Wednesday, July 27, 2016

BLAKE & TRADITION



Perhaps early scholars were discouraged from uncovering the Greek and Roman influence on Blake because Blake denied the value of Greek myth and philosophy, seeing that they encouraged a warlike culture. But Kathleen Raine would not be discouraged. She looked at Blake's writing and images and saw reflections of the myths she knew form Homer, Aeschylus, Euripides, Ovid, Apuleius and others.
British Museum
A Bacchic Mystery, copied from d'Hancarville
Figures from a Greek vase
 A large part of Volume I of Raine's Blake and Tradition covers the connections between the symbols found in Blake's poetry, and the myths which came down from Greece and Rome.  These are some titles of chapters in Raine's opus and their subject matter:

 The Sea of Time and Space [Porphyry's On the Cave of the Nymphs portrayed in Arlington Tempera]
  Thel [As a nymph from Porphyry's On the Cave of the Nymphs]
  The Myth of the Kore [The Eleusinian Mysteries influence on Songs of Innocence & of Experience]
  Oothoon in Leutha's Vale [The descent of the Soul conceived by Platonists]
  Blake's Cupid and Psyche [Metamorphoses by Apuleius influence on Vala and Luvah] 
  Emblems of Love [Plato in Phaedrus presents love as mediating between man and Divine]
  Gates of Birth and Death [Porphyry's Cave as containing Urthona's Gates]
  Specters and Watchers [Plotinus and Descent of the Soul from Enneads portray Souls entering Generation]
  A Hermetic Myth [The Divine Pymander of Hermes Trismegistus proposed the descent of light into matter]
  Enion [Plotinus conceived that separation of matter and spirit constituted the fall]
  Tharmas and the Mental Traveller [In Orphic Mysteries of Dionysus the weakened spiritual principle sought reunification]
Raine's goal was to connect Blake's work to the whole tradition of mythopoeic and esoteric thought which was excluded from the rational, materialistic approach of the enlightenment. Greek mythology was just one of the threads she followed to understand the symbolic language of Blake.
 
Milton, Plate 1, (E 95)
"The Stolen and Perverted Writings of Homer & Ovid: of Plato &
Cicero. which all Men ought to contemn: are set up by artifice
against the Sublime of the Bible. but when the New Age is at
leisure to Pronounce; all will be set right: & those Grand Works
of the more ancient & consciously & professedly Inspired Men,
will hold their proper rank, & the Daughters of Memory shall
become the Daughters of Inspiration. Shakspeare & Milton were
both curbd by the general malady & infection from the silly Greek
& Latin slaves of the Sword.
...
We do not 
want either Greek or Roman Models if we are but just & true to
our own Imaginations, those Worlds of Eternity in which we shall
live for ever; in Jesus our Lord." 
Works in Illuminated Printing, ON HOMERS POETRY, (E 270)                                        
"Every Poem must necessarily be a perfect Unity, but why Homers is
peculiarly so, I cannot tell
... 
Aristotle says Characters
are either Good or Bad: now Goodness or Badness has nothing to do
with Character
ON VIRGIL                                  
Sacred Truth has pronounced that Greece & Rome as Babylon &
Egypt: so far from being parents of Arts & Sciences as they
pretend: were destroyers of all Art.  Homer Virgil & Ovid confirm
this opinion & make us reverence The Word of God, the only light
of antiquity that remains unperverted by War.  Virgil in the
Eneid Book VI. line 848 says Let others study Art: Rome has
somewhat better to do, namely War & Dominion
  Rome & Greece swept Art into their maw & destroyd it     a
Warlike State never can produce Art.  It will Rob & Plunder &
accumulate into one place, & Translate & Copy & Buy & Sell &
Criticise, but not Make.
  Mathematic Form is Eternal in the Reasoning Memory.  Living
Form is Eternal Existence.
  Grecian is Mathematic Form
  Gothic is Living Form" 
Descriptive Catalogue, (E 536)
"Visions of these eternal principles or characters of human
life appear to poets, in all ages; the Grecian gods were the
ancient Cherubim of Phoenicia; but the Greeks, and since them the
Moderns, have neglected to subdue the gods of Priam.  These Gods
are visions of the eternal attributes, or divine names, which,
when erected into gods, become destructive to humanity.
They ought to be the servants, and not the masters of man, or of
society.  They ought to be made to sacrifice to Man, and not man
compelled to sacrifice to them; for when separated from man or
humanity, who is Jesus the Saviour, the vine of eternity, they
are thieves and rebels, they are destroyers."
Jerusalem, Plate 98, (E 258)
"Where is the Covenant of Priam, the Moral Virtues of the Heathen
Where is the Tree of Good & Evil that rooted beneath the cruel heel
Of Albions Spectre the Patriarch Druid! where are all his Human Sacrifices
For Sin in War & in the Druid Temples of the Accuser of Sin: beneath
The Oak Groves of Albion that coverd the whole Earth beneath his Spectre
Where are the Kingdoms of the World & all their glory that grew on Desolation"

