Aesthetic Sense Compilation
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“The business of both parent and teacher is to enable and to help the child to educate himself, to develop his own intellectual, moral, aesthetic and practical capacities and to grow freely as an organic being, not to be kneaded and pressured into form like an inert plastic material.” (Sri Aurobindo, The Human Cycle) 
- 1 What is Aesthetic Sense?
- 2 Where is the Aesthetic Sense Situated?
- 3 Why is it Important to Have Aesthetic Sense?
- 4 When is One’s Aesthetic Sense Used?
- 5 How Can One Cultivate Aesthetic Sense?
- 6 Recommended Practices
What is Aesthetic Sense?
The Perception of Beauty
The Experience of Ananda
A True and Wide Consciousness
There are two kinds of beauty. There is that universal beauty which is seen by the inner eye, heard by the inner ear etc.—but the individual consciousness responds to some forms, not to others, according to its own mental, vital and physical reactions. There is also the aesthetic beauty which depends on a particular standard of harmony, but different race or individual consciousnesses form different standards of aesthetic harmony. 
For instance, if your consciousness is limited to one place, that is, it is a national consciousness (the consciousness of any one country), what is beautiful for one country is not beautiful for another.
Artistic taste is pleased with beautiful things and is itself beautiful.
Stages of Aesthesis
Where is the Aesthetic Sense Situated?
In the Physical Plane
On the physical plane the Divine expresses himself through beauty, on the mental plane through knowledge, on the vital plane through power and on the psychic plane through love. 
When we rise high enough, we discover that these four aspects unite with each other in a single consciousness, full of love, luminous, powerful, beautiful, containing all, pervading all. 
In the Vital Plane
In the Mental Plane
The impulsive reactive sensational mentality, the life-cravings and the mind of emotional desire are taken up by the intelligent will and are overcome, are rectified and dominated by a greater ethical mind which discovers and sets over them a law of right impulse, right desire, right emotion and right action. The receptive, crudely enjoying sensational mentality, the emotional mind and life mind are taken up by the intelligence and are overcome, rectified and dominated by a deeper, happier aesthetic mind which discovers and sets above them a law of true delight and beauty. 
… there is a just and permissible, a quite legitimate human enjoyment of these things, which is, to speak in the language of Indian psychology, predominantly sattwic in its nature. It is an enlightened enjoyment principally by the perceptive, aesthetic and emotive mind, secondarily only by the sensational, nervous and physical being, but all subject to the clear government of the buddhi, to a right reason, a right will, a right reception of the life impacts, a right order, a right feeling of the truth, law, ideal sense, beauty, use of things. The mind gets the pure taste of enjoyment of them, rasa, and rejects whatever is perturbed, troubled and perverse. Into this acceptance of the clear and limpid rasa, the psychic prana has to bring in the full sense of life and the occupying enjoyment by the whole being, bhoga, without which the acceptance and possession by the mind, rasa-grahaṇa, would not be concrete enough, would be too tenuous to satisfy altogether the embodied soul. This contribution is its proper function. 
In the Spiritual Plane
That is what the experience of the normal life is meant to lead to by its widening culture of the intellect, the aesthetic and emotional mind and of our parts too of will and active experience. It widens and refines the normal being so that it may open easily to all the truth of That which was preparing it for the temple of its self-manifestation. 
Aesthetically, the delight takes the appearance of Rasa and the enjoyment of this Rasa is the mind's and the vital's reaction to the perception of beauty. The spiritual realisation has a sight, a perception, a feeling which is not that of the mind and vital;—it passes beyond the aesthetic limit, sees the universal beauty, sees behind the object what the eye cannot see, feels what the emotion of the heart cannot feel and passes beyond Rasa and Bhoga to pure Ananda—a thing more deep, intense, rapturous than any mental or vital or any physical rasa reaction can be. It sees the One everywhere, the Divine everywhere, the Beloved everywhere, the original bliss of existence everywhere, and all these can create an inexpressible Ananda of beauty—the beauty of the One, the beauty of the Divine, the beauty of the Beloved, the beauty of the eternal Existence in things. It can see also the beauty of forms and objects, but with a seeing other than the mind's, other than that of a limited physical vision—what was not beautiful to the eye becomes beautiful, what was beautiful to the eye wears now a greater, marvellous and ineffable beauty. The spiritual realisation can bring the vision and the rapture of the All-Beautiful everywhere. 
Why is it Important to Have Aesthetic Sense?
