An Idealist Philosophy of Literature and Art

Art in all classical traditions was primarily supposed to depict only the ideal. So was literature. Even in Christianity, classical art and literature were limited to the depiction of holy themes. Art, music, dance, poetry, and literature in the Vedic system have been devoted almost exclusively to the ideal. But beginning with the 14th century in Europe, called Renaissance, art slowly came to symbolize the real world. Initially, Renassiance art depicted the beauty of nature and other aesthetic this-wordly objects. Slowly it began depicting reality instead of ideality. However, people still interpreted art and literature as the ideal rather than as the real. By this interpretation of reality as ideality, the standard for the idea was lowered. As people emulated this lowered standard for ideality, it further lowered the reality, which was then depicted in art, which was intepreted as the ideal, and resulted in an even lower reality. The realist themes of art, music, dance, poetry, and literature contributed to social degradation as creators were inspired by reality but their creations were treated as the ideal. What is it about art, music, dance, poetry, and literature that makes it ideal in the minds of people even when the inspiration for that work may be a despicable reality?

There is a well-known distinction between form and content. The content can be truth, right, and good (or its opposite) while the form can be beauty, independence, power, wealth, and fame. Together, form and content constitute six attributes of God but content (i.e., truth, right, and good) is the primary attribute while form is secondary.

However, the soul enters the material world because of its rejection of the truth, right, and good content and an appreciation for beauty, independence, power, wealth, and fame. By its natural attraction toward form over content, it equates anything that has a good form to the truth, right, and good, although it is contrary to God’s nature.

Since antiquity, art, music, dance, poetry, and literature have been glamorized along with their creators. Artists, musicians, dancers, poets, and literatuers become rich, famous, and powerful. Actors who are also beautiful become incredibly famous, rich, and powerful. There is a natural tendency in the human mind to glamorize creators, make them famous, rich, and powerful, and allow them to shape human society. They don’t worry about the content underlying that glamor. They just glamorize the form.

Thus, when glamor exists without content, it is elevated to the truth, right, and good, accepted as the ideal for the whole society, and is emulated by ordinary people, thereby further lowering the standard for the ideal. A vicious cycle of inspiration from reality followed by the lowering of reality is thus produced by realist inspirations.

Nature has a lot of serenity, beauty, and order. However, people within an industrialized society are not surrounded by nature. They are rather surrounded by high-rise buildings, machines, city landscapes, trains, airplanes, and cars. An artist looks for inspiration from his or her surroundings. He finds something quite different from nature and presents it through his art, music, dance, poetry, and literature. People who consume this content then glamorize it and it becomes the ideal, even if it has no truth, right, or good in it. The non-ideal is elevated to the status of the ideal.

Traditionally, great stories of heroic struggle were narrated in society to bring ordinary people closer to their heroes. The term hero-worship itself indicates that people thought of the hero as a role model. But if that hero is an expert thief stealing from a bank or involved in an art heist, people don’t stop glamorizing the hero. The fact that such activities are illegal and morally despicable doesn’t deter them. They still glamorize the hero because he is shown to have power, wealth, power, beauty, and independence. So what if he is a liar, cheat, thief, manipulator, and debauch?

Movie actors, rock stars, and popular novelists have attained cult status in society. In the modern era, technologists such as Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and Elon Musk have ascended to super-stardom because their creativity is elevated to the ideal and gives them a heroic status. People are attracted to the forms and disregard the content. Politicians constantly stay in the news even if they doing despicable things. Social media influencers produce despicable content and get millions of followers. The race to be beautiful, powerful, famous, rich, and independent without any truth, right, or good in it is all-consuming. The race entices and enamors almost everyone at present.

These creators are aware of their power over people. But they are not aware of their responsibility toward people. They use their power over people to advance their personal agendas which is simply more stardom. They neglect the truth, right, and good, because for a long time now the philosophy of art, music, dance, poetry, and literature has been guided toward realism rather than toward idealism. By neglecting their duty to lead society toward the truth, right, and good, they degrade everyone.

Therefore, it is important to understand that all creativity comes from God and He creates infinite forms of ideal truth, right, and good. He even creates the soul with the capacity for truth, right, and good and the choice for the ideal truth, right, and good. However, the nature of choice is that it can even choose the non-ideal. When that choice is made, the truth, right, and good are disregarded while the other attributes of God are used to acquire wealth, fame, power, independence, and beauty.

The truth, right, and good is beautiful, but the beautiful is not truth, right, and good. The truth, right, and good is powerful, but the powerful is not truth, right, and good. The truth, right, and good is famous, but the famous is not the truth, right, and good. The truth, right, and good is independent, but the independent is not truth, right, and good. The truth, right, and good is wealthy, but the wealthy is not truth, right, and good.

A non-binary logic is involved between form and content. An attractive form can be attached both to truth, right, and good and their inverse. When forms are attached to the inverse of truth, right, and good, then the attachment is temporary. People make heroes, who then break their hearts and minds. Then they move to another hero who also breaks their hearts and minds. By successive acceptance of successful people as heroes, the tendency to seek success and disregard the truth, right, and good is normalized. Society decays and dies because of elevating form over content.