The Ascent to the Beautiful
An occult investigation of the meaning and essence of Beauty and the beautiful
Guest article by Paul G. Vaughan
Proem by Occult Mysteries
We are delighted to publish another thoughtful article by guest writer, Paul G. Vaughan. In this contribution he explores the meaning and essence of Beauty with especial reference to the teachings of Plato and Plotinus. Beauty, as the author tells us as he develops his theme, is not what most people think it is. Indeed, it is fair to say very few know what Beauty is, whence it comes and how it manifests, both on Earth and in the Higher Realms of being, nor how to ascend to it. Occult Science affirms that Beauty is Truth and Truth is Beauty—but—who knows what this really means? That we hope to learn from this meticulously researched investigation into a subject of vital importance to all occultists and mystics, and—dare we say—even the ordinary man or woman who is sincerely searching for Truth—and Beauty!
There is little doubt in my mind that had it not been for what we call Beauty our lives on this troubled planet would have been utterly intolerable, bereft of any loveliness, cruel and barbarous. For we associate beauty with a certain elevating and ennobling power, which brings refinement to our lives, sprinkles them with colour and joy and excites us to enthusiasm even when all else around us conspires to depress and degrade us. "If it were not for beauty and true love, which is the Light of the Three Worlds, all humanity would be submerged in utter darkness and death," as we may read in J Michaud's The Quest of Ruru. But beauty can have a manifold effect on the mind of man. At times the contemplation of beauty can raise our consciousness above all earthly concerns, even unto the ecstasy of spirit, a state from which can flow the highest form of inspiration, leading to creation of the works of artistic genius. Conversely, when the perception of beauty excites our lower desires, it can compel the best of us to lose our wits in the pursuit of the beautiful object with senseless abandon...aye, even to the edge of our doom (to paraphrase Shakespeare)!
But what does this mean? Is beauty itself then manifold? Is there one beauty, or are there many beauties, or is there one and many? Is beauty purely subjective, as the well-known proverb seems to suggest, pronouncing sagely that "beauty is in the eye of the beholder"? Or is there such a thing as original or archetypal Beauty, as some philosophers of the past have hinted? In other words, an objective reality quite independent of its subjective manifestations. And if there is such a thing, can we hope to attain to its perception while we are still embedded in the flesh?
These were some of the questions that occupied my tired mind when, having paid my due obeisances at a local temple of commerce, better known as a shopping centre—for we all need to clothe our bodies from time to time, whether to hide our shame, or to augment their irresistible charms, etc.,—I suddenly realised that the shopping bag containing my spoils boldly proclaimed: "There is NO BEAUTY, only BEAUTIES." I was stunned. It dawned on me that, unwittingly, I had become a walking advert of post-modern revelation, which radiated from my shopping bag with such cool and arrogant assurance. Such a daring statement may sound very profound and deep, especially when it's rendered in an elegant white script set against a rich magenta background, but is it true? Do we now live in a new Golden Age of Philosophy where even clothing brands offer us deep insights into the nature of reality, or is it an age of presumptuous vanity where no one is safe from the half-instructed talk and savage surplusage of ignorance, dressed up as wisdom, even when we're out buying socks? With Philosophy as our guide, and some of her good servants as our lamp-bearers, let us seek for the answers to these questions, in the hope that we can dispel the gloom of erroneous conceptions, and bring ourselves closer to the appreciation of true beauty if, indeed, there is such a thing.
Joseph Parker — Island Sunset — oil on canvas, 1964
What is Beauty?
