Monday, February 28, 2011
 Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind, and said,
 Who is this that darkeneth counsel by words without knowledge?
 Gird up now thy loins like a man; for I will demand of thee, and answer thou me.
 Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? declare, if thou hast understanding.
 Who hath laid the measures thereof, if thou knowest? or who hath stretched the line upon it?
 Whereupon are the foundations thereof fastened? or who laid the corner stone thereof;
 When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?
 Or who shut up the sea with doors, when it brake forth, as if it had issued out of the womb?
Job Confessing his Presumption to God who Answers from the Whirlwind, 1803-1805, National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh.
 Then Job answered the LORD, and said,
 I know that thou canst do every thing, and that no thought can be withholden from thee.
 Who is he that hideth counsel without knowledge? therefore have I uttered that I understood not; things too wonderful for me, which I knew not.
 Hear, I beseech thee, and I will speak: I will demand of thee, and declare thou unto me.
 I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth thee.
 Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.
Thomas Butts followed up his commission for the biblical series with a request for a series of watercolors on the Book of Job. (1805-06) This set of images was copied by Blake 15 years later for John Linnell (1821). From the paintings a set of engravings, Illustrations to the Book of Job, was conceived by John Linnell as well. Blake began work on them in 1823 and they were printed by an conventional printer in the quantity of 150 sets in 1726. They represented the final project completed by Blake before his death in the next year.
Martin Butlin in the Tate publication William Blake, (page 98) states:
"In the last stage of the evolution of the designs, in some cases literally as they were being engraved, Blake added marginal designs with their texts which stress and add further subtleties to his own personal interpretation. The prints show Blake's engraving techniques at their height with a technical subtlety that that matches the richer and more sophisticated finish of his late paintings in tempera and watercolor."
Milton Klonsky in William Blake: The Seer and His Visions (page 131) writes:
"The quotations from Job and the outline engravings in the margins were added by Blake only after the illustrations themselves were completed. 'This decision,' declares Ruthven Todd, 'turned the series from just an important part of his life's work into a creation of almost unique grandeur.'"
The culmination of Blake's long association with the Book of Job, as he responded to the message of Job and interpreted it in visual images, was fitly climaxed by the publication of these 22 images.
Sunday, February 27, 2011
Two ideas occur repeatedly in this blog:
& Throughout all Eternity(Erdman 475-77)
I forgive you you forgive me
As our dear Redeemer said
This the Wine & this the Bread
1. The Spectre
The epigram combines these two ideas into a whole.
For years I used to think that in those four lines Blake was
addressing God. But in the Silence of early morning,
reading the poem as a whole the vision came that he wasn't
addressing God at all; he was addressing the Spectre.The
entire poem represents a conversation with the Spectre.
What Spectre? His Spectre! Not the universal devil, but his
personal devil, all of the 'worldly stuff' that kept him from
the visionary consciousness that he loved. Just any little old thing
will keep you from God. Your Spectre tries desperately to
keep your attention on 'his stuff', not God's Kingdom, not
God's will, but on anything else: your financial account, your
golfing game, your romantic life; whatever he can get you to
focus on instead of God: all your prejudices, all your holding
things against people (including yourself), lust instead of
This is the idea that came to our hero when he visited the
Truchsessian Gallery: I don't need all this getting ahead
stuff, this feeding of my ego. I'm okay; I'm God's child. He
realized that he was in God's hands, and he was all right.
Self control; no more worrying; perhaps he met Buddha.
Errors were no longer necessary, and a Last Judgement
passed upon him:
"What are all the Gifts of the Spirit but Mental Gifts
whenever any Individual Rejects Error & Embraces Truth
a Last Judgment passes upon that Individual"
(A Vision of the Last Judgment at page 562)
What is rejecting Errors and embracing Truth, but forgiving
and being forgiven. That's the wine and the bread. Jesus, the
'forgiveness' was the central element in Blake's Faith.
Saturday, February 26, 2011
[Prospectus], (E 692)
"The Labours of the Artist, the Poet, the Musician, have been proverbially attended by poverty and obscurity; this was never the fault of the Public, but was owing to a neglect of means to propagate such works as have wholly absorbed the Man of Genius. Even Milton and Shakespeare could not publish their own works.
This difficulty has been obviated by the Author of the following productions now presented to the Public; who has invented a method of Printing both Letter-press and Engraving in a style more ornamental, uniform, and grand, than any before discovered, while it produces works at less than one fourth of the expense.
If a method of Printing which combines the Painter and the Poet is a phenomenon worthy of public attention, provided that it exceeds in elegance all former methods, the Author is sure of his reward.
Mr. Blake's powers of invention very early engaged the attention of many persons of eminence and fortune; by whose means he has been regularly enabled to bring before the Public works (he is not afraid to say) of equal magnitude and consequence with the productions of any age or country: among which are two large highly finished engravings (and two more are nearly ready) which will commence a Series of subjects from the Bible, and another from the History of England.
The following are the Subjects of the several Works now
published and on Sale at Mr. Blake's, No. 13, Hercules Buildings,
1. Job, a Historical Engraving. Size 1 ft.7 1/2 in. by 1ft. 2 in.: price 12 s.
2. Edward and Elinor, a Historical Engraving. Size 1 ft. 6 1/2 in. by 1 ft.: price 10s. 6d.
3. America, a Prophecy, in Illuminated Printing. Folio, with 18 designs: price 10s. 6d.
4. Visions of the Daughters of Albion, in Illuminated Printing. Folio, with 8 designs, price 7s. 6d.
5. The Book of Thel, a Poem in Illuminated Printing. Quarto, with 6 designs, price 3s.
6. The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, in Illuminated Printing. Quarto, with 14 designs, price 7s. 6d.
