Great Art Expresses Truth Through Inspiration, Not Intellectual Process

There is a well-known concept in law that “substance rules over form”.  The outer form may follow certain rules or guidelines, but it must also express the inner truth of the experience, relationship or event.  Similarly, the intellectual faculty can align itself with the artistic sense; yet when it does so, it tends to work on perfecting the technique and the representations of the outer form, while the inner soul, the spirit escapes the intellect’s grasp.  The greatest art comes about when there is inspiration driving the artistic expression — it can be of course greatly aided in that expression through a perfection of technique, but always the substance, the inspiration, the inner vision of a deeper truth, must be the guiding light of the artistic effort.

Sri Aurobindo observes:  “… great art is not satisfied with representing the intellectual truth of things, which is always their superficial or exterior truth; it seeks for a deeper and original truth which escapes the eye of the mere sense or the mere reason, the soul in them, the unseen reality which is not that of their form and process but of their spirit.  This it seizes and expresses by form and idea, but a significant form, which is not merely a faithful and just or a harmonious reproduction of outward Nature, and a revelatory idea, not the idea which is merely correct, elegantly right or fully satisfying to the reason and taste.  Always the truth it seeks is first and foremost the truth of beauty, — not, again, the formal beauty alone or the beauty of proportion and right process which is what the sense and the reason seek, but the soul of beauty which is hidden from the ordinary eye and the ordinary mind and revealed in its fullness only to the unsealed vision of the poet and artist in man who can seize the secret significances of the universal poet and artist, the divine creator who dwells as their soul and spirit in the forms he has created.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Human Cycle: The Psychology of Social Development, Chapter 14,  The Suprarational Beauty, pp. 138-139

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