“William Blake, body, soul, & the liberating power of the imagination: what’s the catch?” (next live liminalist exploration )

I have added this suggestion to the contact options at the site:

If you have a specific subject you want to discuss and are willing to do so in a group, a meeting can be structured around your interest (as long as it perks mine)

(Register with your request here.)

As a first go at this blend of 1:1 with group Liminalist event (in which all attendants are invited to actively participate), the proposed subject is “William Blake, soul, body, & the liberating power of the imagination: what’s the catch?”

To introduce the subject I am reproducing, with permission, excerpts from the email exchange with a reader that inspired this event. I have bolded passages that are integral to event as I envision it.

Paul wrote me after listening to the podcast and reading the blog:

I was compelled by what seemed like a novel meta-gnostic reading of the occult and culture. I felt sympathetic to the desire to return to, and trust, “the body,” though I was unsure of what you meant by that—the brute physical form? Does the imaginal count? What’s the outline of this body? Which is the essential body, which the traumatic one? I immediately thought of William Blake. Like you, he was very suspicious of culture and institutions (for him it was the Greek poets, Milton, the Royal Society), and he located the most fucked up thing about the social order in its abuses of art, in service of war and money.

My response:

it might come as no surprise that I have come to distrust Blake somewhat as the veils continue to be drawn aside – he, after all, massively influential—via Huxley to The Doors & beyond—which shows his vision was compatible with—assimilable  to—the “liberal-progressive/Dionysian/unleash the imagination/id” end of the social program. . . . OTOH there may be no way around the Borg in this particular regard, it will devour everything and shit out its own version of it in the end, if it doesn’t simply ignore it as beneath its interest, as sharks ignore small fish.

Paul: Blake is someone I deeply internalized, and that influence definitely shaped the course of my life, maybe not for the better. To use your own term, he’s part of my “crucial fiction”; and now I’m trying to deconstruct the fiction to understand what drew me to Blake in the first place. What makes this particularly perilous is the fact that I’m aware, on some level, by continuing to read him—in such a personally invested and emotionally significant manner—I am acting on the same impulse/energy that led me to him, keeping it alive; and what makes it doubly perilous is that, in reading Blake, I will, at times, begin to see what I’m doing in wholly Blakean terms, i.e. I am still navigating myself and the world with his map of the psyche.

*your work*, as far as I have understood it from your podcasts and blog, addresses many of the problems Blake addressed—alienation from the body, the vital forces; elite manipulation of culture through art, enforcing that alienation for dark political ends ~ and even offers some of the same solutions, like embodied sexuality. But the crucial difference seems to be the role of imagination. I think, perhaps, from your point of view, Blake’s deification of the imagination could be something like complete alienation from the body—total surrender to disembodied being.

Before I encountered your work, the book Orthodoxy and the Religion of the Future, by Seraphim Rose caused me to carefully examine the effect of certain interests (ufo phenomenon, elevated spiritual states, spirit contact, even Yeats and fairy lore) in light of the possibility I was, if not opening my soul up to malevolent forces, at least adhering to a vast revolutionary religious project I wouldn’t support, were the metaphysics and the political consequences put before me. That’s when the mistrust of Blake began, I’d say. And then, listening to you, I questioned it more, though not from the orthodox angle, but from the angle of occult politics and social engineering. some of what you’ve said rhymes with what I’ve heard from orthodox ascetic writers—namely, that spiritual health is to be found in the body and attention to everyday life, and elevated states, visions, disembodied states, are more than likely demonic temptations; also, that the measure of a vision or practice is its effect on your mundane life, e.g., how your body feels, how well you can relate to those you love. That’s where I’m at presently, in terms of being “spiritual” at all.

What makes me think of Blake, when I hear you, is the interest in mapping hell. I think he meant something like that when he promised to produce “the bible of hell” (is that what his prophetic books are?) I am very interested in this myself, and pretty much all my own creative endeavors have been to give definite form to indefinite horrors in my imagination, that complicate my life and estrange me from people. I am uncertain of my ability to both examine that hell closely and remain untouched by it, i.e., be an observer capable of relating what he’s seen for the benefit of others.

I replied:

Have you looked much into Blake’s Druidry? What did he participate in at an active level is an essential question, as regards the real nature of his philosophy (as with Crowley it’s the practice that reveals the theory). Belief in the realm of the imagination as supreme is similar to the Surrealists, for whom murder was the ultimate surrealist act, just as child sacrifice is the central act of occultism.

These things can be symbolic but if you believe that imagination is more real than anything, then actual murder becomes less real than symbolic, and a means to liberate the imagination from shackles of reason. The question then becomes, did these men of renown put their money where their mouths were?


After that we got into Blake’s relation to the Druids & I asked Paul if he wanted to take this up in a online group setting. He agreed and so here we are. To be clear, an interest in or knowledge about Blake is not essential to participation in this event. Blake is only the starting point and the larger subject is imagination and the body.

This meeting will be on Wednesday 15th, around 3 pm PST, 6 pm ET (11 pm GMT). Register for the event here. If you have already attended a similar event, just email me and let me know you are interested.

49 thoughts on ““William Blake, body, soul, & the liberating power of the imagination: what’s the catch?” (next live liminalist exploration )”

  1. My study of William Blake, primarily through Northrop Frye, has left me pretty much convinced that he was a snake merely promoting the official ideology of the secret societies.

    Here’s what Frye wrote:

    “To the extent that a man has imagination he is alive, and therefore the development of the imagination is an increase of life. It follows that restricting the imagination by turning from instead of passing through perception is a reduction of life. It must then tend in the direction of death, so that all imaginative restraint is ultimately, not that it always proceeds to ultimates, a death impulse. Hence, evil is negative: all evil consists either in self restraint or restraint of others. There can be no such thing, strictly speaking, of an evil act; and evil comes when activity is perverted into the frustration of activity, in oneself or others.” – Northrop Frye, Fearful Symmetry: A Study of William Blake; pg. 55, Princeton, 1969

    Could you imagine a more elitist conception of ethics than “evil consists in self restraint or restraint of others”? Think about it. If you’re an elite, born into the asymmetry of elitist culture, what is most bothersome to you, or people who self-organize from this archetypal social vantage point? Quite evidently: being told that you what you do is wrong.

    Blake is a meme and a cliché and what you write about him putting imagination above reality is basically on the spot: for him, as for Frye, imagination is pitted against memory. Memory is evil – whereas imagination is liberating.

    You need to understand that this philosophy is emergent from the tensegrities – or tensional dynamics – of our socially entrained brain-bodies-in-relationship-with-others.

    We are nothing more than the expression of our ecologies – and we carry those ecologies internally as “working models” which organize what we believe reality to be.

    Denial of the body, or time, or conditionality, or symmetry – hence Blakes nefarious “fearful symmetry” – is a denial of what’s required to make our being harmonious with the natural world, with reality, and with God.

    The paradox of fame is that it creates exactly the same archetypal (archetypal being an attractor, or final causation, which appears again and again in certain social ecologies) situation for human beings whenever they encounter it, and so, provides exactly the same regulatory strategy for dealing with the complexes that it creates.

    • Thanks Till, that should be, or indeed is, helpful for the online exploration. I was with you all the way until the last paragraph about fame. In passing, I think Blake was not known in his time. Whether this is relevant to your statement I don’t know but I can’t quite qet how it relates to what comes before. Can you explain the connection a bit more? Are you saying that fame equates with the rule of imagination & denial of reality, by creating a cultural aristocracy in which “do what thou wilt is the whole of the law”? Or something else?

      • Sorry for the vagueness. I was unconsciously referencing something I read awhile back from the historian Douglas Valantine on Daniel Ellsberg:

        “When Ellseberg told me he was a celebrity, he was saying that he underwent a symbolic transformation the moment he leaked the Pentagon Papers, and landed in a social realm that alienated him from non-celebrities like me. He became an icon, and nobody on the left is about to say, “Oh my god! Valentine had this revelation about Ellsberg. Let’s rethink everything we believe is true.” – Douglas Valentine, The CIA as Organized Crime: How Illegal Operations Corrupt America and the World; pg. 32; Clarity; 2017

        Of course, it isn’t inevitable, so my statement that fame leads to a gnostic dualism isn’t absolute: there are exceptions to the rule (that is, reality is complex enough to accommodate versatility in response). But in general, we are socially constructed creatures who self-organize with reference to others; that is, to what others recognize and reward with their positive affective responses is what ‘selects’ which self-states we spontaneously identify with.

        As to how this relates to Blake, although Blake wasn’t famous, he was an elite who cavorted with other elites. He wasn’t on the ‘outside’ of the culture of the upper classes, but fully embedded and emergent from its social dynamics. I was also brought to mention fame because Blake is a big cliché amongst artists and liberal intellectuals. All it takes is for someone to bring up Blake in a positive way (that promises future pride), as with any other romantic thinker, and they fall hook, line, and sinker for it. This is basically how ideas and feelings and spirits propagate amongst humans: not essentially different from the macaque monkey who starts washing his potatoes in the river because he sees another macaque monkey doing it.

        But yes, ‘rising above’ morality seems to be the bait – and its oftentimes based in an asinine idealization of human functioning: it idealizes one pole of human conceptualization (such as timelessness) while ignoring its interactive opposite (time). Other such polarizations are language vs. affect (either identifying with one or the other; either can promote a gnostic dualism and create social dysfunction), self vs. other, imagination vs. memory (as in Blake), mind vs. body, etc etc.

        I am allergic to polarized representations of things, so much so that my philosophy – or natural philosophy – is basically about explaining the continuities between the physical dynamics of reality and the emergent semiotics of brain-body-world correlations. Language is not “out there”, but fully and entirely consistent with the dialectics of how everything else works – that is, as ecological.

        I have a correspondence with a few psychologists and philosophers interested in legitimizing the study of the paranormal as a scientific study and although they seem like kind men, I am bothered by their lack of systematicity in their understanding of how the mind works. They are too influenced by cultural and intellectual currents from the past, namely, the ‘perennial philosophy’, and therefore cannot appreciate the value that the modern neurosciences, psychologies and philosophy of mind provides to expanding our understanding of mind as ineluctably ecological. In other words, these people can say something, and then do something or promote something that essentially contradicts their earlier conviction, rendering the earlier conviction an idealization that arises from a dissociation of how things are structurally connected to one another.

        This is what gnostic dualism does best: it doesn’t just make people unethical, but neurologically and psychologically disorganized and therefore pseudo-intellectual.

        As much as I read – and I read more than most people will be ever able to do simply because I’ve sacrificed so much – I remain most impressed with the cognitive sciences, specifically Don M Tucker at the University of Oregon and a close correspondent of mine, as well as the philosopher Mark Johnson (also at the same university); there’s also Thomas Fuchs and a few other European philosophers of mind I’m very influenced by; as well as the field of biosemiotics which has been enormously fecund in providing a sophisticated ontological understanding of how physical and semiotic events are entangled in the same processes.

        Besides these bastions of intellectual coherency, the vast, vast majority of modern philosophical thought is pure GARBAGE.

