What appears in the sky of this phrase is a photograph of a painting by Leonardo da Vinci called Salvator Mundi. An avatar of God mirrored by an artist who has been divinized by the History of our civilization. It is said that somebody has paid for this object 450 million dollars. Perhaps we are facing the most expensive bulk of matter in the universe. A painting. An outcome of something that we call “Art”: Matter transformed by the human hand, by the human heart: mutated matter willing to produce exceptional states of consciousness to those who observe it. [See “Matter”].
Art. My purpose is to approach this logical ballerina from two perspectives: metaphysical (philosophical) and physical.
From Metaphysics [See “Metaphysics” in Spanish] arise, at least, these questions: What is Art, what function does it have within the great dynamics of the whole? Is it possible to draw a model of totality big enough to grasp the phenomenon of Art? Is Art a crucial phenomenon, a privileged experience, to undertake a really deep and unfettered Physics, or Anthropology, or Biology, or even Theology, not limited by the rules of the current models that make their task easier and more communicable?
Besides, from the current (ever changing) models of Physics arise fascinating questions [See here “Physics” in Spanish]: How to visualize, from a radically physical, or materialist point of view, the phenomenon of Art: inspiration, creation, communication of the created, alteration of the state of consciousness of the recipient of the work? What is, purely physically, molecularly, even quantumly if you want, a work of Art such as Salvator Mundi of Leonardo da Vinci? How to visualize, simultaneously, how to introduce in a single system, the creator of that work, the work itself -vibrant, bewitching, being not exactly from this world- and its receiver, me for example? Or, to put it more bluntly: What happens to matter, to my matter (the matter of my brain and of my skin if you want) when I am taken, physically, by that artificial being created by Leonardo da Vinci?
At this point, I would like to recommend some readings:
1.- Plato. I recommend reading all his works as many times as possible, even if you don’t share his ideas (actually I do not share many of them). The rejection of Art. According to Plato, the Demiurge (the creator of this world) is a failed craftsman. Human artists in the world are even worse than the Demiurge: they provide copies of copies of the eternal ideas, only accesible if we get out of the world, of the cavern, of the ignorance.
2.- Novalis. Read Novalis Werke. Gerhard Schulz (edit.). Munich 2013 (In German). In English I recommend: Mahoney, M.: Novalis. Philosophical Writings. Albany 1997. It is also a great pleasure to read this book of Rüdiger Safranski: Romantik. Eine deutsche Affäre [Romanticism. A German affair], Frankfurt am Main 2010. And you can read my post in Spanish about Safranski [here].
3.- Hegel. It is a surprising pleasure to read his work Vorlesungen über die Ästhetik (Lectures on Aesthetics). Don’t miss it.
4.- Schopenhauer [See here in German]. The artist copies ideas better than Nature; and offers to the human being moments in which he no longer suffers the torture of desire. Music as a copy of the heart of the world. The musician is the best philosopher because he can really communicate de essence of the reality.
5.- Nietzsche. Read The Birth of Tragedy. Do it.
6.- Simone Weil [See here in Spanish]. “The beauty of the world is the tender smile of Christ towards us through matter”. Read La Pesanteur et la grâce.
7.- Deleuze/Félix Guattari. The Philosophy as creation of concepts. Read What’s Philosophy? And you can read my post in Spanish about Deleuze [here].
And this is what happens in my mind if I let the logical ballerina “Art” dance inside it:
1.- The fundamental problem of the artistic phenomenon is that of creativity and, therefore, that of freedom. If individual freedom is logically unsustainable [See “Freedom” in Spanish], we can only think of a primordial artist, an omnipotence without essence (“God”, “Nothing”, whatever you want) acting through the hands and through the neurons and through the hearts of all possible human and non human artists. In the History of Art there are no absolutely creative and innovative moments: what is presented to us is a kind of millimetric evolution of aesthetic species, interpenetrating and fecundating themselves ubiquitously. Each artist is nourished by the environment, he adds small modifications to what others did, always within paradigms in which he can not help but drink… and be drunk by others, with the garden of his mind and his soul overpopulated with seeds which are brought by, lets say, not yet studied (or even considered) winds. It is difficult, or perhaps impossible, to see pure multi-individual creation. Leonardo da Vinci did not innovate. I was subjected to influences that could be visualized from a deterministic perspective. But there is, however, surprisingly, the phenomenon of inspiration, of sudden possession, which Hegel describes with mastery. It is a phenomenon beyond human control: it can not be started; it can not be stopped. We could talk about something like “Grace”.
2.- Leonardo da Vinci´s picture is, from a purely “physical” point of view, a bulk of Matter. Thus, the buyer of that sublimated bulk knows that he possesses, retains, a unique portion of the solid of the universe: a concrete trimming of that great fabric of atoms that, according to a simplistic but useful perspective, constitutes the cosmos. But we are told by the physicians that such solidity is only apparent, or “exterior” (it is something like a veil). Salvator Mundi might be boiling in that “nothing” that, just barely, tries to mathematise the current Physics. Salvator Mundi might be open inside, open to a physical dimension where you do not know very well if you can go on talking about “the physical” (the objective) or the “psychical” (subjective … human? Divine? … We get lost there). It may be accepted nowadays that the subatomic entities that constitute Salvator Mundi appear and disappear, change, exist and don’t exist… But, surprisingly, the picture of Leonardo da Vinci seems to remain the same, as if its matter, it’s physical flesh, didn’t change. But it does. Permanently.
3.- The previous thoughts oblige us to consider that a work of Art is an idea, in a Platonic sense (an archetype, an instruction to mold matter). The work of Art would be an idea, in principle immutable and inmaterial, that needs matter to exist. To live. We could say, in part from Schopenhauer, that the work of Art is a living being (permanence of form with permanent change of matter). This perspective is more evident in the case of music. The musical genius creates a way (an idea, instructions if you want) to modify the natural vibration of the acoustic environment surrounding the perceiver. The musical work is not the score, but an idea (inmaterial, not yet belonging to this world) expressed in such score. And every time that idea is fulfilled, every time the matter is taken by the idea of the creator, the work of Art takes life, flesh: it finally becomes existence in the phenomenal world. It could be said that the ideas created by a creative musician can even transform the neuronal matter of a human being and, there, reach its plenitude.
4.- Art. Its very possibility poses a purely metaphysical question: Why does it exist at all? What ontological status does it have in the totality of the real? It could be said that there is something that supplies itself contents of consciousness from its infinite points. Such “self-supply” of artistic realities could explain the very fact of the existence of a world. Art, the work of Art, when it achieves its objective, generates plenitudes, moments in which an absolute yes, a yes more affirmative than Nietzsche’s own yes, echoes through all corners of the whole Being.
5.- From the deterministic materialism the phenomenon of Art appears like something really fabulous: a group of organized atoms (that of the artist) generates a law, or algorithm, able to modify the structure of their environment (think again about a musical work, or even of painting, which can be copied infinite times). And there is another group of atoms (the viewer of the work of Art) that perceives these programmed alterations of his environment, which in turn alters their own being (think of the rises in heart rate, the rapture, the loss of the ego-consciousness because of the excessive beauty of a painting, the quasi-lethal awe that can produce a poetic work or a song or a sculpture). Therefore matter, according to materialism, generates from itself forms of modification of itself, thus producing the glorious shudder of Art. It is undoubtedly matter (that divinity to which the materialists worship) a fascinating divinity. And it is also something utterly impossible to understand. I mean seriously understand.
6.- It is likely that we, human beings, when we die, we die of beauty. The less “ego-consciousness“ in the world, the more beauty surrounding (and being) the perceiver of that world.
7.- It is therefore necessary to make an equivalence between the rapture produced by the work of Art and death itself. The Stendhal syndrome would perhaps be a convulsion caused by an excess of Creation: something like if God, the Creator, had gone too far with his Creation. In fact, the Creation can be only for himself. It is logically impossible to overcome radical metaphysical monism.
8.- Some years ago I taught in Madrid a course entitled “Masterpieces of philosophical Art” because I thought we could contemplate the great philosophical systems as works of Art, not only poetic, but also architectural: great buildings of concepts and words that (fortunately always unsuccessfully) claim to mirror the totality. Some of them, nevertheless, not only offer huge logical and grammatical beauty, but also windows, huge windows, and even vertiginous spaceships, to approach and somehow feel the unsayable. Those philosophical systems are true unlimited jewels whose mere contemplation (study) offers one of the most sublime human experiences.
Schopenhauer offered one of those huge systematic jewels; and he affirmed that music, the music of genius, expresses directly the essence of the world: what moves everything that moves inside the world (its intimate heart, so to speak). In the video that I offer below you can see, therefore, the open heart of the world, like if it were lying on a surgery table. In that video we can also see a master piece of Music embodied, taking the matter of a group of human beings, yearning to be, to have, life in their flesh. I suggest to contemplate the video keeping in mind the Schopenhauerian idea that in alive beings takes place a constant change of matter with maintenance of the form. I would like you to see that living being that is Bach’s St Matthew Passion taking the matter of a coordinated group of human beings: moving the muscles of their faces, of their hands, drawing predetermined neuronal connections in the immensity of their brains… You may have a wonderful and terrifying vision at the same time: a living being (created, not on freedom, by Bach) living inside another: a cathedral, which is another work of Art, another bulk of matter taken by the idea of an artist (remember that a cathedral is being permanently restored following a model, an arquitectural idea created by a human artist).
I beg you to contemplate simultaneously those two living beings that were created (not on freedom) by artistic human beings. One inside another: a master piece of music existing for a while inside a master piece of architecture. And all that, inside many other (invisible) artistic structures that form the whole Creation, or the whole Reality if you want, which is, anyway, something glorious. The recording belongs to the Brandenburg Consort.
* You can find a brilliant debate about art and morality in this conversation between Hanno Rauterberg and Yves Bossart broadcasted (in German) by SRF: [Should art be politically correct?].