Monday, October 15

an angel might come

The peculiar grace of a Shaker chair is due to the fact that it was made by someone capable of believing that an angel might come and sit on it. Indeed the Shakers believed their furniture was designed by angels— and [William] Blake believed his ideas for poems and engraving came from heavenly spirits...

"Imagination," for Blake, is the faculty by which man penetrates ultimate reality and religious mystery. It is completely distinct from "allegorical fantasy."

"I know that this world is a world of imagination and vision [wrote Blake in a letter] ...but everybody does not see alike. To the eyes of a miser a guinea is more beautiful than the sun, and a bag worn with the use of money has more beautiful proportions than a vine filled with grapes. The tree which moves some to tears of joy is in the eyes of others only a green thing that stands in the way. Some see nature all ridicule and deformity, and by these I shall not regulate my proportions, and some scarce see nature at all. But to the eyes of the man of imagination, nature is imagination itself. As a man is, so he sees. As the eye is formed, so are its powers... To me this world is all one continuous vision of fancy or imagination."

-- Thomas Merton, in his introduction to Religion in Wood: A Book of Shaker Furniture by Edward Deming Andrews

The Shakers of Pleasant Hill