Sunday, November 20, 2011

How Blake Saw

He saw things that most of us don't, and he urgently needed to show them to us, to show us how to see them.

There are many kinds of seeing and many levels of consciousness, but with the natural proclivity to resort to the dialectic we might say there are two:

1. The sense-based, natural, materialistic time and space consciousness lacking anything that cannot be weighed or measured (Blake called this Ulro; Jesus called it Hell. In circles of academic philosophy it used to go by the name of logical positivism.) I would opine that most of us spend most of our time in the 'sense-based, natural, materialistic time and space consciousness'.

2. Vision, coming forth from the inner man, the Light, the Now. It's a different kind of consciousness, a perception of the infinite (Blake called it Eden; Jesus called it the Kingdom of Heaven or the Kingdom of God).

Jesus showed us with his life how to live eternally; and he told us we could do it. Blake did it, periodically at least, and like Jesus he wanted us to share that heavenly gift.

He called it Vision; that's what he lived for, those eternal moments were all that mattered (and matters!). If you can't do it continuously, then you can talk about it, write about it, draw it, paint it. He did (and you can) show us how to see.


"...I rest not from my great task!
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: line 17ff)

The most striking tenet of Blake's faith was his vision of the Eternal; it was also his primary gift to mankind. Blake lived in an age when the realm of spirit had virtually disappeared from the intellectual horizon. This single fact explains why he stood out like a sore thumb in late 18th Century England and why for most of his contemporaries he could never be more than an irritant, an eccentric, a madman; their most common term of depreciation was 'enthusiast'. His primary concern was a world whose existence they not only denied, but held in derision.

The task of the Enlightenment had been to emancipate man from superstition, and Voltaire, Gibbon, and their associates had done this with great distinction. Blake was born emancipated, but he knew that closed off from vision, from the individuality of genius, from the spontaneous spiritual dimension, from what Jesus had called the kingdom of God, mankind will regress to a level beneath the human. In his prophetic writings he predicted 1940 and its aftermath. Where there is no vision, the people perish.

Blake was blessed with vision from his earliest days; his visions were immediate and concrete. He found the eternal inward worlds of thought more real than the objective nature exalted by John Locke and Joshua Reynolds. Their depreciation of vision, genius, the eternal never failed to infuriate Blake. This fury strongly colored his work and often threatened to overwhelm it. It also led to his deprecatory view of nature, which was their God.

(Taken from the Blake Primer.)


Although he depreciated 'nature' as an object of worship and in the deistic view, he loved natural objects; he was an outdoor person, especially in his youth when he wrote this in Poetical Sketches (E 408).

To Spring
      O thou with dewy locks, who lookest down
      Through the clear windows of the morning, turn
      Thine angel eyes upon our western isle,
      Which in full choir hails thy approach, O Spring!

      The hills tell one another, and the listening
      Valleys hear; all our longing eyes are turn'd
      Up to thy bright pavilions: issue forth
      And let thy holy feet visit our clime!

      Come o'er the eastern hills, and let our winds
      Kiss thy perfumèd garments; let us taste
      Thy morn and evening breath; scatter thy pearls
      Upon our lovesick land that mourns for thee.

      O deck her forth with thy fair fingers; pour
      Thy soft kisses on her bosom; and put
      Thy golden crown upon her languish'd head,
      Whose modest tresses are bound up for thee.

1 comment:

Susan J. said...

an inspiring message for a Sunday morning -- thanks, Larry!

and, setting aside our dialectical tendencies, maybe we today can synergize between living in the material world and seeing with the visionary eyes, the true Light, the perception of the infinite Now