In the symbolism of Renaissance art fate is sometimes represented as the wind blowing on the sails of a vessel, while man stands at the steering wheel and determines the direction as much as it can be determined under the given conditions. Man tries to actualize all his potentialities; and his potentialities are inexhaustible. For he is the microcosm, in whom all cosmic forces are potentially present, and who participates in all spheres and strata of the universe. Through him the universe continues the creative process which first has produced him as the aim and the center of the creation. Now man has to shape his world and himself, according to the productive powers given to him. In him nature comes to its fulfillment, it is taken into his knowledge and his transforming technical activity.
In the visual arts nature is drawn into the human sphere and man is posited in nature, and both are shown in their ultimate possibilities of beauty. The bearer of this creative process is the individual who, as an individual, is a unique representative of the universe. Most important is the creative individual, the genius, in whom, as Kant later formulated it, the unconscious creativity of nature breaks into the consciousness of man. Men like Pico della Mirandola, Leonardo da Vinci, Giordano Bruno, Shaftesbury, Goethe, Schelling were inspired by this idea of a participation in the creative process of the universe. In these men enthusiasm and rationality were united. Their courage was both the courage to be as oneself and the courage to be as a part. The doctrine of the individual as the microcosmic participant in the creative process of the macrocosm presented them with the possibility of this synthesis. Man’s productivity moves from potentiality to actuality in such a way that everything actualized has potentialities for further actualization. This is the basic structure of progress.