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William Blake – Newtons Vision

Now I a fourfold vision see
And a fourfold vision is given to me
Tis fourfold in my supreme delight
And three fold in soft Beulahs night
And twofold Always. May God us keep
From Single vision & Newtons sleep”

– William Blake, Letter to Thomas Butt, 22 November 1802. Quoted in Geoffrey Keynes (ed.), The Letters of William Blake (1956)

Dr. Jaime G. Corvalan, MD, FACS

William Blake's "Newton," illustrating his opposition to single-minded materialism.
William Blake’s “Newton,” illustrating his opposition to single-minded materialism.

The great English poet William Blake was truly a visionary, and understood at an intuitive level ideas that challenge us even today. He bridged the traditions of East and West, and even constructed a mythology all his own, drawing from both mystical heritages. In Blake’s mythology, Ulro is the land of the manifest, of time and space; it is the world of duality in which we all live, but it is fraught with illusion. Ulro, it may be said, is the equivalent of “Samsara” in Buddhist tradition, the land of illusion that creates pain and suffering, due to our illusory attachments; it could also be compared to Parsifal’s Journey (in the Arthurian legends) through the Waste Land.

Blake’s admonition to “keep From Single vision & Newtons sleep” refers, I think, to those who live in this realm of Ulro, a level of low consciousness, who are consumed in a single-minded way with control, power and domination (the hallmarks of the general consciousness of our age). Blake opposed the Newtonian view of a mechanical, unfeeling, dreary universe, as well as those who would seek to drown out the voices of subtly, compassion and wisdom. This is a vision cut off from Nature and from the Soul, and is one we should strive to transcend.