The Artist and the Philosopher


I’m going to begin a paper on beauty by considering commercials.  I can hear you say, “but Dr. Anderson, no one thinks commercials are beautiful.”  I’m not considering them for that reason.  I’m thinking about commercials because of what they represent about a culture.  The people who produce these have a great amount of money to spend on learning about their audience and how to get their audience to do something.  This means they are an excellent resource for studying that audience.  What will move an audience to action (usually, spending money)?  And since, as you pointed out, it isn’t beauty, it must be something else.  So we are conceding that beauty does not move the general audience.  If beauty moved people to action, those who make commercials would be more worried about their commercials being beautiful.  If anything, commercials today tend toward absurdity and nonsense.

And yet there is an educational philosophy that says if you just put truth, beauty, and goodness in front of a person, they will see their value choose them.  They will be drawn toward them or move toward them.  But these two propositions can’t both be true.  It can’t both be true that 1) beauty isn’t all that important for getting us into action and 2)  if we just saw beauty we would be moved to action.  And it seems like the second one is the incorrect one.  If it is true that simply putting beauty in front of people would move them, then Madison Avenue would do that.

This is a paper about why that isn’t the case: The philosopher and the artist.  I will use two artists to illustrate the point I will argue for in this paper.  They are Keats and King David.  And I believe they both had access to the same information.  Keats had access to more history than David did, but they both studied general revelation.  I’m not thinking of David as a set apart inspired author.  I’m thinking of him as a poet who considered the works of God and wrote about his own struggles throughout life.  He may have also been inspired to write holy scripture, but that is neither here nor there for this comparison.

Act 1

Before we get to those two, let me take a moment on two of the favorite intellectuals of this educational philosophy and see what they have to say about beauty.  These are C.S. Lewis and Roger Scruton.  As you read them, you can see they come from the same stream of thought, even if Lewis is better known for his Christian apologetics.  We know from his work on criticism that Lewis believed art is objective, not to be used for promoting an idealogy, and saw beauty as incarnational and in everyday life.[1]  Our nature is such that we find ourselves with desires meant to be met (such as hunger and thirst), and the desire for beauty is no different.  In this way, it is a signpost along the way to beauty-in-itself.  For this paper, I will call this the Platonic perspective on art (PPA).  It says that while the material world does contain beauty, it is a limited and changing beauty that points us to the non-material world of the forms (beauty-in-itself).  In that realm, our deepest desires are finally met as we leave this world to “go higher up and further in.”

In his apologetic work, found in The Abolition of Man and elsewhere, Lewis takes aim at the materialists and their reductionistic education.  He thinks of them describing the experience of the sublime when seeing a powerful waterful and reducing it to the brain chemistry of the individual.  To argue against this view, he uses the term Tao.  He says:  “This conception in all its forms, Platonic, Aristotelian, Stoic, Christian, and Oriental alike, I shall henceforth refer to for brevity simply as ‘the Tao.’  Some of the accounts I have quoted will seem, perhaps, to many of you merely quaint or even magical.  But what is common to them all is something we cannot neglect.  it is the doctrine of objective value, the belief that certain attitudes are true, and others false, to the kind of thing the universe is and the kind of things we are.”[2]  The idea is that besides the materialists, all the other systems have had something akin to this Tao that is an objective way of measuring the world.  A good education prepares the students not just with beliefs and action but with the proper emotional training to recognize this Tao and have the correct aesthetic and emotional responses to events in their lives.

The educated person does not have this emotional training that he calls “men without chests,” that is, they are heads/appendages but no heart.  The purpose of education is to give us this heart.  And doing this will be the great cure for education in the 20th century.  He says: “Without the aid of trained emotions the intellect is powerless against the animal organism.  I had sooner play cards against a man who was quite sceptical about ethics, but bred to believe that a gentleman does not cheat’, than against an irreproachable moral philosopher who had been brought up among sharpers.  In battle it is not syllogisms that will keep the reluctant nerves and muscles to their post in the third hour of the bombardment.”[3]  For this paper, I will call this the Platonic perspective on education (PPE).

