The Way of Beauty Beauty, truth, goodness and love

In the classical tradition, beauty, goodness, and truth, are considered identical triplets. They are interior to one another, but beauty is their external appearance; beauty, their outer expression. Beauty is the mortar that holds them together. Love assumes all three.  Love crowns all three.
In the classical tradition, beauty, truth and goodness are upheld as transcendentals (Lat: trans scendere, to climb across or to leap over).  They leap across all categories, divisions, and distinctions of being; they “spill over to encompass every level of being, surpass all the limits of essences and are coextensive with Being." (J.B. Lotz, “Transcendentals,” 4: 240- 41).

In an age of relativism, it is said that truth cannot be known; right and wrong are reduced to personal subjective choice—or colloquially, ‘to each his own.’  Today, most people are robust skeptics.  Yet truth is defined objectively as the conformity between the mind and what is; truth illuminates what is. The truth of being is its intelligibility–its integrity in things.  All being is intrinsically intelligible because truth comes from a Mind which is infinite and infinitely original and true.  Words like credibility and the logical are associated with the true.


All things strive toward the good; we all want what is good for us. But if, according to the skeptic, the truth cannot be known, neither can the objective good. The good is valuable, possessing some positive quality or perfection that renders it apt or worthy to be valued by some valuer. The external good has the power to satisfy and gratify the appetite.  The good may also be admired in a non-possessive manner–wishing good to others for their own sake. It is here that the good and the beautiful intertwine.  Subjectively, we may view attractive forms as good because we must possess them.  The objective view sees and appreciates the good in itself without the will to acquire it.  Words like ethical, value-laden, desirable, love-worthy are associated with the good. The beautiful serves as the point of integration between the true and the good. 

How to see beauty 
Seeing and hearing are the senses most often used to experience beauty; the others, less so.  How is beauty to be seen?  Receiving a thing of beauty involves an understanding and an attitude but it is also a matter of repetition. The following steps can serve as a guide for perceiving a thing of beauty:

1.The beholder should take a step back from the form. Putting up barriers by way of bias and curiosity should be relinquished in order to allow the being to be itself.

2.One steps back from self-centeredness and stops looking at the form solely from its relation to self. One must intentionally be a self-forgetting person, looking at it for its own value, that is, objectively. This is the love of benevolence.

3.One should avoid looking at the accidental things but go deeper into the interiority of the being by looking well.  To grasp the totality of the form, one must develop a set of eyes that see reality with a different vision.

4.One should try seeing the form as a subject and not as an object.

5.The beholder should repeat the practice, stopping to look at the beauty of a simple thing, allowing the beauty to shine through it, contemplating it, grasping it and being grasped by it.  One should see well.

6.Loving the good allows its beauty to shine forth.  The thing of beauty is designed to let its magic work in the beholder.

Saints and young children are open-minded people, the former, having trained themselves to see all things in the context of the divine, and the latter, who have not as yet learned bias. 

Beauty compared to a diamond

Beauty is like a diamond, which has three attributes: (1) brightness–the total light reflected from a diamond, (2) fire, the dispersion of light into the colors of the spectrum, and (3) scintillation, the brilliance and sparkle when a diamond moves.  Brilliance is the most important attribute of a diamond because of its ability to reflect light.  As a diamond is moved through a light source, tiny flashes will be visible within the stone.  These flashes bounce off one another. Commonly known as sparkle, this is also referred to as brilliance, an effect of the stone’s reflection and refraction of light.  Like a diamond, beauty dances like an uncontained splendor around the double constellation and their inseparable relation to one another. Beauty is the outer shape of a form (the diamond).  Finally, Emily Dickinson captures the theme of this reflection.

I Died For Beauty

I died for beauty, but was scarce
Adjusted in the tomb
When one who died for truth was lain
in an adjoining room

He questioned softly why I failed?
“For beauty,” I replied.
“And I for truth, the two are one;
We brethren are,” he said.

More in The Way of Beauty

And so, as kinsmen met a-night,
We talked between the rooms,
Until the moss had reached our lips
And covered up our names.
A person who loves unselfishly possesses within the self beauty, truth, and goodness.

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