God called man into existence, committing to him the craftsman’s task. Through his “artistic creativity” man appears more than ever “in the image of God”, and he accomplishes this task above all in shaping the wondrous “material” of his own humanity and then exercising creative dominion over the universe which surrounds him.
-Pope John Paul II, Letter to Artists
The Way of Beauty is about the culture in the broadest sense of the word. It is therefore, about how we live our lives in every aspect. It is a way of life. The aim of this site is through it’s articles, media and advertised courses is to inspire devotion to and guidance on The Way of Beauty. This is the most attractive and joyful way of life, because it is the most direct path to God. Our teacher and guide is Western tradition. We hope inspire people to follow The Way of Beauty by describe both high culture and simple everyday living, past and present, that reflect it.
The good life is the joyful life. The question then is: how can we lead a good life? The answer is that we must be guided by principles for living. When we make any choices we ask ourselves at some level always, is this moral? Morality tends to direct us by telling us where we shouldn’t go. Once we have a series of choices that are morally equivalent, how then do we choose? This is where beauty comes in. Other considerations being equal, we choose that which is most beautiful.
From the ancient Greeks, with figures such as Pythagoras and Plato, through the Church Fathers, such as Boethius and Augustine, to the present day, as we can see in the writings of Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI, the good life has been equated with the beautiful life. it is Pope Benedict XVI who called the Way of Beauty – the via pulchritudinis – the most attractive route to God.
Beauty is not just a matter of personal preference. It is like scientific truth, an objective quality the essential elements of which are there to be discovered and used by us and passed on to others. The natural world, for example, reflects it. It does so because it was made by God. A study of the whole natural world – the cosmos – is a study of the path to God because creation bears the thumbprint of Creator whose hands formed it.
Christian culture, like classical culture before it, was patterned after the cosmic order, whose unifying principles run through every discipline. Literature, art, music, architecture, philosophy—all of creation and, potentially, all human activity—are bound together by this common harmony and receive their fullest meaning in the daily, weekly and seasonal rhythms and patterns of the Church’s liturgy – her public worship.
When we apprehend beauty we do so intuitively. So an education that improves our ability to apprehend beauty also develops our intuition. All creativity, even that employed in business or scientific endeavours, is at its source intuitive. Furthermore, the creativity that an education in beauty stimulates generates not just more ideas, but better ideas—better because they are more in harmony with the natural order. The recognition of beauty moves us to love what we see, and leaves us more inclined to serve God and our fellow man.
The traditional liberal arts education including a grouping of four subjects called the ‘quadrivium’, literally the ‘four ways’. These were geometry, mathematics, harmony and cosmology. We study them today as maths and science. While the knowledge in these fields today is much greater than in the past, the basic form of scientific study would not have surprised a Franciscan friar teaching science in the pre-Reformation Oxford. However, there is an additional aspect that our friar would have studied, which would be strange to the modern scientist. He would have looked the study of pattern, harmony, symmetry and order in nature and mathematics, viewed as a reflection of the Divine Order, and recognised as such by its beauty. This latter aspect does not undermine science, rather it adds to it, and as I discuss in the site elsewhere, would actually help modern research scientists to be more creative in their work if they were aware of it.
This site draws on this traditional form of education. The greatest education in beauty is participation in the liturgy – the Mass and the Liturgy of the Hours, for this impresses upon the deepest aspect of our souls the patterns of beauty.