CHAPTER 10 - Creativity and Beauty: Art and Theurgy
Artistic creativeness best reveals the meaning of the creative act.
The expectation of the creative epoch is the expectation of an artistic epoch in which art will have the leading place in life.
Art is always a victory over the heaviness of “the world”—(it is) never adaptation to “the world.”
In art there is liberation. The act of art is directly opposed to every sort of added burden.
In art, Man lives outside himself, outside his burdens, the burdens of life.
In the creative-artistic attitude towards this world we catch a glimpse of another world. To receive the world unto oneself in beauty is to break through the deformity of this world into another.
In every artistic activity a new world is created, the cosmos, a world enlightened and free. Artistic creativity is ontological rather than psychological in its nature. Every creative artistic act is a partial transfiguration of life.
The aim of every creative act is to create another type of being, another kind of life, to break out through “this world” to another world, out of the chaotic, heavy and deformed world into the free and beautiful cosmos.
But in artistic creativity we see the tragedy of all creativity—the gap between aim and realization. The aim of every creative act is boundlessly greater than is realization.
The aim and purpose of the artistic-creative act is theurgical.
In artistic creativeness there is clearly revealed the symbolic nature of all cultural creativeness. The realization of the creative artistic act is the production of a differentiated art, of cultural aesthetic values. Creativeness goes out not into another world, but into the culture of this world. Artistic creativeness does not attain ontological results; it creates the ideal rather than the real, symbolic values rather than Being.
The tragedy of creativity and the crisis of creativity form the basic problem passed on by the 19th c. to the 20th.
The classic ideal of the beautiful, canonic, normalized art stands between creativeness and being, separates the artist from life. Creativity is re-cast into perfect art rather than into perfect life.
Canonic art is the adaptation of the creative artist’s energy to the conditions of this world. Canonic art may be beautiful, but its beauty has not the essential of Being, in the final sense of that word.
Canonic art is immanent in this world, rather than transcendent. It seeks only cultural values, (it) does not strive towards new Being.
The great artists always had great creative energy but it could never be adequately realized in their art. In the creative ecstasy there was a break-through into another world. But the classically-beautiful canonic art leaves one in the world, giving only hints of another. The way of canonic art is opposite to the way of creative daring.
Christian art is romantic (I use the word here not in the narrow, but in the wider sense of the word) and transcendent. In Christian art there is always a transcendental intention towards another world, towards an upsurge beyond the limits of the immanent world; there is romantic longing.
A romantic incompleteness and imperfection of form characterized Christian art. Christian art no longer believes in final attainment of beauty here in this world. Christian art believes that final, perfect, eternal beauty is possible only in another world. In this world, only a striving towards the beauty of another word is possible, only the longing for that beauty.
For the Christian world, beauty is always that which speaks of another world—that other world’s symbol. Romantic Christian art sees unearthly beauty in imperfection, in the lack of finality itself, in this groping toward an upsurge beyond the limits of this world. Christian art does not leave us in this world, in beauty already finally attained, but leads us out into another word, with beauty beyond and outside the limits of this.
The art of antiquity is the eternal source of creativeness and beauty. But the canon of classicism may easily become a confining conservative force, hostile to the spirit of prophecy. It is not at all a question of form in contrast to content, since in art the form is itself the content. But form-content may be finished and closed off, or else it may be unfinished and breaking through.
After Christ, and the cosmic changes of human nature bound up with Him, there can be no complete return to antiquity, to the immanence of paganism. The coming of Christ magically inoculated human nature with the feeling that it belonged to two worlds, with the longing for a world other than this.
The secret of the Renaissance is that it did not succeed. Never before had there been sent into the world such creative powers, and never before had there been so clearly revealed the tragedy of creativeness, the great gulf between aim and realization. In the great failure of the Renaissance lies its greatness. For the Christian world, absolute finality and perfection lie in the transcendent distance.
