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Titus Burckhardt: Sacred Art East and West

Titus Burckhardt: Sacred Art East and West
Photo: Kush-Beggi (Minister of the Interior); Photographer: Prokudin-Gorskiĭ, Sergeĭ Mikhaĭlovich, 1863-1944, Bukhara.



One of the fundamental conditions of happiness is to know that everything that one does has a meaning in eternity; but who in these days can still conceive of a civilization within which all vital manifestations would be developed "in the likeness of Heaven"? In a theocentric society the humblest activity participates in this heavenly benediction. The words of a street singer heard by the author in Morocco are worth quoting here. The singer was asked why the little Arab guitar which he used to accompany his chanting of legends had only two strings. He gave this answer: "To add a third string to this instrument would be to take the first step towards heresy. When God created the soul of Adam it did not want to enter into his body, and circled like a bird round about its cage. Then God commanded the angels to play on the two strings that are called the male and the female, and the soul, thinking that the melody resided in the instrument- which is the body- entered it and remained within it. For this reason two strings, which are always called the male and the female, are enough to deliver the soul from the body." 
This legend holds more meaning than appears at first sight, for it summarizes the whole traditional doctrine of sacred art. The ultimate objective of sacred art is not the evocation of feelings nor the communication of impressions; it is a symbol, and as such it finds simple -and primordial means sufficient; it could not in any case be anything more than allusive, its real object being ineffable. It is of angelic origin, because its models reflect supra-formal realities. It recapitulates the creation- the "Divine Art"- in parables, thus demonstrating the symbolical nature of the world, and delivering the human spirit from its attachment to crude and ephemeral "facts". 
(Titus Burckhardt)




Quote Source and Recommended Reading:
'Sacred Art East and West: Its Principles and Its Methods'
By Titus Burckhardt
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Defining the meaning and spiritual use of sacred art through its symbolic content and dependence on metaphysical principles, this work is wide in scope, covering Hindu, Buddhist, Christian, Islamic, and Taoist art.

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