When William Blake (1757-1827) wrote his Auguries of Innocence he was, in addition to writing as a poet, speaking as the Prophet of Imagination. To Blake ‘imagination’ wasn’t the creation of something ‘unreal’ or fictitious that we may associate with the word today. It was the creation of something very real. Arguably it was more than that; imagination was for Blake the living Creative Principle.
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 (William Blake)
Blake, adopting a principle first espoused by Swedish visionary Emanuel Swedenborg (1688-1772), equated Imagination with the Divine Humanity (We are all God / God is in us all). Much of Blake’s subsequent work reflects his innate belief that God resides in us and that through Imagination only, will we find God.
Writing at a significant cross-road in the development of our civilisation Blake was familiar with the works of Newton (1642-1727), Bacon (1561 -1626) and Galileo (1564 - 1642).
However the works of these giants of scientific and philosophical thinking were only beginning to filter through to the general populous. Gravity was still little understood (as it turned out even by Newton himself), the teachings of the Church were still observed as fact (Charles Darwin was yet to shake the foundations of the Church with the publication of On the Origin of Species1) and the onslaught of industrialisation was still yet to reach its 20th century zenith.
Fast forward three hundred years - today’s world is one in which we understand so much more and can acknowledge that we know so little. We may have mapped the Universe, as we understand it, and yet 80% of all matter within remains unexplained, ‘dark’, immeasurable.
In this rush to a greater understanding of the world around us there has been no greater casualty than Imagination. Blake’s Divine Humanity; Imagination is seen as esoteric, perversely limited to conjuring up concepts that are in themselves circumscribed by a lack of true creation. We no longer live in a world where spirits abound, where energies are palpable and where to dream is to live. In losing imagination light & dark are no longer accepted as mutually bound aspects of all entities but are simplified as right or wrong.
Imagination is boundless, infinite, without end. The world of the imagination is where we began, where we are when we are free of the “mind-forged manacles”2 and where we go when this physical phase is complete.
If we are to regain our world of imagination we need to rid ourselves of the mind-forged manacles that we, our friends, family and society, a society shaped by the rise of materialist science, work so hard at imprinting onto our consciousness.
Blake didn’t live to see the world he foresaw. However his prophecy is now writ large as the matrix of disinformation, deception and distraction binds us more securely than any physical manacles could. The matrix is everywhere; providing information that doesn’t inform but deceives and offering up entertainment that seeks not to entertain but to distract. Governments, brands, the institutions of commerce, media and a poorly informed society all coalesce either by design or ignorance to keep our eyes closed such that we cannot see the grain of a sand much less the potential within.
It’s no good blaming the internet / TV / print media for the damage being done. We choose to access, to share, to vote up or down our like or dislike. In doing so we become willing participants in the encroachment of the matrix. We open the door and not only invite it in but lay a place at the table and offer to share our food. And then encourage it to visit friends and family to do the same.
But the matrix is at its most virus like when it comes to distraction. While we are absorbed by the battles on the pitch we fail to notice the bombardment of messaging suggesting to our subconscious that we can’t live without placing a bet on the outcome and buying another sugar-saturated drink to accompany our fat-saturated snack.
We fail to see because the world offered up by the matrix has all the appearance of being better than a world without. And like all addictions the hook bites deep long before the dependency becomes apparent. But governments, big business, the media won’t clamour for a War on the Matrix because they are the matrix.
To be free, to push back against the matrix, we need to re-occupy our imagination. Life when we believed in Santa Claus was beautiful. Life didn’t change. We did. We stopped believing in a world that science couldn’t explain. We vacated our imagination and rented the space out to the matrix: an invader that was never going to be happy with colonising just the one room.
The push back isn’t going to be easy; any fight for independence requires strength, courage and perseverance. But it is a fight we must all undertake if we are to regain the freedom that is surely a human right.
Imagination requires all received knowledge to be questioned, discarded and answers to life’s multitudinous questions to be answered by the self from first hand reasoning rather than 3rd hand instruction. First principle reasoning rather than third person logic.
Blake speaking so eloquently in his time and so sadly ahead of his time spoke of the Divine Humanity being each of us. Imagination is the force that takes humanity and raises it to the Divine. Imagination: may the force be with you.
- On the Origin of Species - published in1859*
- London. William Blake – published in 1826