But the way the world is organized, people without aesthetic needs go back to a very primitive life—which is wrong. We need a place where life... where the very setting of life would be, not an individual thing, but a beauty that would be like the surroundings natural to a certain degree of development. (The Mother, 25 March 1970) 
The aesthetic downfall is perhaps due to other causes, a disappointed idealism in its recoil generating its opposite, a dry and cynical intellectualism which refuses to be duped by the ideal, the romantic or the emotional or anything that is higher than the reason walking by the light of the senses. The Asuras of the past were after all often rather big beings; the trouble about the present ones is that they are not really Asuras, but beings of the lower vital world, violent, brutal and ignoble, but above all narrow-minded, ignorant and obscure. But this kind of cynical narrow intellectualism that is rampant now, does not last—it prepares its own end by increasing dryness—men begin to feel the need of new springs of life. 
But for one who has more inner sensitivity, appearances are no longer deceptive and he can perceive the ugliness hidden beneath a pretty face and the beauty concealed beneath a mask of ugliness. 
Aesthetic Sense and Yoga
Art, poetry, music, as they are in their ordinary functioning, create mental and vital, not spiritual values; but they can be turned to a higher end, and then, like all things that are capable of linking our consciousness to the Divine, they are transmuted and become spiritual and can be admitted as part of a life of Yoga. 
Through the development of a new sense of beauty, a thirst for truth and light, through understanding that it is only by widening yourself, illumining yourself, setting yourself ablaze with the ardour for progress, that you can find both integral peace and enduring happiness. 
Aesthetic Sense and The “Converted” Vital
A converted vital is an all-powerful instrument. And sometimes it gets converted by something exceptionally beautiful, morally or materially. When it witnesses, for example, a scene of total self-abnegation, of uncalculating self-giving one—of those things so exceedingly rare but splendidly beautiful—it can be carried away by it, it can be seized by an ambition to do the same thing. It begins by an ambition, it ends with a consecration… And this vital, if you place it in a bad environment, it will imitate the bad environment and do bad things with violence and to an extreme degree. If you place it in the presence of something wonderfully beautiful, generous, great, noble, divine, it can be carried away with that also, forget everything else and give itself wholly. (The Mother, 9 September 1953) 
When the adverse forces are dealt with in the right way, all that is ugly and false disappears to leave place only for what is true and beautiful. 
Aesthetic Sense in Education
To this general education of the senses and their functioning there will be added, as early as possible, the cultivation of discrimination and of the aesthetic sense, the capacity to choose and adopt what is beautiful and harmonious, simple, healthy and pure. As the capacity of understanding grows in the child, he should be taught, in the course of his education, to add artistic taste and refinement to power and precision. He should be shown, led to appreciate, taught to love beautiful, lofty, healthy and noble things, whether in Nature or in human creation. This should be a true aesthetic culture, which will protect him from degrading influences… A methodical and enlightened cultivation of the senses can, little by little, eliminate from the child whatever is by contagion vulgar, commonplace and crude. This education will have very happy effects even on his character. For one who has developed a truly refined taste will, because of this very refinement, feel incapable of acting in a crude, brutal or vulgar manner. This refinement, if it is sincere, brings to the being a nobility and generosity which will spontaneously find expression in his behaviour and will protect him from many base and perverse movements. 
Aesthetic Sense and Ethics
Can those who have a see of beauty also become cruel? That's a psychological problem. It depends on where their sense of beauty is located. One may have a physical sense of beauty, a vital sense of beauty, a mental sense of beauty. If one has a moral sense of beauty—a sense of moral beauty and nobility—one will never be cruel… But those who were unified, in the sense that they truly lived their art—those, no; they were generous and good. (The Mother, 17 March 1954) 
Shame has admirable results and both in aesthetics and in morality we could ill spare it; but for all that it is a badge of weakness and the proof of ignorance. 
One must be very much higher on the scale to see that what one does is ugly. One must already have at the core of oneself a kind of foreknowledge of what beauty, nobility, generosity are, to be able to suffer from the fact that one doesn't carry them within oneself. 
Aesthetic Sense and The Divine
The Greeks had a keen and exceptional sense of beauty, of eurythmy, of harmony in forms and things. But at the same time they had an equally keen sense of men's impotence in face of an implacable Fate which none could escape. They were haunted by the inflexibility of this Fate, and even their gods seem to have been subject to it. In their mythology and in their legends, one finds little trace of the divine compassion and grace. 
…if you go deeply enough, you can perceive Sachchidananda, which is the principle of Supreme Beauty. Secondly, you see that everything in the manifested universe is relative, so much so that there is no beauty which may not appear ugly in comparison with a greater beauty, no ugliness which may not appear beautiful in comparison with a yet uglier ugliness. 
