Nature, politics, humanity. Three hard sayings of William Blake

An audio version of this talk is at my podcast, Talks and Thoughts, available via podcast feeds.

William Blake saw himself as a prophet, which means that his writings challenge, even repulse, on occasion.

However, Blake’s harding sayings are the moments when his greatest vision stands before us. They are worth wrestling with, if he is to become more than a poet with a compelling line that we might grab as a proof quote.

In this talk, I consider how Blake’s vision of nature, politics and humanity sits uncomfortably alongside the received wisdom of today, in both secular and Christian domains.

“Without man, nature is barren,” he writes in the Proverbs of Hell.
Golgonooza “continually building & continually decaying desolate,” he writes in Jerusalem.
“They were as Adam before me, united as One Man,” he also sees in Jerusalem.

In the light of the infinite, that Blake longs to awaken in us, they speak of the higher dimensions of the cosmos that are to be discovered; of a politics of expectancy not utopia that awaits; and how the divine might be an imaginative intimation within us.