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Art - Connecting Science And Religion

( Originally Published Early 1900's )

The moment that thought transcends the sphere possible to knowledge, it gets out of the sphere of science. But, when it gets out of this, what sphere, so long as it continues to advance rationally, does it enter? What sphere but that of religion? And think how large a part of human experience experience which is not a result of what can strictly be termed knowledge—is contained in this sphere! Where but in it can we find the impulses of conscience, the dictates of duty, the cravings for sympathy, the aspirations for excellence, the pursuit of ideals, the sense of unworthiness, the desire for holiness, the feeling of dependence upon a higher power, and all these together, exercised in that which causes men to walk by faith, and not by knowledge? The sphere certainly exists. Granting the fact, let us ask what it is that can connect with this sphere of faith the sphere of knowledge? Has any method yet been found of conducting thought from the material to the spiritual according to any process strictly scientific? Most certainly not. There comes a place where there is a great gulf fixed between the two. Now notice that the one who leads the conceptions of men across this gulf must, like the great Master, never speak to them without a parable-i. e., a parallel, an analogy, a correspondence, a comparison. Did you ever think of the fact that, scientifically interpreted, it is not true that God is a father, or Christ a son of God, or an elder brother of Christians, or the latter children of Abraham? These are merely forms taken from earthly relationships, in order to image spiritual relationships, which, except in imagination, could not in any way become conceivable. This method of conceiving of conditions, which may be great realities in the mental, ideal, spiritual realm, through the representation of them in material form, is one of the very first conditions of a religious conception. But what is the method? It is the artistic method. Unless this could be used, science would stop at the brink of the material with no means of going farther, and religion begin at the brink of the spiritual with no means of finding any other starting-point. Art differs from both -science and religion in cultivating imagination instead of knowledge, as does the one, and instead of conduct, as does the other. But notice, in addition to what has been said of its being an aid to science, what an aid to religion is the artistic habit of looking upon every form in this material world as full of analogies and correspondences, inspiring conceptions and ideals spiritual in their nature, which need only the impulse of conscience to direct them into the manifestation of the spiritual in conduct. This habit of mind is what art, when legitimately developed, always produces. It not only necessitates, as applied to mere form—and in this it differs from religion and resembles science—great accuracy in observation, but also, as applied to that which the form images—and in this it differs from science and resembles religion—it necessitates the most exact and minute fulfilment of the laws of analogy and correspondence. These laws, which, because difficult and sometimes impossible to detect, some imagine not to exist, nevertheless do exist; and they give, not only to general effects, but to every minutest different element of tone, cadence, line, and color, a different and definite meaning, though often greatly modified, of course, when an element is differently combined with other elements. Essay on Art and Education.

Science has to do mainly with matter, religion with spirit, and art with both; for by matter we mean the external world and its appearances, which art must represent, and by spirit we mean the internal world of thoughts and emotions, which also art must represent. The foundations of art, therefore, rest in the realms both of science and of religion; and its superstructure is the bridge between them. Nor can you get from the one to the other, or enjoy the whole of the territory in which humanity was made to live, with-out using the bridge. Matter and spirit are like water and steam. They are separate in reality: we join them in conception. So with science and religion, and the conception which brings both into harmonious union is a normal development of only art. Idem.

A religious conception cannot become artistic until imagination has presented it in a form which manifests an observation of external appearances and an information with reference to them as accurate, in some regards, as are those of science. Nor can a scientific conception become artistic before imagination has haloed it about with suggestions as inspired, in some regards, as are those of religion.—The Representative Significance of Form, vi.


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