Nine Ways to Embrace the Sublime

Written by Dennis Best

Notre_dame_paris-300x159 Nine Ways to Embrace the Sublime

Webster defines “sublime” as transcendent excellence, tending to inspire awe

The concept of sublimity in the modern world has been so removed that most people struggle with even understanding it. Webster defines “sublime” as transcendent excellence, tending to inspire awe usually because of elevated quality (as of beauty, nobility, or grandeur), and often of outstanding spiritual, intellectual, or moral worth.

Concrete evidence of this definition can be found in the spectacular uniqueness and beauty of the cathedrals, music, and art created throughout the Middle Ages. When one compares the superb and enduring craftsmanship of those times to the standardized utilitarian and disposable artifacts common to the industrial age, it is obvious that the pursuit of the sublime has greatly diminished.

RTO-mini2 Nine Ways to Embrace the SublimeFree Book: Return to Order: From a Frenzied Economy to an Organic Christian Society Where Weve Been, How We Got Here, and Where We Need to Go


Return to Order argues that this change of pursuits is largely a result of secularism: the belief that religion should not play a role in government, education, or other public parts of society.

Our country was founded as “one nation under God,” and recognized worldwide as a Christian nation of high moral integrity and prosperity. But, following World War II, there ensued a strong movement especially noted in the sixties to disassociate all public and government-sponsored initiatives from God (hence, secularism). On a more material front, the trials of the Great Depression and the War resulted in a national trend toward utility over beauty. Industrialization fueled this further by promoting standardization and lower costs over uniqueness and beauty. The pursuit of quality was replaced by the pursuit of quantity. Consumerism displaced notions of restraint and replaced them with a lust to have more, and the “shop till you drop” mentality. Garages across America turned from places to preserve and maintain automobiles into storehouses for unneeded junk. Greater value was given to cheap disposable items than to that which was enduring and beautiful.

Subsequently, appreciation and pursuit of the sublime dissipated, with severe consequences.

To understand these consequences, we need to understand that man was created by God, for the purpose of worshiping God, and to eventually achieve eternal happiness in heaven with Him. We are all born with this innate desire to seek Him, to strive to be in His presence, and to be loved by Him. To this end, God is the ultimate in transcendent excellence, the most awe inspiring, and the pinnacle of spiritual, intellectual and moral worth! He is the Model of what is sublime, and all of our natural longing for the sublime stems from our inborn desire to seek Him. Comprehending this ultimate truth allows us to easily understand why attempting to displace our zest for the sublime with a lust for the mundane will result in catastrophe.

Without elements of the sublime in our lives, a void or emptiness is created that diminishes our feeling of worth or value. Edmund Burke wrote that our reaction to the sublime is “the strongest emotion the mind is capable of feeling.” No amount of wealth or material accumulation can fill that void, if it does not fulfill our longing for the sublime.

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However, our society is now being taught that happiness is a by-product of consumerism. Our nation (and much of the rest of the world) struggles in vain to find that happiness. Instead of fulfillment, it is left with disappointment, dissatisfaction and despair. Many long for entertainment (drugs, games, and Hollywood) just to escape the turmoil. Many others seek professional counseling or prescription medication in the hopes that doctors can provide the relief they seek. Society’s failure to achieve the fairytale endings promised by the popular shows of the fifties led to the drug and sexual revolution of the sixties. Meanwhile, the one true solution to the problem, the ultimate sublimity of Christ and the Church, was increasingly touted by the mainstream as a mere fairytale. The cover of Time magazine eventually heralded that “God is Dead,” and instead of outrage the public simply took it in stride. In Deuteronomy, God promised prosperity to the nation that obeys His laws, and curses for disobedience. Our country has been in steady decline since the fifties – morally, spiritually, intellectually, economically, and even healthwise – inversely proportionate to its rise in secularism.

How do we reverse this trend?

Start with yourself, pursue the sublime and set the example for others.

1. Make a journal of what strikes you as sublime. Refer to it often, and add to it regularly. Meditate upon it, and build up a store of sublime memories and feelings to counteract the negative effects of our misguided society and its materialism.

2. Find an item of sublime beauty or inspiration, and place it where you can reflect on it regularly.

3. Create a place in your home that helps you reflect on the sublimity of God.

A. This can include a crucifix, memorabilia of the apostles, the saints, virtues, the Holy Family, the Church, as well as photos, paintings, poetry, or any other items of inspiration.

B. Display it not with lavishness, but with temperance, and a goal towards sublime inspiration.

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4. When given the choice – try always to opt for the most sublime solution.

