Review of 2016

A New Year, A New Self, A New Politics

Thank you to everyone who’s followed the posts this year, left comments, suggested ideas, and supported thehumandivine project in its first year. Over the last twelve months we’ve posted a new blog each week, covering everything from Kabbalah and Brexit to neuroscience and the sexuality of God – all united by an approach rooted in William Blake’s imaginative and radical take on God. We hope this will be a useful resource for anyone wanting to explore Blake’s alternative vision and its relevance for today.

blake7-xmas-1But in 2017 thehumandivine is changing! From January the site is going to develop in new and exciting ways: instead of weekly articles there’ll be more in-depth monthly posts exploring key passages from the Bible (Book of Job, Ezekiel, etc) from a radical Blakean perspective, to help illuminate them and also to suggest their relevance to what’s happening today, and how these narratives and thought systems continue to shape both our inner and outer lives.

Blake read the Bible not as “the word of God” to be followed literally but as a profound record of the psychological evolution of humanity – its terrifying psychic splits and dissections, its self-alienation and state of “exile”, its fall into “division”, its capacity for forgiveness, and its longing for integration and wholeness.

We’re also hoping to develop the themes of the website in practical ways: there are plans to organise a conference next summer to explore the implications of Blake for contemporary theology and to see if the Church can be shifted more in a Blakean direction. The theme of the conference will be Blake’s observation: “The Vision of Christ that thou dost see Is my Vision’s Greatest Enemy” – and what he means by this. Watch this space!

 

Here’s a selection of some of the highlights from 2016:

tumblr_inline_mn9yw5yacg1qz4rgpNICK CAVE: The Flesh Made Word: A Poetic Interpretation

1-brexit-1ROD TWEEDY: William Blake, Brexit and the Re-Awakening of Albion

this-screen-shot-2016-12-08-at-22-12-40IAIN McGILCHRIST: William Blake and the Divided Brain

558386_440269706046483_367614937_nSHAMS TABRIZI: The 40 Rules of Love

ecstasy-1PETER ANDERSON: Poetry & Madness: Blake, Eigen & the Psychotic God

blake-a1-1-bigCHRISTOPHER Z. HOBSON: Anarchism and William Blake’s Idea of Jesus

image142-1ERIC PYLE: Blake’s Illustrations of Dante’s Hell

The Ghost of a Flea c.1819-20 by William Blake 1757-1827E.M. NOTENBOOM: From Hell: Alan Moore and William Blake

milton_pic-1ANDREI BURKE: The Secret World and Sexual Rebellion of William Blake

theatre2-jpeg-3SUSANNE M. SKLAR: Blake’s Jerusalem as Visionary Theatre

 

Happy Christmas!!

 

Advertisements

The Genius of Blake, by Philip Pullman

Keeping the Divine Vision in Time of Trouble

blake-collage-by-chekoullage

There was no one like William Blake. There had been no one like him before and there has been no one like him since. He’s unique not only among English poets but among writers and artists from anywhere in the world. Poets and critics of his own time were unsure whether he was mad; Wordsworth thought he undoubtedly was but said there was something in Blake’s madness that interested him more than the sanity of Lord Byron and Walter Scott.

Read More

William Blake and the Divided Brain, by Iain McGilchrist

The Infinite Brain and the Narrow Circle

The Blake Society Annual Lecture was this year given by Iain McGilchrist, whose remarkable book The Master and His Emissary: The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World is widely regarded as one of the most important texts of the twenty-first century.

His extraordinary talk on William Blake shows how a profound understanding of contemporary neuroscience and hemispheric difference can illuminate and reveal hidden dimensions of Blake’s thought, a writer and thinker so at home with contraries, asymmetries, and the deep processes of the human brain. It is quite simply the best talk on Blake that has ever been given or is ever likely to be given. Prepare to have your hemispheres altered!

Read More

The Political Meaning of the Nativity, by Marcus J. Borg and John Dominic Crossan

The Longing for Peace and Liberation from Contemporary Domination Systems

2botticelli_24_mystical_nativity-1

55199530100490640360no

Because of the importance of Christmas, how we understand the stories of Jesus’s birth matters. What we think they’re about – how we hear them, read them, interpret them – matters. They are often sentimentalised. And, of course, there is emotional power in them. But the stories of Jesus’s birth are more than sentimental. The stories of the first Christmas are both personal and political. They speak of personal and political transformation. Set in the first-century context, they are comprehensive and passionate visions of another way of seeing life and of living our lives.

d1a94ffcb0e9eb24069a9835ebf34d69

“they are about a different way of seeing”

They challenge the common life, the status quo, of most times and places. Even as they are tidings of comfort and joy, they are edgy and challenging. They confront “normalcy”, what we call “the normalcy of civilisation” – the way most societies, most human cultures, have been and are organised. The personal and political meanings can be distinguished but not separated without betraying one or the other. They are about us – our hopes and fears. And they are about a different kind of world. God’s dream for us is not simply peace of mind, but peace on earth.

 

Read More

The Problem with Religion, by S. Foster Damon

All Religions are One

The Blasphemer c.1800 William Blake 1757-1827 Bequeathed by Miss Alice G.E. Carthew 1940 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/N05195

Religion, so Blake believed, was the basic problem of mankind. Early in his life he conceived the idea of a fundamental and universal religion that he developed throughout his life.