As is often the custom of the authors of this website, let us turn first to the dictionary to find out what the popular definition of beauty is. A quick search tells us that beauty is "a combination of qualities, such as shape, colour, or form, that pleases the aesthetic senses, especially the sight. Also: a combination of qualities that pleases the intellect." Immediately we see that beauty has a lot to do with form, pleasure, and the senses. But it is also suggested that it can be appreciated intellectually, in other words: by the mind. What is common to both definitions is the notion that beauty is a combination of qualities, rather than one thing in itself. This seems to imply that it's something adventitious, arising when a certain concord of shape, colour or form is perceived as pleasing by the observer, such as when we behold a painting and find it agreeable to our senses. This is confirmed by Wikipedia, which states: "Beauty is commonly described as a feature of objects that makes these objects pleasurable to perceive. Such objects include landscapes, sunsets, humans and works of art." No one would disagree that this interesting list of things often appear beautiful to us, but to suggest that beauty is simply a 'feature of objects', and not something in and of itself, seems to me a bit like putting the cart before the horse. If certain things appear to be beautiful, what is it that confers this beauty on them, and how do we judge them thus to be beautiful? So far it is anyone's guess. But there is more to be found in the dictionary, and a second definition dispels any lingering doubts: "2. Beauty: A beautiful woman."
Eureka! Who could possibly argue with this? If beauty is a beautiful woman, we may as well agree with the elegant orator Plato portrayed in one of his dialogues, the Greater Hippias. Herein we find Socrates, attempting, with his usual modesty and undeterred diligence, to extract from the famous sophist an answer to a simple question: what is the beautiful? To which Hippias answers: "I apprehend you honest friend. And to that question, What is the beautiful? I shall give an answer, such a one as can never be confuted. For be assured Socrates, if the truth must be told, a beautiful maiden is the thing beautiful." Socrates' reply is replete with consummate irony: "An excellent answer, by the dog, Hippias; and such a one as cannot fail of being applauded." We can almost see the puffed-up Hippias smiling smugly to himself. Indeed, he is so satisfied with his definition, that he qualifies it as 'irrefutable.' and caps this with as being "the opinion of all the world; and the truth of which all who hear [it] will attest." Mark Anthony, who lost an Empire in his obsession with Cleopatra, would have agreed with Hippias. Beautiful women have been and, in all likelihood, will continue to be the cause of the utter ruin of nations and heroes alike, or the cause of transcendent ecstasy, or both at once, depending on the circumstances, for "human nature does not change...and wine and women are ancient snares," to quote one whose beauty had no match among mortals: the mysterious Ayesha, She-who-must-be-obeyed, first described by H. Rider Haggard in his famous novel She. Let us have a taste of her glory:
"Fragrant was Ayesha's breath as roses, the odour of roses clung to her lovely hair; her sweet body gleamed like some white sea-pearl; a faint but palpable radiance crowned her head; no sculptor ever fashioned such a marvel as the arm with which she held her veil about her; no stars in heaven ever shone more purely bright than did her calm, entranced eyes...At length she spoke and her voice sounded like silver bells heard over water in a great calm. It was low and sweet, oh! so sweet that at its first notes for a moment my senses seemed to swoon and my pulse to stop..." Rider Haggard goes on to tell us that Ayesha's beauty was so extraordinary that she had to veil herself in the presence of men, lest she would drive them into a mad frenzy of desire. Even Rider Haggard's seasoned adventurer, Allan Quatermain, a sober and principled Victorian gentleman who was no stranger to exquisite feminine charms, was unable to resist Ayesha: "Oh, how beautiful she seemed...how beautiful beyond imagining! My heart melted as I studied her; I could think of nothing else except her surpassing charm and glory." Whereupon his companion, the fierce Zulu warrior Umslopogaas remarks with awe: "this chieftainess is not one woman, but all women." She was the beautiful, just as Hippias claimed—beauty itself!
