Through the Round Window: Review of Carol Leader’s ‘Blake and the Therapists’, by Rod Tweedy

A Review of ‘Unfolding the Mythological Unconscious: An Illuminated Talk’ by Carol Leader

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Introduction: William Blake and Therapy

“Was William Blake mad?” is the usual question that comes up in any discussion of Blake and therapy. What was fascinating about psychoanalytic psychotherapist Carol Leader’s talk at the Blake Society event at the Freud Museum was the way in which she explored this connection between ‘Blake and the Therapists’ on a new and much more profound level. Indeed, her presentation was so thought-provoking that it makes you wonder why more hasn’t been written on this connection. As Tim Heath noted in his introduction to the talk, “whenever you converse with William Blake, whenever you dive into his work, it immediately becomes apparent why Blake intimated the coming of therapy.”

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The Eye Altering: William Blake and the Nature of Observation, by Naomi Billingsley

The Jesus Field: Observation, Participation, and how Images alter the Observer

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Introduction: Jesus and the Human Imagination

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In All Religions are One (1788) Blake declared “That the Poetic Genius is the true Man. and that the body or outward form of Man is derived from the Poetic Genius” (Principle 1st). Blake here is drawing attention to the great, hidden secret of both reality and the nature of God, which is Form. Forms are not ‘things’ but processes or organising movements. Forms are rooted in and expressions of (creations of) an underlying “former”, which in Blake’s early work he called the “Poetic Genius” to signify its formative aspect, a term which is derived from the same root as the word from which we also get “genesis” and indeed “genetic”. According to Blake it is this that gives each body its individual as well as generic “form”. In contrast to almost all other spiritual traditions, Blake understood that forms are not temporary and unimportant but eternal, continually creating and recreating themselves. They are vast invisible forming fields, similar to what Rupert Sheldrake has more recently termed “morphogenetic fields”.

William Blake believed that Christianity is art and that Jesus Christ was an artist, who is both the model and the source of artistic activity. These ideas are central to his artistic and religious vision, and are expressed in various forms throughout his career: from the early account of the Poetic Genius in All Religions are One, to the late aphorisms of the Laocoön plate.

This article examines why Blake identified Christ as artist and Christianity as art. My central argument is that Blake expresses this theory – or theology – of art through his visual representations of Christ. Blake did not mean that Jesus produced works of fine art, nor that one must do so in order to be Christian; rather, Christ’s identity is Imagination, and as such all his acts and all activity in him are art. Thus, I examine Blake’s depictions of Jesus’ life and ministry, and show that Blake represents these themes as analogous to the work of the artist because Jesus changes the way that we perceive the world.

As Morris Eaves highlights at the end of Blake’s Theory of Art, for Blake, Jesus’ art was his public ministry – his parables and miracles were acts of self-expression, which sought to create a new social order. So too Blake seeks, through his art, to engender a community of Imagination. This community is the Divine Body, which is Jesus, who is Imagination – as expressed in the Laocoön aphorism quoted below:

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Thus, Blake’s depictions of Christ are also representations of artistic activity; they include not only images of Jesus’ public ministry, but also of his birth, death and resurrection, as an apocalyptic agent, and in extra-biblical roles.

Whilst Blake’s vision of Christ as the supreme type of the artist was by no means a static concept, it emerged in his works as early as All Religions are One and can be found in works from throughout his career. This article explores how Blake envisaged the life of Christ as manifesting the principles of art through case studies that examine five major themes in Blake’s depictions of Christ in key pictorial projects in his oeuvre: art as regeneration, art as inspiration, art as facilitator, art as eternal, and art as iconoclastic. Imagination alters the way we see the world, and our relationship with it: that is to say, since observed and observed are fundamentally entwined and interdependent (or “entangled”, in the language of modern quantum field theory), imagination alters, or restores, the nature of reality itself – to a unified and integrated (“holistic”) whole, or “vision”.

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Blake’s Left Foot: William Blake and how to enter new States, by Jennifer Keith

“And did those Feet?” Radical incarnation and the Spirituality of Physiology in Blake’s Milton 

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Introduction: The Mental Traveller

In a work with the spiritual aspirations of Blake’s Milton, the pedestrian topic of feet may seem less than deserving of critical attention, but because Blake himself repeatedly focuses on the foot in his brief epic, surely the reader should attend to this lowest part of human anatomy.