7. Songs of Innocence, in Illuminated Printing. Octavo, with 25 designs, price 5s.
8. Songs of Experience, in Illuminated Printing. Octavo, with 25 designs, price 5s.
9. The History of England, a small book of Engravings. Price 3s.
10. The Gates of Paradise, a small book of Engravings. Price 3s.
The Illuminated Books are Printed in Colours, and on the most beautiful wove paper that could be procured,
No Subscriptions for the numerous great works now in hand are asked, for none are wanted; but the Author will produce his works, and offer them to sale at a fair price."
Tiriel led by Hela
Not included in list of items for sale are his two initial books All Religions are One and There is No Natural Religion which were his first experiments with illuminated manuscripts, and Tiriel his first prophetic manuscript for which he made illustrations which were never engraved.
Blake was ambitious and energetic in devising a way to combine his text and images, in originating new ways to print the materials he was inventing, and in producing books and paintings to sell to the public. His willingness to produce works with popular appeal was limited. His advertising strategy seems to have been unproductive. Failure to produce enough income to continue his artistic pursuits contributed to his decision to leave Lambeth and move to Felpham under the patronage of Hayley which he did in 1800.
Friday, February 25, 2011
"...I rest not from my great task!
To open the Eternal Worlds, to open the immortal Eyes Of Man inwards into the Worlds of Thought, into Eternity
Ever expanding in the Bosom of God, the Human Imagination."
(Jerusalem Plate 5: line 17ff)
- Seek love in the pity of another's woe,
In the gentle relief of another's care,
In the darkness of night and the winter's snow.
In the naked and outcast, seek love there. (William Bond)
The most striking tenet of Blake's faith was his vision of the Eternal; it was also his primary gift to mankind. Blake lived in an age when the realm of spirit had virtually disappeared from the intellectual horizon. This single fact explains why he stood out like a sore thumb in late 18th Century England and why for most of his contemporaries he could never be more than an irritant, an eccentric, a madman; their most common term of depreciation was 'enthusiast'. His primary concern was a world whose existence they not only denied, but held in derision.
The task of the Enlightenment had been to emancipate man from superstition, and Voltaire, Gibbon, and their associates had done this with great distinction. Blake was born emancipated, but he knew that closed off from Vision, from the individuality of Genius, from the spontaneous spiritual dimension, from what Jesus had called the kingdom of God, mankind will regress to a level beneath the human. In his prophetic writings he predicted 1940 and its aftermath. "Where there is no vision, the people perish" (Proverbs 29:19).
Blake was blessed with vision from his earliest days; his visions were immediate and concrete. He found the eternal inward worlds of thought more real than the objective nature exalted by John Locke and Joshua Reynolds. Their depreciation of vision, genius, the Eternal never failed to infuriate Blake. This fury strongly colored his work and often threatened to overwhelm it. It also led to his deprecatory view of Nature, which was their God. He wrote, "There is no natural religion".
Blake perceived the five senses as "the chief inlets of Soul in this age" (MHH plate 4). The rationalists had imposed upon their world the view that life consists exclusively of the five senses. Blake knew better:
"How do you know but ev'ry Bird that cuts the airy way, Is an immense world of delight, clos'd by your senses five?" (MHH plate 7)
Blake was keenly alive to another world, a world of Vision, of Imagination, of God, which he called the Eternal; it was a world that most of his contemporaries had deliberately closed their minds to. He spent his life furiously trying to strike off their mind forged manacles.
The man of faith believes some things; other things he knows by experience. Blake had experienced the Eternal from earliest childhood. At times the vision clouded, but its reality remained the one unshakeable tenet of his faith.
Every child begins in Eternity. Jesus said, "Except you become as little children...."
Blake knew this better than anyone since Jesus, or maybe anyone since Francis. He knew it because by a providential dispensation of grace the child in Blake remained alive throughout his life. At the age of 34 he wrote those beautiful 'Songs of Innocence', his "happy songs Every child may joy to hear". 'Songs of Innocence' hooked a great many people on Blake originally: transparent goodness transcribed into black type on white paper--somewhat beyond Locke's tabula rasa.
If life were only like that. If Blake were only like that, he'd have an assured place as one of England's best loved poets, a beloved impractical idealist and a threat to no one. But in 'Songs of Experience' he began to express a more complex reality. 'The Marriage of Heaven and Hell'
represents a healthy beginning in working out the complexities. They have to be worked out, every minute particular in the corrosive burning flame of thought, etching away the surfaces, getting down to bedrock.
Most of us have refused Blake and his Eternal because we don't want to be bothered with reality; we don't want to take the trouble. We're content with the little sub-realities that inform our lives and values, the simple half truths and prejudices which we call the real world.Blake wrote, etched, painted, sang his visions of Eternity throughout a long life time. In order to learn we systematize his visions as they address and relate to the general constructs of Christian theology. That enterprise of course violates the spirit of his creative genius, which refused systematization. Nevertheless we systematize in the hope that a coherent picture of his faith may emerge and lead the faithful reader to an encounter with the original, organized in Blake's own inimitable style.
Thursday, February 24, 2011
Image from Jerusalem, Plate 26,
Hand as the Reasoning Spectre and Jerusalem as Liberty
Marriage of Heaven and Hell, Plate 3, (E 34)
"Without Contraries is no progression. Attraction and
Repulsion, Reason and Energy, Love and Hate, are necessary to
From these contraries spring what the religious call Good &
Evil. Good is the passive that obeys Reason[.] Evil is the active
springing from Energy.
Good is Heaven. Evil is Hell."
Carl Jung focused attention on reconciling opposites within the process of individuation. He is quoted here in Claire Dunne's book Carl Jung: Wounded Healer of the Soul. (Page 89)
"By bearing the opposites we can expose ourselves to life in our humanity... We have to realize the evil is in us; we have to risk life to get into life, then it takes on color, otherwise we might as well read a book....
