Universal Brotherhood – April 1899


In order to be what people call an artist in our days, it is quite impossible to be anything else besides, because the public demands so much from an artist, that he has no time to devote to other things. He must, by disposition, be qualified for his art, work hard to become efficient and continue to work hard to maintain his efficiency. It is a pity that the public should be so very difficult to please and should look more to the way a work of art is executed than to the work itself, and thus push the artists off their true track and make of them slaves of public opinion. Would it not be better to listen to the composer than entirely to the performer? The execution must, of course, be rendered in a pleasing and comprehensible way, but it is after all only the garb in which the real thing is clothed. It is easy enough to talk about a singer or performer, but in order to understand the work of the composer a higher feeling and a finer taste are required. The aptitude for such an understanding constitutes the artistic disposition of the hearers. The same with painting and statuary, architecture and every art. Instead of looking at a picture as if it were a photograph, the harmony of color and form and the underlying idea should be studied. It is better to understand what a man says than how he says it; the external form is but the clothing of an idea.

In order to better understand the question it is well to try to define what art means. I consider it thus. It is the doing of a thing according to certain numerical proportions which are felt by the heart. It seems a daring proposition to exclude the intellect, but it seems to me that the function of the intellect is more of the order of explaining, discussing and imitating, but not of creating. The intellectual part in a work of art is more for the purpose of rendering it comprehensible to the public, which being thus gradually led forward may gain little by little the feeling which the artist had. If the intellect is used by the artist for other purposes it becomes an artifice and disfigures what it should have simply explained.

How now can that real feeling of art be cultivated by people? Works of art are almost everywhere, but the people should feel them rightly. Then if this feeling is awakened, the taste for sham art will gradually disappear, and with no demand for it, sham art and artificiality will become things of the past.

As the feeling for real art resides in the heart, it is only by cultivating the latter that art can be reached. How can we reach the heart? Which is the first step in this direction? Into a cold selfish heart, art can never enter. What else can set up the first vibration in the sleeping heart of man, but — compassion! It opens the heart's door, and then, and then only, the higher feelings of art may pass in and out. Compassion and Universal Brotherhood are one and the same thing, and we thus see the all importance of holding high the banner of Universal Brotherhood to the world, not only for the physical welfare of man, but also for the development of those higher faculties which lie dormant in the spiritual heart of every man worthy of the name.

Universal Brotherhood