John O'Donohue On Beauty


Science tells us that the more symmetrical a face is, the more beautiful it is. Though order is necessary for beauty, the interesting thing is that a face that is not overburdened by structural perfection can still be very beautiful. More often than not it is the inner beauty of heart and mind that illuminates the face. A smile can completely transform a face. Ultimately, it is the soul that makes the face beautiful. Each face is its own landscape and is quietly vibrant with the invisible textures of memory, story, dream, need, want and gift that make up the beauty of the individual life. Love changes the way we see ourselves and others. We feel beautiful when we are loved, and to evoke an awareness of beauty in another is to give them a precious gift they will never lose. When we say from our heart to someone: “You are beautiful”, it is more than a statement or platitude, it is a recognition and invocation of the dignity, grandeur and grace of their spirit. There is something in the nature of beauty that goes beyond personality, good looks, image and fashion. When we affirm another’s beauty, we affirm something that cannot be owned or drawn into the grid of small-mindedness or emotional need. There is profound nobility in beauty that can elevate a life, bring it into harmony with the artistry of its eternal source and destination. - John O’Donohue

John O’Donohue was an Irish poet, author, priest, and Hegelian philosopher. He was a native Irish speaker, and as an author is best known for popularizing Celtic spirituality





To be holy is to enter the dense beauty of passionate complexity. In his classic book “On the Idea of the Holy”, Rudolph Otto said the experience of the holy is at once tremens et fascinans, trembling and fascination. And Edgar Allan Poe said: “There is no exquisite beauty without some sense of strangeness in its proportions”. - John O’Donohue


Yes, I agree, Cole. I wouldn’t put it quite the Edgar did, but I find mirrored faces uncanny and, well, a little creepy. (Mirroring faces is something you can do in photo-editing programs to make a perfectly symmetrical face.) Kind of like mannikins. :frowning: Organic things like faces and flowers and the prettiest of crystals do need that teensy touch of inconsistency to show they live – just IMO. :wink:


Hi Cindy,

I understand what Poe is saying. I’m multifaceted and diverse.When I discover something new about myself its liberating. For me, learning to integrate my strangeness with the other parts of me frees me up to accept all facets of myself. I believe that this is at the heart of holiness. Hence, John O’Donohue strikes a cord with me when he says, “To be holy is to enter the dense beauty of passionate complexity.”


:laughing: Well, Cole – if you understand what Poe is saying you’re way ahead of me. :wink: That was just what I took from it. Poe’s brilliant and despite that I can’t stand to read most of his stuff. It’s too creepy and horrible. Maybe I’d see it differently today though. The last time I read anything extensive of his I was in high school, and need I say . . . that was a l-o-n-g time ago? :laughing: You did pull a good quote from him though. If I’d ever heard that one I don’t remember it, and I think I agree with him – though that’s just me agreeing with my interpretation of what he meant.