Although a work of fiction, the superhuman beauty of Ayesha has its parallels in the myths and legends of all times and climes wherein we may find Woman depicted as something astonishing, glorious and almost dangerous to behold, on account of her intense, almost supernatural beauty. I suggest that you pick up Rider Haggard's novels, such as She, The Return of She, or She and Allan, and find out for yourself, just what a fascinating Femme fatale Ayesha was. But there is a simple way in which we can test Hippias' hypothesis. If we assume something to be the beautiful in itself, it will have to appear always, and to every person and in every place, the most beautiful, lovely and desirable thing in the world. Perhaps a woman such as Ayesha with her spellbinding and supernatural charms would pass the test so far as men are concerned, but would she have the same effect on women who are by Nature attracted to the opposite sex? For it is clear from Socrates' reply that Hippias' definition did not satisfy the Athenian sage in the least. If there is such a thing as the beautiful itself, Socrates argued, (much to the dismay of the sophist), then we must conclude that "a beautiful maiden is that beautiful, to whose presence those other things owe their beauty." Needless to say, this is a highly problematic hypothesis, and very easily disproved, since most of us can think of a number of things which are beautiful, and have nothing to do with women, such us a glorious sunset, dazzling jewel or radiant flower. In a desperate attempt to save his face, Hippias offers a string of further propositions, among them that the beautiful is nothing else but gold. Again, a statement many would agree with, then and now, since it is well known—as Hippias would have Socrates believe—that if anything is invested with or ornamented with gold, it will appear beautiful, even if it was sordid before. At which point most of us would decide that the juice is not worth the squeeze! But not Socrates, who squeezed Hippias to the last drop, as you may read for yourself, preferably in the unparalleled translation of Thomas Taylor, and so discover whether they managed to agree on what the beautiful itself truly is.
Socrates and Plato both believed that if there is such a thing as the beautiful itself, then it must be a thing by which every other thing is ornamented, and which invests all things with beauty by mere virtue of its presence. As such it cannot be a maiden, gold, or any other particular form. Rather, it must be something superior and anterior to form. Something more universal, possessing a stable and uniform essence, in which all forms can participate, without diminishing it, in the same way as a candle flame possesses a stable and uniform essence (fire), in which all forms can participate, without diminishing it in any way. In other words, we must overturn the fallacious 'wisdom' of the shopping bag, and admit that if there are beauties, then there must be an archetypal and singular beauty, or the beautiful itself, which causes them to appear beautiful. If there is no beauty, there will be no beauties, because Hermes Trismegistus taught that particulars always follow from universals, just as effects follow from prior causes, and not the other way around. But one might be forgiven for not apprehending this simple truth when engrossed in the all-consuming ritual of shopping! So let us continue our investigation further, and see if we can find out what Beauty itself might be.
Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema — Detail from The Women of Amphissa — oil on canvas, 1887
In our quest for the essence of Beauty, let us see what the 3rd century philosopher Plotinus had to say about it. Widely regarded by modern scholars as the founder of Neoplatonism, Plotinus is best known as the primary expounder of the doctrines of Plato. His treatise Concerning the Beautiful translated into English by Thomas Taylor, is considered to be one of the jewels of Western philosophic tradition. The examples I gave earlier, from a sunset to a beautiful maiden, jewels and flowers, are all objects of sense perception. We apprehend them through the eyes, or through other sense organs, such us our ears if a beautiful woman also sings like an angel. If so, she entrances us not just with her looks, but also with her voice. But is sensual beauty the only kind of beauty we can think of? What about the beauty of virtue and kindness? Or the beauty of an inspired poem, a heavenly scent or a mathematical equation? All these can and do exert a stronger attraction over us than any material object. Just as we are wont to extol the beauty of certain concepts or ideas which can be enjoyed by the mind alone, we can also admire the inner beauty in certain human beings, regardless of the merits or demerits exhibited by their bodies. Indeed, Socrates' most ardent prayer was that God might make him beautiful within.
Thus there seem to be at least two types of beauty: that of bodies and forms, perceived externally through the senses of the lower self, and incorporeal beauty perceived internally by the Higher Self. But this does not explain how they both partake of the beautiful itself, nor what this essential or archetypal Beauty is.
