In his inimitable sermon, “The Weight of Glory,” C. S. Lewis made one of the most significant observations about the reality of beauty and idolatry. Building on the idea that the beauty and joy we find in created things and experiences is merely a reflection of the beauty and joy of God, Lewis explained that making those created things ultimate things for the beauty seen in them is idolatry :
The books or the music in which we thought the beauty was located will betray us if we trust to them; it was not in them, it only came through them, and what came through them was longing. These things—the beauty, the memory of our own past—are good images of what we really desire; but if they are mistaken for the thing itself they turn into dumb idols, breaking the hearts of their worshippers. For they are not the thing itself; they are only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never yet visited.1
1. C. S. Lewis “The Weight of Glory” (Preached originally as a sermon in the Church of St Mary the Virgin, Oxford, on June 8, 1942: published in Theology, November, 1941).