Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Shadows

Quote from Larry Clayton's Blake Primer - Chapter Two - Style.

To think and speak eternally is no small achievement for Blake or for us. Pursuing this aim he floundered for many years.

The words of Los in The Four Zoas record the moment when Blake got a firm grip on what he sought for himself and for us: "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." (E368) After twenty years in the visionary wilderness that "World within" opened its gates into the mind of the mature artist and poet. 

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"
Illustrations to Poems of Thomas Gray
Ode to Adversity
Then he began to exercise the greatest freedom in his artistic use of the shadows.

They served him in every conceivable way to elucidate the real world within. All the shadows, all natural phenomena, all historical events, all works of art, his own included, he treated as fluctuating insubstantials which illustrate or point to the eternal reality.

Blake thought so much of Infinity that he learned to take great liberties with time and space. In this he followed the style of the most imaginative books of the Bible. As a young man sitting at the feet of Swedenborg he had learned the doctrine of correspondences which had come down from the Bible through the heterodox tradition. As Blake applied it, every material thing has a spiritual or eternal referrent. In the words of the alchemical tradition, "As above, so below".

In the Book of Revelation for example Babylon, a code word for Rome, more generally connotes the citadel of worldly power and evil. Blake of course used it in the same way. He used geographical locations of all sorts to point to spiritual realities. Africa symbolizes slavery in all its forms, particularly the "mind forg'd manacles" (from London) of the moral law. America symbolizes the hope of freedom. In the 16th plate of 'Jerusalem' (E 160) Blake went to extremes with this sort of symbolization; he superimposed the territorial tribes of Israel upon the map of England. The lapse into obscurantism was an unfortunate attempt to evoke spiritual values from a very prosaic material reality.

He more often succeeded in translating historical events and personages into spiritual realities. Constantine and Charlemagne symbolize war with religion as its handmaid. Albion is Blake's master symbol for Man, but sometimes Moses symbolizes Man; Michael and Satan then symbolize the forces of light and darkness in contest for Man. In Blake's last great work Job became the archetypal man.

Some of his symbols (Orc, Urizen, Los) Blake elaborated into the dramatis personae of his complete myth. Their identities, not immediately apparent, grow and take on new and fuller meaning throughout a life time of reading Blake. The fascination of the prophecies lies in watching these strange symbols come forth from the mists of confusion and speak with ever increasing authority to the reader about himself and his world.
Beginning with the traditional language of symbolic discourse Blake learned to translate every facet of man's experience into a symbol of the ultimate:

    Letters, To Thomas Butts, (E 712)
    "...Each grain of Sand,
    Every Stone on the Land,
    Each rock & each hill,
    Each fountain & rill,
    Each herb & each tree,
    Mountain, hill, earth & sea,
    Cloud, Meteor & Star,
    Are Men Seen Afar."

And two years later, in another letter poem:  
Letters, To Thomas Butts, (E 722)
"For double the vision my Eyes do see,
And a double vision is always with me.
With my inward Eye 'tis an old Man grey;
With my outward, a Thistle across my way."

Blake used earlier works of art as symbols which he put together to convey his thoughts about the eternal struggle and flux of values. He used the Bible, Milton, earlier Blake in the same way, all as a reservoir of ideational symbols combined into new forms to convey spiritual truth. This habit of mind can be described awkwardly at best. But it can be experienced vividly by the reader who will live into Blake's poetry. It's one of the ways in which he expressed his "desire of raising other men into a perception of the infinite".

Saturday, May 28, 2016

WOMAN & DRAGON

The following passage in Revelation had a powerful influence on Milton and Blake. It provided the imagery through which they each could formulate myths about the origin of man's fallen condition. There was a war in heaven which spilled into the earth. The conflict between Michael and his Angels on one side and the great red Dragon on the other, allowed the deceiver to gain a foothold through which the woman was sent to experience life in time. Man lost the unity of Eternity and acquired a dualistic nature which could only be expressed in a temporal world. The woman became the vehicle through which the outer was made manifest.
 
Revelation 12
[1] And there appeared a great wonder in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars:
[2] And she being with child cried, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered.
[3] And there appeared another wonder in heaven; and behold a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads.
[4] And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth: and the dragon stood before the woman which was ready to be delivered, for to devour her child as soon as it was born.
[5] And she brought forth a man child, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron: and her child was caught up unto God, and to his throne.
[6] And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she hath a place prepared of God, that they should feed her there a thousand two hundred and threescore days.
[7] And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels,
[8] And prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven.
[9] And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.
[10] And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night.
[11] And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death.
[12] Therefore rejoice, ye heavens, and ye that dwell in them. Woe to the inhabiters of the earth and of the sea! for the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time.
[13] And when the dragon saw that he was cast unto the earth, he persecuted the woman which brought forth the man child.
[14] And to the woman were given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness, into her place, where she is nourished for a time, and times, and half a time, from the face of the serpent.
[15] And the serpent cast out of his mouth water as a flood after the woman, that he might cause her to be carried away of the flood.
[16] And the earth helped the woman, and the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed up the flood which the dragon cast out of his mouth.
[17] And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.

Brooklyn Museum
The Great Red Dragon 
and the Woman Clothed with the Sun
1803-05


The dragon of the picture is the fallen angel who took with him a third of heaven's content when he was cast out of heaven. John of Patmos failed to explicate the origin of the dragon or the scenario which led him to rebel against the Divine order. Milton and Blake looked deep into their own psyches and historical situations attempting to learn why the perfect harmony of Eternity became fractured.
 