In art, as everywhere else in the world, the sacrifice of Golgotha is repeated. But the creative artistic act, by its purpose, by its intention, passes beyond the epoch of redemption. By its very essence creativeness passes out beyond the religious epochs of the law and the redemption, beyond both Old and New Testaments.
The creative act which gives birth to art cannot be specifically Christian; it is always beyond Christianity. In the strict sense of the word, creativity is neither Christian nor pagan; it rises above and beyond them.
Realism is the furthest removed from the essence of every creative act; it is the least creative form of art. Realism, as a tendency, depresses and quenches the artist’s impulses.
The creative act of an artist is essentially the non-submission to this world and its distortions. The creative act is a daring upsurge past the limitations of this world into the world beauty.
Artistic creativeness, like knowledge, is not merely a reflection of actuality; it always adds to the world’s reality something which has never been before.
In art, new being is not created but only signs of new being, its symbols. Art always teaches us that everything passing and temporal is a symbol of another form of being, permanent and eternal.
The final reality of being is created in art only symbolically. For the creative act, truly final and secret being is attainable only symbolically. Symbolism points up the eternal tragedy of human creativeness, the great distance which separates artistic creativeness from the final reality of being.
The symbol is a bridge thrown across the gulf from the creative act to hidden, final reality.
Not only all art, but all culture as well, is symbolic. In culture and its values there are created only signs, symbols of final being, rather than being itself or reality itself.
There is symbolism in all human creativity. Symbolism is creativity unfinished, creativeness which has not attained its final goal, is not finally realized.
Art should be symbolic—the highest art is the most symbolic. But symbolism cannot be the final slogan of artistic creativity. Beyond symbolism is mystic realism: a way, rather than a final purpose. Symbolism is a bridge over to the creation of new being, but it is not new being itself. Symbolism is the eternal in art, because all true art is a way to new being, a bridge to another world.
The new man, in creative impulse, strives upward beyond the boundaries of art which have been set by this world. The symbolists refuse all adaptation to this world, all submission to this world’s canons; they sacrifice all the values of well-being in this world, which this world hands out as rewards for adaptation and submission. It is the destiny of the symbolists to lead the way of new life in creativeness, new life which is sacrificial and tragic.
The new symbolism pushes right away from all firm coasts: it seeks what has hitherto never been known. The new symbolism seeks the final, the ultimate; it passes the bounds of the average, ordered, canonic way. In the new symbolism creativeness out-grows itself. Creativeness presses forward, not towards cultural values but towards new being.
Symbolism is a thirst for liberation from symbolism through a recognition of the symbolic nature of art. Prophecy of new being breaks mightily forth in symbolism but we must not seek in symbolism either final perfection or complete attainment.
The tragedy of all Christian creativeness, with its transcendental longing, reaches a climax in symbolism. Symbolism is the final word of the world-epoch of redemption and the entrance court into the world-epoch of creativity. The symbolists are the sacrificial forerunners and heralds of the coming world-epoch of creativeness. But the symbolists still have their roots in the epoch of redemption.
No matter how the art of today is destroyed by advertising and charlatanry, beneath this scum lies something more profound.
Today, creativeness is revealing ends, limits. The prophecy of new Being seeks an outlet for itself in the creative act of the new spirit. Everything canonic, classic, culturally differentiated, everything médiocre, adapted to this world—all these set up conservative, hindering barriers to the prophetic, creative spirit.
The autonomy of beauty has been forever confirmed, its distinction from both good and truth, its independent place in divine life.
The everyday prose of life is not only the result of sin, it is sin: submission to it is evil. The holiday poesy of life is man’s duty, and for the sake of it man should sacrifice everyday life, its goods and its peace of mind.
Beauty is not only the aim of art—it is the aim of life. And the final aim is not beauty as cultural value, but beauty as being itself; that is, the transformation of the chaotic deformity of the world in to the beauty of the cosmos.
The cosmos is just this: beauty as being.