As an anatomical feature, the foot automatically assumes importance given Blake’s declaration in Milton that “more extensive / Than any other earthly things, are Mans earthly lineaments.” In verses noted for their narrative convolutions and complex imagery, Blake’s poetic feet figure among Milton‘s most memorable fancies: “covered with Human gore,” Zelophehad’s Daughters’ feet treadle the loom (29.58); a “Vegetable World” appears on Blake’s left foot (21.12); and Albion’s enormous feet cover a good portion of southern England (39.36-40).

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Logic and Mysticism: William Blake, Bertrand Russell, and Allen Ginsberg

The Way to Truth: The Lamb or the Tyger?

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The Ancient of Days over Bikini Atoll, where America exploded a massive hydrogen bomb in 1954. It was a thousand times more powerful than the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima. On witnessing the first detonation of a nuclear weapon on July 16, 1945, a piece of Hindu scripture ran through the mind of scientist Robert Oppenheimer: “Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds”

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Introduction: Blake and Bertrand Russell

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Entrance to the rooms Russell occupied as a Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge University, where he first heard the sound of Blake’s Tyger.

In the first volume of his autobiography, Nobel Prize laureate Bertrand Russell recalled being stopped dead in his tracks while trying to descend a staircase in Trinity College Cambridge by his friend Crompton reciting Blake’s poem The Tyger. He wrote:

One of my earliest memories of Crompton is of meeting him in the darkest part of a winding College staircase and his suddenly quoting, without any previous word, the whole of “Tyger, Tyger, burning bright.” I had never, till that moment, heard of Blake, and the poem affected me so much that I came dizzy and had to lean against the wall.

The encounter with Blake’s Tyger seems to have made a lasting impression on the mathematician and philosopher. Russell returned to him again in his 1918 essay Mysticism and Logic, where he suggested that the search for truth could be reached both through hard science and pure speculation. In the essay Russell contrasts two “great men,” Enlightenment philosopher David Hume, whose “scientific impulse reigns quite unchecked,” and poet William Blake, in whom “a strong hostility to science co-exists with profound mystic insight.” It’s interesting that Russell chooses Blake for an example.

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Brandpsycho: The Hidden Psychology of Brands, by Max Jakob Lusensky

Jung, Magic, and the Manipulation of Eros: How Capitalism Controls Us

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Introduction

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Bernay’s classic work, Propaganda (1928) explored the psychology behind manipulating masses and the ability to use symbolic action and propaganda to influence politics and effect social change. Bernays’ thesis is that “invisible” people who create knowledge and propaganda rule over the masses, with a monopoly on the power to shape thoughts, values, and citizen response. “Engineering consent” of the masses, he argued, would be vital for the survival of capitalism.

In this post we explore how the psychology of Carl Gustav Jung and Sigmund Freud’s psychoanalysis have been used by the marketplace to transform products into magical brands that we subconsciously connect with. 

What (Freud’s nephew) Edward Bernays and his fellow marketers did was to introduce eros to the marketplace and to explore a new technique to infuse products with its energy. Products started to transmute into pseudo-symbols when charged with psyche, libido, emotional appeal, and the promise to still the desires constantly stirring within the consumer’s unconscious. 

Influenced by the insights of psychoanalysis, a new method of marketing was born, one that would reshape the field of advertising and form a psychological framework for the industry that today is referred to as branding.

The word brand derives from Old Norse, a Viking language spoken in Scandinavia until the fifteenth century. Brandr meant ‘to burn’. Later in history, the word came to identify the process of marking cattle, criminals, and slaves using a hot iron, a precursor to the logo.

Brands today are more than mirrors for our unspoken, often unconscious, psychological wants and desires. 