5. Read the memoirs of great men – whose lives and experiences reveal the truly sublime.

6. Take time to enjoy nature, and all that God has created for His glory.

7. Visit beautiful places that nurture thoughts and feelings for the sublime.

8. Obey the Third Commandment. After six days of labor, escape the rat race, rest and do not let work distract you from enjoying the sublime beauty and holiness of God and His creations.

9. Support local artists and artisans whose work inspires you towards the sublime.

  • 1Bobby8

    I’ve always searched for the sublime without knowing it, whether it was music(Gregorian Chant) literature, art(Renaissance) or seeking out a Saint. I’ve always seen the Ultimate beauty in the sublime.

    • avid reader

      Yes. I agree … and to the above excellent article, I would add:

      … Do NOT cling to anything that does NOT bring contentment (eg, refuse to covet material possessions / successes of others / don’t compare yourself to others, etc).

      — YOU are UNIQUE. You are a child of God who loves you unconditionally; who longs to invite you to join him in Heavenly happiness when your earthly journey is complete.
      God bless all readers here.

  • Tobi

    you Americans are so naive, so brainwashed by your corrupted mass media. Before talking of prayers, think what kind of genocide your nation is doing abroad. Wake up and do something, please!!!

    Blockbuster: Russian Satellite Proof, America is ISIS!

    • CatherineTherese

      God alone can bring peace to men and to nations. Prayer is always the answer. May God grant you, through the intercession of His blessed mother, His peace.

      • Tobi

        I accept and thank you for your suggestion about prayers. Indeed I agree with the power of prayer. However, I must repeat my question. Are you aware of what you country is doing abroad?(beyond the false narrative of mainstream media?) Do you know where you must address the prayers?

        • Bannaghar

          So. Present your research on the role the white helmets played in Syria.

        • Aint So

          Hi Tobi,
          You are indeed correct that our media in the US are nothing more than embarrassing purveyors of lies. I think what may be needed from you is reliable documentation of the conspiracy you describe. I have always been under the impression that ISIS is an enemy of the US and of Israel rather than an ally since they routinely kill citizens of both nations wherever they encounter them. I have seen accounts however where it has been stated that the rise of ISIS in Syria was the result of blundering and failure in enemy identification on the part of the nations you identify. The short answer to your concern is that no one but a few in our government really know what our country is doing in Syria or what policies are actually being pursued, and for what reasons. As we discover atrocities committed against peoples of other nations by our government, we do everything in our power to expose and oppose the responsible leaders as we did at some cost to ourselves in the Vietnam war years ago. At this point, lacking information, I can only say that it seems a a contradiction of late to put the words peaceful and Syria in the same sentence. In recent history, many have been brutally oppressed there, not only by outsiders, but by the ruling regime. Indeed we will pray for all those killed in the surrounding turmoil but we cannot pray addressing circumstances we do not know of. Instead, we pray that God who does know what is going on will intervene and comfort the afflicted, and receive into His embrace, those who have been killed. I would say, do as we have always done. Procure evidence and documentation, making it available where it can be seen. Get it out where good people who oppose evil can read it and evaluate it for themselves.

          • Tobi

            Hi Aint So,

            Excuse me, but did not you already hear several time the same story about a dictator that is (allegedly) torturing his population? And then as the solution there must be someone “good” that makes war against this dictator? Don’t you understand that the story is always the same? I really do not know whether Assad is bad or not. But do you think logic that to solve this issue (if it’s really an issue and not an invented one), as a solution you make a war with several hundreds of thousands of deaths? Are we kidding? I know from Syrian people (not from corrupted mass media) that before Syria was filled with merecnaries from abroad (before 2011), this was one of the middle east countries with the highest standard of life, and that people of the various religions lived all in peace together. If you talk with Syrian people (also abroad), they say that what mass media says against Assad is a big lie. The story of the bad dictator has been prepared by the same that moved war to Syria to convince western population that another war in middle east was necessary and a good thing to do. So, a reputation as monster was created for Assad by constructing false reports. It happened the same thing with Saddam Hussein and then Irak was destroyed (very good liberation from the dictator, now life is better in Irak, isn’it? I mean for those that remained because millions died). And then the same thing with Gheddafi (and Lybia was also destroyed, so that now that the country is left in the hands of brutal terrorists, once again now people live better in that place, isn’it?). Now was the turn of Assad, again with the same story of a bad dictator to be removed. Strangely enough, bad dictators are only those that rules over countries filled with petrol, gas, and other richness, besides being also not aligned with the policies (or sympathy) from Washington and Israel. If you watch the gegraphic map, you will notice that most of the countries considered enemies by Israel have been destroyed, one after the other, in what now seems a planned and ordered sequence. Iran was the final target, but thanks to God, may be a new war will not begin also there.

