The Way of BeautyTM
The via pulchritudinis, the way of beauty, is a privileged and fascinating path on which to approach the Mystery of God. What is the beauty that writers, poets, musicians, and artists contemplate and express in their language other than the reflection of the splendour of the eternal Word made flesh?
Benedict XVI, General Audience 18th November, 2009
From the ancient Greeks, with figures such as Pythagoras and Plato, through the Church Fathers, such as Boethius and Augustine, to the present day, as we can see in the writings of Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI, the good life has been equated with the beautiful life. it is Pope Benedict XVI who called the Way of Beauty – the via pulchritudinis – a privileged and fascinating route to God. It is reflected in both high culture and the wider culture of simple everyday living, past and present, that reflect it. If we wish to travel on that path, Our teacher and guide is Western tradition
The life lived beautifully is not only good, but also joyful. The question then is: how can we lead a good life? The answer is that we must be guided by principles for living. When we make any choices we ask ourselves at some level always, is this moral? Morality tends to direct us by telling us where we shouldn’t go. Once we have a series of choices that are morally equivalent, how then do we choose? The conscious application of reason can help us here but also this is where beauty and intuition come in. Other considerations being equal, we choose that which is most beautiful.
Beauty is not just a matter of personal preference. It is like scientific truth, an objective quality the essential elements of which are there to be discovered and used by us and passed on to others. The natural world, for example, reflects it. It does so because it was made by God. A study of the whole natural world – the cosmos – is a study of the path to God because creation bears the thumbprint of Creator whose hands formed it.
Christian culture, like classical culture before it, was patterned after the cosmic order, whose unifying principles run through every discipline. Literature, art, music, architecture, philosophy—all of creation and, potentially, all human activity—are bound together by this common harmony and receive their fullest meaning in the daily, weekly and seasonal rhythms and patterns of the Church’s liturgy – her public worship.
When we apprehend beauty we do so intuitively. So an education that improves our ability to apprehend beauty also develops our intuition. All creativity, even that employed in business or scientific endeavors, is at its source intuitive. Furthermore, the creativity that an education in beauty stimulates generates not just more ideas, but better ideas—better because they are more in harmony with the natural order. The recognition of beauty moves us to love what we see, and leaves us more inclined to serve God and our fellow man.
To complete the course and earn the credits, the student need only watch and read the material available. Our hope is that some will want to go beyond that and put into practice what is taught, and walk the Way of Beauty with us, that privileged and fascinating route to God. May Mary, Holy Theotokos, Mother of God, lead us to her Son, as sailors trust in the Star of Sea - maris stella - to lead the home.
The Way of Beauty is a trade mark and service mark wholly owned by David Clayton.