 
 
 
Four Zoas, Night V,Page 64, (E 343)
[Urzien speaks] 
"My songs are turned to cries of Lamentation 
Heard on my Mountains & deep sighs under my palace roofs 
Because the Steeds of Urizen once swifter than the light 
Were kept back from my Lord & from his chariot of mercies
O did I keep the horses of the day in silver pastures
O I refusd the Lord of day the horses of his prince
O did I close my treasuries with roofs of solid stone            
And darken all my Palace walls with envyings & hate

O Fool to think that I could hide from his all piercing eyes
The gold & silver & costly stones his holy workmanship
O Fool could I forget the light that filled my bright spheres
Was a reflection of his face who calld me from the deep          

I well remember for I heard the mild & holy voice
Saying O light spring up & shine & I sprang up from the deep
He gave to me a silver scepter & crownd me with a golden crown
& said Go forth & guide my Son who wanders on the ocean     

I went not forth. I hid myself in black clouds of my wrath       
I calld the stars around my feet in the night of councils dark
The stars threw down their spears & fled naked away
We fell. I siezd thee dark Urthona In my left hand falling

I siezd thee beauteous Luvah thou art faded like a flower
And like a lilly is thy wife Vala witherd by winds               
When thou didst bear the golden cup at the immortal tables
Thy children smote their fiery wings crownd with the gold of heaven

PAGE 65 
Thy pure feet stepd on the steps divine. too pure for other feet
And thy fair locks shadowd thine eyes from the divine effulgence
Then thou didst keep with Strong Urthona the living gates of heaven
But now thou art bound down with him even to the gates of hell

Because thou gavest Urizen the wine of the Almighty             
For steeds of Light that they might run in thy golden chariot of pride
I gave to thee the Steeds   I pourd the stolen wine
And drunken with the immortal draught fell from my throne sublime"

Paradise Lost, Book 5 
John Milton 
"all obey'd
The wonted signal, and superior voice [ 705 ]
Of thir great Potentate; for great indeed
His name, and high was his degree in Heav'n;
His count'nance, as the Morning Starr that guides
The starrie flock, allur'd them, and with lyes
Drew after him the third part of Heav'ns Host: [ 710 ]
Mean while th' Eternal eye, whose sight discernes
Abstrusest thoughts, from forth his holy Mount
And from within the golden Lamps that burne
Nightly before him, saw without thir light
Rebellion rising, saw in whom, how spred [ 715 ]
Among the sons of Morn, what multitudes
Were banded to oppose his high Decree;"

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

LYCA

Kathleen Raine focused her study of Blake on tracing Blake's sources using all the clues that he left in his writings and visual imagery. She read what he was known to have read going back through the centuries. One of the outcomes of her pursuit was the realization that Greek Mythology had an enormous influence on the creation of Blake's myth of fall and redemption. Blake seamlessly wove the threads of Biblical influences with the thought revealed in the totality of Greek myth. Raine's two volume masterpiece, Blake and Tradition, plunges into the depths of esoteric and mythopoeic writings to reveal Blake's intent in the choice of his symbols. She later condensed some of her insight in Blake and Antiquity. Raine was my guide in becoming better acquainted with the following poems.

If we take a careful look at Blake's The Little Girl Lost and The Little Girl Found from Songs of Experience, we may recognize that we are seeing a preview of characters in his later poems. After becoming acquainted with Thomas Taylor and saturating himself with the work Taylor was doing in translating Greek Mythology and philosophy into English, Blake incorporated characters and scenarios from Greek myths into his lexicon of imagery. The character Lyca in The Little Girl Lost and The Little Girl Found, by being assigned the role of Persephone, is a precursor for Vala. The depth of meaning in the tale of Persephone which formed the structure of the Eleusinian Mysteries, is seen running through Blake's recurring tale of fall, wandering, and return. 

Persephone was among the loveliest of immortals before she plucked the flower, (as did OOthoon), that introduced her to another level of consciousness. In her tale the young woman, who represents the Soul, is abducted by Pluto, called by Raine 'material nature'. She was carried away from the world of the immortals and down into the earth.
 

Blake's Little Girl is not innocent to the attraction of the 'wild birds song.' In the first image we see not the child we read about, but a couple - a male and female - embracing. The call to materiality has been heard. The division between body and soul, which characterizes Ulro and Generation, has already occurred. The stage is set for the fall into our material world which is dualistic or 'sexual.'
 

Lyca accepts the invitation to enter the state of sleep thereby inviting the 'beasts of prey' to join her. She views the kingly lion, who Raine tells us represents the lion in the Zodiac, Pluto, king of the underworld and ruler of souls entering the afterlife. This is the traditional sleep of death when the body lies in the grave.
 

Blake's imagery bifurcates here representing, on the one hand, the experience of death in the material world and, on the other, exit from the eternal world to enter the world of time and space. In Lyca's sleep she is brought to a cavern where she later is joined by her parents. There is no return to Eternity in this tale. But there is no threat or fear in Lyca's cave from the wild animals with whom she plays.

Persephone represented the fertility of the earth among other things. Her disappearance underground interfered with the agricultural output. The Gods came up with a compromise in which she would send half of her time on the earth and half below the surface. Thus the cyclical rotation between the time when the fields were fallow and resting, and the time of production and harvest. Blake incorporated the fluctuation between the repose of Beulah and the activity of Eden into his system. We see here as well the symbiosis of body and soul, each in love with the other, and relinquishing itself for the other's life.
 

