Search

Aeolian Heart Readings

Tarot & Astrology Consultation

Category

Blog

The Cosmic Cosmology of William Blake

3026_b_3920

In the Romantic era, William Blake created an entirely original mythopoeic cosmology, which was the inspiration for both his poetry and his visual artworks. His poetry blended with his sumptuous watercolors and engravings to create an artistic effect that was cinematic before cinema was even conceivable. Blake’s vision of the world was fiercely independent of any dogmatism from the rational or spiritual conditions of the Enlightenment era and his astounding collection of illuminated poetry gives the modern reader a visceral experience of the ‘‘Poetic Genius’’, which Blake believed was the essence of creation itself.

1809 Pen, Ink, Watercolor
1809 Pen, Ink, Watercolor
“The Horse of Intellect is leaping from the cliffs of Memory: it is a barren rock: it is also called the Barren Waste of Locke and Newton.”

What makes William Blake such an important archetype for the Romantic era itself was his zealous pursuit of freedom, his passion for revolution against tyranny and how he prioritized creativity above all other pursuits in life. Regarding his motivation to live as an embodiment of creative imagination Blake said, ‘I must create a system or be enslaved by another man’s. I will not reason and compare. My business is to create!” (These were direct references to the Enlightenment era methods of Sir Isaac Newton and the philosophies of John Locke)

William Blake was not a gentleman artist, but was in fact a tradesman in his craft who worked as an engraver. He was commissioned to bring many textbooks and classic works of literature to life with small, yet meticulous illustrations. Therefore, Blake depicted as many familiar scenes and characters as he depicted radical new ones. For example, Blake was commissioned to illustrate John Milton’s, Paradise Lostand so we can examine Blake’s version of Adam, Eve, and Satan in the Garden of Eden, which is unlike any other depiction in the whole of Christian art.

Milton's Satan -
“It Is Better To Reign In Hell Than To Serve In Heaven” – Satan (Paradise Lost)

In addition, he often painted scenes from Bible stories, such as the Book of Job or the mystical dream of Jacob’s Ladder from the Book of Genesis.

His religious art contains esoteric symbols that allude to Blake’s mystical revelations. A prominent example is found in Blake’s use of spiral imagery. Blake’s depictions of these scenes remain unique.

imgres(To the left) Blake paints Adam and Eve under the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, with Adam’s back turned as Eve is enveloped in the serpent’s body, which spirals around her nudity and delicately feeds her the forbidden fruit in an open mouth kiss of original sin. The effect is extremely sexual, yet Eve is not the typical Western nude made object of desire. Rather, this image feels biological.

The spiraling stairway to heaven seen in Jacob’s dream.

Again we see a spiral used by Blake to depict the stairway to heaven, that Jacob dreams of in the Book of Genesis. This story has been widely explored in Christian art as well, yet the staircase has always been a straight ladder stretching up to heaven. Blake, in his striking originality, shows us a spiral stair winding up to heaven in a diffusion of starlight and celestial splendor. Blake, as the Poetic Genius was expressing more in his imagery than a simple retelling of Bible stories.

Blake’s Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden tells a story far removed from the traditional one. In Blake’s cosmology, God was an androgynous primeval entity named Albion, which became sexual when it split into four disparate parts or “zoas”. These four zoas catalyzed a life form between them, which was a man named Adam, who had a spectre or shadow named Satan and was joined by an emanation of his consciousness named Eve. (William Blake and the Myths of Britain, 1999)

The relationship of the four Zoas, as depicted by Blake in
The relationship of the four Zoas, as depicted by Blake in “Milton, A Poem”

According to Blake, life began as source energy (Albion) which emanated a holy trinity of life: Adam emanates a female aspect, Eve, and then sends his specter, Satan, to seduce her into a permanent division from Albion.

Note how Adam and Satan have the same physique, showing their relation as different aspects of the same entity. Eve is seduced as Adam turns his back, revealing his shadow.
Note how Adam and Satan have the same physique, showing their relation as different aspects of the same entity. Eve is seduced as Adam turns his back, revealing his dual nature.

