Is there one beauty shining in a million different forms or are there millions of different beauties?
Where is that beauty now? Is it not everywhere, all around us?
Plato taught that there is only one beauty, beauty absolute. Whenever we see or apprehend beauty it is this single absolute beauty that is being experienced in a particular form, whether that form is physical or subtle.
In Plato’s dialogue “The Symposium” Socrates relates how he was taught about beauty by Diotima, the wise lady of Mantinea:
He who has been instructed thus far in the things of love, and who has learned to see the beautiful in due order and succession, when he comes towards the end will suddenly perceive a nature of wondrous beauty – a nature which in the first place is everlasting, knowing not birth or death, growth or decay; secondly, not fair in one point of view or foul in another . . . but beauty absolute, existing with itself, simple, and everlasting, which is imparted to the ever-growing and perishing beauties of all other beautiful things, without itself suffering diminution, or increase, or any change.
This deeper appreciation of beauty is always available, it is only a question of remembering and awakening to it. In this way, it is possible to transcend the physical and experience beauty at an altogether finer level. In doing so we experience ourselves at a finer level also.