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

Friday, April 18, 2014

SPIRITUAL FRIENDSHIP

Blake was much aware of spiritual friendship: relationships built on eternal considerations rather than material ones. He numbered Butts, Cumberland and Linnell among his spiritual friends and conversed with them on topics relating to his visionary experience.

william-blake.org William Blake A Vision: The Inspiration of the Poet
(Elisha in the Chamber on the Wall)
c.1819-20?
In an atypical picture by Blake, thought to have been produced around 1820, he pictured a  prophet who can be identified by his surroundings. The little room with its bed, table, stool and candlestick are those of Elisha, provided by a woman who recognized  him as a spiritual friend with whom she could share her material comforts. A second person is in the room with Elisha; we can assume that this is a messenger from God carrying a visionary experience to Elisha.

2 Kings 4
[8] And it fell on a day, that Elisha passed to Shunem, where was a great woman; and she constrained him to eat bread. And so it was, that as oft as he passed by, he turned in thither to eat bread.
[9] And she said unto her husband, Behold now, I perceive that this is an holy man of God, which passeth by us continually.
[10] Let us make a little chamber, I pray thee, on the wall; and let us set for him there a bed, and a table, and a stool, and a candlestick: and it shall be, when he cometh to us, that he shall turn in thither.
[11] And it fell on a day, that he came thither, and he turned into the chamber, and lay there.

A spiritual friend is one who supports you on your spiritual journey. Blake could talk with the three men mentioned above about his visions, his failures and setbacks, his openings to the light, and the direction the Imagination was leading him. The relationship was reciprocal, Blake gave these men encouragement and enlarged their abilities to perceive the immortal, invisible world which was so available to him. 


Descriptive Catalog, (E 535)
NUMBER III.
Sir Jeffery Chaucer and the nine and twenty Pilgrims on
their journey to Canterbury.

"The principal figure in the next groupe, is the Good 
Parson; an Apostle, a real Messenger of Heaven, sent in every 
age for its light and its warmth.  This man is beloved and 
venerated by all, and neglected by all: He serves all, and is 
served by none; he is, according to Christ's definition, the 
greatest of his age.  Yet he is a Poor Parson of a town.  Read 
Chaucer's description of the Good Parson, and bow the head and 
the knee to him, who, in every age sends us such a burning and a 
shining light.  Search O ye rich and powerful, for these men and 
obey their counsel, then shall the golden age return: But 
alas! you will not easily distinguish him from the Friar or the 
Pardoner, they also are "full solemn men," and their counsel, you 
will continue to follow."
Letters, (E 703)
"Mr Cumberland, Bishopsgate, Windsor Great Park

Hercules Buildings, Lambeth. Augst 26. 1799
Dear Cumberland

"Pray let me intreat you to persevere in your Designing it is
the only source of Pleasure   all your other pleasures depend
upon It.  It is the Tree Your Pleasures are the Fruit.  Your
Inventions of Intellectual Visions are the Stamina of every thing
you value.  Go on if not for your own sake yet for ours who love
& admire your works. but above all For the Sake of the Arts.  Do
not throw aside for any long time the honour intended you by
Nature to revive the Greek workmanship.  I study your outlines as
usual just as if they were antiques.
     As to Myself about whom you are so kindly Interested.  I
live by Miracle.  I am Painting small Pictures from the Bible.
For as to Engraving in which art I cannot reproach myself with
any neglect yet I am laid by in a corner as if I did not Exist &
Since my Youngs Night Thoughts have been publishd Even Johnson &
Fuseli have discarded my Graver.  But as I know that He who Works
& has his health cannot starve.  I laugh at Fortune & Go on &
on.  I think I foresee better Things than I have ever seen.  My
Work pleases my employer & I have an order for Fifty small
Pictures at One Guinea each which is Something better than mere
copying after another artist.  But above all I feel myself happy
& contented let what will come having passed now near twenty
years in ups & downs I am used to them & perhaps a little
practise in them may turn out to benefit.  It is now Exactly
Twenty years since I was upon the ocean of business & Tho I laugh
at Fortune I am perswaded that She Alone is the Governor of
Worldly Riches. & when it is Fit She will call on me till then I
wait with Patience in hopes that She is busied among my Friends.
     With Mine & My Wifes best compliments to Mr Cumberland
I remain
Yours sincerely
WILLm BLAKE"

Letters, (E 781)
"Mr Linnell, Cirencester Place, Fitzroy Square
[February 1827]
Dear Sir
     I thank you for the Five Pounds recievd to Day am getting
better every Morning but slowly. as I am still feeble &
tottering. tho all the Symptoms of
my complaint seem almost gone as the fine weather is very
beneficial & comfortable to me I go on as I think improving my
Engravings of Dante more & more & shall soon get Proofs of these
Four which I have & beg the favor of you to send me the two
Plates of Dante which you have that I may finish them
sufficiently to make some Shew of Colour & Strength
     I have Thought & Thought of the Removal. & cannot get my
Mind out of a State of terrible fear at such a step. the more I
think the more I feel terror at what I wishd at first & thought
it a thing of benefit & Good hope you will attribute it to its
right Cause Intellectual Peculiarity that must be Myself alone
shut up in Myself or Reduced to Nothing.  I could tell you of
Visions & dreams upon the Subject I have asked & intreated Divine
help but fear continues upon me & I must relinquish the step that
I had wished to take & still wish but in vain
     Your Success in your Profession is above all things to me
most gratifying. may it go on to the Perfection you wish & more
So wishes also Yours Sincerely
WILLIAM BLAKE"

Letters, (E 728)
"Mr Butts, Grt Marlborough Street
Felpham April 25: 1803
My Dear Sir
...
 And now My Dear Sir Congratulate me on my return to London
with the full approbation of Mr Hayley & with Promise--But Alas!
     Now I may say to you what perhaps I should not dare to say
to any one else.  That I can alone carry on my visionary studies
in London unannoyd & that I may converse with my friends in
Eternity.  See Visions, Dream Dreams, & prophecy & speak Parables
unobserv'd & at liberty from the Doubts of other Mortals. perhaps
Doubts proceeding from Kindness. but Doubts are always pernicious
Especially when we Doubt our Friends Christ is very decided on
this Point.  "He who is Not With Me is Against Me" There is no
Medium or Middle state & if a Man is the Enemy of my Spiritual
Life while he pretends to be the Friend of my Corporeal. he is a
Real Enemy--but the Man may be the friend of my Spiritual Life
while he seems the Enemy of my Corporeal but Not Vice Versa
...
 I rejoice & I tremble "I am fearfully & wonderfully made".  I had
been reading the cxxxix Psalm a little before your Letter
arrived."
Psalms 139
[12] Yea, the darkness hideth not from thee; but the night shineth as the day: the darkness and the light are both alike to thee.
[13] For thou hast possessed my reins: thou hast covered me in my mother's womb.
[14] I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well.
[15] My substance was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.
[16] Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them.

Spiritual friends know one another as the Psalmist was aware that he was known by God. Spiritual friends share the knowledge that the essence of each has always been with God and is known by God in every particular. They know that their lives have been written by God to be joined in an exchange deeper than the accidents of time and place.



Ian Mulder, the friend to whom I am indebted for producing my Divine Economy blog as an e-book, has now issued an e-book of his own work: Wayfaring. You will find that his observations, and recollections stimulated by his walks near his home in Buckinghamshire, England reveal a world infused with light.

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