Monday, March 31, 2014

ANCIENT OF DAYS

In The Life of William Blake By Alexander Gilchrist, we read on Page 127:

"The frontispiece [of Europe] represents the 'Ancient of Days,' as shadowed forth in Proverbs viii. 27: 'when he set a compass upon the face of the earth'; and again, as described in Paradise Lost, Book vii. line 236: a grand figure, 'in an orb of light surrounded by dark clouds, is stooping down, with an enormous pair of compasses, to describe the world's destined orb'; Blake adopting with child-like fidelity, but in a truly
Yale Center for British Art 
Europe Frontispiece
Proof Impression
sublime spirit, the image of the Hebrew and English poets. This composition was an especial favourite with its designer. When colouring it by hand, he "always bestowed more time," says Smith, "and enjoyed greater pleasure in the task, than from anything else he produced." The process of colouring his designs was never to him, however, a mechanical or irksome one. Very different feelings were his from those of a mere copyist. Throughout life, whenever for his few patrons filling in the colour to his engraved books, he lived anew the first fresh, happy experiences of conception, as in the high hour of inspiration.

Smith tells us that Blake 'was inspired with the splendid grandeur of this figure, 'The Ancient of Days' by the vision which he declared hovered over his head at the top of his staircase' in No. 13, Hercules Buildings, and that 'he has been frequently heard to say that it made a more powerful impression upon his mind than all he had ever been visited by.'"

The figure of the Creator is pictured by Blake as reaching down from the sky where he is is accompanied by the sun and the clouds. The Almighty has humbled himself by kneeling to work in the world below.

At the beginning of Milton Blake invites the 'Eternal Great Humanity Divine' to descend from his brain to his hand to facilitate his creative endeavors.


Milton, Plate 2, (E 96)
"Come into my hand    
By your mild power; descending down the Nerves of my right arm
From out the Portals of my Brain, where by your ministry
The Eternal Great Humanity Divine. planted his Paradise,
And in it caus'd the Spectres of the Dead to take sweet forms
In likeness of himself."

In the Bible the Ancient of Days is mentioned in only the Book of Daniel. There can be little doubt that chapter seven referring to the Ancient of Days was of great significance to Blake since many of Blake's motifs appear there. Daniel's image of the 'one like the Son of man' being given 'an everlasting dominion' can be implied in Blake's image of Ancient of Days setting out the dimensions of the world of creation.

The final line of the chapter from Daniel may have filled Blake's mind as he created and re-created this image of the Ancient of Days:
"As for me Daniel, my cogitations much troubled me, and my countenance changed in me: but I kept the matter in my heart."


Daniel 7
[1] In the first year of Belshazzar king of Babylon Daniel had a dream and visions of his head upon his bed: then he wrote the dream, and told the sum of the matters.
[2] Daniel spake and said, I saw in my vision by night, and, behold, the four winds of the heaven strove upon the great sea.
[3] And four great beasts came up from the sea, diverse one from another.
[4] The first was like a lion, and had eagle's wings: I beheld till the wings thereof were plucked, and it was lifted up from the earth, and made stand upon the feet as a man, and a man's heart was given to it.
[5] And behold another beast, a second, like to a bear, and it raised up itself on one side, and it had three ribs in the mouth of it between the teeth of it: and they said thus unto it, Arise, devour much flesh.
[6] After this I beheld, and lo another, like a leopard, which had upon the back of it four wings of a fowl; the beast had also four heads; and dominion was given to it.
[7] After this I saw in the night visions, and behold a fourth beast, dreadful and terrible, and strong exceedingly; and it had great iron teeth: it devoured and brake in pieces, and stamped the residue with the feet of it: and it was diverse from all the beasts that were before it; and it had ten horns.
[8] I considered the horns, and, behold, there came up among them another little horn, before whom there were three of the first horns plucked up by the roots: and, behold, in this horn were eyes like the eyes of man, and a mouth speaking great things.
[9] I beheld till the thrones were cast down, and the Ancient of days did sit, whose garment was white as snow, and the hair of his head like the pure wool: his throne was like the fiery flame, and his wheels as burning fire.
[10] A fiery stream issued and came forth from before him: thousand thousands ministered unto him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him: the judgment was set, and the books were opened.
[11] I beheld then because of the voice of the great words which the horn spake: I beheld even till the beast was slain, and his body destroyed, and given to the burning flame.
[12] As concerning the rest of the beasts, they had their dominion taken away: yet their lives were prolonged for a season and time.
[13] I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him.
[14] And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed.
[15] I Daniel was grieved in my spirit in the midst of my body, and the visions of my head troubled me.
[16] I came near unto one of them that stood by, and asked him the truth of all this. So he told me, and made me know the interpretation of the things.
[17] These great beasts, which are four, are four kings, which shall arise out of the earth.
[18] But the saints of the most High shall take the kingdom, and possess the kingdom for ever, even for ever and ever.
[19] Then I would know the truth of the fourth beast, which was diverse from all the others, exceeding dreadful, whose teeth were of iron, and his nails of brass; which devoured, brake in pieces, and stamped the residue with his feet;
[20] And of the ten horns that were in his head, and of the other which came up, and before whom three fell; even of that horn that had eyes, and a mouth that spake very great things, whose look was more stout than his fellows.
[21] I beheld, and the same horn made war with the saints, and prevailed against them;
[22] Until the Ancient of days came, and judgment was given to the saints of the most High; and the time came that the saints possessed the kingdom.
[23] Thus he said, The fourth beast shall be the fourth kingdom upon earth, which shall be diverse from all kingdoms, and shall devour the whole earth, and shall tread it down, and break it in pieces.
[24] And the ten horns out of this kingdom are ten kings that shall arise: and another shall rise after them; and he shall be diverse from the first, and he shall subdue three kings.
[25] And he shall speak great words against the most High, and shall wear out the saints of the most High, and think to change times and laws: and they shall be given into his hand until a time and times and the dividing of time.
[26] But the judgment shall sit, and they shall take away his dominion, to consume and to destroy it unto the end.
[27] And the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people of the saints of the most High, whose kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey him.
[28] Hitherto is the end of the matter. As for me Daniel, my cogitations much troubled me, and my countenance changed in me: but I kept the matter in my heart.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Milton 4

