Here is a great cry, and at mid-night too; Behold, The Brid­groome com­meth.
Here is a great pound­ing at the doors,—But it is not I, but the voice of my Beloved, that knock­eth, say­ing, Open to me, and let me come In.
Abiez­er Coppe, Some Sweet Sips, of some Spir­itu­all Wine (1649)
… To all, even to those that impa­tiently, as well as to those that patiently read, and try the things that fol­loweth.
Anon, A Jus­ti­fic­a­tion of the Mad Crew (1650)


They say that the past is the slave of the present, and his­tor­i­ans see in it mainly the pro­jec­tions of their private obses­sions. There is no way around this conun­drum, but no reas­on to des­pair either: you simply have to trust that your own obses­sions will act for you more as a mag­ni­fy­ing glass or com­pass than a set of blinkers. Nev­er­the­less this every­day fact of his­tor­ic­al enquiry has left Blake stud­ies in tat­ters when it comes to the mat­ter of Blake’s fun­da­ment­al orientation.

William Blake: Pictor Ignotus 

Part of the prob­lem is the fact that Blake spent his life in the shad­ows of his­tory. Typ­ic­ally for a man of his class and beliefs, he was ignored in his life­time by offi­cial his­tory. There were no major con­tem­por­ary stud­ies of his work, no Roy­al Academy exhib­i­tions or essays in the Dic­tion­ary of Nation­al Bio­graphy. He was some­times scorned but he was mostly ignored. After his death in 1827 any­one famil­i­ar with the facts would have guessed he’d nev­er be heard of again, and over the next few dec­ades the slender thread of his memory was kept intact by just a few sur­viv­ing friends and pat­rons and a small circle of young­er artists who had adop­ted him in his last years as their inspiration.
Title page of Gilchrist's Life of William Blake - Pictor Ignotus.
Almost forty years sep­ar­ate Blake’s buri­al at Bunhill Fields and the appear­ance of the first bio­graphy of him, by Alex­an­der Gil­christ, in 1863. Note the title of Gil­christ’s work, The LIfe of Wil­li­am Blake: Pictor Ignotus‘pictor ignotus’ being the attri­bu­tion giv­en to a paint­ing whose author­ship is uncer­tain (‘unknown artist’). It is worth paus­ing for a moment to take on board that the most sig­ni­fic­ant fact about Blake that occurred to his bio­graph­er forty years after his death was that he was unknown: unknown not only inas­much as his geni­us was unre­cog­nised but also in that even those few people begin­ning to admire his art still knew little about its maker—his per­son­al cir­cum­stances and the details of his life, and the nature of his beliefs and opin­ions. Con­sequently, Blake, hav­ing been bur­ied in his own life­time, had to be resurrected.

In many hands Blake’s books are like a pic­nic to which the author brings the words and the read­er the mean­ing

It would be the work of sub­sequent gen­er­a­tions of his­tor­i­ans and enthu­si­asts to comb through par­ish records, private diar­ies, news­pa­pers, offi­cial records and press notices to flesh out our idea of Blake. Add to this the fact that Blake’s work itself is so com­plex as to be open to many inter­pret­a­tions and you have the mak­ings of a grand cock­pit in which crit­ics can dis­pute the nature of Blake’s vis­ion forever, with opin­ions flow­ing back and for­ward with the tide of his­tory, and not enough fac­tu­al bal­last to pin Blake down long enough to cre­ate a fixed image of him. The res­ult, as E P Thompson noted (quot­ing Northrop Frye talk­ing of Jac­ob Boehme) is that in many hands “his books are like a pic­nic to which the author brings the words and the read­er the mean­ing”.1
As fash­ions in his­tori­ography shif­ted, his­tor­i­ans have applied dif­fer­ent lenses to their image of Blake. T S Eli­ot fam­ously said that Blake suffered from “a cer­tain mean­ness of cul­ture”.2 The best schol­ars put spade­work into dis­prov­ing Eli­ot by teas­ing out the threads that bound Blake to oth­er people, sketch­ing out the pool of ideas from which Blake drew. Those who see Blake as a stu­dent of eso­ter­i­cism probe his con­nec­tions with the likes of (Neo­pla­ton­ist and trans­lat­or of Por­phyry and oth­ers) Thomas Taylor. Those that want to emphas­ise the ‘this-sided­ness’ of Blake’s thought will plumb his con­nec­tions to Thomas Paine, Joseph Priestly and the rad­ic­als instead.
The Com­mun­ist Party His­tor­i­ans of the Civil War
A L Mor­ton, Chris­toph­er Hill, and Edward Thompson
But cir­cum­stances make the details hard to pin down. One con­tested issue con­cerns the depth of Blake’s con­nec­tions with the left-wing of the Eng­lish Civil War gen­er­ally and the Ranters—as the most rad­ic­al of those groups—in par­tic­u­lar. Oper­at­ing in the same space as the Ranters were groups such as the Dig­gers and Lev­el­lers, Quakers, Muggleto­ni­ans and Ana­baptists. In what sense, if any, could Blake be said to have been influ­enced by such a tra­di­tion? The cru­cial fig­ures con­sid­er­ing Blake in this light were the Com­mun­ist Party his­tor­i­ans A L Mor­ton (1903–1987), Chris­toph­er Hill (1912–2003) and E P Thompson (1924–1993).
Mor­ton pion­eered the approach of the Com­mun­ist Party His­tor­i­ans Group in writ­ing ‘his­tory from below’ with A People’s His­tory of Eng­land (1938). He pro­moted the polit­ic­al sig­ni­fic­ance of the dis­sent­ers of the 17th Cen­tury, pub­lish­ing a study of the Ranters, The World of the Ranters: Reli­gious Rad­ic­al­ism in the Eng­lish Revolu­tion (1970), and an essay on Blake’s influ­ences that focused on the Ranters in par­tic­u­lar, ‘The Ever­last­ing Gos­pel: A Study in the Sources of Wil­li­am Blake’ (1958).3
E P Thompson: Witness Against the Beast: Blake and the Moral LawChris­toph­er Hill pub­lished his hugely influ­en­tial work on the left-wing of the revolu­tion, The World Turned Upside Down: Rad­ic­al Ideas Dur­ing the Eng­lish Revolu­tion, in 1972.4 Com­ing later to the fray was E P Thompson with his Wit­ness to the Beast: Wil­li­am Blake and Mor­al Law—the best account of the issues involved in read­ing Blake, even if he was wrong about Blake’s con­nec­tions with the Muggleto­ni­ans.5

Between them, these act­iv­ist schol­ars cemen­ted the image of the dis­sent­ers as rep­res­ent­at­ives of a rad­ic­al demo­cracy strangled in the course of the revolu­tion: pre­fig­ur­ing com­mun­ism, yes, but cast in the mould of the liber­tari­an­ism of the 60s coun­ter­cul­ture. They estab­lished the role of anti­no­mi­an­ism and mil­len­ari­an­ism in Eng­lish polit­ic­al history.

