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the manifestation of a directing reason, must be such as the fullest consideration of the end to be attained, and the available means, will justify: that utility must appear efficient to the accomplishment of the conceived design : that proportion, being the measure of parts for effecting unity of design, must appear exactly adapted to that purpose : that all agreeable emotions are necessarily sources of beauty in their own right: and that by sympathy and association they often render other objects beautiful, which of themselves have no claim to such an honor. These, if correct, are fundamental rules of art. The subordinate and specific must be developed by more minute study of the several heads.
Now, if we compare together the items of this summary, we shall be induced to take another step in generalizing Sensations please by their adaptation to the physical organs—truth, because the mind entirely assents to it, as soon as all obstacles to the view of it are removed ; truth relative, resemblance, cause and effect, when best suited to their purpose of communicating information in stimulating and guiding the mind to the acquisition of knowledge ; unity and simplicity, design, utility and proportion, when most in accordance with the mind's organization and manner of working in the disposal of its knowledge, and, thereby, best adapted to aid its operations; and pleasurable emotions, for the obvious reason that they are perceived to be pleasurable.
Again, in looking over these results, we find one feature common to them all. They all have regard to correspondence immediately with some state of the mind, or immediately with the organs which it employs. And this, I think, is the only feature common to them all. Hence the conclusion, intimated at an earlier stage of our inquiry, but which is presented now in a more general form, that the beautiful (that is, the invariable intellectual antecedent of the emotion of beauty) is the mind's conception of conformity in objects to its own nature. This is the one gate through which all the avenues to beauty, infinitely varied as they are, must ultimately pass. The language employed in stating this conclusion is not capable of conveying all the meaning which it is intended to bear, to any except those who have followed us through the whole inquiry ; nor is it possible to adopt any form of speech which will do so to a mind not prepared by reflection on the subject. Whatever the human spirit perceives to be in accordance to its own states and order is, to it, beautiful; or still, in other words, what it perceives to give satisfactory delight, whether directly or by association.
The æsthetic mental process is entirely analogous to the moral, and the act of the judgment in the one case is as liable to err and as amenable to criticism as in the other; and if an error in the former is not followed by such severe penalties as in the latter, it is only because the interests at stake are not so vital. To the full extent of their importance ästhetic faults are punished as truly as those which are made in morals. It is not necessary to award them imprisonment or death, nor has the Creator attached to them the pangs of remorse ; but whoever commits them will certainly suffer in the diminution and lack of refinement of his own nature and enjoyments, and also from dissatisfaction and shame upon further experience.
As conscience is the rewarder and punisher of moral rectitude and error, so beauty is the supreme arbiter of all pleasure, enhancing all that it approves, delaying upon agreeable conceptions, and constituting an appropriate reward of every struggle toward excellence—the appellate court of happiness, approving of only the higher and purer of agreeable experiences, itself becoming the highest cause, while the criterion, of all delight. It is that faculty whereby we enjoy every form of the good and true, at once the pleasing guide to virtue and symmetry of life, and indispensable to our ideas of the divine perfections. Doubtless in the sight of God all creation is beautiful—because he has made it according to the purpose of his own will ; and to man redeemed in heaven this field of happiness must forever continue to expand, as his spirit grows into higher harmony with the divine mind; but while in this state of being we must continue to be limited to objects of which we can comprehend the excellence, and to excellencies we can appreciate. The beautiful of man consists of but glimpses into the beautiful of God-broken strains of the universal harmony—gleams of the perfection of Deity piercing the darkness of our ignorance and depravity-straggling rays from the daylight of heaven. Plato represented it as the remembrance of what the soul has known in a preëxistent state, while yet a resident of the regions of perfect blessedness, before its confinement in this material prison ; and the idea though fanciful, is evidence that he had truly apprehended the nature of that divine power whereby man is elevated so far above all his fellow inhabitants of earth.