It is one of the greatest weapons of the Asura at work when you are taught to shun beauty. It has been the ruin of India. The Divine manifests in the psychic as love, in the mind as knowledge, in the vital as power and in the physical as beauty. If you discard beauty it means that you are depriving the Divine of this manifestation in the material and you hand over that part to the Asura. 
...the perception and enjoyment of the divine Beauty and Delight which pervade the universe. And I said that as we embrace the whole of life in Yoga, so we accept the entire genuine self-expression of the spirit of life in poetry. We would range up and down the whole realm of poetic creation like free, unattached worshippers of the Divine Beauty and seekers of the divine Delight. (The Mother, 13 July 1943) 
When is One’s Aesthetic Sense Used?
There may be a development of intuitivity in the ethical or aesthetic being, but the rest may remain very much as it was. This is the reason of the frequent disorder or one-sidedness which we mark in the man of genius, poet, artist, thinker, saint or mystic. A partially intuitivised mentality may present an appearance of much less harmony and order outside its special activity than the largely developed intellectual mind. An integral development is needed… If however there is an integral development of the intuitive mind, it will be found that a great harmony has begun to lay its own foundations… It will be a harmony of the spontaneous expression of the spirit. 
All those who have a sure and developed sense of harmony in all its forms, and the harmony of all the forms among themselves, are necessarily artists, whatever may be the type of their production. (The Mother, 21 October 1953) 
Art for Art's sake? But what after all is meant by this slogan and what is the real issue behind it? Is it meant, as I think it was when the slogan first came into use, that the technique, the artistry is all in all? The contention would then be that it does not matter what you write or paint or sculpt or what music you make or about what you make it so long as it is beautiful writing, competent painting, good sculpture, fine music… Only, you can say of him on the basis of this theory that as a work of art his creation should be judged by its success of craftsmanship and not by its contents; it is not made greater by the value of his ethical ideas, his enthusiasms or his metaphysical seekings. 
Art for Art's sake certainly—Art as a perfect form and discovery of Beauty; but also Art for the soul's sake, the spirit's sake and the expression of all that the soul, the spirit wants to seize through the medium of beauty. In that self-expression there are grades and hierarchies—widenings and steps that lead to the summits. And not only to enlarge Art towards the widest wideness but to ascend with it to the heights that climb towards the Highest is and must be part both of our aesthetic and our spiritual endeavour. 
There is such a thing as a universal Ananda and a universal beauty and the vision of it comes from an intensity of sight which sees what is hidden and more than the form—it is a sort of viśvarasa such as the Universal Spirit may have had in creating things. To this intensity of sight a thing that is ugly becomes beautiful by its fitness for expressing the significance, the guna, the rasa which it was meant to embody. But I doubt how far one can make an aesthetic canon upon this foundation. It is so far true that an artist can out of a thing that is ugly, repellent, distorted create a form of aesthetic power, intensity, revelatory force. So too ugliness in painting must remain ugly, even if it gets out of itself a sense of vital force or expressiveness which makes it preferable in the eyes of some to real beauty. All that hits you in the midriff violently and gives you a sense of intense living is not necessarily a work of art or a thing of beauty. 
What does "the beauty of the hideous" mean?It is always the same realisation presented from different angles, expressed through various experiences: the realisation that everything is a manifestation of the Supreme, the Eternal, the Infinite, immutable in his total perfection and in his absolute reality. That is why, by conquering our mind and its ignorant and false perceptions we can, through all things, enter into contact with this Supreme Truth which is also the Supreme Beauty and the Supreme Love, beyond all our mental and vital notions of beauty and ugliness, the good and the bad. 
Expression through Art - Painting & Poetry
The mistake of the artist is to believe that artistic production is something that stands by itself and for itself, independent of the rest of the world. Art as understood by these artists is like a mushroom on the wide soil of life, something casual and external, not something intimate to life; it does not reach and touch the deep and abiding realities, it does not become an intrinsic and inseparable part of existence. True art is intended to express the beautiful, but in close intimacy with the universal movement. (The Mother, 28 July 1929) 
The true painting aims at creating something more beautiful than the ordinary reality. 
