Friday, June 11, 2010


William Blake: poet and mystic

By Pierre Berger, Daniel Henry Conner

Page 221
"Blake's symbolic language is perhaps even more largely responsible than his want of logic for the obscurity of his writings. His use of this symbolic language was a natural result of his views upon the nature of the world and upon art. To him, the spiritual world revealed itself not in abstract terms, but in concrete symbols, which were the visible things of this world. He saw the supernatural, instead of imagining it. The living spirit was symbolised and made visible to men by lifeless matter. The created world was an expression of the Divine Humanity in all its forms.
"But the artist's creation should be an analogous kind or expression. His abstract ideas ought only to be represented by words which designate concrete things. A thought can only be expressed by a symbol. The artist must therefore create a symbol for every thought, and must speak always in metaphors. He will learn to live in the symbolic world created by his own mind, as we live in this vast, composite symbol which is the universe. And just as we see concrete objects without thinking of the metaphysical ideas they represent, so Blake, having created his symbols, proceeds to use them as living personages without regarding the idea that underlay them and had brought them into existence. He comes to feel, think and speak in symbols. Urizen and Los cease to be allegorical figures, and become actual persons, like Hamlet or Polonius, like Milton or Blake himself. This process takes place in the mind of every poet, but Blake carried it further than others."

So Berger's idea is that Blake lived in the symbolic world which he created and that we understand Blake by learning to live in his symbolic world.

Leaving the Cosmic Egg

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