On BBC Radio 3 in April 2013, a call was issued for a specifically English anthem. Top of the list came Jerusalem.
Americans need no reminding that William Blake inspired Ralph Waldo Emerson and US visionary, Walt Whitman. Through poetry, painting and music, Blake addressed our predicament at the dawn of the materialism that has enveloped us. The great poet and Blake commentator Kathleen Raine (1908-2003) would say simply: “Blake is my guru. He taught me everything.” Blake - who could never afford a university education - knew everything worth knowing. But Blake the guru has been lost under a myriad of inadequate biographies, college dissertations and arts commentaries, written by people who have not found the luminescent keys to Blake’s symbolism and liberating spirit and miss the essence of Blake’s titanic spiritual effort. Suddenly, with the advent of LSD, Pink Floyd and Yoga and Sufism in the air, it became possible to join Blake in seeing, really seeing ‘a heaven in a wild flower, a world in a grain of sand, and eternity in an hour.’ Even science seemed to be on the side of the visionaries; Jacob Bronowski was one of Blake’s biggest fans.
For some, Blake is a ‘romantic poet’ with some prescient ideas about poetic form. To others, he is a proto-socialist revolutionary, an angry Cockney ‘digger’ with some ideas about free sex. Tobias Churton’s new, startling biography reveals, at last, the real William Blake in all his glory, so that anyone who sings ‘Jerusalem’ in future will see its beauty with understanding. This biography requires reading for everyone who desires spiritual awakening and longs for a spirituality that is free from fundamentalist dogmas, fears and rationalisations.
- Publication Date:
- 01 / 05 / 2015