Saturday, February 12, 2005

Rev. Wayne Plumstead Writes on the Aesthetics of Religion

Over the years I have had many conversations with Rev. Wayne Jack Plumstead of the United Methodist Church. How he sees the aesthetics of religion is important in the history of religious thought. The junction of religion and art is a deeply traditional junction, honored by people for thousands of years. There is religious painting in the Sistine Chapel and in the spacious underground temple chambers of the Hopi in Oraibi, New Mexico; religious dancing not only among the ancient Greeks but among the ancient San people of the Kalahari Desert, South Africa; religious singing not only in Irish monasteries of the 14th century but Egypt, the Congo, India, China, Tibet since time immemorial.

And yet what Reverend Plumstead says about the relation of religion and aesthetics is new. In his education with Eli Siegel, the founder of Aesthetic Realism, and with Ellen Reiss, the Class Chairman of Aesthetic Realism, Rev. Plumstead has been encouraged to see with ever greater width and and scope just how much that relation takes in.

To inform you as well as I can about his work, I place the following links on this weblog:

  • "How Much of the World Does Jesus Ask Us to Include?" by Wayne Jack Plumtead. This was published in The Circuit Rider, the national journal of the United Methodist Church.
    [Another link to this article is in the United Methodist Publishing House online index to the Circuit Rider.]
  • In his weblog, "The Aesthetics of Religion" Rev. Plumstead writes a message to his visitors which begins: "On this blog I will be posting writings of mine and others that tell what I have learned from the philosophy Aesthetic Realism, founded by the American educator and poet Eli Siegel in 1941, about the relation of religion and aesthetics. What I learned has revolutionized not only my way of seeing religion, but my entire life as well. I am pleased and very excited to share it with you all."
  • In an article announcing a Parenting Workshop in Bloomfield Life, Rev. Plumstead is quoted as saying that the panel of Aesthetic Realism consultants "will speak about what parents need to know in order to get the true respect of their children." -- A most crucial subject!
  • Also in Bloomfield Life, Rev. Wayne Plumstead writes about the student massacre in Littleton Colorado, under the title "Contempt Kills." Here he tells of the deadly effects of that lessening of other human beings, and the world itself, which Aesthetic Realism explains. And states: "I have seen vividly that no person can commit an act of violence against another if they see the depths of that person’s feelings as real as their own. " That kind of seeing--to see as real others' feelings--is one of the most essential things in successful art.
I hope everyone sees the immediate practicality of aesthetics for religion--in the striking meaning given to it by Rev. Plumstead.

Sincerely, Arnold Perey