Event Details

'Shaped By Beauty': Art, Religion, and Ethics in Conversation

26 June 2014 to 27 June 2014 10:00

Category: College

A Two Day Conference on Music and Visual Art in Relationship with Theology, Philosophy, Religious Practice, Spirituality, and Ethics

Shaped by Beauty

Heythrop College, University of London in collaboration with Theology Department of Fordham University

“Art and morality are, with certain provisos…one. Their essence is the same. The essence of both of them is love”--Iris Murdoch

“….music, for Hildegard, was not the province of a gifted elite, but a thing quintessentially human; mankind was never meant to live without it….to make dangerous music was immoral; conversely, to be immoral was to be unmusical.”-- Barbara Newman

“Art enables us to find ourselves and to lose ourselves at the same time.”-- Thomas Merton


Throughout history, the power and rhetoric of image and sound together with their corresponding art forms, the visual arts and music, have coexisted with religion and ethics in relationships ranging from the harmonious to directly oppositional and confrontational. At their most synchronistic, religion and the arts have spurred the creation of some of the world’s greatest cultural treasures, among them Chartres Cathedral, Hagia Sophia, Bach’s Passion According to St. John, and African-American spirituals.  At their most oppositional, there have been iconoclastic crises, the suppression and vilification of artists, and in much of art in modern and contemporary times, a turn away from religion by the arts entirely.

Yet within this often uneasy frame, it is nonetheless human beings who make art; human beings who observe, listen, and respond to art; and human beings who, influenced by images and sounds,  shape their religious, spiritual, and ethical lives. Indeed, the arts possess the potential to open up transformative space for human beings, widening the lens of perception and shifting grounds of meaning that can prove to be fertile for the generation of new ideas as well as new practices for life. Such an interdependent and rich nexus of relationships calls out for meaningful understanding and interpretation from the arts themselves, as well as from the domains of religion, theology, philosophy and ethics.


Features of the conference will include an accompanying musical performance and possibly visual art exhibition. The purpose of the conference is to foster dialogue among disciplines concerning the human being and society in relationship with religion, the arts, and ethics.

Call for Papers

We welcome papers from artists, theologians, philosophers, ethicists, historians and others on topics related to the theme of Art, Religion, and Ethics with the following historical and contemporary emphases (not exclusive): the individual and social encounter with art; the making of art; the impact of art on human beings; the role of art in conversation with religion; the challenges offered to art by ethics and vice versa; questions of theological and philosophical aesthetics, anthropology, and moral theology concerning art; and explorations of spiritualities, both individual and corporate, in association with art.  If you are interested in presenting a short (20 mins) paper, please email your proposal of 500 words (maximum) to Dr Joseph Gabor, j.gabor@heythrop.ac.uk 


A detailed conference programme is available to download here. (.pdf)


To register, please download and complete the form below. Completed forms should be returned to:


Conference Officer (SHAPED BY BEAUTY), CAMPUS SERVICES, Heythrop College, University of London, Kensington Square, London W8 5HN


Shaped by Beauty registration form (.pdf)


The conference fees are as follows:

£60 for two days or £30 per day.  Lunch and refreshment are included;


If you are looking for accommodation close to the conference venue, rooms are available at:

More House Student Hostel, 53 Cromwell Rd, London SW7 2EH
Tel: 020 7584 2040


The conference will be held at Heythrop College, University of London, Kensington Square, London W8 5HN. For directions on getting to the College, please visit our How to Find Us page.


For further enquiries please contact Dr Joseph Gabor: j.gabor@heythrop.ac.uk

A conference poster may be downloaded here. (.pdf)

Page Updated: Wednesday, April 16 2014