William Blake and Georg Groddeck: Symbols as Symptoms

Giving Error a Form: The role of the Unconscious Imagination

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Introduction: The Myth of Creation

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“The materialization of Error, or the ‘Creation’ as its popularly called”. Image: The Sixth Day of Creation, by Lucas Cranach the Younger (1634). What is true of the body on a particular scale is equally true of the body on a cosmic scale: it is the “visible portion”, as Blake would say, of inner processes that have become “objectified” or dissociated, in order to reveal their dysfunction to the perceiver of that body, like all diseases – in order to then integrate and heal them, and return to eternity. In Kabbalah this process of recognition and re-integration is called tikkun olam (literally “repair of the world”), and human consciousness is considered essential to the process of repair.

According to Blake, the materialization of Error, or the “Creation” as its popularly called, is the result of a dissociative split within consciousness itself, emanating from the radical alienation of the rationalizing and “objecting” (or objectifying) portion of consciousness from Being, perceiver from perceived (“it is the Reasoning Power/ An Abstract objecting power,” Jerusalem 10:13-14).

In mythology, this division or dissociation is embodied in the story of the separation of “Eve” from “Adam”. These aspects, as the Book of Genesis carefully notes, were originally portions or “likenesses” of ‘God’.

In the day that God created humankind (“adam”), in the likeness of God made he him; Male and female created he them; and blessed them, and called their name Adam, in the day when they were created. (Book of Genesis 5: 2-3)

As a result of this emerging state of Urizenic or “Spectre” psychology, the abstracted, instrumental ego perceives itself as being ‘in here’ and the world as ‘out there’, and it also then perceives the externalized world as being ‘natural’ (that is, beyond its imaginative control, and determining the now “passive” psyche) rather than as imaginative, the perceived form of its particular mode of experiencing reality.

But like all Errors, this externalized sense of world and reality has a positive part to play in the eventual liberation and self-realization of Man: it is an attempt to heal the internal and traumatized nature of the divide psyche. “Error is Created  Truth is Eternal   Error or Creation will be Burned Up & then & not till then Truth or Eternity will appear  It is Burnt up the Moment Men cease to behold it” (LJ 95).

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The Creation of Light: William Blake and Francisco de Holanda 

Fiat Lux: The Perception of Spacetime and the Fallen Imagination 

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Introduction: Cosmos as Masterpiece

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Francisco de Holanda, self-portrait (c. 1573), the artist presenting his book

As many critics have pointed out, the remarkable work of the Portuguese Renaissance artist Francisco de Holanda “seems to predict another singular genius: William Blake, whom it predates by two centuries” (Michael Benson, Cosmigraphics: Picturing Space Through Time). Equally remarkable is the fact that many of Holanda’s most astonishing paintings were only discovered a few decades ago. As Benson notes in his compelling examination of visual depictions of the creation of the universe and of Holanda’s work in particular (a rarity in itself in Western academic studies, as there is still almost nothing written about this pioneering figure):

Perhaps the most extraordinary set of pictures depicting space-time’s origins dates from 1573. Discovered in the mid-20th century in an obscure notebook in the National Library of Spain, it was painted by the Portuguese artist and philosopher Francisco de Holanda, a student and lifelong friend of Michelangelo.

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Creative Imagination and Mystical Experience in the Sufism of Ibn ‘Arabî, by Henry Corbin

God as Imagination: the Image and the Imaginer in the Sufism of Ibn ‘Arabî

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Introduction: Ibn ‘Arabî and Islamic mysticism

Screen Shot 2021-04-21 at 12.13.24According to Professor Henry Corbin, one of the 20th century’s most prolific scholars of Islamic mysticism, Ibn ‘Arabî (1165–1240) was “a spiritual genius who was not only one of the greatest masters of Sufism in Islam, but also one of the great mystics of all time.”

Imagination (khayâl), as Corbin has shown, plays a major role in Ibn ‘Arabî’s writings. In the Openings, for example, he says about it, “After the knowledge of the divine names and of self-disclosure and its all-pervadingness, no pillar of knowledge is more complete”.

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William Blake, Nick Cave, and the Origins of Creativity

Nick Cave on William Blake: Where does Creativity come from? 

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The Australian musician and songwriter Nick Cave, responding on his website ‘The Red Hand Files‘ to the question ‘How do you know when you have written something worthwhile? What is your process?’, remarks that Blake’s insights into the nature of Imagination and the imaginative process were key to him in this:

In Issue #87 I wrote about my favourite line from the New Testament: ‘Mary Magdalene and the other Mary remained standing there in front of the tomb.’ To me, this line seems to sum up, among other things, the process of songwriting. William Blake said ‘Jesus is the imagination’ and these words have always resonated with me. They have bound together the notion of Jesus and the creative act, and lifted it into the supernatural sphere.

The moment of the cave.

This is a surely a fascinating observation, and connection. Why particularly that line from the Bible, that stood out for him so much, amid so many other striking lines? What was it about the image of the tomb, or the sense of both the possibility of emptiness and of emergence, the moment of waiting or expectation, that so resonated with him?  Was it some sort of analogy between the resurrected tomb and the cave of creativity, of ‘Imagination’? Thankfully, Cave himself provided some further illumination:

A large part of the process of songwriting is spent waiting in a state of attention before the unknown. We stand in vigil, waiting for Jesus to emerge from the tomb — the divine idea, the beautiful idea — and reveal Himself.

Cave’s sense that there is something ‘transcendent’ about our creative moments and experiences is very striking, and very unexpected in our commercialised, cynical, post-modern age. And also unexpected in an artist not writing from any orthodox religious perspective (“I’m not religious, and I’m not a Christian,” he once remarked, “but I do reserve the right to believe in the possibility of a god.”) Cave is aware that there is something profoundly strange about creativity, something mysterious (or “supernatural” as he puts it) about the process by which songs, and images, and poetry, emerge out of, apparently, thin air. Cave suggests that Blake is right to connect them not to material or mundane processes in this world but to something altogether deeper and more mysterious.

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Mysterium Coniunctionis: Jung, Blake and the alchemy of the Brain, by Rod Tweedy

The Philosopher’s Stone and the integration of the Brain

Introduction

Mysterium Coniunctionis was Jung’s last great work. He was engaged on it for more than a decade, from 1941-1954, and finished it in his eightieth year. The book therefore occupies, as one critic observed, “the culminating position in his writings” (The Collected Works of C.G. Jung). In it he compellingly links the practices of alchemy and psychology through a profound analysis of symbolism and an examination of their shared ideas of the integration and ‘union of opposites’. As he notes, “Not only does this modern psychological discipline give us the key to the secrets of alchemy, but, conversely, alchemy provides the psychology of the unconscious with a meaningful historical basis.”

It’s a fascinating, illuminating, and at times breath-taking study, which draws not only on a wide number of alchemical texts but also on Kabbalistic ideas and symbols such as Adam Kadmon (Primordial Man), the Sefirot, and the union of the ‘Holy One’ and his bride. According to Jung, humankind has historically moved from a condition in which it projects the contents of its unconscious onto the world and heavens to one in which, as a result of a total identification with the rational powers of the ego, it has not only withdrawn its vivifying projections from the world but also fails to recognize or understand the archetypes of the unconscious mind.

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