Yet Catherine is the heroine of any biography of Blake, putting up with his weird ideas, his frequent bouts of penury, his imperiousness and his consciousness of his own genius — with which she entirely agreed — and his libido. Blake was completely obsessed by sex; it was central to his world view. The Swedenborgian church, of which he was a member, was founded by a Swedish visionary, Swedenborg, who, among other things, believed that sex was a way of achieving an ecstatic union with God, an idea familiar to us from the Buddhist notion of tantric sex.
The Ancient of Days by William Blake at the Tate Britain exhibition which shows a collection of the iconic pieces he created. And Blake believed in the Swedenborgian equivalent of tantric sex, and lost no opportunity of engaging in it. In fact, he remained monogamous all his life, and devoted to Catherine. She, like Swedenborg himself, had been a member of the Moravian Protestant sect, some of whose members tried to recreate the condition of Adam and Eve before the Fall by engaging in ecstatic sex.
Undoubtedly, Blake was one of the early proponents of what came to be known as Free Love, alongside radical friend Mary Wollstonecraft, mother of Mary Shelley, the author of Frankenstein. Catherine was a remarkable woman. She learned quite quickly to read and write. Usefully, she also had the patience of a saint. I am in the wrong! Home life at the Blakes can never have been dull. But it comes as no surprise to learn that Mrs Blake lost her looks after just a few years of marriage: no one, a contemporary observed, was ever so much changed. Blake himself was never lonely, for he was forever seeing visions of angels.
The famous portrait of him in the Tate exhibition has a slightly startled expression, due, it seems, to the fact that Blake had just been in conversation with the Archangel Gabriel. On one occasion, when he was still small, he was late home and explained to his mother that he had seen the prophet Ezekiel sitting under a tree. She smacked him. Later, when he was apprenticed to an engraver, James Basire, his master sent him to Westminster Abbey to take drawings of the monuments which may explain his enthusiasm for Gothic art and he saw Christ and the apostles. Blake turned to the biblical book of Ruth for inspiration.
What was remarkable is that he took these visions so much for granted. There have been other witnesses to the supernatural even more convincing, but I think there was never any other quite so calm. This direct contact with angels may be one reason why he was no respecter of hierarchies — social or artistic.
He was often rude to his patrons, which meant he lost several of them. You could never give him money; you had to buy his work, to save his pride. In politics, he was a radical, one of the few admirers of the French Revolution to have the courage to wear the red cockade of the Sans-culottes on his head in public in London. He took it off when the horrors of the Terror became known after One of his achievements was to save the life of the influential Republican writer, Tom Paine. He, like Paine, belonged to a circle of radicals, the Friends of Liberty, who met at the house of Joseph Johnson, a radical publisher.
It was only just in time; the militia came after him 20 minutes later. A visitor takes a closer look at the pieces at the William Blake exhibition at the Tate Britain which is on until February 2. Crucially, Blake was a revolutionary in art, too. He loved clear lines and hated the kind of painting that got in the way of clarity; he would have loathed Impressionism.
He was a fanatic about maintaining a firm line in every piece of art he produced. This was partly from the influence of the sculptor Flaxman, partly perhaps because of his training as an engraver. Usefully, his brother Robert appeared to him after death to explain a new method of engraving.
Insane, maybe. Genius, certainly. To book, visit tate. The views expressed in the contents above are those of our users and do not necessarily reflect the views of MailOnline. Naked genius! Share this article Share. Share or comment on this article: William Blake was a nudist obsessed by sex who talked to angels for inspiration e-mail Comments 34 Share what you think. View all. More top stories. Bing Site Web Enter search term: Search.
Get Me Out Of Here! Former home of Mary Poppins author P. Today's headlines Most Read 'We held your hand until the very last moment': Heartbreaking photo shows family of missing Leah Croucher, However, these laws will remain invariable only in laboratory conditions. In other words, the laws of probability only apply when all human subjectivity has been deliberately excluded. In the normal run of things when human happiness and hopes for self fulfilment depend on the outcome of the roll of the dice, then the laws of probability are bent.
Then deeper laws come into play. But in the universe that this book describes, our emotional states directly affect matter outside our bodies too.
Self and Subject in Motion
In this psychosomatic universe the behaviour of physical objects in space is directly affected by mental states without our having to do anything about it. We can move matter by the way we look at it. Note that he emphasizes he is not talking metaphorically. He is talking directly and quite literally about a powerful, ancient wisdom, preserved in the secret societies, a wisdom in which the great artists, writers and thinkers who have forged our culture are steeped.