What does this have to do with our topic?  Well, the men without chests don’t recognize beauty.  It doesn’t factor into utilitarian reasoning or pragmatism.  You can think of the villains in his fiction, and they are these types: utilitarian pragmatists who are willing to do what it takes to bring about their vision of the world (a vision which turns out to be very ugly indeed).  He describes them this way:

The operation of The Green Book and its kind is to produce what may be called Men without Chests.  It is an outrage that they should be commonly spoken of as intellectuals.  This gives them the chance to say that he who attacks them attacks intelligence.  It is not so.  They are not distinguished from other men by any unusual skill in finding truth nor any virginal ardour to pursue her.  Indeed it would be strange if they were: a persevering devotion to truth, a nice sense of intellectual honour, cannot belong maintained without the aid of a sentiment which Gaius and Titius could debunk as easily as any other.  it is not excess of thought but defect of fertile and generous emotion that marks them out.  Their heads are no bigger than the ordinary: it is the atrophy of the chest beneath that makes them seem so.[4]

Lewis denies that the problem is an intellectual one.  To combat Gaius and Titius we do not show that materialism is false and that beauty cannot be reduced to brain chemistry.  Or, if he does offer an argument, it is indirect and by way of showing that the appeal of emotions cannot be reduced away to atoms.  It is as if he grants that they have used reason correctly or that reason is ineffectual to show their errors in reason, and we must instead train up the heart on the presuppositions of PPE.  He takes his view of beauty to be self-evident and then wants it worked into the student rather than engaging Gaius and Titius by reason.  And we can see this is how his heroes work out their conflicts with the villains in his stories.

Lewis’s use of the Tao is an excellent example of the problem.  The world-systems the lists don’t do what he says they do.  They don’t all agree that there is an objective world by which right/wrong can be judged.  Taoism itself is monist and teaches “all is one.”  Its most famous symbol, the ying-yang, teaches that good and evil, light and dark, are intermingled into one, and each has a spot of the other in it.  And we could go on with his other examples.  But given his PPA, it makes sense that these matters of belief and reason are not what is important but rather that each world system believes a student should be trained to have the proper emotional responses to an objective world.  And yet that doesn’t seem correct about all the systems he names.

Act 2

But what is beauty?  How would we train a student to have the proper response to an object of beauty if we don’t know what it is?  Or, if we are to trust experts, isn’t that just to concede that beauty is in the eye of the beholder?  And experts have sharply disagreed with each other even on how to define beauty.  Roger Scruton can help us with a definition.  Much of what is called “classical art” is Platonic in the sense that it is meant to either depart this world or point us toward transcendent forms.  The idealized human body and scenes that draw our attention away from this world are examples.

We still need an exact definition of beauty.  Scruton considers a few, such as that it has to do with order, balance, or everything having a place (162).  Each of these comes short of a full definition and leave us with something like “you’ll know it when you see it.”  But that brings us back to the problem “is beauty in the eye of the beholder?”  One way to answer that objection is by the purposes of beauty and art.  But as Scruton points out, this reduces art to utilitarian considerations and makes it a means to some other end.  Instead, he says:

There is an appealing idea about beauty which goes back to Plato and Plotinus, and which became incorporated by various routes into Christian theological thinking.  According to this idea, beauty is an ultimate value-something that we pursue for its own sake, and for the pursuit of which no further reason need be given.  Beauty should therefore be compared to truth and goodness, one member of a trio of ultimate values which justify our rational inclinations.  Why believe p?  Because it is true.  Why want a?  Because it is good.  Why look at y?  Because it is beautiful.  In some way, philosophers have argued, those answers are on a par: each brings a state of mind into the ambit of reason, by connecting it to something that

it is in our nature, as rational beings, to pursue.  Someone who asked why believe what is true?’ or why want what is good?’ has failed to understand the nature of reasoning.  He doesn’t see that, if we are to justify our beliefs and desires at all, then our reasons must be anchored in the true and the good.[5]

Scruton rejects the Platonic claim that beauty is a feature of being itself.[6]  But perhaps the more critical part of the Platonic definition is that of transcendence.  He cites Aquinas as having this same view and even saying that truth, beauty, and goodness are the same (due to his understanding of divine simplicity).[7] The forms and being-in-itself can be beautiful while the world of change is only a shadow.  We see this same teaching in Lewis.  It is the idea of transcendence that he believes unites the various world systems that he names.  However, given that some of those are monist, they deny that there is any transcendence at all.  This cannot be the basis for a definition of beauty without beginning the question.

