This article was written as the first article, and as the Preface to a series of articles, that were written as chapters for a book project, which I provisionally called ‘Mandala of Love: Consciousness, Ethics and Society’. The plan to write and publish a book, soon evolved into the idea of publishing on this ‘Mandala of Love’ website. Essentially, the subject of the book was the four-fold nature of mind; the four-fold nature of the Divine; the four-fold nature of a comprehensive ethical sensibility; and the four-fold nature of creativity – themes that have fascinated me since my twenties. At that time I was living and working in Triratna Buddhist Order communities, and as a result of the very broad and rich cultural and religious education that I was receiving, I fell in love with the work of the visionary English poet William Blake. Blake had his own very profound understanding of the four-fold nature of the Divine – one which in some ways mirrors that found in the Buddhist tradition and in other spiritual traditions down through history.
In my twenties, when I was a passionate full-time student of Buddhism and living and working in a Buddhist community, I was surprised, one day in my meditation, by a strong visionary experience of the energetic presence of Jesus – Blake’s Jesus. I experienced him as a purifying light descending from heaven. This ecstatic and visionary meditative state was evoked not by any devotional form of words from Buddhist tradition, but by a single recitation of William Blake’s words: “Jesus, the Imagination, the forgiver of Sins” that just burst out of me in a spirit of devotion and petitionary prayer. As a Buddhist, I also recognised this pure-white descending light as the energy of Vajrasattva [more on him here], and the cross-cultural ambiguity of this religious experience was one of several around that time that taught me about the universality of the ultimate spiritual reality. It was revealed to me that the ultimate nature of the divine is beyond any culture or religion, and that every genuine religious or spiritual cultural form may be seen as attempting to approach, and surrender to, the same transcendental reality – though clearly some religious cultures are more effective in that approach than others.
One of Blake’s better known poems is ‘Jerusalem’, which is copied below. Blake wrote it as a preface to one of his longer poetic works. Because I resonate so strongly with so many of the themes of Blake’s poetry, and perhaps because I aspire to follow in his footsteps in some modest way, I would like to use it as a preface to these reflections.
And did those feet in ancient time,
Walk upon England’s mountains green.
And was the holy Lamb of God,
On England’s pleasant pastures seen!
And did the Countenance Divine,
Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
And was Jerusalem builded here,
Among these dark Satanic Mills?
Bring me my Bow of burning gold;
Bring me my Arrows of desire;
Bring me my Spear: O clouds unfold!
Bring me my Chariot of fire!
I will not cease from Mental Fight,
Nor shall my Sword sleep in my hand:
Till we have built Jerusalem,
In England’s green & pleasant Land.
by William Blake (1757 − 1827) – part of a preface to his epic poem: Milton (written and illustrated between 1804 and 1810)
William Blake was a dissenting voice in a world that was in the throes of early capitalism – industrialisation, colonialism, scientific materialism, the privatisation of the commons, and the horrors of the Atlantic Slave Trade. He despaired of Christianity’s failure to provide a voice for spiritual truth and social justice in that world. His poems are a call to a humanitarian vision rooted in a spiritual view of man. The ‘Jerusalem’ of this particular poem is a symbolic city – the symbol of a just and sustainable society in Blake’s imaginal world. Continue reading
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