At the heart of this wisdom is the belief that the deepest springs of our mental life are also the deepest springs of the physical world, because in the universe of the secret societies all chemistry is psycho-chemistry , and the ways in which the physical content of the universe responds to the human psyche are described by deeper and more powerful laws than the laws of material science. No, by these laws the secret societies meant laws that weave themselves into the warp and weft of each individual life at the most intimate level, as well as the great and complex patterns of providential order that have shaped the history of the world.
The theory of this book is that history has a deeper structure, that events we usually explain in terms of politics, economics or natural disaster can more profitably be seen in terms of other, more spiritual patterns. We have almost no evidence to go on when we decide what we believe happened at the beginning of time, but the choice we make has massive implications for our understanding of the way the world works.
If you believe that matter came before mind, you have to explain how a chance coming together of chemicals creates consciousness, which is difficult. If, on the other hand, you believe that matter is precipitated by a cosmic mind, you have the equally difficult problem of explaining how, of providing a working model.
Pure mind to begin with, these thought-emanations later become a sort of proto-matter, energy that becomes increasingly dense then becomes matter so ethereal that it is finer than gas, without particles of any kind. Eventually the emanations became gas, then liquid and finally solids. Working in friendly rivalry with his contemporaries at MIT in the United States, he has made robots able to interact with their environment, learn and adjust their behaviour accordingly.
These robots exhibit a level of intelligence that matches that of the lower animals such as bees. Within five years, he says, robots will have achieved the level of intelligence of cats and in ten years they will be at least as intelligent as humans. He is also in the process of engineering a new generation of robotic computers he expects to be able to design and manufacture other computers, each level generating the lesser level beneath it. According to the cosmologists of the ancient world and the secret societies, emanations from the cosmic mind should be understood in the same way, as working downwards in a hierarchy from the higher and more powerful and pervasive principles to the narrower and more particular, each level creating and directing the one below it.
These emanations have also always been thought of as in some sense personified, as being in some sense also intelligent. When I saw Kevin Warwick present his findings to his peers at the Royal Institute in , he was criticized by some for suggesting that his robots were intelligent and so by implication conscious. They form something very like personalities, interreact with other robots and make choices beyond anything that has been programmed into them.
Around the Booths
Kevin argued that while his robots might not have consciousness with all the characteristics of human consciousness, neither do dogs. Dogs are conscious in a doggy way and his robots, he said, are conscious in a robotic way.
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We might think of the consciousness of the emanations from the cosmic mind in similar terms. We might also be reminded of the Tibetan spiritual masters who are said to be able to form a type of thoughts called tulpas by intense concentration and visualization. At the lowest level of the hierarchy, according to the ancient and secret doctrine in all cultures, these emanations, these Thought-Beings from the cosmic mind, interweave so tightly that they create the appearance of solid matter.
This raises the philosophical question: could we ourselves be in such a simulation and could what we think is the universe be some sort of vault of heaven rather than the real thing. In a sense we could ourselves be the creations within that simulation.
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The wider story was that leading scientists around the world are becoming increasingly fascinated by the extraordinary degree of fine-tuning that has been necessary for us to evolve. And this is making them question what is really real. Philip K. Dick, who was perhaps the first writer to seed these ideas in pop culture, was steeped in initiatic wisdom regarding altered states and parallel dimensions.
But the biggest has been The Matrix. In The Matrix menacing, shade-wearing villains police the virtual world we call reality in order to control us for their own nefarious purposes.
In part, at least, this is an accurate reflection of the teachings of the Mystery schools and secret societies. Although all the beings that live behind the veil of illusion are part of the hierarchies of emanations from the mind of God, some display a disturbing moral ambivalence. These are the same beings that the peoples of the ancient world experienced as their gods, spirits and demons.
In its account of interlocking, evolving dimensions, the clashing, morphing and intermingling of great systems, in its scale, complexity and awesome explanatory power it rivals that of modern science. We cannot simply say that physics has replaced metaphysics and made it redundant. There is a key difference between these systems which is that they are explaining different things. Modern science explains how the universe comes to be as it is.
Ancient philosophy of the kind we will be exploring in this book explains how our experience of the universe comes to be as it is.
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