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Tree of Mystery

This post is a copy of an earlier post at
Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Genesis 2:7-17

[7] And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.
[8] And the LORD God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there he put the man whom he had formed.
[9] And out of the ground made the LORD God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil.
[10] And a river went out of Eden to water the garden; and from thence it was parted, and became into four heads.
[11] The name of the first is Pison: that is it which compasseth the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold;
[12] And the gold of that land is good: there is bdellium and the onyx stone.
[13] And the name of the second river is Gihon: the same is it that compasseth the whole land of Ethiopia.
[14] And the name of the third river is Hiddekel: that is it which goeth toward the east of Assyria. And the fourth river is Euphrates.
[15] And the LORD God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it.
[16] And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat:
[17] But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil
, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.

This is the biblical source of the Tree of Mystery and of many other things in 'Blake'.

*****************************************************************************

The Tree of Mystery occurs once in the Book of Ahania and nowhere else except in the Four Zoas.
This extract comes from 'Ahania':

"3: For when Urizen shrunk away                        
From Eternals, he sat on a rock
Barren; a rock which himself
From redounding fancies had petrified
Many tears fell on the rock,
Many sparks of vegetation;                             
Soon shot the pained root
Of Mystery, under his heel:
It grew a thick tree; he wrote
In silence his book of iron:

- 86 -(of Erdman's book)

Till the horrid plant bending its boughs    
Grew to roots when it felt the earth
And again sprung to many a tree.

4: Amaz'd started Urizen! when
He  beheld  himself compassed round
And high roofed over with trees             
He arose but the stems stood so thick
He with difficulty and great pain
Brought his Books, all but the Book
PLATE 4
Of iron, from the dismal shade
5: The Tree still grows over the Void
Enrooting itself all around
An endless labyrinth of woe!

6: The corse of his first begotten          
On the accursed Tree of MYSTERY:
On the topmost stem of this Tree

Watercolor Illustration to Milton's Paradise Lost by William Blake


Look also at this 'Good and Evil'

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Blake and Antiquity


First posted by Larry on September 25, 2010. 

Someone asked me what I would recommend reading beyond the Works of Blake. After considerable thought I suggested Kathleen Raines, Blake and Antiquity; it's actually a very condensed version of a much larger and more famous book entitled Blake and Tradition which one is hard to get and expensive. On page four of Blake and Antiquity Raine recapitulated the discovery of Blake's symbology with these recommendations:


Turning back to the 18th and early 19 centuries, Blake sent a letter to his friend and patron, Flaxman; he named what he perceived as his primary sources:

"Now my lot in the Heavens is this: Milton lov'd me in childhood and show'd me his face;
Ezra came with Isaiah the Prophet, but Shakespeare in riper years gave me his hand;
Paracelsus and Behmen appear'd to me; terrors appear'd in the
Heavens above"

Both of Raine's books are primarily about Blake's mythological sources. Raine was steeped in Greek Mythology, and she discovered the Blake was, too. She also knew that Blake was acquainted with Thomas Taylor, named by his contemporaries as The English Pagan; he was one year younger than Blake. In an early lampooning work entitled An Island in the Moon Blake mentioned "Sipsop the Pythagorean"; Damon identified him as Taylor.

