Böhme & Blake: The Marriage of Heaven and Hell
Contributor
Written by
Julie Henderson
December 2017
Contributor
Written by
Julie Henderson
December 2017

Böhme & Blake:
The Marriage of Heaven and Hell

Julianne Henderson
Stanford Summer Session, 2015
Professor Joshua Levi Ian Gentzke
July 23, 2015

 

Jacob Böhme and William Blake were both social and political radicals in their own right. They conveyed their spiritual and philosophical ideas through sensual conceptions made real and tangible in the physical realm. Neither was willing to concede their soul’s territory to a rigid dogma that would otherwise compromise their integrity. As Blake said himself, “I must create my own system or else be enslaved by another man’s.” Both Böhme and Blake demand of the individual soul, or self, that he or she actualize his or her own full potential as a creator, solidify one’s knowledge of spirit through matter and the physical senses, and seize the freedom to which he or she is entitled. Through their work, Heaven and Hell become accessible by way of imagination, Poetic Genius, and the individual’s transformation of the world.

In the same vein as Böhme, Blake refuses to distance mind from body, or Heaven and Hell from the visceral experience of life day to day. He argues that now is the time of redemption, reveling, and reckoning: the “just man” will return to civilization. It is a reversal of Adam’s great “fall” from Paradise and a homecoming of sorts. It is the living embodiment and [creative] presence of Jesus Christ which liberated/liberates the self, rather than the continuation of his message as Jehovah in the next realm. In other words, it is the life lived in the here and now, physical realm which maintains the power of transformation and grants access to the soul’s doorways.

Whereas the “fall” from [paradise] decided one’s lack of control over life’s direction, returning to the realm of the sensual restores one’s capacity for establishing autonomy and sovereignty. With regards to Blake’s Memorable Fancy, in The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, and the Angel’s great vision of his fate, what is drawn into question is whether believing a thing makes it true. In this, Blake defends the power of the imagination to manifest reality. Conversely, not investing one’s energy or attention in something withdraws life force from it and expels or exhausts the vision. In this way, Blake escapes the angel’s heaving blows across the lake of fire to a calm tranquility where no real threat exists. Instead, he regains his power of authentic manifestation as an individual.

Böhme grants human beings the same power: the ability to creatively manifest, to make an active contribution to the collective by way of imagination or magia. It is knowledge and awareness of this inner virtue and means of reification of one’s pure dreams that fortifies access to Heaven and Hell here on earth. Both Böhme and Blake offer more than subversive portals that lead to a revival of imaginative integrity; they secure a kind of liberation from religious and philosophical repression that no other organized dogmatic system affords “seeking” individuals. Their reflections replace social and political restriction with inexhaustible freedom.

Blake was in pursuit of the spiritual meaning behind everything, just as Böhme sought to prove the existence of spirit within all matter and creation. Rather than remain alienated from one’s purpose, such as in the age of the Industrial Revolution when factories and the life of the mechanical man were rampant, Blake held to the first principle of Poetic Genius. In a series of philosophical musings titled All Religions Are One, Blake says of this first principle, “That the Poetic Genius is the true man, and that the body or outward form of man is derived from the Poetic Genius. Likewise that the forms of all things are derived from their Genius” (Blake, Plate 4). This genius is universal, and it is a core tenet resting at the heart of every human being that houses one’s imagination. For William Blake, imagination was the manifestation of Christ within us, and a vessel of our own redemption or transcendence. Imagination maintains the power to transform our world, localizing both heaven and hell in a core that resides within the spirit of all things.

Heaven and Hell are not celestially geographic. An individual’s consciousness—the realm of the infinite self—resides at the origin of all things. Therefore, the experience of God’s presence and of Heaven and Hell are at no great distance; rather, they represent dimensions that exist within the core of all beings and all things. In Jacob Böhme’s words, following an epiphany, he notes that, “In this light my spirit saw through everything, recognizing God in all creatures, in vegetation and grass; I recognized who he is and how he persists, and what is his intention” (Böhme, 551). Scholar, Joshua Gentzke, also offers keen insight into this statement, remarking that for Böhme, “spirit meets matter within the chasm of world and body and the occasion of this event is the ever-present moment, the divine is a ubiquitous presence permeating nature, the human body, and the whole of creation” (Gentzke, 3). God, Heaven, and Hell are all in the midst of our conscious decisions and movements moment to moment.

Böhme and Blake constructed an archway through which an infinite dimension can be accessed: the realm where imagination gives birth to manifestation of the divine in matter. Sensuality and imagination give birth to a supertemporal space wherein the individual soul, reconciled and redeemed, engages in salvific creation. Power and authority return to the individual soul, and that renewed being, in turn, transforms the world by way of Poetic Genius. Each individual who actualizes his or her own potential for creative manifestation establishes a unique “system” that liberates them from the rigidity and ignorance of collective dogma, doctored socialization, and limiting cultural scripts. Heaven and the experience of God or spirit become accessible in all things, with Böhme and Blake’s perspective and insight.

The ideas that Böhme and Blake postulate resonate with my own experience of the self and of co-creation. It seems each of us is moving through Heaven and Hell at any given moment, and that we are creating, whether consciously or unconsciously, the dimensional portals which lead us to and through the heavens and hells that we traverse. I would argue that spirit resides within all matter, that God can be accessed in all things, just as Böhme. This concept recalled for me the 77th verse in the Gospel of Thomas which does well to illustrate this omnipresence:

77. Jesus said, ‘I am the light that is over all things. I am all:

from me all came forth, and to me all attained.

Split a piece of wood; I am there.

Lift up the stone, and you will find me there’ (Miller, 77).

I would also agree that when the individual is engaged in manifestation, it is indicative of the [living and present] Christ Consciousness or principle of Poetic Genius at work within and throughout that individual’s divine being. I am partial to philosophies or ideologies that endorse individual freedom and the creation of one’s own system in an attempt to liberate the soul from dogmatic imprisonment. Both Böhme and Blake stand out as radicals whose revolution is still churning in the aether.

Works Cited:

Blake, William. All Religions Are One. Biossia, Clairvaux, Jura, France: Trianon, 1970. Print.

Blake, William. The Poetical Works of William Blake, ed. by John Sampson. London, New York: Oxford University Press, 1908; Bartleby.com, 2011. www.bartleby.com/235/AMemorable Fancy.html#132-143. 23 July, 2015.

Böhme, Jacob. The Created Heavens and the Form of the Earth and of the Water As Also Concerning Light and Darkness. Kessinger Publishing, LLC, 2010. Print.

Gentzke, Joshua Levi Ian. “Imagining the Image of God: Corporeal Envisioning in the Theosophy of Jacob Böhme.” academia.edu. July 6, 2011. Web. 22 July, 2015.

Miller, Robert J., ed., The Complete Gospels: Annotated Scholars Version. HarperSanFrancisco, 1994. Print.

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