Blake’s version of the Garden of Eden story sounds like a poetic depiction of the process of cell division, now known to molecular biology. The story is about sex, but there is none of the Christian shame in Blake’s version, for all are the progeny of Albion. Blake’s version can be read as a deeply shamanic vision that depicts the elegant process of DNA twisting genes together through the union of chromosomes to create physical form imbued with life force. In this cosmological view, all mankind is woven together with a unifying consciousness that was purposely individuated from Albion in order to experience the subjective Self. Original sin is absent from Blake’s view, for differentiation from the original essence appears to be the cosmic order of things which is to be accepted and experienced, not resisted.

Blake’s visual depiction of spirals (snakes, stairs, flames) must have been inspired by his visionary experiences of transcendent truth, which binds imagination to expression in the physical world. The spiral is at the very core of being, just as DNA is the language that we are translated into the physical world through. William Blake was a revolutionary explorer of inner space and sacred experience came naturally to him. His observations compelled him to share his wisdom within beautiful poetry that embodied the profound insights he had into the cosmos. “To see a World in a Grain of Sand/ And a Heaven in a Wild Flower,/ Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand / And Eternity in an hour.”

The Sumerian deity, Ningizzida, is accompanied by two gryphons Mushussu; it is the oldest known image of two snakes coiling around an axial rod, dating from before 2000 BCE.
The Sumerian deity, Ningizzida, oldest known image of two snakes coiling around an axial rod, dating from before 2000 BCE.

The spiral is a common symbol found in art from the majority of cultures around the world and it is the primary shape found in environmental structures of the universe. Blake, like other mystics, intuited that the spiral was an essential aspect of consciousness and physical form.

PL12bBy the 20th century, science found through its instruments of study that both galaxies and DNA are expressed in a spiral formation, and particles follow fractal waves of motion rather than straight lines. The spiral rules the micro and macrocosmic, the internal and the external worlds. The 20th century anthropologist, Jeremy Narby studied the phenomena of the spiral in Western and indigenous consciousness claiming, “Both shamans and molecular biologists agree that there is a hidden unity under the surface of life’s diversity; both associate this unity with the double helix shape (or two entwined serpents, a twisted ladder, a spiral staircase, two vines wrapped around each other); both consider that one must deal with this level of reality in order to heal.” (The Cosmic Serpent, 1998)

DNA
DNA

In addition, the Swiss psychologist Carl Jung said that spirals represent “cosmic force” and that the upward spiraling of Kundalini serpent imagery symbolized “the urge of realization (which) naturally pushes man on to be himself”. (The Psychology of Kundalini Yoga, 1932) Jungian analysis would interpret the intuition of Blake as a communion with the collective unconscious. Interestingly enough, William Blake’s concept of the Poetic Genius is not too dissimilar from Jung’s collective unconscious and so it is fitting that Blake was so in tune with deep cosmic imagery and that he infused the Bible with this consciousness. One of William Blake’s most famous revelations about the cosmos is summarized in this quote from his poem, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell,“…If the Doors of Perception were cleansed everything would appear to man as it is, infinite.

a_fractal_galaxy_by_mynameishalo

Explore a great archive on Blake: http://www.blakearchive.org/blake/

Read a great biography on Blake: http://www.poetryfoundation.org/bio/william-blake

All Religions are One.

ARO_Plate_2_(Title_page_alternate)

Principle 1st – That the Poetic Genius is the true Man, and that the body or outward form of Man is derived from the Poetic Genius. Likewise that the forms of all things are derived from their Genius, which by the Ancients was call’d an Angel & Spirit & Demon.” (William Blake: The Complete Illuminated Books, 2001)

This quote is an excerpt from a William Blake tract entitled, All Religions are One, which was written in 1788. (read full text here) This work of many principles and assertions is prefaced with the phrase The Voice of one crying in the Wilderness”, which is a quote from the Bible repeated by both the prophet Isaiah and John the Baptist as they each proclaimed the salvation of the world through the coming messiah.  Blake is equating himself with these men, by asserting that his words are prophecy, which contain a message of salvation.  In Blake’s time, this salvation would have been from the strict Enlightenment era empiricism and from the dogmatic religious tyranny that restricted the experience of what he terms, “the Poetic Genius”.

Prophet in the Wilderness by William Blake 1816-20.

