“May You Walk in Beauty”

There is a customary blessing in some aboriginal cultures, perhaps the highest blessing, that runs: “May you walk in beauty”, and which probably is the meaning of “the Good Red Road”. And I want to speak to this in regards to a comment with which I left off yesterday’s post — that the “milieu” of the integral consciousness is the milieu of beauty. And this is, I think, what Daniel Kealey is finally leading towards in his quest for a valid ecological ethos in his Revisioning Environmental Ethics. I will also argue that walking in beauty was exactly what Nietzsche was aiming to express as living “beyond good and evil”.

There is, for example, a Navajo prayer I occasionally come across that speaks to the aspiration for integrality,

As I walk, as I walk
The Universe is walking with me
In beauty it walks before me
In beauty it walks behind me
In beauty it walks below me
In beauty it walks above me
Beauty is one every side
As I walk, I walk with Beauty.

And in this prayer you see reflected also what don Juan presented to Castaneda as the highest realisation of the warrior’s life, as following the “path with heart

“For me there is only the traveling on paths that have heart, on any path that may have heart, and the only worthwhile challenge is to traverse its full length–and there I travel looking, looking breathlessly.”

In Gebser’s terms, this path is the path of the “diaphanon“, the fully realised integral consciousness, which brings with it “the transparency of the world” or “diaphaneity”.

So, we will speak to this “walking in beauty” as the authentic milieu of the diaphanon. And in this respect I’ll want to relate that to what the Greek philosopher, Plotinus, intended to be understood as “contemplation” as the drawing out of the implicit beauty of reality, and his conviction that truth was realised in beautifulness. Beauty is, in turn, neither subjective fantasy (in the eye of the beholder only) nor an objective “fact”. It is a responsiveness of nature, and reality, to contemplation. And since beauty cannot be located solely in the “eye of the beholder” nor established as objective fact, it is the essence of what we call “spiritual reality”. To walk in beauty is to walk in spiritual reality, which is the “Authentic”.

Contemplation in this sense, is not rationality or rationalising mentation, but more closely corresponds to what we call “appreciation”. Appreciation is seldom used today to describe a mode of contemplation except perhaps in the phrase “art appreciation”, which is more contemplative than analytical or critical. Appreciation also has the more explicit sense of “gratitude”, and so is a “gracious” mode of attention or of thinking. Gratitude, graciousness, and walking in beauty, or traversing the “path with heart”, are conjoined in the contemplative or appreciative.

It is this kind of grateful and gracious thinking that Nietzsche calls “noble” — the appreciative. And against this kind of thinking as noble, he contrasts the “ignoble”, or ressentiment which he equates pretty much with “herd mentality” or “slave mentality” — ungracious, ungrateful, unappreciative. And he finds the root of this mentality lies in the merely moral interpretation of the world and nature. There is a great deal of truth in this. And it’s another one of the ironies of the “Little Pastor”, as Nietzsche was described in his youth, that he has support for this view in the Book of Genesis, where the “Fall of Man” from the Garden of Eden resulted from eating of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.

Before the moral interpretation of the world represented by eating the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, Adam and Eve walked in beauty, which, in Gebserian terms, would be closely associated with the “wholeness” of the archaic structure of consciousness. The moral interpretation of reality induced the explusion. It was the first act of vivisection, as it were, dividing Being in two and against itself, sundering the primal condition of wholeness, eventually leading to oppositional  dualisms of good-evil, subject-object, culture-nature, spirit-matter, ego-it, private-public, and so on and so forth. Aboriginal cultures, for the most part, have no such conception of reality. There aren’t any words for “culture” and “nature” or subject and object, for example. This mode of awareness or intellection is primarily contemplative/appreciative and aesthetic rather than moralistic — the ideal is to walk in beauty, and to walk in beauty is to walk in harmony with all. As ideal, though, it was something to be realised rather than something that existed, for reality was often at odds with the ideal of beauty. We don’t want to overly romanticise aboriginal life and culture. Walking in beauty was elusive, which is why you prayed for it, and wished it upon others. While we might say “peace be unto you” precisely because peace also is elusive, and precisely because we are not overflowing with peacefulness and peaceableness — in fact, just the opposite.

