The four-fold imagination: what we can learn from William Blake’s visionary imagination

Mark Vernon

Mark Vernon (website) is a psychotherapist and writer, and works with the research group, Perspectiva. He has a PhD in ancient Greek philosophy, and degrees in theology and physics. His latest book is A Secret History of Christianity: Jesus, the Last Inkling, and the Evolution of Consciousness (2019). He lives in London. Read his introduction for his full article published on Aeon below:

In The Master and His Emissary, Iain McGilchrist stresses the central dynamic that lies behind the images and poetry of William Blake. It can be seen even in the titles of Blake’s works, such as The Marriage of Heaven and Hell and Songs of Innocence and Experience. The titles “allude to the reality that, in the lived world of the right hemisphere, opposites are not ‘in opposition’.” Instead, these “contraries”, to use Blake’s word, create the tension needed to open onto deeper levels of consciousness. 

Blake charted the various mental states that an individual and society may experience as they navigate a pathway through these layers of imaginative perception. And as McGilchrist also stresses, the imagination is the key faculty: it is required for science, art and religion to reveal reality to us because, whilst the imagination can certainly be in error and may also be merely fantastical, it engages with the “minute particulars” of life, as Blake put it, which McGilchrist calls the “thisness” of things. This is crucial for the expansive awareness that the right and left hemispheres, in proper relation, can foster.

But it is tricky. In this essay published by Aeon magazine, Mark Vernon, delves into how Blake envisaged it might be attained. He offers a way of discovering how opposites are not in opposition, but are the gateway to the consciousness he called Eternity.

Read the full piece on Aeon here.

Introduction & article by Mark Vernon. Visit his website here.