        The issue is and remains emotional maturity. This world supports aggrandizer mentalities – whether or not people are aware of it – and that is the issue: gaining something and not realizing or appreciating the motivated reasoning that underlies it.

        • I should also write that a good chunk of ancient and premodern thought is garbage too (although von Goethe, Spinoza and Leinbiz can be excused somewhat for providing kernels for later thinkers; a big exception is the genius Charles Sanders Peirce).

          Also, I think Ellsberg is alluding to what people in similar social – and existential – situations experience: a common experience of being ‘special’ vis-à-vis the reality that the individual self is fundamentally insignificant.

          Hollywood worships and fetishizes the self; it valorizes the unreal, and so by going ‘against the grain’, people who operate this way have massive egos as well as massive shadows, and its communicated when people like this positively influence other people: the attachment dynamic communicates the structure of the conscious (idealized) and unconscious (dissociated) affects. What is ‘alienating’ for Ellsberg is the sense that non-famous people “don’t know” the suffering – or alienation from the ecological bedrock of being – that famous people live with.

          It’s a pathetic, self-pitying position to take that is not very easy to commiserate with, but it tends to be what humans do: we defend ourselves from negative objects and find our way into some comfortable idealization for whatever it is we want to keep on doing – i.e. what it is that is bringing pleasure into our lives (and which our brain-body is attached to).

  2. I have currently narrowed it down to either Sunday 12, at 2 pm Eastern time or Wednesday 15th, probably around 2 pm ET (7 pm GMT)

  3. I’ve also found the French philosopher Michel Serres trilogy of books ‘Foundations’, called Rome (vol 1), Statues (vol 2), and Geometry (vol 3) to be unusually edifying, if incredibly cryptic, in its description of the nature of western civilization.

    It is not meant to be read by outsiders – but for insiders (which is why postmodernism is so often accused of being obscurantist); but if you already accept the premise of an inner current within civilization and culture based in a worship of the self, an unhealthy attachment to trauma rites, and a chronic feeling of alienation from the natural world, then Serres books will be deeply rewarding.

    Rome studies Livy’s discourses; Statues recounts the authors interpretation of many of Europeans famous statues; and geometry deals with the nitty-gritty of the role Pythagorean metaphysics plays within these cults, and within Satanism more generally.

    In a sense, statues are exactly what they appear to be: reifications of a human being usually at some idealized part in their lives. They make sense of why the Hebrews thought it so important that people “shalt not make graven images” of themselves, or of god/concept, or of anything, lest they entrain themselves to unreal representations of things. This is what I think Hayden was referring to with the ritual import of religious monuments: their designed to have an effect on people in the same unconscious manner that trees, mountains, etc entrain people: its designed to pull them into an affective resonance with the unreal. That is, to promote feelings of alienation and disconnection with the real.

    Elites keep people stupid by keeping them disconnected and dissociated from the world, which means their representations of themselves, their actions, others, and reality, be always very different from what they actually think or feel about the world.

    • “This is what I think Hayden was referring to with the ritual import of religious monuments: their designed to have an effect on people in the same unconscious manner that trees, mountains, etc entrain people: its designed to pull them into an affective resonance with the unreal. That is, to promote feelings of alienation and disconnection with the real.”

      I think this is roughly what I was trying to say at another thread in response to your celebration of a Statue of Responsibility:

      “to paraphrase the Tao Tze Ching: the responsibility that can be represented by a fucking great cooperate-sponsored statue is not true responsibility.”

  4. Ah, I didn’t see that response.

    I disagree of course. In saying what I’ve said above, I am not at all advocating a return to an era that if it existed (and I believe it did circa 75,000 + years ago going back to 315,000, when Homo Sapiens first evolved; therefore, if my argument is coherent, the majority of our species existence has been a matter of us living in and referencing the real) has long been effaced by our descent into the unreal.

    As a person who seems to take so much pleasure in cinema – by definition to re-represent experience is the acme of the unreal – you seem to be unusually antipathetic to the concept of a statue of responsibility. Why is that so harmful to you? Because ‘corporations’ might play a role in its funding?

    To me, the complexity of human existing really is, as Winnicott captured, balancing reality with play. Reality is awe based; play is, of course, fun based. The emotional vector of the former is to the whole, and towards a coherent, ecologically responsible ordering; the latter is spontaneous, random, and oftentimes paradoxical and irreverent.

    To take away play is to take away the embodiment of feeling alive. To live fully in life is to step away from the excitement of the random. Is it possible that our heart leans to one side perhaps to symbolize this asymmetrical complementarity between awe and fun – or more generally, ecological reality (which is more prior) and the emergence of individual happenstance?

    Humans can live in both worlds – fun (the arbitrary) and awe (nature) – so long as we remember to give priority and emphasis to nature. The problem is that we have lost that awareness, and so have gotten “lost” in the circularity of life to the point that we’ve come to take our representations for reality itself.

    The elites I am referring to, and perhaps what Hayden is referring to as well, deliberately seemed to built monuments with absurd looking creatures for the purpose of entraining/persuading their communities to the reality of these imaginary beings. So long as an attachment is established, the subliminal effect can exist.

    As to statues; the statue of responsibility is not the sort of statue I have in mind when I think about idolatry. The concept of responsibility, as well as liberty, speak to a very real social complexity – that of respecting the liberty of others, as well as respecting the needs of others and being responsible to them. Conversely, a gargoyle, or a statue of a person, is superficial and its relationship to the real far more tenuous. Statues, by definition, are not inherently wrong – and I’m sorry if my last statement gave that impression. I do not believe that nor think that would be an effective position to defend. The real is anything that pertains to the structure of reality: a statue of liberty as well as a statue of responsibility both refer to aspects of human experience, which, since with the latter’s construction would be understood to be paired with an another statue on the opposite coast, would seem to evade the sort of arbitrariness which I claim makes a statue worthless or idolatrous i.e. entraining people to the unreal. In essence, the less clear the meaning of a monument in its relationship to the real, the more problematic and less defensible it would be.

    As for the statue of responsibility, I think it is a beautiful idea, and I am absolutely for it. It strikes me as overly cynical to look upon such a symbol and not realize or appreciate the beneficial effect it could have for the human species. Don’t you think the world you grew up into and knew – the world that rejected you and created whatever complexes your self has grown with reference to – had something to do with the one-sided emphasis on liberty? Don’t you wish that a child could grow up knowing and feeling cared for by an other – an other who isn’t repulsed by vulnerability, but embraces it? Wouldn’t that be a worthwhile thing to want for the next generation of humans?

    What specifically are you afraid of? Is it the same fears you have towards climate change? That it’ll be used for some evil end? Or that the means (private funding?) somehow invalidates its value?

    I once wrote awhile back at this site that we have to navigate the world in such a way so that we aren’t paranoid (unreasonably fearful) and naïve (unreasonably trusting), in our relations with it. With Hollywood, and the existence of the prevalence of secret societies, you and I are on the same page. But I feel you insufficient sensitivity in relation to the others of the world around you – the so-called ‘mainstream’ who accepts climate change on solid scientific grounds, or who would look upon a statue of responsibility and would be less caught up in the way it was built or the money it cost, and more on the significant spiritual and moral value it would have in structuring the lives of human beings in the generations coming after us.

    • Overall, my vision for the future is one where capitalism continues to exist, but is subordinated to socialism; as you can see, I take the principle of complementarity as it exists at the core of physical reality (three generations of quarks/leptons; three quarks in protons/neutrons; proton+electron=atoms, and upward) in a thesis/antithesis/synthesis dynamic, and apply it to the socioeconomic environment at large, with liberty correlating with capitalism and responsibility with socialism.

      Because I am sincere, trust deeply in the structure of reality, believe myself to be better informed than most people, and am not one of those people bent on manipulating other people, I think we can, indeed, increase awareness of things like ritual abuse simply by presenting an argument that makes it plausible in the first place – that is, that the occultic dimensions, if they’re to be taken more credibly, have to be seen to be an aspect or dimension of what humans actually are at their root i.e. that there is a dimension of our being-in-the-world which inverts the worlds relationship to us from the one we’ve grown into as infants, children and young adults – that is, when experienced existentially, and ontologically, reality, or the parts of it emergent in our awareness, are able to act upon the world. Objects are no longer simply out there, but what began out there, can be brought to a higher level of knowing and injected into the real.

      I see no incompatibility between reconciling the god-like parts of our being and the human, citizen of a community part of our being.

      • Firstly, I don’t see how building an enormous statue that will presumably cost millions of dollars could ever be playful, in any true sense; nor do I see how something like that could ever come about without being the brain child of institutions which appear to have a single, set agenda that brooks no deviation from its principle end, even when that end sometimes includes giving we the people distractions and symbols or images of (false) hope or inspiration.

        Secondly, I really don’t see how an enormous statue can inspire people in a way that will help them to attune themselves to internal currents of meaning and switch their gaze away from the “spectacle” of power that continues to spellbind us and keep us marching in lockstep towards, not extinction but total techno-cultural bondage. Is the State fit to indicate to us the shape of responsibility? Isn’t the notion of a benevolent State that builds Stat-ues and creates Stat-utes to contain human beings’ innate chaos and herd them, us, towards the good, one that has long since been shown to be obsolete and beyond any kind of resurrection?

        I do not believe in the possibility of an enlightened dictatorship because I don’t believe enlightened would ever wish to dictate behavior to anyone. And what’s a giant statue but a kind of dictate? An enlightened democracy is something that may be in our future, but if so it can surely only emerge from within our bodies and souls. I am not, for the record, against, a statue of responsibility, or of liberty for that matter (I don’t care either way), but very suspicious of, and resistant to, the claim that it is a way to bring about truly meaningful change, or even a meaningful indication of such.

        It is odd how you juxtapose a need to believe in “the solid scientific grounds” for CC (pfft; if they are so solid why didnt you engage Dominic with his many good points?) with the inspirational power of a huge statue, without regard for the cost, when I presume that building it will create quite a bit of c02 and use up resources that could be used to actually help people to live better lives, instead of gaze at a massive useless object.

        Lastly, you ask specifically what I am afraid of. I would say, in this context, it is having a false reality, or a false reading of facts, imposed upon me via illegitimate means of persuasion (one of which can be asking questions like “what are you afraid of?” in response to a disagreement of opinion).

        More specifically to your question, I guess I am afraid of having false hope shoved down my or my readers’ throats, one more time, along with false fear (the two seem to go hand in hand). At least, it makes me testy and impatient. & it’s disappointing, from that perspective, to hear what seem to me overly naive (or insufficiently paranoid) ideas coming from otherwise informed and insightful individuals such as yourself. You are obviously a brilliant thinker; but you are not a jack of all fields but a master of one particular one, and in these current examples (not including Blake, but CC and statues), my personal impression is that you have come a cropper.

        • As to your first paragraph, I’m not sure what you mean by “playful”.

          More generally, what do you think responsibility means? Do you think responsibility is something that can be manipulated and coopted, especially when you recognize that responsibility means “the ability to respond”? When someone challenges the official narrative of something, doesn’t responsibility imply, or increase the probability, of someone responding? Responsibility as a concept versus liberty are very different – liberty is fundamentally something that can be manipulated far more easily than responsibility can. Encouraging responsibility is almost synonymous with encouraging self-reflection, or connection, and hence, not nearly as ominous as you make it out to be.

