Tyger, Tyger: The Predators, the Single Eye, and the Pyramids within our Heads
Introduction: Symbols and Symptoms
In 2014, the psychiatrist and philosopher Iain McGilchrist gave a remarkable talk on the art and symbolism of patients with schizophrenia or psychosis (‘Neuromania – Spiders, yes, but why cats?‘). The presentation was not only a fascinating insight into the nature of these conditions, and the implicit and intrinsic connections between symptoms and symbols, but also a profound exploration of the peculiar symbolism and imagery that more generally surrounds us in our supposedly hyper-rational cultures, and which artist and writer William Blake somehow understood and drew upon.
Totalitarianism and the Urizenic Mind
Milton wrote Paradise Lost just before the rise of the nation states, and Milton also had the intuition that there was something wrong with rationality, and he identified rationality with the mythology of Satan.
In the mythology of Satan, Satan was represented as the highest angel in God’s heavenly kingdom – so you can think about that as the highest psychological function, who had rebelled against God and then was cast into Hell.
His hypothesis was this: Evil was the force that believes that its knowledge of the world is complete. And that it can do without the transcendent. And as soon as it makes that claim, it instantly exists in a place that’s indistinguishable from hell. [“In Hell all is Self Righteousness” – Blake. As McGilchrist notes in his fascinating gloss on Blake, “He who sees the Infinite (looks outward to the ever-becoming with the right hemisphere) in all things sees God. He who sees the Ratio only [looks at the self-defined world brought into being by the left hemisphere] sees himself only (the left hemisphere is self-reflexive)”]. And it could get out merely by admitting its Error, and it will never do that.