Nietzsche’s elevation of “gratitude” as the noble mode of thinking (against ressentiment) is not moralistic but aesthetic, as it is for William Blake. Blake was no moralist. Beauty was his criterion for what was true and just, and the destruction of the beautiful by the “dark Satanic mills” — and the mentality that conceived of them — was the great sin.

I’ll return to this in terms of the alleged contradiction between “beauty” and “science” (or “truth”) that was interpreted as “the two cultures” by C.P. Snow, as a false dualism, something central to Gebser’s thinking about integral consciousness.

7 responses to ““May You Walk in Beauty””

  1. Wayne Ferguson says :

    Lovely… Resonates nicely with this poem that I have been reading yesterday and today — Quoting from “The Poem of the Arcana” — pages 279-280 of “The Noble Traveller, by O.V. de L. Miloszn — verses 25-31:

    25. When the spirit of purity and of obedience prompted the newborn Adam to rise from the ground so that he might bless the world’s beauty, our ancestor ‘felt he was the Universe’.

    26. Because the magic virtue of the first movement opened for him the fundamental notion–single and indivisible–of space-time-matter.

    27. Our Ancestor’s thinking was, then, the thinking of the Universe rather than that of man.

    28. By this thinking, by this awareness of Movement, Adam ‘situated’ his movement, his being, in relation to movement, to the being of the sun, the stars and the surrounding objects.

    29. For what we call thinking, both in its origin and later at various degrees of its evolution, is only a awareness and love of movement, and thus a pure determination of place.

    30. Adam’s thinking, the awareness and love of movement, applied itself likewise to situating each part of the Cosmos, the smallest and the greatest, through a relationship between the movement of this part and the movement of another. In this fundamental operation, Place, space, inseparable from the time-movement, became identical with a dynamic relationship, and the whole, grasp in its perfect simultaneity, its absolute instantaneity, produced Matter, magic substance of the world.

    31. In other words, in Adam’s thinking, all describable space–that is, all space susceptible to being situated experimentally in the numerical relation between galaxies, systems, worlds, and moving bodies in general–that describable space together with movement-time, form a single universal Body.

    The author provides extensive commentary on these verses on pages 323-327 of the same volume. The entire commentary (“Exegetical Notes”) on the entire poem (107 verses — p. 277-289) extends from page 291 to 400.


  2. Scott Preston says :

    Interesting. I’ll have to look into that. I’ve heard the name before. It does sound like a close approximate description of the archaic consciousness structure.

  3. abdulmonem says :

    This recall to my mind an invocation made by Mohamad after learning that god is light,
    Oh my god, put in my eyes light,in my ears light and in my heart light
    in front me light and behind me light
    above me light and underneath me light
    on my left light and on my right light
    give me light and made me light
    The path of knowing wisdom, balance, beauty,truth and justice, the path that can not be trodden, that can not be grasped and appreciated without light. The path of faith.
    I here like to seek the reason behind undermining the code of morality, since life has started with obey and disobey, also the reason behind invoking the universe, knowing that the universe can not respond without the permission of his master and why all this fear behind addressing god ( the light) directly in our dialogue while talking about the origin, the source and consciousness. There is so much in the world of the unseen that await discovery. God has made it upon himself to disclose his signs across both spheres that of the human and that of the world to show everyone that what the scriptures are talking about is the truth despite all the falsification imposed on them across the ages.

  4. Scott Preston says :

    I here like to seek the reason behind undermining the code of morality, since life has started with obey and disobey,…

    Simple, I think. All the moral haranguing, all the framing of life in terms of moral exhortations, has done nothing to avert civilisational catastrophe, and Nietzsche argues has very quite likely contributed to civilisational catastrophe. There is some disturbing evidence that this is true… in the case of “denialism” for example — that moral exhortations, effusions of righteous indignation and outrage, only entrench people in contrarian views, and make them not only more resistant to change but to become even more obstreperous and contrary.

