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The Secret of the Universe, by Nathan R. Wood, [1932], at

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The unvarying factors in human creative work—"Why are they?"—"Which is most vital?"—The problem of Æsthetics. "Where is beauty?"—"All are right"—The Formula of the Universe.

It is reasonable to ask, "Does the being of the Creator, which explains so much about His creations, and especially about that wonderful creation, man, explain the creative work of man himself?"

Certain factors are always found in all creative work of man. Always there is and has been debate about them. Why are they as they are? What is the principle of them all? What is the unity of them all?

And there is the further question. Which of these factors is the most vital? It is an endless question, pro and con.

The factors themselves are known to everybody. They are found in some degree in every creative work.

1st. The source,—the idea, the conception,—the ideal,—the inspiration.

2nd. The embodiment, the picture,—the poem,—the sonata,—the song, the statue,—the building.

3rd. The picture, poem, song, as it affects and moves others.

It is always these three factors, whatever the creative work,—whether Hamlet or a children's tale, whether the Last Supper or a sporting print, whether Tristan and Isolde or a folk-song, whether the seated figures of the Parthenon or a popular statuette, whether the Taj Mahal or a vine-clad hut,—always these three!

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Why are they as they are,—always these three,—the source or idea, the thing which embodies the idea, the thing working in the souls of others?

Because the universe is so. Because matter, and time, and man, and space-matter-time, and the process of existence, and the principle of progress, and the principle of reality, are so. Because the Creator and Ground of the universe, of space, matter, time and man, the Creator of the creative energies of man,—is God the Father, the Almighty Source,—and God the Son, the marvelous Embodiment,—and God the Spirit, who moves in the souls of men.


Which of these three factors in man's creative work is the most vital?

That is the basis of vast discussion. Whole schools of art have arisen from this or that emphasis upon one factor or the other. Whole schools of theory have hung on this factor or that. Which is the most vital factor?

Some say the idea. And truly we must have the idea. Without it there is but an exhibition of technique. We all know the things without an idea. The galleries of dead but unburied paintings. The machine-made popular songs. The verse which a generation ago was sounding brass and in this generation is tinkling cymbal. The endless streets of dull or smart complacency. We must have the idea, the inspiration.

But we must have power to embody the idea. Else it is not art. It is impulsive amateurism. Many fail in that way. We must have technique to embody the inspiration, in well-painted picture, in well-wrought poem, in well-woven sonata, in well-modelled statue, in well-proportioned building.

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But the picture, the poem, the song, the statue, the building, must touch and influence others. What matter how beautiful it is, if it has no spell for the souls which see or hear it! What use its power, its idea, its technique, if it leaves all other minds cold! We must have the idea,—we must have the technique,—we must have the instinct for other minds. The picture, the poem, the song, must live in other lives.

Which of these is most necessary? Which is most vital?

The answer lies deep in the nature of things. In the being of God,—the ground of the universe,—Father, Son and Holy Spirit are so deeply One that no one of the three can exist without the other two, and no two can exist without the third. The three dimensions of space are so much one that no one of the three can exist without the other two, and no two can exist without the third. Energy, motion and phenomena in matter are so much one that no one of the three can exist without the other two, and no two can exist without the third. Future, present and past, in time, are so much one that no one of the three can exist without the other two, and no two without the third. So also nature, person and personality in human existence are so deeply one that no one of the three can exist without the other two, and no two without the third. And so also it is of human creative work, that no one of the three factors in it can exist without the other two, and no two without the third. It is the unity of life, and all three are vital, for the three are one life. With any of the three lacking, there is no life and no art. The uninspired creation is dead from its birth. The inspiration poorly wrought out is an ambitious failure.

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[paragraph continues] The work of art which makes no contact with other minds might better have never been born. But when the three cooperate, there is life and victory. The inspired idea, the source,—working through the perfect embodiment, the visible, audible reality,—enters into its mighty influence, its living presence, in the souls of others,—and the Madonna di San Sisto, the Paradiso, the Missa Solemnis, the Winged Victory, or the Cathedral of Amiens, has fully come into the world.