We all know that certain bodies can appear beautiful to some, and indifferent or utterly repulsive to others. If beauty was merely a combination of qualities, as the popular dictionary definition quoted earlier would have us believe, we would have to admit that it is only through a certain suiting of parts to each other, and to the whole, that sensual beauty is generated. Plotinus argues that if this was so, it follows that only the compound, and not the simple, can be beautiful. Thus no simple part can be beautiful in itself, but only in combination with other parts. But what of a beautiful song? Must we not admit that for a song to be wholly beautiful, each note and each sound must also be beautiful in themselves? Or can we conceive of a beautiful tune in which not a single note can be judged beautiful on its own merit? Surely it would sound intolerable. Just as harmony cannot arise from disharmony, so a fair thing cannot rise out of the deformed. And what of a single ray of light, or a simple colour, which can appear dazzlingly beautiful, even though they are not made up of any observable combination of parts? So says Plotinus, and in this he is quite correct as you will readily agree.
He further argues that matter itself is destitute of reason and form. This is true, for until Spirit is infused into it, matter is lifeless and inert. When, under the impetus of Spirit, matter assumes harmonious forms, such as a simple cell, we may say that the result will be beautiful. Plotinus says further that bodies become beautiful through their communion with divine ideas, of which they are the outward expressions. As such, they posses only an image of beauty, but not the real thing itself. This is pure Occult Science and utterly overturns the popular definitions of beauty and their merit discussed earlier. But the question remains: how do we judge bodies to be beautiful? As Plotinus admirably explains, our knowledge in this case arises from our soul (Higher Mind) "accommodating its internal ray of beauty to form, and trusting this in its judgement; in the same manner as a rule is employed, in the decision of what is straight." Note the word ray, the significance of which will not be lost on the Occultists among my readers. Plotinus goes on to give us an example of an architect, who "pronounces the building beautiful by accommodating the external structure to the fabric in his soul." He conceived the indivisible form of the building within his Higher Mind, and this is the rule which he now employs in judging the beauty of the external manifestation of his thought. Everywhere we look, we see bodies, which is informed matter; that which informs matter is that which confers beauty on bodies, namely Spirit. Matter, left to its own devices, is shapeless, chaotic and indefinite, and no more able to yield anything beautiful than a slug is able to compose a symphony.
Having identified the meaning and nature of sensual beauty; that is, the beautiful perceived through the senses, let us examine the beautiful which can only be perceived by the inner eye of our Higher Mind, irradiated by the Divine Soul. This is a more real and substantial Beauty, not a mere spectacle of shades flowing into matter and investing its cavernous gloom with a momentary appearance of splendour. For that which flows into external form, departs from its own indivisible unity and loses the power and integrity of its nature; just as the beauty of a statue is inferior to the inspiration which gave expression to it in the mind of the sculptor. Moreover, the degree of beauty in any work of art depends primarily on the ideal which inspired the artist's conception, and secondarily on his skill, and the quality of the materials he uses. Images of evil beget evil, as we can read in the article on The Magic of Art published on this website. No amount of artistic skill can elevate art which merely reflects that which is corrupted, imperfect and degenerate and make it beautiful, except perhaps in the eyes of those whose aesthetic sensibilities are themselves corrupted, imperfect and degenerate.
There are some who are lovers of corporeal forms, disciples of Maya and slaves of Calypso, who pursue sensual beauty throughout their lives, staining their Higher Minds with a corporeal taint. There are others who are lovers of Wisdom and of Actuality, the domain of supernal beauty, such as resides in our very essence, pure, magnificent and wholly incorporeal. Such rise on high and attune with the celestial realms, which reflect the pristine beauty of the Minds of the Creators with far more sagacity than anything we can conceive of down here in the sublunary spheres. They admire virtue in others, because they are aware of its exemplar deep within themselves, and strive to unite themselves to it. This is not intended as a wholesale condemnation of sensual beauty which, when rightly regarded, can lead to a realization and appreciation of the archetypal Beauty of which it is a reflection. To think so is to fall into the trap of the puritan for whom the appreciation of beautiful objects is an invitation to sin. Let us keep a sense of proportion and not mock those who, like the unfortunate Hippias mentioned earlier, are incapable of comprehending any higher Beauty than that to be found in material forms. The time will come when they too, will see what Socrates saw and understand what Socrates understood. Meanwhile, is it not better to believe that "a beautiful maiden is the thing beautiful," than nothing at all?
