Monday, May 10, 2010


Earthbound Imagination, From the British Museum's Night Thoughts

The word imagination occupies a special place in Blake's vocabulary. He uses the word to speak of existence in the spiritual world which is the only true existence. Our awareness of this reality is through imagination. Jesus himself, as the Divine Body, is the Human Imagination. The world of mortality which appears without, is but a shadow of the inner world of imagination.

We will live in the world of imagination, Eternity, when we leave these vegetated bodies. However we have access to this world now if we will open ourselves to vision through contemplation, poetry, painting and music.
Milton, Plate 32, (E 132)

"Calling the Human Imagination: which is the Divine Vision &
In which Man liveth eternally: madness & blasphemy, against
Its own Qualities, which are Servants of Humanity, not Gods"
Jerusalem, Plate 5, (E 147)

"To open the Eternal Worlds, to open the immortal Eyes
Of Man inwards into the Worlds of Thought: into Eternity
Ever expanding in the Bosom of God. the Human Imagination"
Jerusalem, Plate 5, (E 148)

"Abstract Philosophy warring in enmity against Imagination
(Which is the Divine Body of the Lord Jesus. blessed for ever)."
Jerusalem, Plate 71, (E 225)

"For all are Men in Eternity. Rivers Mountains Cities Villages,
All are Human & when you enter into their Bosoms you walk
In Heavens & Earths; as in your own Bosom you bear your Heaven
And Earth, & all you behold, tho it appears Without it is Within
In your Imagination of which this World of Mortality is but a
Jerusalem, Plate 77, (E 231)

"I know of no other
Christianity and of no other Gospel than the liberty both of body
& mind to exercise the Divine Arts of Imagination.
Imagination the real & eternal World of which this Vegetable
Universe is but a faint shadow & in which we shall live in our
Eternal or Imaginative Bodies, when these Vegetable Mortal Bodies
are no more."
Vision of the Last Judgment, (E 555)

"This world of Imagination is the World of Eternity it is the
Divine bosom into which we shall all go after the death of
the Vegetated body This World is Infinite & Eternal
whereas the world of Generation or Vegetation is Finite
& [for a small moment] Temporal There Exist in that Eternal
World the Permanent Realities of Every Thing which we
see are reflected in this Vegetable Glass of Nature All
Things are comprehended in their Eternal Forms in the
Divine body of the Saviour the True Vine of Eternity
The Human Imagination who appeard to Me as Coming to
Judgment. among his Saints & throwing off the Temporal
that the Eternal might be Establishd."
Vision of the Last Judgment, (E 560)

"If the Spectator could Enter into these Images in his
Imagination approaching them on the Fiery Chariot of his
Contemplative Thought if he could Enter into Noahs Rainbow
or into his bosom or could make a Friend & Companion of
one of these Images of wonder which always intreats him to
leave mortal things as he must know then would he arise
from his Grave then would he meet the Lord in the Air & then
he would be happy"
Percival, in William Blake's Circle of Destiny, (page 8) explains how we experience imagination inwardly and outwardly:
"At the center is imagination, "the human existence itself," the one reality. It is divine - not ourselves; and it is of course eternal. It may be thought of as inner, active and masculine. As it manifests itself outwardly, in the world of self and phenomena, it is temporal, passive, rational and feminine. But since the outward is only a manifestation of the inward , the antinomy is not truly a duality; the two are one. To use a traditional figure they constitute a tree of life, firmly rooted in the inward, active masculine, bearing its fruits in the outward, passive feminine."

Blake says of himself: "Inspiration & Vision was then & now is & I hope will always Remain my Element my Eternal Dwelling place." Annotations to Reynolds, (E 660)
Heavenly imagination From the British Museum's Night Thoughts


Susan J. said...

"the spiritual world which is the only true existence."

I find myself resisting this idea. I continue to sit with it, as I continue to explore Blake.

To make an analogy -- music bears some resemblance to spirituality, in the ways it affects people, its ineffability, its often sublime character. And yet music occurs via the material: physical instruments, the human voice, electronic synthesizers. Were it not for the particular vibrations set up by the instrument, and the way our ears and neurons and brains work, there would be no music. With some types of music, the urge to get up and dance can be almost overwhelming; and other sorts of music often spark other physical reactions in the hearer. For me, appreciation of the physicality of music is integral to appreciation of music.

Possibly my rootedness in physicality/the material plane is due to my gender. I dimly remember from the years that I attended an annual Biblical Studies conference that there's been a turn in Romanticism scholarship lately, that privileges female voices and our alleged consciousness of "embodiment"....

this abstract of an article called "Romanticism and the Body" is typical of the line of discourse I'm remembering:

Susan J. said...

"we have access to this world now if we will open ourselves to vision through contemplation, poetry, painting and music."

Does Blake -- and do you -- discount the awareness of spiritual reality by way of science and mathematics -- and through the use of imagination in the study of the physical world -- and through the use of imagination in human inventiveness?

For example, through the mentorship of my deeply spiritual engineer husband, I've come to appreciate the wonders of such amazing products of human imagination as the internal combustion engine, airplanes, radio... God's original creativity is recapitulated in human creativity, of which the modern world provides abundant examples all around us....

Larry said...

Susan, we are really thankful to have someone like you questioning our posts; it's the best way we can improve our posts.

Re: ""the spiritual world which is the only true existence."

Right! I can question that with you. Blake didn't say it. However if you look at it as a poetic statement you could say that it contains truth, although not true in other ways. It's an exaggeration; Blake exaggerated often, making his poetry very vulnerable to critics.

Blake and Ellie are trying to say, as Plato might have said, that the Eternal is the only real. This life is a shadow of that.

Yes, music is a spiritual activity, but the "music of Eternity" is the reality of which our senses provide a shadow. I think that was Blake's idea.

Blake enjoyed the earthly stuff as much as you and I, but deplored our limited perception:

"How do you know, but every bird that cuts the airy way Is an immense world of delight, clos'd by your senses five?" (this from Plate 7 of the Marriage of Heaven and Hell).

Blake died singing, but I think he fully expected that being a part of the celestial choir would be a lot more meaningful than his mortal music.

Larry said...

Re Science: Blake loved it as much as you and Don, or Ellie and I., but it's a shadow of Eternal science. (incidentally Ellie and I both got our degrees in Chemistry -- and in natural sciences.)

All of this life is a shadow of Eternity. Everything that we perceive here (with our 5 senses) can be found there, and oh so vividly.

There is another realm in which we live forever, and in which our sense based experience is a pale imitation.

This life can be wonderful, but what comes infinitely surpasses it.