“The voice of our age seems by no means favorable to art, at all events to that kind of art to which my inquiry is directed. The course of events has given a direction to the genius of the time that threatens to remove it continually further from the ideal of art. For art has to leave reality, it has to raise itself boldly above necessity and neediness; for art is the daughter of freedom, and it requires its prescriptions and rules to be furnished by the necessity of spirits and not by that of matter. But in our day it is necessity, neediness, that prevails, and lends a degraded humanity under its iron yoke. Utility is the great idol of the time, to which all powers do homage and all subjects are subservient. In this great balance on utility, the spiritual service of art has no weight, and, deprived of all encouragement, it vanishes from the noisy Vanity Fair of our time. The very spirit of philosophical inquiry itself robs the imagination of one promise after another, and the frontiers of art are narrowed in proportion as the limits of science are enlarged. The eyes of the philosopher as well as of the man of the world are anxiously turned to the theater of political events, where it is presumed the great destiny of man is to be played out. … I hope that I shall succeed in convincing you that this matter of art is less foreign to the needs than to the tastes of our age; nay, that, to arrive at a solution even in the political problem, the road of aesthetics must be pursued, because it is through beauty” ~Frederich Schiller
Spirit of Art
Schiller is correct in saying that real art is as much a spiritual thing as it is a physical one. Art that simply reflects the status quo of a materialistic society is not really art at all but simply a form of newspaper. Art needs to be more than a mirror reflecting what is around it. While such art can be useful in making us see things about ourselves that we don’t want to face, it has to be spiritual art, at least a little, when it does that.
Spirit of Art in Architecture
When the ancients designed buildings they often followed spiritual principles. They were built to be in harmony with man and nature. They were designed to stimulate spiritual thoughts and ideals. Awakening the spirit and soul was too much to ask of them, but they were one of many tools that aided that process. The great buildings of ancient Greece and classic Egypt are among the best examples of spiritual art in architecture. Today, however, architects are more concerned with showing off how they can stretch the limits of design and function with modern technology. There is nothing wrong with the technology, but it would be better utilized to make buildings that are harmonious and spiritually stimulating.
Spirit of Art in Painting and Sculpture
What I said about architecture applies as well for the fine arts of painting and sculpture. There are some differences. Many jump to the conclusion that classical realism is the only art that can be spiritual art. Actually, abstract art can be just as spiritual. It has to do with the emotions evoked by the work. Some art that is classic and realistic is nonetheless materialistic. But abstract art that makes you feel happy, peaceful, or generous is spiritual art even if it is so abstract that you have no idea what it symbolizes. Sometimes, the spirit of art is found in these works because the artist is a spiritual person. In other cases, it is only because the artist has a muse that is either a spiritual person or an actual spirit.
Spirit of Art in Music and Poetry
Probably the art in which spiritual art is most obvious is music, closely followed by poetry. Poets such as Rumi, Kahlil Gibran, and William Blake were as much spiritual teachers as they were poets. You find quotations from Rumi frequently being posted as memes in spiritual groups on social media. In music, most classical composers wrote works that can be considered spiritual art. In some cases, they knew that it was spiritual, in others, they were simply following the conventions of good form and harmony that automatically results in following the spirit of art. But spiritual music can be found in other genres, though it is not as common. Some may think that the religious songs of gospel must be spiritual art, but most of it isn’t. On the other hand, even rock, country, and folk music are, on rare occasions, following the spirit of art by composing works that follow divine proportion and harmony. The words of a song can help as well, but the spiritual component is mostly in the harmony of the music.