He was born in the third – Revolutionary –  generation of the eighteenth century. The orthodox Anglican Church had become devoted to place-hunting and was spiritually dead. The Dissenters considered themselves members of this church, but keep apart. Deism had captured the intellectual world and established the “Age of Reason” by denying all miracles and revelations. Generally the public was hostile to all religious controversies, which had been responsible for some of the bloodiest pages in religion. “Enthusiasm” was a term of contempt.

Read More

The Great Selfhood Satan: The Pathological Nature of the Human Ego

William Blake, Eckhart Tolle, and the Obstacle to God

“Imagine a chief of police trying to find an arsonist when the arsonist is the chief of police” (Tolle)

I am your Rational Power O Albion & that Human Form

You call Divine, is but a Worm seventy inches long
That creeps forth in a night & is dried in the morning sun

In fortuitous concourse of memorys accumulated & lost …

So spoke the Spectre to Albion. he is the Great Selfhood

Satan: Worshipd as God by the Mighty Ones of the Earth

Having a white Dot calld a Center from which branches out

A Circle in continual gyrations (Blake, Jerusalem)

 

The Spectre

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

“The Spectre is the Reasoning Power in Man,” Blake succinctly notes in Jerusalem, and throughout his works he consistently links the “spectral” or compulsive aspect of divided and divisive rationality with the contemporary form of human reason itself:

… it is the Reasoning Power
An Abstract objecting power, that Negatives every thing

This is the Spectre of Man, the Holy Reasoning Power
And in its Holiness is closed the Abomination of Desolation.

Read More

Meeting Blake for the First Time, by Henry Crabb Robinson

Seeing Blake Plain

3382-576643-1-flip

Life mask of Blake, taken in 1823

“Of all the records of his latter years,” the poet and critic Swinburne once noted of Blake, “the most valuable, perhaps, are those furnished by Mr. Crabb Robinson, whose cautious and vivid transcription of Blake’s actual speech is worth more than much vague remark, or than any commentary now possible to give.” Others may have understood Blake better than Crabb Robinson – by profession a lawyer and journalist – but no one else was so attentive to his speech, which he carefully recorded in his private diaries (eventually published in 1869 as Diary, Reminiscences, and Correspondence).

The extraordinary accounts of his meetings with Blake help to answer some key questions: What did Blake sound like? How did he engage with others – what was it like to be in Blake’s company? Thanks to Crabbe Robinson’s remarkable and meticulously recorded entries, we can gain entry and access into Blake’s private world – a sense of what it was like to be the same room as Blake. And also to hear his thoughts – “on art, and on poetry, and on religion” as Crabb Robinson summarises it – including Blake’s view of the nature of imagination, the two Suns, having met Socrates, why there is suffering as well as joy in heaven, his criticism of Jesus, the prelapsarian union of the sexes, Wordsworth’s atheism, and why education is the great sin.

Read More

Blake on War, by Rod Tweedy

The Difference between Mental Fight and Corporeal War

350x700px-ll-3b13016c_notre-monde-ne-tourne-plus-rond-des-illustrations-satiriques-denoncent-les-horreurs-de-la-societe-actuelle2

“War is Energy Enslaved” Blake once remarked – an observation that powerfully captures one of war’s most characteristic and toxic aspects: its ability to harness the astonishing productions of human society – our vast collective energies, intelligence, industries, and labour – and put them to profoundly destructive and degrading ends, to set humanity against itself. Blake’s observation equates war with slavery, with both mental and physical obedience and servitude – or “service” as it’s more frequently called today.

Blake witnessed first-hand the devastating impact of warfare: he lived for sixty-nine years (1757-1827) and for each one of those years, Britain was at war or in military conflict with one country or another – with India, with Portugal, with Hanover, Prussia, the Netherlands, Spain, the Dutch Republic, Austria, Germany, Ireland, America, France, Sweden, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Burma …

Read More

Building Golgonooza: A Country without Military – Costa Rica

The Pacific Republic: Central America’s Green and Pleasant Land

maxresdefault

On 1st December 1948, President José Figueres Ferrer of Costa Rica abolished the military of Costa Rica after victory in the civil war in that year. In a ceremony in the Cuartel Bellavista, Figueres broke a wall with a mallet symbolizing an end to Costa Rica’s military spirit. In 1949, the abolition of the military was introduced in Article 12 of the Costa Rican Constitution. The budget previously dedicated to the military is now dedicated to security, education and culture.

Read More

Walking Blake’s London, by Akala and Mr Gee

Hearing the mind-forged manacles

Take a trip around the place that you live. What do you see? What do you feel?

Over 200 years ago, that’s exactly what William Blake did. What happened on that trip – what did he see? what did he feel? – but most importantly, what did it inspire him to write?

He described these “chartered” streets, and even the river Thames as being chartered – he was expressing the sense of ownership, the fact that the streets are owned by someone. Or a river – when you think of a river, you imagine something that flows freely – but he’s pointing to the fact that the river is also owned by someone.

London at that time was starting to assert itself, it was starting to beat its chest. But Blake just peals the veneer behind that image, and speaks about “Weakness” and “Woe”. These are not adjectives that London would use to describe itself to the world.

Read More