The opus consists of three parts; insight, endurance and action. It is conflicts of duty that make endurance and action so difficult. The one must exist and so must the other. There is no resolution, only patient endurance of the opposites, which ultimately spring from your own nature. You yourself are a conflict that rages in and against itself in order to melt its incompatible substances, the male and female, in the fire of suffering and thus create that fixed and unalterable form which is the goal of life.... We are crucified between the opposites and delivered up to the torture until the reconciling third takes shape." (from letter to Olga Forbe-Kapteyn)
The 'reconciling third' that appears in the innermost nucleus of the psyche, the organizing center that includes the ego but is not defined by it, a transpersonal, transcendent reality that Jung called the Self. The encounter with the Self is a centering which brings about a completion of the individuation process.
... Whatever the symbol, its meaning is wholeness, totality."
To Blake this 'reconciling third' was the realization that 'Contraries mutually exist'; that neither side of the coin could be negated or eliminated. 'Negations' (like hindering) had no life of their own but sucked life from what they attempted to suppress. Blake named several 'negations' in this passage; he could have lumped them together into the Spectre. To give the Spectre an external existence gives it power. To recognize it as part of oneself sets one free from its dominion and frees the contraries to be part of a totality.
Jerusalem, Plate 17, (E 161)
"Negations are not Contraries: Contraries mutually Exist:
But Negations Exist Not: Exceptions & Objections & Unbeliefs
Exist not: nor shall they ever be Organized for ever & ever:
If thou separate from me, thou art a Negation: a meer
Reasoning & Derogation from Me, an Objecting & cruel Spite
And Malice & Envy: but my Emanation, Alas! will become
My Contrary: O thou Negation, I will continually compell
Thee to be invisible to any but whom I please, & when
And where & how I please, and never! never! shalt thou be
But as a distorted & reversed Reflexion in the Darkness
And in the Non Entity: nor shall that which is above
Ever descend into thee: but thou shalt be a Non Entity for ever "
ANOTHER POST ON CONTRARIES
Wednesday, February 23, 2011
I know few (if any) ordained ministers who 'have any time for' William Blake; yet he was such a religious man! He proposed an alternative to the sterile polity of the established church of his day (and also for ours, using the word 'established' in a very general sense.
Ordained ministers, generally speaking, represent what we have called here, the established church, be they Catholic priests or Pentecostal preachers. At best they must consider Blake's religious ideas a threat; hence they're most apt to studiously avoid them.
But a few Blakeans have found Blake's religious ideas creative, even life giving.
"Everything that lives is holy" (end of MHH). That represents Blake's faith in a nutshell.
There were no sinners in Blake's world (which should please Quakers). Like many Quakers Blake's God was an immanent one, not an old gentleman sitting on a throne in the sky. As Quakers say, there is that of God in you (and me, and Everyman.)
Blake was in essence a Christian Universalist, although he likely would have denied the term. he believed that Everyman would work through his errors (not sins) in the end (whatever the end might be).
All of this may lead one to understand why the very religious William Blake was so uniformly ignored by the clergy, and so enthusiastically accepted by many of the alternative culture. The 'flower children' of the sixties greeted Blake with joy (and perhaps unfortunately took up his sexual ideas too enthusiastically, leading to much suffering over the long haul).
You may want to move on at this point to Blake's Faith.
Tuesday, February 22, 2011
We see in this passage that Orc and the Shadowy Female had drawn Urizen down into Generation where he entered the state Satan, the state which is opaque to the vision of the infinite. Enitharmon, her heart touched by the situation, visited the material world which was developing but returned to Los and Eternity at will.
The Female Space if it becomes created, rather than remaining a possibility, withers the perceptive abilities exercised in Eternity to the five limited senses through which only a fraction of Eternity is perceptible. The Female (material) Space appears infinite to itself although it is less than a speck compared to Eternity.
Satan brings the space into being and it becomes Canaan (an image of the ideal) the training ground for the return to Eternity.
Milton, PLATE 10 , (E 104)
"Then Los & Enitharmon knew that Satan is Urizen
Drawn down by Orc & the Shadowy Female into Generation
Oft Enitharmon enterd weeping into the Space, there appearing
An aged Woman raving along the Streets (the Space is named
Canaan) then she returnd to Los weary frighted as from dreams
The nature of a Female Space is this: it shrinks the Organs
Of Life till they become Finite & Itself seems Infinite.
And Satan vibrated in the immensity of the Space! Limited
To those without but Infinite to those within: it fell down and
Became Canaan: closing Los from Eternity in Albions Cliffs
A mighty Fiend against the Divine Humanity mustring to War"
The world of generation has been set in motion and humanity has been granted free will to fall or rise according to his limited perceptions of his light of truth.
Jerusalem, Plate 13, ( E 156)
(But whatever is visible to the Generated Man,
Is a Creation of mercy & love, from the Satanic Void.)
Jerusalem, Plate 42, (E 189)
"There is a limit of Opakeness, and a limit of Contraction;
In every Individual Man, and the limit of Opakeness,
Is named Satan: and the limit of Contraction is named Adam.
But when Man sleeps in Beulah, the Saviour in mercy takes
Contractions Limit, and of the Limit he forms Woman: That
Himself may in process of time be born Man to redeem"
Included in the merciful agenda to return man to Eternity, Eve is formed from Adam, the one becomes two. Duality becomes manifest in the flesh as man and woman. But the world of generation initiated by Adam and Eve would lead to the birth of Jesus the incarnation, spirit and flesh reunited.
Monday, February 21, 2011
The Human Abstract ends with this quatrain:
"The Gods of the earth and sea
Sought thro' Nature to find this tree
But their search was all in vain:
There grows one in the Human Brain"
The Genesis Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil! Let's explore this theme for a bit: The Blake Concordance shows 12 occurrences of the Tree of Mystery:
1. In the Book of Ahania,PLATE 4:
"from the dismal shade
The Tree still grows over the Void
Enrooting itself all around
An endless labyrinth of woe!