Taylor introduced Platonic thought to the 'Enlightened' 18th century, and received much derision; but Blake wasn't wedded to the Enlightenment, and he received Taylor's work gladly (at least for a time; he had a habit of turning his critical faculty on any new discoveries sooner or later). Taylor called upon "the young men of the new age", a term that Blake used in his Preface to Milton; he asked them to 'rouze up" and shortly thereafter broke into the famous hymn that has been called Jerusalem and came to be adopted by the English Labor Party as their theme song.

Of course early in his life Blake had been tuned to Swedenborg, who proclaimed the New Age, the New Church, and the New Jerusalem. (The only Church Blake would ever proclaim was the Church Universal).

Blake and Antiquity gives a lot of coverage of Blake's last great picture. (Keep this in another window so you may confer back to it from what follows:) She pointed out that he had brought together two moments in the Odyssey.

 
In Book Five you may read this:

"A goddess, Leucothea, appears to him in the form of a bird. She counsels him to swim for it. "Take my veil, tie it around your waist as a charm against drowning. When you reach shore, be sure to throw it back into the sea." (In the picture you can see Odysseus with his eyes averted throwing something out to sea.)

In Book Six you may read:
"Odysseus had washed up in the land of the Phaeacians. Athena now intervened to make these people foster his journey home". (In the Picture you see Athena behind Odysseus point to the southern gate to his (and our) Heavenly Home.)

Sunday, July 17, 2016

ENVISIONING THEL

Among the things that Blake was doing in 1789 and 1790 was engraving plates for Erasmus Darwin's Botanic Garden, producing Songs of Innocence, creating the Book of Thel and studying Neoplatonism with Thomas Taylor. Each of these projects, from its own perspective, focused his attention on man's journey through the world of mortality.
 

Darwin, like Blake, was a multi-talented individual. He was a physician, a philosopher, a scientist and a poet. His Botanic Garden is a compendium of scientific thinking of his day, descriptions of plant life in sexual terms, and imaginative poems about flowering plants. His book sold well in the late eighteenth century.
 

Blake gained from Darwin exposure to the symbolic use of members of the plant kingdom, the opportunity to work closely with the mythology portrayed on the Portland Vase, and information from a wide range of the science being developed by the enlightenment.
 

The first fruit of Blake's work with Darwin's book and with his studies with Thomas Taylor, who began publishing translation of Greek literature in 1787, was his writing his illuminated Book of Thel.
 
Songs of Innocence posited a world unblemished by considerations of mortality, a world incompatible with our world of time, space and materiality. But innocence was a starting point, not a conclusion. In Thel there is commentary on Innocence. Thel contemplates the innocent Lily, Clod and Cloud in a visual world of flowers symbolizing sexual interactions. She draws back from descending into the sexual world where death is the corollary of life.
 

Like the central woman on the first compartment of the Portland Vase, Thel sits beside a crack which is opening up in the bedrock which supports her level of existence. She has been invited to explore the Mystery of mortality but has declined. Blake himself would not hold back but plunged in. He was also exploring the Swedenborgian Society at this time. Wherever he looked he found ideas which evoked images, some of which live on in the organic body of his work which grew more like a verdant landscape than an enclosed garden.


British Museum    Small Book of Designs
from Book of Thel, Page 6

Book of Thel, Plate 6, (E 6)
"The eternal gates terrific porter lifted the northern bar:
Thel enter'd in & saw the secrets of the land unknown;
She saw the couches of the dead, & where the fibrous roots
Of every heart on earth infixes deep its restless twists:
A land of sorrows & of tears where never smile was seen.

She wanderd in the land of clouds thro' valleys dark, listning
Dolours & lamentations: waiting oft beside a dewy grave
She stood in silence. listning to the voices of the ground,
Till to her own grave plot she came, & there she sat down.
And heard this voice of sorrow breathed from the hollow pit.     

Why cannot the Ear be closed to its own destruction?
Or the glistning Eye to the poison of a smile!
Why are Eyelids stord with arrows ready drawn,
Where a thousand fighting men in ambush lie?
Or an Eye of gifts & graces, show'ring fruits & coined gold!  
Why a Tongue impress'd with honey from every wind?
Why an Ear, a whirlpool fierce to draw creations in?
Why a Nostril wide inhaling terror trembling & affright.
Why a tender curb upon the youthful burning boy!
Why a little curtain of flesh on the bed of our desire?          

