Hazrat Inayat: Beauty

Beauty, which a knower appreciates and a lover admires, is worshipped by the mystic. It is useless to try to put into words what beauty is; but if anything can explain it, it is the other word for beauty and that is harmony. It is the harmonious combination of colors, the harmonious grouping of lines, and the harmonious blending of the objects of nature which suggest to us the idea of beauty. In order to be beautiful an object must be harmonious, for in point of fact harmony is beauty. If there is anything in the world that makes man unconscious of himself, in other words that makes man lose his self-consciousness, if there is anything that makes man humble, that makes him surrender willingly, it is beauty. Beauty is something that conquers without a sword, that holds without hands, that is more tender than the petals of a flower and stronger than anything in the world. The Prophet has said, ‘God is Beauty, and He loves what is beautiful.’

Beauty can be divided into three different aspects. The first is the beauty of the objective world, of objects. This aspect of beauty is to be seen in nature. What attracts man unconsciously to the beauty of nature is the harmony which it expresses. The sea, the mountains, the rivers, and the blue sky, the rising and the setting sun, the crescent and the full moon, they all seem to blend together so that a divine vision is produced, which begins to speak to the soul. That is why the beauty of nature is uplifting. For the mystics, the prophets and the sages this was the means of rising to that pitch where they could feel God; then there was no longer any question of their belief in God, for they felt God in the beauty of nature.

There is the other objective beauty, which is art, the creation of man. This beauty appeals to one because it is a production, an imitation of that which the soul admires; and very often those details which one cannot see clearly in nature are noticeable in art. Thus art is sometimes the finishing of the beauty which is expressed in nature. An image drawn by an artist can be more beautiful, for the reason that the artist has finished what nature had left unfinished. But who is working in the artist? The Creator Himself.  What the Creator had left undone, He has finished through the artist. Therefore creations of art are also uplifting. It is most inspiring when a person listens to the song of birds, yet a song sung or composed by a human being can be still more uplifting, for man has completed that beauty; it was his mission to complete it. It is for this that the world was created, that man might finish in his own way that which was not finished in nature, so as to make beauty complete.

The second aspect of beauty is personal beauty, the beauty of the living being, whether in form and feature, in thought and imagination, in merit and qualifications, or in virtue and higher qualities. What is goodness? Beauty. What is right and wrong? That which is beautiful is right, and that which lacks beauty is wrong. Is there then no such thing as what the religious people call sin and virtue? That which is beautiful is virtue, and that which lacks beauty is sin. Are these not two opposite poles? They are when we look at them as opposite poles; when we look at the two ends of a line we see that there are two ends, but when we look at the center of the line we see that it is one line. These opposite poles appear to us as two only when we look at the two ends. When the carpet on the floor is not laid down as it should be, then we say it is wrong; but there is no rule as to how it should be laid; it is only the sense we have of recognizing beauty. This sense is disturbed by seeing that the carpet is not laid straight, and so what is wrong is the lack of beauty.

The third aspect of beauty is the beauty of God, which means beauty in its perfection. In order to see this beauty one must develop spiritually, so that this beauty may manifest to one’s view. All that seems good and beautiful one can imagine in perfection as far as one’s imagination reaches, calling it the beauty of God; for beauty is only manifest to our view in its limitation; it is in God alone that we see beauty in its perfection. There is no object of which we can say that it is perfectly beautiful, nor is there anyone except in our ideal to whom we can attribute all beauty. We can make something as beautiful as possible, but in reality all beauty belongs to one only, and that is God.

There are two ways of discovering beauty. One way is to find it in the distribution of all things and beings. What one person lacks, another has got; what one tree lacks, the other tree has; what the river lacks, the sea has; what the desert lacks is to be found in the forest; what the earth lacks is to be found in the sky. And therefore, when we take beauty as a whole, we begin to get a glimpse of what it is. Beauty is never absent, but when we take a part of it and look only at that, we shall certainly see some lack of beauty. Those who see beauty cut up in divisions, in sections, become critical. They are in pursuit of beauty, but they do not find it, they find a little in one person and a lack of it in another.

But even when they find a little beauty in one person, they still find something lacking too; and when we compare this with the perfection of beauty, then the lack of beauty manifests much more to us than the beauty itself. Naturally, therefore, man becomes critical, and this tendency makes him blind to himself.

The other way of seeing divine beauty is to close one’s eyes for a moment to the dense aspect of beauty, in order to see the inner beauty. For instance the one who rises above the beauty of form begins to see the beauty of thought; the one who rises above the beauty of thought begins to feel the beauty of feeling, of sentiment, which is greater still; and the one who rises even above sentiment and sees the spiritual aspect of beauty, sees a beauty which is still greater. There is no end to the realization of the inner beauty; the inner beauty is much greater when compared with the outer beauty, yet it does not make a person turn away from the outer beauty. It only makes him appreciate it more than others do.

Once an ascetic thinker was taken to a variety show in New York, where there were all sorts of dances and acts and different amusements; and the one who took him there was eager to find out what his opinion about it was, and said to him, ‘This must disgust you, a contemplative person, to come and see this nonsense going on upon the stage.’ He replied, ‘No, never. How can it be disgusting? Is it not my Krishna who is playing there?’ It is those who have touched the inner beauty who are capable of appreciating beauty in all forms; and it is not only that they appreciate it, they admire and worship it. If worship is given to anything or anyone, it is given to the God who is hidden in the form of beauty.

The poems of the Sufis of Persia and elsewhere, such as Hafiz and Jami, Rumi and Farid-ud-Din Attar, are not only philosophical statements, but they are written from beginning to end in admiration of beauty. And if one were to dive deep into their every verse, one would find that each one is equal to a hundred books full of philosophy. Why? Because their souls have been moved to dance at the sight of beauty. What they have expressed in their words is living, burning, full of beauty. It penetrates the one who can feel it, who can admire it. Their poetry is their prayer. It might seem that it is sung to beauty, but to whom is it sung? Their song is to God.

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