Through the Gnostic Threshold: Analogical Space in Swedenborg and Blake

Date of Graduation

Fall 1992


Master of Arts in English



Committee Chair

James Baumlin


No one of Blake's poetic genius can have had only one source for inspiration, but too frequently the position of Swedenborg in Blake's thought is reduced by scholars to Blake's assumed parody of Swedenborg in his poem, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell. While the problem of this influence will be explored, I shall primarily argue that both men derived their inspiration, expressed individually, from a common source that I have designated as the "Gnostic threshold." While mystical insight itself cannot pass from master to disciple, the pathways for approaching and attaining that insight can be imparted, as we well know from the world's many mystical traditions. Furthermore, I find that the irruption of the Gnostic threshold into consciousness and one's passing mentally thereinto constitutes an entrance into an area that I call analogical space. Analogical space is, I believe, that occult (hidden) dimension from which issues all mystical, poetic, and artistic impulses in humankind. Although noumenal and tenous, it is nonetheless real to the visionary; so real, in fact, that those who inhabit it often, as did Swedenborg and Blake, return to tell us of its wonders and provide us with image-evoking written records of their visions. The objective reality of their visions is perhaps irrelevant to the Romantic spirit--for they provide us with what Wordsworth lauded as "Intimations of Immortality." We who stand in their presence can spend a few moments in the wonder, joy, and perhaps even terror, found through this threshold in spite of being within a mundane world that is, again in the language of Wordsworth, "too much with us; late and soon." Everyone feels at times the subtle stirring of that "place" beyond normal space that is analogical space. Gnosis is the key to heaven (and hell); we have but to find out how the mystics and poets turned the key to enter there ourselves. In this study, I will use the new, but ever-widening, theoretical school of Gnostic Criticism in order to make an approach into analogical space.

Subject Categories

English Language and Literature


© Andrew William Smith