The corse of his first begotten
On the accursed Tree of MYSTERY
Look at those last two lines; do you understand what he's saying?
The Book of Ahania is worth studying, but we might presume
the implication to be that Jesus was crucified on the Tree of
Mystery, equivalent to the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.
(That idea is worth some serious thought.)
The other ll occurrences all appear in The Four Zoas:
Occurrences 2-6 come in Night VIIa:
2. "Los sat in showers of Urizen watching cold Enitharmon
His broodings rush down to his feet producing Eggs that hatching
Burst forth upon the winds above the tree of Mystery
Enitharmon lay on his knees. Urizen tracd his Verses
In the dark deep the dark tree grew. her shadow was drawn down
Down to the roots it wept over Orc....."
3 and 4: "Thus Los lamented in the night unheard by Enitharmon
For the Shadow of Enitharmon descended down the tree of Mystery
The Spectre saw the Shade Shivering over his gloomy rocks
Beneath the tree of Mystery which in the dismal Abyss
Began to blossom in fierce pain shooting its writhing buds
In throes of birth & now the blossoms falling shining fruit"
The shining fruit of course corresponds to the fatal 'apple' Eve ate (first).
5 continues the above:
"Appeard of many colours & of various poisonous qualities
Of Plagues hidden in shining globes that grew on the living tree
The Spectre of Urthona saw the Shadow of Enitharmon
Beneath the Tree of Mystery among the leaves & fruit
6: "She burst the Gates of Enitharmons heart with direful Crash
Nor could they ever be closd again the golden hinges were broken
And the gates broke in sunder & their ornaments defacd
Beneath the tree of Mystery for the immortal shadow shuddering
Brought forth this wonder horrible a Cloud she grew & grew
Till many of the dead burst forth from the bottoms of their tombs
In male forms without female counterparts or Emanations
Cruel and ravening with Enmity & Hatred & War
In dreams of Ulro dark delusive drawn by the lovely shadow"
Your first question might well be 'who is she?'. To answer that you need to read Erdman 359-60, pages 84 and 85 of the First Night. You may then be even more confused, as I am here. You may note the mention of the 'delightful Tree by the Spectre...in Every Man insane brutish, etc.
7. In Night VIIb (says the Concordance) we have
"She joyd in all the Conflict Gratified & drinking tears of woe
No more remaind of Orc but the Serpent round the tree of Mystery
The form of Orc was gone he reard his serpent bulk among
The stars of Urizen in Power rending the form of life
Into a formless indefinite & strewing her on the Abyss
Like clouds upon the winter sky broken with winds & thunders
This was to her Supreme delight The Warriors mournd disappointed
They go out to war with Strong Shouts & loud Clarions O Pity
They return with lamentations mourning & weeping"
Would you believe that Blake is telling us where the serpent came from, the horrid creature who played such a frightful role in the biblical Fall. That is (at the least) his visionary conclusion.
If you're sufficiently confused now (as I am!) you (we) had best study the pages in Night VII of 4Z, namely Erdman 356-367; but it probably pay off more to study the following occurrences ("If the fool would persist in his folly he would become wise" MHH Plate 7; E36):
8 "And all the Songs of Beulah sounded comfortable notes
Not suffring doubt to rise up from the Clouds of the Shadowy Female
Then myriads of the Dead burst thro the bottoms of their tombs
Descending on the shadowy females clouds in Spectrous terror
Beyond the Limit of Translucence on the Lake of Udan Adan
These they namd Satans & in the Aggregate they namd them Satan
(Well in Blake's visionary world here's where Satan came from. For Blake Satan was never anything but a State, never a person.)
Then took the tree of Mystery root in the World of Los
Its topmost boughs shooting a fibre beneath Enitharmons couch
The double rooted Labyrinth soon wavd around their heads
But then the Spectre enterd Los's bosom"
Here in Occurrence 9 is a critical passage I've quoted it
at length, and you might do well to study pages 375-6 at length:
"Urizen heard the Voice & saw the Shadow. underneath
His woven darkness & in laws & deceitful religions
Beginning at the tree of Mystery circling its root
She spread herself thro all the branches in the power of Orc
A shapeless & indefinite cloud in tears of sorrow incessant
Steeping the Direful Web of Religion swagging heavy it fell
From heaven to heavn thro all its meshes altering the Vortexes
Misplacing every Center hungry desire & lust began
- 375 -
Gathering the fruit of that Mysterious tree till Urizen
Sitting within his temple furious felt the num[b]ing stupor
Himself tangled in his own net in sorrow lust repentance
Enitharmon wove in tears Singing Songs of Lamentations
And pitying comfort as she sighd forth on the wind the spectres
And wove them bodies calling them her belovd sons & daughters
Employing the daughters in her looms & Los employd the Sons
In Golgonoozas Furnaces among the Anvils of time & space
Thus forming a Vast family wondrous in beauty & love
And they appeard a Universal female form created
From those who were dead in Ulro from the Spectres of the dead"
10 "For this Lake is formd from the tears & sighs & death sweat of
Of Urizens laws. to irrigate the roots of the tree of Mystery
They unweave the soft threads then they weave them anew in the
Of dark death & despair & none from Eternity to Eternity could
But thou O Universal Humanity who is One Man blessed for Ever
Recievest the Integuments woven Rahab beholds the Lamb of God"
11 "Thus was the Lamb of God condemnd to Death
They naild him upon the tree of Mystery weeping over him
And then mocking & then worshipping calling him Lord & King
Sometimes as twelve daughters lovely & sometimes as five
They stood in beaming beauty & sometimes as one even Rahab
Who is Mystery Babylon the Great the Mother of Harlots
Jerusalem saw the Body dead upon the Cross She fled away
Saying Is this Eternal Death Where shall I hide from Death
Pity me Los pity me Urizen & let us build
A Sepulcher & worship Death in fear while yet we live
Death! God of All from whom we rise to whom we all return
And Let all Nations of the Earth worship at the Sepulcher
With Gifts & Spices with lamps rich embossd jewels & gold
Los took the Body from the Cross Jerusalem weeping over
They bore it to the Sepulcher which Los had hewn in the rock
Of Eternity for himself he hewd it despairing of Life Eternal"
12 "In the fierce flames the limbs of Mystery lay consuming with
And deep despair. Rattling go up the flames around the Synagogue
Of Satan Loud the Serpent Orc ragd thro his twenty Seven
Folds. The tree of Mystery went up in folding flames
Blood issud out in mighty volumes pouring in whirlpools fierce
From out the flood gates of the Sky The Gates are burst down pour
The torrents black upon the Earth the blood pours down incessant
Kings in their palaces lie drownd"
(4Z Night 9; Erdman 388)
Blake has come to end of his Myth; it is the Apocalypse,
the Parousia, the Second Coming, whatever you will.
