Asger Jorn, Fraternite Avant Tout (Brotherhood Above All), 1962, detail. Image: artrabbit.

[Blake's] spiritual rebellion against the powerful of this world was not made of that type of water-soluble gunpowder to which we have more or less accustomed ourselves. James Joyce

Reflections on William Blake, radical theology, politics and Surrealism

Welcome to The Traveller in the Evening, a publication focused on the work of William Blake. But it is a loose focus, because, in the right hands, the discussion of Blake soon turns to talk of Surrealism, ecology, revolution, politics, radical theology and much else besides. Blake combined all of these things, well in advance of his age, and ours.

William Blake, The Traveller Hasteth in the Evening, from For Children: The Gates of Paradise (1793), engraving. Image: The Blake Archive.

The Traveller Hasteth in the Evening is an early engraving by Blake, from For Children: The Gates of Paradise (1793). Blake shows his traveller pacing his way toward an unknown destination. Morton Paley shortened the title to The Traveller in the Evening for his book about Blake’s later works. I borrowed Paley’s title because it reflects both my situation and the situation at large.

I've been reading Blake for years, taking notes. My dream was to find the time and space one day to write a book about what I learned. Right now, it doesn’t seem that day is getting any closer. At the same time, the world has taken a threatening turn, as we continue marching toward an environmental catastrophe set in train ages ago. Some days feel like it is evening everywhere.

The traveller further down the line: William Blake, I Have Said to the Worm, Thou Art My Mother and My Sister, from For Children: The Gates of Paradise (1793), engraving. Image: The Blake Archive.

The old world is dying, and the old politics as well, because it was based too closely on an idealisation of production’s 'Satanic mills'. The environmental movement is relevant but struggles to paint a picture of an alternative, because it still has one foot in the past: "angels fighting demons in the key of demon,” as Timothy Morton puts it.

Movements against oppression tackle the world’s abuses without striking them at the root. To do so would mean coming to a very different understanding of who we are in relation to our world.

Blake points us toward a reversal of perspectives, to fan the flames of solidarity and help to wake us from our collective sleep. The ramifications of his thought would unsettle our deepest assumptions – hence the need to present this new, and unheard Blake: a profound esoteric thinker and a thoroughgoing Surrealist militant.

William Blake, Night IX, Illustrations to Edward Young's ‘Night Thoughts’ (1795-1797), watercolour, using Blake’s character of The Traveller. Image: The Blake Archives.

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Andy Wilson (Editor)

He / him. Andy lived in Sunderland, Seaham Harbour, Peterlee, Hartlepool, Kings Lynn, Coventry, Torpoint, Eastleigh, Lee-on-Solent, Portland, Weymouth, Loughborough, York and Liverpool before dropping anchor in Hackney, London. On leaving King Henry VIII school in Coventry with only a couple of ‘O’ Levels to show for it, he served as an Engineering Artificer in the Royal Naval Fleet Air Arm (ie. on aircraft and radar systems), then studied at the Co-operative College, and York and Middlesex Universities. He has worked as a frontline avionics engineer, a political full-timer, a lecturer in the Workers Educational Association and Further Education, a computer programmer, and finally as an engineering manager, CEO and Director of a number of technical companies. He has even been a Management Consultant and lived to tell the tale. Andy is now retired. He co-founded the Association of Musical Marxists (AMM) and has written books on the German group, Faust, the Romanian Spectral composers Iancu Dumitrescu and Ana-Maria Avram ('Cosmic Orgasm'), and edited books on the Syrian Revolution ('Khiyana'), and, with Michael Tencer, a compilation of works by and about the AMM (‘The Assassin’). He also writes poetry (‘Scarlet Rain’), takes photographs, and has created a book of lo-fi psychedelic illustrations to Blake ('The Brilliant New Hercules'). Andy has been a trustee of The Blake Society. His main interests lie with Blake, radical theology and politics, and Surrealism.

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Reflections on William Blake, Surrealism, Ecology and radical theology and politics


Andy Wilson co-founded the Association of Musical Marxists (AMM), and has written books on the group Faust, the composer Iancu Dumitrescu ('Cosmic Orgasm'), and a book of lo-fi illustrations to Blake ('The Brilliant New Hercules').
Jules Etjim blogs at Paths and Bridges on social theory, ecology, philosophy and more, from a Castoriadian commitment to radical democracy and autonomy.
LitRPG writer and historian.