Cosmic beauty is the aim of the world-process; it is another kind of being, a higher being which is in process of creation. The nature of beauty is ontological and cosmic. But all definitions of beauty are formal and partial. Beauty in its final essence is indefinable. Beauty is the great mystery. One must be initiated into the mystery of beauty and without this initiation beauty cannot be truly known. To know beauty, one must live within it. This is why all external definitions of beauty are so terribly disappointing.
The final reality of beauty is accessible to us in this world only symbolically, only in the form of symbols. The realistic grasp of essential beauty, without the intermediary symbol, will be the beginning of the transfiguration of this world, of a new heaven and a new earth. Then there will be no art or aesthetic experience, either. The way to beauty as being, to the cosmos, to the new heaven and the new earth, is a religious-creative way.
To live in beauty is the commandment of the new creative epoch. The creator expects from the creation of beauty nothing less than good. Failure to obey the commandments of beauty may be punished by hellish torment. The imperative to create beauty in all things and everywhere, in every act of life, opens the new world-epoch, the epoch of spirit, the epoch of love and liberty.
Every creative act is a transition beyond this world, the conquest of the world’s deformation.
Art, like all the rest of culture, must be lived out by man.
This brings us to the problem of theurgy, of theurgic creativeness—the basic problem of our times. Theurgy does not create culture, but new being. Theurgy is super-cultural. Theurgy is art creating another world, another being, another life; creating beauty as essence, as being.
In theurgy the word becomes flesh. In theurgy art becomes power. The beginning of theurgy is the end of literature, the end of all differentiated art, the end of culture, but an end which takes unto itself the world-meaning of culture and art, a super-cultural end. Theurgy is man working together with God, God-working. It is divine-human creativeness.
In theurgic creativeness the tragic opposition of subject and object is removed, the tragic hiatus between the will to a new world and the attainment of only cultural values. The theurge creates life in beauty.
Symbolic art is a bridge, a way to theurgic art. The new art must lead us to theurgy. Theurgy is the banner of the art of the last times, the art of the end.
The religious tendency in art is just as fatal to art as a social or moral tendency. Artistic creation cannot and should not be specifically and intentionally religious. Lay, non-religious, free art must go on to the limits of the religious. Art is absolutely free. Art is freedom, not necessity.
For the final depths of all true art are religious. Art is religious in the depths of the very artistic creative act. Within its own limits, the artist’s creation is theurgic action. Theurgy is free creation, liberated from the norms of this world which might be imposed upon it. But in the depths of theurgic action there is revealed the religious-ontological—the religious meaning of being.
Theurgy is the final bourne of the artist’s inward desire, its action in the world. The man who confuses theurgy with religious tendencies in art does not know what theurgy is. Theurgy is the final liberty of art, the inwardly-attained limit of the artist’s creativeness.
Theurgy is an action superior to magic, for it is action together with God; it is the continuation of creation with God.
The theurge, working together with God, creates the cosmos; creates beauty as being.
Theurgy is a challenge to religious creativity. In theurgy, Christian transcendence is transformed into immanence and by means of theurgy perfection is attainted.
It is not art alone, which leads to theurgy, but art is one of the principal ways to it. The way to theurgic creativeness leads through sacrifice and denial. The theurge offers this life as a sacrifice for the sake of another life.
The artist-theurge renounces the ordered art of this world for the sake of the pure, creative act.
At the end of art we find the same self-denial as at the end of science, the state, the family—at the end of all culture.
Theurgic art cannot be differentiated and individualist. Theurgic art is synthetic and œcumenic—it is a sort of hitherto-unknown, not-yet-revealed pan-art.
Theurgy is universal action. In it all forms of human creativity meet. In theurgy, the creation of beauty in art is joined with the creation of beauty in nature. Art must become a new, transfigured nature. Nature itself is a work of art and the beauty in it is creativeness.
In the spirit of music there is prophecy of incarnate beauty yet to be.
In the artist-theurge the power of man over nature is realized by means of beauty. For beauty is a great force and it will save the world.