          As to your second paragraph, I have no clue what you mean by “innate chaos”. I do not believe in the least bit that we are innately chaotic. That is completely incompatible with the structural nature of what you are and what keeps you alive. Your body is a structure; and unless you subscribe to a cartesian dualism, your mind has a structure as well (the structure of your attachment relations to the cuing of other bodies).

          As to your third paragraph, does nature not control us? Are we not permeated and penetrated by the environment, literally every moment that we exist? It seems to me that your understanding of unconscious cognitive and affective processes is just wrong. The psychology is pretty clear on this: we’re already at one with our environments, and so, what we interact with DOES, ineluctably, shape how we know. If you can’t accept this than that has to do with whatever preexisting ontological attachments – seemingly postmodern in nature – you have. As to the latter half, I am merely saying that the conceptual structure of responsibility qualifies as a constraint on how it is we will know or be inspired to know in any particular situations in our living in the world. Responsibility means to “respond”. It is not the sort of concept that a dictatorship would want to prioritize. Furthermore, the very fact that liberty and responsibility perfectly parallels the flux of matter – as attraction and repulsion, or in human nervous system functioning as excitation and inhibition, means that it is consistent with the structure of the real. For me, the real is the only legitimate guide we have to figuring out how to help ourselves – after all, evolution created us (unless you also doubt evolution) from the ecological constraints of a world organized by the dynamical flux of symmetry. So, for me, liberty needs to be complemented by responsibility. Having both these concepts means that neither is being neglected or eliminated, but rather, a conceptual complexity is being encouraged which acknowledges the polar nature of how we know the world i.e. in terms of conceptual opposites.

          As to the fourth paragraph. Right now, we can’t even get people to recognize the existence of climate change, evidently implying a lack of responsiveness to what is real. Hence, although seemingly paradoxical (although it isn’t) the psychosocial (and biological) issue of being overly liberal in our way of being in the world needs to be corrected in order to create the motivation to correct climate change.

          As to the fifth paragraph: we are always being persuaded. To merely interact with another person is an already pedagogical process. What your doing with your argument is lulling others into thinking that our actions our irrelevant; that a statue of responsibility wouldn’t affect us in any good way (it would), that climate change isn’t real (it is).

          As to your last paragraph, I think being a generalist gives me a better vantage point on basic things like how humans function. You are an effective communicator (although I am sensing a lot of aggression and needless cursing) in your interviews, but I also sense that you have a somewhat disorganized ontology, which seems to derive from a lack of education in fields which emphasize lawfulness like mathematics and the general sciences. Psychology is basically the neurosciences. Psychological processes basically describe tensional dynamics between brains. Our faces, voices, and bodies are the external screens which direct internal regulation processes (in terms of symmetry, or energy balance). I’m not sure you accept this claim but it is a big reason why I think your criticism of the statue of responsibility amounts to a cynical, and hence, paranoid position. The similar issue exists for you from climate change.

          Do you think “elites” are only organized by nefarious agendas? In other words, do you think there is a monolithic elite? This is where I disagree with you. I don’t find that psychologically or neurobiologically plausible. Humans have different situations and as such, are organized in their relations to reality in different ways. If humans are different, and you accept this, then I guess the issue between us boils down to: is responsibility a manipulatable concept? And I have already given plenty of evidence for believing that it isn’t – because it constrains peoples mind to focus on other people – that is, on responding to the other. Liberty is basically reflexivity; whereas responsibility asks you to slow down and reflect.

          • Till

            I have to go back to my original post, the one you are responding to, to make sense of these responses.

            I think we are talking at cross purposes; you seem to have an assumption of superior knowledge, about me and the universe, that threatens to close down the conversation rather than open it up. Is this related to why you never responded to my invitation to do a podcast, I wonder? Are you more comfortable with the monologue than the dialogue form? If so, that would be an ironic shortcoming, considering how much you write about relationship as the nature of reality.

            I am aware of the responsibility = response-ability wordplay, and agree it’s a good one; but this is not how the word has generally been used or understood (as evidenced by your decision to point it out). As for your last point, about it not being a concept that can be manipulated, I don’t think there is any concept a) that can be made equivalent to reality; or b) is therefore not subject to co-opting by the cunning and unscrupulous.

            You ask what I mean by “innate chaos,” and then focus your rebuttal on my use of that term; but what I wrote was this: “Isn’t the notion of a benevolent State that builds Stat-ues and creates Stat-utes to contain human beings’ innate chaos and herd them, us, towards the good, one that has long since been shown to be obsolete and beyond any kind of resurrection?”

            I am not claiming that human beings are innately chaotic, but suggesting that the idea we are is convenient for promoting the need for a benevolent State (or elite, as you hint at), to give us symbolic statues to remind us to act responsibly. My point is that this will never work because response-ability can only come from within, and requires a letting go and trust in life that I really don’t think that enormous corporate structures, however well-meaning (debatable), help to foster.

            Your question whether nature controls us seems like a non-sequitur but I will answer it: I don’t feel it’s necessary to create a dualism such as “nature controls us,” if Nature, like God, is both innate, immanent and transcendental. Our own better natures exist to orientate us towards the good and true, and are essentially in harmony with Nature, be she ever so red in tooth and claw. The dissonance between the two, between divine and animal nature, seems only to arise along with the “aggrandizer” trauma-implant of the false identity, which is fundamentally anti-life and seems driven to order and control our environment (including other human beings) in order to secure and maintain its own isolation from the system, and to feel safe from, within, and above it.

            The way you assert the reality of climate change as something given that only the unresponsive & irresponsible would ever deny, ironically, has a similar kind of aggrandizer-dictatorial energy to it. It closes down discussion, placing me in the inferior position while asserting your own superiority. I personally put as much or more attention into the way a person makes an argument as the content of the argument itself. Often, an assertive or passive-aggressive style covers up a vacuity of argument, and this is my impression here, albeit with some very sophisticated and unfamiliar reasoning involved. I think you may be abusing your knowledge as a means to maintain a position, and the result is I am enjoying your input less and less. I don’t think this is only because you are disagreeing with me and pointing out what you perceive to be flaws in my argument, even though they include personality flaws (now you want to wash my mouth out with soap!). I think it’s illegitimate persuasion at work.

            You write: “Do you think “elites” are only organized by nefarious agendas? In other words, do you think there is a monolithic elite?”

            These questions aren’t synonymous. I think that the only kinds of socially organized elite are aggrandizer types, driven by unconscious fears and trauma and hence malevolent. It is not so much a question of a monolith (ironically that’s statue) as a system that pervades human existence at this stage on our “evolution.” It works both through and on humans as individuals and causes them to form into groups which then order society in such a way that it is impervious to be redirected or reconfigured either from within or without. The only solution is not to interact directly with this superculture (since we are by definition its subjects, being imposed on by it) but to track its tendrils within our own body and being and, by observing, neutralizing all the ways they prevent us from interrelating response-ably with one another at the true, wholesome, healthy, human level of love and respect.

          • I don’t have time for an interview because I’m working very hard on my book, but when its finished I will be glad to do one with you. My focus right now – as it has been for many years – is getting this project finished.

            I understand how you can sense an irony in that, but when reality isn’t arbitrary, and when communication isn’t arbitrary in the effects it creates either, than I have to pick and choose who I feel I can effectively communicate with. There is room and also necessity for people like you, as well as for people like me. I mean no disrespect by giving you the impression that I have superior knowledge, and I know relationally speaking it isn’t appropriate or helpful to say as much, but when reality is controlled by symmetry – a principle which deserves emphasis since it foregrounds the geometrical nature of how we work – if I am the only person foregrounding this concept, and others do not, and the concepts we emphasize have corresponding effects on the geometry of our structuring, then the net effect is that some people are more accurate in their knowing than other people. An arbitrary or disorganized ontology is basically an ontology which deemphasizes shape and configuration, as if the external sensory reality didn’t have a corresponding cognitive one; or that the latter isn’t isomorphic in structure with the former.

            More or less, language is structuring us, and the structure it creates is the structure of our brain. Just as Einstein posited that space determines the motion of matter, and matter shapes the geometry of space, the same exact thing is being argued between language and the structure of our brains (via the affects which that structure reflects): language has to mirror non-verbal perception; and if it doesn’t, non-verbal perception will conform to the needs of language (i.e. the self-regulation of the individual).

            Third paragraph: I never said a concept can be made equivalent to reality; but a pair of concepts, liberty and responsibility, do properly match two essential fluxes within the structure of our brains: excitation and inhibition. This is the point I am struggling to emphasize: concepts constrain the flow of energy through our brains. Liberty by itself could be manipulated; responsibility by itself could be manipulated (as we see in ancient China); but together they provide the important push and pull of how we work. Your description of language as having no real effect, or as not orienting attention, and therefore behavior, and therefore determining good behavior from bad behavior, is where I see us disagreeing. You evidently – based on what I’ve read in the past – believe that language is formative. But do you think it is only formative in the negative – as if language had no constructive role to play? For me, its quite clear that language organizes attention, and therefore, creates the conditions for effective knowing.

            Where you suggest that language isn’t inherently chaotic, but that believing so is apart of the narrative, seems to ignore that we are always directing one another through the things we say and even the non-verbal language we display in our vocal tone, eye gaze, facial expressions and body language. So why is this ok, but not a statue of responsibility? Why is natures processes – trees, animals, allowed to operate as directive signs, but not our own activity? If you talk about dualism, the dualism is separating our own unique capacity for imaginative representation from the natural world. Responsibility – or two human hands reaching out to one another – is a beautiful representation that I think conforms very well with the realities of our relationship with the natural world. Why else do we ignore our status as stewards – if not because we all begin life as infants, and therefore, relate to the natural world in terms of the regularities/feelings of our interpersonal expectancies? We never know the world except through the filter of social intersubjectivity.

            As to your other statement about climate change. I think the point is your relationship to the facts of the science in question seem less clear than your commitment to seeing it as a social agenda. If I see you as being irresponsible, it has to do with your being unresponsive to the most basic of facts – that we dynamical systems, that the earth is a dynamical system, that changes inputs leads to changes in output, and just as changing a parameter in our functioning – diet, caffeine, etc, leads to changes, so too with the earth system, especially with regard to CO2.

            Mentioning that you’re enjoying my input less and less because I disagree with you climate change – and evidently you have a very contentious history here judging from your disproportionate response to my criticism – also seems overly personal. I don’t believe I have written anything of the kind in relation to you.
            I don’t think I said or wrote anything that had anything to do with your personality, but with your philosophy-of-choice (which can be construed, I guess, as personality). To me, post-structuralism is a destructive force in the world, and completely at odds with the fact that semiosis (meaning) matches up with dynamical structure. I only wish that people make themselves aware of this, and realize that truth is about us seeing the relationship of the one process to the other process.

