Joseph J. Weed
Many prominent artists and critics have described Nicholas Roerich as the greatest painter of modern times. Like many men of genius his skill was not limited to the medium of the brush but displayed itself in science and literature as well. As a writer and speaker he was much sought after and in many of his public lectures he was heard to make the statement that "The Evolution of the New Era rests upon the cornerstones of Knowledge and Beauty."
This was not just a vague generalization made by a talented artist and mature thinker. Roerich was much more than this. He was described as a Legate of the Great Write Brotherhood, and in many of his writings Roerich displayed an understanding and a knowledge not generally available to the average man. Nor was this statement intended to be symbolic, but was rather a declaration of an observed and immutable condition. "The Evolution of the New Era rests upon the cornerstone of Knowledge and Beauty." In other words, the new era of Peace, the long awaited Golden Age, will not manifest until there is:
We must first have a better understanding of Beauty. What is Beauty? What causes it? How is it created? Why does it not always manifest? Has it an ultimate purpose and if so what is that purpose?
We have heard many definitions of Beauty. One says that "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder". This is a reference to human preference and human taste wherein one beautiful object or beautiful person is preferred to another. But it evades the real issue of "What is Beauty ?" Another person says "Beauty is simplicity". This is true insofar as simplicity is always inherent in Beauty, but Beauty is more than simplicity in itself. Still another says "Beauty lies in functional aptitude." This is another true but incomplete definition. When design is functionally perfect it is always pleasing to the eye. This is because we have a subtle inner recognition of truth. The streamlined surface and swept back wings of a jet airliner lend it a vigorous beauty related to a functional correctness designed to achieve the five hundred miles an hour speed at which it flies. However not everything that pleases the eye is beautiful. Our eyes frequently are trained by our emotions or in some other way to accept as pleasing the appearance of an object or a person which is actually far from basic beauty. In a slum, a newly painted house may appear beautiful but in reality have no better design than its neighbors. The newest model of an automobile may to some appear beautiful without being either simple or functionally correct. Some people always seem beautiful to those who love them but plain to all others. So, as you can see, a good definition of Beauty is not easy to arrive at.
Let us then examine this problem from another angle. For example, there are many kingdoms in nature, but as far as we know no kingdom but the human kingdom attempts to create beauty, in other words to create forms and produce color and sounds in harmonious relation to each other. Therefore beauty and the ability to appraise and evaluate beauty appear to be associated with man. Here we are given a clue. The Teachings state that the ability to create and appreciate beauty was not originally inherent in human nature, but has been developed in man through aeons of conflict, pain and suffering. This is a strange statement and an even stranger association. Or is it? The Jewish people for example, have suffered a great deal. More than one historian has stated they have suffered more than any group alive today. Yet Jews are in the forefront of the creative arts at this time, particularly In those requiring group production such as the great motion pictures, the theater, the world of music and so forth. This is but one example but there are others. Nearly every great artist can tell you that his finest creations came after a period of emotional anguish. And who among you have not experienced some similar flight after physical pain or emotional struggle?
There is a strange connection between conflict and pain, struggle and anguish, and the creation of beauty. Our human kingdom is destined to the creation of harmony from conflict, of beauty from chaos. This is the way we work. The capacity to suffer is distinctive of humanity and it is probably our outstanding conscious reaction to our environment. It is related to our power to think and is the outstanding drive behind our seemingly endless seeking to relate cause to effect. We are learning, we are being pushed to learn, we are being goaded on to a use of our mental faculties, unwilling though we be. Even today, after 100 years of high pressure stimulus, the average human uses less than 15% of his mental ability. We are all mentally lazy, stagnant, and the Cosmic is forcing us, through tension and pain, to put our God given faculties to use.
As a poet creates his poem, as the artist paints his masterpiece, as the musician composes his symphony, through thought and energy and infinite pains, must we now set ourselves to create beauty. But we must have one more essential and priceless ingredient. We must bring to this creation the inspiration of spirit. For Beauty is essentially the reflection of the Soul. This is the best definition of Beauty. Art and knowledge are truly man's attempt to create in matter and emotion and mind stuff the beauty of the Soul. So we must bring the Light of the Soul to bear upon our efforts. And as esotericists we know where we must start with a vigorous attempt at soul contact. The achievement of the life of the spirit is not the privilege of hermits and anchorities alone. It may be achieved here, in the midst of the workaday world, if we labor in the name of Beauty. For the time has come now in the history of mankind for the "harmonizing of the centers," the tension achieved In the midst of the most violent conflict. The establishing of this harmonium is of first importance in our coming conflict with the "mechanical civilization" erroneously referred to as modern culture. This vulgarity must be superseded by a conscious striving to create Beauty in all aspects of life, a striving to express the Divine Inspiration of our Soul on this plane of existence, or more ambitiously but none the less truly stated, to bring God into our lives and the lives of our contemporaries.