The image of a liber­tari­an com­mun­ism in play at the start of the mod­ern Eng­lish rad­ic­al tra­di­tion provided inspir­a­tion and a com­pass for Com­mun­ist Party sup­port­ers like Hill and Thompson who left the party in the wake of the Soviet sup­pres­sion of the 1956 Hun­gari­an upris­ing and sought a bet­ter image of com­mun­ism, free from Sta­lin­ist bar­bar­ism, as they built the ‘New Left’. As such, the researches of this group had a dir­ect his­tor­ic­al sig­ni­fic­ance and impact over and above their role in estab­lish­ing their politi­cised under­stand­ing of Blake and the dis­sent­ers.6

While Hill and Mor­ton’s work had an enorm­ous impact in the dec­ades that fol­lowed its pub­lic­a­tion, find­ing an a pop­u­lar audi­ence lar­ger than most his­tor­i­ans ever exper­i­ence, chan­ging atti­tudes also saw their views sub­ject to cri­ti­cism from a num­ber of quar­ters as the tide of 60s rad­ic­al­ism sub­sided.7
First were those who had per­haps been sym­path­t­ic to the New-Ageism of the 60s coun­ter­cul­ture but not its con­front­a­tion with polit­ic­al power. They ten­ded to see in Blake anoth­er fig­ure in the lin­eage of West­ern eso­ter­i­cism and Her­met­icism, an illus­trat­or to the mind of Plotinus or ‘Thrice Great Her­mes’, albeit a sub­lime artist. The poet Kath­leen Raine in par­tic­u­lar appealed to such an audi­ence and had an impact read­ing Blake’s work through the lens of Neo­pla­ton­ism. Her two-volume study, Blake and Tra­di­tion, has exer­ted con­sid­er­able influ­ence since its pub­lic­a­tion in 1969.8 As far as Blake stud­ies go, Raine’s work and that of her stu­dents and aco­lytes is per­haps the main chal­lenger to the paradigm estab­lished by the Left. The 60s coun­ter­cul­ture had enthu­si­ast­ic­ally absorbed Blake and revived pop­u­lar interest in him, and in some ways the two inter­pret­a­tions of Blake rep­res­en­ted two sides of that coun­ter­cul­ture part­ing ways.
Note that it is not a mat­ter of choos­ing wheth­er to treat Blake as a Jac­obin or an eso­ter­i­cist, with one exclud­ing the oth­er, but of recog­nising the polit­ic­al dimen­sion of Blake’s ideas, even when they were estor­ic, and the eso­ter­ic roots of his polit­ics. The eso­ter­i­cists ten­ded to ignore or even deny the polit­ics. The Marx­ists on the oth­er hand, recog­nised the eso­ter­ic and mys­tic­al strains of Blake’s thought but could not take them entirely seriously—the thrust of their work on the dis­sent­ers was to show how reli­gious ideas had polit­ic­al trac­tion, but their com­mit­ment to what they thought of as mater­i­al­ism led them to see reli­gious and eso­ter­ic terms as a kind of fog of ver­biage you had to cut through to get to the polit­ic­al con­tent, so that the reli­gious expres­sions were just “polit­ic­al ideas in a reli­gious form”,9 much as some Marx­ists believed that you have to cut through the Hegel­i­an cat­egor­ies in Marx’s early writ­ings to under­stand his mater­i­al­ist cri­tique of ali­en­a­tion. It simply was­n’t done for CP Marx­ists to call for the masses to immen­antise the eschat­on.

Raine’s view of Blake remains aca­dem­ic even though her views are at odds with those dom­in­ant in the academy today

Regard­ing Raine’s inter­pret­a­tion, Thompson poin­ted out that her view of Blake remained aca­dem­ic even though her beliefs are at odds with those dom­in­ant in the academy.10 What he meant was that Raine sought to place Blake in a tra­di­tion of writ­ten author­ity and tra­di­tion­al learn­ing, albeit that it was an altern­at­ive tra­di­tion groun­ded in Plotinus rather than thinkers in the West­ern main­stream. To loc­ate Blake in such terms is to fail to under­stand the world in which he lived. Blake was widely read and not at all unlearned, but he was not a schol­ar. Neither was he what would come to be called an ‘auto-didact’, a term bound up in a hier­arch­ic­al idea of know­ledge in which the learn­ing of the auto­di­dact is acknow­ledged, but is emphat­ic­ally not ima­gined to sit near the high­er rungs of learn­ing. The term is dis­missive of the aston­ish­ing ‘wit­craft’ of the pop­u­lar classes.
The altern­at­ive to treat­ing Blake as a schol­ar, set­ting out to dis­cov­er what polit­ic­al and dis­sent­ing books were in his lib­rary, is to try to under­stand the intel­lec­tu­al mode in which his inspired mind oper­ated, which was not unique to him but a mani­fest­a­tion of a ple­bi­an tra­di­tion of dis­pute and inspir­a­tion. Ulti­mately we must learn to think in that style ourselves if we are to know what was on Blake’s mind. We can ask, not wheth­er Blake read the Ranters, but what he would have thought if he had read them. Would he have recog­nised them as comrades?
Sev­en­teenth cen­tury Quaker preach­er, Mar­garet Killam

Publicans and Leathern-aprons, Cloakes and Cassocks

As to this pecu­li­ar mode of think­ing and intel­lec­tu­al being employed by Blake and his peers, it is described by Thompson as follows;

… we have become habitu­ated to read­ing in an aca­dem­ic way. Our books are not ‘thumbed by grav­ing hands’. We learn of an influ­ence, we are dir­ec­ted to a book or to a ‘reput­able’ intel­lec­tu­al tra­di­tion , we set this book beside that book,  we com­pare and cross-refer. But Blake had a dif­fer­ent way of read­ing. He would look into a book with a dir­ect­ness which we might find to be naive or unbear­able, chal­len­ging each one of its argu­ments against his own exper­i­ence and his own ‘sys­tem’… He took each author (even the Old Test­a­ment proph­ets) as his equal, or as some­thing less. And he acknow­ledged as between them, no received judge­ments as to their worth, no hier­archy of accep­ted ‘reput­ab­il­ity’. For Blake, a neigh­bour, or a fel­low-read­er of a peri­od­ic­al, or his friend and pat­ron, Thomas Butts, were quite likely to hold opin­ions of cent­ral import­ance as was any man of recog­nised learn­ing.11

