What Safety Can Learn from William Blake
The Social Psychology of Risk is interested in poetics (the study of linguistics and literature) and mimetics (the enactment of imitation). When one is interested in the nature of the unconscious and how humans make decisions one moves away from positivist/empiricist approaches to knowledge and looks at a broader approach to understanding decision making.
One of the truisms of the music, dance, poetry and arts scene is the commonality of psychedelics and accessing the unconscious (Hill, ‘Confrontation with the Unconscious’). A study of 19th Century literature and art reveals that opium influenced the creative and imaginative spirit of many thinkers, philosophers, poets, musicians and artists (https://www.bl.uk/romantics-and-victorians/articles /representations-of-drugs-in-19th-century-literature; https://www.worldcrunch.com/culture-society/ under-the-influence-tracing-a-long-twisted-history-of-artists-and-their-drugs ). Much of the creative and imaginative work of the likes of: Dickens, Coleridge, Browning, Van Gogh, Warhol, Pollock, Led Zepplin, The Beatles and Rolling Stones was drug induced by accessing the unconscious. And BTW, you don’t have to have more than a few milligrams in the body system to generate visions, dreams, hallucinations and creative ideas.
There are some of course who have visions, dreams and an imagination that doesn’t require psychotic drugs to enact the imagination and creativity. There is no record of either Jung or Blake having taken drugs to induce dreams or visions.
Now before I venture too much further let me say that this blog in no way advocates the taking of psychedelics. What I do want to point out is that even the slightest chemical imbalance in the body can trigger the unconscious to see things beyond conscious control, and lead to practical outworking of decisions and judgments.
Whilst I can’t comment on the music scene today, it was clear in the 1970s that much of the creative spirit in music came not from the conscious mind but the unconscious mind (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Drug_use_in_music).
It is interesting in safety literature that there is very little interest in the nature of consciousness, the unconscious or the collective unconscious. The assumption is that safety is all about Scientism, Behaviourism, Cognitvism and Dataism. Human decision making is therefore all about right programming and un-safety then becomes a ‘choice you make’.
Every time I undertake workshops in tackling risk I introduce the nature of human decision making through the One Brain Three Minds concept (https://vimeo.com/156926212; https://vimeo.com/106770292). Unless safety tackles the issue of consciousness it will never understand the nature of the wayward mind and complacency. Claxton’s work (‘The Wayward Mind’, ‘Hare Brain Tortoise Mind’ and ‘Intelligence in the Flesh’) ought to be mandated reading for any safety curriculum, of course its not.
In literature William Blake is the professor of the Wayward Mind. At the age of 9 years he was already seeing visions of angels and demons. His art and poetry is a kaleidoscope of the human methods of dehumanizing itself. He was born in 1757 he saw the best and worst of the industrial revolution in England. His poetics testifies to his vision/prophetics for humanizing his society and the battle of good against evil and, the problem of innocence and naivety. Much of his work is freely downloadable:
It’s amazing that the safety industry is bedeviled by the wayward mind and the issue of complacency but has no interest in the challenges of consciousness.
In a previous life I taught High School and University Literature/English and it’s enlightening what we can learn from the classics likes of Blake, Shakespeare, Dickens and T.S Elliot. Whilst we don’t have to experience visions like Blake, or take psychdedelics like the Beatles, it would be good if just a sceric of safety would be interested in creativity, discovery, learning and the imagination.
The curses of Behaviourism (https://safetyrisk.net/the-curse-of-behaviourism/ ), Cognitvism (https://safetyrisk.net/the-curse-of-cognitivism/) and Dataism (https://safetyrisk.net/the-curse-of-dataism/ ) simply help bog down Safety in more of the same and few have any vision of a way out. Instead, the industry seems preoccupied with spin and marketing and nothing changes. When your only worldview is ‘safety is a choice you make’ and regulatory capture, you are intellectually and humanly bankrupt. When the only way forward in safety is the denial of fallibility then safety can never be humanized.