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The Infinite IAM: Coleridge, Blake, and the Primary Imagination

The Poet and God: Participating in the Wave Potential Field

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Introduction

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Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772–1834), portrait by Peter Vandyke, 1795

In Chapter XIII of his Biographia Literaria, Coleridge formulated his concept of the imagination, or “the esemplastic power” (meaning “shaping or having the power to shape disparate things into a unified whole”). It was a passage that would come to define and articulate not only the Romantic conception of imagination, but the nature of God, being, perception, and our relation to the universe:

The Imagination then I consider either as primary, or secondary. The primary Imagination I hold to be the living Power and prime Agent of all human Perception, and as a repetition in the finite mind of the eternal act of creation in the infinite I Am. The secondary I consider as an echo of the former, co-existing with the conscious will, yet still as identical with the primary in the kind of its agency, and differing only in degree, and in the mode of its operation. It dissolves, diffuses, dissipates, in order to re-create; or where this process is rendered impossible, yet still at all events it struggles to idealize and to unify. It is essentially vital, even as all objects (as objects) are essentially fixed and dead.

Fancy, on the contrary, has no other counters to play with, but fixities and definites. The Fancy is indeed no other than a mode of Memory emancipated from the order of time and space; while it is blended with, and modified by that empirical phenomenon of the will, which we express by the word CHOICE. But equally with the ordinary memory the Fancy must receive all its materials ready made from the law of association.

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The Biographia Literaria is a unique fusion of literary criticism and personal autobiography written by Coleridge and published in 1817

Coleridge’s earliest definition of imagination actually comes at the beginning of his Lecture on the Slave Trade (1795), where he also talks about issues of creativity and “combination”, past and present, and imagination as a “vivifying” power or faculty.

The restless, transformative aspect of imaginative processes seem to both reflect, participate in, and co-create wider evolutionary processes of transformation – hence its role in what he strikingly calls here “the ascent of Being”, and which Shelley had also alluded to in his  great revolutionary poem Queen Mab (1813). In the very last lines of that poem, Shelley presents life, in all its great variety of forms, as embodying and transmitting a ceaseless and “necessarily beneficent” evolutionary process that entwines itself with what he here calls Necessity:

And life, in multitudinous shapes,
Still pressing forward where no term can be,

Like hungry and unresting flame

Curls round the eternal columns of its strength.

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“The ascent of Being”. Image: Wanderer Above the Sea of Fog by Caspar David Friedrich (c. 1818). The great Romantic philosophers and writers were all deeply aware that the universe, far from being at the dead mechanism of the earlier ‘Enlightenment’ age , was essentially alive, responsive, relational, dynamic, and awake.

These writers and thinkers sensed a resonance or relationality between what they were doing as creative artists, and the activity they saw all around them – the constant transmutation of form, the vivifying and implicit energy within being – within the interconnected “web of being” as Shelley referred to it in Queen Mab.

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‘Come, You Giants!’: Review of Jez Butterworth’s ‘Jerusalem’, by Rod Tweedy

Albion’s Enslavement: Green and Pleasant Lands vs Chartered Streets 

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In April 2022, Jez Butterworth’s terrific, William Blake-inspired drama Jerusalem returns to London for a special, limited 16-week run. I was lucky enough to see it last night at the press review – red carpet, flashing cameras, which was also kind of fun to see, and a sign of the eagerness with which the revival of this play – often said to be the “greatest British play of the 21st century” – has been greeted.

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Against the Grain: Civilisation as a Slave State, by James C. Scott

The Sleep of Six Thousand Years: The Fall of Man and the Rise of Agriculture, Cities, and Civilisation

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Introduction: Six Thousand Years

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Give Us Today Our Daily … “A state can be defined as a territory over which an elite exercised coercive power maintaining itself by taxing the population either through its produce or its labour. Scott provides a fascinating insight into just how they worked. He argues that for a state to exist it needed to be reliant on a staple that could easily be taxed – and grain was the ideal. Another advantage of grain to the state was that it had a higher value per unit volume than most other foodstuffs and was easy to store in the protection of the city, from where it could be doled out to slaves and soldiers or used to feed the population when under siege. Through taxation the state became the quartermaster and producers became subjects” (Guardian review of Scott’s book, by Barry Cunliffe).

Recent anthropological research suggests that a significant and dramatic shift occurred in human cultures around six thousand years ago, resulting in the relatively sudden and massive advances in technological and linguistic innovations which were such a prominent characteristic of the extraordinary new civilisations of Sumer and Babylon, as well as in equally sudden and massive advances in social inequality, war, hierarchy, and accountancy.

