Sacred Art in East and West


Its Principles and Methods

Its Principles and Methods

This is one of the best books on the subject of Sacred art to be written in our times and represents Burckhardt’s penetrating analysis of a subject that is extremely important but, nevertheless, suffers from a host of misconceptions. It is a work of profound importance—defining meaning and spiritual use of Sacred art through its symbolic content and dependence on metaphysical principles. Presentedsis the art of Hinduism, Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, and Taoism where “the artistic rules of each are not only deducible from existing works, but are confirmed by canonical writings and by the example of living masters.” “In Islam the Divine Art is in the first place the manifestation of the Divine Unity in the beauty and regularity of the cosmos. Unity is reflected in the harmony of the multiple, in order and in equilibrium; beauty has all these aspects within itself. To start from the beauty of the world and arrive at Unity— that is wisdom.” There can be no doubt that Burckhardt blends in a masterly fashion a style that is eminently accessible with an insight of the utmost penetration.

“The ultimate objective of sacred art is not the evocation of feelings nor the communications of impressions; it is a symbol, and as such it finds simple and primordial means sufficient; it could not in any case be anything more than allusive, its real object being ineffable.” —A.J. Arberry


Titus Burckhardt

Titus Burckhardt (1908-1984) (Ibrāhīm ‘Izz ud-Dīn) was the son of the Swiss sculptor, Carl Burckhardt, and a member of a patrician family of Basle. Although he first followed in his father’s footsteps as a sculptor and illustrator, he was since his childhood always strongly attracted to oriental art. This led him to a theoretical study of eastern doctrines and to repeated sojourns in the Islamic countries. After some years of studying the history of art and oriental languages, he became director of a publishing house, the Graf-Verlag, which specialised in facsimile editions of ancient manuscripts. In 1972, he was appointed to UNESCO for the preservation of the ancient city of Fez. He was himself an artist and a writer. Well known as the general editor of a magnificent series of art books on sacred cities, and the author of these that deal with SiennaChartres and Fez, he has also written such authoritative works as Moorish Culture in SpainSacred Art in East and WestAn Introduction to the Sufi DoctrineLetters of a Sufi Master and Alchemy: Science of the Cosmos, Science of the Soul, which is perhaps the best book on Alchemy to be written in the twentieth century. His collected essays have appeared in English under the title Mirror of the Intellect.


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