            Overall, I don’t see why we just can’t disagree on this climate change issue, as well as the statue of responsibility, where we both evidently disagree with one another, and maintain our comradery in awareness of stupid and confused philosophies – Satanism – which encourages and sanitizes evil behavior – pedophilia, racketeering, etc.

            Most people in todays world would have trouble understanding me. Most of the people who find my views interesting are neuroscientists, psychologists, and philosophers, in other words, the same sorts of people – realists – can understand me.

          • Also, forgot your last statement.

            I think that’s an overly vague description. When I asked, “our elites a monolith”, I meant, can you conceive at least two different modes of relating in the world? Lets say these two modes are “consciously selfish”, and “consciously altruistic”. Lets complexify this position by admitting that people idealize, and therefore, the structure of the system infiltrates people knowing’s by determining what it is they consider to be good and evil. Lets add a further layer of complexity and acknowledge that humans are in touch with two forms of knowing: a socially conditioned form which is conventionalized; and an innate, structural kind which has to do with the way we experience one anothers needs.

            So now I can frame my question as follows: why do you assume that there aren’t elites who are, a) socially altruistic, b) minimally affected by social convention and c) attuned to the needs of the real? You talk as if we need social calamity – apocalypse – in order t heal ourselves. You criticize me for ‘now wanting to engage others’ (in my defense, in order to maintain focus for writing my book) but this is just for myself; whereas your, and more generally, the radical approach in social theory, is to refuse to interact with society at large as if your input would merely be absorbed into the system with no net change in the system at all.

            For me, a statue of responsibility would be a big effect, and it would bring it about significant change for the simple reason that the emphasis on such a concept would transform the way we relate to one another.

            Take transgenderism, or even homosexuality. Both could be conceived as ‘not responding to the real’. In reality, both seem to derive from self-other asymmetry dynamics such that the interpersonal processes of ‘expecting the other’ are experienced through the body; the body in turn is the ‘environment’ for the reflective mind in the same way that the other is the ‘environment’ for the self. For homosexuality, or transgenderism to occur, the structure of the real has to be dissociated, and so, both conditions have to be attributed to some ‘essential’ property of the self rather than a down-stream effect of social dissonance, that is, of not having your motivational states recognized and related to with sensitivity from an other.

            Responsibility is a MASSIVE concept with powerful reverberations. Frankl went through the holocaust; he endured the most extreme suffering a human can be exposed to – and remained conscious of it till his last days. He didn’t recommend this idea in naivety. He understood the profound effect it could have; in the same way that a statue of liberty has inculcated a culture of liberty.

          • I also understand what you mean, in that you think that the established culture at the top – elites – will attempt to manipulate anything that enters the system so that it serves their ends – hence your feeling that the system is unsalvageable. If we are to have a world with love and peace, etc, we have to build it ourselves outside the system.

            I think that, while this is very often the case, in certain situations the semiotics is simply incompatible with the project they are involved in.

            When our language and representational systems begin to mirror reality more and more, then their gig is up. What they need to do in order to be effective is to dissociate our representational systems from the real. But as said, if we reflect the real in our language, then the reality of what matters will be properly taken accounted for in our actions.

          • Mentioning that you’re enjoying my input less and less because I disagree with you climate change – and evidently you have a very contentious history here judging from your disproportionate response to my criticism

            Is your point here that I must enjoy arguments because I am giving so much time to your comments? If so, one of the reasons is that you have brought much of value to the blog & so your comments carry the accumulative weight of that history; so when I see you misrepresenting things I have said, for example as above, it’s hard to simply ignore & move on.

            I didn’t say I enjoyed your input less because of our disagreement over CC, but because you have seemed to become more rigid and patronizing in your manner of communication. You are at liberty to believe in CC and even to equate the belief with being responsible. But when that position begins to impose on others, then it becomes counterproductive and off-putting and I am at liberty (& even have a responsibility, as blog moderator) to say so. Funnily enough, I just had a similar experience in the thrift store, with someone I was connecting to quite warmly until the subject of CC came up, at which point I became to them merely an embodiment of an opinion that made me unworthy of their time. They got stuck in an ideological holding pattern.

            This is all just belief, because everything pertaining to words will always be only a matter of belief ~ or so I believe.

            then the net effect is that some people are more accurate in their knowing than other people.

            that’s a logical position but is it a responsible one, i.e., does it allow for response? The one person I feel confident knows (sees) more of reality than I do, Dave Oshana, is also the person I know who seems least attached to knowledge, to positions, or to absolute statements such as the one above, which I would say is theoretically true, but practically unhelpful.

            If knowing is of the body, it can never be articulated fully; if belief is of the mind, it is quite compatible with language, which always lies if taken apart from body.

            That said, I have never argued against the validity of balancing liberty with responsibility, only against the idea of representing it in the form of a statue, an idol, which the jews (in passing) were quite clear about warning against. Whatever Frankl’s good intentions in suggesting such a thing, & even allowing it might have some merit, it would require the interest and cooperation of decision-makers at the highest level of society at this time; and if these groups and individuals think it’s a good idea, then they probably have reasons that have nothing to do with humanity’s collective benefit. For something of this sort to come about in a clean way would require a very different society than we have; and if we had that society, we probably wouldn’t need a statue.

            Why is natures processes – trees, animals, allowed to operate as directive signs, but not our own activity?

            That would seem to be a feedback loop for delusion, similar to Epstein’s scientistic community; human activity isn’t equivalent to animals and trees because it’s deeply narcissistic, and does things like building great big statues that anthropomorphize universal values. So to create images of our own potential and then look to them as directives is exactly how social engineering has preceded so far (changing images of man) . You’re suggesting that the power of images to shape human destiny could be wielded for the good on a large scale with corporate & government backing; I can’t rule this out, but I’d first want to see some solid evidence that the human beings building the statues were acting more responsibly, before taking the signal for the virtue.

            I am clearly a lot less optimistic then you are about human agency sorting out millennia-long problems of human pathology. First let humans awaken to reality, then let them, us, create a society out of that relationship. In the meantime, maybe we have the society we deserve, and need, and the most important thing, for me, is not to harbor any illusions about the nature of society and how far removed it is from reality. But as you say, it’s OK to disagree. It can even be fun if love & respect grows from it rather than shrinks.

            If I see you as being irresponsible, it has to do with your being unresponsive to the most basic of facts – that we dynamical systems, that the earth is a dynamical system, that changes inputs leads to changes in output, and just as changing a parameter in our functioning – diet, caffeine, etc, leads to changes, so too with the earth system, especially with regard to CO2.

            The only part I question of here is C02; I think people have been tricked into focus on one single tree in order not to see the forest. & that’s what I see people trying to make me do, ignore the forest, get fixated on this particular tree (or statue).

            Why do you assume that there aren’t elites who are, a) socially altruistic, b) minimally affected by social convention and c) attuned to the needs of the real? You talk as if we need social calamity – apocalypse – in order t heal ourselves.

            I don’t assume it, but I see no evidence for it or even for the possibility of it. Unless you are speaking of ascended masters. So show me the evidence for your benign elite and let me consider it. But yes, I do think calamity of one sort or another is the only possible way out, short of divine intervention, which I do not rule out (far from it, I count on it) but which would perhaps represent the ultimate calamity.

            whereas your, and more generally, the radical approach in social theory, is to refuse to interact with society at large as if your input would merely be absorbed into the system with no net change in the system at all.

            It would be impossible to refuse to interact with society at large, especially while writing books, podcasting, blogging, and running a thrift store. But I have no illusions, or hopes, or even desires, about changing the system, only connecting to and affecting other souls within it.

            I think this allows for an awareness to deepen as to the existence of another system, which this Satanic one has been laid over top of and imposed itself upon. To try and change that impositional layer, IMO, is only to get further pulled into it.

            ok, long enough! tally ho, gotta go!

  5. I was asked to respond to this on fb:

    But on the face of it there seems to be a big misunderstanding of Blake here. Blake doesn’t consider the imagination as a means for a fantastic mentally-based escape from this world, but instead he views it as an innate ability to see the world as it really is. His “double vision” allows him to see the sun both as a round golden disk in the sky AND as a choir of angles. And so with all things.

    The imagination, and he this equates with “Jesus the Imagination,” is a higher principle than reason because it uniquely reproduces the creative capacity of God. We are said to be created “in the image of God” specifically because we alone possess the faculty of the imagination. It enables us, if we cultivate it, to create our own “system” so that we are not entrapped in the system of any other entity.

    And the imagination is en-souled AND embodied. Blake doesn’t deny the body but celebrates its senses and its desires. I thought everyone knew that about Blake? The body is the temple of God and holy in every respect.

    And Druidism! Blake criticizes Druidism heavily as being an early form of the “natural religion” — an ideology that puts measurement and law and stone ahead of the living imagination. He particularly opposes Druidism for its practice of human sacrifice. So, yeah, I don’t know what JH is on

    • I assume you responded on FB & then copy-pasted this here, seeing as your closing remarks, suggesting the author of this blog is on drugs because he questions one of your cultural heroes, would seem to break the first rule of “know thine audience.” You have zeroed in on the suspicions expressed here and stamped all over the nuances inherent in the need felt by a former Blake-follower, such as yourself, questioning that allegiance.

      Many if not all of these questions may or may not be addressed at the meet, which is the purpose of this post, tho Blake is really the least of it, since unlike some I have dethroned all my former heroes, legitimately or not.

      Re: Druids,

      The Ancient Druid Order itself claims that Blake was their “Chosen Chief” from 1799 until his death3↤ 3 In a pamphlet history of their order, The Ancient Druid Order/The British Circle of the Universal Bond (London, n.d.), p. 19. but, alas, no evidence of this is visible in their literature or elsewhere.

      I wonder why they would claim this is it were not true? As to why WB would attack Druidry and human sacrifice if he had no part in it, that is perhaps less hard to understand (though I don’t claim to lean either way on this particular question.

      Interesting that znore cites WB’s equation of jesus with imagination, in contrast to Steiner’s use of Lucifer for embodiment of the same faculty

      this is the relevant passage from Seen & Not Seen:

      In my days as a student of the occult, I read a succinct parable from Rudolf Steiner. Steiner said that ancient Man (back in the Garden) was able to see the workings of the Gods, the natural and divine forces, as they worked through him. Because of this ability to see, there was never even the slightest possibility for Man to go against the divine workings because he was inseparable from them and knew it. The only problem was that Man didn’t have free will, because free will depends on the illusion of being separate from the divine. Enter Lucifer (also known as Prometheus), who decides to set Man free and make of him an independent agent. To do so, Lucifer makes Man blind. Now Man experiences himself as separate from the Gods, but also as cut off from the divine, isolate, cast out of the Garden, fallen. In order to make up for stealing Man’s sight, Lucifer gives him a compensatory gift of imagination. If he can’t see the divine workings, Man can now at least imagine them. Outer vision is replaced by inner vision.

      Lucifer’s idea was for the imagination to provide Man with a way to rediscover the hidden nature of reality and eventually reconnect to it and regain access to it. The catch was that having imagination meant Man could fool himself (and others) into imagining a false order of reality, one in which he could remain “free” (isolate) and lord it over. Man could “choose” (though he would never know it was a choice) to reign in Hell, the realm of the imagination, of art, ideology, culture, rather than serve in Heaven, reality. That’s why Blake said (of Milton) that all artists were “of the devil’s party.”

      Reigning in Hell is a game that never gets old because the nature of the game is endless reinvention. So elaborate and sophisticated is this matrix-free-will-playground-hell that even the very elect have been fooled—we fooled ourselves. The most skilled in the game—the most endowed with Luciferian vision—imagine the gods for the rest to worship, giving them idols to bow down to and relieving them of the need to imagine their own place in the cosmos while simultaneously making them subject to other imaginings, to the false gods of magic, religion, science, politics, and art, all provinces of the intelligentsia. Artists and reformers are seen as the high priests of culture whose job it is to administer to the masses. In such a world, the only thing that seems worth imagining is a place in the ranks of the culture makers, the illumineers, the Luciferian elite: to become a creator of idols and escape the ideological enslavement of the peasant class. Now the advertising, the imagined idols of mass culture, are everywhere, leaving no space for new imaginings to happen. The movies stole our dreams—but it began long before “flickers” were invented. It began with the word. So that’s how it will end.

  6. Yes, I did copy a FB comment and paste it here as I was requested to do. Unfortunately I copied it in haste and unintentionally cut out the last word of the final sentence (you’ll note the missing period). It should read “So, yeah, I don’t know what JH is on about.” I don’t think that you are on drugs, Jasun, but I also don’t think that you’re getting Blake right. I likely should have left out that last sentence entirely. I apologize for the miscommunication.

    I haven’t ignored the nuances you’ve expressed, but yes I did zero in on the points that appear to indicate a misunderstanding of Blake’s ideas. I find no need to dethrone my heroes for the sake of it. I like Blake for his visual art, his poetry and prose, and especially for his philosophy. I’ve liked these for decades now and I can’t see that changing, although it might.

    Here’s Blake in “Jerusalem” describing Stonehenge:

    In awful pomp & gold, in all the precious unhewn stones of Eden
    They build a stupendous Building on the Plain of Salisbury; with chains
    Of rocks round London Stone: of Reasonings: of unhewn Demonstrations
    In labyrinthine arches. (Mighty Urizen the Architect.) thro which
    5 The Heavens might revolve & Eternity be bound in their chain.
    Labour unparallelld! a wondrous rocky World of cruel destiny
    Rocks piled on rocks reaching the stars: stretching from pole to pole.
    The Building is Natural Religion & its Altars Natural Morality
    A building of eternal death: whose proportions are eternal despair

    And later on:

    “Where the Druids reard their Rocky Circles to make permanent Remembrance
    Of Sin. & the Tree of Good & Evil sprang from the Rocky Circle & Snake
    Of the Druid”

    And from his address “To the Christians” also from “Jerusalem”:

    “I know of no other Christianity and of no other Gospel than the liberty both of body & mind to exercise the Divine Arts of Imagination.

    Imagination the real & eternal World of which this Vegetable Universe is but a faint shadow & in which we shall live in our Eternal or Imaginative Bodies, when these Vegetable Mortal Bodies are no more. The Apostles knew of no other Gospel. What were all their spiritual gifts? What is the Divine Spirit? is the Holy Ghost any other than an Intellectual Fountain? What is the Harvest of the Gospel & its Labours? What is that Talent which it is a curse to hide? What are the Treasures of Heaven which we are to lay up for ourselves, are they any other than Mental Studies & Performances? What are all the Gifts. of the Gospel, are they not all Mental Gifts? Is God a Spirit who must be worshipped in Spirit & in Truth and are not the Gifts of the Spirit Every-thing to Man?”

    We can talk about the roots of these ideas if you’d like. They are complex, stemming back to Plato and even further back, and maybe this is where your suspicion arises? I don’t claim to have anywhere near a full understanding of Blake either, but I do know he does not view the imagination as being a sort of Luciferian compensation for our separation from eternity. Quite the opposite. Blake doesn’t arouse suspicion in me, but instead he inspires a sense of wonder and a desire to learn more about his work.

    • thanks for clearing that up; funny how easily our tech makes SNAFUS that totally distort the communication intended and can so easily escalate.

      I haven’t radically altered my view of Blake’s work since I used to swear by it, just to the extent I no longer do. Specifically this would refer to The Marriage of Heaven & Hell, which, besides the art works, is the only thing Blake did that I have really studied or (halfway) grokked. My suspicion isn’t specifically of WB, the way it has been, say of Crowley or Strieber or Castaneda, but of the culture as a whole in its present phase, the one I was born into (the spring of love, 67), that has promoted and celebrated his work.

      This is based on two main things: firstly, how influential Blake’s work has been via secondary or tertiary “change agents” such as Huxley or Jim Morrison, to the point it has now been embraced by entire factions of religious studies and psychedelic social engineers, with, to my mind, regrettable results. One could say something similar about Jesus, however, so I am not so impetuous as to want to blame an artist or pioneer for how his “transmission” has been applied by less conscious adopters of it.

      The second is more complex, and this is what I write about above: using the imagination to discover reality is a very tricky endeavor and it seems significantly more likely to lead to approximations of reality that lead away from truth and into the generation of mythic counterfeits. These may then be all the more useful to vivify the culture, while keeping it on its plodding course towards “the reign of quantity” or “Antichrist.” Logically, when this occurs, the wielder of the imagination is likely to be the first fooled by his or her approximations. This means Blake wouldn’t have to believe in using the imagination this way, to end up doing so.

      It’s here that my suspicion is most aroused, the suspicion that maybe, I mean just maybe, Blake wasn’t a true prophet, however great an artist he was, but that he has been taken as one, and that his visionary works, therefore, aren’t really all that useful, to me personally at least, since my course currently is away from epic spiritual (or pseudo-spiritual) visions, and engaged with sifting through the cultural garbage in my soul. I should say then, that I personally can’t separate my years of super-ego-inflated and Luciferian madness from Blake’s influence, so naturally that makes me wonder if he pursued a similar path (“the road of excess,” which certainly suggests a transgressive path).

      This could change, however, and may be some day, Blake will mean again what he once did to me. In the meantime, I find it is always a worthwhile pursuit to study our emperors’ clothing, to see if what we think we see is really there, or if it is only (or partially) a culturally sustained mirage of consensus.

      • Good stuff here by MacC and others. Thanks, Jasun, for clarifying why you intend this engagement with Blake. This especially is helpful: “…my course currently is away from epic spiritual (or pseudo-spiritual) visions, and engaged with sifting through the cultural garbage in my soul. I should say then, that I personally can’t separate my years of super-ego-inflated and Luciferian madness from Blake’s influence, so naturally that makes me wonder if he pursued a similar path (“the road of excess,” which certainly suggests a transgressive path).”

        Now that I know the “meet” is not really about “there’s something wrong with Blake, what is it?,” but part of the ongoing quest on your part to exorcise past demons (which I should have figured out) I am less concerned. But Blake’s ideas are very important to explore.

        Your point about the imagination may have to do with the popular conflation of the imagination with fantasy or fancy. This distinction was more precisely delineated in previous periods. Coleridge presents this more explicitly than Blake, and there are differences between the two poets but I think Blake would largely agree with the following:

        “1) The Imagination then I consider either as primary, or secondary. The primary Imagination I hold to be the living Power and prime Agent of all human Perception, and as a repetition in the finite mind of the eternal act of creation in the infinite I Am. The secondary I consider as an echo of the former, co-existing with the conscious will, yet still as identical with the primary in the kind of its agency, and differing only in degree, and in the mode of its operation. It dissolves, diffuses, dissipates, in order to re-create; or where this process is rendered impossible, yet still at all events it struggles to idealize and to unify. It is essentially vital, even as all objects (as objects) are essentially fixed and dead.

        2) Fancy, on the contrary, has no other counters to play with, but fixities and definites. The Fancy is indeed no other than a mode of Memory emancipated from the order of time and space; while it is blended with, and modified by that empirical phenomenon of the will, which we express by the word CHOICE. But equally with the ordinary memory the Fancy must receive all its materials ready made from the law of association.”

        Blake’s notion of the Imagination is quite similar to Coleridge’s Primary Imagination, while the desire to escape reality through daydreaming, “imagining,”etc. corresponds here to Fancy.

        There is no doubt that Blake studied Druidism, which was a common interest of people associated with freemasonry in Blake’s day. Blake had connections with members of freemasonic orders and with esoteric Swedenborgians. He very likely practiced a form of sex magic along with other techniques to invoke visions.

        There was a widespread belief in the late 18th/early 19th c. that Druidism was the original religion, inspiring even the Egyptian mysteries. Freemasonic orders styled themselves as Druidic and may have tried to reproduce what they thought to be Druid rites. Blake was involved in this milieu, but it is also certain that he came to reject Druidism, as I wrote above, because he saw it as an early form of “natural religion,” essentially a type of scientific Deism that devalued the power of the Imagination.

        Blake is not a saint and he is not primarily a prophet, although some of his words are prophetic. Yeats, a huge follower of Blake, made the useful distinction between the Way of the Artist and the Way of the Saint. The first aims for the perfection of the artistic work, and the second attempts to perfect the self. With the latter, the self is largely sacrificed to the work and many artists and writers are, accordingly, deeply flawed individuals. But, and this is the giant But, the truth rings out and shines in their work — not in all of it yet enough for some of it to continue to inspire and uplift future visionaries. I think this is the case with Blake.

        I try to keep this in mind in my own explorations of art and literature. I don’t go looking for saints and I’m not surprised, or even much disappointed, when I become aware of a particular artist’s drawbacks as a human being. I look for the sparks within their work and I use these to guide me. This goes also for artistic or social movements. I don’t expect perfection and I’m not disturbed when I don’t find it. Yet in certain movements pure vision does shine through occasionally.

        This is pretty much my approach to the social movements of the 1960s. There is no doubt that there were all sorts of high-level plots and shenanigans to reconstruct and steer these movements in a direction conformable to elite intentions. Mass mind control was certainly attempted, yet there was much that was out of control, bursting out in many directions.

        On the whole, I’d argue that these movements failed. They were almost entirely co-opted by capitalism, and the authoritarian technocratic materialism of the military-industrial complex, the principal enemy of the counter-cultural movements, is stronger than ever; the reformist sentiments of the ’60s is now applied only as a “humanitarian” veneer. But the movements might have also partially succeeded in a very significant sense. A few relevant questions to ask are:  

        Did, as is occasionally reported, Nixon refrain form nuking North Vietnam after consulting J. Edgar Hoover, who informed him that if the president did so then the FBI could not guarantee that public order could be maintained? More generally put, did the real threat of social revolution in the early ’70s prevent a nuclear war? Were the ranks of the antiwar movement swollen and radicalized to such an extent because, in addition to the draft (although this was imposed only in the U.S. and these movements were worldwide), of the consciousness-raising influence of the psychedelic experience? Did, as Timothy Leary (an admittedly very flawed messenger) claimed, white hats within the agencies provide Leary and others with millions of doses of LSD for the specific purpose of altering public consciousness so as to prevent a nuclear conflict from erupting from out of the Cold War?

        I wouldn’t definitively answer “yes” to any of these questions but to me they can’t be easily ruled out either. And these questions naturally lead to other even broader and perhaps touchier questions:

        Are movements throughout history similarly both manufactured/manipulated AND out of control? Have there been positive elements within the secret societies who genuinely and in good faith struggled to emancipate people from the physical and spiritual oppression of State and Church? And, simultaneously, have there been (and are there) conflicting covert influences who have continually laboured to convince us to mistrust our own creativity & imagination & spiritual vision & the will to resist — and further to mistrust those of visionary artists, musicians and writers — in the certain knowledge that these things are the best weapons that we have to fight against total control?

        I’m tempted to answer “yes” to these questions as well, although I don’t mean by posing them to glorify or justify indiscriminate psychedelic use, secret societies or the mass manipulation of consciousness, however noble the purpose. Instead, I ask these questions to point out that none of this is really resolved. None of these artists or societies or movements can be entirely denounced and dismissed. Our task is the difficult one of sifting out the nuggets from the slag and silt, in our own souls and elsewhere, and all of this should cause us to be much more nuanced in our reflections.

        “znore notwithstanding,” what now? The dominant culture in no way deifies the imagination, at least in the Blakean sense of the term, and instead constantly seeks to neutralize it and colonize it. We are, as Blake wrote, in a “mental fight” and the imagination is still our best means to break out of the present system of control.

    • I think we can see Blake, like many luciferians, as well-intentioned idiots. “The road to hell is paved with good intentions” exists as an idiom because reality has a structure, and people can dissociate the real for their own regulatory needs i.e. because of guilt and shame, for instance, if someone is committed to a position which is gainsaid by a more logical analysis which demonstrates the wrongness in their position, then someone could be wrong, or harmful, purely through idealization i.e. through believing that their vaunted idea of goodness is actually incompatible with the real, and hence, in a long term, ecologically distributed situation, will cause suffering.

      Dualism in language, or the absence of clarity and consistency in our descriptions of things, is where humans go awry. We live in a world where people have been so utterly conditioned by an arbitrary metaphysics – a metaphysics of liberty (hence, ‘liberalism’) – that they don’t even both or even seem to believe that reason is something that stands above them. Reason is the Real. It is not a heuristic; it is not something we just do.

      You’re right also to trace this garbage metaphysics back to Plato, and why Plato is in so many ways the reason for why this world of ours works the way it does. Calling him ‘garbage’, also, doesn’t mean that he wasn’t a sophisticated charlatan. He was deeply, deeply complex. But I think Plato is the paragon of the deceiver – the model who instructs elites today – indeed, he has been the model elite for over 2400 years in the west.

      Aristotle was a bit more accurate (although he too seemed to see nothing wrong with pederasty) in his understanding the importance of the sensory world, which, if his views had been more prioritized, may have led to the scientific revolution at an earlier time.

      But Blake, etc, did indeed place imagination in opposition to memory, which is for me the hallmark of a true Satanist. Consider, also, that what we do shapes how our brains work – our mental processes influence our neurological structure in a complementary fashion, such that a person who emphasizes “the now” and “imagination” – synonymous positions given that time and memory are the antonyms of these two concepts – such a person, who is evidently misusing his brain in a world which operates through three dimensions, in three tenses, on the third planet (etc), would be merely creating a neurological situation where they simply can’t make use of memory because their memory would store all those negative experiences which DERIVE from the refusal to use memory to guide experience with the environment. How can a person be moral without memory? If I know something about person A – for instance, that he is an agoraphobic – and I don’t shape my behavior to accommodate his sensitivities, than I am being irresponsible. I am acting as if everyone were a clone of everyone else; as If the structure of the real and the known didn’t matter.

      Hence, pitting memory against imagination is just another example of the “law of the excluded third” which is so intrinsic to the western world and to Satanism in general. What are in fact complementary – memory and imagination – are turned into adversaries.

      Satanism is basically this: twoness. The square root of two is the symbol of this belief; diablo, devil, duplicitous. The logic of Satanism is the logic of hatred, of tension without harmony. It works by creating these oppositions. And furthermore, no one is in control of this: this is a spiritual disease which colonizes humans in the same way that viruses colonize humans. The human will suffer in the end. The virus wins – or the evil spirit wins. The human, or the soul, suffers.

  7. Jasun, you’re doing some fantastically interesting work with these blogposts and podcasts, and I’ve been meaning to comment again here for months. But first I have to correct something Till wrote in the comments above, because it’s quite bizarrely wrong and misleading:

    “although Blake wasn’t famous, he was an elite who cavorted with other elites”

    It would be equally true to say that Virginia Woolf was a Welsh miner. Far from being “an elite” (sic), Blake was a hosier’s son, apprenticed to an engraver at the age of 14. He was ein Handwerker, as they say in German: a hand-worker, a skilled tradesman. He laboured all his life in poverty and obscurity and was sometimes close to actual destitution. In his own lifetime his works attracted little but scorn whenever they happened to be noticed at all. He barely sold a picture before his final years (and his few, belated admirers were young and un-powerful artists such as Samuel Palmer). All of his books were painstakingly self-published and self-printed, engraved and coloured by Blake’s own hand. His only assistant was Catherine, his loyal and able wife. None of those books ever sold more than a handful of copies. When he died, Catherine had to borrow money to pay for his funeral.

    Check out Blake’s scathing responses to Sir Joshua Reynolds, the most powerful and well-connected English artist of his time, the first President of the Royal Academy of Art and a good pal of the King.

    William Blake “cavorted” with no one, least of all with any “elites”, nor did he ever try to curry favour with any of them. He was far too busy working, usually as a printer and engraver of other people’s far-inferior work because he desperately needed the money.

    As for Imagination, I am glad znore logged in to clear things up a bit. Blake was not airily opposing Imagination to Reality, he was struggling to save his soul, which included his limbs, his genitals and his guts (“for that call’d Body is a portion of Soul discern’d by the five Senses”). It’s essential to see him in his time and place, and not ahistorically and decontextualised. He was fighting a rearguard action. This was the Age of Reason, so-called (Urizen = your Reason), and he saw what that narrowly egotistical instrumentalised faculty was doing and would do, to London, to England, and to the world beyond. (The Age of Reason was also the Age of Empire, the Age of Slavery, and the age of capital unbound.) Just a few decades after Blake’s death, Engels, Dickens, and Henry Mayhew would show that his fears had been anything but unfounded.

    Few artists have lived more fully in the body, and therefore in the shared human world, than Blake did. No one was more sensitive to cruelty or quicker to respond angrily to it. From Paul Foot’s review of Ackroyd’s biography:

    “In London in the 1790s, like in London today, it was commonplace to see a woman being beaten up in the street, and equally common for embarrassed or irritated bystanders to pass by on the other side. William Blake had a short temper and often lost it. Walking in the St Giles area, and seeing a woman attacked, he launched himself on the scene with such ferocity that the assailant ‘recoiled and collapsed’. When the abuser recovered, he told a bystander that he thought he had been attacked by the ‘devil himself’.

    At around the same time Blake was standing at his window looking over the yard of his neighbour when he saw a boy ‘hobbling along with a log tied to his foot’. Immediately he stormed across and demanded in the most violent terms that the boy should be freed. The neighbour replied hotly that Blake was trespassing and had no business interfering in other people’s property (which included, of course, other people’s child labour). The furious argument which followed was only resolved when the boy was released.

    Some years later, in 1803, Blake was living in a country cottage in Sussex when he came across a soldier lounging in his garden. Blake greeted the soldier with a volley of abuse, and frogmarched him to the local pub where he was billeted. The soldier later testified that as they went, Blake muttered repeatedly, ‘Damn the King. The soldiers are all slaves.’ In the south of England in 1803, when soldiers were billeted in every village for fear of a Napoleonic invasion, such a statement was criminal treachery. The soldier promptly sneaked to his superiors. Blake was tried for sedition, and escaped deportation and even possibly a death sentence largely because the soldier made a mess of his evidence and because no one in court knew anything about Blake’s revolutionary views which had been openly expressed ten years previously. He was found not guilty, and went on writing for another 23 years until his death. He never once swerved from his intense loathing of king, soldiers and slavery.”

    For everything that lives is holy,
    Life delights in life.

    • that’s all good to know, thanks McC.

      Now we have (largely, tho there’s still the thing about the Druids) cleared Mr. Blake’s name, perhaps we can focus on how his life and work has been exploited and misunderstood and/or why, if it’s so great, it has proved to be so popular with eugenics advocates, social engineers, and dissolute rock stars?

  8. this meet is now confirmed for Wed 15, at 11 am PST, 6 pm EDT, 11 pm GMT; participants should register before hand via the link in the post or by emailing me (see contact page)

  9. Jasun: “perhaps we can focus on how his life and work has been exploited and misunderstood and/or why, if it’s so great, it has proved to be so popular with eugenics advocates, social engineers, and dissolute rock stars?”

    Has it really proved so popular? I don’t see it at all, Jasun. WB enjoyed a very brief vogue among mainly-English pop & folk musicians during the brief flowering of the Sixties, much more because of the sweetness and strangeness of his short lyric poems and his defence of the innocent and the powerless (children and animals, slaves and the poor & the despoiled earth) as for any of his alleged mysticism or the almost unreadably complex private mythology he developed in his Prophetic Books.

    When the punks displaced the hippies Blake vanished again into obscurity (the obscurity of English Departments), where he has remained ever since. Blake’s influence on the current (positivist-materialist scientistic neoliberal) culture of The West™ has been as good as non-existent. Urizen rules the world unchallenged.

    Compare the history of the reception of Jesus of Nazareth’s words, or see how Jesus’s name is routinely exploited today by the likes of Mike Pompeo or almost any other US politician. Which nation would Jesus bomb? Which offshore bank would He park his drug money in? Which PR firm would Blake engage? Which human beings would the poet sterilize? (The answer to all of these questions is, obviously: “None.”)

    In 1971 Klaus Kinski, a notorious raging egoist, toured Germany solo with a megalomaniacal one-man show called “Jesus Christus Erlöser ” (Saviour), in which he read out bits of the New Testament to huge and increasingly restless audiences. He would frequently explode in the middle of a Gospel and castigate the punters as arseholes and philistines. With at least one audience member he briefly came to blows. It was quite funny.

    Re:”eugenics advocates, social engineers”: How many of them, exactly, have ever been even remotedly interested in William Blake or have ever cited any part of his work as an inspiration? Almost precisely almost none, I’d hazard. None at all, I think, except Aldous Huxley, who (like Jim Morrison) simply nicked a fragment of one of Blake’s Proverbs of Hell and used it for his own purposes, which were not Blake’s. He needed a snappy title.

    Anything sufficiently subtle and delicately balanced (liminal, even) can be simplified and misused to almost any purpose, personal or political. Where there’s a will there’s a way (and the will is the ego, usually).

    The Clod and the Pebble

    “Love seeketh not itself to please,
    Nor for itself hath any care,
    But for another gives its ease,
    And builds a Heaven in Hell’s despair.”

    So sung a little Clod of Clay
    Trodden with the cattle’s feet,
    But a Pebble of the brook
    Warbled out these metres meet:

    “Love seeketh only self to please,
    To bind another to its delight,
    Joys in another’s loss of ease,
    And builds a Hell in Heaven’s despite.”

    That’s the whole poem. People can and will read it any way that suits them, if they have an axe to grind, an agenda to promote. But it’s hard to see how that kind of writing, or anything at all in Blake’s work, can be used to support or justify any kind of eugenics or social-engineering project. On the contrary. Nor do I think it ever has been. It’s simply not fit for that purpose.

    Have you seen Jim Jarmusch’s film Dead Man, by the way? If not I strongly recommend it, it’s easily his best film. The protagonist is called William Blake. I’ve been writing something about it for the last few days.

  10. Apologies for the length of these comments, Jasun. I don’t want to come across as if I’m ranting at you. It’s just a topic I’m very interested in right now.

    It is funny how often and how closely our interests and concerns seem to coincide, even though our backgrounds have been quite different. ( I am also trying to write something provisionally entitled “Damaged by Art”. )



    • Mac: I encourage dialogue at the blog and, so far as long comments, you’ve quite a ways to go before competing with Till.

      Are you suggesting in the above that Jesus hasn’t been influential?

      As said previously, my interest isn’t in deconstructing Blake as I have done with lesser cultural influencers, because that takes a long time and because I am fairly sure you are correct in assuming that it’s probably quite a small percentage of his work that has been incorporated into the culture at large, even including distorted, misapplied forms (unlike JC).

      But I don’t agree with your dismissal of Huxley as an isolate, much less minor, player, as I think his influence has been MASSIVE; nor do I think he merely nicked a phrase out of Blake. I think he saw Blake’s work, or bits of it, as compatible either with his (by which I mean their, since I view Huxley as representing a group & agenda) philosophy or useful to the application of it. Ditto with the counterculture, how many minds have been permanently blown by practising “the road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom” (similar to Crowley’s, “But exceed!”) literally via drugs, sex, rock no roll? Ditto with WB’s influence on Ginsberg, was it trivial or profound? Although I don’t get in Blake with Prisoner of Infinity, his influence can be felt palpably through Jeffrey Kripal’s or Erik Davis’ work in religious studies and, frankly, I smell a rat there too.

      I think it is safe to say that, if and when JC returns, he will have a few corrections to make as regards the interpretation and appliance of his sayings. How about Blake?

      In the BBC poll of 100 Greatest Britons, Bill Blake made # 38; it was a somewhat silly list, especially now, ludicrously dated by the inclusions of Bob Geldof and Boy George (yes, really, at # 46); but I’d say Blake is ranked lower than he should be, both in influence and “greatness”. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/100_Greatest_Britons#Full_list

      I think one area of nuance that might make any disagreement less pronounced is that influence is often hidden, as when it gets passed on, Chinese whispers style, via secondary and tertiary conveyors (Crowley’s influence extends into our culture not only via modern occultism but also music, from The Beatles & Bowie to Tool and M Manson). You and znore are discerning readers of Blake, as I like to think I was (and I still think there’s profound meaning in there); but what of a) those less discerning; and b) those who *should* be discerning who have twisted the words to their own ends, partially as a cause and partially as an effect of a dominant culture that is quite compatible with at least some of the sentiments he expressed?

  11. “the road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom”

    Ha, I deleted a whole long paragraph about that much-misused and much-misunderstood line. (I should have deleted other paragraphs instead.) As a student in the late 70s I adapted it to “the road of excess leads to the intensive care unit”. Or to an early grave, as in the case of too many rock stars.

    Blake was a sober man and incredibly industrious and he needed a steady hand, a clear eye and a working brain. He was not recommending guzzling gin or any other mind-altering substance. Like Hogarth he saw evidence all around him of where that led (cheap gin was the crack cocaine of their day.)

    He also said “Enough! Or too much.” By which he meant that lack, insufficiency and neediness were bad for the body and the soul. As is sedentariness, mental sloth and too much easy comfort.

    _ Sorry, I’m gonna have to cut this short. It’s nearly midnight here and I have to catch a train. Thanks for the food for thought. I think we might be talking past each other to some extent (not completely, though). Of course I’m not saying JC had no influence (!), I’m saying he’s not responsible for what the conquistadors or the Rev Ian Paisley made of his message. Nor am I saying A. Huxley had no influence (!), I’m saying Blake had no influence on AH’s views on eugenics or social engineering.

    Art is dangerous, yes. More to say tomorrow on that topic, I hope,


    • Then what oh what did Blake mean by “the road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom”?

      Clearly, he means excess in a moral way. Gin or alcohol may not have been his choice of excess, but he was nevertheless recommending excess, which btw, is what the left hand path essentially endorses: fuck up your life and you will learn how to fix it. What it ignores is: fucking up your life means FUCKING UP THE LIVES OF THE PEOPLE YOU INTERACT WITH, which is why “left hand path” methods are ludicrous and ecologically pathological.

      People who write about these matters always seem to express – by their non-expression – a pretentious tight lippedness which is all about believing you “see things from a higher perspective”. The problem with this philosophy is that it engenders a dissociativeness towards the very conditions that your knowing derives from: a field of ecological effects where every object affects every other object. Nothing is exempt. By being excessively narcissistic, I make others narcissistic i.e. defensive; by taking liberties for myself, I create problems for others who are oftentimes in very different situations.

      This philosophy is the acme of human stupidity, and with climate change, I am profoundly convinced that nature will naturally deselect this ignorant way of being in the world.

  12. First time posting here so apologies if I waffle too much or become muddled in my thought and Language as i have not done this before and I do have a tendency to repeat myself! Many others here have put things much more coherently than I could ever hope to do on this fascinating topic but anyway here goes!

    This questioning of the authenticity of Blake goes to the root of my own predicament in relation to how I traverse the space between my ingrained persona founded on a self identification as artist and the truth of my actual real life alienation from the phenomenal world and sensual body. It seems that the validity of the idea that imagination is a gateway to apprehending divinity is something which my own soul has been wrestling with for a long while; what is the point in artistic endeavour if not to somehow partake in divinity in some way? Is art making a way to channel the creativity of the divine essence through the secondary act of worldly creating and to relate the ‘truth’ of that experience to your particular community, enlightening and enriching it in the process? Or is it ever possible to have union with absolute being (god) through the creative act or are we always enmeshed in a matrix of our own ego and cultural symbology?

    I have no great knowledge of Blake but have always seen him in a positive light as a unique visionary artist, I am drawn more to his visual art than to his poetry so cannot really comment on his poetics beyond spewing out half chewed cliches! I will say that Blakes (Christian?) Gnosticism does appeal to me and that his visual imagery has been one of the foundations of my own artistic practice ( I tend to use a mythic symbolic iconography in my preliminary sketchbooks). The power of the symbolic as presented by a great artistic figure like Blake is then spliced into how an imaginative artist attends to their own symbol making, influencing its development and maybe even ensnaring your own particular ‘personal’ vision within its own more potent forms.

    Moving to my own early cultural formation I can maybe substitute the place others save for Blake with figures like Nietzsche, Jung or Tolkien, (along with a cocktail of Celtic and Greek Myths, the music of The Doors and films like Apocalypse Now … the list goes on). I find it almost impossible to remove these comforting mythic tropes from my psyche (they are grafted onto me merging their outgrowths into mine) and until recently I have never really questioned their validity in helping me pursue an authentic life; they embodied both a countercultural coolness and a kind of dark symbolic netherworld of creativity and ancient spiritual truth that made me, in my own mind, different from the norm, special and ‘deep’ – ha ha!

    Anyway what I wish to convey is that this cultural conditioning (benign or not) works through and colours my whole life; in the marketplace of spirituality I was finally drawn to a Gnostic worldview which had for me a greater multilayered aesthetic and an existential and symbolic force which was easily assimilated into my secular countercultural conditioning. All of these predilections were/are based in a visionary and imaginal frisson, a kind of pseudo intellectual mythicising of the self: in my own head I was/am the mystic out of time, the undiscovered genius scrawling away at my art creating images behind closed doors, boxed in by a hostile world yet transcending the dross through the superfluidity of the imagination! In this Blake was/is a kind model and exemplar yet this self delusional myth of my own importance is all now starting to fall away as I am challenged by necessity to set myself aright.

    So in my endeavours to realign myself I still hold to the many meanderings of the western philosophic path from Parmenides to Hegel but I’m also trying to escape egoistic intellectualism and awaken my soul to my body though this is a very difficult task. Blake Therefore seems an important figure for me in somehow bridging that gap between body and spirit. I still feel there is value in the Gnostic vision and therefore feel compelled to defend in part Gnosticism’s symbols and world view ( and through that maybe also figures such as Blake) but I now seem to have more affinity for the more bodily grounded Gospel of Thomas variety of gnosis ( coupled with the synoptic Gospels and Orthodox mysticism) rather than the more seductive Johannite Demiurgic mythopoetic complex which I am beginning to believe is a kind of imaginal snare for the soul. Is the sublime beauty of Blake then a trap or can it be a guide? I think maybe true Gnosis ( I would put Blake here I think) is Found in the death of the idea of Gnosis. True Gnosis then is a kind subsuming or sublation of mystical transcendence into a return into the body – In the attempt to utilise knowledge and image to ascend up through the aeons to the god beyond you discover that knowledge coupled to imagination is a partial transcendence at best and that its the humble love here in the shit and blood that truly matters, that fills out the imagination into a living whole; and that maybe for the true fullness of an authentic transcendence you needed your fucking body all along!

    • Was Blake a Gnostic? Or was he a Christian? Can one be both? I feel my own orientation has been steadily away from the gnostic one to the christian, even tho I once considered the gnostics the original/true christians.

      In the need we seem to be circling around the question of how we use our influences, or how they use us.

      • I have a mixed relationship to the Gnostic idea. I like the symbol – or the gnostic cross – and yet disagree wholeheartedly with its exemplars throughout history.

        The Gnostic Cross, like the Jewish Hexagram, or the Asian Tao, reflects a symmetry.

        What’s odd, or interesting, is how the formal symbol of Christianity expresses an asymmetry. Think about what these asymmetries might mean. For me, the vertical vector refers to existential coordinates – between the eternal and the temporal parts of our self. The horizontal vector would correspond to the Self and Other. These four coordinates are properly encompassed by the circularity or ecology of the world in the gnostic cross. Hence, a symmetrical cross in a circle.

        The Christian cross conversely has no circle, and a cut off horizontal vector, which seems too meaningful to be mere coincidence, given were talking about a formal, mainstream, institutional body in the Roman Empire. Given this, I think the cross actually expresses a traumatological belief system where self and other are not acknowledged to be ecologically co-determined, and where the regulation of the self is entirely a function of the temporal self relying upon an ‘eternal now’.

        That’s my unprovable theory anyhow.

  13. Yes I totally agree and feel I am on a similar trajectory from the Gnostic ( whatever that means) towards something nominally Christian though am worried I am just substituting one dogma for another. Maybe a closer look at Blake will help in crystallising this relationship between the imaginal and the body, between vision and authenticity.

