In 1948, when he was in his early twenties, Allen Ginsberg, one of the leading figures of the Beat Generation, experienced a spiritual awakening. He was in his Harlem apartment, reading William Blake’s poem Ah! Sun-flower, when he heard what he thought was the voice of God. Days later, Ginsberg re-interpreted the voice as that of Blake himself. Ginsberg said he wasn’t stoned when he was reading Blake but was instead having some…’alone time’. The sensation he felt lasted several days. Ginsberg believed that he had observed the interconnections of the universe. When he looked out window at the bright blue sky, he came to see that when the sky had been created, it was the sky itself that did the creating. He now saw the world through new eyes. Ginsberg writes,
“But the spirit of the universe was what I was born to realise […] my body suddenly felt light, and a sense of cosmic consciousness, vibrations, understanding, awe, and wonder and surprise. And it was a sudden awakening into a totally deeper universe than I’d been existing in”.
Spiritual teacher, Eckhart Tolle proposes that when reading, if you come across a passage that makes you have a powerful reaction, what you are feeling is your own spiritual power, that is to say who you are in your essence – “Only spirit can recognise spirit”. Ginsberg had a resonation with something that was buried deep down inside of him that Blake’s words triggered. This is Ginsberg’s `AHA!’ moment. Ginsberg’s consciousness recognised the consciousness of Blake’s message in his poem Ah! Sun-flower.
IN 1970, Ginsberg released an album of Blake’s poetry set to music named Songs of Innocence and Experience after the book of illustrated collection of poems by Blake.
Blake, an English Romantic and Ginsberg, a gay poet from New Jersey, both motivate the reader to think and feel more deeply in a way that goes beyond the words on a page.