The Virgin started from her seat, & with a shriek.
Fled back unhinderd till she came into the vales of Har
                                    
                  The End"

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

PORTLAND VASE

When Erasmus Darwin (grandfather of Charles Darwin) brought his book to Joseph Johnson to be published he was in need of engravers to supply the illustrations. Following the suggestion of Fuseli, Blake was engaged to engrave several pictures over a period of time. Darwin's book consisted of Part I of The botanic garden: a poem, in two parts. Part I. Containing the economy of vegetation. Part II. The loves of the plants. With philosophical notes. The larger part of the book is Darwin's copious notes.
 
We learn how Blake became involved in this project from the article, THE PORTLAND VASE: SIR WILLIAM HAMILTON, JOSIAH WEDGWOOD AND THE DARWINS by Milo Keynes.
"With the poem, there were 120 pages of Additional Notes; Note XXII (pp. 53-59) was on the Portland Vase, and was illustrated by four engravings: (1) the Portland Vase (figure 10); (2) and (3) the two compartments with the figures; and (4) the handles and bottom of the Vase (figure 5). From a letter written to him by Wedgwood on 17 November 1789,49 Darwin had thought of using the Bartolozzi prints, but was worried that their use might infringe Sir William Hamilton's copyright.
...
On 9 July 1791, Darwin wrote to Wedgwood that the engraver suggested by Joseph Johnson (1738-1809), his publisher, wished to see the Bartolozzi prints, and that 'Johnson said He is capable of doing anything well'. Johnson wrote to Darwin on 23 July that:
It is not the expense of purchasing Bartolozzi's plates that is any object; they cannot be copied without Hamilton's consent, being protected by act of pari1.
Blake is certainly capable of making an exact copy of the vase, I believe more so than Mr. B[artolozzi], if the vase be lent him for that purpose.. .
It was William Blake (1757-1827), thus recommended by Johnson, who engraved the four plates for 'The Botanic Garden', but it is not known whether he worked from the Portland Vase itself, not yet on loan to the British Museum, had access to a Wedgwood copy, or adapted Cipriani's drawings and Bartolozzi's engravings. His work was finished by 1 December 1791 —The Economy of Vegetation', though dated 1791, probably was not published until June 1792.52 Later, Blake was to provide engravings of Wedgwood ware for Josiah II in 1815 and 1816."

Blake contributed seven engravings to Darwin's book:
Fertilization of Egypt
Tornado
Amaryllis and
Four images of the Portland Vase to illustrate the philosophical note. 

Blake had become interested in studies of Greek and Roman literature through his friend Thomas Taylor. The Portland Vase, which dated from first century Rome, was decorated with scenes from classic mythology. The exquisite craftsmanship interested many in London's intellectual community, but the puzzling figures created the main fascination. Josiah Wedgwood became absorbed by both. Darwin's interpretation of the decorations as delineating the Eleusinian Mysteries would have made Blake's task of providing illustrations all the more interesting to him.
 

The best place to view Blake's four engravings is this website

From Note XXII of Part I - Containing the economy of vegetation is Darwin's commentary on the Portland Vase:
"This central figure then appears to me to be an hieroglyphic or Eleusinian emblem of MORTAL LIFE, that is, the lethum, or death, mentioned by Virgil amongst the terrible things exhibited at the beginning of the mysteries. The inverted torch shews the figure to be emblematic,
...
The man and woman on each side of the dying figure must be considered as emblems, both from their similarity of situation and dress to the middle figure, and their being grouped along with it. These I think are hieroglyphic or Eleusinian emblems of HUMANKIND, with their backs toward the dying figure of MORTAL LIFE, unwilling to associate with her, yet turning back their serious and attentive countenances, curious indeed to behold, yet sorry to contemplate their latter end. 
...
Corning Museum of Glass

