Art as a Manifestation of the Sacred

Şerife Göktaş
6 minutes

The search process begins with the arrival of human beings on earth. In this world, which is also called the realm of multiplicity, human beings long for where they come from, their essence, their original homeland, the whole of which they are a part. Throughout his life, consciously or unconsciously, he is always searching for his essence, his truth. As a result of this quest, throughout history, human beings have always questioned what their existential source is, where they come from, where they are going, and what the purpose of life is.

Religion is one of the most important phenomena that emphasizes the existential quest of human beings. Through religion, man has tried to make sense of his temporary life by establishing a relationship with something more permanent than himself. Religion, a phenomenon unique to human beings, makes their life in this mortal world more meaningful and livable. Looking at all societies that have lived throughout history, it can be seen that elements that can be considered religious have shaped their lives.

The essence of all forms of religion is the “sacred”. The sacred is an important phenomenon for people who identify themselves as religious. Sacred is defined as an object or event related to religion and spirituality, something that is consecrated, pure, free from all deficiencies and revered. The sacred is the foundation of all religions. Man’s contact with the sacred is the essence of his religious experience. The fact that objects, time, space and even people are considered sacred is related to the fact that the sacred suddenly reveals itself through these things.

The historian of religions Mircea Eliade places the concept of the sacred at the center of his work. According to him, man becomes conscious of the sacred because the sacred manifests itself differently from the profane (profane, non-religious). Eliade says that the history of all religions, from the most primitive to the most advanced, is the accumulation of manifestations of the sacred through revelations of sacred truths. For human beings, reality and being emerge where the sacred is revealed.

According to Eliade, the sacred is a superordinate element that binds all religious elements to itself, and it always emerges through things. Eliade uses the term “Hierophany” to express the emergence of the sacred in the profane. Hierophany is derived from the Greek words hiero (sacred) and phanein (to show). The sacred can manifest in a stone or in a person. In each case hierophany refers to the emergence of the sacred. The Divine has the potential to manifest in everything. It can manifest itself in any form. It may appear through objects, myths, or symbols, but it never reveals itself directly as it fully is.

According to Eliade, everything one organizes, feels, encounters or loves can certainly be a hierophany. Objects of hierophany have the potential to enable humans to transcend the profane and come into contact with and benefit from the sacred.

Seyyed Hossein Nasr, one of the important representatives of the traditional school, also known as the traditionalist school, defines the sacred as the manifestation of Being in becoming, of the Bâki in the mortal. According to Frithjof Shoun, one of the representatives of the school, the reflection of the sacred Immutable on the changeable is the intervention of the uncreated on the created. God is essentially one and holy. From this perspective, it is possible to think of God as the only holy and His manifestation as the manifestation of the holy. In this respect, the experience of the sacred not only enables us to grasp what is revealed through manifestation, but also to discover what is permanent in all things. In this way, man is freed from being a prisoner of temporary beauty and experiences permanent beauty. From the traditional perspective, the sacred is an echo of God to remind man of his divine origin.

If the sacred has the potential to manifest in everything, can art be one of the channels of manifestation of the sacred? Undoubtedly yes. One of the ways in which the sacred is expressed is through art. Hegel defines art as “opening the veil of truth”. From the point of view of the traditional school, art as a whole is a means of enjoyment. The artist is the one who makes the sacred visible in this world, who creates a new whole by combining the world and the sacred. The philosopher of religion Gerard van der Leeuw puts the concept of beauty at the heart of the relationship between art and the sacred and states that the artist is God’s representative on earth. Mahmut Erol Kılıç also states that the first point of departure of an act of art is a metaphysical event. Kılıç says that a work of art is actually a labor, an effort and a contribution on the path towards finding the Beautiful Beauty.

The traditional approach treats the work of art as a materialization of the divine power that surrounds and permeates us from all sides. According to this approach, the experience gained through the sacred work of art is the feeling of God’s presence in all things. From this point of view, art as a whole is a means of revelation. The artist is the one who makes the sacred visible in this world, who creates a new whole by combining the world and the sacred.

In Eastern thought, metaphysics and art are intertwined. The artist must identify with God or sacred objects through aesthetic experience before creating his work. So he must have some kind of metaphysical experience. For this reason, Frithjof Schuon argues that artistic creativity must have a spiritual content and says that the elements of beauty are pleasurable in the sense that they come from truth. A work of art created from this perspective reminds us of where we come from, of the truth we seek, of our homeland. There are many artists in history who have produced such works. Even centuries later, these artists remain relevant and continue to deeply affect people with their works. Mimar Sinan, Goethe, Yunus Emre, Itri, Tarkovsky and many others.

This article seeks to understand the place and function of art in the human search for truth. In the following articles, starting with cinema, we will try to look at the place of art branches such as poetry and music in this journey.

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