Gothic Aesthetic

Mr. Baxter, in Chapter 5 of The Infinite Beauty of the World, suggests a contrast between the Classical view of reality and the twelfth century Christian view:

“…the disciplined philosopher sorts through the misleading plurality of the many to discover the single essence at the heart of all reality: ‘the Beautiful itself, absolute, pure, unmixed, not polluted by human flesh or colours or any other great nonsense of mortality’.”

p. 133, (here Baxter is quoting from Plato’s Symposium)

“Plotinus argued that the philosopher must overcome the many, peeling back layer upon layer until the inner core of reality is exposed…”

p. 133

“In this way, the ancients sought unity despite or beneath the deceptive diffusiveness of the visible world of multiplicity. In contrast to such ancient, purist, pagan images of reality ‘tapering’ off toward the pure and simple, is the Christians High of St. Victor and Bernard Silvestris’ celebrations of the multitudo of things in the world.” Baxter gives the example of how for them “the beauty of the world can be found in the extraordinary and generously diffused shapes throughout the world.” He says that for Bernard “the cosmos as a whole and in its multiplicity, must be seen as pouring forth from ‘primeval simplicity’.”

p. 134

“God is, Bernard says in an extraordinary statement, ‘simplicity fecund of plurality’. […] Whereas Plato and Plotinus discovered the One despite the plurality of the world, their medieval Christian successors cultivated the practice of looking at unity through multiplicity.”

p. 135

Fra Angelico, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons