A common man marvels at uncommon things. A wise man marvels at the commonplace. CONFUCIUS

Tuesday, 15 January 2008

A World Within This One

Hindus believe in a great soul or spirit, called Brahman, or God. Brahman has no shape or form and cannot be seen but is present in everything. Each of the thousands of Hindu deities represents an aspect of Brahman. From The Atlas of World Religions (2002) by Anita Ganeri

For days I've been haunted by the quote from Paul Éluard, the French Surrealist poet, posted recently on Old Girl Of The North Country's blog: There is another world, but it is in this one.

What better example of this truth than the life and work of the great visionary mystic William Blake (1757-1827).

Blake wrote: If the doors of perception were cleansed, everything would appear to man as it is, infinite. He believed that mankind allowed itself to be bounded by perceptions, and that it is the unseen mind (or understanding or soul or spirit) that truly perceives - not the 5 senses. One could say that this mind or soul "looks through" the window of the 5 senses.

There is an "Internal" and "External" world, a "Within" and "Without", in every bird, beast, flower and insect, every living thing - and also in stones and rocks and all inanimate objects. The physical form of these bodies, which we perceive with our senses, is the "correspondence" or "signature" of the soul.

Blake turned these concepts into the myths which permeate his work - his poetry, his paintings and his drawings. Nature is seen as a "veiled" goddess. She is mythologized by Blake as the moon goddess, Vala. You can also find her in the figure of Persephone, who, according to the Greek myth, wore a veil for Demeter when she fell into Hades. The Roman Minerva and the Egyptian Isis, wife of Osiris, are other personifications of this veiled goddess of Nature.

Man falls in love with Vala, is deluded by the world of phenomenal appearances, and from this follows every evil of the Fall - a story resonating in the Biblical legend of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. The veil is the cause of war, materialism, all human vice and wrongdoing. The veiled face of the goddess is forever hidden from all but those few who have attained Enlightenment.

Blake also wrote: To me this World is all one continued Vision of Fancy or Imagination. Once more he's referring to another world intertwined with this world...

All such ideas and many more are discussed in the poet Kathleen Raine's erudite and exciting 2 volume work Blake and Tradition.

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