It'important to realize that Blake is thinking psychologically
and poetically. If you take it literally it likely seems
grotesque. It's about Blake's life, his destiny, mine and yours
as well. These figures are mental constructs, not prophecies
or future events.
After completing The Four Zoas Blake moved on to the use of other
metaphors. The Tree of Mystery is heard no longer; we might
wonder why; did his theology change to the point where it no
longer seemed as appropriate?
Actually the Tree is heard often, sometimes as the 'Tree of Life',
sometimes as the Tree of Knowledge, etc. In Jerusalem 28.17ff; E174:
"The Tree spread over him its cold shadows, (Albion groand)", and
many other times. Use the Concordance to research tree, and you'll
likely find lots of places where the Tree (obviously of Mystery) occurs.
With familiarity with Blake's use of the word you may read his poetry
more creatively that you could before.
Sunday, February 20, 2011
Four Zoas, Page 21, (E 310)
Then those in Great Eternity met in the Council of God
As one Man for contracting their Exalted Sense
They behold Multitude or Expanding they behold as one
As One Man all the Universal family & that one Man
They call Jesus the Christ & they in him & he in them
Live in Perfect harmony in Eden the land of life
Consulting as One Man above the Mountain of Snowdon Sublime
Jerusalem, Plate 88, (E 246)
"When in Eternity Man converses with Man they enter
Into each others Bosom (which are Universes of delight)
In mutual interchange. and first their Emanations meet
Surrounded by their Children. if they embrace & comingle
The Human Four-fold Forms mingle also in thunders of Intellect
But if the Emanations mingle not; with storms & agitations
Of earthquakes & consuming fires they roll apart in fear
For Man cannot unite with Man but by their Emanations
Which stand both Male & Female at the Gates of each Humanity"
In her book of essays on the basis of poetic expression, Defending Ancient Springs, Kathleen Raine looks for the common sources which illumine the poets. In this passage Raine in speaking of the collective unconscious which can speak to us in dreams and visions connecting our minds through the image world which we all share. (Page 114)
"Jung came nearer than did Freud to the traditional doctrine, as taught by those alchemists, Gnostics, and neo-Platonists whom he himself took for masters; for he realized that dreams do not conceal as embody meaning, and that this comes from their source within the psyche - or beyond it - normally inaccessible to the waking mind. Not all dreams come from the same level; and besides the personal elements recognized by Freud, Jung, was led to believe in what he calls a 'collective unconscious' because it is so as a rule, though at times accessible to consciousness. This is the ancient anima mundi, the soul of the world, whose images at times, waking or in dreams, we behold with amazement, so beautiful and so fraught with meaning do these appear. Because this world is not personal but common to all, its symbols are intrinsically intelligible as Freud's symbols from the personal unconscious are not.
The symbolic images come , of necessity, from the perceptible world; for this world is, in the nature of things, and unalterably, the 'given', inseparable from our human nature as incarnate beings; all the knowledge of the soul must come to it in terms of this world of embodiment - that is to say in symbolic form. Truly understood the entire world is one great symbol, imparting, in a sacramental manner, by outward and visible signature, an inward and spiritual essence."
This passage may intimate a way Blake reacted to placing his interior visions into outward forms:
Europe, Plate 1, (E 61)
"Ah mother Enitharmon!
Stamp not with solid form this vig'rous progeny of fires.
I bring forth from my teeming bosom myriads of flames.
And thou dost stamp them with a signet, then they roam abroad
And leave me void as death:
Ah! I am drown'd in shady woe, and visionary joy."
Blake seemed to have paid a price for transforming vision to poetry and images.
Illustration to Edward Young's Night Thoughts
Here is the link to Kathleen Raine's video speaking about Blake and imagination.
Saturday, February 19, 2011
Gen 1:31 "God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the sixth day." It seems that everything was very good; there's no polarity here.;
But in Gen 2:8-9 we come to a complication:
"And the LORD God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there he put the man whom he had formed.
And out of the ground made the LORD God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil."
This seems to infer that Good and Evil came into existence as a consequence of the (biblical) Fall. In the pristine Garden before Adam and Eve's fatal mistake Evil had not entered the picture. (Some Bible scholars have concluded that the 'fatal mistake' was a culpa felix (Augustine, Aquinas, Ambrose). However it's generally understood as the cause of all unhappiness in our poor World. Imagine how it would be if the 'fatal mistake' had not occurred. Would we be more like the animals? or the angels?
With The Marriage of Heaven and Hell Blake put an entirely new slant on the subject. (The cavalier way Blake used the biblical Fall here illustrates the use Blake put to the Bible in general: like any other document everything was grist for his mill.) Speaking ironically he described Good as being sheeplike and Evil as being active and creative. He described good people as the Elect and active, creative people as Reprobate (btw he included Jesus among the Reprobates- following Isaiah 53:12).
