Wednesday, November 21, 2012


British Museum
Small Book of Designs
To George Wingfield Digby, Blake's message is incorporated in the symbolic style of creation which permeates his art and poetry. Without the language of symbols Blake's message could not be communicated because it originates in the depths of man's psyche. Blake intends for his reader to respond in his own imagination to the message generated by Blake's imagination.

Quote from Page 6 of Digby's
Symbol and Image in William Blake:

"But the purpose of this form of communication is not to make explicit statements. It is to evoke and direct attention to psychological events and states of consciousness by means other than that of the intellectual concept, which is rooted in dualism. Here, the meaning lies implicit in the symbol-image, as it does in any true work of art. Moreover, the pictorial image and the poetic image conveyed by the written word are complementary to one another; in different media they make evocative statements indicative of common meaning.

Now the image or symbol is not an inferior means of expression, nor is it largely subjective or arbitrary, as is far too generally regarded by art critics, art historians, and literary critics. On the contrary, the power of apprehending archetypal symbols and images springs from one of man's most precious faculties, his intuitive faculty. It is on this faculty, above all, that he must rely for perceiving the truth about actual living experience; man can never know the truth about himself, nor find in his relationships with the world that truth or reality which transcends them, unless he develops his power of intuition. The intuitive imagination, which works through symbols, is the very essence of art.

But because the image or symbol speaks not only to man's conscious, thinking side, but also to his unconscious, it is a difficult language. Many people shrink from it with misgiving and fear. Others are so attracted and overwhelmed by it that relationships with other forms of cognition are abandoned, and so a vital balance and sense of discrimination is lost. This language of archetypal symbols and images enlists and stirs both sides of man's nature; and because it speaks to the whole man with the many different voices of his complex being, it has to be experienced to be understood.

The implication of this is that we must first and foremost try to see and feel the living principles about which Blake is speaking in his art. This means that the image or symbol must be taken inside oneself and understood intuitively, for it is only in that way it comes to life. The aim of Blake's art is to open the inner world to all those who care to look. He has extraordinary things to show, because he himself saw so far, and so clearly; also because he could bear to look equally on the ugly, the pretty, the deformed and on the free and beautiful." 


Gates of Paradise, Frontispiece, (E 260)
"The Suns Light when he unfolds it
Depends on the Organ that beholds it"

Jerusalem, Plate 5, (E 147)
"Jerusalem is scatterd abroad like a cloud of smoke thro' non-entity:
Moab & Ammon & Amalek & Canaan & Egypt & Aram
Recieve her little-ones for sacrifices and the delights of cruelty   

Trembling I sit day and night, my friends are astonish'd at me.
Yet they forgive my wanderings, 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        
O Saviour pour upon me thy Spirit of meekness & love:
Annihilate the Selfhood in me, be thou all my life!
Guide thou my hand which trembles exceedingly upon the rock of ages,
While I write of the building of Golgonooza, & of the terrors of Entuthon:
Of Hand & Hyle & Coban, of Kwantok, Peachey, Brereton, Slayd & Hutton:
Of the terrible sons & daughters of Albion. and their Generations."  
Thomas Cahill in Sailing the Wine Dark Sea demonstrates his method of using his intuition to gain access to the living past he wants to communicate:
"I tell you these things now because my methods of approaching the past have scarcely changed since childhood and adolescence. I assemble what pieces there are, contrast and compare, and try to remain in their presence till I can begin to see and hear what living men saw and heard and loved, till from these scraps and fragments living men and women begin to emerge and live and move again - and then I try to communicate these sensations to my reader...For me the historian's principle task should be to raise the dead to life."  

The technique of remaining in the presence of Blake's characters and ideas (or taking them into ourselves as Digby says) may yield a wealth of rewards.

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