2. On the other compartment of this celebrated vase is exhibited an emblem of immortality, the representation of which was well known to constitute a very principal part of the shews at the Eleusinian mysteries, as Dr. Warburton has proved by variety of authority. The habitation of spirits or ghosts after death was supposed by the antients to be placed beneath the earth, where Pluto reigned, and dispensed rewards or punishments. Hence the first figure in this group is of the MANES or GHOST, who having passed through an open portal is descending into a dusky region, pointing his toe with timid and unsteady step, feeling as it were his way in the gloom. This portal Aeneas enters, which is described by Virgil,—patet atri janua ditis, Aen. VI. l. 126; as well as the easy descent,—facilis descensus Averni. Ib. ... The MANES or GHOST appears lingering and fearful, and wishes to drag after him a part of his mortal garment, which however adheres to the side of the portal through which he has passed. The beauty of this allegory would have been expressed by Mr. Pope, by "We feel the ruling passion strong in death."
A little lower down in the group the manes or ghost is received by a beautiful female, a symbol of IMMORTAL LIFE. This is evinced by her fondling between her knees a large and playful serpent, which from its annually renewing its external skin has from great antiquity, even as early as the fable of Prometheus, been esteemed an emblem of renovated youth. The story of the serpent acquiring immortal life from the ass of Prometheus, who carried it on his back, is told in Bacon's Works, Vol. V. p. 462. Quarto edit. Lond. 1778. For a similar purpose a serpent was wrapped round the large hieroglyphic egg in the temple of Dioscuri, as an emblem of the renewal of life from a state of death. Bryant's Mythology, Vol II. p. 359. sec. edit. On this account also the serpent was an attendant on Aesculapius, which seems to have been the name of the hieroglyphic figure of medicine. This serpent shews this figure to be an emblem, as the torch shewed the central figure of the other compartment to be an emblem, hence they agreeably correspond, and explain each other, one representing MORTAL LIFE, and the other IMMORTAL LIFE.
Corning Museum of Glass

This emblematic figure of immortal life sits down with her feet towards the figure of Pluto, but, turning back her face towards the timid ghost, she stretches forth her hand, and taking hold of his elbow, supports his tottering steps, as well as encourages him to advance, both which circumstances are thus with wonderful ingenuity brought to the eye. At the same time the spirit loosely lays his hand upon her arm, as one walking in the dark would naturally do for the greater certainty of following his conductress, while the general part of the symbol of IMMORTAL LIFE, being turned toward the figure of Pluto, shews that she is leading the phantom to his realms.
...
The figure of PLUTO can not be mistaken, as is agreed by most of the writers who have mentioned this vase; his grisley beard, and his having one foot buried in the earth, denotes the infernal monarch. He is placed at the lowest part of the group, and resting his chin on his hand, and his arm upon his knee, receives the stranger-spirit with inquisitive attention; it was before observed that when people think attentively they naturally rest their bodies in some easy attitude, that more animal power may be employed on the thinking faculty. In this group of figures there is great art shewn in giving an idea of a descending plain, viz. from earth to Elysium, and yet all the figures are in reality on an horizontal one. This wonderful deception is produced first by the descending step of the manes or ghost; secondly, by the arm of the sitting figure of immortal life being raised up to receive him as he descends; and lastly, by Pluto having one foot sunk into the earth.
There is yet another figure which is concerned in conducting the manes or ghost to the realms of Pluto, and this is LOVE. He precedes the descending spirit on expanded wings, lights him with his torch, and turning back his beautiful countenance beckons him to advance. The antient God of love was of much higher dignity than the modern Cupid. He was the first that came out of the great egg of night, (Hesiod. Theog. V. CXX. Bryant's Mythol. Vol. II. p. 348.) and is said to possess the keys of the sky, sea, and earth. As he therefore led the way into this life, he seems to constitute a proper emblem for leading the way to a suture life."

Wednesday, July 06, 2016

BATTLE RAGES

British Museum
Illustrations to Young's Night Thoughts
Blake didn't have an aversion to Newton, Bacon and Locke; he was opposed to the ideas they represented to him. He used their names as a shorthand to express the positions and assumptions they professed. The Enlightenment was based on the assumptions these three men taught: Bacon that empirical data alone provided the foundation for judgement; Locke that the mind was a blank slate rather than an image of the Eternal; Newton that the only tool man required to make things right was his own reasoning power.

