Blake on the Move
For those in cars, planes and fast trains, here’s three excellent audio podcasts giving an overview to Blake’s life and works. The programmes include interviews with top Blake scholars such as Northrop Frye, Kathleen Raine and Gerald Bentley, and excellent readings from Blake’s own poetry and letters.
Prophecy and Social Change: the Unacknowledged Legislators, the Watchmen, and the Prophets
A prophet, Shelley once observed, is someone who can see into the present. And like all great poets, he added, they not only see – they communicate, they rage, and they galvanise, and in this role they’ve traditionally presented a major problem for the ruling elites. As Andrew O. Winckles notes in this compelling article, prophets have always told it like it is, spoken truth to power, and their main object of scorn and anger has usually been the elites themselves. It’s a tradition that political and religious authorities have always found uncomfortable, always sought to silence, for what the prophets say fundamentally challenges the authority of their rule and lays bare its usurping, brutalising character.
Awakening from the Material Body
The central idea of The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, to put it crudely, is that the unrest which has produced the French and American revolutions indicates that the end of the world might come at any time. The end of the world, the apocalypse, is the objective counterpart of the resurrection of man, his return to the titanic bodily form he originally possessed. When we say that man has fallen, we mean that his soul has collapsed into the form of the body in which he now exists.
Freemasonry, Illuminism, and the New Jerusalem
If the philosophy of Immanuel Kant is now studied worldwide, the current climate of philosophical investigation ignores the mystical thinker Emanuel Swedenborg – at best relegating him to footnote status. But towards the end of the eighteenth century, the interest in Swedenborg among intellectuals was immense; his writings “made a lot of noise in the speculative world,” as the leading journal on esoteric matters, The Conjuror’s Magazine, commented in 1791. Kant even felt compelled to respond to Swedenborg in Dreams of a Spirit-Seer (1766). Swedenborg’s teaching became the main substance of the occult revival in the late eighteenth century, and his ideas have had a lasting appeal as a source of inspiration to many intellectuals who were not converts, such as Lavater, Goethe, Coleridge, Emerson, Balzac, Baudelaire, Whitman, Melville, Henry James, and, not least, the poet and painter William Blake, on whom the essay at hand will focus.
How to create and live in a free society
The English poet and painter William Blake (1757-1827) left a body of breathtaking art and stirring, sometimes obscure poetry, much of it concerned with religion and much with the revolutionary struggles of his time—the American and French revolutions, the British radical movement of the 1790s, and later, the growing British labour and constitutional movement in the years 1810-1820. Blake’s major poems—which are also beautiful artworks incorporating his own illustrations—include those collected in Songs of Innocence and of Experience (1789-1794); short narrative works like The Book of Urizen, America a Prophecy, and Europe a Prophecy, all written in the 1790s; and three long, complex narrative poems, The Four Zoas (1797-1807), Milton (1804-1818), and Jerusalem (1804-1820). This article is about Blake’s idea of Jesus and its relation to revolutionary anarchism.
Re-Writing The God Program
As a work of art, William Blake’s famous set of engravings illustrating the Book of Job is undoubtedly one of his finest achievements. But he made it very clear that his art was never an end in itself. Its purpose was to communicate his visionary perceptions for the benefit of mankind: “To open the Eternal Worlds, to open the immortal Eyes/Of man inwards into the Worlds of Thought”. Similarly, I shall keep throughout to a psychological rather than a theological interpretation.
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.