At the same time, let us not be blind to the dangers of giving ourselves up entirely to the contemplation of sensual beauty. What effect will this have on our Higher Minds? Attuning with the grossly material objects of our desire, we become heavy with corporeal concerns, gravitate away from their divine original, and like Narcissus, enraptured with the reflection of his own material aspect, fall into error and illusion. For this reason, it is important to always bear in mind that sensual beauty is only a springboard to higher and better conceptions, and our love of beauteous bodies, the means of ascent to the appreciation and contemplation of what Plotinus calls "intelligible beauty." The dictionary tells us that 'intelligible' means "apprehensible by the intellect only." This requires some explanation and clarification. What most people understand by the word 'intellect' is not what Plotinus understood by it. The editors of this website addressed this problem in a humorous way in their article on Intelligence which is worth quoting in full.
"Let us begin by considering 'Intellect'. What is it? Where do we keep it? Where does it come from? Where does it go to in the end? We ourselves have not the slightest idea what it looks like. It might be triangular, square, oblong, or even round—like a hollow circle! There seem to be slight indications that people do possess intellect sometimes, but these occasions are so rare that we often wonder if intellect exists permanently, or only appears through spontaneous generation in special instances of dire need for heavenly guidance. We know of many scholarly books in which science goes into lengthy explanations about intellect but none of them tell us what it really is. Is intellect caused by thinking, or does thinking bring about a state of intellect? Science does not have the answer!"
The dictionary comes close to the meaning Plotinus ascribed to intellect when it defines it as "the capacity for rational or intelligent thought especially when highly developed" (my emphasis). In other words, he is referring to the Higher Mind. But we have to be careful here, for sometimes he uses the word to refer to the lower mind, and at others, appears to mix both minds up indiscriminately. This suggests that, wise as he was, he did not know the full scheme of Man's seven principles as we find them described in The Golden Star, The Secret Doctrine and other occult books written by genuine Initiates. Nonetheless, in using the term 'Intelligible Beauty' it is clear that Plotinus meant the ability of the Higher Mind to recognise and contemplate what I have called substantial or archetypal Beauty. It is through practice of the virtues, such as we find enumerated in Occult Mysteries series of articles on the teachings of Hermes Trismegistus, that we can attain this goal. Then, through continued and assiduous efforts, our Higher Mind becomes like unto a clear mirror of Wisdom, reflecting only the Light of Truth. Who could wish for a more splendid ornament than that? Wisdom, as the Bible tells us, is among the most beautiful of God's gifts to man, and all beauty is the object of love, as Diotima teaches Socrates in Plato's Symposium which I refer to in my afterword. As such, Beauty is inseparable from a purified Higher Mind, which partakes of it freely through loving union with its own Beloved, its shining essence or Augoeides, the Divine Soul. We may therefore repeat after Plotinus, that the Beauty and the good of our Higher Mind consists in its similitude to the Deity, for becoming God-like, we merge with our divine exemplar, and attune with the Mind of God. What greater beauty, and what blessing could we ever hope for than this?
It is the Mind of God, which the Platonists denote by Nous, or Divine Intellect, that we can justly call the First or Archetypal Beauty. In the Orphic myth, it was Phanes who was considered the first beauty, and Phanes means 'shining forth'. This deity stood in the Orphic mysteries for the first Intellect, shining forth from the ineffable Source as the Mind of Light, from which all secondary beauties flow, and in which they are established as in a permanent and everlasting foundation. Our very Soul derives its beauty from that Divine Intellect which created it, and in turn bestows beauty on everything below it according to its own forming powers, beginning with its negative half, the Higher Mind, and proceeding into sciences and arts, virtues and actions, until we arrive at bodies, which receive their portion of the beautiful from the many kinds of souls that form the rainbow-hued fabric of the manifested Universe, and extend the bounty of the Father unto all His creations.