We can take from the Scruton quote above that these three categories (truth, beauty, goodness) are ends in themselves.  That means they are not defined in relation to some further end they help achieve.  They are desired for their own sake.  And we can appreciate this because we are rational beings.  But notice that this narrows what is meant by “rational.”  It is means/ends reasoning or practical rationality.  A broader definition is that reason is the laws of thought by which we understand anything (beauty is beauty, and beauty is not non-beauty).  We can see this narrow definition of reason continue from the classical world into Kant:

We began from certain platitudes about beauty and moved towards a theory–that of Kant, which is far from platitudinous and indeed inherently controversial, with its attempt to define aesthetic judgment and give it a central role in the life of a rational being.  I don’t say that Kant’s theory is right.  But it provides an interesting starting point to a subject that remains as controversial today as it was when Kant wrote his third Critique.  And one thing is surely right in Kant’s argument, which is that the experience of beauty, like the judgement in which it issues, is the prerogative of rational beings.  Only creatures like us-with language, self-consciousness, practical reason, and moral judgement-can look on the world in this alert and disinterested way so as to seize on the presented object and take pleasure in it.[8]

Scruton and Kant are using reason in this narrow way.  We are rational when we are disinterested and can make judgments without acting merely out of self-interest.  Since the classical age, it has been common to distinguish between practical and abstract reason.  Kant wrote critiques of both.  Interestingly, Socrates denied this strong division and argued instead that one’s understanding of the good shapes one’s practical reasoning.  We will return to Socrates, but in the quote above, Scruton and Kant think of our rational nature, meaning language, self-consciousness, and practical reason/moral judgments.  And there is this idea of the disinterested observer.  In part, this means that the observer is not claiming that an object of art is beautiful because of a potential sale but because it is in itself beautiful.

“And like every rational judgment, this one makes implicit appeal to the community of rational beings.  That is what Kant meant when he argued that, in the judgment of taste, I am a suitor for agreement’, expressing my judgment not as a private opinion but as a binding verdict that would be agreed to by all rational beings just so long as they did what I am doing, and put their own interests aside.”[9]

Scruton expands the definition of reason to include the goal of meaning.  He phrases it this way:

In my view, all such definitions start from the wrong end of the subject, which is not about “things in the world” but about a particular experience of them, and about the pursuit of meaning that springs from that experience.  Does this imply that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, that there is no objective property that we recognize and about whose nature and value we can agree?  My answer is simply this: everything I have said about the experience

of beauty implies that it is rationally founded.  It challenges us to find meaning in its object, to make critical comparisons, and to examine our own lives and emotions in the light of what we find as nature and the human form all invite us to place this experience in the centre of our lives.  If we do so, then it offers a place of refreshment of which we will never tire.[10]

This is the more fundamental use of reason.  It is logically and psychologically more basic than practical rationality.  It is our pursuit of meaning.  We can see some overlap here with Lewis.  The materialist/atomist/reductionist says there is no meaning but maybe at most meanings related to practical ends.  There must be something at which all these meanings and ends aim.  In this sense, we can call reason transcendental, it is that by which we understand, by which we find meaning, and it is the final authority.  We use reason to distinguish A from non-A, beauty from non-beauty.  Even meaning can be taken in these two senses.  Meaning could mean the purpose of a thing.  So the meaning of life is the purpose of life, such as being happy.  Or meaning could mean intelligible.  Able to be understood.  Coherent.  These two meanings of meaning are tied together in that if there is no purpose, then life is unintelligible, and if life is unintelligible, then there is no purpose.  But there is an order to them in that you must understand in order to discover the purpose.

These same considerations can be applied to beauty.  We are rational in the sense that we can understand.  We can use reason to distinguish beauty from non-beauty.  In this sense, it appeals to our rational nature.  We can discuss and argue about beauty.  However, we can distinguish between the intuition of beauty (the immediate perception of beauty) and our understanding of beauty.  The way that Scruton begins his book reminds us of both:

Beauty, I argue, is a real and universal value, one anchored in our rational nature, and the sense of beauty has an indispensable part to play in shaping the human world . . . My approach is philosophical, and the principal sources for my arguments are the works of philosophers.  The point of this book is the argument it develops, which is designed to introduce a philosophical question and to encourage you, the reader, to answer it.[11]