Blake’s concept of the sacred sought to find a unifying principle of religious experience, which he distilled down to an energy called, “Poetic Genius”. This reference to the “Poetic Genius” appears in many of his works as the ultimate source of prophesy, art and of the imagination, which provides mankind the impetus to express their spiritual experiences.  In Blake’s perception, because this energy defines the truth of man, then this realization of the source of spiritual experience was one that was liberating and unifying for mankind.  In this poem, Blake is postulating that this source of creative energy is the also the source of the physical form, which is the primary essence of life, rather than the empirical or religious experience. He also asserts that the entities called angels, spirits and demons throughout history are also emanations from this energy and need not be discounted as illegitimate experiences, despite the lack of empirical observation that could be applied to defining them.

William Blake was a mystic in his own time and his legacy, in the realm of spirituality, is one of radical and romantic ideals which transform traditional beliefs associated with science and religion into a more holistic and interconnected consciousness. William Blake devoted his life to finding and expressing the essence of religion, unbound from the societal structures which would impede free thought or vibrant experience. Throughout this search, he certainly displayed the behavior of one who believed in spiritual beings.

Blake’s conclusions about religion are similar to what anthropologist, E.B. Tylor found in the 20th century. Tylor defined the essence of religion, not as Poetic Genius, but as animism, which he argued was the foundation of all religious practice and complex belief systems. The difference is that E.B. Tylor approached this revelation about the source of religion with disdain for religious experience, considering it to be a primitive aspect of mankind.

On the other hand, William Blake exuberantly experienced his time and place in this world through a perspective that included a connection to the realm of the spirit and yet bore none of the restrictions of superstition or dogmatism. His philosophy was one that provided much of the energy for the Romantic era, which was a time of liberation and rebellion against tyranny in all its forms.

Wanderer Above the Sea of Fog, by Caspar David Friedrich, 1818.
Wanderer Above the Sea of Fog, by Caspar David Friedrich, 1818.

From Blake’s point of view, all of his life’s work was divinely inspired and this perception gave him the freedom of mind to express compassion and love for all of mankind as his equals in the realm of the Poetic Genius. As he says here in the same poem, “As all men are alike (tho’ infinitely various), So all Religions & as all similars have one source. The true Man is the source, he being the Poetic Genius.” (William Blake: The Complete Illuminated Books, 2001)

Quest For Quietude

alexgreyquestforquietude Since the invention of the printing press, mass media has changed human consciousness and in the Information Age this evolution continues at an exponential rate of acceleration. This transformation is not invisible. Many are so plugged into mass media consciousness that “addiction” develops, complete with neuroses and withdrawal symptoms.

How has human consciousness changed as a result of mass media? Well, we know that television opens the subconscious mind like a dilated pupil, inducing a trance which dissolves the subjective experience of “I” and replaces it with a blending of consciousness with all others who are “tuned” in. Likewise, the internet takes this dissolution of subjectivity and creates an accessible notion of unity in which all knowledge is simultaneously present.

The concept of the individual, developed during the Renaissance and so beloved by the West is fading away.

The great media theorist, Marshall McLuhan was best known for the famous axiom, “The Medium is the Message” from his book, Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man.

Marshall Mcluhan
Marshall McLuhan

In this book, McLuhan looks at all media, from print to electric light to radio and television, as mediums of communication which forever changed the way humans relate to one another and their environment. In his Playboy interview from 1969, McLuhan said, “ …all media, from the phonetic alphabet to the computer, are extensions of man that cause deep and lasting changes in him and transform his environment.” McLuhan makes it clear that attempting to judge the messages of mass media (television, internet) based upon literary categories of narrative analysis “offers no dues to the magic of these media or to their subliminal charge.” (p.27)

In short, McLuhan understood that the narrative content of mass media matters very little. Qualitative judgements based on morality and narrative content comes from the literary mindset of individualism and nationalism born from the Gutenberg printing press in the 16th century. The individual experience of reading a book to one’s self-created a unique subjectivity which television and the internet are eroding. The zeitgeist of mass communications is more akin to archaic theories of panpsychism and universal mind. The impact of the medium is on our thought processes and the way it changes our perceptions.

