06 August 2010

All Art is a gift of the Holy Spirit.

Recently, I've been involved with an initiative to build capacity for integrating the arts into Baha'i study circles. The vision we have been developing of the role of beauty in our lives and the process of community building unfolding at the grassroots has filled me with a fresh boost of joy and optimism about the direction of the Baha'i world. After doing some creative writing inspired by the House of Justice's recent Ridvan message, we briefly explored some concepts from the Baha'i Writings. I'd like to share some of the thoughts we have shared in our group. To a great extent, they crystalized and have entered into our shared vision through the study of the first two sections in Unit 3 of the seventh book in the Ruhi sequence of courses, the unit entitled "Promoting the Arts at the Grassroots."

In a passage translated for the compilation The Importance of the Arts in Promoting the Faith, 'Abdu'l-Baha writes,
All Art is a gift of the Holy Spirit. When this light shines through the mind of a musician, it manifests itself in beautiful harmonies. Again, shining through the mind of a poet, it is seen in fine poetry and poetic prose. When the Light of the Sun of Truth inspires the mind of a painter, he produces marvelous pictures. These gifts are fulfilling their highest purpose when showing forth the praise of God.
If art is a gift of the Holy Spirit, then certainly it has a prominent role to play in the spiritual development of any individual. Worship, sacrificial service to others, and the attainment of knowledge are all activities that call forth the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Inasmuch as it makes manifest the influence of the Holy Spirit, the arts can enhance acts of worship, give an added boost to the spirit that animates a life of service, and can assist us in the understanding and internalization of intellectual concepts. This means that we should not think of artistic creation as something to be done on the side or as merely for the purpose of entertainment. It must be woven into and play an integral role in the process of moral and spiritual empowerment. One implication of this is that art must be woven into study circles through many small ways, rather than just through ambitious projects that require putting the group's studies on hold.

We also discussed the spiritual condition that should surround our activities. If the animating power of  artistic creation comes from God, then the process of creating and performing art must be approached with the same posture of detachment and reliance upon God that characterizes other forms of spiritual activity. Just because I have been involved in the creation of something very beautiful does not give me license to boast or give way to egotism. Rather, our glory is the glory we receive from God and belongs to God. The most we can say is that through our volition, God has found a willing instrument with which to beautify his creation.

1 comment:

  1. oh, I like that bit about egoism. Also An in interesting thought, that art is fulfilling its highest purpose when praising God, how does social action fit into that?