Lewis doesn’t get us here because of the direction he takes with the heart.  His is a non-cognitive approach to reality and this is why he appeals to those who attempt to find truth through myth.  Scruton describes it this way: “From Kierkegaard to Wilde the ‘aesthetic’ way of life, in which beauty is pursued as the supreme value, has been opposed to the life of virtue.  The love of myths, stories and rituals, the need for consolation and harmony, the deep desire for order all have drawn people to religious beliefs regardless of whether those beliefs are true.”[12]  Both Lewis and Scruton are concerned about the mere utilitarian rationality but Scruton doesn’t identify this with the “head” and instead sees it as a departure from reason.  Here he gets to the transcendental:

Art, as we have known it, stands on the threshold of the transcendental.  It points beyond this world of accidental and disconnected things to another realm, in which human life is endowed with an emotional logic that makes suffering noble and love worthwhile.  Nobody who is alert to beauty, therefore, is without the concept of redemption–of a final transcendence of mortal disorder into a kingdom of ends’.  In an age of declining faith art bears enduring witness to the spiritual hunger and immortal longings of our species.  Hence aesthetic education matters more today than at any previous period in history.[13]

This is a precise definition of what I am calling the PPA.  It is pointing to something beyond this world and redemption means taken from this world of change into the world of order and ends.  The modern artists who wish to depart from classical art and conceptions of beauty focus on the disorder in this world (one half of PPA) while denying that there is another world.  Thus, you can hear Lewis pointing to the Tao as the summary of the classical view even if he got Taoism wrong.  The materialist reductionists have only this world.  For Scruton, virtue and suffering are said to make sense because they guide us to this other world.   I will call this Greek Dualism (GD).  It teaches that there are two worlds, we can summarize them as matter and spirit.  The material world is always partial, changing, imperfect, limited, and these are the causes of evil and suffering.  The world of spirit is perfect.  It is the realm of the forms.  The demiurge who formed this world tried to make matter imitate the forms but due to its inherent flaws was only able to do so much.  This takes gnostic forms when there are secret teachings about how the human soul can climb the ladder of being to its apex and become god/gods.

Act 3

Are we caught between the classical and reductionist theories of beauty?  Is the PPA the best definition of beauty?  I will now argue that this is a false dichotomy and that the PPE is not the best way to understand art education.  It relies on the philosophical assumptions of GD, which, if false, render it also mistaken.  To make this case, I want to now contrast two artists.  Keats fits into the PPA, but David gives us a third option, and in doing that, he also defines beauty.  We will look at Keats’s Ode on a Grecian Urn and David’s Psalm 27.  I will put these at the end of the paper for reference.

We find Keats reflecting on the meaning of a Grecian Urn, which takes him back to ancient Greece.  He reflects on Grecian landscapes but more pointedly on Grecian religion.  There we sees the priest leading the sacrifice to the altar.  He thinks of gods and mortals.  All of this recalls a real history but also an idealized history.  It is now gone.  As the world of the forms, the world of the past is not here but elsewhere.  Following his mind to the past also takes him to the ideas.  Beauty is there because it is unchangeable.

Scruton speaks of the transcendence of art.  It points us beyond this world.  Lewis does the same.  But this view of transcendence does not adequately deal with art developed in monist systems that deny there is any transcendence by teaching “all is one.” Scruton and Lewis assume what I will call Greek Dualism (GD).  This represents a family of beliefs, including Gnosticism and Platonism.  Its basic beliefs are that this world of change and suffering is not real.  The real world is the world of spirit or the forms.  This remains when the world around us decays and dies.  The world around us is only real insofar as it mimics the forms.  And on this basis he tells us that beauty is truth and truth beauty.  The order of these is relevant.  Beauty here is the intuition.  It is immediate and not inferred.  Truth, on the other hand, relies on inference.  Truth is mediated through premises.  So to equate these is like saying A is Non-A.  But that is what the poem asks us to do.  We go beyond reason and truth to the intuitive world of the forms.

In the PPE, education prepares us for the direct perception of the forms.  This highest perception is intuitive, not inferential.  We “see” the forms.  In fact, according to Plato, we have already seen the forms in a previous life.  All knowledge is memory of having seen the forms.  You can see how his argument works: knowledge is perception of the forms; we don’t do that in this life; yet we do know things in this life; therefore, we must have perceived these in a past life.