To create something truly beautiful, he has first to see it within, to realise it as a whole in his inner consciousness; only when so found, seen, held within, can he execute it outwardly; he creates according to this greater inner vision. (The Mother, 28 July 1929) 
There are truths and there are transcriptions of truths; the transcriptions may be accurate or may be free and imaginative… Poetic imagination is very usually satisfied with beauty of idea and image only and the aesthetic pleasure of it, but there is something behind it which supplies the Truth in its images, and to get the transcription also direct from that something or somewhere behind should be the aim of mystic or spiritual poetry. 
True art means the expression of beauty in the material world. In a world wholly converted, that is to say, expressing integrally the divine reality, art must serve as the revealer and teacher of this divine beauty in life. 
If these painters were sincere, if they truly painted what they feel and see, the picture would be the expression of a confused mind and an unruly vital. But, unhappily, the painters are not sincere and then these pictures are nothing else than the expression of a falsehood, an artificial imagination based only on the will to be strange and to bewilder the public in order to attract attention and that has indeed very little to do with beauty. 
Expression Through Worship - Dance, Music and Metaphor
Supreme art expresses the Beauty which puts you in contact with the Divine Harmony. 
That is how Sri Aurobindo describes the different pantheons of different countries, specially of Greece or India. That is to say, it is an aesthetic and intellectual way of transforming all things into divine creatures, divine beings: all the forces of Nature, all the elements, all spiritual forces, all intellectual forces, all physical forces, all these are transformed into a number of godheads and they are given an aesthetic and intellectual reality. It is a symbolic and artistic and literary and poetic way of dealing with all the universal forces and realities. That is how these pantheons came into existence, like the Greek or Egyptian pantheon or else the pantheon of India. (The Mother, 16 May 1956) 
All these gods are representations which Sri Aurobindo calls "aesthetic and intellectual"―a way of conceiving the universe. (The Mother, 16 May 1956) 
The dance was once one of the highest expressions of the inner life; it was associated with religion and it was an important limb in sacred ceremony, in the celebration of festivals, in the adoration of the Divine. (The Mother, 28 July 1929) 
Music, no doubt, goes nearest to the infinite and to the essence of things because it relies wholly on the ethereal vehicle, śabda (architecture by the by can do something of the same kind at the other extreme even in its imprisonment in mass) ; but painting and sculpture have their revenge by liberating visible form into ecstasy, while poetry though it cannot do with sound what music does, yet can make a many-stringed harmony, a sound-revelation winging the creation by the word and setting afloat vivid suggestions of form and colour,—that gives it in a very subtle kind the combined power of all the arts. Who shall decide between such claims or be a judge between these godheads? 
God had opened my eyes; for I saw the nobility of the vulgar, the attractiveness of the repellent, the perfection of the maimed and the beauty of the hideous. 
… technique is a means of expression; one does not write merely to use beautiful words or paint for the sole sake of line and colour; there is something that one is trying through these means to express or to discover. What is that something? The first answer would be—it is the creation, it is the discovery of Beauty… But there is not only physical beauty in the world—there is moral, intellectual, spiritual beauty also… But here again, what after all is Beauty? How much is it in the thing itself and how much in the consciousness that perceives it? Is not the eye of the artist constantly catching some element of aesthetic value in the plain, the ugly, the sordid, the repellent and triumphantly conveying it through his material,—through the word, through line and colour, through the sculptured shape? 
In the Yogin's vision of universal beauty all becomes beautiful, but all is not reduced to a single level. There are gradations, there is a hierarchy in this All-Beauty and we see that it depends on the ascending power (vibhuti) of consciousness and Ananda that expresses itself in the object. All is the Divine, but some things are more divine than others. 
Perceiving Art - Painting & Poetry
Art leads to the same end; the aesthetic human being intensely preoccupied with Nature through aesthetic emotion must in the end arrive at spiritual emotion and perceive not only the infinite life, but the infinite presence within her; preoccupied with beauty in the life of man he must in the end come to see the divine, the universal, the spiritual in humanity. 
Are there people who have not been affected by this vital impurity and who appreciate beauty in a subtle aesthetic way only?Yes, certainly. Artists who have trained their mind to a purely aesthetic look at beauty and beautiful things—for one instance. There are many others also, who have a sufficiently developed refinement of the aesthetic sense not to associate it with the crude vital wish for possession, enjoyment or sensual contact. 
The aesthetic and impersonal vision of things can develop into the sight of the Divine Beauty everywhere which is in its nature entirely pure. 
Appreciation of poetry is a question of feeling, of intuitive perception, of a certain aesthetic sense, it is not the result of an intellectual judgment. 
How Can One Cultivate Aesthetic Sense?
There must be order and harmony in work. Even what is apparently the most insignificant thing must be done with perfect perfection, with a sense of cleanliness, beauty, harmony and order. 
