3. Aesthetic Forces Are Real
by Culture and Anti Culture
Leaving aside any theoretical considerations, acts of true, pure contemplation reveal to the sensitive soul feeling tones associated with all phenomena. These feeling tones are the expression of aesthetic forces. These forces differ from the more or less habitual life of human feeling in that they are more subtle, refined. They convey a knowledge of things beyond the state of one’s own subjective soul life – one’s likes and dislikes, what pleases or displeases. In the ordinary life of feeling, in pleasure and pain, attraction and repulsion, we sense our subjective relationship with the world.
Aesthetic forces, by contrast, are supra-personal. A closed fist may engender feelings of anger, fear, solidarity, fierceness; an open palm a feeling of openness and invitation. But, contemplated in themselves, without personal or cultural references, purified of their habitual symbolism, these gestures will invoke in the properly prepared attentive soul, objective feelings, tinged with knowledge, that are profoundly distinct from mundane subjectivity.
Aesthetic contemplation is not easy to characterize, especially in a culture bereft of such activity and without effective language to express its findings. Aesthetic attention is not part of the post-modern repertoire of the human soul. So, returning to the fist and palm polarity – simplified and purified, this is the polarity of point and plane. The point is contracted, self-contained, apart; the plane boundless, open. To contemplative attention, the images of point and plane evoke radically different feeling tones that are inherently wedded to the gesture of point and plane.
Many common images, by habit and for good reason, evoke subjective responses in us. Letters and numbers are among these. The form A evokes an inner or spoken vocalization; the idea of the first letter of the alphabet; a means of organizing a list with B, C, D, etc.; a sign of merit, accomplishment or credibility, grades, security ratings and so on. But the form A is, for post-modern humanity, a mere placeholder, a habit, a convention. The shape itself, for us, is in the real sense, arbitrary. If by force or agreement a different shape were now to be put to this use and the A banned and excluded, the new form would, in time, take its place in thought, in print, in general usage.
Gaze calmly on this form in its own right and practice suspending all the habitual, subjective associations that rise to join it. This is not an easy task, but with practice, with common sense and guarding against mysticism, it can be done by any healthy, patient, determined human being. Attending to the A form itself, what do we see? Or, more precisely, what can be felt with sustained attention to this shape, having cleansed our attention of the habitual thoughts that adhere to it?
The two outer lines or legs of the form express strength and stability in the transition from their common point of origin to their downward, radiative expansion. Their strength is enhanced, wedded and densified by the crossbar connecting them. This gesture of strength and stability is specific – and is not present in other forms, such as
We will go no further for now than this simple observation. Later entries will address the concrete details of cultivating aesthetic contemplation.
If aesthetic forces are real, what significance does this have for the actual life of human beings? Its significance is incalculably great and permeates the whole social organism – from the worlds of politics and economics to the most intimate questions of individual life and especially, of ethics and moral character.
“Contemporary humanity is in the midst of many crises. At the heart of them all is the crisis in the inner life of the human being. We are writing for the consciously distressed.”