(Still being edited)
Aesthetic experience may be an individual or social experience.
When we experience a feeling of awe for natural phenomena, we may have a feeling of the perception and concept related to it uniting into a greater experience during which we feel what we see. This I would call an individual aesthetic experience. It requires an individual to hold a particular openness towards that which they observe.
We may also have an aesthetic experience when viewing an artwork; we are continuing the same synthesis, but with the impulse of the artist as having generated the perception, thus there are two in the creation of the artwork as phenomena / perceivable action / aesthetic experience (?). The artist had an artistic experience in the creation of the artwork, and the observer has the correlating aesthetic experience in its observation. In this way, it is a dialogical aesthetic experience.
In a social setting where a group forms to a specific end, there are moments when the group is working in and intense and rigorous way and through the level of perception in this process the participants create a state I would name associative aesthetic experience. (ie: Presencing)
In an individual aesthetic experience we experience a level of equanimity and clarity about our own selves. Often this relates to some critical point in our lives. Our will may be woken to act in some way – creatively or ‘practically’ – as we feel this synthesis and balance occur.
In a dialogical aesthetic experience, we come to understand the message being conveyed by another person. It is not like an empathetic experience in that it usually relates only to one particular message or comment rather than the person who created the observed phenomena. This is important in the distinction between how we perceive objects and our capacity to understand other individuals. Empathy is related to a systemic understanding of something or more often, someone. Aesthetic experience pertains to the synthesis of our own faculties of perception and thinking. Both are characterised by a heightened consciousness, but empathy allows us to ‘walk in the shoes of the other’, while aesthetic experience is the integration of our individuality into the world.
In a dialogical aesthetic experience, we come to understand our own (for want of a better word) philosophical understanding of certain ideas. We take another’s idea and synthesise it into our own ideal. This also displays in us a surge of will, particularly in our thinking. We are able to better articulate that which we have experienced to be true. (maybe this is empathy – empathy is what happens when we have a dialogical aesthetic experience???).
During an associative aesthetic experience, participants feel a collective will to create, communicate and do. It is very important that there is a common goal set out for the group – a common question – as it guides this process towards a necessary and healthy outcome. In this space, each member of the group feels as if they were sculpting the space with every word. In a mood of serious play the group orchestrates in such a way in which no individual feels compromised, yes a consensus is reached through common purpose. Often people with very differing points of view are able to synthesise their opinions and purpose to create a greater whole in which each feels heard.
The common thread in these experiences is the synthesis of opposing or disparate capacities, individualities or ideas and the activation of our will to then become creative.
These different modes of aesthetic experience are important for the understanding how to instruct a person during different developmental stages of childhood.
A child until the age of about 7 is taking the world in and imitating unconsciously much that is perceived. They may not be aware or awake to the creation of concepts relating to what they perceive, but these are being created.
Their awe and interest in nature and the lives of adults, and their soaking in of these experiences forms the basis of their learning. If they are given unhealthy behaviours which to imitate, they will display these without judgement.
A child between the ages of 7 and 14 begins to understand the full extent of their seperation to other people. Because of this they explore their relationship between themselves and individuals around them. ??? What matters to them are the people they see as authority, as worthy of respect and reverence.
These children learn from people they feel love for, for people whom they unconsciously form … They respect that person’s actions and ideas and are so able to learn from them. If the person whom the child reveres is not worthy of that reverence, then the natural unconscious urge to respect their word taints their learning.
Between the ages of 14 and 21, our social yearning is awoken, and presents itself as a mostly unconscious urge. In this stage the person finds other people with who share common traits or ideas with themselves. These social urges can become negative in their effects as long as the youth focus more on that which is outwardly common. If they are given the opportunity to see and experience many points of view in a way that allows each to have its reason, they will then form their own ideals with which to enter healthy associations.
Beyond this, we return to these aesthetic experiences with more and more consciousness. It is not that each is strictly confined to a period in our lives, but that one unfolds more naturally and obviously during certain times than others, until we have the full faculty to work with all three in our adulthood in a conscious way.
It is easy to loose the space in adult life to create any of these experiences – and doubly difficult when they have not been modelled and encouraged during one’s education.
It is only once we no longer consistently experience the world aesthetically and openly, that we become conscious of the fact that there is such a thing as aesthetic experience. Consciousness is born through observation and the concept that there is a difference between observation and thinking.
“…imitation in the proper manner develops freedom; authority, justice; and fraternity or love, economic life.” Steiner, Education as a Social Force, p14