            Declassified Pentagon Report: US Created ISIL as Tool Against Assad

            Here is the declassified document by DIA (also linked within the previous article), which confirms that the war against Syria was planned years before building the (false) progaganda against Assad:

            Want the Truth About What’s Going on in Syria? Listen to Father Daniël Maes

            This is also worth to read:
            Why the Arabs Don’t Want Us in Syria. They don’t hate ‘our freedoms.’ They hate that we’ve betrayed our ideals in their own countries—for oil. (By ROBERT F. KENNEDY, JR. February 22, 2016)

        • Vapor Trails

          I assume that means that you are not an American. Other than that, your point is what, exactly? Oh, thanks for the lesson, btw. In case you are completely naive, most Catholics are both aware of & disgusted with some of the things our country does. That does not stop us from praying. As a matter of fact, we do some pretty bad things right here in America – we kill our unborn, we espouse same-se^ marriage, we allow euthanasia, etc. I’d be curious to know what kind of atrocities are committed in your country. IN the meantime, I’ll keep praying – for you too.

          • Tobi

            I do not have any problem in saying that in my country (Italy) the same atrocities against innocents are going on (abortions, and as a new entry the gender ideology in schools). Our goverment is corrupted. Actually, we have puppets in the goverment put there to serve the affairs of entities from abroad. In fact, this is our 4° government that has been put there without public elections. Last year, the previous Italian prime minister, Matteo Renzi, and affiliated friends, flew to Washington to meet Obama administration, and once he came back, he soon approved the gay marriage without any discussion in the chamber. Few months ago the actual prime minister, Paolo Gentiloni, met Soros, and Italy now is increasing the acceptance of migratory fluxes (more than can be decently housed) without selections because they want new slaves to use in work at low cost. Unemployment for Italian people is at the highest, but corrupted politicans are pushing immigration here and concentrate all here to cause financial failure of our system (has it already happened with Greece). They make agreements with criminal groups that transport immigrants across the sea. They have no problem in letting them die in the sea, or kill and rape them in the desert before arriving to the sea. Italian politicians are encouraging this traffic of human beings. Then somebody from abroad (like Soros for example) will buy Italian structures at low cost. No one is instead trying to stop by means of diplomacy the wars that are the major causes of immigration. For Italian politicians war do not exist. Actually Italy is selling bombs to Saudi Arabia, which are the same bombs that are killing innocents in Yemen. From Italian airoprt also transit the wars airplanes from UK. They arrive in an Italian airoprt with double label (UK label, and Saudi Arabia label). Once arrived here, the UK label is deleted and the Saudi Arabia is left. These are war airplanes that are sold by UK to Saudi Arabia where they are used to bomb Yemen. In our mass media there is silence about this.

  • Bernardo Cynthia

    I have been always attracted by the sublime. I truly believe that God is the apex of subliminity. God is awesome and I reflect on the beauty of His creation always.

    • Margaret

      God IS sublime, as the priest sings in the Divine Liturgy:

      And grant that we with one voice and one heart may glorify and sing the praises of Your most honorable and sublime Name…

  • Rob Hulbert

    I published this worthwhile story on my website.

  • Legoge47

    The phrase “one nation under God” didn’t exist prior to the mid-1950s. Before that it was simply “one nation “

    • Jack Johnson

      We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

    • Vapor Trails

      Just in case the readers didn’t know, the phrase …”under God…” was inserted into the Pledge of Allegiance at the behest of the Knights of Columbus, of which I am a proud member. Please see the link here:

      • John Zang

        Yes, in my membership also with the Knights of Columbus, we always recite the Pledge of Allegiance at every monthly meeting.