The implication in these poems is that the Soul may retain the ability to discern the Eternal in the time/space continuum. The mother of Persephone, Cerus (identified as intellect), engaged in a search similar to that undertaken by Lyca's mother which culminated in their being reunited at Eleusis. Blake's poems have the soul and intellect reunite in the unconscious. 

The task of achieving a reunion with 'her maker' is expected in the future when the desert once again is a garden. In a future time she: 
Songs of Experience, Song 34, (E 20)
"Shall arise and seek
For her maker meek:
And the desart wild
Become a garden mild."
But now she has a different task; she must pass through a world in which she lives in a body and knows woe as well as joy:
Jerusalem, Plate 4, (E 146)
"Chap: 1
Of the Sleep of Ulro! and of the passage through
Eternal Death! and of the awaking to Eternal Life."

Songs of Experience, SONGS 34, 35, 36, (E 20-21) 
"The Little Girl Lost        

In futurity
I prophetic see,
That the earth from sleep,
(Grave the sentence deep)

Shall arise and seek
For her maker meek:
And the desart wild
Become a garden mild.
___________________

In the southern clime,
Where the summers prime,
Never fades away;
Lovely Lyca lay.

Seven summers old
Lovely Lyca told,
She had wanderd long, 
Hearing wild birds song.

Sweet sleep come to me
Underneath this tree;
Do father, mother weep.--
Where can Lyca sleep.

Lost in desart wild
Is your little child.
How can Lyca sleep,
If her mother weep.

If her heart does ake, 
Then let Lyca wake;
If my mother sleep,
Lyca shall not weep.

Frowning frowning night,
O'er this desart bright,
Let thy moon arise,
While I close my eyes.

Sleeping Lyca lay;
While the beasts of prey,
Come from caverns deep, 
View'd the maid asleep

The kingly lion stood
And the virgin view'd,
Then he gambold round
O'er the hallowd ground;

SONGS 35
Leopards, tygers play,
Round her as she lay;
While the lion old,
Bow'd his mane of gold.

And her bosom lick,
And upon her neck,
From his eyes of flame,
Ruby tears there came;

While the lioness,
Loos'd her slender dress,
And naked they convey'd
To caves the sleeping maid.

The Little Girl Found

All the night in woe,
Lyca's parents go:
Over vallies deep,
While the desarts weep.

Tired and woe-begone, 
Hoarse with making moan:
Arm in arm seven days,
They trac'd the desart ways.

Seven nights they sleep,
Among shadows deep:
And dream they see their child
Starv'd in desart wild.

Pale thro' pathless ways
The fancied image strays,

SONGS 36 
Famish'd, weeping, weak
With hollow piteous shriek

Rising from unrest,
The trembling woman prest,
With feet of weary woe;
She could no further go. 

In his arms he bore,
Her arm'd 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 stalk'd around,

Smelling to his prey.
But their fears allay,
When he licks their hands;
And silent by them stands.

They look upon his eyes
Fill'd with deep surprise:
And wondering behold,
A spirit arm'd in gold. 

On his head a crown
On his shoulders down,
Flow'd 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 tygers wild.

To this day they dwell
In a lonely dell
Nor fear the wolvish howl,
Nor the lions growl."
British Museum
Songs of Experience
Song 34, Copy B
The Little Girl Lost
British Museum
Songs of Experience
Song 35, Copy B
The Little Girl Found
British Museum
Songs of Experience
Song 36, Copy B
The Little Girl Found






















































Look at enlarged images on this website.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Jerusalem & Vala

This material is from Chapter 8, section VI of Larry Clayton's book, A Blake Primer.
 
In the extended passage from Jerusalem which follows, Blake gives a colloquy with the fainting, confused Albion and the two females competing for his heart - Vala and Jerusalem. It's actually a recreation of the earlier colloquy in Visions of the Daughters of Albion, and infinitely richer and fuller. Albion wavers exactly like Theotormon; Vala, like Bromion, is implacably blind; and Jerusalem has the eloquence of the earlier heroine, Oothoon. In this scene, like the earlier one, Blake describes the eternal battle between faith and worldliness.
Jerusalem, Plate 20, (E 165)
"But when they saw Albion fall'n upon mild Lambeths vale:
Astonish'd! Terrified! they hover'd over his Giant limbs.
Then thus Jerusalem spoke, while Vala wove the veil of tears:
Weeping in pleadings of Love, in the web of despair.

Wherefore hast thou shut me into the winter of human life   
And clos'd up the sweet regions of youth and virgin innocence:
Where we live, forgetting error, not pondering on evil:
Among my lambs & brooks of water, among my warbling birds:
Where we delight in innocence before the face of the Lamb:
Going in and out before him in his love and sweet affection. 

Vala replied weeping & trembling, hiding in her veil.

When winter rends the hungry family and the snow falls:
Upon the ways of men hiding the paths of man and beast,
Then mourns the wanderer: then he repents his wanderings & eyes
The distant forest; then the slave groans in the dungeon of stone.    
The captive in the mill of the stranger, sold for scanty hire.
They view their former life: they number moments over and over;
Stringing them on their remembrance as on a thread of sorrow.
Thou art my sister and my daughter! thy shame is mine also!
Ask me not of my griefs! thou knowest all my griefs.             

Jerusalem answer'd with soft tears over the valleys.