The Elect were the angels in MHH; the Reprobates were the devils.
But Blake didn't stick to these definitions; MHH was the work of an angry young man. The mature Blake returned to more conventional meanings for 'angel' and 'devil'.
Returning to the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil we may read in Blake's Songs of Innocence and Experience:
The Human Abstract.
Pity would be no more,
If we did not make somebody Poor:
And Mercy no more could be,
If all were as happy as we;
And mutual fear brings peace;
Till the selfish loves increase.
Then Cruelty knits a snare,
And spreads his baits with care.
He sits down with holy fears,
And waters the ground with tears:
Then Humility takes its root
Underneath his foot.
Soon spreads the dismal shade
Of Mystery over his head;
And the Catterpiller and Fly,
Feed on the Mystery.
And it bears the fruit of Deceit,
Ruddy and sweet to eat;
And the Raven his nest has made
In its thickest shade.
The Gods of the earth and sea,
Sought thro' Nature to find this Tree
But their search was all in vain:
There grows one in the Human Brain"
(Erdman p. 27)
We may see here the origin of the Tree of Mystery, which in Blake corresponds to the Tree of the Knowlede of Good and Evil; Blake has tried to explain the meaning of the Tree he had read about in Genesis.
Good and Evil are a polarity, and a contrary of the pristine oneness of the original Garden. We may see it as the first contrary, from which all others sprang. We live in a dualistic world, and people in general can only see things in black and white (like infants do). To perceive things as a spectrum, such as 'Good, less good, still less good,' etc. is a step away from the fatal tree, but still a long way from the primeval oneness from which we came and to which we are destined to return.
Friday, February 18, 2011
One picture from the series provides a fitting illustration for an idea which I introduced in my last post - that of the wounded healer. At one point Dante is provided some guidance through Hell by someone other than Virgil. The Centaur Chiron in canto xii is given charge of Dante and turns him over to another Centaur, Nessus, to pass through a battlefield like the one on which Dante himself had once fought and to cross the river of boiling blood in which the violent were punished
You can learn more about Chiron at this website.
"Chiron symbolizes our experience of pain, alienation and woundedness, and is therefore connected to suffering in one form or another. In mythology, the centaur Chiron sustained a wound that never healed and he was said to have suffered unceasingly from it. And yet, it was this suffering that drove him to search for relief, and that search brought him the knowledge, wisdom and experience that expanded his knowledge about healing. This enabled him to counsel, teach and heal others, earning himself the label of the Wounded Healer. And it was through an act of compassionate negotiation that he was finally relieved of his suffering, by trading his life for Prometheus' freedom from torturous punishment."
We may expect Blake to picture Chiron wholly sympathetically but we see he has drawn a Chiron with horns on his head. The Centaurs were the punishers of those who have engaged in violence toward their neighbors. Blake presented the image to express his own opposition to violence in which Chiron was heavily involved. The old task of reconciling contraries forever raises its head: Chiron both was wounded and a healer, both was a warrior and reconciler. Contraries were expressed within Blake himself by his illustrating the Inferno which has no existence in his own system of thought. The inferno in Blake was not Hell but the furnace of Los into which ideas where thrown to be consumed as dross or refined as gold.
Blake's agile mind constantly sought ways to interact with the intellects of others; the wars he fought were intellectual wars. Dante was a worthy opponent.
Jerusalem, PLATE 34 ,(E 180)
"Our wars are wars of life, & wounds of love,
With intellectual spears, & long winged arrows of thought:"
Thursday, February 17, 2011
The Word of God extends far beyond the Bible
("And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written. Amen" John 21:25).
One of those books was
The Complete Poetry and Prose of William Blake; another might be called Words and Picture of William Blake. Your dealings with Jesus might be another book.
Blake's formal education was minimal. Everyone remembers that story of the young Blake on his first day in school. The Schoolmaster flogged a boy; Blake rose and exited, never to return. He escaped the social conditioning (actually the primary purpose) of School. Henceforth his education came through his own reading; he read the Bible, probably many times (such that it influenced almost all of his creations). School makes us conventional, but not Blake!
School introduces the malleable mind to various rituals, by which most of us live; but not Blake. Religion involves an enormous store of rituals, but not Blake. Raised by dissenters, he escaped the many rituals of the State Church; he rejected most of the rituals of the Dissenters. Every thing Blake observed was subjected to his pure, crystalline mind.
Obsessed with God Blake's life recreated the Bible (which is about God). The myth of the Bible was the story of his myth- and his life. His creations centered about the visions of God that had come to him, from the Angry God in the window to the Savior who dominates the final conclusions of his major prophetic works.
On his way there was Nobodaddy and Urizen. He shares his own personal crisis with the stories of the final battle between Urizen and Los; One of these occurred near the end of Night 7 of The Four Zoas (Erdman 371) One might speculate that this represented Blake's resolution of the healing of the breach between Old and New Testaments, of Jehovah with Jesus, the Eternal Forgiveness.
The Sun Blake looked up to was the Perception of the Infinite: "it will be Questiond When the Sun rises do you not see a round Disk of fire somewhat like a Guinea O no no I see an Innumerable company of the Heavenly host crying Holy Holy Holy is the Lord God Almighty" (Erdman 555-56).
Look again at the picture in the post called Oedipus & Albion. Speaking crudely we might call the small figure Blake with a (natural) setting sun around him. The larger figure we call Jesus with a small crown of thorns, but overlaying that is the Sun of Righteousness-- Blake's Sun.