Rosenwald LoC
Milton Returns
Here is the point at which Milton came down from Heaven:

Milton Plates 14-15 (Erdman 107-8)
"The Bard ceas'd. All consider'd and a loud resounding murmur    
Continu'd round the Halls; and much they question'd the immortal
Loud voicd Bard. and many condemn'd the high tone'd Song
Saying Pity and Love are too venerable for the imputation
Of Guilt. Others said. It it is true! if the acts have been
     perform'd
Let the Bard himself witness. Where hadst thou this terrible Song

  
The Bard replied. I am Inspired! I know it is Truth! for I Sing

PLATE 14 [15]
According to the inspiration of the Poetic Genius
Who is the eternal all-protecting Divine Humanity
To whom be Glory & Power & Dominion Evermore Amen

Then there was great murmuring in the Heavens of Albion
The loud voic'd Bard terrify'd took refuge in Miltons bosom
........
Then Milton rose up from the heavens of Albion ardorous!         
The whole Assembly wept prophetic, seeing in Miltons face
And in his lineaments divine the shades of Death & Ulro
He took off the robe of the promise, & ungirded himself from the
     oath of God

And Milton said, I go to Eternal Death! The Nations still
Follow after the detestable Gods of Priam; in pomp               
Of warlike selfhood, contradicting and blaspheming.
When will the Resurrection come; to deliver the sleeping body
From corruptibility: O when Lord Jesus wilt thou come?
Tarry no longer; for my soul lies at the gates of death.
I will arise and look forth for the morning of the grave.       
I will go down to the sepulcher to see if morning breaks!
I will go down to self annihilation and eternal death,
Lest the Last Judgment come & find me unannihilate
And I be siez'd & giv'n into the hands of my own Selfhood
The Lamb of God is seen thro' mists & shadows, hov'ring          
Over the sepulchers in clouds of Jehovah & winds of Elohim
A disk of blood, distant; & heav'ns & earth's roll dark between
What do I here before the Judgment? without my Emanation?
With the daughters of memory, & not with the daughters of
     inspiration[?]
I in my Selfhood am that Satan: I am that Evil One!              
He is my Spectre! in my obedience to loose him from my Hells
To claim the Hells, my Furnaces, I go to Eternal Death.

And Milton said. I go to Eternal Death! Eternity shudder'd
For he took the outside course, among the graves of the dead
A mournful shade. Eternity shudderd at the image of eternal death

He took off the robe of the promise; it's easy to see in the image 
man taking off his robe.

This whole section is pregnant with meaning:The Bard is saying that 

people are forgiven because 'Lord Jesustakes their guilt on his own 
shoulders, which (strangely) is a shock to the 'Eternals' (It's always a 
shock to people: read (Matt 20:1-16).It was a shock to the people Jesus 
was talking to just like it's a shock to 'good' people today.)

Saturday, March 29, 2014

DYLAN'S CHRONICLES

Wikipedia Commons Illustrations to Dante's  Divine Comedy
The Inscription over Hell-Gate

Our thoughts, our interests, and our activities either go out in many directions or they become focused on a single point that acts as a magnet drawing everything to it. The point of convergence doesn't prevent one from reaching out to multiple influences but brings those influences together to amplify them around an organizing principle. When we look at Blake's life history we can recognize that his ultimate focus was for the purpose of communicating his perception of the infinite by creating a new art form which he called illuminated books . His original intention could not have been directed to that outcome because neither the means nor the content existed before he invented them.


I've been reading Bob Dylan's Chronicles, Vol 1 searching for similarities between Blake and Dylan. I found that the two men endured many of the same types of experiences and reacted to them in similar ways. The lessons that they learned from experience surfaced in their art. I think that the reason that we are reminded of Blake in Dylan's work is that these two gifted artists shared the same intensity of focus and developed the ability to bring from the depths of their psyches symbolic material.


Dylan presents his development as an artist as pursuing multiple avenues within his chosen field of Folk Music until he discovered his own calling and voice. The intensity with which he followed each style, and the thoroughness with which he mastered the techniques of each of his chosen 'masters' was exhaustive. But imitation was not his goal. With Blake, Dylan could have said:
"I must Create a System, or be enslav'd by another Mans
I will not Reason & Compare: my business is to Create" (Jerusalem

 

You might say that Blake and Dylan each reached many dead ends in their lives and began anew. In Blake's writings this scenario was described as being thrown into 'the furnace of affliction', or pursuing error until it could be annihilated. Both men annihilated their error by taking from their experience the 'gold' which had been refined and allowing the 'dross' to be consumed in the fire.
 

The life scrips of Blake and Dylan were different in many ways but they both were fiercely independent. Neither would allow himself to be defined by the majority culture. Each pursued his art as an avenue to open the minds of men to content which lay buried, but could be accessed for the development of humanity. Each was led to the message he would deliver by his single minded willingness to follow the execution of his art in the direction it was leading him. If neither man was able to maintain the pinnacle of creativity he had reached, there is no fault in that.
 

Quotes from Chronicles, Volume One by Bob Dylan:
Page 115
"All I'd ever done was sing songs that were dead straight and expressed powerful new realities...I had very little in common with and knew even less about a generation I was supposed to be the voice of...Being true to yourself, that was the thing. I was more a cowpuncher than a Pied Piper."