    Yes my influences lay heavy upon my soul and I yearn to reach a place where expression is ‘natural’ and not mediated by prefabricated cultural forms ( if that is ever possible). To navigate this matrix and find what your own actual ethics truly are behind or beyond the cultural substrate and then keep hold of that vision, that is the trick!

  14. Dear God the ignorance laziness sheer mental sloth and inertia demonstrated here is appalling. Znore and Mac have clearly read Blake the rest of you clearly haven’t. Delete this cursed blog. It’s a vector of bad magic mental illness and curdled spite.

    • i let this through as I think it serves demonstrate the sort of cultish mentality that seems to inevitably form, like crustacea, around “great” cultural figures and underscore why some of us wish to question our idols and examine how cultural bondage works. Ironic it would be, if Blake followers have their own Blakean mind shackles which they see only as their superior cultural acumen.

  15. The question is, for me, whether or not Blake’s practice reflects his apparent commitments. Does his work/system put us in touch with the body, or does it, in a sly way, lead to further alienation from the body? Is his doctrine of the divine imagination a firm foundation for the religion of forgiveness and humanity he proclaims in “Jerusalem: the Emanation of the Giant Albion” – or does this deification of the imagination lead us into further estrangement from ourselves and others?

    Blake himself questioned the real nature of Milton’s work, and thought, in spite of the nominal Christianity, Milton was of the Devil’s party. Would the angry Blakeans here be upset with Blake for ignoring the fact that Milton had, after all, said he was a Christian poet? Blake was critiquing Milton, not summarizing Milton’s stated intentions. We’re (possibly) critiquing Blake.

    However much Blake rails against abstract philosophy, his prophetic books are some of the most abstract, dis-embodied poems in English. Though he vilifies the Druids, he has *somehow* been mistaken as an arch-druid by a number of neo-pagans; and a reader no less than Yeats recognized his own druidic spirit embodied in Blake. There are disparities in his work and in the history of its reception that warrant some hard questions. No one here has even made a strong claim about Blake, other than those who rushed in to boohoo the mere questioning of him.

    Also, it’s not just an academic question here: we’re seeking the embodiment Blake himself was after, and we’re asking how his work helps, how it hurts, from our experience.

    • that line about Milton being of the Devil’s party was followed by the designation of Milton as “a true poet.” Ergo, I always saw it as praise of both Milton and the devil, in a Gnostic sense, and identified myself likewise, as a true poet who was of the devil’s party. That all true artists were likewise affiliated, perhaps similar to Steiner’s attribution of the power of the imagination to Lucifer?

      That we exist in a culture that deifies the imagination in all the wrong ways, and is truly devilish, is something that few who end up at this site are likely to doubt (znore notwithstanding). It therefore becomes a reasonable question as to how much of Blake’s influence (like somewhat comparable figures such as Nietzsche & Jung) has helped pave the way for our current hell-world, and if so, whether any of this can be laid at Blake’s door, or not. Deep cultural analysis for “satanic” implants is not something that many people ever get around to, even tho, as Paul points out in the OP< this is very close in spirit to Blake's own concerns in his life. I might even venture to say that to be true to Blake's spirit, we MUST doubt his letters.

  16. Paul wrote:

    “No one here has even made a strong claim about Blake, other than those who ***rushed in to boohoo the mere questioning of him.****”

    Nobody did any such thing.

    1) The poster called znorz calmly and politely pointed out that B’s use of the term “Imagination” was far more subtle and discriminating and ***conscious*** than anyone here had given him credit for, and that B’s multifarious uses of this elusive term and others had to be seen in their historical and literary context, which znorz clearly knows something about.

    2 I pointed out some easily discoverable and verifiable facts about B’s brave, sober, impoverished, and decidedly non-“elite” life — and NB, I did so in response to a set of ugly and lazy slanders that the poster called Till had indeed rushed in to post. That kind of stuff should not be allowed to stand unchallenged. Quite clearly Till knows nothing about Blake (and cares even less), but that didn’t prevent him from pontificating dishonestly — and grotesquely misleadingly — about that dead man’s life and work, calling him ” a snake” (sic) and “an elite who cavorted with elites” (sic). Pause for a moment and Imagine anyone here making the same kind of venomous and completely-unsupported assertion about (say) Dave Oshana or any other public figure.

    Till has not yet had the grace to apologise for that or even to admit he was wrong. Instead he responded with empty bluster, resorting to ALL-CAPS and three uses of the f-word, plus the helpless accusation that I am a) pretentious, b) ignorant and c) narcissistic (sic, sic, sic) for having the temerity to know something Till doesn’t know (although he could very easily have found it out). He winds up by claiming it is “the acme of stupidity” (sic) for anyone to notice when Till is talking balls, and that he hopes climate change will soon “deselect” (sic) me and anyone else he finds guilty of such lèse majesté.

    Off with our heads? Damn the king.

    • Till used the F-word? : o

      to be fair to Paul, someone called Luke did post that questioning Blake’s preeminence among poets and men was an act of spite. This post suggests something not a million light years away.

      Till did get it wrong about Blake being an elite, and I can see how an acknowledgement of that would be the decent thing to do when having a dialogue or a debate. But an apology?

      Also, citing Dave Oshana as “a public figure” comparable to Blake makes little sense. By that definition, anyone who posts here is also a public figure (unless it requires having one’s own website)? Blake OTOH is a cultural hero long-dead, admired by thousands, whose influence is immeasurable. Surely, with all these provisos, he can take the odd bit of criticism, even when misinformed, without it becoming a question of defending his honor?

  17. Jasun: “Surely, with all these provisos, he can take the odd bit of criticism, even when misinformed, without it becoming a question of defending his honor?”

    It is a question of honour, yes, not to let lies — about anyone — stand unchallenged whenever I know they are lies and whenever I also happen to have the time to point it out. At least when they are lies about someone who detested liars and whose life’s work is worth taking seriously.

    Nor is it a matter of Blake being unable to “take the odd bit of criticism” (although he is in fact now incapable of doing so, what with him being dead and that), or of me being some kind of adoring “Blakean” groupie who can’t bear to hear a word spoken against the Great Man. Blake is eminently criticisable, and I’ve criticised him myself. I question, for instance, whether the later Prophetic Books are really worth the time it takes to decipher them, Cf. Joyce and Finnegans Wake. It’s possible to see those late works, however brilliant, as (to some extent at least) a wrong turning and a tragic waste of time and energy.

    Dave Oshana’s was simply the first name that came to mind. And yes, he is a public figure, he doesn’t have to be world famous to achieve that status. Anyway, you know him and you know his work, and he too should not be slandered in drive-by posts (or in any other way) by anyone.

    A better comparison might have been Whitley Strieber, about whom I freely confess I know next to nothing, except what I’ve read about him here at your blog. Clearly you have taken the time & trouble, over a period of many years, to acquaint yourself very closely with Strieber’s work and also with his life, as his work reflects it or fails to. Equally clearly, you don’t just pontificate emptily about Strieber or throw random and inaccurate insults his way (“snake”, etc.) Knowing his writings well, you examine those actual writings closely and reach certain (maybe-provisional) conclusions, based on an honest reading of the evidence at hand.

    Which is no more and no less than William Blake, dead or alive, deserves.

    • @MacC: You raise some interesting points, and you are right that I would draw the line before calling Strieber a snake, even if I have called him a liar (I hope only in the context of all the evidence that indicates as such). Till’s statements, you suggest, were disproportionate with the evidence he offered to back them up. That doesn’t make him a liar, only a bit rash. His responses to you can be considered rude & insensitive, it’s true, but hardly serious for someone who has contended with Jerky for years on end.

      Till has been posting at the blog for a while now and has probably written a book’s worth of posts here, some of which are striking in their insight and depth of knowledge; your introduction to him was his calling Blake a snake, followed by some factually incorrect statements, topped with a cherry about a coming climate change purge of all the wrong-thinkers. It’s easy to see how you would come away with a disfavorable impression. But I doubt Till is likely to change his mind about Blake, any more than I have been able to sway him on the matter of climate change or statues of responsibility.

      You’re welcome to try and get a retraction or apology out of him, but attacking him probably isn’t the way to go about it. So often these disagreements end up being about personality traits and forms of communication and so the discussion either escalates into a fracas and goes nowhere, or it becomes more and more personal and intimate, and the argument is likewise lost in favor of actually trying to find the human being behind it (on both sides, including our own).

      I tried to map the middle ground in the Blake podcast, as I am forever trying to find and map middle ground between opposing perspectives. It requires give and take on both sides to avoid becoming living embodiments of Gregory Bateson’s schismogenesis principal. I don’t see how anyone can, in good faith, take a strong, unbudging position on Blake (or climate change) when there are so many known unknowns, not to mention unknown ones. From my POV, Blake could have been a sex-magic practicing Druid with unconscious (or conscious) satanic leanings; he might even have slaughtered an infant in its cradle so as not to nurse unacted desire. On the other hand, he might be more or less what the consensus says he was, as you suggest. Surely you can understand why some of us have come to distrust the consensus view of everything, to the point that it gets hard not to err on the side of suspicion or paranoia sometimes? And even then, suspicion need not equal condemnation.

  18. By the way, Jasun: I had been thinking about Blake and revisiting his work just a couple of weeks before you made these posts. The reason being: Alasdair Gray had just died, aged 85. He was someone from my home town whose work meant a lot to me, a novelist, painter and graphic artist heavily influenced by Blake. Gray was also an extremely honest artist and he knew very well that the thing called imagination could take many forms and fulfil many functions: it could be a survival strategy, it could be a refuge, it could be a delight, and it could also become a deadly trap.

    Here his protagonist Duncan Thaw is about 14 years old, a gifted boy plagued by asthma, eczema and puberty, alienated at home and at school:

    “Apparent life was a succession of dull habits in which he did what was asked automatically, only resenting demands to show interest. His energy had withdrawn into imaginary worlds and he had none to waste on reality.

    A small fertile land lay hidden in a crater made by an atomic explosion. Thaw was Prime Minister of it. … ”

    — from Lanark: A Life in Four Books, p.157. (The central two books are more or less straight autobiography, one of the most clear-eyed and unsparing self-portraits of an artist I have ever read.)

  19. Jasun, our posts crossed.

    You wrote: “You’re welcome to try and get a retraction or apology out of him, but attacking him probably isn’t the way to go about it.”

    I was not attacking him (!), I was responding to what he wrote, i.e., I was responding to his blustering, bullying attacks, first on Blake and then on me for defending Blake. (Check his posts out, I didn’t imagine it.) I don’t care whether he apologises or not and I’ll be perfectly delighted if I hear nothing from him again. (How did this thread become about him? Rhetorical question, no answer needed.)

  20. According to Kant in his opus, imagination is inseparable from reason. It is multi purpose in that one can allow it to wallow in indulgent dream, or use it rationally to compose meaning out of phenomenal experience.

    It is not apriori transcendent , but very much posteriori psychic-sensuous and of this world

    Kant – critique of pure reason p.617
    Discipline of Pure Reason With Regard to Hypotheses


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