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)
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 Blake 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.
Blake perceived the five senses as "the chief inlets of Soul in this age"
(MHH Plate 4)
The rationalists had imposed upon their world the view that life consists
exclusively of the five senses. Blake knew better:
"How do you know but ev'ry Bird that cuts the airy way,
Is an immense world of delight, clos'd by your senses five?" (MHH Plate 7)
Blake was keenly alive to another world, a world of vision, of imagination,
of God, which he called the eternal; it was a world that most of his contemporaries
had deliberately closed their minds to.
He spent his life furiously trying to strike off their mind forged manacles.
The man of faith believes some things; other things he knows by experience.
Blake had experienced the eternal from earliest childhood.
At times the vision clouded, but its reality remained
the one unshakeable tenet of his faith.