Keats is great because he captures the longing for this ideal.  In contrast to the time of Plato, where he could write in the present about Greek religion, Keats is thinking back on a lost ideal.  But that all the more captures the PPA and GD.  The intuition of beauty is the end of life on earth.  But it is a romanticized fiction.  As the world of decay, this world has no meaning and any suffering or virtue here is only to prepare us for that next world.  Beauty here, imperfect, points us to there.  In rejecting this otherworldliness, modern art has only the ugliness of this world.  But is the only alternative to PPA the ugliness of this world put in a frame and called art?  Or the ideological activism that so often finds its way into art galleries and universities?

I believe that David gives us an alternative.  One might think, “isn’t that just what Lewis was expressing as a Christian?”  No, because Lewis, although a Christian, was caught up in Platonism and giving us the PPA.  When one reads Lewis, it is a work to distinguish what is Christian and what is Plato.  What David does is shows us this: the beauty of holiness.  Where the Greek categories were truth, beauty, and goodness, David’s categories are knowledge, holiness, and righteousness.  The latter are a fuller description of the human condition.  We want knowledge or understanding, not merely the many true propositions.  We want holiness not merely the apparently beautiful.  And we want righteousness not otherworldly virtue.  These are expressed in normative terms as humans ought to seek, understand, and do what is right (the order there is holiness, understanding, righteousness) and as sin is not seeking, not understanding, not doing what is right.

Consider Psalm 27.  There David says: “One thing I ask from the Lord, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple.”  And then “I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.”  This is no otherworldly longing.  David’s desire is not the otherworldly beatific vision.  He looks to see the face of God in the sense of understanding God directly and not through signs and symbols.  To understand the glory of God in this life.  He tells us how this is done in places like Psalms 19, 104, and 145.  The works of God display the glory of God.  We know God through his works and not immediately.  This includes the work of creation and the work of redemption.

Contrast the Temple David mentions and the Greek temples of Keats.  The Temple was the place of the daily sacrifices and the Day of Atonement.  It taught by these signs they need for vicarious atonement.  It taught of human sin and God’s justice and mercy.  Redemption is not what Scruton speaks of in the next life.  Redemption is from sin (not seeking, not understanding, not doing what is right-Psalms 14 and 53).  One is redeemed from not knowing the glory of God to knowing the glory of God displayed in all of his works.  The many pagan temples in Greece were akin to the gnostic teaching and relied on GD.  There we find the many gods who are awful persons and worshiped in the way one would placate a demon—the “great” Jupiter Olympus known for his many sins and lusts.  There is no redemption because there is no God.  There is only the feeble hope of a better afterlife if one “does it right” in this life.  What an emaciated view of human life when put next to what David expresses.

This is why “transcendence” is not enough.  It is not enough in art, philosophy, or religion.  For one thing, the monistic religions that Lewis cites don’t believe in transcendence.  But there are plenty that do but reject the holiness of God.  Therefore, while they may call transcendence beautiful, they are not grounding this in the truth about God.  Our beliefs about the transcendent matter, or, unbelief about either transcendence or imminence is a root problem.

In Psalms 29 and 96, David speaks of the beauty of holiness.  It is worth noting this concept didn’t come up for Plato, Lewis, or Scruton.  To be holy is to be free from sin, to love what is good perfectly, and in doing that, to be set apart in a world of sin.  Beauty is in holiness.  It is this perfection that Keats longs for even if he can’t express it.  It is not the removed beauty of Plato’s beatific vision.  It is a beauty known by all the works of God.  That means we can know it now, and we can know it later.  It is a vision of beauty that finds God made known in all of His works.  It is not otherworldly, and it is not merely this-worldly.

But how do we know God?  If God’s glory is revealed in all of His works, how can anyone be ignorant of it?  Just like there was a PPE, there is also a Psalmist perspective on education, but to avoid confusing two “PPE’s” I will call this the general revelation education or GRE.  God is good to all who live (Psalm 145), giving all a clear general revelation of His nature.  And this is why David wants to dwell at the Temple.  It is only there that the answer to the problem of evil and suffering is given.  This means that one must be prepared to see the holiness of God.  Because of not seeking, one does not understand and will not understand holiness or beauty.