Page 236
"Folk music was a reality of a more brilliant dimension. It exceeded all human understanding, and it called out to you, you could disappear and be sucked into it. I felt right at home in this mystical realm made up not with individuals so much as archetypes, vividly drawn archetypes of humanity, metaphysical in shape, each rugged and filled with natural knowing and inner wisdom. Each demanding a degree of respect. I could believe in the full spectrum of it and sing about it. It was so real, so more true to life than life itself. It was life magnified. Folk music was all I needed to exist." 

Page 292
"The folk music scene had been a paradise I had to leave, like Adam had to leave the garden...The road out there would be treacherous, and I didn't know where it would lead but I followed it anyway. It was a strange world ahead that would unfold, a thunderhead of a world with jagged lightning edges. Many got it wrong and never did get it right. It was wide open. I went straight into it. One thing for sure, not only was it not run by God, but it wasn't run by the devil either." 

Page 218
"I would have liked to give him the kind of songs that he wanted, like "Masters of War," "Hard Rain," "Gates of Eden," but those kinds of songs were written under different circumstances, and circumstances never repeat themselves. Not Exactly. I couldn't get to those kinds of songs for him or anyone else. To do it you have to have power and dominion over the spirits. I had done it once, and once was enough. Someone would come along eventually who would have it again - someone who see into things, the truth of things - not metaphorically, either, but really see, like seeing into metal and making it melt, see it for what it was and reveal it for what it was with the hard words and vicious insight."

  

 You can find in Chronicles what you are looking for. What I was seeking was some way that Dylan might be connected to William Blake. I never found that Dylan read Blake or was overtly influenced by Blake's work. What I did find was that the cauldrons in which Blake and Dylan immersed themselves led them to experience life and thought is similar ways. The intensity of focus transformed their minds in such a way that the unconscious archetypal realities came to the surface.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Milton 3




Rosenwald LC
Book of Milton

The identity of these three figures has been considered variously:

1) the spectre on the platform; on the side are Los and Enitharmon.


2) Rintrah, Satan and Palamabron.


3) the Elect, the Reprobate, the Redeemed.

From Plate 5 of Milton:
And this is the manner of the Daughters of Albion in their beauty
Every one is threefold in Head & Heart & Reins, & every one
Has three Gates into the Three Heavens of Beulah which shine
Translucent in their Foreheads & their Bosoms & their Loins
Surrounded with fires unapproachable: but whom they please
They take up into their Heavens in intoxicating delight
For the Elect cannot be Redeemd, but Created continually
By Offering & Atonement in the crue[l]ties of Moral Law
Hence the three Classes of Men take their fix'd destinations

From Plates 7-8 of Milton:

Here the Three Classes of Mortal Men take their fixd destinations
And hence they overspread the Nations of the whole Earth & hence
The Web of Life is woven: & the tender sinews of life created
And the Three Classes of Men regulated by Los's hammer.

PLATE 7
The first, The Elect from before the foundation of the World:
The second, The Redeem'd. The Third, The Reprobate & form'd
To destruction from the mothers womb:
Of the first class was Satan: with incomparable mildness;
His primitive tyrannical attempts on Los: with most endearing
love
He soft intreated Los to give to him Palamabrons station;
(Erdman 100)

Milton Plate 11/12:
And it was enquir'd: Why in a Great Solemn Assembly
The Innocent should be condemn'd for the Guilty? Then an Eternal
rose
Saying. If the Guilty should be condemn'd, he must be an Eternal
Death
And one must die for another throughout all Eternity.
Satan is fall'n from his station & never can be redeem'd
But must be new created continually moment by moment
And therefore the Class of Satan shall be calld the Elect, &
those
Of Rintrah. the Reprobate, & those of Palamabron the Redeem'd
For he is redeem'd from Satans Law, the wrath falling on Rintrah,
(Erdman 105)

In prosaic language those who know nothing and 
don't want to know anything Blake thought of as the Elect; 
those who want to know something he call the Redeemed.
Those whose imagination has enabled them to grasp something of 
Reality and who can express it were the Reprobate.
The prophets were called reprobate and are generally persecuted
in one way or another.

Prophets are subjected to 
Harassment and suffering which people and institutions inflict upon 
others for being different in their faith, world view, culture, or race. 
Persecution seeks to intimidate, silence, punish, or even to kill people.

Old Testament: Israel was the agent of persecution of nations
(Judges 2:11-23 ; Leviticus 26:7-8 ). The Bible gives special attention
to Israel's fate in Egypt (Exodus 1-3 ) and in the Exile (Psalm 137:1 ).
On an individual level, Saul persecuted David (1 Samuel 19:9-12 ),
and Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were persecuted because
they refused to worship the image of the king (Daniel 3:1 ). Jezebel
persecuted the prophets of the Lord, and the prophet Elijah persecuted
and killed the prophets of Baal (1 Kings 18:1 ). The prophets—Amos
(1 Kings 7:10-12 ), Jeremiah (Jeremiah 1:19 ; Jeremiah 15:15 ;
Jeremiah 37-38 ), and Urijah (Jeremiah 26:20-23 )—suffered persecution
because they fleshed out the will of God in adverse circumstances
(In Studylight.org)
Blake felt persecuted in various ways and numbered himself among Moses, Ezekiel, Isaiah, and Jesus.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

LOVE & NOT HATE

This is a continuation of the post FORMS SUBLIME.

Yale Center for British Art
Jerusalem
 Plate 28, Proof

We can shift our minds here for a bit and think of the new creations from Los and Enitharmon as the images and books William and Catherine Blake were creating in the workshop in their home. The sacrifice of a conventional lifestyle and worldly success was what they chose in exchange of the survival of their little books and strange pictures which emanated from their hands. Were they changed by seeing the visions and messages which originated in their brains take form in pictures and poetry? Indeed they were. They knew they were being changed: in the way they reasoned, and in the way their bodies became instruments for the execution by the life-giving imagination. And by working and seeing their work take material form, they were keeping their hope alive that other people could experience a transformation in the manner they could perceive nature. 
 

