If I think of beauty, not abstractly, but actively or relationally, I begin to see how it may work. I can think of Beauty as a dynamic presence in relation to other things. ‘Beauty’ therefore is a dynamic noun. In this respect – I think it has more in common with the Name of God than with a mathematical proof.
Now the name of God is a strange, dynamic word. When God called Moses to tell the Pharaoh in Egypt to let his people go, Moses knew that Pharaoh and the Israelites would want to know the name of who sent him. God said: “I am that I am” or “I am who I am” (depending upon your translation). God’s name is more like a verb than a noun, a notion expressed by Buckminster Fuller’s proclamation, God is a Verb.
Of course God the divine Verb is the subject noun of Fuller’s sentence; he’s giving us a verb-noun, a dynamic. Such dynamic words like Beauty and Truth and God and Wisdom and Love
simply don’t fit in mental boxes; they can, however, help us climb out of mental rabbit holes.
So the grammar of beauty is complex. Dynamic nouns often relate to one another. When John Keats in Ode on a Grecian Urn says “Beauty is Truth, Truth Beauty” he creates a relationship. According to Keats, Beauty has its identity and being in relation to “Truth” – and “Truth” is what it is in relation to Beauty. That dynamic is like the African word ubuntu wherein human identity is created through relationship. Desmond Tutu says that ubuntu has to do with being connected to others, including nature and God. According to Tutu, “A person is a person through other persons. . . I am human because I participate . . .”
Like a person with ubuntu, Beauty participates in relation to other dynamic words and beings, as the heart, lungs, and brain interrelate to keep us alive.
In the Jewish Kabbalah, God can be seen as a great cosmic body, pervading and sustaining the universe by emanating ten attributes called Sephirot; Beauty, along with Wisdom, Kindness, and others, is always one of these attributes. The great 17th century mystic Isaac Luria saw that Beauty called Tiferet is the heart of the divine body. In Kabbalah Beauty does not exist separate from God and humanity and it is in an organic relationship with Wisdom, Severity, Glory, and other attributes. Like the heart, beauty cannot be or work in isolation. Like the heart and the lungs Beauty and Wisdom are integral to the life, which shapes and pervades all creation.
Similarly, in Eastern Orthodox Christianity, it is through Beauty that human souls participate in the Love and Truth and Wisdom of God. Many Orthodox Christians draw inspiration from the Philokalia, an anthology of writings collected