In this tra­di­tion exper­i­ence is laid dir­ectly along­side learn­ing, and the two test each oth­er. There is noth­ing of our present aca­dem­ic spe­cial­isa­tion: thought may be bor­rowed, like imagery, from any source avail­able. There is, in this tra­di­tion, a strong, and some­times an excess­ive, self-con­fid­ence. And there is an insist­ent impulse towards indi­vidu­al sys­tem-build­ing: the author­ity of the Church, demys­ti­fied in the sev­en­teenth cen­tury, had not yet been replaced by the author­ity of an aca­dem­ic hier­archy or of pub­lic ‘experts’. In Blake’s dis­sent­ing Lon­don of the 1780s and 1790s this impulse was at its height. Men and women did not only join the groups on offer… they frac­tured them, took a point from one and a point from anoth­er, con­ceived their own her­es­ies, and all the time struggled to define their own sense of sys­tem.12

It is this inspired con­fid­ence (tak­ing each author of the Old Test­a­ment as an equal) that allowed early Chris­ti­ans and heretics ever since to write their own gos­pels, as Blake did. To the lit­er­al mind, this is a sort of for­gery. But for the inspired, to read ‘in the spir­it’ was to be trans­formed into the equal of any­one and to par­ti­cip­ate in the intel­lec­tu­al demo­cracy of the Saints. And, hav­ing read, they were obliged to proph­esy. The Ranters under­stood that theirs was a dif­fer­ent kind of know­ing, but they believed it to be at least the equal of the schol­ars’. Abiez­er Coppe declared as much;

… it is neither Para­dox, Hetro­dox, Riddle, or ridicu­lous to good Schol­lars, who know the Lord in deed, (though per­haps they know nev­er a let­ter in the Book) to affirm that God can speak, & glor­i­ously preach to some through Car­ols, Anthems, Organs; yea, all things else, &c. Through Fish­ers, Pub­lic­ans, Tan­ners, Tent-makers, Leath­ern-aprons, as well as through Uni­ver­sity men,—Long-gowns, Cloakes, or Cas­socks; O Strange!13

To say that ‘God can speak through Fish­ers’ &c is to say that know­ledge gained through inspir­a­tion is equal to that pro­duced by schol­arly learn­ing. Blake was pre­sum­ably mak­ing a sim­il­ar point—perhaps elev­at­ing read­ing ‘in the spir­it’ fur­ther still—when he said that “the Beauty of the Bible is that the most Ignor­ant and Simple Minds under­stand it Best”.14

To view the his­tory of the lower classes and their beliefs exclus­ively through an aca­dem­ic lens is to risk los­ing sight of them alto­geth­er. The views of the dis­pos­sessed are mostly ignored any­way in the records we have, while the views of dis­pos­sessed heretics and rad­ic­als are act­ively mis­rep­res­en­ted. But far worse than this, from a schol­arly per­spect­ive, is that the most rad­ic­al views could per­haps nev­er be adequately rep­res­en­ted in the lit­er­at­ure any­way because these ideas are simply incom­pre­hens­ible to any­one else—‘off the scale’ of con­ven­tion­al wis­dom and incom­men­sur­able with it, because, in Boehme’s word, “the Nat­ur­al Man receives not the Things of the Spir­it, nor the Mys­tery of the King­dom of God, they are Fool­ish­ness unto him, neither can he know them.“15

The danger of view­ing his­tory academically—or at least purely academically—is that the tra­di­tions we are inter­ested in evap­or­ate under the heat of that type of scru­tiny. Mod­ern schol­ars have done amaz­ing work tra­cing doc­u­ments. Recently they have even been able to use com­puters to make com­plex tex­tu­al ana­lyses and com­par­is­ons that were incon­ceiv­able only a few years ago. We now know more than ever before about such traces, con­nec­tions, over­laps and entan­gle­ments in the texts. But while this can tell us much of an extern­al nature about its sub­ject, none of it can take us to the heart of the mat­ter. To recon­struct such sup­pressed tra­di­tions requires an act of ima­gin­at­ive iden­ti­fic­a­tion not allowed to the scholar.

This sys­tem­at­ic dis­con­nect between schol­ars and their sub­ject mat­ter in this domain can make the lat­ter seem evan­es­cent and unreal to them. Thus the his­tor­i­an Ari­el Hes­say­on, who has doc­u­mented many fas­cin­at­ing aspects of rad­ic­al his­tory, ends up con­clud­ing that “though rad­ic­al­ism lacks a con­nec­ted his­tory, the ima­gined rela­tion­ship between rad­ic­als of the Eng­lish Revolu­tion and their pre­de­cessors and suc­cessors has served as a power­ful sub­sti­tute.“16

This is true in a sense, but it needs to be emphas­ised that it is pre­cisely such ima­gin­a­tion that under­pins the con­tinu­ity of rad­ic­al coun­ter­cul­tur­al tra­di­tions. This con­tinu­ity may well be ‘fab­ric­ated’, con­struc­ted in part by an act of the ima­gin­a­tion, but it is as real as any tra­di­tion built on the con­tinu­ity of doc­trine… actu­ally, more so.

PART TWO: Blake and the Ranters

A L Mor­ton said that “It is not pos­sible… to show… that [Blake] had read any of the works of Muggleton, or of Abiez­er Coppe… What can be shown is that he and they shared a com­mon body of ideas and expressed those ideas in a com­mon lan­guage.“17 Of course, evid­ence of Blake’s read­ing the Ranters may yet turn up, but the implic­a­tion is that in the mean­time we can try to con­nect Blake to the Ranters not by detect­ive work tra­cing Blake’s read­ing but through com­par­ing his pro­duc­tions, his poems and his art, to what we know of the Ranters, read­ing the Ranters from Blake’s point of view.

Such a com­par­is­on is dif­fi­cult. We can find echoes of the Ranters in Blake’s work, but we can find echoes of oth­er groups too, often by con­sid­er­ing exactly the same phrase or quo­ta­tion. It is easy for us today to under­es­tim­ate how much, eg., the lan­guage of the Book of Rev­el­a­tion and of mil­len­ari­an­ism was part of the intel­lec­tu­al bed­rock of earli­er eras. The vari­ous sects may have differed as who pre­cisely they saw as, let’s say, the ‘Woman Clothed in the Sun’, who would give birth to the redeem­er. but they agreed that someone or some­thing must cor­res­pond because the Rev­el­a­tion of John was a divinely author­ised vis­ion of the Final Judge­ment which every­one knew was immanent. 

Anti­no­mi­an­ism doesn’t just mean that we can flout the mor­al law—God can too

Our read­ing prob­lems are fur­ther com­poun­ded by the dif­fi­culty in agree­ing who was or was not a Ranter. The Ranters did not keep mem­ber­ship lists because they did not have mem­bers as such, since they were not an organ­ised group. “The Ranters were rather a move­ment than a sect”, says Mor­ton.18 Not only that, but they were partly defined from without—any of the then sects and ‘gathered churches’ might see their own more extreme brether­en as ‘Ranters’ and denounce them as such. But the Ranters cer­tainly exis­ted. To see them we have to take the dive, immerse ourselves in the words of these extrem­ists and try read them ‘in the spir­it’ ourselves to see where they might share a com­mon world with Blake. We have to read the Ranters the way Blake would have read them (per­haps even with “a naive and unbear­able dir­ect­ness”) to ima­gine how Blake respon­ded. If this goes bey­ond the call of tra­di­tion­al schol­ar­ship, then so much for tra­di­tion­al schol­ar­ship. We should not allow it to impede us.

Anon: Koberger Bible (1483) Four Horsemen
Anon: Four Horse­men, from the Kober­ger Bible (1483)
Image: Bridewell Lib­rary, Per­kins School of Theology

A Justification of the Mad Crew

If we want to know what the Ranters believed in order to make a com­par­is­on with Blake, as a first pass you could do worse than con­sid­er­ing the anonym­ous Ranter tract, A Jus­ti­fic­a­tion of the Mad Crew (1650)19, which lays out what it claims are the Ranter prin­ciples in a series of chapters, whose head­ings I abbre­vi­ate below. 

(i) There is but one God

The first Ranter ‘prin­ciple’ is that of the unity of God, which is the root of all the oth­ers and rep­res­ents the essence of their vis­ion. It is first put indir­ectly by the author, who accuses his read­ers of wor­ship­ping two gods;

There is anoth­er God you set up, and that is such a one that is in one, not in anoth­er, curs­ing one and bless­ing anoth­er, and so dam God as to the greatest part of the cre­ation, that he is onley in Saints, in a few, but he is not the God of all, and who is their God, who acts in the wicked, one called a Dev­il, anoth­er Spir­it, and so they make some­thing to be besides God; and if God be not the same, and only he, in one as in all, and all as in one, then there is anoth­er being, anoth­er etern­ity.20

If this rejec­tion of any dual­ism is taken ser­i­ously, as it was by the Ranters, some rad­ic­al con­clu­sions fol­low, and the author spends the fol­low­ing chapters draw­ing them out. But this fun­da­ment­al­ist mon­ism is itself worth dwell­ing on. In reject­ing the dual­ism of God and the Dev­il what is ulti­mately also jet­tisoned are the cor­res­pond­ing dual­isms of good and evil, mas­ter and ser­vant, and even even­tu­ally of know­er and known, sub­ject and object.

In place of dual­ism, what Blake depicts in his great poems is the devel­op­ment of the world from of a single prin­ciple, with prim­al forces split­ting and giv­ing birth to new, con­tra­dict­ory powers. We are in deep enough waters already con­nect­ing Blake to the Ranters, so it won’t do to talk too much of Jac­ob Boehme right now, suf­fice to say that in Blake’s hands Ranter meta­phys­ics are giv­en a subtle rework­ing in which all of the con­trar­ies of exist­ence are seen as aspects of a unit­ary deity, and this subtle dia­lectic resembles Boehme’s attempt to show that God’s fire and his cold­ness, his mercy and his wrath, are two sides of the same cos­mic coin.

This rad­ic­al mon­ism led both the Ranters and Blake to be accused of mater­i­al­ism at times. And from every point of view that mat­ters this really is a kind of mater­i­al­ism, because what it is most sharply pitched against is the ideal­ist­ic sep­ar­a­tion of mind and mat­ter that under­pins soci­ety and jus­ti­fies the social order. Just as Blake thought MIlton was “of the Dev­ils party without know­ing it”,21 When it comes to mater­i­al­ism it seems that Blake, very much like Hegel, was also ‘of the Dev­il’s party’.

Some argue that Blake is a Gnostic. It is true that Blake plays with Gnostic terminology—for instance, at one point call­ing Urizen the “mis­taken demon of Heav­en”, treat­ing him as a usurp­er, just as the Arch­on’s usurped God’s role as cre­at­or.22—but Blake’s basic pos­i­tion is mon­ist and sin­gu­lar. In one of his most care­fully ellipt­ic­al for­mu­la­tions he says that Man has no Body dis­tinct from his Soul for that calld Body is a por­tion of Soul dis­cernd by the five Senses“23. There is no body bey­ond the soul, no mat­ter without mind. If Blake is wary of cor­por­eal­ity it is not because nature is actu­ally apart from us but only because we lack the ima­gin­a­tion to escape the trap of “single vis­ion and New­ton’s sleep”.24

Ranter Caricatures

(ii) God is served in all things and persons

If God is in all things, then all things are holy. There are not two prin­ciples rul­ing the world—good and evil, God and Satan. Rather, “the Dev­il is but a part of Gods back sides”.25 Not only is this true in a bluntly onto­lo­gic­al sense, but mor­ally too. God exists and acts “in the wicked as in the godly, as in him that steals, lies, swears, and is drunk, as in him that swears and lies not”.26 Here we leap right into the heart of the Ranters’ anti­no­mi­an­ism, in which even acts tra­di­tion­ally thought of as sin­ful are redeemed. The author believes that many people serve God;

in these things drunk­en­ness, swear­ing, lying, whor­ing, and yet know­ingly in light in truth, some that do these things, yet do no evil, act­ing it in a holy way as holy­ness, swear­ing holily, and drink­ing holily, whor­ing holily, all is holy, right­eous and good that they do, and they meet the Lord in these.27

“the Almighty is frol­lick and merry, and joc­und in these fool­ish vain things”

This is not the tep­id argu­ment that, as everything is holy, everything is per­mit­ted, or the leg­al­ist­ic plead­ing which says that “to rise above sin, one first has to exper­i­ence it”. In a par­tic­u­larly mem­or­able pas­sage the author argues that God act­ively uses sup­posedly sin­ful, idle activ­it­ies as a kind of com­mu­nion with the believers:

the Almighty is frol­lick and merry, and joc­und in these fool­ish vain things, and the Lord clads him­self with these fop­per­ies and fool­er­ies, and comes forth to the people in this gay appar­el in this fools coat, and the people admire him and stare upon him, and fall down to him; and thus the Lord is every ways served in all things.28

