Blake on Swedenborg

Mervyn Hartwig mh at
Sat Dec 30 14:35:38 MST 2000


Your Blake quote is wonderfully interesting. However, I don't think any
attempt to use Blake against the later Bhaskar can really work. They are
too much alike. Both are mystics and religious. Like Bhaskar, Blake
believed that human nature was fundamentally good - both speak of the
God or spirit within - with the potential to build the New Jerusalem or
eudaimonia on earth (there is 'Jerusalem in every man'). And like Blake,
Bhaskar certainly converses
>with Devils who all hate religion
ie considers the good in relation to evil, analysing evil and the cause
of unfreedom as basically layers of false ideas - 'structural sin',
ideology, or maya for Bhaskar, 'mind-forg'd manacles' for Blake.

When the attempt is made by a Marxist it seems even more problematic,
for Marx arguably had a fundamentally similar view of human nature, as
Bhaskar claims, and I would have thought that all who believe in the
possibility of socialism necessarily share it. Certainly, Marx didn't
source the fundamental goodness and potential of our species-being to
God, and nowadays especially there is no need for Marxists to do this -
Marx's view has arguably been vindicated by modern research into the
whole process of hominization, demonstrating that the good (propensity
for altruism, egalitarianism, cooperation, sociability, rationality etc)
is ontologically prior (as Bhaskar has put it) to evil (propensity for
aggression, domination, hierarchy etc.)

Assuming that you accept this, you've got more in common with the later
Gary and the later Bhaskar than you seem to think, parting company only
when they claim that it's all part of God's purpose. But even this is
not as big a difference as it looks. You want to claim with modern
science that ultimately it all comes down to blind chance? - There are
religious people who reply, That's just what God is, among other
things... As for your philosophical (ontological) materialism, and their
idealism, science can never adjudge this issue: it can only ever know
what is rock-bottom reality _for it_ at the current stage of inquiry,
not what lies beyond (as Bhaskar put it prior to his religious turn, the
cosmos is 'a potentially infinite totality of which we know something,
but not how much'). Currently rock bottom reality for quantum physics
looks like 'quantum seas of unrealised potentia' or possiblity. Are
these 'material' or 'ideal'? I don't know. What science imo warrants is
agnosticism (or as Gyan says, an open mind) not philososphical
materialism and atheism (which can have no more scientific basis than
the idealism it opposes). This does not of course mean that you can't
still be an epistemological, practical and historical materialist, or
that you must give up dialectics, including Engels' so-called laws - on
the contrary.

In any case, since you love Blake, Yoshie, you could equally well love
the later Bhaskar.


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