Woman in Art/Chapter 1 - Wikisource, the free online library

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"The sixteen panels mark the evolution of law in human consciousness, Divine Law. The Spirit of Law. Law of Nature. Revealed Law, Law of Reason, Common Law, Law of Nations, and International Law. Each represents a different age, as the Golden Age: The Age of Israel—Moses and Commandments: The Age of the Beatitudes. Through the ages law is represented as a stream, ever broadening, ever stronger. Opposite Divine Law is Common Law, an apotheosis of Blackstone. Wm. Penn, founder of Pennsylvania, was a religious mystic, a great statesman and writer: a practical man of affairs, etc.

PART ONE

Development of Woman

CHAPTER I

Early achievements of the race. Religious instincts awaken. Nature feeds thought. Human effort develops soul. Essentials of development. Woman's unfolding.

Did the Why and Wherefore of all the art works and monuments ever find an answer to satisfy your mind? Did it ever occur to you that all that the future can have of the past is only what is preserved in libraries, galleries and museums—with a time-limit on those?

Man's achievements in architecture, mechanics, engineering, have crumbled and will continue to crumble. Look for Babylon; you will find it a pin point on the map—mere undulations on the plains of Shinar. Marvel at the monoliths of Thebes, Baalbec and Nineveh buried under wind-swept deserts. By what means were their ponderous tons lifted to such heights? There is no way to find out, save suggestions from crude pictures cut in stone—a crude art.

Europe is constantly building small sections into the mediaeval cathedrals that are her glory.

As far back as man may penetrate he finds—what? The remains of a prehistoric art. What does that art tell us? It pictures the religion of pre-historic man.

You say he had no religion? You do not know. There was the pressure of it, the longing for it in the undeveloped soul of primitive man. How do we know? Because man is made in the image of his Creator, and the Creator-God is spirit, and man is nothing when his spirit leaves the body. Another answer is because the poets tell us so. Is that not enough? Anthropologists, scientists of whatever name, have delved into enfoldments of earth, have brought to light bones of abnormal development, have matched them bone to bone, have handled many a skull of antediluvian age, with more care and question than did Hamlet's grave digger, but no secret have they yielded from their deep resting place; no word or sign of thought, creed, or achievement of their unknown race, nor hungers of the undeveloped soul.

But to prophets and poets of the past have been granted a deeper insight. With the eye of spirit and enlargement of soul, some have penetrated remote ages that nature has kindly cloaked, have caught and brought to light something invisible, but common to all mankind.

Poets nurtured in the free and expressive breadth of this yet new world seem to have caught whispers that trees and waters recorded from soul-breathings of far remote races and times, tuned and fingered by passing winds—uninterpreted till sensitive strings of the human soul sang the beauty, truth and hungers of other souls—other lives.

"Ye whose hearts are fresh and simple,
Who have faith in God and Nature,
Who believe that in all ages
Every human heart is human,
That in even savage bosoms
There are longings, yearning, strivings
For the good they comprehend not,
That the feeble hands and helpless,
Groping blindly in the darkness,
Touch God's right hand in that darkness
And are lifted up and strengthened."

Again, another poet of introspection helps us to realize that

"Longing is God's fresh heavenward will
With our poor earthward striving."

May not this longing have been the first teaching to the soul of man, and food for his heart and thinking mind, even as a child begins to think?

We come to a sculptured art in Hellenic Greece; what does it tell us? That their pantheon of deities was the fruit of their imagination and observation of nature, and their oblations and worship were given to phenomena of nature or fancied objects crudely made by their own hands.

Their religion was man-made according to their perceptions and inheritance of ideas from yet earlier civilizations, when humanity was emerging from mere physical into the age of mental development.

We come to the meridian in the historic world; what do we find? A new religion—revealed, evolved from a life. Unlike all other lives the Man is God-equipped in mind and spirit. He is the perfected man in character, our example, for we shall be like him if we will. He lived the principles, virtues and ethics that primitive man in his ignorance and semi-developed mind must have longed for, nor realized his longing; that the philosophers taught; that school men, in time, put into books.

This and more was manifested in the daily, helpful, loving life of Jesus of Nazareth, who, when He left this earth, bequeathed to humanity the precepts for spirit development, beauty of life, and happiness.

Art is an absolute failure if soul is lacking, for art is an expression of the soul of man through the medium of his choice, as the creature man is an expression of the Creator in the medium of his choice—body, mind, and spirit.

It is the spirit, the ideal that sets the value. Art, then, is a success in proportion to the soul equipment of the artist who conceives the idea and works it out, for character and art are inter-dependent and the subject no less than the worker must have its individuality.

A tiny boy expressed it as he watched his grandfather build a fire in the big fire-place. With arms folded behind him he soliloquized thus: "De thmoke make de blaze, and de blaze make de thmoke, and da boaf make each ovver—an' den dares a fire."

Fancy life to be a constantly unrolling tapestry depicting human development; through it runs the ever increasing thread of soul in the life of woman.

Saint Paul was a plain, practical man, and the only art he practiced, so far as we know, was that of tent-making. He lived in a time when civilization garbed itself in pagan splendor; when lustful pleasures were the religion of Greek and Roman; in a time when moral death masqueraded as life, flaunting itself throughout the exquisite world that sloped to the blue and sparkling waters of the Middle Sea. Paul lived when purity seemed to exist only in the air, vibrant with warmth and light, in the waters pulsating with dreams of color, and in gleaming marbles of Parian whiteness, that adorned the groves of Daphne, of Arcadia and the Isles of the Aegean Sea, and crowned with sculptured majesty Mount Olympus and the Acropolis.

Paul had keen insight, he saw beneath the surface. The beauty of holiness had been revealed to him in the way—so as by fire did the spirit-light of heaven enter his soul, as he entered Damascus, and at the bidding of the Spirit he set about shedding spirit-light in a world of spirit darkness.

It is hard for the twentieth century Christian to realize the moral darkness of the first. In those days woman did not count for much; an accessory to man's pleasure if she had a comely face and figure, a drudge or a thing loathsome if she had not, but for the most part a caretaker without appreciation or reward; ignorant of the germ of spiritual beauty within her being, except, perhaps, of "that nameless longing for something better than she had known," that longing which is the embryo of life, love, and immortality.

Paul labored and there flocked to hear him "of honorable women not a few"; and they, having gained through his teaching the secret of soul-development, of true peace that passeth knowledge, labored with him as only woman can when her soul is uplifted, and her heart overflowing. And he, the teacher of spirituality, of right living, imprisoned at Rome for the light that was in him, wrote letters to those new Christians in picturesque Greece and Macedonia, and embodied in one of those epistles the ethics of true beauty that will last through all time.

"Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report, if there be any virtue, if there be praise, think," (feed your mind and heart), "on these things."

Paul would train the daily thought of man, would give him food for growth of character, knowing that as a man thinketh in his heart so is he.

History tells us that since those words were penned in the Mamertine Prison nearly two thousand years have sped into eternity, but to this day they are the criterion of character, hence character-expression we call art.

Things lovely, strong, tender, and true have ever appealed to the heart of man. Every sound mind is susceptible to these influences, be it beauty of color, loveliness of face or flower, tenderness of action, strength of thought or purpose, nature's message or the message of God's truth expressed in the soul's output for the world.

Pictures that stand out as Kohinoors in the art treasures of the centuries have this hall-mark which we call feeling, for no language can express it. Being spirit it alone touches our spirit, nor hath need of words, "even as love is known of love, nor needs the sense of hearing."

As depicted in art from its most crude forms, representations of woman have registered for us the rise and fall of the peoples of earth. True, their methods and morals were crude, so were their perceptions and ideals. The adjuncts for a rounded character were there but undeveloped, untrained and lacking knowledge, unrestrained till law from Sinai said, "Thou shalt not," and gave humanity the ethics of morals; unspiritualized till Christ brought the uplifting spirit for the race and entreated them to love one another.

The unfolding of the spiritual in the merely physical man may seem slow, but wisdom dwells not with us. Time is man's gauge, not God's.

Woman as represented in art shows to a certain extent this unfolding. When man would aspire, would climb, he has, since the era of emancipation, rested the heaven-formed ladder of his desires upon the star of his ideal—woman's character.

You have watched the oncoming waves of the sea, the stronger absorbing the lesser, as they roll shoreward with an ever increasing volume and velocity. So with art if we could but draw the wave line of its progress. Gradually the ripples augment into waves, and each epoch of art is increased by the influence preceding, evolving a purity and beauty more worthy of art. Long ago art ceased to be mere picture making; it has a loftier mission in recording and gauging power, beauty, and the development and progress of humanity.