In Blake: A Collection of Critical Essays, edited by Northrop Frye, Jean Hagstrum made this scathing statement about Newton, Bacon and Locke as active functions of Urizen as he undermined humanity:
Page 154
"Urizen is also and active force. Dividing, partitioning, dropping the plummet line, applying Newton's compasses to the world, he creates abstract mathematical forms. Like Locke, he shrinks the senses, narrows the perceptions, binds man to natural fact. Like Bacon he creates the laws of prudence and crucifies passion. He is the man neoclassical psychology and ethics have delivered into our hands - a passivity, a receptacle, a 'soul-shuddering vacuum,' an abominable void,' an 'unknown, abstracted, brooding, secret' power of dark negation."


Bacon, Newton and Locke symbolized the principalities, and powers, the darkness of this world, and spiritual wickedness against which we wrestle.
Four Zoas, Night I, PAGE 3, (E 300)
4 lines of Greek text; Ephesians 6: 12

"For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but
against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the
darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high
places." 

The battle that raged within man's brain was the effort to put aside these propositions which had come to dominate his culture and infected each individual with false assumptions which undermined his ability to sense the activity of his own Soul and to allow the Christ Within to be manifest in the way he chose to live. This could be accomplished:
not by rational demonstration but by faith,
not by memory but by inspiration,
not by concealing but by revealing,
not by doubting but by affirming.


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
That it no longer shall dare to mock with the aspersion of Madness
Cast on the Inspired, by the tame high finisher of paltry Blots,
Indefinite, or paltry Rhymes; or paltry Harmonies.               
Who creeps into State Government like a catterpiller to destroy
To cast off the idiot Questioner who is always questioning,
But never capable of answering; who sits with a sly grin
Silent plotting when to question, like a thief in a cave;
Who publishes doubt & calls it knowledge; whose Science is Despair   
Whose pretence to knowledge is Envy, whose whole Science is
To destroy the wisdom of ages to gratify ravenous Envy;
That rages round him like a Wolf day & night without rest
He smiles with condescension; he talks of Benevolence & Virtue
And those who act with Benevolence & Virtue, they murder time on time
These are the destroyers of Jerusalem, these are the murderers
Of Jesus, who deny the Faith & mock at Eternal Life:
Who pretend to Poetry that they may destroy Imagination;
By imitation of Natures Images drawn from Remembrance
These are the Sexual Garments, the Abomination of Desolation
Hiding the Human lineaments as with an Ark & Curtains

Which Jesus rent: & now shall wholly purge away with Fire
Till Generation is swallowd up in Regeneration."

Jerusalem, Plate 70, (E 224)
"And this the form of mighty Hand sitting on Albions cliffs
Before the face of Albion, a mighty threatning Form.

His bosom wide & shoulders huge overspreading wondrous
Bear Three strong sinewy Necks & Three awful & terrible Heads
Three Brains in contradictory council brooding incessantly.      
Neither daring to put in act its councils, fearing each-other,
Therefore rejecting Ideas as nothing & holding all Wisdom
To consist. in the agreements & disagree[me]nts of Ideas.
Plotting to devour Albions Body of Humanity & Love.

Such Form the aggregate of the Twelve Sons of Albion took; & such
Their appearance when combind: but often by birth-pangs & loud groans
They divide to Twelve: the key-bones & the chest dividing in pain
Disclose a hideous orifice; thence issuing the Giant-brood
Arise as the smoke of the furnace, shaking the rocks from sea to sea.
And there they combine into Three Forms, named Bacon & Newton & Locke,
In the Oak Groves of Albion which overspread all the Earth.

Imputing Sin & Righteousness to Individuals; Rahab
Sat deep within him hid: his Feminine Power unreveal'd
Brooding Abstract Philosophy. to destroy Imagination, the Divine-
-Humanity A Three-fold Wonder: feminine: most beautiful: Three-fold"

States and their alternatives:
NEWTON - trust your reasoning power OR trust your intuition (imagination,)
BACON - give sense world exclusive control OR see the limitations of the world perceived by the senses,
LOCKE - deny existence of the Eternal OR turn to the realities which are imperishable.