The word 'individual' has an obsolete meaning which enhances our perception; it means inseparable. The Zoa is the whole individual and in essence is inseparable. The aspects into which the Zoa splits are illusions; temporary concepts which serve a purpose for explanation, not as lasting parts. We have been witnessing Blake's bringing together of the archetypal manifestations which have for a period acted as independent parts. Urthona's Spectre is comforted, Tharmas rejoices at the hope of the return of his emanation Enion. Urizen's Shadow is drawn away from his Spectrous form allowing aspects of him to become identified with parallel aspects in Los. 
  

These events have broken through Los's defenses. He can no longer perceive Urizen as an enemy but sees him as one of the loved infants whom he and Enitharmon were releasing into experience. The stage has been set for further reconciliations.
Four Zoas, Night VII, Page 98 [90], (E 371)
"But Los loved them & refusd to Sacrifice their infant limbs   
And Enitharmons smiles & tears prevaild over self protection
They rather chose to meet Eternal death than to destroy
The offspring of their Care & Pity Urthonas spectre was comforted
But Tharmas most rejoicd in hope of Enions return
For he beheld new Female forms born forth upon the air    
Who wove soft silken veils of covering in sweet rapturd trance
Mortal & not as Enitharmon without a covering veil

First his immortal spirit drew Urizen[s] Shadow away  
From out the ranks of war separating him in sunder
Leaving his Spectrous form which could not be drawn away     
Then he divided Thiriel the Eldest of Urizens sons
Urizen became Rintrah Thiriel became Palamabron
Thus dividing the powers of Every Warrior
Startled was Los he found his Enemy Urizen now
In his hands. he wonderd that he felt love & not hate     
His whole soul loved him he beheld him an infant
Lovely breathd from Enitharmon he trembled within himself

PAGE 90 [98]

         End of The Seventh Night"   

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Fighting Blake


Wiki Commons
Portrait by
Thomas Phillips


Blake was not a tall man, but well formed, stocky, muscular.  He had a violent temper at times and on one occasion had to resort to fisticuffs.

He was also a city man, staying pretty much in London and it's close surroundings. But on one occasion he was invited to use a fairly large cottage on the sea--at Felpam.   


He wrote that "Felpham is a sweet place for Study. because 
it is more Spiritual than London."

The cottage was about 50 yards down the road from a 
military barrack housing a number of soldiers; A drunk 
soldier had wandered into Blake's garden. Blake
politely asked him to leave, but it wasn't to be. Hard words
were exchanged, and Blake turned him around and taking 
him on his elbows propelled him out of the Garden. The 
man remained outside and continued to revile Blake.
Using the same method Blake propelled him about 50
yards to the barrack.

Blake found himself charged with high treason by the soldier,
John Scofield by name, but the jurors completed exonerated Blake.

With that matter settled Blake returned to London, where he
spent the rest of his life.



Blake was so guilless that many people in the art business took advantage of him in various ways:

A man named Cromek bought from Blake a number of drawings to be engraved by Blake for considerable money; he paid Blake a modest sum and agreed to have Blake engrave them for a much larger sum. But he then contracted another engraver, much to Blake's chagrin. 

As a result of that affair as well as many similar ones Blake lost
a number of his friends, such as John Flaxman (who became England's preeminent sculptor) and  an artist named Fuselo.

Blake and Flaxman were friends from childhood and Flaxman went out of his way to help young Blake get along with his career. But things became unraveled one way or another.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

FORMS SUBLIME

This is a continuation of the post SPECTRES OF THE DEAD
This copy of Europe Plate 5 bears several inscription which are thought to have added by Blake's friend Cumberland. At the top are the words 'A Comet'. At the side and bottom are quotes about comets by Rowe, Milton, Homer and Shakespeare.


British Museum
Europe a Prophesy
Plate 5
Enitharmon saw in Los the potential for expressing the same characteristics which typified Orc. She would agree to provide substance to Los's forms only if his fury were moderated. Enitharmon sees the beings which would be brought forth by their work, as ransoms for their own souls. It is doubtful that Blake however would have affirmed the Christian doctrine of Christ as a ransom for sinners. His God did not require payment for forgiveness.

Los draws from the deeps the Spectres who were the result of Urizen's wars and Orc's fiery revolution. Joining in the creation of lasting bodies for the wandering, disembodied Spectres is a joyful experience for Los and Enitharmon. The unselfish, imaginative activity brings additional benefits which were unexpected. Rintrah (wrath) and Palamabron (pity) return to their rightful places within Los's psyche. Los's oldest son Orc reassumes the role of elder brother experiencing joy that the Spectres have been given bodies.

As a whole the passage demonstrates that reducing the level of anger and violence enables cooperation which benefits the giver as well as the receiver. Los, Enitharmon, the Spectres of the Dead, Rintrah, Palamabrom and Orc have had divisions healed and have modified their hostile behaviors.  