Who, or what, is the Father of All? The Platonists describe it as the Ineffable, also the One, and the Good. The Ineffable, because nothing definite can be spoken about it, it transcends language and all human conceptions; the One, because it is the source of unity to all natures; and the Good, on account of the fact that it is the ultimate desire of all. All living beings desire good, and there can be no greater good than the solitary principle of the universe, from which all things depend, yea, even Intellect itself, and to which all intelligent natures look up as the source and the perfection of their being. Here we find ourselves immediately in the realm of intelligible beauty, and our ascent to the beautiful itself is consummated; for the good steps forward into form as the beautiful. No imagination can conceive it, and to attune with its flawless purity and transcendent sublimity, we must become like unto it, and similar to its nature, for reasons I shall explain in the next section. As the Platonic philosophers taught, we all carry within our deepest recesses the impression of the perfect excellence of the Father of All, the Fountain of Good. It is by retiring into ourselves, and entering into a condition of silence and stillness that we may find Him present within us.
All this is in perfect accord with the Ancient Wisdom that was hoary with age a thousand, ten thousand and a hundred thousand years ago. The Chinese Sage Li Wang Ho, who flourished in ancient China only a few hundred years before the time of Plotinus, echoes the elevated thoughts of the philosopher when he states: "The adoration of beauty leads the creature nearer to the Source of all he beholds. Then he will disregard life as it seems; for he will have merged in THAT from which all proceeds, and he will be ONE with the Essence of Divine Love—which is the highest God, and therefore IT is unknown." In The Quest of Ruru by J Michaud we find the selfsame truth stated in a way that even Hippias might have understood.
"Once there was a fierce demon, bent on destroying mankind by asking an unanswerable riddle. If the riddle was not solved, the man who failed was always annihilated. One day the demon met a simple peasant as he was tilling his field. He asked of the peasant his usual question: 'Who is the most beautiful woman in the land?'
'My wife,' the peasant replied.
'How can you prove that?' asked the demon again.
'Because I love her; and she who is beloved is always the most beautiful.'
'You are the only one who has ever solved my riddle,' said the demon, 'and henceforth I am your servant; command me.' "
Isn't it wonderful to find the same thoughts expressed all over the world and in different times and places? Wisdom knows no boundaries, and its everlasting power shines across the gloom of ages to cast radiant reflections even in the darkest periods of human history, such as the one we are living through presently. The Minds of Gods, cast their beauty on the mirror of Man's consciousness, and it is up to Man to keep his magic speculum bright and clear, and not rush to lower beauties, grasping at shadows, and exhaling hazy and dim speculations upon the surface of his mirror, while his inner vision darkens, and he is beset by phantoms. We should be grateful to all the God-like Messengers and Sons and Daughters of Wisdom, who help purify our mirrors from age to age with the true conceptions of the Gods, lest humanity, in its blindness, forgets the ageless Truths for ever and for aye.
Sir William Russell Flint — Calypso and Odysseus — oil on canvas, 1907
The Mode of Ascent
Let us return for a moment to Ayesha, that immortal daughter of Wisdom, half-human, and half-divine. In Ayesha: the Return of She, the sequel to She, we see this glorious woman reduced to utter ruin: "Yet, there she stood, and the fierce light of the heartless fires beat upon her, revealing every shame." For, having lost by the decree of Destiny the flame of everlasting life which had hitherto kept her body in the perfection of its first youth for thousands of years, that temple of the spirit fell into drab corruption as the burden of the ages wreaked its vengeance upon it. Yet still she speaks defiantly: "What of the vile vessel, rotted in the grave of time? What of the flesh that perishes? Look through the ruined lamp to the eternal light which burns within. Look through its covering carrion to the inextinguishable soul." How truly spoken! And how true was her lover who, stooping down, kissed her ugly shape, proving by that act of steadfastness and mercy that he was ready to love Ayesha for the beauty of her soul, and not just the former glory of her shape. The reward of his faithfulness was to behold a great transformation: "Oh! and there—a Glory covered with a single garment—stood a shape celestial," as Rider Haggard describes the spiritual self of Ayesha clothed in a dazzling light few mortal eyes have ever beheld.
