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The Transcendentals

“Beautiful shines a spirit through the bruteness and toughness of matter.” (Emerson)
The timeless and universal aspects of life are known as beauty, truth, and goodness. They are endowed properties of all beings, some more than others. In mortals, they are sprinkled in just enough quantity to preserve and leaven the whole, but not nearly enough to straighten the irregular timbers of humanity wholesale. Known as the “transcendentals,” they are among the deepest realities that reflect their divine origin in unity and Light. Substantive to our better nature, all three members of this embodied trinity rivet the eye, attention, and/or admiration when encountered, and help unite people across time and culture. Like the facets of a diamond, in discussing one the others are naturally brought into the conversation.

These divine facets of Light correspond to the three aspects of the field of human interest, and the aims of all progressive education: science (truth), the arts (beauty), and religion (goodness). The philosophical disciplines that study them are logic, aesthetics, and ethics, respectively. Divinity is itself all three virtues and more, diffused and splashed onto the canvas of space-time, offering shimmering flashes of themselves everywhere.

A sacred condition of the heart, goodness is found in various degrees of wattage, as if on a dimmer switch. Goodness also describes foodstuffs, particularly delicacies, as most everyone first eats and drinks with their eyes. The same cannot be said of truth, in greater scarcity than goodness nowadays, relativized by media-conditioned minds to suit the subjective palette of each. Beauty, however, is always in vogue, most brilliantly jeweled in nature. Blasted with an excess of light, nature displays Light’s fiery presence in her figure and form everywhere.

Sadly, all three universal virtues want for the kind of constancy, prevalence and frequency that would make for a better world, and so cannot be directly grasped, firmly held or instantly instilled. We can’t get at them. Referring to some purer state of sensation or existence, they defy all attempts at appropriation and use. They make the beholder feel unworthy. Like any commodity, scarcity creates an increase in their value. Hidden in the enclave of matter, they are to be glimpsed obliquely, like an evanescent rainbow, the iridescent plumage of hummingbirds, or green-necked mallards. One must catch the proper angle of their refracted light at just the right moment. And even then, only with the fastest shutter speed and briefest exposure granted to the naked eye.

Review & Commentary