Sunday 7 November 2010
To affirm the material
In keeping with the spirit of these works, Blake was a radical in social thought, and a heretic in religious belief. He raged against the “dark, satanic mills” of the Industrial Revolution that were destroying Nature and the traditions of human craftsmanship, and against “Newton’s sleep”, the Rationalism that he believed was destroying the life of the Imagination. Interestingly, despite Blake's heretical tendences, in the biography that G.K. Chesterton published in 1910 he presents Blake and St Thomas Aquinas as warriors fighting in the same war, and even on the same side. Chesterton contrasts two types of mysticism, that of Christendom and that of Orientalism. The latter is the mysticism of oversimplification, of the dissolution of many into one. But Blake, he argues, “was on the side of historic Christianity on the fundamental question on which it confronts the East; the idea that personality is the glory of the universe and not its shame”.
So Blake’s heathen mysticism was on the side of Christendom against the Orient. And thus Blake and St Thomas are agreed that “the highest dogma of the spiritual is to affirm the material”. Aquinas confirms Blake’s fundamental intuition that things are more real, not less real, than they appear to us. “And there is an upper world of what the Schoolman called Fruition, or Fulfilment, in which all this relative relativity becomes actuality; in which the trees burst into flower or the rockets into flame”.