Blake had written poetry and composed pictures long before he fell in love with Jesus; much the same thing happened with Dylan. But Dylan had loved Blake much longer.
Blake was the most radical poetic dissenter of his generation, and so was Dylan. Prophets, they focused on the fallacies of their cultures. Dylan scorned organized religion and established morals; likewise Blake. Following Blake's cue the sixties generation questioned the moral and political leadership of the country in ways that had never happened before in America. The two prophets both knew that power rightfully resides in the people, and they aimed to encourage the people to take full responsibility for themselves. In that aim Dylan suceeded more than Blake could have: In one of his songs he wrote "you don't need a weatherman".
A revolutionary underground emerged called the Weathermen. They sought a violent revolution, but Dylan, like Blake and also Jesus wanted a more fundamental revolution in the hearts of men and women.
It makes a lot of sense to compare the sixties with Blake's in the nineties of his century: the end of each decade witnessed a meeting with the Lord. This shows that each decade encompassed a spitirual journey.
Dylan always was at one level a very private person. Nevertheless the outline of his spiritual journey for those with insight belongs to the public and is sufficiently clear to relate to the Blakean Circle of Destiny.
In Blake and in Dylan we see two men who "call no man father" (Matthew 23:9) and fundamentally reject all forms of outward authority. Each communes with his own spirit, and his communion leads to the same end, to the encounter with Christ, the King.
The passage of 200 years has obscured the drama in Blake's case, so much so that his secular interpreters almost completely lost sight of it. But Dylan's conversion was too new to be anything less than a collective drama. His devotees gloried in his lack of religion, until they were knocked over by his conversion. His secular fans were sheerly appalled; they were confronted with a reality which they had systematically ignored.
Blake had always been aware of the failure of organized religion, but with Dylan's conversion he found it bit by bit. They were all inadequate.
In the history of Christianity Dylan's conversion bears comparison with Paul's 'Damascus Road' (Book of Acts:9 or to the strange warming of John Wesley's heart.
Any number of pages could be devoted to relating Blake and Dylan, but one significant point deserves special emphasis: both men spent their pre-Christian decade celebrating fallennes. This should be readily apparent to readers of this blog as far as Blake is concerned; examples of this motif in Dylan's are too numerous to do more than sample.
Look at A_Hard_Rain's_a-Gonna_Fall.
Speaking in general the celebration of fallenness is the acme of the prophet's function: he points out to us what's wrong with our society and he does this with a kind of language designed to raise things forcibly into our consciousness. Ezekiel had told Blake that his bizarre pantomimes were aimed at 'raising other men into a perception of the Infinite." Blake became pretty bizarre in his language at times and so did Dylan, both for the purpose stated by Ezekiel.
By 1966 Dylan was acknowledged chief prophet of the American counter culture; his corrosive judgments filled the minds of of the young and nurtured their spirits, while their adulation poisoned his. "Blonde on Blonde" is his sad, infected St. Virus Dance, chaotic and nihilistic, a paean of fallenness, and Dylan projected himself as more personally involved than Blake ever did in his most lurid passages. Dylan is Los after binding Urizen and he proceeds to chain his creative energy to Hell just as Los had done.
Los and Spectre
Jerusalem Plate 6