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

Saturday, February 14, 2015


"My dark and cloudy words, they do but hold
The truth, as cabinets enclose the gold." Bunyan

The process of learning invariably involves going from the known into the unknown. We begin with what we are capable of doing and proceed to what is beyond our present capabilities. In our lives we have crossed this threshold many times from the very first times when we learned to suck air into our lungs and milk from our mothers' breast. Nevertheless learning always involves overcoming inertia and taking risk. Reluctance to relinquish our present positions for the uncertain prospect of finding security in that hazy possibilities which may replace them is perceived as threat.

Learning to see as Blake sees may seem a particularly threatening activity because we have invested so much in learning to think rationally - trusting only evidence and proof and linear thought patterns. Blake has devised an approach to design and writing which breaks down the patterns or rationality to facilitate imaginative activity.
In one sense Norvig's book (Dark Figures in the Desired Country: Blake's Illustrations to the Pilgrim's Progress) is an account of her learning Visionary Hermeneutics. She says:
"Normally hermeneutics refers to a set of predetermined interpretive strategies that a reader brings to and imposes on a work for one or more ulterior purposes..." (Page 4) However Blake's strategy was to apply the imagination in such a way that the internal and external context of the work interact to stimulate the activity of the imagination of the reader. But the imagination is not just put to use for interpretation, it gains self awareness and is strengthened through the process. "I have been speaking of visionary hermeneutics as a process that depends less on rules of interpretation than on an imaginative perspective, meaning both a perspective we learn to take toward the image and a perspective the imagination gradually gains on itself." (Page 6)                 
Illustrations to Pilgrim's Progress  
Plate 28
At the Gates of Heaven
Norvig attempts to enlighten her audience on Blake's practice of Visionary Hermeneutics which she learned from her teacher William Blake by studying his illustrations to Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress. The heart of her book is her commentary on each of Blake's 28 illustrations. But the illustrations are not to be viewed individually but as a whole, commenting on one another and complementing others as do Blake's Illustration to the Book of Job. She compares, in detail, the process that they illustrate to the process delineated in Gates of Paradise. In the illustrations to Pilgrim's Progress as in his work from beginning to end, Blake sought to open to his readers the avenue to the visionary world he experienced.

Descriptive Catalogue, Penance of Jane Shore, (E 550)
"This Drawing was done above Thirty Years ago, and proves
to the Author, and he thinks will prove to any discerning eye,
that the productions of our youth and of our maturer age
are equal in all essential points."

Norvig observes: "Even in the Songs [of Innocence & of Experience] itself a much more intricate pattern of mutual commentary, plotted by the progressive permutations of repeated verbal and pictorial motifs shown in changing contexts throughout the song cycle, emerges to enrich the work as a sort of primer of visionary literacy." (Page 5)

In Blake's iIllustration Pilgrim and Hopeful, together with the two Ministering Spirits, arise as a quaternity, signifying in Blake's system the wholeness that has been achieved by passing through the stages of spiritual development discernable to Blake in Pilgrim's journey.

Pilgrim's Progress
John Bunyan
"Hopeful also would endeavour to comfort him, saying, Brother, I see the gate, and men standing by to receive us: but Christian would answer, It is you, it is you they wait for; you have been Hopeful ever since I knew you. And so have you, said he to Christian. Ah! brother! said he, surely if I was right he would now arise to help me; but for my sins he hath brought me into the snare, and hath left me. Then said Hopeful, My brother, you have quite forgot the text, where it is said of the wicked, "There are no bands in their death, but their strength is firm. They are not in trouble as other men, neither are they plagued like other men. [Ps. 73:4,5] These troubles and distresses that you go through in these waters are no sign that God hath forsaken you; but are sent to try you, whether you will call to mind that which heretofore you have received of his goodness, and live upon him in your distresses.
{393} Then I saw in my dream, that Christian was as in a muse a while. To whom also Hopeful added this word, Be of good cheer, Jesus Christ maketh thee whole; and with that Christian brake out with a loud voice, Oh, I see him again! and he tells me, "When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee, and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee." [Isa. 43:2] Then they both took courage, and the enemy was after that as still as a stone, until they were gone over. Christian therefore presently found ground to stand upon, and so it followed that the rest of the river was but shallow. Thus they got over. Now, upon the bank of the river, on the other side, they saw the two shining men again, who there waited for them; wherefore, being come out of the river, they saluted them, saying, We are ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for those that shall be heirs of salvation. Thus they went along towards the gate." 

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