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

Tuesday, July 29, 2014


Milton Percival traces in Blake's work some of the influences of Heraclitus, the 5th century BC Greek philosopher. 

William Blake's Circle of Destiny, Page 48
"_ the quickening period of spring and the fallow autumn. In these two seasons are the energy and repose of the spiritual world. They bear witness to Heraclitus's doctrine of the continual alternation of the contraries. Blake expressed this in the Marriage of Heaven & Hell. 'Without contraries ,' he writes 'is no progression. 
Attraction and Repulsion, Reason and Energy, Love and Hate, are necessary to Human existence.' This fundamental antimony which underlies all life and gives it its cyclic character corresponds to the sexual duality already noted in Albion and the Zoas. The energy and repose of the spiritual world are masculine and feminine. Eden, the world of energy is masculine; Beulah, the world of repose, is feminine. Together they constitute the heavenly and earthly paradise."

Page 90-91 
"Possibly Heraclitus, the reputed father of the doctrine of contraries, cannot be called a mystic. Nevertheless the mystical tradition is steeped in this doctrine. Swedenborg. Boehme, Hermes, the Gnostics, Philo, the Kabbalah - the list reads like the line of Blake's spiritual ancestry - all recognize but reconcile life's apparent duality by a mystical union of contraries.
Blake's philosophy rests squarely on this tradition." 

Page 198
"When Heraclitus declared that all thing are in a state of constant flux, and that the original fire descends from the ethereal plane through air and water to earth, and reascends, cycle-wise, through water and air to join the fire-source, he laid, without knowing it, one of the foundation stones of alchemy."

Perhaps the greatest debt that Blake owed to Heraclitus related to the interplay of death and life. The statement: 'We live their death, we die their life,' is attributed to Heraclitus. To Blake entry into earthly life was a death because it entailed forgetting the much richer Eternal Life that it replaced. The return to Eternity, although a return to life, required that man undergo a death to the limitations of life in time and space.    

Wikimedia Commons
Soul Hovering Over the Body
Illustrations to Blair's The Grave
Jerusalem, Plate 77, (E 231)
 "Imagination the real & eternal World of which this Vegetable
Universe is but a faint shadow & in which we shall live in our
Eternal or Imaginative Bodies, when these Vegetable Mortal Bodies
are no more.  The Apostles knew of no other Gospel.  What were
all their spiritual gifts? What is the Divine Spirit? is the Holy
Ghost any other than an Intellectual Fountain? What is the
Harvest of the Gospel & its Labours? What is that Talent which it
is a curse to hide? What are the Treasures of Heaven which we are
to lay up for ourselves, are they any other than Mental Studies &
Performances? What are all the Gifts. of the Gospel, are they not
all Mental Gifts? Is God a Spirit who must be worshipped in
Spirit & in Truth and are not the Gifts of the Spirit Every-thing
to Man? O ye Religious discountenance every one among
you who shall pretend to despise Art & Science! I call upon you
in the Name of Jesus! What is the Life of Man but Art & Science?
is it Meat & Drink? is not the Body more than Raiment? What is
Mortality but the things relating to the Body, which Dies? What
is Immortality but the things relating to the Spirit, which Lives
Eternally! What is the joy of Heaven but Improvement in the
things of the Spirit? What are the Pains of Hell but Ignorance,
Bodily Lust, Idleness & devastation of the things of the

Letters, 7 June 1825, (E 774)
"but perhaps & I
verily believe it Every Death is an improvement of the State of
the Departed."

No comments:

Post a Comment