Four Zoas, Night VII, Page 98 [90], (E 370)
"Enitharmon spread her beaming locks upon the wind & said   
O Lovely terrible Los wonder of Eternity O Los my defence & guide
Thy works are all my joy. & in thy fires my soul delights
If mild they burn in just proportion & in secret night
And silence build their day in shadow of soft clouds & dews
Then I can sigh forth on the winds of Golgonooza piteous forms  
That vanish again into my bosom   but if thou my Los
Wilt in sweet moderated fury. fabricate forms sublime 
Such as the piteous spectres may assimilate themselves into
They shall be ransoms for our Souls that we may live

So Enitharmon spoke & Los his hands divine inspired began
To modulate his fires studious the loud roaring flames
He vanquishd with the strength of Art bending their iron points
And drawing them forth delighted upon the winds of Golgonooza
From out the ranks of Urizens war & from the fiery lake
Of Orc bending down as the binder of the Sheaves follows   
The reaper in both arms embracing the furious raging flames
Los drew them forth out of the deeps planting his right foot firm
Upon the Iron crag of Urizen thence springing up aloft
Into the heavens of Enitharmon in a mighty circle

And first he drew a line upon the walls of shining heaven    
And Enitharmon tincturd it with beams of blushing love

It remaind permanent a lovely form inspird divinely human
Dividing into just proportions Los unwearied labourd
The immortal lines upon the heavens till with sighs of love
Sweet Enitharmon mild Entrancd breathd forth upon the wind   
The spectrous dead Weeping the Spectres viewd the immortal works
Of Los Assimilating to those forms Embodied & Lovely
In youth & beauty in the arms of Enitharmon mild reposing
First Rintrah & then Palamabron drawn from out the ranks of war
In infant innocence reposd on Enitharmons bosom     
Orc was comforted in the deeps his soul revivd in them
As the Eldest brother is the fathers image So Orc became  
As Los a father to his brethren & he joyd in the dark lake
Tho bound with chains of Jealousy & in scales of iron & brass"

Monday, March 24, 2014

Blake Primer

All interpreters of Blake have their own viewpoint about his work:
The graphically inclined of course tend to focus on that facet.
Politically conscious students of Blake may likely come up with something like Prophet Against Empire.
A specialist in literature might write something in the vein of Fearful Symmetry.
Then we have biographers and encylopedists.
Spiritually minded folk may see something in Blake that the materially minded are apt to miss.
Recent Blake literature has come largely from secular interpreters. The religious community for the most part have totally ignored Blake. Nevertheless he was a profoundly spiritual man. This introduction to Blake focuses on his spiritual life as expressed in his aesthetics, politics, and psychology.

Contents

CHAPTER ONE in a short biographical sketch recounts those events which largely determined the shape of his career. It also gives the first thumbnail outline of his work.

CHAPTER TWO provides the reader with some of the basic equipment he will need to begin to read Blake with comprehension.

CHAPTER THREE Some simpler Blake poetry (Simple only in the sense that some meaning readily emerges.)

CHAPTER Four interprets Blake's faith as it developed through the circumstances of his life. My distinctive view of that development includes a change of direction or attitude toward Christ in Blake's early forties.

CHAPTER Five traces Blake's struggle with God through the early images of Nobodaddy, Father of Jealousy, Urizen, and the God of this World, to his "first Vision of Light" and the resulting commitment to what he called (among other things) Jesus the Imagination.

CHAPTER Six explains Blake's understanding of the Bible, his primary source. Blake cast light on biblical ideas, and conversely the Bible explains Blake. Redemption history, the struggle between Jehovah and Astarte, the symbology of Ezekiel and Revelation are some of the topics dealt with. (If you want a quick introduction to the relationship between Blake poetry and the Bible go here.)

CHAPTER Seven details Blake's relationship to the established church, his view of church history, his attitude as a dissenter against a state church and other forms of inauthentic authority, his relationship to Quakers, Methodists, and Deists as well as his personal associations, seen imaginatively as a religious community.

CHAPTER Eight treats Blake's sexuality, his attitudes toward prevailing sexual mores, his incorporation of biblical viewpoints toward sex, especially in the symbology of the heterodox tradition.

CHAPTER Nine describes the development of the mythology that forms the framework of Blake's major works.



The primary sources for this work of course were Blake's poetry and pictures and the Bible. The most significant secondary sources were Northrup Frye's Fearful Symmetry, Milton Percival's Circle of Destiny, Kathleen Raine's Blake and Tradition, and C.G. Jung's Memories, Dreams, and Reflections.

I have no special academic qualifications in this field. My real qualifications are a lifetime commitment both to the Christian faith in general and to William Blake's expression of it in particular. Judging from the literature those qualifications must be close to unique among writers on Blake

Sunday, March 23, 2014

SPECTRES OF THE DEAD

This is a continuation of the post SPECTRE OF URTHONA
The males without a counterpart, without a concentering vision, are beheld by the Spectre of Urthona as he looks down into the lower world. These Spectres of the Dead are said to be "fragments of spirit" by Damon, perhaps resulting from the Urizen's wars.

Yale Center for British Art
Jerusalem
Plate 30
The dire state of the spectres results from mental errors of eating of the fruit of the two trees. The dualistic approach of assigning the value judgement of Good or Evil to every object is learned from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. From the Tree of Mystery is learned the idea that God is distant and unknown but provides the moral law and regulates compliance and punishes infractions. Los can provide for mankind the thoughts that can replace the destructive errors from which he needs release. He needs Enitharmon's assistance to give form to his thought, substance to his ideas.

We were each born into the material world and have been conditioned from birth to rely on feedback from our senses to interpret our environment. If we were to look at ourselves as the Specters of the Dead we would see ourselves as entities who were locked in our minds without ways to relate in the outside world of matter. Blake presents generation as the opportunity to correct the errors which prevent man from experiencing completeness. In the world of generation the inner expression is represented by Los; the outer by Enitharmon.

When man is created he enters the world of generation. The bible tells us that man is created in the Image of God. To Blake the Image of God implies both spirit and body, inner and outer, the individual and his manifestations in matter. Every rock, insect, and bird is a part of man because it is a product of his interaction with matter conveyed to him by his  mind.
  