Anti­no­mi­an­ism does­n’t just mean that we can flout the mor­al law—God can too. This idea that God des­cends to meet man as much as man aspires to rise toward God is echoed very pre­cisely in Blake in one of his earli­est works, There is No Nat­ur­al Reli­gion, when he says “God becomes as we are, that we may be as he is”.29 Blake thus saw that many acts denounced from the pul­pit as fool­ish and sin­ful were simply part of the world of the under­class and could be embraced. They were denounced as form of dis­cip­line and social con­trol. The Ranters met and preached in inns and tav­erns, and drank and smoke while they did so. Sim­il­arly in The Little Vag­a­bond Blake says;

… if at the Church they would give us some Ale.
And a pleas­ant fire, our souls to regale
We’d sing and we’d pray, all the live-long day;
Nor ever once wish from the Church to stray,

And God like a fath­er rejoicing to see,
His chil­dren as pleas­ant and happy as he:
Would have no more quar­rel with the Dev­il or the Bar­rel
But kiss him & give him both drink and appar­el.30

Beasts From the Sea and the Earth, Luther Bible (1534)
Book of Rev­el­a­tion: The Beasts of the Sea and Earth, Luth­er Bible (1534)
Wiki­pe­dia Commons
Beasts From the Sea and the Earth, Luther Bible (1534)
Wil­li­am Blake
The Spir­itu­al Form of Pitt Guid­ing Behemoth (left), and The Spir­itu­al Form of Nel­son guid­ing Leviath­an, in whose wreath­ings are infolded the Nations of the Earth (right), (both c. 1805–9). That Nel­son should guide Leviath­an, the ‘beast of the sea’, is obvi­ously appro­pri­ate, but note also that to many read­ers of The Book of Rev­el­a­tion Leviath­an would have rep­res­en­ted demon­ic king­dom’s that arose from the sea—like the Brit­ish and their Empire.

(iii) Good and evil are both one

Here the anti­no­mi­an­ism implied above is made expli­cit, and the ori­gins of the mor­al law are explained: the mor­al laws of man that define good and evil are the res­ult of the Fall: 

Man, inno­cent, holy upright man, tast­ing of the tree of know­ledge of good and evil, comes to divide and sep­ar­ate that which God had joined togeth­er, and thereby became accused, call­ing one holy anoth­er unholy, this is a good man that an evil man, and so hates the one and loves the oth­er, joins to the one and sep­ar­ates from the oth­er: but the holy inno­cent man knows not, owns not any such dis­tinc­tions, from whose throne flies every unclean and cor­rupt thing.31

This mir­rors Blake’s argu­ments pre­cisely. For Blake, the ‘stony laws’ of the Com­mand­ments are to be rejec­ted. If Blake has some sim­il­ar­ity to the Gnostics it is not in how he saw the world cre­ated, but how he saw the mor­al law ori­gin­ated. Just as the Gnostics believed the world was cre­ated not by God but by a blind and mad arch­on, Blake believed that those laws the Church says were ordained by God were in fact the weapon of ‘Satan the accuser’ act­ing in man;

Christ comes as he came at first to deliv­er those who are bound under the Knave not to deliv­er the Knave. He comes to deliv­er man the Accused and not Satan the Accuser.32

One eas­ily ima­gines Blake called to the wit­ness box to speak in defence of the Ranters, accused by their enemies of immor­al­ity and license;

In Hell all is Self Right­eous­ness there is no such thing there as For­give­ness of Sin he who does For­give Sin is Cru­ci­fied as an Abet­tor of Crim­in­als. & he who per­forms Works of Mercy in Any shape whatever is pun­ished & if pos­sible des­troyd not thro Envy or Hatred or Malice but thro Self Right­eous­ness that thinks it does God ser­vice which God is Satan… For­give­ness of Sin is only at the ]udg­ment Seat of Jesus the Saviour where the Accuser is cast out. not because he Sins but because he tor­ments the Just & makes them do what he con­demns as Sin & what he knows is oppos­ite to their own Iden­tity.33

In Blake’s Mar­riage of Heav­en and Hell, the fiery spir­it of revolu­tion starts by reject­ing the mor­al law, which leads to the end of social viol­ence and the exist­ing order; the son of fire in his east­ern cloud… stamps the stony law to dust, cry­ing Empire is no more! and now the lion & wolf shall cease“34

Beasts From the Sea and the Earth, Luther Bible (1534)
Wil­li­am Blake: The Great Red Dragon and the Woman Clothed in the Sun
The Blake Archive

(iv) God is no respecter of persons

This is a fur­ther exten­sion of the basic insight as to the unity of God. But where­as before the dis­tinc­tion the author sought to over­come was that between the accused and the accuser, here the argu­ment is exten­ded to give it a more dir­ectly polit­ic­al edge, aimed at the heart of social hierarchy—at the dis­tinc­tion between ruled and ruler;

God… beholds all things and per­sons, with the same and in the same pur­ity, with and in the same glory… He loves all with an ever­last­ing love, the thief that goes to the gal­lows as well as the Judge­ment that con­demns him… the Cav­ileer as the Round-head… He pulls down the mighty from their Throne, and sets up men of low degree.35

We are now some way away from ‘the rich man in his castle, the poor man at his gate’. Few today would bat an eye at the claim that all are equal in such a manner—in prin­ciple at least—but such a rad­ic­ally demo­crat­ic view, taken to its extreme by the Ranters, was far from accept­able in their time. It should go without say­ing that Blake shared the pos­it­ively dis­respect­ful views of the Ranters in this regard. Blake was a Jac­obin and social lev­el­ler at heart.

v) The godly shall go to hell, the wicked to heaven

Speak­ing of the tra­di­tion­al idea that the right­eous shall go to heav­en, our author says;

The truly right­eous need not, yea can­not go thith­er; for they are, and alwaies were in Heav­en, yea while they are upon Earth; The right­eous that sin not, that are without fault, are ever really and truly before the throne in God, and God in them, singing for ever Hal­le­lu­jah to the Lord, so that these holy ones enter not into such a vain, empty, fool­ish, ima­gin­ary King­dom, know not such a Heav­en. And the seem­ingly right­eous that know good and evil, that choose the one and hate the oth­er, they neither go to this Heav­en and are not thus saved, for they are already in Heav­en and know it not, it is with them as with Jac­ob, ‘the Lord was here and I knew it not’.36