GustaveDore
Engraving by Gustave Doré “Rime of the Ancient Mariner” illustrations- 1876

Now here’s where we encounter the dark waters. Upon human consciousness, mass media transposes virtual reality over sensual reality and it is easy to become lost in a bardo filled with the apparitions of salesmen and the hungry ghosts who follow them.

hungry-ghosts-122013zz
Tibetan Hungry Ghosts, 19th Century

It plays out as the grand tragedy of literary subjectivity searching for identity in a place where no individual mind exists. Confusion is the leading side effect. Those who direct the programming of these mediums of communication take advantage of the confusion and fill these subliminally charged communions with embedded ideologies.(aka culture) It is not a conspiracy theory to note that only corporate interests are heavily represented and that those interests are malicious in that they seek to divide people and inculcate them with fear. Advertising is always about selling desire and self-doubt: that is all.

Though culture itself is a mass hallucination perpetrated through the language of the establishment, that realization does not excuse one from partaking in evolving consciousness. The reproductive power of the hallucination of Western culture is rooted in mass media, for it is only through imposing mass control through homogenized ideology that millions of people can be lost in the same fantasy. But all is not lost because the human spirit always lies in wait just beneath any nefarious confinement, poised for escape into freedom, creativity, and love. If one becomes lost in utter nihilism, then suddenly one is well suited to the role of the psychopomp who guides people from the land of illusory cultural programming to the shore of self-realization.

Hermes, the psychopomp between the realms of the living and the dead; the gods and the mortals.
Hermes, psychopomp between the realms of the living and the dead; the gods and the mortals.

It has been my experience that meditation, art, energy healing, entheogenic substances and/or devoted contemplation all have the power to allow the user to shed their cultural branding but retain collective consciousness. (There are many versions of these pathways. Find out what means something to you or create something new!) Deep exploration of inner space allows people to free themselves from the imprisonment of hierarchy, and feel their potential once again as they are reborn as a sovereign being: pain is released, beauty is beheld, and art pours out.

The Rapture of Psyche by William-Adolphe Bouguereau (1895)
The Rapture of Psyche by William-Adolphe Bouguereau (1895)

One of the first skins that must be shed is any moral agenda which prevents a person from exploring their own consciousness. i.e. nonsensical drug laws, religious prohibitions etc… To put it simply, I love what the great writer and poet Maya Angelou said before she died on May 28th, 2014. She posted a final statement on Twitter in her usual poignant manner, saying Listen to yourself and in that quietude you might hear the voice of God. In conclusion: On the quest to know ourselves, let’s listen in the quietude of inner space, use media to commune with the collective on our own terms, and evolve!

❤ Aeolian Heart ❤

What is Aeolian Heart?

Aeolian Heart, the name I choose to do readings under, is a reference to the “Aeolian Harp“, a type of wind harp mentioned in poetry and philosophy throughout history.

Some of the poets who wrote of the Aeolian Harp include Novalis, Emerson, Longfellow, & Thoreau.

Aeolus was the ancient Greek god of the winds, who lived on the island of Aeolia. Most of us remember this god from reading Homer’s, The Odyssey, where Aeolus gives Odysseus the favorable winds needed to blow him back to Ithaca. Hence, a harp that is played by the wind is called an Aeolian Harp.

The musical instrument, which sounds as the wind rushes through its strings, evokes a uniquely mysterious and haunting beauty. While listening to an Aeolian Harp, you must surrender to chaos and in that surrender, you will hear the universe sing!

The Aeolian Harp became wildly popular during the Romantic Era, not only as a pleasurable source of music, but also as a poetic remembrance that there is always harmony to be found within chaos.

Aeolian_harp
Simple Aeolian Harp for the window sill.

Poets and musicians have long known that they themselves are the mere instruments of a genius that flows through them, evoking sounds and images that create profound feeling in all who are present to enjoy.

My favorite poem that refers to the Aeolian Harp is by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, where he considers that the transcendent power of inspired speech (poetry, prophesy, healing comfort) is just like the breeze that flows through the harp. An inspired speaker, teacher, or poet becomes like an Aeolian harp, allowing the “indolent and passive brain” to feel the beauty of the music and take over their body.

Aeolian Harp by Samuel Taylor Coleridge

“…And what if all of animated nature
Be but organic Harps diversely framed,
That tremble into thought, as o’er them sweeps
Plastic and vast, one intellectual breeze,
At once the Soul of each, and God of all?…” (lines 44–48)

Mandala-Coloring-Pages-to-Print


❤ Aeolian Heart ❤

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: