William Blake: Religion and Psychology
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Thursday, March 15, 2012
William Blake and Jacob Boehme
In a letter to a friend and supporter, John Flaxman Blake had this to say:
"Now my lot in the Heavens is this; Milton lovd me in childhood and shewd me his face
Ezra came with Isaiah the Prophet, but Shakespeare in riper years gave me his hand
Paracelsus and Behmen appeard to me."
Of all the sources of Blake's inspiration Boehme (whom he spelled Behmen) was the one whose style
(and values perhaps) most resembled his own. It would pay great dividends for any Blake student to give close attention to his work. There's a multitude of close correspondence between the poetry and thought of the two Visionaries.
About 30 years older than Milton Jacob Boehme had a number of English followers; the Behmenites were said to be absorbed into the Society of Friends.
“Jacob Behmont’s Books were the chief books that the
Quakers bought, for there is the Principle or Foundation of theirReligion.” A Looking Glass for George Fox, 1667, p. 5 He also appears in George Fox's Journal.
Many of Blake's visions resemble those of the German shoe maker.
Blake had no children; Boehme six. Blake's poetry was ignored for the most part; Boehme's writing led to persecution. Sir Isaac Newton thought that his theory of gravitation was inspired by something from Boehme.
Blake read the English translation of Rev. William Law, four voumes between 1764 and 1781 (when Blake was 24); and in Plate 22 of The Marriage of Heaven and Hell we read:
"Any man of mechanical talents may from the writings of Paracelsus or Jacob Behmen, produce ten thousand volume of equal value with Swedenborg's..."
"What influenced Blake most in [Behmen's writings] was Behmen's analysis of the psyche and the interaction of it's parts. There .... are three worlds: the Dark Fire-World, (Hell or the Subconscious). Above is the Light World (Heaven) (Read Damon page 40 for the rest of this quote.)
Going on: "Heaven and Hell are essential to each other; they exist simultaneously in God....The third World is the Outer World of Nature. (Damon on pages 39-41 has a comprehensive and excellent write up on Boehme.)