These people [the Ranters] are entered into heav­en, attained this resur­rec­tion, are entered into this land of Canaan: you are yet in the wil­der­ness some of you, oth­ers of you come to the bor­ders…37

In Blake’s world this is like the idea that we must acquire “fourfold vis­ion”,38 so as to leave this quo­tidi­an world and “hold infin­ity in the palm of your hand, and etern­ity in an hour“39 As with the Ranters, this is not the sort of heav­en you gain entrance to with good deeds, but one that all can enter freely through the power of vis­ion and ima­gin­a­tion, for “This world of Ima­gin­a­tion is the World of Etern­ity it is the Divine bos­om into which we shall all go after the death of the Veget­ated body. This World [of Ima­gin­a­tion] is Infin­ite & Etern­al where­as the world of Gen­er­a­tion or Veget­a­tion is Finite“40 

The finite world of veget­a­tion is indeed utterly dif­fer­ent to that of the infin­ite world of vis­ion, but it is not sep­ar­ate from it.

vi) They have overcome death

The Ranters when ‘in the spir­it’ have gone to heav­en. In any case, they have died, yet they live: “No mar­vell they are mad men for they are newly come out of their graves.” 41 This is the Last Judge­ment and resur­rec­tion which the Ranters believed was com­ing to all, as the spir­itu­al epoch of the Holy Ghost approached.

At this point the author affirms that, in join­ing with God, the Ranters have left the tra­di­tion­al mor­al world behind:

Shame that is prop­per to mor­tal Creatures, those that are under death and sin, this flyes before them, they are not ashamed of ought they do: they are naked as Adam and his wife was in Para­dise and are not ashamed, they are past shame.42

At this point we can recall the story Thomas Butts tells of vis­it­ing the Blakes at their home in the Her­cules Build­ing in Lam­beth, and on enter­ing their garden find­ing Wil­li­am and Cath­er­ine naked. “Come in!” cried Blake; “it’s only Adam and Eve you know!” 



Satan watching the caresses of Adam and Eve
Wil­li­am Blake: Satan Watch­ing the Caresses of Adam and Eve
Wiki­pe­dia Commons

vii) They neither marry nor are given in marriage

The author’s argu­ment against mar­riage is not based so much on the rejec­tion of a code that bans love out­side of mar­riage, but appeals instead to the fun­da­ment­al per­sua­sion of the Ranters con­cern­ing the unity of God:

The sons of dark­nesse… marry, take one woman, two or three or a few apart from the rest of the Cre­ation, love them at a dis­tance from oth­ers: those whom they have thus elec­ted… are estranged to the oth­er part of the world, who are really theirs, flesh of their flesh, and bone of their bone as they… There is such a unity where there is this diversity, and such a diversity where there is this unity, that they can­not kisse one but they kisse all, and love one but they love all, and can­not take one into bed with them and leave out anoth­er, but they des­troy this unity and diversity.43

There should be no need to remind ourselves here of Blake’s belief that mar­riage was an expres­sion of women’s oppres­sion. I have dis­cussed else­where the cur­rents in the Sweden­borg church that pro­moted women’s lib­er­a­tion and advoc­ated ‘con­cu­bin­age’ in place of tra­di­tion­al mar­riage, with which Blake may have been famil­i­ar. Blake, of course, was mar­ried, and no doubt so were many of the Ranters. The com­mon line of march here involves over­com­ing exclu­sion, pos­ses­sion and jeal­ousy in per­son­al relations.

there is meat enough in our fath­ers house, and shall we per­ish for hun­ger?

viii) They hold all things in common

Again the author appeals to the unity of God for his argu­ment: “canst thou not yet see the earth to be the Lord’s, and the full­ness there­of? Then what has thou?”44 He adds;

… these people whom ye call mad, have learned this Wis­dom… and saith, what is mine is every ones, and what is every ones is mine also: every woman is my wife, my joy and delight, the earth is mine, and the beasts on a thou­sand hills are mine: they have brought all they have, and have laid all down at the Lords feet, and if any keep back part he is accursed… O there is meat enough in our fath­ers house, and shall we per­ish for hun­ger? it is a full house, a rich house, full of all fat things, why should we then dy by stay­ing without, by liv­ing in a far coun­try?”45

Blake shared an oppos­i­tion to pos­ses­sion even if he did not call for all things to be held in com­mon. In this regard he was not, as they say, singing from the same hymn sheet as the Ranters. Blake’s primary polit­ic­al con­cerns were with end­ing of oppres­sion. He did not see the need to abol­ish private prop­erty to achieve this, only per­haps the acquis­it­ive mentality.

Satan watching the caresses of Adam and Eve
“How do you know but every Bird that cuts the airy way, Is an immense world of delight, closed by your senses five?“
Wil­li­am Blake, The Mar­riage of Heav­en and Hell

Panpsychism in Blake and the Ranters

Before con­clud­ing, there there is anoth­er aspect of Ranter thought, not dealt with as a prin­ciple by our author, but worth high­light­ing in con­nec­tion with Blake. We have seen how the Ranter­’s over­whelm­ing sense of the unity of God led them to anti­no­mi­an and even com­mun­ist con­clu­sions. Anoth­er implic­a­tion points toward pan­psych­ism and pan­the­ism, which the crit­ics of the Ranters cer­tainly accused them of.46 Believ­ing that God is “not withold­en from any thing“47, how can there be any­thing not suf­fused with the divine? Hence pan­the­ism, though of course, this is a tend­ency in a num­ber of dis­sent­ing tra­di­tions of the time, and not spe­cif­ic to the Ranters.

There was a range of opin­ion among the Ranters on this. All of them believed God acted in men. Some Ranters included the anim­al world as agents of the divine, arguing that God acts “as divinely and holily… in beasts as in men”.48 A few went fur­ther still, believ­ing that God acts only in the cre­ated world, and has no seper­ate tran­scend­ent­al exist­ence. Blake took the lat­ter, most rad­ic­al pos­i­tion, fam­ously arguing that God ‘acts in man’, indeed he went bey­ond that to say that “God only Acts & Is, in exist­ing beings or Men”.49 He exten­ded this atti­tude to oth­er anim­als as ‘fel­low creatures’. I don’t say Blake was a pan­the­ist. He could best be described as hav­ing a mater­i­al­ist theo­logy, and pos­sibly even of being an athe­ist. But there is cer­tainly a power­ful sense through­out Blake’s work that nature is suf­fused with the same spir­it that anim­ates man.

