Appearance, Reality, and William Blake ( pt.2)

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In a poem entitled ‘The Everlasting Gospel‘, William Blake wrote, 

In ‘Auguries of Innocence’, however, when we do look “Thro’ the Eye”, this enables us, 

In this second of two posts, let’s look at the lines from “Auguries of Innocence“. In the previous post, we saw that we can now picture ‘ultimate reality’ to be ‘an invisible and intangible, infinite field of innumerable patterns of interacting energy’, (which some might happily call ‘God’) – ‘one, totally interconnected, cosmic web of energy, out of which has emerged material things, living beings, and the sublime experience of consciousness and self-awareness’.

If all that is, is ‘one, totally interconnected, cosmic web’, which is an ‘infinite field of innumerable patterns of interacting energy’, then no ‘thing’, (and therefore no person), exists independently of every other ‘thing’ in that one web. The existence of every ‘thing’ is ‘contingent’ – it is connected to, and dependent on, the existence of every other ‘thing’.

This is why we can “see a World in a Grain of Sand”. That grain of sand is there because exploding stars blew the heavy elements cooked in their interiors out into surrounding space; because such elements coalesced in the formation of planet earth; because geological and tectonic pressures produced rocky landscapes; because glacial and weathering processes wore down rock into sand; because the emergence of life and millennia of evolution brought us into being; and because all the circumstances of our ongoing lives led to this moment, in which we picked up a grain of sand. When we “see thro that grain of sand, we ‘see’ across the whole interwoven web of which it is a microscopic but necessary part. We ‘see’ a universe, never mind a “world“. 

The same is true of “a wild flower“. It’s there because of all the geological, geographical, biological and climatic processes that have brought it into being – most recently, the soil that’s nourished it, the sun that’s warmed it, and the rain that’s refreshed it. All of that is what we “see” when we look “thro’ the eye“. This is why we’re told that the Buddha, instead of preaching a long sermon, simply held up a flower in his hand for the onlookers to contemplate – to see it “thro the eye“.

And what’s true in terms of space is also true in terms of time. We can “see thro” that grain of sand, across over thirteen billion years to the Big Bang out of which our universe exploded. Since what we call ‘time’ began with that Big Bang, we can even “see thro” that, to the infinity beyond – the inconceivable “Infinity” we hold “in the palm of (our) hand” in that grain of sand. Similarly, we can “see thro” every “hour” of our lives, to the “Eternity” out of which they have arisen, and into which they onwards flow. And if we are part of that “Eternity“, then beginning and ending, and birth and death, are emptied of any final significance for us.

As we noted in the first part of this post, our everyday perceptions of the world around us are ‘pictures’ created by our minds to facilitate our day-to-day navigation through it – pictures of what is, in itself, indescribable. In the same way, the ideas presented above are also ‘pictures’ of what, in itself, is indescribable. But if they can point us towards an intuition of the Oneness that is Emptiness and yet Eternally is All, and if they can lead us to an experience of awe and wonder that is beyond the power of any words, ideas or pictures to express, then they will have served a worthwhile purpose, and thanks are surely due to the insightful William Blake.

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