Eternal Death to Blake is that inability to join together the activity of the imaginative mind with the ability to express it, for instance through art, or poetry or by building Golgonooza where spirits flourish. Enitharmon gains the ability to allow the outer expression in matter to be informed by the inner expression of spirit when she can 'behold the Lamb of God descending'; that is when she knows that the Eternal is present in the world of generation.

This is her transformative experience: she can now accept the role of assisting Los in forming "embodied semblances in which the dead May live".

Four Zoas, Night VII, Page 87,(E 369)
"But I have thee my [Counterpart Vegetating] miraculous 
These Spectres have no [Counterparts] therefore they ravin
Without the food of life Let us Create them Coun[terparts]
For without a Created body the Spectre is Eternal Death

Los trembling answerd Now I feel the weight of stern repentance
Tremble not so my Enitharmon at the awful gates    
Of thy poor broken Heart I see thee like a shadow withering
As on the outside of Existence but look! behold! take comfort!
Turn inwardly thine Eyes & there behold the Lamb of God
Clothed in Luvahs robes of blood descending to redeem
O Spectre of Urthona take comfort O Enitharmon   
Couldst thou but cease from terror & trembling & affright
When I appear before thee in forgiveness of ancient injuries 
Why shouldst thou remember & be afraid. I surely have died in pain
Often enough to convince thy jealousy & fear & terror
Come hither be patient let us converse together because  
I also tremble at myself & at all my former life

Enitharmon answerd I behold the Lamb of God descending
To Meet these Spectres of the Dead I therefore fear that he
Will give us to Eternal Death fit punishment for such
Hideous offenders Uttermost extinction in eternal pain    
An ever dying life of stifling & obstruction shut out
Of existence to be a sign & terror to all who behold
Lest any should in futurity do as we have done in heaven
Such is our state nor will the Son of God redeem us but destroy
Page 98 [90] 
So Enitharmon spoke trembling & in torrents of tears

Los sat in Golgonooza in the Gate of Luban where  
He had erected many porches where branchd the Mysterious Tree  
Where the Spectrous dead wail & sighing thus he spoke to Enitharmon

Lovely delight of Men Enitharmon shady refuge from furious war
Thy bosom translucent is a soft repose for the weeping souls
Of those piteous victims of battle there they sleep in happy obscurity
They feed upon our life we are their victims. Stern desire
I feel to fabricate embodied semblances in which the dead
May live before us in our palaces & in our gardens of labour 
Which now opend within the Center we behold spread abroad
To form a world of Sacrifice of brothers & sons & daughters 
To comfort Orc in his dire sufferings[;] look[!] my fires enlume afresh
Before my face ascending with delight as in ancient times"

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Notes 1

Albion The Eternal Man; the fallen man; due to rise.

auguries:
God appears, and God is light
To those poor souls who dwell in night,
But does a human form display
To those who dwell in realms of day.
&nnbsp;          (End of Auguries of Innocence)


Beulah in the Bible was the
name Isaiah gave to the Holy Land, when it was to be redeemed. It means married. Blake used it as the place of rest from the fierce contentions of Eternity.
"Both read the same Bible day and night
But you read black where I read white."
(from The Everlasting Gospel by William Blake)
        We have Blake's Annotations on Bacon's Essays (erd 620-32), part of which you may read at this review of Bacon's thought.

Blake's God
       Some understanding of Berkeley's thought is a good preliminary to understanding the shape of Blake's mature vision of God, which came to him definitively about 1800.
       You can say nothing other than the products of your mind, which means that an objective God is a complete unknown; Blake would say there's no such thing:
Mental Things are alone Real what is Calld Corporeal Nobody Knows of its Dwelling Place it is in Fallacy & its Existence an Imposture Where is the Existence Out of Mind or Thought Where is it but in the Mind of a Fool.
       (From, A Vision of The Last Judgment)


       In Blakean theology Jesus is the only God; not the man named Jesus: he's only a man. No! Blake's Jesus is the indwelling spirit within the psyche- the fount of imagination and forgiveness. Jesus is one.
       Thus, when the two Great Commandments meld together, the neighbor we're exhorted to love is the God within the other. So to love God with all your heart and mind and soul and strength involves loving God in all the particulars-- not just your neighbor, but his animals, insects, sticks and stones. Nature thus becomes what is groaning in travail; to love and care for it is to love God. "God only Acts & Is, in existing beings or Men" (MHH plate 16).


Creation

This from Blake's Design of the Last Judgment:
Many suppose that before the Creation All was Solitude and Chaos. This is the most pernicious Idea that can enter the Mind as it takes away all sublimity from the Bible and Limits All Existence to Creation and to Chaos-- to the Time and Space fixed by the Corporeal Vegetative Eye, and leaves the Man who entertains such an Idea the habitation of Unbelieving Demons. Eternity Exists and All things in Eternity Independent of Creation which was an act of Mercy. I have represented those who are in Eternity by some in a Cloud within the Rainbow that Surrounds the Throne. They merely appear as in a Cloud when any thing of Creation, Redemption, or Judgment are the Subjects of Contemplation tho their Whole Contemplation is Concerning these things. The Reason they so appear is The Humiliation of the Reasoning and Doubting Selfhood and the Giving all up to Inspiration.  By this it will be seen that I do not consider either the Just or the Wicked to be in a Supreme State but to be every one of them States of the Sleep which the Soul may fall into in its Deadly Dreams of Good and Evil when it leaves Paradise following the Serpent.
______________________________________________________________


