Dante, Blake and the Revelation of Unity

This is an excerpt from one of the presentations featured in the Pari Center’s event Seizing the Underlying Unity of Science, Arts and the Sacred, in Pari from August 29 to September 5, 2023.

with Mark Vernon

Unity has become a problem in our times. It is not hard to find people who argue that “no man is an island”, to recall the words of John Donne, or that there are intimate links between the sciences and the arts: “imagination is more important than knowledge,” wrote Albert Einstein, because imagination brings over the horizon more that we might be able to understood. What has gone missing, though, is where the one and the many, the arts and the sciences, come from and where they might lead. Dante and William Blake explored this wellspring, which is also the point of return. In the Divine Comedy, Dante sees how the more the individual becomes all they might be, the more they connect with everything else that is. In his poetry and art, William Blake discovers that the “arrows of the intellect” all flow from the Absolute. We have lost what Ibn ‘Arabi called “the oneness of being”, which allows for diversity, indeed rejoices in diversity, because each person and activity is known as a reflection or echo of the One. Dante and Blake are writers who can help us see as well as affirm the truth that lies beneath and within all things.

Mark Vernon is a writer and psychotherapist. He contributes to and presents programmes on the radio, as well as writing for the national and religious press, and online publications. He also podcasts, in particular The Sheldrake-Vernon Dialogues with Rupert Sheldrake, gives talks and leads workshops. He has a PhD in ancient Greek philosophy, and other degrees in physics and in theology, having studied at Durham, Oxford and Warwick universities. He is the author of several books, including A Secret History of Christianity: Jesus, the Last Inkling and the Evolution of Consciousness which in part explores the work of Owen Barfield, and Dante’s Divine Comedy: A Guide for the Spiritual Journey. He used to be an Anglican priest and lives in London, UK. Mark’s latest book is Spiritual Intelligence in Seven Steps. For more information see www.markvernon.com.