O Vala what is Sin? that thou shudderest and weepest
At sight of thy once lov'd Jerusalem! What is Sin but a little
Error & fault that is soon forgiven; but mercy is not a Sin
Nor pity nor love nor kind forgiveness! O! if I have Sinned      
Forgive & pity me! O! unfold thy Veil in mercy & love!
Slay not my little ones, beloved Virgin daughter of Babylon
Slay not my infant loves & graces, beautiful daughter of Moab
I cannot put off the human form I strive but strive in vain
When Albion rent thy beautiful net of gold and silver twine;
Thou hadst woven it with art, thou hadst caught me in the bands
Of love; thou refusedst to let me go: Albion beheld thy beauty
Beautiful thro' our Love's comeliness, beautiful thro' pity.
The Veil shone with thy brightness in the eyes of Albion,
Because it inclosd pity & love; because we lov'd one-another!
Albion lov'd thee! he rent thy Veil! he embrac'd thee! he lov'd thee!
Astonish'd at his beauty & perfection, thou forgavest his furious love:
I redounded from Albions bosom in my virgin loveliness.
The Lamb of God reciev'd me in his arms he smil'd upon us:

He made me his Bride & Wife: he gave thee to Albion.             
Then was a time of love: O why is it passed away!"
Look also at the passage on Plate 31 and remember that Albion, Vala and Los each speaks from his own viewpoint. To understand Blake's vision the reader must imaginatively enter the psychic state of each of the three characters. Los most often speaks from the poet's true standpoint, and the following lines put his position about as plainly as it can be put:

Jerusalem, Plate 30 [34], (E 176)
"What may Man be? who can tell! but what may Woman be
To have power over Man from Cradle to corruptible Grave?
There is a Throne in every Man, it is the Throne of God:
This, Woman has claim'd as her own, and Man is no more!
Albion is the Tabernacle of Vala and her Temple,
And not the Tabernacle and Temple of the Most High.
0 Albion, why wilt thou Create a Female Will?
...
Is this the Female Will, 0 ye lovely Daughters of Albion, To
Converse concerning Weight & Distance in the Wilds of Newton & Locke?"

As the epic progresses, Blake continues to define the two women:

Jerusalem, Plate 39 [44], (E 187)
"Man is adjoin'd to Man by his Emanative portion
Who is Jerusalem in every individual Man, and her
Shadow is Vala, builded by the Reasoning power in Man."

British Museum Jerusalem Copy A, Plate 46
Omitting further detail we can begin our summary of Blake's theory of sex with Jesus' reply to the Sadducee's mocking question about the woman married to seven husbands: "for when they shall rise from the dead, they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels which are in heaven."

Blake begins here, with the assumption that sexual division relates to this world, but not to Eternity. Sex appears in Beulah, a moony rest from the arduous creative activity of Eden. The "Female Will" condemns Man to the loss of Eternity, which Blake calls "the Sleep of Ulro". Sex signifies fallenness, and the jealous and proudly chaste female symbolizes the active principle of evil, also identified with a materialistic viewpoint whose values are coercion and love of power.

Blake's vision of Jesus humanized his theory of sex. He began to use the biblical image of Jerusalem as the bride of Christ, named his last and greatest epic Jerusalem, and ultimately was able to rationalize the heterodox doctrine of sex with the glorified female as the emanation of the Eternal Man. Blake's female thus joined all the rest of his personal images in traveling the Circle of Destiny, materializing in the Fall and etherealizing in the Return.

Through all his journey Blake had a characteristically liberal and enlightened view of womankind, an entirely different matter from the sexual symbolism that filled his pages. His true and abiding feelings about the relation between men and women appear early in his works in his "Annotations to Lavater": "Let the men do their duty and the women will be such wonders; the female life lives from the light of the male: see a man's female dependents, you know the man." Admittedly short of the high standards of present day feminism, Blake's vision of womanhood considerably surpassed that of most of his contemporaries-- and perhaps most of ours.

Luke 20
[27] Then came to him certain of the Sadducees, which deny that there is any resurrection; and they asked him,
[28] Saying, Master, Moses wrote unto us, If any man's brother die, having a wife, and he die without children, that his brother should take his wife, and raise up seed unto his brother.
[29] There were therefore seven brethren: and the first took a wife, and died without children.
[30] And the second took her to wife, and he died childless.
[31] And the third took her; and in like manner the seven also: and they left no children, and died.
[32] Last of all the woman died also.
[33] Therefore in the resurrection whose wife of them is she? for seven had her to wife.
[34] And Jesus answering said unto them, The children of this world marry, and are given in marriage:
[35] But they which shall be accounted worthy to obtain that world, and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry, nor are given in marriage:
[36] Neither can they die any more: for they are equal unto the angels; and are the children of God, being the children of the resurrection.
[37] Now that the dead are raised, even Moses shewed at the bush, when he calleth the Lord the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.
[38] For he is not a God of the dead, but of the living: for all live unto him.
[39] Then certain of the scribes answering said, Master, thou hast well said.
[40] And after that they durst not ask him any question at all.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Sin & Forgiveness

First published Dec 27, 2013. This is a section of Larry's online book: A Blake Primer.

 

Sin and Forgiveness 

 

"Whosoever of you are justified by the law: ye are fallen from grace"

 Just as he redefined hell, so Blake redefined sin. The only sin for Blake consisted in hindering, oneself or another: "Murder is Hindering Another, Theft is Hindering Another."(Annotations to Lavater, E 601) To subvert one's individuality is the sin against the Holy Spirit. "He who desires but acts not, breeds pestilence".

The responsibility for hindering another falls upon the Lawmaker and Enforcer, who has polluted life with his prohibitions: "over the doors Thou shalt not". One could say that Blake took Paul's letters to the Romans and to the Galatians too seriously. Luther had taken those epistles seriously enough to throw off the Roman yoke. Blake took them more radically and threw off the mosaic yoke--as Paul had suggested.

