William Blake is believed to have been heavily influenced by Emanuel Swedenborg, who taught “that the universe is contained in the Divine Humanity.”1 This view flips the typical materialist view inside-out. “The ‘body’ of the Divine Human is not contained in natural space but contains all things in itself.”2 The universe does not contain human beings; human beings contain the universe. The outer universe is but a shadow.
This is a fascinating idea. It is a very old idea, as well. I remember those days when I first began reading Carl Jung, and how the ramifications of this idea affected me. It was mind-blowing to realize that the entire infinite, ever-expanding universe dwells in my soul. The authentic universe is not in space and time, as materialism teaches, but within all of us. The inner universe, which theologian Henry Corbin calls the mundus imaginalis, is what Swedenborg calls Heaven and Hell, and what William Blake experienced when he describes reality as if one were
To see a World in a Grain of SandAnd a Heaven in a Wild FlowerHold Infinity in the palm of your handAnd Eternity in an hour3
British philosopher, Bishop George Berkeley, borrowing from the Corpus Hermeticum, writes:
It is observed in the Asclepian Dialogue that the word space or place hath by itself no meaning, and again that it is impossible to understand what space alone or pure space is. And Plotinus acknowledged no place but soul or mind, expressly affirming that the soul is not in the world, but the world in the soul. And farther, the place of soul, saith he, is not body, but soul is in mind, and body is in soul.4
If this be true, and I believe it is, then materialism is a huge misunderstanding proposed by those who totally discount any idea of the mundus imaginalis. The notion of “pure space” is one of the most abstract of ideas. Can you think of any instance of space apart from body? Even in the vast expanses of the universe, there are bodies exerting gravitational forces upon the surrounding space. There is no place of soul, or the inner universe. The soul is not located in any space, but the entire outer universe is located within the soul. Our bodies are in the soul, not soul in body. We’ve had it backwards for centuries. The term “inner space” is a feeble attempt at an explanation of soul, seeing there is no conception of space (or time for that matter) within the soul. Language only goes so far in describing these things.
Berkeley and Blake both believed that all things are in the mind. Berkeley writes:
though we should grant this outward substance [Matter, that is] may possibly exist, Yet where can it be supposed to be? That it exists not in the mind is agreed and that it exists not in place is no less certain: since all (place or) extension exists only in the mind …It remains therefore that it exists nowhere at all.5
And Blake echoes this:
For all are Men in Eternity, Rivers, Mountains, Cities, Villages,
All are Human, & when you enter into
their Bosoms you walk In Heavens &
Earths, as in your own Bosom you bear
And Earth & all you behold; tho’ it appears
Without, it is Within, In your Imagination, of which this World
of Mortality is but a Shadow.6
With our current knowledge of quantum mechanics, the old notions of matter and space have been annihilated. The old poets and thinkers are being studied again with great interest. We are drawing closer to the truth everyday.
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