The English Mystics

By Gerald William Bullett | Go to book overview

Chapter Seven
BLAKE

§ 1

FROM the militant moralism and anaemic holiness that mingle their darkness with the enlightenment of men like Fox and Law, we escape at last into an atmosphere more benign than the one and more bracing than the other. Words have a life of their own and in the course of centuries acquire new and sometimes contradictory layers of meaning. Thus holy, which is derived from the Middle English hool and therefore (like hale, to which it is closely related) should mean whole, in ordinary everyday usage carries quite a different meaning. So far from being a synonym for wholeness, health, spiritual integration, holiness to most people suggests almost the opposite of these things: a joyless solemnity involving the repudiation of all the delights of sense. Moral puritanism, which existed long before the Puritans, has at times carried that repudiation to its extreme point, so that all beauty, all pleasure, have been regarded as evil. The disease is now widely recognized as being rooted in fear of sex: which fear, in its turn, is rooted in a subconscious shame or guilt. Whether the origin of that guilt is social or personal, whether it is the price we pay for the necessary restraints of civilization or arises from the nature of man as man, we need not here try to determine: its existence and its malign effects are too obvious to need stressing. It has resulted in the radically false philosophy which by separating 'spirit' from 'sense', and representing them as opposed principles, can offer its adherents nothing better than a choice between disembodied negativism and gross sensuality.

Blake is conspicuous among mystics in being the declared

-161-

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The English Mystics
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Gerald Bullett's - Other Books Include iv
  • Title Page 3
  • Preface 7
  • Contents 9
  • Illustrations 11
  • Chapter One - The Subject Defined 13
  • Chapter Two - The Mediaeval Background 37
  • Chapter Three - George Fox 65
  • Chapter Four - Some Seventeenth-Century Poets 94
  • Chapter Five - The Cambridge Platonists 113
  • Chapter Six - William Law 129
  • Chapter Seven - Blake 161
  • Chapter Eight - Wordsworth 186
  • Chapter Nine - Comments and Conclusions 214
  • Bibliography 230
  • Index 235
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