"He who binds to himself a joy
Does the winged life destroy
But he who kisses the joy as it flies
Lives in eternity's sun rise" (Eternity; Erdman 470; repeated on 474)
In America (Erdman 53):
"The Sun has left left his blackness, & has found a fresher morning "
(The blackness of course bespeaks the colonialism under which the colonies were oppressed. As for the fresher morning? well as Reagan used to say "it's morning in America". Had he read Blake?????????)
This verse is repeated in Night 9 of The Four Zoas (Erdman 406)
"This Earth breeds not our happiness
Another Sun feeds our lifes streams"
(Letter 23 to Butts; E722)
Many other references to Blake's Sun are available if you want to research them in Concord
Wednesday, February 16, 2011
"That is, both protagonists gladly sacrifice the visible, empirical entity of self for the higher, invisible, metaphorical, and bonded entity of self-and-other. Albion's and Oedipus' pilgrimages toward selfless love and their faith in their ability to transmit this renewing, cleansing, and protective love to society through a blessing are the focal points of the two dramas."
|Yale Center for British Art|
I find it interesting that in this interpretation Oedipus and Albion both assume the role of the 'wounded healer' with which many associate Jesus through the passage in Isaiah 53. You may be familiar with the words through hearing or singing Handle's Messiah.
 But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.
 He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken.
 Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he hath poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.
 And the scripture was fulfilled, which saith, And he was numbered with the transgressors.
Tuesday, February 15, 2011
Little Girl Lost
"In futurity I prophesy
That the earth from sleep
(Grave the sentence deep)
Shall arise, and seek
For her Maker meek;
And the desert wild [this mortal world]
Become a garden mild."
This is a capsule statement of Blake's myth; Here in Blake's inimitable poetry we have the biblical New Heaven and New Earth. It is also a promise of the happy outcome of his myth. For that look at Jerusalem, plates 96-99. Here's a fragment at the Beginning of Plate 97:
"Awake! Awake Jerusalem! O lovely Emanation of Albion Awake and overspread all Nations as in Ancient Time For lo! the Night of Death is past and the Eternal Day Appears upon our Hill: Awake Jerusalem..."
But to continue the first poem:
"In the southern clime, [the Eternal Realm]
Where the summer's prime
Never fades away,
Lovely Lyca lay.
Seven summers old
Lovely Lyca told.
She had wandered long,
Hearing wild birds' song.
Sweet sleep, come to me,
Underneath this tree;
Do father, mother, weep? [like Demeter wept when she discovered what had happened to her daughter, Persephone.]
Where can Lyca sleep?
'Lost in desert wild
Is your little child.
How can Lyca sleep
If her mother weep?
'If her heart does ache,
Then let Lyca wake;
If my mother sleep,
Lyca shall not weep.
'Frowning, frowning night,
O'er this desert bright
Let thy moon arise,
While I close my eyes.
' Sleeping Lyca lay,
While the beasts of prey,
Come from caverns deep,
Viewed the maid asleep."
The kingly lion stood, [lion=Pluto, king of the underworld]
"And the virgin viewed:
Then he gambolled round
O'er the hallowed ground.
Leopards, tigers, play
Round her as she lay;
While the lion old
Bowed his mane of gold,
And her bosom lick,
(This (substantially) reoccurred at Erdman 403, the ninth night of the Four Zoas; it appears to have been done by Luvah!)
And upon her neck,
From his eyes of flame,
Ruby tears there came;"
Why was the lion sorrowful? Did he mourn the descent of the soul?
"While the lioness
Loosed her slender dress,
And naked they conveyed
To caves the sleeping maid."
Such was one of the Songs of Innocence; now look at a Song of Experience:
Little Girl Found
"All the night in woe
Lyca's parents go
Over valleys deep,
While the deserts weep.
Tired and woe-begone,
Hoarse with making moan,
Arm in arm, seven days
They traced the desert ways.
Seven nights they sleep
Among shadows deep,
And dream they see their child
Starved in desert wild.
Pale through pathless ways
The fancied image strays,
Famished, weeping, weak,
With hollow piteous shriek.
Rising from unrest,
The trembling woman pressed
With feet of weary woe;
She could no further go.
In his arms he bore Her,
armed with sorrow sore;
Till before their way
A couching lion lay.
Turning back was vain:
Soon his heavy mane
Bore them to the ground,
Then he stalked around,
Smelling to his prey;
But their fears allay
When he licks their hands,
And silent by them stands.
They look upon his eyes,
Filled with deep surprise;
And wondering behold
A spirit armed in gold.
On his head a crown,
On his shoulders down
Flowed his golden hair.
Gone was all their care.
'Follow me,' he said;
'Weep not for the maid;
In my palace deep,
Lyca lies asleep.
'Then they followed
Where the vision led,
And saw their sleeping child
Among tigers wild.
To this day they dwell
In a lonely dell,
Nor fear the wolvish howl
Nor the lion's growl."
(Shades of Narnia; both authors depended on Isaiah (11:6 and 65:25).
Was Blake aware of Paul's statement in Romans 8:28:
"And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose."
An earlier post on the little girls is well worth reading.
As was said earlier there are many interpretations of these two poems. For me the poems considered together illustrate once again Blake's myth of a Fall and a Return.
What does it mean to you?
Monday, February 14, 2011
The extent of biblical knowledge which went into producing the following section of Milton is demonstrated by Harold Bloom in this introduction (page xii) to Bloom's Classic Critical Views: William Blake. Bloom's attention is focused on the confrontation between Urizen and Milton beside the brook Arnon.
Milton, Plate 19 , (E 112)
"Urizen emerged from his Rocky Form & from his Snows,
And he also darkend his brows: freezing dark rocks between
The footsteps. and infixing deep the feet in marble beds:
That Milton labourd with his journey, & his feet bled sore
Upon the clay now chang'd to marble; also Urizen rose,
And met him on the shores of Arnon; & by the streams of the
Silent they met, and silent strove among the streams, of Arnon
Even to Mahanaim, when with cold hand Urizen stoop'd down
And took up water from the river Jordan: pouring on
To Miltons brain the icy fluid from his broad cold palm.
