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Jerusalem!: The Real Life of William Blake Hardcover – 16 Apr 2015
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About the Author
Tobias Churton is Britain's leading scholar of Western Esotericism, a tradition that encompasses Blake's deepest influences. Appointed Honorary Fellow and Faculty Lecturer in Western Esotericism at Exeter University in 2005, Tobias holds a Master's degree in Theology from Brasenose College, Oxford. His many books include: a biography of Elias Ashmole (1617 1692), the standard work on the great man who gave us the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford; and Aleister Crowley: The Biography (Watkins), the definitive work on this controversial figure.
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As a prophet, Churton too wants you to recognise that Blake was a great thinker. Like any such he was indebted to many sources, and being 'self-taught' and often isolated, could be 'obscure' - the tares of obscurity grow in intellectual solitude to quote Mona Wilson, an earlier Blake biographer - but with patience and application, it begins to reveal itself.
Two examples may suffice - a century before Jung's Psychological Types - Blake in his 'Four Zoas' - had delineated them - thinking, feeling, sensation, intuition - and described them as part of a psychodynamic system in which wholeness is to be found when they live, consciously, in dynamic balance. Only, in Blake's case, he was less hesitant in seeing this as a spiritual system, wholly ensouled, and with metaphysical implication rather than, in Jung's case, a psychological 'contained' one that cannot reveal the true nature of things - because Jung being a follower of Kant - 'things in themselves' cannot be known. A hampering by Urizen (Blake's symbol of detached reason) that Blake would have diagnosed in Jung immediately (and no doubt in his habitual pithy language).
The second example are his illustrations for the Book of Job that are not only beautiful but a rigorous commentary on the text that both illuminates and critique it from the position of a Christian radical. There is in it not only a transformation of how the text could be read - as the redemption of Job from his pride - and the meaning of what it means to read a scriptural text not as a normative canon but as an experiment after knowing subject to future correction in spiritual experience.
Churton remarks at one point that if Blake had been German, he would have been recognised as a thinker, because he is English, he is recognised as an eccentric poet-painter to be loved if not understood.
As ever, Blake's biography is a moving one - a life constrained by poverty and misunderstanding and 'critical' contempt - of a vision doggedly pursued and expressed and, softened, in his last years by the recognition (and practical help) of the 'Ancients' - those young artists, Linnel most notably, who venerated him (if not always with anything approximating full understanding)! That would have to wait for another poetic genius, Yeats, stepped in similar patterns of excluded, esoteric learning, to bring Blake to the fore and the possibilities of his being loved and (possibly) known.
Churton beautifully furthers this task.
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