Paul had identified the Law with the flesh and opposed it with the Spirit. Our poet took with utmost seriousness these stirring passages calling the Christian to freedom from the Law. He didn't have the benefit of the 'interpretations' of such ideas afforded by the educational process. Sin stems from our ideas of morality, which Blake called hindering. When we presume to know what someone else should or must do, we have entered the state of Caiaphas, the Pharisee, who crucified Jesus, but "was in his own Mind/a benefactor to Mankind."

Yale Center for British Art
Jerusalem
Plate 4
We lay down the law to another--our law--and thus violate the other's nature: "One law for the Lion and Ox is Oppression". We tell him what to do, and then we use the power of the Accuser, the God of this World, to compel him to do it and to punish him for his failures. This is sin, the way life happens in Ulro. As we have seen, Blake didn't call it life, he called it Eternal Death. Paul had said, "The wages of sin is death but the gift of God is eternal life."

The categories of sin and righteousness divide mankind. The division often proceeds to the point of physical violence. Corporeal war always rests upon a base of self-righteousness and condemnation of the sins of the enemy. Religion too often allies itself with those attitudes and their violent results. Long before the peaceniks of the sixties Blake said in effect, "Make love, not war!" He said it at great length in dozens of different ways. He saw war as the ultimate end of hindering another.  In the Book of Urizen we read how Urizen, the great Lawgiver (who lives in all of us!) discovers that none of his children can obey his laws, "for he saw that no flesh nor spirit could keep His iron laws one moment".

       So we see that Blake opposed the idea of sin; he opposed morality; he opposed Law. Paradoxically Blake lived a very law abiding life. Only such a person can afford the luxury of antinomianism without losing his integrity. For example Blake despised the marriage laws--and lived as a faithful and dutiful husband for forty years. But beyond the surface absurdities of his anarchism Blake tells us something profound about life: Goodness cannot be compelled; goodness grows only in a context of freedom. "To the pure all things are pure". Blake was basically pure; one of his mottoes was "everything that lives is holy". That in itself would have been enough to make him famous.

       If we can suspend our judgements about people's conduct and stop tormenting ourselves because of our failures to do the good which we have laid upon ourselves, if we can accept what we have called bad, but which may be simply disowned facets of our true nature, in Blake's terminology if we can forgive, then we can put sin behind us and receive the gift of eternal life. Blake, drinking deeply from the primary fountains of scripture, intuitively expressed these universal truths in poetic terms. (100 years later Jung came along and clothed them with the respectability of a scientific jargon.)

      From what has been said it is obvious that Blake didn't believe in Sin as it is commonly understood: "Satan thinks that Sin is displeasing to God; he ought to know that Nothing is displeasing to God but Unbelief & Eating of the Tree of Knowledge of Good & Evil".  (VLJ)

Jerusalem, Blake's symbol of the redeemed and pure consciousness, speaking to Vala, his symbol of the fallen mind, expressed Blake's candid evaluation of Sin as such: "Oh Vala...what is sin but a little error & fault that is soon forgiven?" (Jerusalem 20:23-25)

If the primary moral wrong is hindering, the primary grace is forgiveness. Redemption came for Blake when forgiveness first entered the horizon of his vision; it increasingly came to dominate it. Prior to 1800 with all his denunciations of Urizen, the Restrainer, and of morality Blake was growing more and more into the role of judge. He was becoming in fact a judge of judges. The later Lambeth books witness the resultant decrease in vitality; in the language of Zion he suffered a loss of faith. It coincided with a slowly dawning realization that Urizen had infested his own mind all the while he was denouncing him in others. There awakened in his mind a new awareness of sin, a sin more basic than hindering others, or rather an awareness of the inner cause of hindering. He called it the Selfhood, the Spectre, Satan. As many of us have since that day, Blake realized that he saw the God-playing in others because he was so good at it himself. This new vision of his Selfhood led to the Moment of Grace.

     At Felpham, in the major crisis of his life, he faced the need to forgive both the impositions of his corporeal friend, Hayley, and the resentful thunderer, William Blake, as well. The appearance of his first Vision of Light marks the coming of Christ into his life with the power of this forgiveness; henceforth he called him Jesus, the Forgiveness.

The old urizenic monstrosity that had haunted him, first in the outer world and increasingly as a component of his own psyche, was recognized, accepted, subdued, and forgiven. It was undoubtedly the greatest event of his life, a new birth of hope at the age of 43. He shared with us the psychic unfolding of this experience in Night vii of The Four Zoas where Los embraces his Spectre (equivalent to Jung's acceptance of the shadow) and soon thereafter finds Urizen miraculously changed:
Four Zoas, Night VII, Page 98 [90], (E 371)  
"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"     
Has anyone better portrayed the psychodynamics of forgiveness? In order to forgive you first withdraw the projection, then you forgive yourself. It's your baby!

We can't say that's the end of the story; in Night viii Urizen continues to afflict life with his judgements, hostility and violence; Satan comes forth from his War. The Saviour dies for him, and we are still waiting for the ultimate victory. Nor was Blake himself fully delivered from the resentments and self justifications of the old man. Hard times ahead, the deceitfulness and opprobrium of others continued to afflict and to warp his psyche and caused him to participate in sin (mostly by suffering through the sins of others against him), but now he knew the answer: through recurring awareness and Self-annihilation he could forgive again and again. The wheat and tares continued to grow together.