What a beautiful and true metaphor this is; an age-old lesson, which it would be well for the great mass of humanity to learn once and for all. Beauty is one and the same in all beauteous bodies, but its holy essence is not to be found in transient and perishable forms. We must search above and beyond for its Source. Let us not forget either, the lessons to be learned from the woeful history of that intrepid hero, Odysseus, who traversed the stormy sea of earthly life, like each and every one of us does in our own way—precipitated from on high, lost in the tumultuous entanglements of the senses, and ever pining for Ithaca, his true home. Is this not the condition of every Higher Mind—a stranger in a strange land, parted from its kin, provided it is awake to its predicament? Did not Calypso, that siren mistress of enchantment, subject Odysseus to every conceivable sensory delight, causing him to forget his true condition for a time? He, the unwilling exile from his true kingdom, where dwelt his father, and where Penelope, emblem of Philosophy, awaited him with undiminished patience. There upon the shore of the enchanted isle—surely a metaphor for this world and all it's compelling attractions—sat poor Odysseus, scanning the horizon with longing eyes, and weeping, weeping, unhappy victim of the false illusions of corporeal beauty.
Nothing illusory, and by that I mean fleeting, temporary, and deprived of permanent essence, can give us lasting joy and satisfaction. So let us clean our interior mirrors, let us close our outward eyes to the lesser beauties of corporeal forms, and, appreciating them in their rightful place, use them as stepping stones to better things and a better world on high, such as we can read about in the Revelation of Peter quoted by Occult Mysteries. "And the Lord showed me a very great region outside this world exceeding bright with light, and the air of that place illuminated with the beams of the sun, and the earth of itself flowering with blossoms that fade not, and full of spices and plants, fair-flowering and incorruptible, and bearing blessed fruit. And so great was the blossom that the odour thereof was borne thence even unto us. And the dwellers in that place were clad with the raiment of shining angels, and their raiment was like unto their land in beauty and splendour."
However, "it is necessary," warns Plotinus, "that the perceiver and the thing perceived, should be similar to each other, before true vision can exist." This is a simple, but profound exhortation for us to become divine, and of god-like beauty, before we can behold the beautiful itself, so that our inner eye is accustomed to such splendour, having attuned itself with its ineffable Light by degrees. Like the prisoner described in Plato's Republic, who, upon leaving the allegorical cave, in which he only perceived the shadow-play of forms by the slender light of the fire, first needed to adjust his eyes by studying the light of the stars and the moon in the night sky, before he could look directly at the light of the sun.
This then is Beauty and the way to ascend to it. And the higher our ascent, the more Beauty we shall find until we arrive at the Source of Beauty which is the secret of the Father of All. If this investigation has helped you to discover what Beauty is, where it is and whence it comes, the considerable labour entailed in researching and writing it will be amply repaid. Finally, if you search for the word 'Beauty' on this website you will find more than 140 results, proving, if proof were needed, the importance the authors of Occult Mysteries attach to it and the prominent place it has in the teachings of the truly great philosophers of the past.
Paul G. Vaughan develops and extends the ideas he discusses in this article in Is Love a Philosopher? published in September 2022. In this further investigation he explores the Platonic conception of Eros, or Love, and its relation to Beauty, Immortality and Wisdom. He also discusses the nature of the Greek idea of the Holy Daemon, or tutelary genius, and analyses the fable of Cupid & Psyche.
© Copyright Paul G. Vaughan. Article published 12 February 2022. Updated 11 September 2022.