Daughters of Beulah
In the upper left corner of the Arlington Tempera, behind the sleeping god, nymphs are playing upon musical instruments. To Digby in Symbol and Image in William Blake these were the daughters of Beulah.
The picture here accurately represents their role - to attend the couches (like nurses in ICU); with their music they empower man's perception of the archetypal symbols which address the unconscious more directly than words might. The archetypal symbols are the oxygen, the medicines meant to heal the sufferer in Ulro from the 'mind forg'd manacles' of gross materialism; the unconscious offers us better things.
(The daughters are mentioned 29 times in Blake's poetry.):
Four Zoas Night 1 Page 5 line 33-5:
"On all sides within & without the Universal Man The Daughters of Beulah follow sleepers in all their Dreams Creating Spaces lest they fall into Eternal Death."
Or this one: Four Zoas Night 8 Page 113 line 32-6:
But thou O Universal Humanity who is One Man blessed for Ever
Receivest the Integuments woven Rahab beholds the Lamb of God
She smites with her knife of flint She destroys her own work
Times upon times thinking to destroy the Lamb blessed for Ever
He puts off the clothing of blood he redeems the spectres from their bonds
He awakes the sleepers in Ulro the Daughters of Beulah praise him
They anoint his feet with ointment they wipe them with
the hair of their head."
Or this, Milton plate 34.20-21 E134:
"And the Couches of the Martyrs: & many Daughters of Beulah Accompany them down to the Ulro with soft melodious tears."
______________________________________________________________


Death
Entering the Door of Death (Frontspiece of Jerusalem)
The word die is carefully avoided by most of us; when a loved one dies, we say he/she passed away. The question is-- what dies? The Roman Empire died; the British Empire died? But those were not people per se; they were states, conglomerates of materiality. So death is relative-- from what to what? Ellie asked a workmate if he considered himself a body or a spirit; "a body", he said; "a spirit", she said.
So what dies? A body or a spirit or both? (In mortal life our bodies are said to actually die (cell by cell) and be renewed every 7 years.)
So at the end of mortal life what dies? the body of course, the garment that we acquired when we descended into the Sea of Time and Space and the 'daughters of Enitharmon' began to cut and splice it.
When Odysseus (or Luvah) threw the garment back to the sea goddess, he was on his way back to Eternity, where we all go sooner or later.
In the French Quarter in N.O. a black friend told me about her dead son; he had had an incurable and painful disease; he came to her and asked her permission to die, which she of course granted. In one of Charles Williams' delightful metaphysical thrillers two characters are especially memorable: a saintly lady fully in tune with the life of the Spirit, and a man who generations before had been hanged; his spirit still hanged around that locale, which happened to be outside her window. She met him there and gave him permission to depart in peace.
In the series called William Blake Meets Thomas Paine we witness a conversation that Bill Blake had with his brother, Robert (long deceased and we're led to believe that this was commonplace in Blake's life.

"But when once I did descry
The Immortal Man that cannot die,
Thro' evening shades I haste away
To close the labours of my day."(From  Gates of Paradise)
"Every Death is an improvement in the State of the Departed." (Letter 74 - to Linnell; Erdman 774)
By Death Eternal Blake implied descent into mortal life.
By Life Eternal he meant return to our Eternal Origin.
"But what have you and I learned here in our mortal life?
(One Post can do no more than introduce this subject; it has other major ramifications.)
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Friday, March 21, 2014

SPECTRE OF URTHONA

This is a continuation of the post ENITHARMON & LOS
Illustrations to Paradise Lost 
Temptation and Fall of Eve
We begin this section with allusions to the sin of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. 'Urizen's Mysterious tree' evokes the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil from the Garden, and Blake's Tree of Mystery which encompassed false religion growing out of erroneous ideas.

Enitharmon realizes that her fears and sense of failure grow out of her eating of the fruits of these two trees. She is unable to celebrate life but, like Enion, sees that life is a mutual devouring of the other. As did Eve, Enitharmon offers the fruit to her counterpart who she believes to be "strong & mighty To bear this Self conviction". She is seeking proof that there is life Eternal but after eating the fruit Los despaired, seeing not life Eternal, but death Eternal.

Los and Enitharmon are connected through Urthona from whom they were born as he fell from his original unity. By acting as a medium between the quarreling pair, the Spectre of Urthona takes steps to rejoin together what has been torn asunder. His next step is to acknowledge that his own actions precipitated the chain reaction leading to the present situation.

The state of Death that the Spectre of Urthona encountered is described as "Each Male formd without a counterpart without a concentering vision." So Los and Enitharmon will be given the task of providing for these Spectres of the Dead who have no counterpart. If they can accomplish this they may repair the rift between themselves. And if they can learn to live together in love and forgiveness, Urthona may be reunited with his Spectre. Then the broken psyche and the broken world may be healed.


Four Zoas, Night VII, PAGE 95 [87] (SECOND PORTION), (E 369) 
"But Los stood on the Limit of Translucence weeping & trembling
Filled with doubts in self accusation beheld the fruit  
Of Urizens Mysterious tree For Enitharmon thus spake
 
When In the Deeps beneath I gatherd of this ruddy fruit 
It was by that I knew that I had Sinnd & then I knew
That without a ransom I could not be savd from Eternal death
That Life lives upon Death & by devouring appetite
All things subsist on one another thenceforth in Despair
I spend my glowing time but thou art strong & mighty  
To bear this Self conviction take then Eat thou also of
The fruit & give me proof of life Eternal or I die
Then Los plucked the fruit & Eat & sat down in Despair
And must have given himself to death Eternal But
Urthonas spectre in part mingling with him comforted him  
Being a medium between him & Enitharmon   But This Union
Was not to be Effected without Cares & Sorrows & Troubles
Of six thousand Years of self denial and of bitter Contrition 

Urthonas Spectre terrified beheld the Spectres of the Dead
Each Male formd without a counterpart without a concentering vision
The Spectre of Urthona wept before Los Saying I am the cause
That this dire state commences I began the dreadful state
Of Separation & on my dark head the curse & punishment
Must fall unless a way be found to Ransom & Redeem"    

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Milton 2


E 2



MILTON
Book the First
At the top is a large star, which is said to represent
Milton, then MILTON, Book the First.

