The Road of Excess Leads to the Palace of Wisdom. William Blake on desire, attention and wanting it all

An MP3 version of the talk is on my Thoughts and Talks podcast, available via your podcast feed.

“More! More! is the cry of a mistaken soul, less than All cannot satisfy Man,” wrote William Blake.

How we might participate in the All, without consuming more and more, can serve as a summary of Blake’s vision and vocation. All he did was, in a way, an increasingly extended, expansive reflection on how to live in the presence of infinity.

The mistakes we make, when confusing this eternity with mere accumulation, offer an analysis of the modern predicament. Blake realised that there is no point telling people to want less, or even to moderate their desires. Rather, we need to learn how to discern our desires so they lead towards that which they really seek: the all.

It’s an education of attention, an awakening of the divine. He provides powerful pointers in The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, a series of provocations not to live modestly but, rather, transformatively.

Perceiving the infinite tracks a path of liberty and vision, love and fearlessness, which I explore in this discussion of the proverbs that he tells us he heard in the energetic, exuberant fires of hell.