AG at Naropa on William Blake (classroom discussion) continues from here
Student: What was the original question pertaining to the allegation that within the modern Christian lineage of thinking, or something like that, there’s been a view of God that’s been eliminated … a view of God that didn’t limit it to imagination. Was that the question? No?
AG: No. My question was, within, say modern above-ground so-called respectable religious groups or cults or practices – like people that have got churches in town here – is there any one that… Most think that there is a God outside our imagination. Is there any that thinks that God is just our imagination, if he exists?
Student: Well, (cause and..)
AG: And is there any which might be non-theistic, basically was my question. or see God as simply a conception rather than anything real outside of our conceptions?
Student: It seems to me there’s been a number of people who have done that (tho’ they haven’t built churches).
AG: No, I was asking if there was any big church that does that. I was just wondering if there were any church that acknowledged that (possibility), that has that particular insight. The Buddhists do, basically. Some Hindu schools do. I imagine the Quakers may have something like that.
Student: Unitarians at one time…
AG: Unitarians, yeah.
Student: Well, once you get that conception don’t you kind of lose …
Student (2)): Christianity, yeah.
Student: … you kind of lose the church. Doesn’t it kind of do away with the church?
AG: Well, I don’t know. In certain respects I thought that was a contention between myself and Dick (sic) here; maybe (I’m asking) whether there is such a conception and whether it’s something you can lose. But there is a conception of a central divine and whether it’s something you can lose in a healthy way, and then what happens. And I think what Dick is saying is that my conception is naive because within the tradition of Christianity, of course there’s this conception of God which is not the Jehovaic heavy-handed external machine, but something that’s human or a product of our minds and hearts.
AG: I think that was a confusion between our views.
Student: Yeah, you know, I think that there are pockets of Christianity that are alive. I think they’re rare enough, but….
AG: By and large you’re defining it as …
AG: …non-theistic? …
Student: Kind of.
AG: … or something like that?
Student: My magical imagination…
Student: …blew up when you said it was an inside or outside the human imagination.
Student: Because what kind of sphere is it that what’s inside and what’s outside is…
Student (3): It seems to me in the works of Dostoevsky… they don’t… I guess they maintain a theistic structure but there’s no emanation of the human imagination.
AG: In Dostoevsky? In later Dostoevsky people say there is some, and that he gets to be very reactionary and no longer admits hijinks.
Student (3): (As) a commentator on his own work …
Student (3): … but as an artist, he..
Student (4): There’s a tremendous irony, especially, like, in Crime and Punishment, in the earlier works, that you sort of need the … you need ( a sort of higher force) to control the imagination, where Raskolnikov thinks he’s the Superman and can just go ahead and control the world the way he wants, and you need this kind of higher force to keep you intact. I think there imagination (in that)
AG: But when Raskolnikov caves in at the end, in Siberia, he’s finally worshipping, dragging his body along, worshipping Jesus – a Jesus of mercy – very similar to Blake’s Jesus.
Student (4): I think each one of Dostoyevsky’s characters have to go through certain stages, and that’s what inspires the theme in the novel That’s why it’s such a work of the imagination, and (The) Brothers Karamazov, each one of the brothers have to learn a certain thing during the course of the story. And that’s what really the story’s about… So, whereas a person in a novel, may be an exemplar of the emanated imagination, they die out eventually because of that. That’s what it seems to me.
AG: Lets get on with the text.
Audio for the above can be heard here, beginning at approximately seventy-two-and-three-quarter minutes in and concluding at approximately seventy-seven-and-a-quarter minutes in.