Monday, June 27, 2011

The Visions of William Blake

William Blake's "The Ghost of a Flea"
Astrologer and artist John Varley reported that his friend William Blake, who had experienced visions since his childhood, once had a vision of a ghost of a flea at a seance the two held in 1819. According to Varley:

As I was anxious to make the most correct investigation in my power, of the truth of these visions, on hearing of this spiritual apparition of a Flea, I asked him if he could draw for me the resemblance of what he saw: he instantly said, 'I see him now before me.' I therefore gave him paper and a pencil with which he drew the portrait... I felt convinced by his mode of proceeding, that he had a real image before him, for he left off, and began on another part of the paper, to make a separate drawing of the mouth of the Flea, which the spirit having opened, he was prevented from proceeding with the first sketch, till he had closed it.
I highly recommend this New York Times article from 1910 about Blake, his visions and the art that he created as a result. As the Times notes, "Whatever guess we make at the mighty puzzle of this power of vision, one thing is certain. Blake would have been a pale and ineffectual artist without it, and with it he contributed a poignant and enduring force to art."

One can only wonder what kind of diagnosis (and then treatment) a psychiatrist would make today were he confronted with someone like Blake, and the visions that he described. Fortunately, Blake lived in a time well before our modern world of corporatized and commercialized conformity, and was therefore able to use his visions - whatever might have caused them - as the inspiration for his art, his poetry and his philosophy, all work that remains hugely influential to this day.

If there is an "other", advanced non-human intelligence, then I suspect that this is how it communicates with us - through visions. If this is the case, then I believe that we would all have the ability to receive that communication, in some form or another, but that the vast majority of us do not have the willingness to access that ability, largely because we're afraid of what it might represent, namely a loss of control. We want to "fit in" to society as it is structured around us (the ultimate control mechanism), but by fitting in we may be missing out on something far more important, and meaningful - the ability to truly be free.

Paul Kimball


Bill Blakey said...

It's troubling to explore the possibility that the creative minds that expand our society and culture may be medicated against their will. How does humanity evolve in this type of society? As you recently posted your reflection on Mac's presentation, do we deserve to evolve or survive? I understand that many people need psych treatment, but would someone like Blake or Tesla end up on a psych unit. The same Dr that prays to Jesus on Sunday would put him into a psychiatric unit on Monday. Will this paradox answer Mac's question?

Tony Morrill said...

I very much like the concept that the 'Alien'(in the non-human sense, not necessarily non-terrestrial) Other uses alternative means to communicate with us. I don't feel the whole 'land on the White House lawn' mode of thinking is correct. What if, as you posit, the 'Other' has already been talking to us for centuries through visions that had been originally interpreted in a religious context (akin to your Paul the Apostle was a contactee post from sometime ago). Or even shamanistic cultures that heavily used psychedelics in order to communicate with the gods, may well have been talking to the 'Other' long, long ago. It certainly doesn't hurt to ask these questions and go down the avenues that they create. Another great post!

Jay said...

Blake was rather poisoned by the Lead he was exposed to in childhood as the result of growing up in a family of hatters I believe .. also the many heavy metals in his painting materials. Still, I also had visions when i was a practising artist .. I was at that time being quite badly poisoned also I later discovered .. so its jolly hard to tell what causes visions. Whether they are valuable is another question isnt it ..