But Milton took of the red clay of Succoth, moulding it with care
Between his palms: and filling up the furrows of many years
Beginning at the feet of Urizen, and on the bones
Creating new flesh on the Demon cold, and building him,
As with new clay a Human form in the Valley of Beth Peor."
Bloom who wrote the commentary for The Complete Poetry & Prose of William Blake edited by David V. Erdman makes this statement:
"This magnificent passage does assume the reader's knowledge of some crucial biblical references. The Arnon is a river flowing westward into the Dead Sea and dividing off the Trans-Jordan lands of the Israelites from Moab. Numbers 21:14 associates the Arnon and the Red Sea, by which the Israelites escaped the deadly bondage of Egypt. The Arnon in Blake has the same significance, as Milton Percival observes, for through it one passes from the body of death into the generative body, from Urizenic law to the sacrifice of Luvah for man. Mahanaim (Genesis 32:2) is where Jacob wrestled with God until he had secured a blessing and the name of Israel. Succoth is where Jacob went afterwards, to build a house and booths (Genesis 33:17), the booths giving the place its name, and associating the story with the harvest festival, where four plants represent four classes of men united as one man in worship. Beth Peor is the burial place of Moses in the land of Moab. Drawing all this together and applying it to Blake's passage, we suddenly behold the audacity and clarity with which Blake had molded his sources.
Urizen fears that Milton is coming to overthrow his laws, for Milton began by taking off the robe and ungriding himself from the oath of Urizen-Jehovah's covenant with Moses. So Urizen goes forth to battle, turning the warm clay Milton walks on to freezing and purgatorial marble. They meet and wrestle, two silent and mighty champions, on the shores of Arnon, the body of law striving with the human form divine. Their struggle is like the wrestling of Jehovah and Jacob, except that Milton will not repeat Jacob's mistake, he wants to reform God, and not just extract a blessing for himself.
As the battle continues, Urizen attempts an icy intellectual baptism of Milton with Jordan water, but Milton fights back by taking the Adamic red clay of Succothe, emblem of a human harvest from the same valley where the body of Moses or Urizenic law is forever buried. Milton's activity is artistic and gives the sculptor's gift of life, of red flesh to cold marble, making God into a Man, Urizen into Adam.
This extraordinary struggle attains an apotheosis in one on Blake's superb condensations on intellectual strife transmuted into saving metaphor."
IMAGE: Jerusalem, Plate 45
Milton, Plate 21 , (E 115)
"But Milton entering my Foot; I saw in the nether
Regions of the Imagination; also all men on Earth,
And all in Heaven, saw in the nether regions of the Imagination
In Ulro beneath Beulah, the vast breach of Miltons descent.
But I knew not that it was Milton, for man cannot know
What passes in his members till periods of Space & Time
Reveal the secrets of Eternity: for more extensive
Than any other earthly things, are Mans earthly lineaments.
And all this Vegetable World appeard on my left Foot,
As a bright sandal formd immortal of precious stones & gold:
I stooped down & bound it on to walk forward thro' Eternity."
Bloom : "I offer this as an epitome of Blake's unique greatness. Few passages in Western poetry equal this in originality and soul-arousing eloquence"
Sunday, February 13, 2011
Be Still and know that I am God (Psalms 46:10)The young Blake doesn't appear (to me) to be a very silent type. From earliest years his mind was gifted with a marvelous intellect and a unique imagination. He revealed it in the visions that seemed to continuously fill his mind.
Blade must have had a prodigious reading gift; it led him to a familiar acquaintance with the treasures of a wide gamut of cultures. No wonder he despised Locke with his tabula raza; Blake knew in his bones that it just wasn't so.
"I give you the end of a golden string, only wind it into a ball;
It will let you in at Heaven's Gate, built in Jerusalem's Wall."
Blake had a long string, which he had built feverishly over his first twenty odd years. Then his Vision stopped; what happened?
Angels had been coming to his door, but now they didn't; he was too busy making a living; but as a poet and an artist, he was an oddball. For most of us angels come in the silence; but Blake wasn't silent, still feverish, but feverish for a different purpose. For the purpose he had adopted (which he called the Main Chance) the only angels were dark ones.
What happened at the Truchsessian Gallery? (You must read the link if you want to know what this picture of Nebuchadnezzar means here. (Nebuchadnezzar)(Blake -Erdman 756)(Blake says he was not altogether a beast like [Nebu], but Nebuchadnezzar had seven times passed over him; "I have had twenty; thank God I was not altogether a beast as he was; but I was a slave bound in a mill among beasts and devils;")
I think Blake had gotten silent. He remembered "be still and know that I am God"; he heard the still small voice; and his purpose changed; he no longer strived to "get ahead" (in the materialistic dimension); henceforth he would create!! The angels started coming to Blake, not the dark ones that ensue from worry and striving.
The first step for most of us is silence; get quiet; stop thinking; open the door to your Unconscious; the angels will start coming; not the dark ones, the angels from Heaven.
Is silence impossible for you? for many it's anathema, something to be avoided at all costs. The Unconscious is a can of worms; it's where God and the Devil fight for your soul (or in Blake's case where Urizen and Los fought).
The natural development of a person is from extraversion to introversion, from dependence upon mom and daddy, or buddy, or whoever to self-reliance and hopefully individuality. This movement took place in Blake's life; like ours as well. In the fullness of time; his visit to the Truchsessian Gallery was the acceptable time.
Blake put aside mundane affairs and concentrated on the One thing that matters. He gave his whole mind (and his gifts) to the Angels (he called them Visions of Eternity) and he left us magnificent visions to enjoy (and live by!). So he climbed Jacob's ladder, leaving behind for us the Golden Thread.