“When the soul cleaves to what is kindred to it, how can it turn away from what it loves to anything inferior? It will even resent its incarnate life, finding it a hindrance to the attainment of the beautiful. For though the intellect, while living in matter, beholds intelligible beauty but dimly, yet intelligible blessings are such that even a slight emanation from that overflowing beauty, or a faint vision of it, can impel the intellect to soar beyond all that is outside the intelligible realm, and to aspire to that alone, never letting itself lapse from the delight it offers, come what distress there may.” ~The Philokalia
Soul and Intellect
The fist thing that must be said about the quote is that the author seems to be confusing the soul with the mind (or intellect). Perhaps he was using intellect in a different way than we generally do today. In any case, the soul and the mind are not the same and only the soul witnesses that overflowing beauty. The mind knows of such things only when the soul links to it and shares knowledge with it as much as possible.
While “beauty” can refer to many things on many levels, it is clear in the quote that the author is talking about the Divine beauty of the spiritual realms. There are beautiful things on the physical level, but they pale in the light of the overflowing beauty of spirit.
Take, for example, the beauty of an earthly rose. While the flower is beautiful, and smells wonderful, that beauty is limited. It is limited by the nature of matter and by your own mind. While you are enjoying the beauty of the rose, some part of your mind is dampening that pleasure with the fact that in a few days the rose will wither and die. How much more enjoyable it would be if you knew that the rose would never fall, but stay the same forever. That is what spiritual beauty is like.
While there are no roses or puppies in the spiritual worlds, at least not as we see them here, there are things of greater beauty. And since the spiritual world is permanent, those beautiful things are eternal.
This overflowing beauty can cause you to “soar beyond,” as the Philokalia says. A brief glimpse of it leaves us wanting more. But that glimpse won’t happen until you awaken your spiritual faculties. But here is the good news.
Even though we can’t “see” the overflowing beauty of the spiritual, we have a memory of it buried deep within us. That memory of the world we lived in before occasionally pokes us and makes us ant to seek out that world. We may also get symbolic looks at it through dreams on occasion.
All of that can help us decide to do what is necessary to truly awaken those dormant faculties and get them operating fully while still on the plane of matter. And when we do awaken, we can soar beyond the physical to the spiritual realms which is our only true hope for eternal life in peace and health. Then one day enough of us will have awakened so that the entire planet can be returned to the spiritual levels from which it fell. That change is coming soon in cosmic time. But in cosmic time, “soon” could be next year or next century. Still, we should seek to bring that overflowing beauty into ourselves now, and not wait for the flood to decide to build a boat.