Copenhagen’s alternative self-governing society
Founded in 1971 when a brigade of young squatters and artists took over an abandoned military base on the edge of town and proclaimed it a “free zone” beyond the reach of Danish law, Christiania (or Christiania Freetown) is a self-proclaimed autonomous neighbourhood bang in the centre of Copenhagen. There are bars, cafés, grocery shops, a building-supply store, yoga centre, a lake, cobblestone roads (no cars allowed), a museum, art galleries, a concert hall, a skateboard park, a recycling centre, even a recording studio. It’s also the only place where the the sale of cannabis (though no hard drugs) is officially tolerated. The people of Christiania fly their own flag and use their own currency.
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Babylon, Nature-worship, and the Sleep of Albion
‘Awake! awake O sleeper of the land of shadows, wake! expand!’
As Kathleen Raine has noted, “the sleep of Albion is in a word the materialist mentality of the modern West.” However, this “materialist mentality”, for Blake, denotes not only the belief in the Newtonian universe of orthodox Science, which many are now questioning, but also the belief in “Nature” itself. For Blake, the “Creation” – the emergence of an apparently objective, natural, and material world – and Albion’s fall into “Sleep” were one and the same event.
Blake’s Annotations to Bishop Watson’s An Apology for the Bible
Bishop Richard Watson’s An Apology for the Bible (1796) was written as a response to Thomas Paine’s trenchant attack on Christianity in The Age of Reason (1794/1795), which had attracted huge popular attention and become a best-seller in America. Paine had challenged both the historical accuracy of the Bible and its morality, and offered as an alternative the more ‘rational’ (and therefore more eighteenth-century) religion of ‘Deism’.