The emergence of these developments around six thousand years ago is of particular relevance in a discussion of Blake as he repeatedly alludes to the cultures of Babylon, Tyre, and Egypt (Mesopotamia) as being of significance in the “fall into Division” that he recounts in his long prophetic poems (“the Works/Of Egypt and Babylon Whose Gods are the Powers of this World”; Laocoon). This psychological or dissociative “fall”, he remarks, originates in or is coeval with these centres, considered both as historical locations and metaphorical states, and even more interestingly in this context, Blake notes that this fall has lasted for a period of “Six Thousand Years”, a phrase that recurs in his longer poems almost like a heart-beat.

Awake Albion awake! reclaim thy Reasoning Spectre …
Let the Four Zoa’s awake from Slumbers of Six Thousand Years

Milton 39:10–13

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Blake suggests that these giant sleeping energies within man are beginning to awaken, and with them the awareness of history and of man’s real state. “Six Thousand years are passd away the end approaches fast”, sings Los (Mil 23:55), and with it the end of the unconscious Urizenic processes currently nailing down man’s intuitive awareness.

I behold the Visions of my deadly Sleep of Six Thousand Years

Dazling around thy skirts like a Serpent of precious stones & gold
I know it is my Self

Jerusalem 96:11–13

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Opening the Doors: William Blake, Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, and the Beat Generation

Howl: The War of this World against Vision and Imagination

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Old New York

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Introduction: Blake & the Beats

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Allen Ginsberg (1926–1997) in front of the opening lines of Howl, referencing Blake in its opening section

William Blake’s influence on the Beat Generation is arguably more significant than that of any other writer or artist. Most notably he was Ginsberg’s “guru” and the “catalyst” for his poetry, and even warranted a mention in “Howl”. Blake supposedly appeared to Ginsberg in 1945 and read “Ah Sun-flower”, and again in 1948 when Ginsberg was reading “The Sick Rose”. He explained,

I was never able to figure out whether I was having a religious vision, a hallucinatory experience, or what, but it was the deepest ‘spiritual’ experience I had in my life, and determined my karma as poet. That’s the-key pivotal turnabout of my own existence. That’s why I was hung up on setting Blake to music.

Visions were important to Blake, who claimed that his poetry was not necessarily a work that he created, but something channeled through him. He referred to himself as a “true Orator” and claimed that poetry came from a voice that he simply wrote down.

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Revolution of the Psyche, by Krishnamurti

The Thinker and the Thought: “What you are, the world is. So your problem is the world’s problem”

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Revolutions

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Introduction

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Krishnamurti in 1910. The year before, theosophist Charles Webster Leadbeater, who claimed clairvoyance, had noticed Krishnamurti on the Society’s beach on the Adyar river and was amazed by the “most wonderful aura he had ever seen, without a particle of selfishness in it.” Leadbeater was convinced that the boy would become a spiritual teacher and a great orator; the likely “vehicle for the Lord Maitreya” in theosophical doctrine, an advanced spiritual entity periodically appearing on Earth as a World Teacher to guide the evolution of humankind. Krishnamurti later rejected this role, and indeed rejected the whole idea of following “roles”, after an intense spiritual experience in 1922.

Jiddu Krishnamurti was an Indian philosopher, speaker, and writer. In his early life, he was groomed to be the new ‘World Teacher’ (the Theosophical concept of Maitreya), but he later rejected this mantle and withdrew from the Theosophy organization behind it.

His interests included psychological revolution, the nature of mind, meditation, holistic inquiry, human relationships, and bringing about radical change in society. He stressed the need for a revolution in the psyche of every human being and emphasised that such revolution cannot be brought about by any external authority, be it religious, political, or social.

Krishnamurti was often seen as a spiritual master, although he interestingly mistrusted all religions and denounced the Eastern convention of deifying living spiritual masters. This gives some of his thinking an unusual and indeed at times devastating honesty. Perhaps nowhere is this more seen than in his critiques of the ego – the basis of both the modern personality and of most orthodox psychoanalytic thinking (the purpose of much Freudian and Jungian analysis is actually to strengthen the ego). The goal in Krishnamurti’s vision seems to be to go beyond both ‘self’ and beyond ‘mind’ (which, like Tolle, Krishnamurti equates with ego or what Blake calls “Selfhood”). “Judgement and comparison commit us irrevocably to duality”, he says – and we can never be happy therefore while we are in this state. And neither can those around us.

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