Monday, May 16, 2016

READ ABOUT BLAKE

A post published by Larry in 2009 and expanded by ellie.
Wikimedia Commons
Blake's Watercolors for Poems of Thomas Gray
Ode to Spring, Page 6
People interested in Blake are more apt to read about Blake than to read Blake. Reading The Four Zoas, Milton, and Jerusalem are awesome undertakings. Until you've begun to understand the man's language, it's a losing proposition. There's a core set of metaphors that he used repeatedly, although like all metaphors his are subject to various interpretations, and often used for an object or its opposite.

To enable intelligent reading of the major prophecies there is a great abundance of commentary on his works. Where does one begin? Those of us who have made a few steps in that direction can perhaps give a bit of guidance to the beginning student.

Northrup Frye's Fearful Symmetry was the work that made me a life long lover of Blake's poetry. It's not easy; I read it five times before I was able to get more than a few glimmers of light. But it's very rewarding; you're likely smarter than me, in which case one or two readings may get you well into the long poems.

Frye was a minister of the United Church of Canada as well as celebrated literature critique; after finishing Fearful Symmetry he said that if he had it to do over, he would have written more of an introduction than what he actually did. But more than a half century after it was published Fearful Symmetry is introducing serious readers to an experience of discovery:

"Blake's cosmology, of which the symbol is Ezekiel's vision of the chariot of God with its 'wheels within wheels,' is a revolutionary vision of the universe transformed by the creative imagination of a human shape. This cosmology is not speculative but concerned, not reactionary but revolutionary, not a vision of things as they are ordered but of things as they could be ordered...Blake's poetry, like that of every poet who knows what he is doing, is mythical, for myth is the language of concern: it is cosmology in movement, a living form not a mathematical one." (Preface) 

The one who gave the simplest introduction for me was Milton Percival in William Blake's Circle of Destiny; it's more systematic and more elementary. Percival connects the myth Blake created with literature which fed its development:

"I predict, then, that when the evidence is in, it will be found that in the use of tradition Blake exceeded Milton, and was second, if to anyone, only to Dante. To be sure, a great deal of the Blakean tradition might not be called 'accepted.' It certainly was not orthodox. But the Blakean heterodoxy was equally traditional with Dante's orthodoxy. The Orphic and Pythagorean tradition, Neoplatonism in the whole of its extent, the Hermetic, kabbalistic, Gnostic, and alchemical writings, Erigena, Paracelsus, Boehme, and Swedenborg - here is a consistent body of tradition extending over nearly twenty-five hundred years. In the light of this tradition, not the light of Christian orthodoxy, Blake read his Bible, weighing and deciding for himself, formulating a 'Bible of Hell'; for he was one in whose veins ran the dissidence of dissent and the protestantism of the Protestant religion." (Page 1)    

But Kathleen Raine's Blake and Tradition was what made me a real enthusiast. That's the most easily readable one, and it's filled with some of Blake's loveliest pictures. Unfortunately Blake and Tradition is out of print now, but a fairly good substitute may be found in her little book, Blake and Antiquity or in her biography titled William Blake. Raine sees the whole of Blake's art enmeshed in the tradition which it expands: 

"Blake was such an artist; and his work, as he believed, represents 'portions of Eternity' seen in imaginative vision. Blake himself writes of 'ever Existent Images' which may be seen 'by the Imaginative Eye of Every one according to the situation he holds' - a collective archetypal world whose reality is more credible in our century that it was in his own. 'To different people it appears differently, as everything else does.' Such art comes from a source deeper than the individual experience of poet or painter, and has the power of communication to that same level of the spectator. To our superficial selves this is a source of the 'obscurity' of visionary art; to our deepest selves, of its lucidity." (Page 7)
Vision of Last Judgment, (E 560)
    "If the Spectator could Enter into these Images in his
Imagination approaching them on the Fiery Chariot of his
Contemplative Thought if he could Enter into Noahs Rainbow or
into his bosom or could make a Friend & Companion of one of these
Images of wonder which always intreats him to leave mortal things
as he must know then would he arise from his Grave then would he
meet the Lord in the Air & then he would be happy   General
Knowledge is Remote Knowledge it is in Particulars that Wisdom
consists & Happiness too.  Both in Art & in Life General Masses
are as Much Art as a Pasteboard Man is Human Every Man has Eyes
Nose & Mouth this Every Idiot knows but he who enters into &
discriminates most minutely the Manners & Intentions  the
Expression of Character in all their branches is the
alone Wise or Sensible Man & on this discrimination All Art is
founded.  I intreat then that the Spectator will attend to the
Hands & Feet to the Lineaments of the Countenances they are all
descriptive of Character & not a line is drawn without intention
& that most discriminate & particular  as Poetry admits not a
Letter that is Insignificant so Painting admits not a Grain of
Sand or a Blade of Grass  much less an Insignificant Blur or Mark"
.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

CONVERSION

Nels Ferre, an influential theologian, reported on his threefold conversion:
"The first time I was converted, in content, to traditional Christianity; the second time, to honesty; the third time to the love of God and men, first in theology and gradually in life."


Library of Congress Milton
Plate 47
William Blake made reference to multiple conversions in his life - if we mean by conversion an inner realization which precipitates a change in one's ability to behave differently in some aspect of his activities.


Here is an account of a conversion experience of William Blake which he included in Milton. Blake speaks in the first person in this passage which he rarely does in his poetry. The experience he describes took place near the end of his sojourn in Felpham where he had been sorely tried by outer circumstances and inner doubts.

Some may say that this passage is merely a poetic device to further the narrative of the poem, but Milton is recognized as autobiographical. Blake saw the experience of an encounter with the figure of Los as a powerful movement of his own psyche to enter a new phase of psychic/spiritual development. In fact the confidence to write the poem Milton grew from such an expansion of his consciousness.

