This week I discussed how a spiritual soul can see beauty in things. All being is beautiful; even the most depraved person still has beauty due to being created in the image of God. On the other hand, a virtuous person possesses beauty to a greater degree than the depraved person. So, first, I am going to discuss a bit about what beauty is per se and then discuss how a virtuous person is beautiful.
St. Thomas famously discussed three attributes of beauty: (1) integrity, (2) harmony, and (3) clarity. Integrity is the wholeness of something. When a thing is everything it should be in itself and in relation to its completion (τέλος) then that thing has integrity. Integrity also extends to an ordered way of saying “I am being authentic.” In the case of the human person, this means being who God wants you to be. Harmony is the state where the parts of a thing are properly proportional. For example, if a house has a roof that is too large for its walls, the house would lack harmony and therefore beauty. Clarity is both how luminous and how arresting something is as well as what shines through that being.
Working backwards from the example of a virtuous person, it is easy to see that clarity is the most obvious attribute of beauty seen. A virtuous person, especially a baptized virtuous person, allows God to shine through in his or her words and deeds so that others may see God’s glory. The virtuous person’s faculties are properly disposed to the good, so the person possesses integrity. The virtues help keep the soul in order, and these powers help the person habitually act well. Consequently, the state of the soul is in harmony.
When I discussed in the podcast on metaphysical freedom about how a spiritual soul sees beauty, I explained a bit about beauty in relation to freedom and how seeing beauty in things is a sign of a spiritual soul, which is necessarily free. Only a spiritual soul can give itself completely, which is the highest sense of the word “love” (ἀγάπη).
Take a look around when you have some time, and find one thing you find beautiful. Notice the delight you have in it. That is a sign you were made to ultimately delight in the highest Good, God Himself.
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