Art: A Gift of the Holy Spirit

This month we are featuring an article by Jennifer Campbell from

Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life. – Pablo Picasso

My paternal grandmother gave neighborhood piano lessons; my paternal grandfather taught art in high school, and painted, sculpted, and played French horn. That’s why my sister and I grew up learning about art and music–and we also enjoyed making pots in Grandpa’s kiln. My family is full of artists, musicians, and educators; so the arts have always played an important part in my life.

Before I studied psychology, I majored in art (because I wanted to be an art teacher like my grandpa). Before that, I majored in English (because I wanted to be a writer, too). Like a typical college student, I changed my mind a few times about my future goals and major course of study. Despite my changing college majors, the arts were always part of my studies.

Throughout college, I took courses in water color, oil painting, and theatrical scene painting. I almost took an acting class, but ended up in Philosophy and World Religions, instead. For a short time, I even contemplated going to medical school, and took chemistry and physics courses. Besides my belief in the importance of the arts, I’ve always strongly believed in the fundamental unity of existence; I saw how everything connected, and therefore, every subject interested me (and still does).

As I navigated the social, academic, and emotional aspects of college life, I often stayed up late while painting, sketching, writing, and listening to my eclectic musical interests, such as the classical music of Mozart, the electrical-guitar-laden music of 80’s hair bands, the jazz stylings of saxophonist Kenny G, and the hip hop beats and poetic lyrics of PM Dawn.

The arts were (and still are) my form of meditation; art, writing, and music help me center myself, relax, and focus. In other words, the arts refresh and energize my spirit as they help me wipe the dust of everyday life from my soul, as Pablo Picasso so eloquently put it.

The Baha’i Faith places enormous importance on the arts. Abdu’l-Baha said that:

All art is a gift of the Holy Spirit. When this light shines through the mind of a musician, it manifests itself in beautiful harmonies. Again, shining through the mind of a poet, it is seen in fine poetry and poetic prose. When the Light of the Sun of Truth inspires the mind of a painter, he produces marvelous pictures. These gifts are fulfilling their highest purpose, when showing forth the praise of God. – The Chosen Highway, p. 167

Thinking of the arts in this way–that the arts are a gift from God–seems both beautiful and humbling. This quote infers that, when I write or paint, my inspiration comes from a greater power and source of spiritual energy. It helps explain that mysterious aspect of inspiration we artists feel that seemingly emerges enchantingly from some unknown, indescribable, and magical location.

The Baha’i writings reinforce the importance of (as well as my love for) the arts:

Arts, crafts and sciences uplift the world of being, and are conducive to its exaltation. – Baha’u’llah, Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, p. 26.

If we look up the definition of “exaltation” in Merrriam-Webster, we find it defined as “an excessively intensified sense of well-being, power, or importance.” Isn’t it exciting that, as Baha’u’llah’s quote mentions, the arts are “conducive to the exaltation” of the world? Put differently, the arts cause or bring about a significantly strengthened state of health and happiness, and not just to the individual, but to society as a whole.

I encourage you–whether you fancy yourself an artist or not–to dabble in the arts. It might surprise you to know that there’s an art for everyone.

You could practice the literary arts (like nonfiction, short stories, novels, and poetry); or the performing arts (such as theatre, film, music, comedy, acrobatics, and dance); or the visual arts (such as painting, drawing, photography, and sculpting); or the culinary arts (like chocolatiering and baking). Some art forms involve combinations, as is the case with comics or graphic novels, which combine the written word with visual art. Perhaps you’re interested in architecture, fashion design, or weaving–as you can see, the list of possibilities never ends.

Be courageous, and don’t forget to have fun, as you try different art forms. During your experimentation with the arts, you’ll reap the benefits as you strengthen your well-being and remove the dust of everyday life from your soul.