William Blake & Jacob Boehme: Imagination, Experience & the Limitations of Reason


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This paper is based on a lecture given by Kevin Fischer at the Temenos Academy, London, and published in the Temenos Academy Review 20 (2017). https://www.scribd.com/document/380644158/William-Blake-and-Jacob-Boehme-Imagination-Experience-and-the-Limitations-of-Reason-pdf
Abstract
William Blake and Jacob Boehme saw true imagination as rooted in living experience, as quite distinct from fantasy, and as such necessary for a fuller knowledge and understanding of reality. Both perceive the significant limitations of reason; that of itself it gives only a partial view, one that can limit and distort our understanding and experience. These limitations have too often extended to the study of Blake and Boehme. Through a close and imaginative engagement with their work, this paper looks at how both addressed the shortcomings of our usual, conditioned and habitual modes of perception and understanding, and how a different kind of engagement with and understanding of the world is necessary. Both saw just how constraining reason can be when it is too prominent and disconnected from our other vital faculties and capacities; how it can enclose and isolate, alienating us from both the world and ourselves. By contrast, for Boehme and Blake imagination is essential, a means of breaking out into that which is other than and beyond our habitual selves. It has a creative relationship with the world, one in which reality is not fixed and finished, but inexhaustible. As the mind expands, so does the world. This paper shows how for both visionaries, the creative embodied imagination places us more fully in existence – in ourselves and in the world – makes possible true reason, reveals all the profound potential that is too often unexplored and unrealised in us, and as such affords us a vital, living understanding of and relationship with the divine. It thus also demonstrates how vital imagination is to any study of William Blake and Jacob Boehme.