In The Mar­riage of Heav­en and Hell Blake asks “How do you know but every Bird that cuts the airy way, Is an immense world of delight, closed by your senses five?“50 In Songs of Exper­i­ence he toys with an iden­ti­fic­a­tion with the insect in his poem The Fly: Am not I / A fly like thee? / Or art not thou / A man like me?“51 The most con­sist­ent way to under­stand these lines is not simply as empath­et­ic exten­sions of psyche from man to oth­er anim­als, but as a pan­psych­ist recog­ni­tion that, where­as all nature is alive with psyche,52 psyche in anim­als is likely cap­able of exper­i­ence some­how ana­log­ous to our own and, who knows, pos­sibly even in some sense a high­er form of exper­i­ence, closer to God, because ‘unfal­len’.

Blake’s attri­bu­tion of exper­i­ence to his bird in flight is sur­pris­ingly com­pat­ible with the views of a long line of sup­posedly ‘hard-nosed’ sci­ent­ists, from Edis­on to Edding­ton and Ein­stein, and philo­soph­ers from Empe­docles to Kant, Bergson and bey­ond, who all believed that mat­ter had innate men­tal prop­er­ties. This atti­tude of Blake and the Ranters is of spe­cial rel­ev­ance at a time when human­ity des­per­ately needs to build a new rela­tion­ship with nature in order to avoid eco­lo­gic­al dis­aster on a scale that would sat­is­fy the Four Horse­men of the Apocalypse.

Conclusion: The real congregation and the real communion

I knew of the Ranters before writ­ing this essay and had read Ranter pamph­lets.53 I already had the impres­sion that they thought like Blake gen­er­ally, and read­ing A Jus­ti­fic­a­tion of the Mad Crew has cemen­ted this view. In the archi­tec­ture of their thought, from its mono­the­ist­ic found­a­tion through to the anti­no­mi­an, lev­el­ling, liber­tari­an and pan­the­ist con­clu­sions they drew from it, Blake and our anonym­ous Ranter author share many affin­it­ies. But there are dif­fer­ences too, espe­cially with the great­er emphas­is placed on ‘com­mon own­er­ship’ by the Ranters. Read­ing through a single pamph­let in this way to make such con­nec­tions and dis­tinc­tions is not a rig­or­ous or con­clus­ive approach, but it has been enough to con­vince me that, des­pite the dif­fer­ences, Blake and the Ranters spoke from much the same place.

If one looks at oth­er dis­sent­ing groups at the time of the Eng­lish Civil War, there are many shared viewsa Joachim­ite belief in the approach of the end times, the dis­tinc­tion between ‘nat­ur­al man’ and men of the spir­it, the lev­el­ling tend­ency, and so on. That makes it harder to say what Blake shared doc­trin­ally with one group over anoth­er. But one power­ful con­nec­tion between Blake and the Ranters that tends to sep­ar­ate them from their peers is a com­mon sense of the imman­ence of the divine—not a woolly belief that God is always some­how ulti­mately around us, but rather that he is power­fully act­ing in everything right now, that the world is, as it were, super­sat­ur­ated with the divine. As the Qur­an has Allah say, “We are closer to [man] than [his] jug­u­lar vein,”54 so that it only takes a subtle (but immense!) shift of per­spect­ive to join with him. In this both the Ranters and Blake were like spir­itu­al Left Com­mun­ists, insist­ing their revolu­tion was an actu­al­ity and not merely a pro­spect for the dis­tant future. The flame only needed to be ignited.

On the oth­er hand, Blake was not simply just anoth­er Ranter, as he was not just anoth­er Sweden­bor­gi­an or Moravi­an or Neo­pla­ton­ist or any­thing else. He was a pro­foundly ori­gin­al poet and artist. It is just that his ori­gin­al­ity and geni­us worked in the ser­vice of a broad­er tra­di­tion of inspir­a­tion. There is a sub­tlety and rich­ness to his thought that takes him bey­ond the Ranters, quite apart from his unpar­alleled out­pour­ing of images, both visu­al and poet­ic, illus­trat­ing his prim­al myth of Orc and Urizen and all, and of Albion, Lon­don, four-fold Gol­gonooza and Jer­u­s­alem, and his appro­pri­ation of Milton. This imagery and vocab­u­lary is related to that of the Ranters and the proph­et­ic books of the Bible, but it is hardly redu­cible to its sources. 

To return to our ori­gin­al ques­tion as to wheth­er Blake was influ­enced by the Ranters, while it would be inter­est­ing to dis­cov­er, per­haps, that Blake read texts by Coppe in the lib­rary of one of his acquaint­ances in the New Jer­u­s­alem Church, ulti­mately it is not the import­ant thing. To com­plain along­side T S Eli­ot of the ‘mean­ness’ of Blake’s cul­ture is simply to insult him. Blake did not and could not have lived in a cul­tur­al vacu­um. Only someone like Eli­ot could ima­gine that oth­er people live their lives in a cul­tur­al vacu­um, that ‘cul­ture’ is the prop­erty only of the few. Blake pos­sessed a rich and vibrant cul­ture, but it was not based on study­ing the Greeks and doing a Grand Tour. Instead, it was rooted in the dis­sent­ing cul­ture of his fam­ily, and of his friends, col­leagues and asso­ci­ates, who he chose accord­ingly. It is bey­ond doubt that one way or anoth­er this cul­ture was informed by the ideas and mater­i­als of the Ranters along with many oth­er sects, groups, tra­di­tions and tend­en­cies in his­tory. If we will nev­er know the pre­cise ways, and in what pro­por­tions, some of those influ­ences were joined in the melt­ing pot of the dis­sent­ing tra­di­tion, it does not mat­ter as much as the fact that by read­ing the Ranters or study­ing the art of Blake—and doing so ‘in the spirit’—we learn to throw off ‘New­ton’s sleep’ ourselves so as to join the one time­less rad­ic­al com­munity Blake and the Ranters both believed to exist—the con­greg­a­tion and its com­mu­nion out­side of time, where Blake and the Ranters them­selves would have met.

