Lewis’ call to return to the doctrine of objective values was echoed in the 1970 Nobel Lecture on Literature by Alexandr Solzhenitsyn:
[I]f the too obvious, so straight branches of Truth and Good are crushed or amputated and cannot reach the light – yet perhaps the whimsical, unpredictable, unexpected branches of Beauty will make their way through and soar up to that very place and in this way perform the work of all three. And in that case it was not a slip of the tongue for Dostoevsky to say that ‘Beauty will save the world,’ but a prophecy.
Resounding at the height of the Cold War, Solzhenitsyn’s words served as an invitation to the world order of his day to reconsider the nature of reality in a way radically different than the coercion and manipulation inherent in political power. These words were a summons for the Soviet East and the Democratic West to remember an identity that both civilizations once shared but which had been in the course of the twentieth-century eclipsed by secular statism. Solzhenitsyn’s speech was a call for the world to return to Beauty, the effulgent or illuminative manifestation of the loveliness, the delectableness, the delightfulness of the True and the Good. For it is here, in the splendor of Beauty, that our ideological abstractions are relativized by a sacramental imagination that lifts us up collectively into an indissoluble union with the divine source of life. This, for Solzhenitsyn, is the redeeming nature of art through which, regardless of the secular eclipse of Truth and Goodness, Beauty still shines for all to see.
Lewis and Solzhenitsyn’s call for a return to Truth, Goodness, and Beauty is more relevant today than ever. If you have time, I would very much recommend your sitting through this hour-long lecture by Os Guinness entitled “Time for Truth: Living Free in a World of Lies, Hype, and Spin.” You will notice that he draws out profoundly the interrelationship between the loss of Truth and the encroachment of political manipulation.
And so, why do Truth, Goodness, and Beauty matter in politics? Simply stated: without them, there is no freedom. As Lewis observed profoundly: “A dogmatic belief in objective value is necessary to the very idea of a rule which is not tyranny or an obedience which is not slavery.”
Nothing less than our humanity is at stake.
This post is part of a series on Truth, Goodness, and Beauty promoting the release of my new book, Awakening Wonder: A Classical Guide to Truth, Goodness, and Beauty, available here.