Daughters of Beulah! Muses who inspire the Poets Song
Record the journey of immortal Milton thro' your Realms 
Of terror & mild moony lustre, in soft sexual delusions
Of varied beauty, to delight the wanderer and repose
His burning thirst & freezing hunger!

The 'immortal Milton' has left Heaven for the time being
and entered the realm of Beulah, but not to rest, as some
do, but for the specific purpose of fixing what was wrong
in his former life.


................................... Come into my hand
By your mild power; descending down the Nerves of my right arm
From out the Portals of my Brain, where by your ministry
The Eternal Great Humanity Divine. planted his Paradise,
 

This is a sardonic reference to the Creation according to the Bible.

And in it caus'd the Spectres of the Dead to take sweet forms 
In likeness of himself. Tell also of the False Tongue! vegetated 
Beneath your land of shadows: of its sacrifices. and its offerings;

By the False Tongue Blake meant among other things the religious
establishment of Britain, especially the mercenary bishops with
the sacrifices and offerings which they extort from the underlings.

even till Jesus, the image of the Invisible God
Became its prey; a curec, an offering, and an atonement,

They were and are responsible for the suffering and death of Jesus

For Death Eternal in the heavens of Albion, & before the Gates 
Of Jerusalem his Emanation, in the heavens beneath Beulah 

 Say first! what mov'd Milton, who walkd about in Eternity 
One hundred years, pondring the intricate mazes of Providence 
Unhappy tho in heav'n, he obey'd, he murmur'd not. he was silent 
Viewing his Sixfold Emanation scatter'd thro' the deep 

Milton was not happy in Heaven because of his guilt feelings re
his former life. So he went back to fix things.

In torment! To go into the deep her to redeem & himself perish? 
 What cause at length mov'd Milton to this unexampled deed[?] 
 A Bards prophetic Song! for sitting at eternal tables, 
Terrific among the Sons of Albion in chorus solemn & loud 
A Bard broke forth! all sat attentive to the awful man. 
 Mark well my words! they are of your eternal salvation: 

 Three Classes are Created by the Hammer of Los, & Woven
 PLATE 3 By Enitharmons Looms.....

***********************************************
Harold Bloom's commentary at the end of The Works of William Blake is the best, if not the only interpretive material on Blake's Book of Milton that I've found. He tells us that the large Falling Star at the top right corner of this plate signals the return of Milton from Heaven to Earth, but it frightens Urizen and Los; they are said to believe the falling star is Satan.

Blake drew on Paradise Lost in his Milton and it is also related to the story of Job, although it was much later that Blake brought out his Reflections on Job.  The three of them are a treatment of the problem of Evil. (you may perceive that throughout Blake's Works he did not believe in Evil and thought it was not Evil, but rather Error.)

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

ENITHARMON & LOS

This is a continuation of the post LOS & HIS SPECTRE. 
The next part of the interaction between Los and his Spectre has Los's indignant reply. The Spectre had claimed that Los has no permanence and depends on "being Created Continually by Mercy & Love divine." Los however will not concede to "Reason's power"; he knows the has access to the world of spirit where things have "real substance" and are not elusive "shadows." Los refuses the shadowy world of the reasoning Spectre for the substantial world of imagination.

Los could return to completeness if his Emanation as well as his Spectre would join him. Los would moderate his insistent assertiveness if his gentler, supportive aspect would return. Los and Enitharmon are two aspects of one totality. When they are united the Spectre is absorbed into the unified man as well.

British Museum
Book of Urizen
Plate 19, Copy D

Enitharmon was reticent because there was history between herself and Los. The birth of the first son of Los and Enitharmon, who was named Orc, led to a hostile, jealous reaction from his father. When the boy reached puberty his parents took him to a mountaintop and left him chained. Although the parents relented and went back to release him, his chains had enrooted in rock. Enitharmon's heart was broken and she took revenge against men.

To cool the temper of Enitharmon, the Spector of Urthona stepped in because he could see an opening to the Center. The specter of Urthona gave Los the task of destroying the body he had created, but like releasing Orc from his chains it was not an easily or quickly accomplished task. I am reminded of the tasks Psyche was assigned to gain release from the control of Venus, and the help she received from unexpected sources.
 
Los set to work preparing the environment in which a changed order could develop. By beginning to build Golgonooza, a city in which art and imagination could thrive, be began reshaping his own psyche and creating conditions which would reassure Enitharmon of his intentions.
 
Four Zoas, Night VII, Page 86, (E 368) 
"Los furious answerd. Spectre horrible thy words astound my Ear
With irresistible conviction I feel I am not one of those 
Who when convincd can still persist. tho furious.controllable
By Reasons power. Even I already feel a World within
Opening its gates & in it all the real substances
Of which these in the outward World are shadows which pass away
Come then into my Bosom & in thy shadowy arms bring with thee   
My lovely Enitharmon. I will quell my fury & teach
Peace to the Soul of dark revenge & repentance to Cruelty

So spoke Los & Embracing Enitharmon & the Spectre
Clouds would have folded round in Extacy & Love uniting
Page 87 
But Enitharmon trembling fled & hid beneath Urizens tree
But mingling together with his Spectre the Spectre of Urthona 
Wondering beheld the Center opend by Divine Mercy inspired    
He in his turn Gave Tasks to Los Enormous to destroy       
That body he created but in vain for Los performd Wonders of labour 
They Builded Golgonooza Los labouring builded pillars high 
And Domes terrific in the nether heavens for beneath
Was opend new heavens & a new Earth beneath & within
Threefold within the brain within the heart within the loins
A Threefold Atmosphere Sublime continuous from Urthonas world  
But yet having a Limit Twofold named Satan & Adam"