Monday, July 04, 2016

REFLECTIONS

This was first posted by Larry on one of his other blogs.

REFLECTIONS OF A HAPPY OLD MAN

So What's so Good about Blake?


This post was inspired by encouragement from my friend Meredith who wrote: "I am eager to hear Larry speak more about Blake." Like most of my blogs they are more about me, and Blake's statement "I must create a system, or be enslaved by another man's," aptly described my life and became my credo. Reading those words did it for me! It's practically the story of my life.

Jerusalem, Plate 18, (E 152) 
"I must Create a System, or be enslav'd by another Mans 
I will not Reason & Compare: my business is to Create"

Raised in a parsonage, wedded to the church (with the usual adolescent rebellion included), I set out to serve mankind, via the Methodist parish ministry for eight years, and thereafter with a much larger mission, including ten years rehabilitating alcoholics (with the bishop's blessing). The sap was rising.

"But your flag decal won't get you
Into Heaven any more.
They're already overcrowded
From your dirty little war.
Now Jesus don't like killin'
No matter what the reason's for,
And your flag decal won't get you
Into Heaven any more."

This little chorus by John Prine was dinned in my ears for months by my adolescent sons (ca 1972). It was a cute thought, but it meant little to me at the time. But God has a strange way of bringing little things like that together over a period of time for long range consequences.
British Museum
Illustrations to Young's Night Thoughts

Eight years after leaving North Carolina and moving to Washington DC, with an uncreative job I had to do (for groceries), I came across Northrup Frye's Fearful Symmetry. I read it five times and was hooked. Over the next five years I wrote my Blake book (A Blake Primer) while employed at a menial job at EPA in Washington DC.

Meanwhile Ellie and I were committed to a nationally famous small church in D.C. After serving it for ten years it was beginning to lose its charm for us (too much structure, too much discipline, too much being told what to believe).

We tried UU (they had too lavish a worship service). The next Sunday we walked into Langley Hill Friends Meeting: oh joy, no 'authority', just seek God in your own way, at your own pace.

Looking back now (23 years later), and with Meredith's inducement to reflect on Blake it came to me how he had influenced our lives and our faith. Every other 'system' had fallen short; we must create our own. (Quakers believe the Light Within is what drives your life.) Blake spent his whole life looking at the light within-- and reporting to us what he had found.

Other men have been driven exclusively by that light within, Nietzsche, for example and Van Gogh, but they both went crazy. Blake of course was considered crazy by many or most people. The difference is while they got lost in their visions he came back from his, to sober rationality.

Blake and the Quakers set us free from the emotional ties of conventional theology and organized religion; they were all "another man's system". He proved that you could be set free from other men's systems and keep your sanity. Of course he and Catherine were as poor as church mice, materially!, but spiritually he was a prince.

He was 42 when he "met the Lord" (to use a hackneyed term). He spent many years excoriating the God of this world, Old Nobodaddy, as he called God (and he had a few other names for him, too). But all that negativity, like Isaiah's, had a happy outcome. 

Songs & Ballads, Notebook, (E 471) 
" To Nobodaddy 
Why art thou silent & invisible Father of jealousy 
Why dost thou hide thyself in clouds From every searching Eye 
Why darkness & obscurity In all thy words & laws 
That none dare eat the fruit but from The wily serpents jaws 
Or is it because Secresy gains females loud applause"

Early in his career he coined two important terms: innocence and experience. They represent two phases or stages of life, or perhaps two roads to take; some choose innocence; he chose experience. He described the first choice with Thel; his life is the second choice, a long and torturous road; but both end at the same place. 

THE GHOST of ABEL, A Revelation In the Visions of Jehovah, (E 272) 
"The Elohim of the Heathen Swore Vengeance for Sin! Then Thou, stoodst 
Forth O Elohim Jehovah! in the midst of the darkness of the Oath! All Clothed 
In Thy Covenant of the Forgiveness of Sins: Death O Holy! Is this Brotherhood 
The Elohim saw their Oath Eternal Fire; they rolled apart trembling over The 
Mercy Seat: each in his station fixt in the Firmament by Peace Brotherhood and Love."

