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 hour.
These four lines could be a synthesis of what, nowadays, is called “the new consciousness” ——– the ability to understand that everything is interlinked, that magical moments for part of everyday life, and that with just a little inner openness we can come to see that we are capable of completely changing our reality and eliminating most of the things that make us feel dissatisfied. When these lines were written, however, they went almost unnoticed.
Their author, William Blake (1757 — 1827), was born into a poor family and died despised by the intellectual circles of his time. His critics alleged that he put too much mysticism into his work, that he behaved strangely (for example, he would sit naked with his wife in the garden of the country house lent to them by a friend), and that his poems were too naïve. –
Those critics died, and now, Blake is considered ——- not only for his writings, but also for his engravings, which I (Paulo Coelho) had the opportunity of seeing at the Tate Gallery in London —— as one of the most complete artists of the last millennium.
Blake describes how, as a child in a park near London, he saw angels in the trees and saw the prophet Ezekiel emerge from amongst creatures. Later, when he was 30 years old, his younger brother died, and Blake maintained that his brother’s spirit appeared to him a few days later, clothed in light, in order to reveal to him a method of “publishing” books without recourse to a printer, that is, to hand-craft engravings of both texts and illustrations and sell them in very limited editions.
Following his advice, Blake began developing an idea which he called “the contraries of the human soul”. One of these states is “innocence”, when imagination leads us towards growth. The other state is “experience”, when our imagination is confronted by rules, morality and repression.
Blake lived his life intensely and died poor, but he died having done everything he wanted to do. In one of his most controversial works, “The Marriage of Heaven and Hell”, he claimed to have visited the realm of darkness and noted down the proverbs that the devils used to repeat to each other. Here is a selection of those proverbs :
In seed time learn, in harvest teach, in winter enjoyThe road of excess leads to the palace of wisdomThe cistern contains ; the fountain overflowsPrudence is a rich, ugly old maid courted by incapacityA fool sees not the same tree that a wise man seesHe who desires but acts not, breeds pestilenceNo bird soars too high, if he soars with his own wingsPrisons are built with stones of law, Brothels with bricks of religionWhat is now proved was once only imaginedEverything possible to be believed is an image of truthThe tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instructionExpect poison from the standing waterThe fox provides for himself, but God provides for the lionHe who has suffered you to impose on him, knows youPrayers plow not ! Praises reap not !
You never know what is enough until you know what is more than enough. ————–Paulo Coelho. (translated from the Portuguese by Margaret Jull Costa)