1 Aug 2008

Venus, Mercury and Beauty

Beauty. Peace. Power. Wonder. Joy. Compassion. What do these have in common? They are all transpersonal qualities, pure manifestations of energies which exist around us and beyond us, yet can find a conduit into the world though us. Beauty is said to be in the eye of the beholder, which places the concept of beauty in a subject/object relationship. If we see something we regard as beautiful, that surely is a reflection of something equally beautiful within us - and in that we should most definitely rejoice. Beauty is all around but is not always easy to see. Urban landscapes and inner city life can mask it; the erosion of natural environments and wild life degrade it; bad taste, bad manners and the cult of personality can deaden it.

The Italian psychiatrist Roberto Assagioli says in his book Transpersonal Development, “The fact that beauty is the essential attribute of the Supreme, Divine Being has been recognised and proclaimed by thinkers since the dawn of history, and by the great mystics and most gifted artists of all ages. . . in all that has been created there must be some vestige, some trace of this essential attribute of the Prime Creator”. And Plato says in The Republic “the aim of all education is to teach us to love beauty”.

Canova's Three Graces, National Gallery images

Beauty is generally accepted to be a combination of shapes, colours, textures, sounds, ideas and qualities which please the aesthetic senses. A piece of music, magnificent natural scenery, a painting or sculpture, an intellectual argument - all of these, plus many more you can probably think of for yourself - can be beautiful. Venus at it highest level of expression is the planet we might associate with the expression and manifestation of beauty. At this level the harmonious blending of all the components (in, for example, a work of art) combine to make an aesthetic whole. A personal favourite of sheer beauty and the expression of Venus at this high level is Canova’s sculpture “The Three Graces”. I had to return to look at it several times during my visit to the National Gallery in Edinburgh, and the astrologer friend I was with at the time was equally bowled over by the beauty and perfection of this piece. Conceptual art leaves me cold and baffled. But maybe that’s because I’m looking at it through Venus eyes; if I switch to viewing it through the expression of Mercury at its highest level I can “get it” because here Mercury is pure creative communication. But to me, alas, it’s not art. Well, not the sort I like, anyway.

In the 6th form I had an English teacher called Tom Gibson who encouraged us as students to be critical. When discussing anything new we’d seen, or read, he told us to ask three questions: What does it say? How does it say it? Was it worth saying? Tom is long gone, but his advice has stayed with me. In the pursuit and appreciation of beauty in art, music, literature, theatre and numerous aspects of everyday life, these same questions can be applied. And maybe that is all you need to know. . . . but here I’m going to let the poet John Keats have the last word quoting from Ode on a Grecian Urn :

“Beauty is Truth, truth beauty, - that is all ye know on earth, and all ye need to know”

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