From his acquaintance with Jesus he referred to him as 'The forgiveness', and he considered forgiveness to be the greatest (and even the only) tenet of life (completely in accord with the Lord's Great Commandment). For me that substantially leaves all other theologies in the dust.

Further it completely discounts the support of war, of which practically all established churches through the years have been guilty. They are hard to forgive for that, and in polite society there is a strong taboo against mentioning it.

Luke 6
[37] Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven:

Matthew 6
[9] After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.
[10] Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.
[11] Give us this day our daily bread.
[12] And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.
[13] And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.
[14] For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you:
[15] But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

Luke 10
[27] And he answering said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself.


Friday, July 01, 2016

FOLLOW THE LINKS

Reposted from August 26, 2013.

A spiritual friend whom we met on the internet commented on Larry's recent post Blake's Main Chance. His comment was about people who lead ordinary lives as William Blake did, and accomplish extraordinary things. Larry replied by commenting that he, like Whitman, had written his book on government time. I followed that hint by searching for a connection between Blake and Whitman. I found a few literary and historical associations which led to Whitman's grave in New Jersey which was patterned after Death's Door in Blake's image for Blair's The Grave. Through a video on YouTube I was able to make a visit to Whitman's home in Camden NJ and his grave which is recognizable as Blake's portrayal of the door through which one passes to reach another dimension. I passed through that door and saw in Camden all the agony in Blake's London which led him to call it Babylon, a place of captivity and oppression. The woe of perceiving the deteriorated city was followed by the joy of hearing the background music and reading that the lyrics were by Woody Guthrie. I wound up hearing the voices and guitar music of my two sons back in the day when we were under the same roof, singing and playing Woody Guthrie, Bob Dylan, Arlo Guthrie, John Lennon, etc. . 

Morgan Library
America
Plate 14, Copy A 
When the mind is open (or opened) to receiving multiple intimations of images of truth, the connections with the brotherhood of man and with the cosmos are achieved. The wall is breached. We become members of the one body which to Blake is Albion animated by Jesus.
David Erdman on Page 587 of Blake's Poetry and Designs is attempting to convey a similar idea:
 
"In other words, when we wind up the thread of  the illuminated poem into the golden ball of a single, dynamic, visualizable orb, we are ready to enter into new expanses, through heaven's gate, built in Jerusalem's wall - or in this instance, through the 'breach in the city ... after the battle.' It may be as Frye says, that Blake 'hardly seems to have noticed that he had perfected a radically new form of mixed art.' He hardly seem to have  cared, any more than he cared to question a window concerning his sight. It mattered little to him whether picture penetrated poem or poem penetrated picture, if only their  human, apocalyptic meaning would penetrate our hearts and minds."

Auguries of Innocence, (E 491)
"It is right it should be so 
Man was made for Joy & Woe
And when this we rightly know
Thro the World we safely go
Joy & Woe are woven fine
A Clothing for the soul divine"
Marriage of Heaven & Hell, Plate 8, (E 37)
"Every thing possible to be believ'd is an image of truth."
Jerusalem, Plate 88, (E 246)
"How then can I ever again be united as Man with Man
While thou my Emanation refusest my Fibres of dominion.
When Souls mingle & join thro all the Fibres of Brotherhood
Can there be any secret joy on Earth greater than this?" 
Jerusalem, Plate 96, (E 255)
"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"
Jerusalem, Plate 77, (E 231)
"I give you the end of a golden string,
Only wind it into a ball:
It will lead you in at Heavens gate,
Built in Jerusalems wall."
Vision of Last Judgment, (E 565)
"I assert for My self that I do
not behold the Outward Creation & that to me it is hindrance &
not Action it is as the Dirt upon my feet No part of Me. What it
will be Questiond When the Sun rises  do  you  not  see  a  round 
Disk of fire somewhat like a Guinea O no no I see an Innumerable
company of the Heavenly host crying Holy Holy Holy is the Lord
God Almighty I question not my Corporeal or Vegetative Eye any
more than I would Question a Window concerning a Sight I look
thro it & not with it."