"A World Which is a Living Poem": Blakean Traces in Daniil Andreev's Mythopoetics

Alexei Bogdanov, University of Colorado

Daniil Andreev never got a chance to read and appreciate William Blake. However, Blake's visionary poetry constitutes an important link between Andreev and Dante, with whom the Russian poet is frequently compared. The Blakean traces permeate the atmosphere of symbolism that Andreev breathed in his formative years. This paper explores the similarities and differences between the two visionaries, emphasizing the peculiarities of Andreev's mythopoetics that make his cosmology and imagery more complex and simultaneously more comprehensible to the contemporary reader than Blake's—while both retain the status of "living poems," as opposed to the scholastic kind of mysticism practiced by Swedenborg, the object of Blake's ridicule.

Antoine Faivre's definition of theosophy as "a kind of theology of the image" and Baxtin's theory of dialogue are used to create a theoretical framework for a comparative analysis that demonstrates Andreev's affinity with Blake. At the same time, the teleological aspect of Andreev's visionary undertaking—his notion of the Rose of the World—reunites him (and, implicitly, Blake) with Swedenborg, the proponent of the Universal Church. What was needed after Swedenborg was an emancipation of the individual psyche, a vaccine of poetic liberty that could preserve the sense of the divine in the sensuous terrestrial environment. Blake, Swedenborg's rebellious disciple, was the one to accomplish that task, and Andreev was to continue his work of poetic representation of the Absolute, making necessary adjustments prompted by his own discoveries and by his scientific age. The latter, for example, made it appropriate for Andreev to employ the Swedenborgian semi-academic style in his cosmological treatise.

The arguments presented in this paper are interrelated. First, the theosophical (artistic) way to the educational objective of a herald proves to be more effective than revelatory didacticism. The poet's readers are invited to follow the extensions of his symbolic reality in their own spiritual depths, which creates a profoundly spiritual dialogue, i.e. involves a responsible act (postupok) on the reader's part and is thus conducive to moral betterment. Second, notwithstanding Swedenborg's monologism, his truly ecumenical—in the Solovyovan sense—orientation provides for a strong axiological and teleological alliance between the Swedish and the Russian mystics. By combining the Swedenborgian teleology with the Blakean principle of inspired imagination, Andreev avoided the extremes of mystical scholasticism and mystical individualism and thus managed to reach his goal of a herald: spiritual enlightenment of his fellow humans.