Blake seeks to provide the Golden String which can lead us through the labyrinth of our experience or his own poetry.

Thursday, February 24, 2011


As a subtitle to Songs of Innocence and Of Experience, Blake used these words: Shewing the Two Contrary States of the Human Soul. Among the contraries with which Blake was concerned were innocence/experience, pity/wrath, reason/energy, justice/mercy, male/female, active/passive and joy/woe. These pairs of qualities which appear to be in opposition to each other are not mutual enemies but are contraries set against each other by faulty reasoning. They are meant to cooperate with and complement each other; they form pairs in tension to create movement.

Image from Jerusalem, Plate 26,
Hand as the Reasoning Spectre and Jerusalem as Liberty

Marriage of Heaven and Hell, Plate 3, (E 34)
"Without Contraries is no progression. Attraction and
Repulsion, Reason and Energy, Love and Hate, are necessary to
Human existence.
From these contraries spring what the religious call Good &
Evil. Good is the passive that obeys Reason[.] Evil is the active
springing from Energy.
Good is Heaven. Evil is Hell."

Carl Jung focused attention on reconciling opposites within the process of individuation. He is quoted here in Claire Dunne's book Carl Jung: Wounded Healer of the Soul. (Page 89)

"By bearing the opposites we can expose ourselves to life in our humanity... We have to realize the evil is in us; we have to risk life to get into life, then it takes on color, otherwise we might as well read a book....
The opus consists of three parts; insight, endurance and action. It is conflicts of duty that make endurance and action so difficult. The one must exist and so must the other. There is no resolution, only patient endurance of the opposites, which ultimately spring from your own nature. You yourself are a conflict that rages in and against itself in order to melt its incompatible substances, the male and female, in the fire of suffering and thus create that fixed and unalterable form which is the goal of life.... We are crucified between the opposites and delivered up to the torture until the reconciling third takes shape." (from letter to Olga Forbe-Kapteyn)
Dunne comments:
The 'reconciling third' that appears in the innermost nucleus of the psyche, the organizing center that includes the ego but is not defined by it, a transpersonal, transcendent reality that Jung called the Self. The encounter with the Self is a centering which brings about a completion of the individuation process.
... Whatever the symbol, its meaning is wholeness, totality."

To Blake this 'reconciling third' was the realization that 'Contraries mutually exist'; that neither side of the coin could be negated or eliminated. 'Negations' (like hindering) had no life of their own but sucked life from what the attempted to suppress. Blake name several 'negations' in this passage; he could have lumped them together into the Spectre. To give the Spectre an external existence gives it power. To recognize it as part of oneself sets one free from its dominion and frees the contraries to be part of a totality.

Jerusalem, Plate 17, (E 161)
"Negations are not Contraries: Contraries mutually Exist:
But Negations Exist Not: Exceptions & Objections & Unbeliefs
Exist not: nor shall they ever be Organized for ever & ever:
If thou separate from me, thou art a Negation: a meer
Reasoning & Derogation from Me, an Objecting & cruel Spite
And Malice & Envy: but my Emanation, Alas! will become
My Contrary: O thou Negation, I will continually compell
Thee to be invisible to any but whom I please, & when
And where & how I please, and never! never! shalt thou be
But as a distorted & reversed Reflexion in the Darkness
And in the Non Entity: nor shall that which is above

Ever descend into thee: but thou shalt be a Non Entity for ever "

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