Connecting People and Ideas in the Hearing Voices Movement

William Blake

William Blake (November 28, 1757 – August 12, 1827) was an English poet, visionary, painter, and printmaker. Largely unrecognized during his lifetime, Blake’s work is today considered seminal and significant in the history of both poetry and the visual arts. From a young age, William Blake claimed to have seen visions. The earliest instance occurred at the age of about eight or ten in Peckham Rye, London, when he reported seeing a tree filled with angels “bespangling every bough like stars.” According to Blake’s Victorian biographer Gilchrist, he returned home to report his vision, but only escaped being thrashed by his father through the intervention of his mother. Though all the evidence suggests that his parents were largely supportive, his mother seems to have been especially so, and several of Blake’s early drawings and poems decorated the walls of her chamber.

On another occasion, Blake watched haymakers at work, and thought he saw angelic figures walking among them. In later life, his wife Catherine would recall the time he saw God’s head “put to the window”. The vision, Catherine reminded her husband, “Set you ascreaming.”[25]

Blake claimed to experience visions throughout his life. They were often associated with beautiful religious themes and imagery, and therefore may have inspired him further with spiritual works and pursuits. Certainly, religious concepts and imagery figure centrally in Blake’s works. God and Christianity constituted the intellectual center of his writings, from which he drew inspiration. In addition, Blake believed that he was personally instructed and encouraged by Archangels to create his artistic works, which he claimed were actively read and enjoyed by those same Archangels.

In a letter to William Hayley, dated May 6, 1800, Blake writes:

I know that our deceased friends are more really with us than when they were apparent to our mortal part. Thirteen years ago I lost a brother, and with his spirit I converse daily and hourly in the spirit, and see him in my remembrance, in the region of my imagination. I hear his advice, and even now write from his dictate.

Intervoice was set up to support the International Hearing Voices Movement, celebrating the diversity and creativity within it. We do what we can to share information and connect people with groups, networks and resources.

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