The Problem of Æsthetics. Where is Beauty?

And this principle rises also into the realm of universal reality. It leads to the problem of Æsthetics, a universal problem, above and beyond all individual works of human creative art.

Where is beauty? In what does it reside? That is the problem of Æsthetics.

Some say that beauty lies in the ideal, the abstract, which the visible or audible object embodies. That is the view of the Platonist. He sees the ideal as existing in all its perfection, bright, ineffable, never wholly to be touched, above and before its appearance in any individual embodiment of it. This is what the Idealist holds.

Some say that beauty lies wholly or mainly in the object, the work of art or of nature, the statue, the symphony, the tree, the sunset, which we see or hear. That is what the Realist says. Beauty seems to him wholly objective. The ideal is to him something which we construct from the definite things of beauty which we see or hear. He is not sure whether the ideal truly exists. Certainly the specific thing of beauty is the most real to him.

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Some say that beauty is in the mind of the beholder or hearer. Certain things give him pleasure. Certain things give him delight. These he calls beautiful. Beauty then, he is ready to say, and to demand that we should admit, is in the mind of the beholder. It is a purely subjective quality. That is what the Romanticist may say. It is what the Pragmatist does say.

Which is right? Where does beauty reside? In the ideal? Or in the embodiment, the object? Or in the mind of the beholder?

Which is right? And what is the reason for it? All are right.

Beauty resides in the ideal, the abstract. We can easily test it. We cannot follow the processes of the Divine Creator of the sunset, the mountain height or the flower. But we can follow our own processes. The artist or the artificer who would create an object of beauty, a picture, a song, a sonnet, a vase, without an ideal glowing before him, a vision of what he would like to embody in his work of art, will fail to capture beauty and fix it there. Beauty dwells in the ideal.

And beauty dwells in the object which we see or hear. If it is not there, the beholder or hearer will surely never know the ideal which is dimmed and concealed by the unbeautiful work of art. The artist must have his vision, it is true. But he cannot show it to us except in the beauty of the work which embodies it. Beauty dwells in the visible object, the work of art or of nature.

And beauty lives in the mind of the beholder or hearer, and would have neither meaning nor reality without its place in the mind of the beholder or hearer. There must be the thrill. There must be the delight.

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[paragraph continues] There must be the pleasure. There must be the emotion. If there is nothing of these in any mind as it sees or hears the work of art, where for us is the beauty? How has it any reality? Beauty dwells in the soul of the beholder or hearer.

Beauty dwells in all three,—in the ideal, in the individual embodiment, in the mind of the beholder. And no one of the three can be the home of beauty or sublimity without the other two.

Why does beauty dwell so in all three: the ideal, the embodiment, the mind of the beholder?

Because this universe of beauty takes its character from the Creator and Ground of the universe, and reflects the beauty and sublimity of His being. He is the Ideal, the Father, the Source, revealed by the visible or audible embodiment. And He is the visible one, the Son, embodying the Father. And He is the Spirit, who moves in the hearts and minds of others. And all Three are One, in an infinite, intensive, almighty Unity.

Goodness, Truth and Beauty

These three ideals or facts mean much to many thinkers today. Here we see them in the forms of Ethics, Reality and Esthetics. Each of the three, Goodness, Truth and Beauty, is a perfect reflection of the Divine Triunity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

The Formula of the Universe

The universe of matter, and of time, and of man, and of man's creative work, and of sublimity and beauty, and of space-matter-and-time, and of the processes of

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existence, and of change and changelessness, and of reality, is one universe, truly a universe, with one pattern, one organic law, built in the likeness of its Creator,—Father, Son and Holy Spirit,—the Three in One.

And if to say that the universe reflects its Creator seems to any highly sophisticated mind too simple or too romantic, and something more abstract seems desirable, put it in this way!—that this which we have been discovering in one realm after another is clearly the formula of the universe;—and that this formula naturally and inevitably coincides with the principle of the being of God, who is the Ground of the Universe.

Next: Conclusion: The Secret of the Universe and the Riddles of the Universe