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Philip Pullman on William Blake, consciusness and different 'visions'

shaky

shaky

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Philip Pullman: William Blake and me | Books | The Guardian

excerpts

In the opening passage to Europe: A Prophecy, Blake recounts how he says to a fairy “Tell me, what is the material world, and is it dead?” In response the fairy promises to “shew you all alive / The world, where every particle of dust breathes forth its joy.” This is close to the philosophical position known as panpsychism, or the belief that everything is conscious, which has been argued back and forth for thousands of years.

How do you know but ev’ry Bird
that cuts the airy way,
Is an immense world of delight,
clos’d by your senses five?
(The Marriage of Heaven and Hell)

And when it comes to vision, we need to be able to see contrary things and believe them both true: “Without Contraries is no progression” (The Marriage of Heaven and Hell), despite the scorn of rationalists whose single vision rejects anything that is not logically coherent. Blake was hard on single vision:
Now I a fourfold vision see
And a fourfold vision is given to me;
Tis fourfold in my supreme delight
And threefold in soft Beulahs night
And twofold Always. May God uskeep
From Single vision and Newtonssleep!
(“Letter to Thomas Butts”)
Fourfold vision is a state of ecstatic or mystical bliss. Threefold vision arises naturally from Beulah, which, in Blake’s mythology, is the place of poetic inspiration and dreams, “where Contrarieties are equally True” (Blake, Milton). Twofold vision is seeing not only with the eye, but through it, seeing contexts, associations, emotional meanings, connections. Single vision is the literal, rational, dissociated, uninflected view of the world characteristic, apparently, of the left hemisphere of the brain when the contextualising, empathetic, imaginative, emotionally involved right brain is disengaged or ignored. (I owe this observation to Roderick Tweedy’s remarkable The God of the Left Hemisphere (2012), and through that to Iain McGilchrist’s The Master and His Emissary (2009), a profound examination of the differences between the left hemisphere of the brain and the right.)

We find the truth of it most forcibly when twofold or threefold vision fails, and we fall into the state described by that great Blakeian WB Yeats as “the will trying to do the work of the imagination”. It’s a condition, I dare say, in which most writers and artists have found themselves marooned from time to time. To get lost in that bleak state when inspiration fails is to find yourself only a step away from an even darker labyrinth, which goes by the entirely inadequate name of depression.

With twofold vision it’s possible to see how contrary things could be believed. With threefold vision, with the inspiration that comes from the unconscious, from Beulah, it’s possible to believe them. I have found over many years that my way of writing a story, from what used to be called the position of the omniscient narrator, allows me a freedom that writing in the first person doesn’t permit. It means the telling voice can inhabit a multitude of different imaginative states. The voice that tells my stories is not that of a person like myself, but that of a being who is credulous and sceptical simultaneously, is both male and female, sentimental and cynical, old and young, hopeful and fearful. It knows what has happened and what will happen, and it remains in pure ignorance of both. With all the passion in its heart it believes contrary things: it is equally overawed by science and by magic. To this being, logic and reason are pretty toys to play with, and invaluable tools to improve the construction of the castles and grottoes it creates in the air. It scoffs at ghosts, and fears them dreadfully, and loves to call them up at midnight, and then laughs at them. It knows that everything it does is folly, and loves it all the same.
And thanks to the genius of William Blake, it knows that “All deities reside in the human breast”, and that “Eternity is in love with the productions of time” (The Marriage of Heaven and Hell). And it thinks that those things are worth knowing.
 

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In the opening passage to Europe: A Prophecy, Blake recounts how he says to a fairy “Tell me, what is the material world, and is it dead?” In response the fairy promises to “shew you all alive / The world, where every particle of dust breathes forth its joy.” This is close to the philosophical position known as panpsychism, or the belief that everything is conscious, which has been argued back and forth for thousands of years.
Thanks for the article - i like Blake, he was a great Mystic. i'm on the side of the Mystics.

Far far back in Ancient history i think there was a time when these things weren't argued - i think there was a time when it was known.

Very much each generation appears to have this argument - & the same things are said/explained, albeit in different words & form.

There are many streams of 'panpsychism', if you want to call it that.
 
shaky

shaky

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Back in mid-November I has an inspiration.
That every cell in my body is conscious
and therefore all sorts of things are conscious that we don't realise.

Now I know what this is called
Panpsychism

And William Blake had the same thoughts!
I amaze myself
(that's what hypomania does :unsure:)

I like Blake even more now (I liked him before too)
I MUST get some more of his books. I've only got Innocence/Experience
 

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Back in mid-November I has an inspiration.
That every cell in my body is conscious
and therefore all sorts of things are conscious that we don't realise.

Now I know what this is called
Panpsychism
It can be realised.

Jung was on a similar track.

This is an interesting little site - Panpsychism and Pantheism

This was an interesting little read - Sun of God by Gregory Sams

Sun of god - Gregory Sams - isbn: 978-1-57863-454

Pantheism - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Worth seeing that there is a thread through all of it - with the Ancients & more Modern mystics & with the Shamanistic, as well as all kinds of other areas, paganism, Gnosticism, Sufism, Kabbalah, indigenous peoples, Theosophy, the perennial philosophy, initiation traditions, ascension/self realisation - all sorts. The names/labels don't really matter.
 
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Kerome

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Interesting article, thank you! I have a long association with Blake, mostly through my stepfather, who is both the mystic and the artist of the family. Needless to say, I too am on the side of the Mystics, their search for a personal experience of the spiritual and God seems a lot more true than what most religions peddle.
 
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