    All the moralism did not save Christendom from itself and did not save the Ummah from itself. And if “the Spirit bloweth where it listeth”, then today it listeth in the direction of aesthetics and not morality. This doesn’t mean immoralism. It does mean, amoralism, as befits also the arational, aperspectival approach of Gebser.

  5. davidm58 says :

    “…And this inner vision, what is its operation?
    Newly awakened it is all too feeble to bear the ultimate splendour. Therefore the Soul must be trained – to the habit of remarking, first, all noble pursuits, then the works of beauty produced not by the labour of the arts but by the virtue of men known for their goodness: lastly, you must search the souls of those that have shaped these beautiful forms.

    But how are you to see into a virtuous soul and know its loveliness?
    Withdraw into yourself and look. And if you do not find yourself beautiful yet, act as does the creator of a statue that is to be made beautiful: he cuts away here, he smoothes there, he makes this line lighter, this other purer, until a lovely face has grown upon his work. So do you also: cut away all that is excessive, straighten all that is crooked, bring light to all that is overcast, labour to make all one glow of beauty and never cease chiselling your statue, until there shall shine out on you from it the godlike splendour of virtue, until you shall see the perfect goodness surely established in the stainless shrine.

    When you know that you have become this perfect work, when you are self-gathered in the purity of your being, nothing now remaining that can shatter that inner unity, nothing from without clinging to the authentic man, when you find yourself wholly true to your essential nature, wholly that only veritable Light which is not measured by space, not narrowed to any circumscribed form nor again diffused as a thing void of term, but ever unmeasurable as something greater than all measure and more than all quantity – when you perceive that you have grown to this, you are now become very vision: now call up all your confidence, strike forward yet a step – you need a guide no longer – strain, and see.

    This is the only eye that sees the mighty Beauty. If the eye that adventures the vision be dimmed by vice, impure, or weak, and unable in its cowardly blenching to see the uttermost brightness, then it sees nothing even though another point to what lies plain to sight before it. To any vision must be brought an eye adapted to what is to be seen, and having some likeness to it. Never did eye see the sun unless it had first become sunlike, and never can the soul have vision of the First Beauty unless itself be beautiful.

    Therefore, first let each become godlike and each beautiful who cares to see God and Beauty. So, mounting, the Soul will come first to the Intellectual-Principle and survey all the beautiful Ideas in the Supreme and will avow that this is Beauty, that the Ideas are Beauty. For by their efficacy comes all Beauty else, but the offspring and essence of the Intellectual-Being. What is beyond the Intellectual-Principle we affirm to be the nature of Good radiating Beauty before it. So that, treating the Intellectual-Kosmos as one, the first is the Beautiful: if we make distinction there, the Realm of Ideas constitutes the Beauty of the Intellectual Sphere; and The Good, which lies beyond, is the Fountain at once and Principle of Beauty: the Primal Good and the Primal Beauty have the one dwelling-place and, thus, always, Beauty’s seat is there.”

    – Plotinus, Sixth Tractate: Beauty
    From The Six Enneads, translated by Stephen MacKenna and B.S. Page

    • Scott Preston says :

      That’s the ticket. I think Kealey is on the right track here in his search for an basis for a valid ecological ethics, although I’ve interrupted by reading of his book to familiarise myself with Plotinus for the moment.

  6. abdulmonem says :

    Easy on me. The fault not in the moral code but in the human honest commitment to it or for that matter to any type of value including beauty. Essence can not be distilled in one concept , for each concept has its energy and life is a combination of energies, one and many, and we need not kill the many by the one for then we are sacrificing the truth that set free or the call to be perfect like the one in heaven or be good to share in his holiness. Life is an integration of concepts, integration of truth, beauty and goodness. Plotinus said it is the good that radiates beauty and warned against the eye that has been dimmed by vice. it is the discernment of the divine goodness in the eternal truth that is the ultimate beauty, it is the one source from which the many proceeds and to him all returns. When one becomes solitary one returns to the solitary to be unified with him in the sense of vision and not in the sense of touch
    , because he is untouchable. My purpose to know not to argue. At the end I like to say that truth is coherent. beauty attractive and goodness stabilizing and when this trio of the real are coordinated in the human experience, life expresses its fruition profusely.

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