instruere...inlustrare...delectare Disputations

Saturday, April 21, 2012

The superessential Beauty

If you're familiar with the works of Pseudo-Dionysius, then you're way ahead of me. I'm just reading Chapter 4, "Concerning Good, Light, Beauty, Love, Ecstasy, Jealousy, and that the Evil is neither existent, nor from existent, nor in things being," of his On Divine Names, from which I'd quoted in my previous post. There's some good stuff in there.

He writes, for example, that God is called
Beautiful, as being at once beautiful and super-beautiful, and always being under the same conditions and in the same manner beautiful, and neither coming into being nor perishing, neither waxing nor waning; neither in this beautiful, nor in that ugly, nor at one time beautiful, and at another not; nor in relation to one thing beautiful, and in relation to another ugly, nor here, and not there, as being beautiful to some, and not beautiful to others; but as Itself, in Itself, with Itself, uniform, always being beautiful, and as having beforehand in Itself pre-eminently the fontal beauty of everything beautiful.
 Not epigrammatic, but you get his point.

For me, what stuck out in the above passage was the idea that God is not "beautiful to some, and not beautiful to others." I am just Platonist enough to agree that this must be true, but it raises a paradox, since, empirically, a lot of people don't find God to be beautiful.

Come to think of it, I have no idea what the results would be if folks were polled on the question
Q. Do you find God to be beautiful?

A. Certainly not.
B. Huh? Er, no, I suppose I don't.
C. Huh? Er, yes, I suppose so.
D. Absolutely!
E. That's an impious question!
F. Don't be silly. God doesn't have a body!
G. Etc.
My guess (extrapolating from myself) is that more people would be brought up short by the question, having never considered it before, than would readily and truthfully answer yes. ("Truthfully" as distinguished from "correctly," though I'm not sure how a poller could tell the difference between "'Beautiful' certainly sounds like something we should say about God, so yes," and "Contemplation of the One True God is my highest joy, so yes.")