So what is beauty?  The various definitions Scruton considered all seem lacking.  I believe they lacked the beauty of holiness.  The holiness of God is beautiful or is sublime.  His is the perfect commitment to all that is good, the perfect rule in wisdom over all details, the perfection of justice in always upholding “the day you eat you will surely die,” the perfection of love in redeeming the lost.  So it is unity, it is everything having a place, it is the perfect, but all of those find their grounding in the reality of God who creates and rules all things to the end of the revelation of His glory.

We can speak of “the old Edenic nature.”  It is what is left after the Fall that intuitively recognies truth, beauty, and goodness (or more specifically knowledge, holiness, and righteousness).   Because God created us in a specific way, we recognize and long for these.  Some use this as a proof for God’s existence, but that is circular reasoning.  Once we have shown that God exists, we can know how God created us.  The longing for Eden is recognized in Genesis 3 by the sword that guards the gate (you don’t need to guard it if no one wants back in).  Because of sin, Eden is kept from us until sin is removed.  This is what the PPA fails to recognize and, therefore, where the PPE comes short.  But David gives us a robust understanding of sin and our need for repentance and redemption.  (Psalm 51).  This forms the basis of an educational theory.

What calls out to a person as beautiful tells us more about them than the object.  It tells us if they are ready to see holiness.  It tells us of their need for redemption.  Repentance precedes redemption.  Beauty displays reality to us.  And therefore, we will miss what is truly beautiful if we don’t know what is real.  Thus, we can understand what a person thinks about reality by observing their response to beauty.  And our education must be one that trains the mind to discern between real/unreal, beautiful/ugly, good/evil.

David calls us to the beauty of holiness.  Holiness is the center of any definition of beauty.  Whatever other parts of the definitions we take from Scruton’s analysis, it is holiness that unites them into one coherent whole.  And it is holiness that one desires.  The turn from beauty in modernity is partly due to the absence of holiness in the world.

But if all of God’s works display his glory, how can we account for evil and the apparent lack of holiness?  It is this that drives GD to look to another world for fulfillment.  But David gives us the answer to this problem throughout the Psalms.  Staying with Psalm 27, we find that although David faces enemies and hardships, even these are redeemed in the Lord.  The enemies of God who turn to wickedness still display the glory of God.  God said, “the day you eat, you will surely die,” or elsewhere this is expressed as “the wages of sin is death.”  That necessary connection displays the justice of God.  Perhaps Psalm 73 by Asaph best describes this as Asaph comes to see that ultimately the problem is not external in his enemies but internal in his own unbelief that must be repented of before God.  Like David, Asaph finds his answer at the Temple where the truths about vicarious atonement are taught.

The categories of knowledge, holiness, and righteousness are universal, although their content is not.  That means that while all persons have these categories, they may not possess knowledge, holiness, and righteousness.  Every man does what is right in his own eyes but not every man is righteous.  But for this reason, we can still find the universal pull of holiness.  Beauty in high art or beauty in the daily and ordinary come from that same place.  All of these represent the glory of God.

The wisdom of God is seen in the intricate details of creation and providence.  And the details of providence include God’s rule over sin and for redemption.  There is despair at the emptiness of life under the sun for those who do not see this.  Vanity, vanity, all is vanity.  Job comes to this place in his dialogue with his friends.  But he is chastised by both Elihu and God for justifying himself at God’s expense.  God directs Job to the creation that manifests His glory, and Job repents of his unbelief.  “Now I see you, and I abhor myself.”

There is a preparation to see the holiness of God.  The veil over the face of Moses or the veil at the Temple indicates this.  The reality of sin in each person means not only do they not see God’s holiness but are not prepared to do so.  Just at the PPE speaks of the need to prepare the student for art appreciation, so too the GRE has this type of preparation.  But is the type of preparation David, Asaph, and Job undergo.  It is the preparation that the Temple teaches.  One approaches God in His holiness only with a sacrifice due to sin.

Both mere-this-worldliness and GD otherworldliness are failed solutions.  If Lewis is right in his criticism of the materialists, he still fails to point us to the beauty of holiness.  Scruton has a passing comment that God is beautiful, but one can guess at his own Platonism.  In contrast to both, David points us to the beauty of God’s holiness revealed in His works of creation and redemption.  Keats may speak about secret priests offering cattle as sacrifices to the demonic Greek deities, but David (and Asaph) point us to the truths of redemption signified in the very structure of the Temple at Jerusalem (and the Tabernacle before this).  This is the truth about the beauty of holiness.