We see in this passage that Blake has been given a new ability to write from the Universal Dictate as had been Milton before him. The spiritual level that enabled him to receive this gift is the suffering he had endured. Because he can pity the world of sorrow, he can help to renew it to Eternal Life. Blake is ready to walk forward in spite of his fears because he perceives that Los, the Eternal Prophet, has inducted him into the brotherhood of prophets.   

Milton, Plate 21 [23], (E 116)
"Then the Divine Family said. Six Thousand Years are now
Accomplish'd in this World of Sorrow; Miltons Angel knew
The Universal Dictate; and you also feel this Dictate.
And now you know this World of Sorrow, and feel Pity. Obey
The Dictate! Watch over this World, and with your brooding wings,
Renew it to Eternal Life: Lo! I am with you alway
But you cannot renew Milton he goes to Eternal Death

So spake the Family Divine as One Man even Jesus
Uniting in One with Ololon & the appearance of One Man
Jesus the Saviour appeard coming in the Clouds of Ololon!        
Plate 22 [24]
Tho driven away with the Seven Starry Ones into the Ulro
Yet the Divine Vision remains Every-where For-ever. Amen.
And Ololon lamented for Milton with a great lamentation.

While Los heard indistinct in fear, what time I bound my sandals
On; to walk forward thro' Eternity, Los descended to me:         
And Los behind me stood; a terrible flaming Sun: just close

Behind my back; I turned round in terror, and behold.
Los stood in that fierce glowing fire; & he also  stoop'd down
And bound my sandals on in Udan-Adan; trembling I stood
Exceedingly with fear & terror, standing in the Vale             
Of Lambeth: but he kissed me and wishd me health.
And I became One  Man  with  him  arising in my strength:
Twas too late now to recede. Los had enterd into my soul:
His terrors now posses'd me whole! I arose in fury & strength.
[change of voice]
I am that Shadowy Prophet who Six Thousand Years ago    
Fell from my station in the Eternal bosom. Six Thousand Years
Are finishd. I return! both Time & Space obey my will.
I in Six Thousand Years walk up and down: for not one Moment
Of Time is lost, nor one Event of Space unpermanent
But all remain: every fabric of Six Thousand Years               
Remains permanent: tho' on the Earth where Satan
Fell, and was cut off all things vanish & are seen no more
They vanish not from me & mine, we guard them first & last
The generations of men run on in the tide of Time
But leave their destind lineaments permanent for ever & ever.    

So spoke Los as we went along to his supreme abode."

These are the phrases which lead me to call this a conversion experience:
1) "reveal the secrets of Eternity"
2) "I stooped down & bound it on to walk forward thro' Eternity."
3) "And Los behind me stood; a terrible flaming Sun: just close Behind my back; I turned round in terror, and behold."
4) "And I became One Man with him arising in my strength:"
5) "Twas too late now to recede. Los had enterd into my soul: His terrors now posses'd me whole! I arose in fury & strength"


Saturday, May 07, 2016

IMAGES OF CHRIST 12

The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens
Conversion of Saul
c. 1800
The final image in this series of posts focusing on Images of Christ is Blake's watercolor from 1800 which is titled Conversion of Saul. This image portrays Christ appearing to Saul who was working to eliminate the movement of believers which had sprung up following the reports that Christ lived. Saul was a reluctant convert. Christ visited Saul as a light and a voice which communicated to his inner being. Saul's activities in the outer world - persecuting disciples of the Lord - was not congruent with in inner conscience. He responded to the question the Lord put to him with a question of his own. He arose, he listened, he followed the path that opened to him.

Acts 9
[1] And Saul, yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went unto the high priest,
[2] And desired of him letters to Damascus to the synagogues, that if he found any of this way, whether they were men or women, he might bring them bound unto Jerusalem.
[3] And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus: and suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven:
[4] And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?

[5] And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.
[6] And he trembling and astonished said, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do.
[7] And the men which journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice, but seeing no man.
[8] And Saul arose from the earth; and when his eyes were opened, he saw no man: but they led him by the hand, and brought him into Damascus.

The conviction that the life of Christ did not end in the grave, that his spirit was released to live in a higher plane of existence, is a transforming experience. This conviction comes from hearing a voice which speaks not to the outer, natural man but to the inner, spiritual man who wakes in response to the call. The conversion of Saul went a step further than the earlier accounts of encountering the risen Christ because it was not mediated by previous association with the ministry of Jesus in the flesh. Paul's conversion becomes the prototype for the spread of Christianity to the wide segment of the population who would encounter Christ as a spiritual reality not a physical man.  Each individual can make the transition to an altered consciousness when he begins to perceive himself as an Immortal Spirit. Christ introduces his followers to the spirit which will live in them and give them the power to live the Eternal Life.

Jerusalem, Plate 75, (E 231) 
"But Jesus breaking thro' the Central Zones of Death & Hell
Opens Eternity in Time & Space; triumphant in Mercy

Thus are the Heavens formd by Los within the Mundane Shell
And where Luther ends Adam begins again in Eternal Circle
To awake the Prisoners of Death; to bring Albion again           
With Luvah into light eternal, in his eternal day."
1ST Corinthians 15
[4] And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:

[5] And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve:
[6] After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep.
[7] After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles.
[8] And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time.
[9] For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.
[10] But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.

Philippians 3
[20] For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ:
[21] Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself.

In the following two letters Blake gives us an inkling of the process he underwent as he experienced a transition to living in the light of spiritual consciousness.