  • Aint So

    It is unfortunate that so many confuse religion with our actual destined state in this life which is communion with God. They are not nearly the same and the first, if it is a legitimate help to our salvation can only exist as a result of the second. Lets take a moment and insert these nine steps into a dialogue Jesus may have had with the apostles or with others of the faithful at some point in His life. Of course some elements of these such as “Obey the Third Commandment” would likely have been found in such dialogue but the object of pretty much everything else here has in itself the destiny of transience, some even slated for ultimate destruction. Even the most inspiring music does not in itself result in certainty of God and the most magnificent cathedral may likely at some point become nothing more than a pile of uninspiring rubble in the end. However inspiring such compositions or structures may be, they are not in themselves the stuff of human communion with God, or of our salvation. Things which seem to emulate God which are subject to interpretation or may fall into ruin, do not actually emulate Him at all apart from the influence of the actual presence and recognizable vision of God. The same is entirely true of even sacred music and certainly of religion. This is not an insignificant observation. Even those most elevated by subliminal encounters are in no way guaranteed of the encounter with God so entirely necessary for our salvation, nor are they guaranteed even to be on the path to God. This does not make these pursuits of no value but points to their value being found elsewhere in the recognizable presence of God of which we are all availed by Him and not merely in themselves. It is in the sustained encounter of God which requires nothing other than our embrace of a sustained, consummate and destitute vulnerability to Him, which genuine value to our destiny with God is found in the sublime. Quite literally everything in our lives which is of value to our eternal life with God is the result of the taking upon ourselves this disposition of consummate surrender to God. Without it even our pursuit of the most sublime features of God’s creation will ultimately fail us in our pursuit of Him if they become in themselves, our goal rather than the result of our life of intimacy with Him. To the extent that we fail in our expectation that the communion with God offered to each of us is both immediate and intimate, the actual pursuit we have chosen is not of God nor is it of Heaven. Even our most fervent and faithful observation of Catholicism can be of little value unless it is the result of this surrender of self. The author states that “we need to understand that man was created by God, for the purpose of worshiping God, and to eventually achieve eternal happiness in heaven with Him.” We were actually created by God for one purpose which is to please Him and with considerable irony, I would say, what pleases God most is pleasing us by our recognition of being joined to Him. Because the nature our God imparted us was His very own, it is our ecstatic recognition of Him which pleases us utterly. As with all others of His creation, we exist first to be found in adoration of Him since that is the intended state of all created beings and our most immense privilege imparted to us by Him. It is from our entry into that state of consummate adoration of God that we are compelled by that sustained disposition into consummate worship of Him. In fact, it is the adoration of God alone, when we become aware of our existence in that state while finding ourselves in absolute nearness of proximity to Him, which actually is why Heaven is also frequently identified as Paradise. It is the vision of God, enabled by communion with Him alone, which makes Heaven the state which all created beings including us Humans must by nature crave within the embodiment of our deepest and most selfless desires. In other words, if there was nothing except adoration of the Unfathomable God and our recognition of Him in the beatific vision in store for us after our death, nothing of the absolute bliss of Heaven would have been denied us. In fact for those who consecrate themselves to live in the consummate personal surrender of themselves required of us for entry into Heaven, the elements of Heaven are greatly such as the ecstatic vision of God are generously imparted to them in this life. Such individuals are sometimes identified as mystics but in fact nothing imparted to them of the immediate presence of God is denied anyone else. What lacks in most of us is expectation of intimate knowledge of the immediate presence and care of God and His insatiable desire to embrace us, leaving nothing of His consummate and unqualified vulnerability to each of us hidden. Only our silent, patient, expectant, and determined presence at the foot of God’s throne is required for this. No gimmicks are necessary or even helpful.

    When I read article such as this it reminds me how complicated and behavior driven we frequently conclude our path to communion with God is rather its actual exquisite simplicity. Every wonder why the Good Thief crucified next to Jesus got to Heaven with Him so far ahead of you? This is it. Look God in the eye and tell Him that you desire that He should be your all as He intended when He created you. Express your love for Him without reserve, or just tell Him that this is how you desire to love Him. Wait quietly and patiently in His presence (He is everywhere, after all) expect for Him to come but not how He will come. He always does and always will. The fact is, establishing communion with God is not at all complicated but requires simply the expectation that God wishes to be so near to us each as to be inexorably joined to us. Now doesn’t that sound easy? OK, just kidding, but Just as one cannot merit heaven in the least, embracing even the best of good dispositions will not get you there either, or even into remote proximity. Jesus stated that the members of the Holy Trinity have the eagerness to become domiciled within each us when He answered, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word. Then my Father will love him, and We will go to him and make our home within him. In case you missed the meaning of Jesus’ words here, this is our entry enabled by the consummate surrender of ourselves to God, into a state of being literally possessed by God. Not only is attainment of the state of our possession by God eagerly encouraged and expected of us by God in this life, it is as state ultimately required of everyone who desires entry into the communion of Heaven with Him. The state of Purgatory was established by Him to accomplish this single transformation within us.

  • Benjamin Dimowo

    It is well.

  • Daniel Mount

    Jesus said, A wealthy man has always had a hard time getting into heaven.

  • Wasn’t sure if the article is speaking of reaching the sublime, or reaching the Sublime. Sounds more like the sublime.