Odeon a Grecian Urn

By John Keats

Thou still unravished bride of quietness,

Thou foster-child of silence and slow time,

Sylvan historian, who canst thus express

A flowery tale more sweetly than our rhyme:

What leaf-fring’d legend haunts about thy shape

Of deities or mortals, or of both,

In Tempe or the dales of Arcady?

What men or gods are these?  What maidens loth?

What mad pursuit?  What struggle to escape?

What pipes and timbrels?  What wild ecstasy?


Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard

Are sweeter; therefore, ye soft pipes, play on;

Not to the sensual ear, but, more endear’d,

Pipe to the spirit ditties of no tone:

Fair youth, beneath the trees, thou canst not leave

Thy song, nor ever can those trees be bare;

Bold Lover, never, never canst thou kiss,

Though winning near the goal yet, do not grieve;

She cannot fade, though thou hast not thy bliss,

Forever wilt thou love, and she be fair!


Ah, happy, happy boughs! that cannot shed

Your leaves, nor ever bid the Spring adieu;

And, happy melodist, unwearied,

Forever piping songs for ever new;

More happy love!  more happy, happy love!

Forever warm and still to be enjoy’d,

Forever panting, and forever young;

All breathing human passion far above,

That leaves a heart high-sorrowful and cloy’d,

A burning forehead, and a parching tongue.


Who are these coming to the sacrifice?

To what green altar, O mysterious priest,

Lead’st thou that heifer lowing at the skies,

And all her silken flanks with garlands drest?

What little town by river or seashore,

Or mountain-built with peaceful citadel,

Is emptied of this folk, this pious morn?

And, little town, thy streets forevermore

Will silent be; and not a soul to tell

Why thou art desolate, can e’er return.


O Attic shape!  Fair attitude!  with brede

Of marble men and maidens overwrought,

With forest branches and the trodden weed;

Thou, silent form, dost tease us out of thought

As doth eternity: Cold Pastoral!

When old age shall this generation waste,

Thou shalt remain, in midst of other woe

Than ours, a friend to man, to whom thou sayst,

“Beauty is truth, truth beauty,—that is all

Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.”

An Exuberant Declaration of Faith

A Psalm of David.


The Lord is my light and my salvation;

Whom shall I fear?

The Lord is the strength of my life;

Of whom shall I be afraid?


When the wicked came against me

To eat up my flesh,

My enemies and foes,

They stumbled and fell.


Though an army may encamp against me,

My heart shall not fear;

Though war may rise against me,

In this I will be confident.


One thing I have desired of the Lord,

That will I seek:

That I may dwell in the house of the Lord

All the days of my life,

To behold the [b]beauty of the Lord,

And to inquire in His temple.


For in the time of trouble

He shall hide me in His pavilion;

In the secret place of His tabernacle

He shall hide me;

He shall set me high upon a rock.


And now my head shall be [c]lifted up above my enemies all around me;

Therefore I will offer sacrifices of [d]joy in His tabernacle;

I will sing, yes, I will sing praises to the Lord.


Hear, O Lord, when I cry with my voice!

Have mercy also upon me, and answer me.


When You said, “Seek My face,”

My heart said to You, “Your face, Lord, I will seek.”


Do not hide Your face from me;

Do not turn Your servant away in anger;

You have been my help;

Do not leave me nor forsake me,

O God of my salvation.


When my father and my mother forsake me,

Then the Lord will take care of me.


Teach me Your way, O Lord,

And lead me in a smooth path, because of my enemies.


Do not deliver me to the will of my adversaries;

For false witnesses have risen against me,

And such as breathe out violence.


I would have lost heart, unless I had believed

That I would see the goodness of the Lord

In the land of the living.


Wait on the Lord;

Be of good courage,

And He shall strengthen your heart;

Wait, I say, on the Lord!

[1] Lewis, C.S. An Experiment in Criticism Accessed 3/22/2022.

[2] The Abolition of Man, 8. Accessed 3/22/2022.

[3] Ibid, 11

[4] Ibid, 11

[5] Scruton, Roger.  Beauty: A Very Short Introduction.  Oxford University Press, Oxford: 2011. 2.

[6] Ibid., 162.

[7] Ibid., 3.

[8] Ibid., 27.

[9] 26

[10] Ibid., 163.

[11] Ibid., xii.

[12] Ibid., 3

[13] Ibid., 156