‘Job Confessing His Presumption to God’ (detail) – William Blake, 1803 – Wikimedia
“I must Create a System, or be enslav’d by another Man’s;
I will not Reason and Compare: my business is to Create.”
~ William Blake (‘Jerusalem’)
Artists, through their sensitivity to perception, their pointed quest towards beauty and harmony, are natural candidates for delving into the depth of reality and understanding their true nature. Many poets, painters, musicians, have been able to explore their being in ways that are traditionally the privilege of mystics. Indeed, they wrestle with eternity, and strive to find a way to convey it. William Blake was one such wrestler. He was a poet, painter and printer born in London in 1757. Although not recognised during his life, his art is bursting with creativity, intelligence, and vision. His profuse work, soaked with spiritual explorations, symbolic and personal mythologies, is not to be easily classified. Of William Blake, the 19th-century scholar William Michael Rossetti wrote that he was “a man not forestalled by predecessors, nor to be classed with contemporaries, nor to be replaced by known or readily surmisable successors“. Besides, his poetry is infused with pearls of the most profound non-dual understanding, which I invite you to explore here.
In his childhood, William Blake was fascinated by the work of great masters such as Raphael, Michelangelo, and Albrecht Dürer. He was educated at home, was given drawing lessons, and began writing poetry at an early age. Profoundly influenced by the Bible and Christianity, he was all his life gifted with visions and insights, from which he drew guidance and inspiration for his poetry and paintings. He was nevertheless not a follower, and developed his own vision and understanding. He was very critical of narrow-minded religiosity, or what he named the “general truth” or “general beauty“, writing uncompromisingly that: “To generalize is to be an idiot; To particularize is the alone distinction of merit“. William Blake wrote these enlightening verses about his religious endeavour and passion:
“Trembling I sit day and night, my friends are astonish’d at me.
Yet they forgive my wanderings, I rest not from my great task!
To open the Eternal Worlds, to open the immortal Eyes
Of Man inwards into the Worlds of Thought: into Eternity
Ever expanding in the Bosom of God. the Human Imagination.”
~ ‘Jerusalem’ (Ch. 1, plate 5)
“When will the Resurrection come, to deliver the sleeping body
From corruptibility? O when, Lord Jesus, wilt thou come?
Tarry no longer; for my soul lies at the gates of death:
I will arise and look forth for the morning of the grave:
I will go down to the sepulchre and see if morning breaks.
I will go down to self-annihilation and eternal death
Lest the Last Judgment come and find me unannihilate
And I be seized and given into the hands of my own selfhood.”
~ ‘Milton’ (Book the First)
An exploration of William Blake’s non-dual pearls and poetry… (READ MORE…)