Beauty must be brought into manifestation not only on the physical level but in the emotional and mental world as well. There is no denying that a great deal of progress has already been made towards eliminating ugliness in the physical world about us and replacing it beauty. Slums are being razed and bright, airy, functional apartment houses erected in their place. The new factories being built are no longer the eyesores of old but sleek and beautiful buildings frequently set down in veritable parklands. The clothes of both men and women are brighter and more attractive with better color blendings than of yore and our homes are better decorated and better furnished. These physical changes are taking place not only in this country but all over the world. In Central Africa, in what was once referred to as "darkest Africa" one comes unexpectedly, upon a beautiful new hospital which would be a fair asset to any North American city. And in the wilds of Central Asia new government buildings are being built that are the peers of any in the world.
The most encouraging aspect of this spread of Beauty into the far reaches is the pride of the people in their beautiful new parks and buildings. It is true that most of these new creations are government owned. By this very token they belong in part to every citizen and stand as a constant encouragement to him to bring Beauty into his personal life and surroundings.
Man's present effort to mirror the beauties of the soul and to manifest in the world about him the dimly sensed inspiration from on High brings encouragement beyond measure to every thoughtful person. These evidences herald the coming New Era as surely as the first faint fingers of dawn announce the approach of the new day. But Beauty must also show her light in the emotional and mental realms and in this need there lies a particular challenge for you and for esoteric students everywhere. This is a job we can understand, a task we have been trained to accomplish. So let us see what there is to be done and what we can do about it.
Reduced to is simplest terms our duty, our dharma, is to bring light into the minds of men and love into the hearts of men. For most this is an over-simplification. It is a statement to agree with but do nothing about. To the average person accustomed to dealing with busses and buildings, with dollars and doughnuts, with movies and TV and sleep and work, the idea of bringing light to the minds of men is vague is vague and unconnected with the realities of his workaday world. Truth must he unfolded slowly to him like the gradual opening of the petals of a rose. Take one idea at a time and illuminate it carefully. A well worded question is often the most skillful and most effective technique. For example--of a man whose mind is clouded with color prejudice ask, "Did you see the picture in Life Magazine of Wilma Rudolf winning the hundred meter dash in the Olympics?" and showing it say, "Did you ever see such grace and power?" The idea will sink in slowly, for looking at her no one can hate or dislike that beautiful young woman. Thus will you help light enter one man's mind. To a religious bigot show yourself to be extremely tolerant. Go to his church with him even though you may not be in agreement with its teaching. This man can be won over by example. Each area of darkness in the human mind can be penetrated and enlightened but in the vast majority of cases this must be done with the individual and in the one particular way best suited to his temperament. This may seem like a mighty task but if tackled by many the work will move swiftly--and the results are well worth it.
In the same manner can love be brought into the human heart. Right now there is a vast wave of anti-Russian sentiment sweeping over the western world and, I grant you, our good friend Khrushchev has been doing little to dispel it. Yet we must not hate Russia or the Russian people no matter how irritatingly boorish Nikita may act. (1960) When we observe evidence of hatred in another why not say "Does not Khrushchev act like a man who is unsure of himself, who may even be afraid? Do you think he worries that his own position in Russia may not be secure, or that Mao may win more strength in the Communist world?" Thus in a few words you can transform a fearsome ogre into a frightened man and even win for him a small measure of sympathy. This will make it easier for your friend to understand the Russian people and dislike them less.
As you can see the bringing of light to the minds of others and love to their hearts is in most cases a step by step process. These examples I have given are crude and any actual situation you encounter will be far more complicated and require more subtle treatment. Today the great enemy of love is not hate but fear. Try to eradicate fear from your own nature and help others to do the same. Most fears dissolve under mental analysis if faced squarely and bravely. And when fear has been overcome hate does not last very long after.
These individual efforts to bring light into men's minds and love into their emotional natures may seem to be small and ineffective, but I assure you if they are persisted in, the results will be powerful and far reaching. For all things exist In the mental realm before in the physical, and Light brought into minds of men inevitably precipitates into the physical as Beauty. So I say to you who know. Clear the pathway for the Soul. Let its light shine down into your mind and heart and out from you into the minds and hearts of your friends and associates. Each one of you can in your own way become a bringer of Light. Each day in your meditation visualize the great Light of the Soul, see It approach our world and envelope it in Its pearly white radiance, see the light of this planet respond and grow until it becomes a self-luminous planet, a sacred planet.
And so, my friends, let us join ourselves together by the invisible threads of the Spirit, and unite in our struggle and work for the creation of Beauty.
Joseph J. Weed
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A Rosicrucian Speaks
Joseph J. Weed
Copyright, The Chatsworth Press
Last Modified: January 19, 2014