Andy Wilson


  1. E P Thompson, Wit­ness Against the Beast: Wil­li­am Blake and the Mor­al Law, New York: New Press, 1993, p xi.
  2. T S Eli­ot, Selec­ted Essays, NY: Har­court, Brace and World, 1960, p. 279.
  3. A L Mor­ton, ‘The Ever­last­ing Gos­pel: A Study in the Sources of Wil­li­am Blake’ (1958), in His­tory and the Ima­gin­a­tion: Selec­ted Writ­ings of A L Mor­ton, Mar­got Heine­mann and Wil­lie Thompson (eds). Lon­don: Lawrence & Wis­hart, 1990.
  4. Chris­toph­er Hill, The World Turned Upside Down: Rad­ic­al Ideas Dur­ing the Eng­lish Revolu­tion, Lon­don: Pen­guin Books, 1972.
  5. E P Thompson, Wit­ness Against the Beast: Wil­li­am Blake and Mor­al Law, New York: New Press, 1993.
  6. The role in Comun­ist Party mem­bers help­ing revive an rad­ic­al liber­tari­an­ism out­side of the CP is iron­ic, giv­en that the impetus for this dig­ging back into his­tory and the redis­cov­ery of the Dig­gers, Lev­el­lers and all came from the Rus­si­an Com­mun­ist lead­er­ship and their turn toward the Pop­u­lar Front, which required among oth­er things that loc­al parties make pro­pa­ganda to show that their coun­try had its own com­mun­ist roots and tra­di­tions. See Raphael Samuel, ‘A Rebel and His Lin­eage’, in A L Mor­ton (1971), p23.
  7. I will ignore J C Dav­isFear, Myth and His­tory: The Ranters and the His­tor­i­ans (1986), which essen­tially argues that the Ranters were the inven­tion of Com­mun­ist agit­at­ors, as it is now, justly, widely dis­reg­arded. At the time of its pub­lic­a­tion, how­ever, the book had quite an impact, with Ken­neth Baker, Con­ser­vat­ive Min­is­ter of edu­ca­tion, telling the press in 1986 that it was his book of the year. Aca­dem­ic his­tor­ic­al debates do not hap­pen in a polit­ic­al vacuum.
  8. Kath­leen Raine, Blake and Tra­di­tion, Two Vols, Prin­ceton Uni­ver­sity Press, 1969.
  9. A L Mor­ton, The Ever­last­ing Gos­pel, ibid, p 123.
  10. E P Thompson, ibid, p xvii.
  11. E P Thompson, p xvi-xvii.
  12. E P Thompson, ibid, p xv.
  13. Abiez­er Coppe, Some Sweet Sips, of some Spir­itu­all Wine, sweetly and freely drop­ping from one cluster of Grapes, brought between two upon a Staffe from Spir­itu­all Canaan (1649), Smith, p 53.
  14. BlakeAnnota­tions to Thornton’s The Lord’s Pray­er, Erd­man, p 667.
  15. Jac­ob Boehme, The ‘Key’ of Jac­ob Boehme / The Clav­is: An Explan­a­tion of Some Prin­cip­al Points and Expres­sions in His Writ­ings (1624), Grand Raids: Phanes Press, 1991, p 15.
  16. Ari­el Hes­say­onFab­ric­at­ing Rad­ic­al Tra­di­tions, Gold­smiths Research Papers, p 1.
  17. A L Mor­ton, ‘The Ever­last­ing Gos­pel’, ibid, pp 122–3
  18. A L Mor­ton, ‘Reli­gion and the Polit­ics of the Eng­lish Revolu­tion’, Marx­ism Today, Decem­ber 1960, pp 371.
  19. A Jus­ti­fic­a­tion of the Mad Crew: In Their Wais and Prin­ciples: Or the Mad­nesse and Weak­nesse of God in Man Proved Wis­dom and Strength (1650), Nigel Smith (ed), A Col­lec­tion of Ranter Writ­ings: Spir­itu­al Liberty and Sexu­al Free­dom in the Eng­lish Revolu­tion, Lon­don: Pluto Press, 2014. Pos­sibly the author was Andrew Wyke: See Ari­el Hes­say­on, ibid, p 3.
  20. Smith, p 145.
  21. Blake, The Mar­riage of Heav­en and Hell, Erd­man, p 35.
  22. Blake, Vis­ions of the Daugh­ters of Albion, 5:3, Erd­man, p 48.
  23. Blake, The Mar­riage of Heav­en and Hell, pl 4, Erd­man, p 48.
  24. Blake, Let­ter to Thomas Butts, 22 Nov 1802, Erd­man, p 722.
  25. Smith, p 142.
  26. Smith, p 142.
  27. Smith, p 146.
  28. Smith, p 146.
  29. Blake, There is no Nat­ur­al Reli­gion (1788), Erd­man p 3.
  30. Wil­li­am Blake, ‘The Little Vag­a­bond’ 5–15, Songs of Exper­i­ence, in Erd­man, ibid, p 26.
  31. Smith, p 147.
  32. Wil­li­am Blake, A Vis­ion of the Last Judge­ment, Erd­man, p 534.
  33. Wil­li­am BlakeErd­man, p 535.
  34. Wil­li­am Blake, The Mar­riage of Heav­en and HellErd­man, p 45.
  35. Smith, p 148.
  36. Smith, p 148.
  37. Smith, p 151.
  38. Wil­li­am Blake, Let­ter to Thomas Butts, 22 Nov 1802, Erd­man, p 722.
  39. Wil­li­am Blake, Augur­ies of Inno­cence, ln 3–4, Erd­man, p 490.
  40. Wil­li­am Blake, A Vis­ion of the Last Judge­mentErd­man, p 555.
  41. Smith, p 149.
  42. Smith„ p 149.
  43. Smith, pp 150–1.
  44. Smith, pp 152.
  45. Smith, p 152.
  46. The Quaker his­tor­i­an Robert Barclay attacked the Ranters in his own con­greg­a­tion, arguing that their com­bin­a­tion of pan­the­ism and Chris­tian­ity would lead to the col­lapse of the Church. See Hes­say­on, ‘Fab­ric­at­ing Rad­ic­al Tra­di­tions’,  p 7.
  47. Smith, p 145.
  48. ibid.
  49. Blake, The Mar­riage of Heav­en and Hell, pl 16, Erd­man, p 40.
  50. Wil­li­am Blake, The Mar­riage of Heav­en and Hell, pl 6, Erd­man, p 35
  51. Wil­li­am Blake, The Fly, inSongs of Exper­i­ence, 40:5–9, Erd­man, p 23
  52. There are dif­fer­ent fla­vours of pan­psych­ism, depend­ing on which psych­ic qual­ity is believed to be ubiquitous—the divin­ity (pan­the­ism), voli­tion (pan­in­ten­tion­al­ism), exper­i­ence (pan­ex­per­i­en­tial­ism), and so on.
  53. Smith, ibid, is the most eas­ily avail­able col­lec­tion of Ranter sources, includ­ing pamph­lets by people such as Abiez­er Coppe, Laurence Clark­son and Jac­ob Bau­thum­ley, as well as A Jus­ti­fic­a­tion of the Mad Crew.
  54. Qur­an 50:16