Take a great musician; well, even with a wretched piano and missing notes, he will produce something beautiful; but give him a good piano, well-tuned, and he will do something still more beautiful. The consciousness is the same in either case but for expression it needs a good instrument—a body with mental, vital, psychic and physical capacities. (The Mother, 15 January 1951) 
Intellectual or aesthetic delight can also be an obstacle to the spiritual perfection if there is attachment to it, although it is much nearer to the spiritual than a gross untransformed bodily appetite; in fact in order to become part of the spiritual consciousness the intellectual and aesthetic delight has also to change and become something higher. But all things that have a rasa cannot be kept. There is a rasa in hurting and killing others, the sadistic delight, there is a rasa in torturing oneself, the masochistic delight—modern psychology is full of these two. Merely having a rasa is not a sufficient reason for keeping things as part of the spiritual life. 
To accept the uglinesses of the lower nature under the pretext that they exist―if this is what is meant by realism―does not form part of the sadhana. Our aim is not to accept these things and enjoy them, but to get rid of them and create a life of spiritual beauty and perfection. That cannot be done as long as we accept these uglinesses. 
Pure sense of beauty can be acquired only through a great purification. 
Be sincere and absolute in your consecration to the Divine and your life will become harmonious and beautiful. 
In the view of old philosophies pleasure and pain are inseparable like intellectual truth and falsehood and power and incapacity and birth and death; therefore the only possible escape from them would be a total indifference, a blank response to the excitations of the world-self… In the freer and higher movements there is demanded of us only a limited and specialised equality and impersonality proper to a particular field of consciousness and activity while the egoistic basis of our practical life remains to us; in the lower movements the whole foundation of our life has to be changed in order to make room for impersonality, and this the desire-soul finds impossible. 
Devotion selects the emotional and aesthetic powers of the soul and by turning them all God-ward in a perfect purity, intensity, infinite passion of seeking makes them a means of God-possession in one or many relations of unity with the Divine Being. All aim in their own way at a union or unity of the human soul with the supreme Spirit. 
The eye of his will must look beyond to a purity of divine being, a motive of divine will-power guided by divine knowledge of which his perfected nature will be the engine, yantra. That must remain impossible in entirety as long as the dynamic ego with its subservience to the emotional and vital impulses and the preferences of the personal judgment interferes in his action. A perfect equality of the will is the power which dissolves these knots of the lower impulsion to works. This equality will not respond to the lower impulses, but watch for a greater seeing impulsion from the Light above the mind, and will not judge and govern with the intellectual judgment, but wait for enlightenment and direction from a superior plane of vision. 
Beauty does not get its full power except when it is surrendered to the Divine. 
(The Mother, 1 April 1953) 
(The Mother, 6 January 1951) 
First of all, to be in such a state of purity and beauty that you do not perceive ugliness and evil—it is like something that does not touch you because it does not exist in you.http://incarnateword.in/cwm/10/aphorism-49#p5The second step is to be positively conscious of the supreme Good and supreme Beauty behind all things, which sustains all things and enables them to exist. When you see Him, you are able to perceive Him behind this mask and this distortion; even this ugliness, this wickedness, this evil is a disguise of Something which is essentially beautiful or good, luminous, pure. 
"It is a pity my arms are too thin or my legs are too long or my back is not straight or my head is not quite harmonious", if one said: "It must be otherwise, my arms must be proportionate, my body harmonious, every form in me must express a higher beauty", then one will succeed… "Why! that disharmony I had in my face is disappearing; that sign of brutality, unconsciousness which was in my expression, it is going away." And then ten years later you don't recognise yourself any longer.
(The Mother, 17 June 1953) 
(The Mother, 18 April 1956) 
Let beauty be your constant ideal.The beauty of the soul
The beauty of sentiments
The beauty of thoughtsThe beauty of the actionThe beauty in the workSo that nothing comes out of your hands which is not an expression of pure and harmonious beauty.
Spiritual beauty has a contagious power. 
(The Mother, 31 July 1957) 
Copy many beautiful things, but try even more to catch the emotion, the deeper life of things. 
Why do you want to do the details? That is not at all necessary. Painting is not done to copy Nature, but to express an impression, a feeling, an emotion that we experience on seeing the beauty of Nature. It is this that is interesting and it is this that has to be expressed, and it is because you have the possibility of doing this that I encourage you to paint. 
There is, behind all things, a divine beauty, a divine harmony: it is with this that we must come into contact; it is this that we must express. 
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