Aesthetic Arrest



Arrest is a rather awkward word for the sense of stillness that comes over us when we are perceiving something beautiful.

"The aesthetic experience is a simple beholding of the object....you experience a radiance. You are held in aesthetic arrest." - Joseph Campbell.



This radiance, the perception of beauty, is regarded as a communication of the hidden power behind the world, shining through some physical form. I find this approach to stillness very interesting. What if in yoga, pranayama, and meditation, what we are doing is opening ourselves to the ravishing beauty of life and the universe? What if the stillness we crave comes as a gift from that beauty?

From an essay by Joshua Minton:

“Joyce defines proper art as that which does not pull the observer toward it or push the observer away from it, but rather holds them still in aesthetic arrest of the moment.

In this definition, if a work of art is true, it uses the forms of time and space in terms of contemporary life (people, objects, and their relationships to each other) to blow apart the illusory divisions that allow us to exist as individuals who are born from the great blank, grow old through similar stages of life, and die back into the great blank. And here we finally get to the Holy of Holies.

“The Great Blank is the space between thoughts and it is what proper art is concerned with--leading the individual observer back to The Mysterious Ground of Being. We are talking about a sublime and complete dissolution of the individual and collective ego into the great void of creative energy from which all life springs. All great art that has moved individuals, and hence the world, along from social epoch to epoch has been rooted in The Great Blank.”

When we are meditating, we have the opportunity to perceive the beauty of life at work - in us and around us, and the mind goes quiet in awe.