Letters, To Butts, Nov 1802, (E 720)
 "And now let me finish with assuring you that Tho I have been
very unhappy I am so no longer I am again Emerged into the light
of Day I still & shall to Eternity Embrace Christianity and Adore
him who is the Express image of God but I have traveld thro
Perils & Darkness not unlike a Champion I have Conquerd and shall
still Go on Conquering Nothing can withstand the fury of my
Course among the Stars of God & in the Abysses of the Accuser My
Enthusiasm is still what it was only Enlarged and confirmd" 
Letters, To Hayley, Oct 1804, (E 756)
"I have entirely reduced that
spectrous Fiend to his station, whose annoyance has been the ruin
of my labours for the last passed twenty years of my life.  He is
the enemy of conjugal love and is the Jupiter of the Greeks, an
iron-hearted tyrant, the ruiner of ancient Greece.  I speak with
perfect confidence and certainty of the fact which has passed
upon me.  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; these
beasts and these devils are now, together with myself, become
children of light and liberty, and my feet and my wife's feet are
free from fetters.  O lovely Felpham, parent of Immortal
Friendship, to thee I am eternally indebted for my three years'
rest from perturbation and the strength I now enjoy. 
Suddenly, on the day after visiting the Truchsessian Gallery of pictures, I
was again enlightened with the light I enjoyed in my youth, and
which has for exactly twenty years been closed from me as by a
door and by window-shutters.  Consequently I can, with
confidence, promise you ocular demonstration of my altered state
on the plates I am now engraving after Romney, whose spiritual
aid has not a little conduced to my restoration to the light of
Art.  O the distress I have undergone, and my poor wife with me."

Wednesday, May 04, 2016

IMAGES OF CHRIST 11


Yale Center for British Art
Illustrations to Young's Night Thoughts
This image of Christ portrays him transformed. He has shed the linen cloths he wore in the grave as well as garment of flesh which he wore in the mundane world. He is not confined to the cave of death or to the earth on which he walked in Palestine or on England's green and pleasant hills. Air is his medium; light is his garment.   

Blake presents this image to show more than the condition of Christ when he achieved the passage through death to life. Blake's intension is that his reader/viewer also shed his encumbrances and enter the state of consciousness where he can see clearly that he is a member of the Brotherhood of Eden. That man may enter Life Eternal through following the path that Jesus trod, is pictured in the illustration by Christ parting the clouds and opening a clear way for entry into a world beyond experience.

Milton, PLATE 41 [48], (E 142) 
"To bathe in the Waters of Life; to wash off the Not Human 
I come in Self-annihilation & the grandeur of Inspiration 
To cast off Rational Demonstration by Faith in the Saviour 
To cast off the rotten rags of Memory by Inspiration 
To cast off Bacon, Locke & Newton from Albions covering 
To take off his filthy garments, & clothe him with Imagination 
To cast aside from Poetry, all that is not Inspiration"

1ST Corinthians 15
[53] For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.
[54] So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory.
[55] O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?
[56] The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law.
[57] But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Jerusalem, Plate 96, (E 255)
"Then Jesus appeared standing by Albion as the Good Shepherd
By the lost Sheep that he hath found & Albion knew that it
Was the Lord the Universal Humanity, & Albion saw his Form     
A Man. & they conversed as Man with Man, in Ages of Eternity
And the Divine Appearance was the likeness & similitude of Los

Albion said. O Lord what can I do! my Selfhood cruel
Marches against thee deceitful from Sinai & from Edom
Into the Wilderness of Judah to meet thee in his pride       
I behold the Visions of my deadly Sleep of Six Thousand Years
Dazling around thy skirts like a Serpent of precious stones & gold
I know it is my Self. O my Divine Creator & Redeemer

Jesus replied Fear not Albion unless I die thou canst not live
But if I die I shall arise again & thou with me            
This is Friendship & Brotherhood without it Man Is Not

So Jesus spoke! the Covering Cherub coming on in darkness
Overshadowd them & Jesus said Thus do Men in Eternity
One for another to put off by forgiveness, every sin

Albion replyd. Cannot Man exist without Mysterious          
Offering of Self for Another, is this Friendship & Brotherhood
I see thee in the likeness & similitude of Los my Friend

Jesus said. Wouldest thou love one who never died
For thee or ever die for one who had not died for thee
And if God dieth not for Man & giveth not himself           
Eternally for Man Man could not exist. for Man is Love:
As God is Love: every kindness to another is a little Death
In the Divine Image nor can Man exist but by Brotherhood

So saying. the Cloud overshadowing divided them asunder
Albion stood in terror: not for himself but for his Friend     
Divine, & Self was lost in the contemplation of faith
And wonder at the Divine Mercy & at Los's sublime honour"

Four Zoas, Night VIII, PAGE 104 (FIRST PORTION), (E 376) 
"And Enitharmon namd the Female Jerusalem the holy
Wondring she saw the Lamb of God within Jerusalems Veil
The divine Vision seen within the inmost deep recess
Of fair Jerusalems bosom in a gently beaming fire

Then sang the Sons of Eden round the Lamb of God & said 
Glory Glory Glory to the holy Lamb of God
Who now beginneth to put off the dark Satanic body
Now we behold redemption Now we know that life Eternal
Depends alone upon the Universal hand & not in us
Is aught but death In individual weakness sorrow & pain"
John 10
[7] Then said Jesus unto them again, Verily, verily, I say unto you, I am the door of the sheep.
[8] All that ever came before me are thieves and robbers: but the sheep did not hear them.
[9] I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.
[10] The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.
[11] I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.
[12] But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep.
[13] The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep.
[14] I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine.
[15] As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep.

.