Morocco World News
Philadelphia, August 17, 2012
William Blake’s poetry and paintings are extremely fascinating, innovative, and controversial with regard to their “prophetic” nature. Personally, I find Blake a very intriguing personality and his works very appealing. He is deeply invested in the “infinite realms” of the spirit and the imagination and is, therefore, very skeptical of the physical world, as perceived through the five senses. Blake is a passionate critic of empiricism’s ability to lead humanity to “real” knowledge – to “wisdom.” For Blake, the Poetic Genius, rather than the physical senses, is the faculty through which human-beings are to perceive “real” knowledge of this mysterious life and of the divine, sublime realms. Such views of Blake’s expressed in his poetry (and paintings) echo the views of a number of Muslim sufis, such as Ibn-Arabi, Al-Ghazali, Al-Bistami, Rumi, and others –mystics who believe in the existence of an infinite spiritual reality to be attained through a faculty that transcends the five senses.
These Sufis, like Blake, believe in the unity of all being or existence. Their ultimate goal is to become one with the Divine. Interestingly, there are so many affinities between Blake’s visionary, prophetic works and writings/sermons of a number of Muslim Sufis. The affinities of Blake’s mystical views with the Muslim Sufi tradition are too powerful to ignore. They are enlightening in that they waken our consciousness to core human concerns, which go beyond artificial differences in language, culture, skin color, nationality, religious beliefs, and so on. Exploring and highlighting those similarities is indeed a good step in healing –or at least alleviating – the unfortunate divide between the so-called Muslim World and the West today.
Both William Blake and the Muslim Sufis are extremely invested in the binary: reality-appearance. J. W. Morris states that according to Al-Ghazali, a very influential Muslim scholar and Sufi, “the deeper reality of the human situation –of din as the ultimate inner connection of every soul with its Divine Source and Ground – is perceived quite differently by those fully accomplished human beings who can actually begin to ‘see things as they really are’” (297). Those who live or experience or have a taste of this deeper reality –which is to be contrasted with a surface reality – are endowed with the faculty that allows them to see and comprehend the essence of things and phenomena that engulf the human situation and experience.
Martin Lings states that the Holy Book of Islam –the Qur’an – itself has both a surface meaning and a deep meaning (29). In other words, the Qur’an answers to both modes of existence and understanding, the apparent and the ultimate – the surface and the deep. From this perspective, the Qur’an caters for the needs of the entire Muslim community and, at the same time, serves the spiritual needs of a select minority, what Lings calls “a spiritual elect.” Lings provides two illustrative Quranic verses: “Guide us along the straight path” / and “Verily we are for God and verily unto Him we are returning” (qtd. in Lings 27-28). To continue reading this excellent article click here