Why a Quote from William Blake?

To See a World in a Grain of Sand is a quote from the poem Augeries of Innocence by William Blake, a theosophist and follower of Emanuel Swedenborg. I’m a Roman Catholic and the book is an effort to form a complete worldview from a perspective which I think to be Thomism updated to consider the vast piles of empirical knowledge which have accumulated since the 13th century. St. Thomas Aquinas was once labeled as being a better empirical thinker than modern empiricist philosophers — by the British philosopher Mary Midgley in her book Beast and Man.


In the Summa Contra Gentiles, St. Thomas noted:

  • As physical creatures, our knowledge even of God comes through our physical senses; and
  • Metaphysics uses the specific science, by which Aquinas meant any disciplined way of gathering and organizing knowledge.

As I interpret these insights in light of modern knowledge of the development of the human brain, that organ and the mind it supports, shapes itself in response to it immediate relationships, its interactions with the environments and the living creatures to which it is exposed. Sometimes, that brain and mind will get a chance to expand itself, becoming an encapsulation of the physical universe as a whole, even if that universe was often seen as a pagan Cosmos. With a great deal of luck, that brain and mind might even become an encapsulation of what I call the world, the universe seen in light of God’s purposes. When that happens, that lucky person has become an image of God in the sense of imitating, in a manner of speaking, the acts-of-being by which God brings created reality into existence from nothing and the further acts-of-being — of a narrative sort — by which God shapes that reality into a world.

When that happens, the person can see the world in a grain of sand, as Blake noted. He can also see Christ in each human being he meets.

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