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William Blake's Sexual Path to…
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William Blake's Sexual Path to Spiritual Vision

by Marsha Keith Schuchard

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Name-dropper's guide to the Swedenborgian/alchemical/kabbalistic hypnotists & occultist crazies of the late 1700s. Sloppy research but highly entertaining and a great backdrop for reading Blake. Most names dropped are prefaced with "Blake might have ... could have ... maybe encountered ... possibly met ... probably read ..." Sensationalism pretending to be serious academic work. Still, the book has its moments.
"Despite their efforts to recover biographical facts about Blake, none of his nineteenth-century defenders attempted to research the actual historical context of his esoteric and erotic experiences - a context that could reveal the sources of his sexual-spiritual philosophy. From Gilchrist onward, Blake's biographers agreed that he was influenced by the Swedenborgianism of his family, but they did not examine what Blake described to Robinson as the 'dangerous sexual religion' of the Swedish scientist-seer. Nor did they inquire into the sexual beliefs of Blake's Swedenborgian friends, neighbors, and associates. While Rossetti accepted the Swedenborgian claims, he also noted accurately the influence of Hermetic alchemists and Christian Kabbalists - such as Paracelsus, Agrippa, and Boehme - on Blake's youthful development. But even he did not relate the tenets of these writers to Blake's sexual pronouncements or, more importantly, to his erotic drawings and poetry.
"As an initiate of the Rosicrucian Order of the Golden Dawn, Yeats was in a position to go further than Rossetti. Drawing on oral traditions and archival materials, he suggested that Blake was associated with a secret magical society, in which initiates learned the arcana of Jewish Kabbalism, Rosicrucian alchemy, and Swedenborgian theosophy. Yeats recognized that, like himself, Blake made a connection between the energy of sexual passion and the capacity for spiritual vision." (pp. 5 & 7)
  Mary_Overton | Jul 20, 2010 |
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