The Ocean of the Soul: Man, the World, and God in the Stories of Farid Al-Din 'Attar

By Hellmut Ritter; John O'Kane | Go to book overview

CHAPTER TWENTY-SIX
RELIGIOUS LOVE OF A BEAUTIFUL PERSON

There is a kind of aesthetic experience which goes beyond the enjoyment of beautiful forms that offer themselves to the senses, whether these forms originate in living nature or in the arts. What distinguishes this kind of experience from others is that it springs from a profound level of the personality, a level whose modes of experience have been characterized as primordial, archaic, mythical. (Cf. E. Rothacker, Probleme der Kulturanthropologie, Bonn 1948, 111). On such an occasion the person who is confronted with beauty feels, above and beyond the purely aesthetic impression, an encounter with a world and with powers which can no longer be described within the framework of sense perceptions. "…one now breaks through physical appearance as such by making contact with higher shaping forces experienced through the transparency of appearances" (Rothacker 120). Alfred Weber says regarding Michelangelo and his relation to beauty: "Beauty for him is not this or that. It is the fundamental power of existence, positive and transcendent, which we are too weak to bear in its full unveiling." (Abschied von der bisherigen Geschichte, Hamburg 1946, 42). This encounter with the beautiful has as a consequence that the aesthetic experience not only resonates more intensely but is all at once endowed with a seriousness which raises it far above the joyous feeling that the sight of the beautiful normally arouses. It is no longer a joyous feeling which exalts a person but an awesome shudder, an almost religious emotion which overwhelms him. "An aesthetic experience is attached to a phenomenon, to the graphic image which the latter visibly presents. It fixes itself on a phenomenon of the world, on the perceivable outward aspect of a phenomenon as this presents itself to the senses. A religious experience, on the other hand, is transcendent, it goes beyond the sphere accessible to the senses and, as it were, sees through things as if they were transparent." (Rothacker 119).

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