leonardo da Vinci, Kunst und Wissenschaft des Universums, Arte Doku
Thomas Hettche, Die Zeit, Ausgabe 52, 2019: Die Freiheit der Kunst und das Leid der Welt
Nicolai Berdiajew, Das neue Mittelalter, Tübingen, 1950
Werner Heisenberg, Gesammelte Werke, Band III, Piper München 1985

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Date: April 30, 2020
Author: Heiko Haase (Germany)
Photo: Hermann Traub via Pixabay

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