What value can be attached to a concept of mystery and has it a place in contemporary Western culture?
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The idea for this thesis arose from a chain of reactions first set in motion by a particular experience. In keeping with the contemporary need to deconstruct every phenomenon it seemed important to analyse this experience in the hope of a satisfactory explanation. The experience referred to is the aesthetic experience provoked by works of art. The plan for the thesis involved trying to establish whether the aesthetic experience is unique and individual, or whether it is one that is experienced universally. Each question that arises in the course of this exploration promotes a dialectical reaction. I rely on the history of aesthetics as a philosophical discipline to supply the answers. This study concentrates on the efforts by philosophers and critical theorists to understand the tensions between the empirical and the emotional, the individual and the universal responses to the sociological, political and material conditions that prevail and are expressed through the medium of art. What I found is that the history of aesthetics is full of contradictory evidence and cannot provide a dogmatic solution to the questions posed. In fact what is indicated is that the mystery that attaches to the aesthetic experience is one that can also apply to the spiritual or transcendent experience. The aim of this thesis is to support the contribution of visual art in the spiritual well being of human development and supports the uniqueness of the evaluation and aesthetic judgement by the individual of a work of art. I suggest that mystery will continue to be of value in the holistic development of human beings and this mystery can be expressed through visual art. Furthermore, this thesis might suggest that what could be looked at is whether a work of art may be redemptive in its affect and offset the current decline in affective religious practice.