William Blake saw heaven in a speck of dust. Toying on the brink of madness, he always seemed to stop just short of leaping off the cliff, of sacrificing himself to some form of wish fulfilling fantasy. An enigma of a mass of contradictions that epitomized the human dichotomy in which he could subliminate dark desires into a form of ether not utopic, not messianic, but not entirely of this world either. It was always a stroll with the fantasy of the infinite and then finding the infinite in the finite. The finding of redemptive beauty in darkness was a variation on Fuseli and his ambivalence on the nature of innocence had later echoes in Rimbaud.
Blake disliked Newton and Voltaire, seeing the static classicism of the enlightenment suffocating the human spirit, dowsing inspiration. He can be called a painter of intellectual visions, ideas, that brought him to surrealism, though he would have been dismissive of the movement’s intellectual pose and phoniness, though both tapping into defiant disorder, Rimbaud’s disordering of the senses, and the small chasm between sanity and lunacy that only a hyper-lucidity can give rise to. It was religious socialism not without a nihilistic undertone that would obliterate religious dogma, scepticism, experimentalism.
A mass of opposites of which there was no resolution. He did not believe in sin, only mental error, yet he thought the admission of uncertainty on the part of any person—was wicked. He that man’s basic nature could be suppressed or displaced without causing distortion, culture being merely a concealment, an artifice. There can be a good argument that he was a gnostic. A believer, but not in the infinite wonder and benevolence of god; a god similar to what Bloom describes in the Book of J, a god that leaves us perhaps traumatized, but also defiant and unwilling to submit. So, although he did not really espouse a religious god, he was totally obsessed by god. A good section of his writing is wild ranting of no consequence, a prophetic rebel gone haywire saved only by some brilliant sections on the recesses of the mind, human frailty and folly, tyranny and bliss. Like Munch’s The Scream, there is also a glimpses into a nightmare world of loneliness and fanaticism, the science fiction and Hitchcockian horror of a scream repeated endlessly on a phonograph in which the needle keeps skipping back to the same passages.
…For Blake, being a visionary meant seeing beyond a version of politics centred chiefly on parliament. “House of Commons and House of Lords seem to me to be fools,” he wrote. “They seem to me to be something other than human life.”
Like Brown, Blake grew up in a lower-middle-class Christian milieu. But the culture from which Blake sprang was one of the most precious Britain has produced, in which Jacobin artisans and Republican booksellers rubbed shoulders with Dissenting preachers and occult philosophers; the country was effectively a police state, ridden with spies and hunger rioters. Brown’s Britain is not yet a police state, but its technologies of spying and surveillance surpass the wildest dreams of the autocrats of Blake’s day. Blake himself was tried for sedition and acquitted, having allegedly cried in public: “Damn the king and his country!” Today whole sectors of the labour movement bow the knee to monarchy, or at least tolerate it as a minor irritant. The history of labour from Blake to Brown is, among other things, how dissent became domesticated….
…Blake’s politics were not just a matter of wishful thinking, as so many radical schemes are today. Across the Atlantic one great anti-colonial revolution had held out the promise of liberty, and to the poet’s delight another had broken out in the streets of Paris. Together they promised to bring an end to the rule of state and church – “the Beast and the Whore”, as Blake knew them. Most of our own writers, however, seem to know little of politics beyond the value of individual liberties.
In this, they are faithful to the libertarian lineage of John Milton; but Milton knew rather more about politics than freedom of expression. In his greatest poem, he mourned the paradise that radical Puritans had hoped to witness on earth. As mythologer-in-chief of the English 17th-century revolution, he urged the cutting off of the king’s head, and was lucky to escape with his own. It is hard to imagine Craig Raine or Ian McEwan posing a threat to the state.
In his own mighty epic – Milton – Blake turned back to his great Protestant forebear from a Britain now scarred by industrial capitalism. He raided Milton’s work to foster his own visions of
ration, passing on the revolutionary torch to WB Yeats. This self-appointed mythmaker to the Irish war of independence was inspired by Blake’s notion of the poet as prophet and public activist. Read More:http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2007/nov/28/comment.politics
Setting: Freud is walking down a street when he sees Blake staring at a tree, a look of pure contemplation on his face. Freud stops and waves a hand in front of Blake’s face. Blake doesn’t blink. Freud snaps his fingers in Blake’s ear. Still no response. Freud claps his hands and gives a loud yell. Finally, Blake turns to him and says, irritably,
Blake: Do you mind? I’m having a vision here!
Freud: Oh, is that what you were doing? I do beg your pardon. I thought you were deaf. Instead, I find that you were merely in a delusional state likely stemming from a complex formed in childhood. Do carry on.
Blake (irritably): It’s too late. You frightened the angels away with that infernal yelling of yours.
Freud: Interesting. Do the little angels tell you anything?
Blake: What business is it of yours? (Pause.) Who are you, anyway?
Freud: Sigmund Freud, father of psychoanalysis. And you are?
Blake: Confused. Psycho—anna—what?
Freud: Psychoanalysis. Tell me, Mr Confused, have you any other name?
Blake: I’m William Blake, poet, critic, and engraver. And, incidentally, still very confused.
Freud: I must admit that I, too, am quite confused. You died twenty-nine years before I was even born. How is it that I am conversing with you? (Pause.) You must be a delusion.
Blake: I am not a delusion! And as for how we’re talking, well, that’s simple. We’re opening our mouths and making sounds in our throats. I would be more particular than this, because singular and particular detail is the foundation of the sublime, and strictly speaking, all knowledge is particular. However, I have not much knowledge of the workings of the human voice, and cannot give you more detail than I have already done.
Freud: It must be very frustrating to have such a general knowledge of such a commonplace thing. Tell me about your father.
Blake: What does my father have to do with anything? Besides, you weren’t listening. I said, ‘all knowledge is particular’! That means that you cannot know anything unless it is specific. You can’t know something ‘generally’ any more than you can ‘generally’ walk down the street.
Freud: But we generalize all the time.
Blake (snorts): To generalize is to be an idiot!
Freud (slyly): Always?
Blake: Yes, al—wait a second!
Freud: You know, I have a word for people like you. It’s “anal-retentive”.
Blake: That’s two words.
Freud: Case in point. Now, back to that hallucination which you were experiencing. Have you always had these delusions?
Blake (annoyed): Yes. No. I mean, they’re visions, not delusions. When I was a child, God frightened me by peeking in a window.
Freud: Interesting. Well, obviously you’ve got an inability to separate your dream world from reality. You must be very unhappy—the unhappiest people fantasize far more than the happiest people do. There’s a link between fantasy and dreams, you know. Both of them use symbols, which in their own way are a form of language. (Sighs dreamily.) Symbols as a language—how elegant! We need not know what we’re really thinking if our brains change our actual thoughts into a symbolic language that even we cannot understand. But languages can be decoded, and thus language can be the key to analysis of the unconscious. (Snaps out of his reverie.) Where were we? Oh, yes. You seem to fantasize more than most people do, and therefore you must be extremely unhappy…. Read More:http://chaos.sycophanthex.com/viewstory.php?sid=1021&chapter=1