By Wordsworth, William; Roberts, Jonathan; Blake, William
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Extra info for Blake. Wordsworth. Religion
This chapter will be in two parts: first I will use the Wordsworth vision to reflect on whether we consider an autobiographical element to be the essential authenticating component of reported religious experience, and secondly, I will use the Blake vision to extend that question of authenticity to one of relevance: if ‘authentic’ corresponds to ‘historical’ in this context, then how do we set parameters on our historical data? How far do we pursue the details of our empirical resources, and how do we decide when to stop?
The essence of the vision was this: Fawcett stepped, suddenly, out of the mist into clear air, and saw the valley below him, full of the dark materials of the storm: clouds, mists, streams, watery rocks and emerald turf, each melting into each in the light. The appearance, however, was not that of a natural scene, but one of a mighty city, a wilderness of buildings, alabaster domes, silver spires, and blazing terraces. In the centre of the clouds that lay below him there stood a great throne with a canopy over it, the throne, perhaps, of God himself.
1 In The Varieties of Religious Experience James doesn’t discuss Blake 49 BLAKE. WORDSWORTH. RELIGION. (or Wordsworth, except in a footnote), but his account is helpful because it does not reduce mystical experience by collapsing religious experience into another discourse. James famously defines religion as ‘the feelings, acts, and experiences of individual men in their solitude, so far as they apprehend themselves to stand in relation to whatever they may consider the divine’,2 and his emphasis on the quality of experience as a starting point (rather than any anterior explanation) is helpful in thinking about the nature of the religious experience communicated (or created) by Blake and Wordsworth.