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

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

BLAKE'S DISCIPLES

Blake's Disciples was first posted by Larry on January 12, 2011.

British Museum  
Illustrations to Young's Night Thoughts
People or groups show that they are disciples of someone by attempting to express that person's values. We cite four occurrences of individuals or groups becoming Blake's disciples:
 

1.
The first instance of disciples becoming attached to Blake was a group of younger men who were attracted by his skills as an artist. The son of George Cumberland who was a fellow artist and one of Blake's best friends, brought another young artist John Linnell to see Blake's work. From there the word spread among the group of aspiring artists with an interest in infusing their art with spiritual values. Blake was pleased to share his insight into using his art as a vehicle for communicating his deepest feelings and his understanding of human lineaments. 


Calling themselves the Shoreham Ancients they were "a group of English artists who were brought together by their attraction to archaism in art and admiration for the work of William Blake."
Four Zoas, Night VIII, PAGE 104 (FIRST PORTION), (E 376) 
"And Enitharmon namd the Female Jerusalem the holy
Wondring she saw the Lamb of God within Jerusalems Veil
The divine Vision seen within the inmost deep recess
Of fair Jerusalems bosom in a gently beaming fire

Then sang the Sons of Eden round the Lamb of God & said 
Glory Glory Glory to the holy Lamb of God
Who now beginneth to put off the dark Satanic body
Now we behold redemption Now we know that life Eternal
Depends alone upon the Universal hand & not in us"
2. 
The Flower Children: In terms of two of Blake's most sacred values, the Sixties represented perhaps the first generation of Blakeans; they epitomized the antiwar movement and sexual liberty. The promiscuity of a few of the flower children represented the most excessive expression of Blake's witness to sexual freedom. In the long term it led to a healthier level of association between men and women.

Although the San Francisco area the sixties saw the first generation of true Blakeans or people who patterned their lives after Blake's tenants; the seventies brought recession and many  lapsed into the materialistic proclivities of their elders.
 

Visions of Daughters of Albion, Plate 5, (E 49 
"With what sense does the parson claim the labour of the farmer?
What are his nets & gins & traps. & how does he surround him
With cold floods of abstraction, and with forests of solitude,
To build him castles and high spires. where kings & priests may dwell.    
Till she who burns with youth. and knows no fixed lot; is bound
In spells of law to one she loaths: and must she drag the chain
Of life, in weary lust! must chilling murderous thoughts. obscure
The clear heaven of her eternal spring? to bear the wintry rage
Of a harsh terror driv'n to madness, bound to hold a rod     
Over her shrinking shoulders all the day; & all the night
To turn the wheel of false desire: and longings that wake her womb
To the abhorred birth of cherubs in the human form
That live a pestilence & die a meteor & are no more.
Till the child dwell with one he hates. and do the deed he loaths
And the impure scourge force his seed into its unripe birth
E'er yet his eyelids can behold the arrows of the day."
3.  
The anti-war fever that broke out in the late sixties was an eloquent witness to one of Blake's primary values. Since "Whitefield & Westley" a handful of our fellow men have witnessed to the destructive futility of War (chief among them are the Quakers). Hence they might be thought of as the third group among Blake's disciples.

Re the Peace Witness one might more properly say that Blake was a disciple of the Quakers, although strangely enough he never saw fit to mention them, and few Quakers of my acquaintance today see fit to mention him. Blake's pacifism may have had its roots in with the Moravians, another pacifist group with whom his mother had been associated. Blake would have appreciated the fact that the younger generation was openly demonstrating their anti-war sentiments against a war supported by their elders. They like Blake knew that there were no winners in war - only losers.

America, Plate 14, (E 56)
"Fury! rage! madness! in a wind swept through America             
And the red flames of Orc that folded roaring fierce around
The angry shores, and the fierce rushing of th'inhabitants together:
The citizens of New-York close their books & lock their chests;
The mariners of Boston drop their anchors and unlade;
The scribe of Pensylvania casts his pen upon the earth;          
The builder of Virginia throws his hammer down in fear.

Then had America been lost, o'erwhelm'd by the Atlantic,
And Earth had lost another portion of the infinite,
But all rush together in the night in wrath and raging fire
The red fires rag'd! the plagues recoil'd! then rolld they back with fury 
PLATE 15
On Albions Angels; then the Pestilence began in streaks of red
Across the limbs of Albions Guardian, the spotted plague smote Bristols
And the Leprosy Londons Spirit, sickening all their bands:
The millions sent up a howl of anguish and threw off their hammerd mail,
And cast their swords & spears to earth, & stood a naked multitude."
4. 
Finally there are a growing number in contemporary society who just love Blake. We love his values; we love his courage at a critical time in his life to choose Art over materialistic desires. The overt evidence of that came when he went back to London after his 'three years' on the coast. He had the same courage that Albert Schweitzer had when he gave up fame and fortune to give help to the most needy in darkest Africa.

Blake's determination to nurture his spiritual development in spite of the economic cost inspires loyalty among his disciples.

Laocoon, (E 274)
"Prayer is the Study of Art
Praise is the Practise of Art
Fasting &c. all relate to Art
The outward Ceremony is Antichrist
Without Unceasing Practise nothing can be done 

Practise is Art     If you leave off you are Lost

A Poet a Painter a Musician an Architect: the Man 
Or Woman who is not one of these is not a Christian 
You must leave Fathers & Mothers & Houses & Lands 
     if they stand in the way of ART

The unproductive Man is not a Christian much less the Destroyer"
Mark 10
[29] And Jesus answered and said, Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake, and the gospel's,
[30] But he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life.
[31] But many that are first shall be last; and the last first.

.

Monday, March 28, 2016

READING BLAKE

British Museum  Illustrations to Young's Night Thoughts
Unfortunately Blake had little readership in his lifetime. The few who had access to his epic works - the Four Zoas, Milton and Jerusalem - seem to have found them largely unintelligible. But Blake was writing to communicate his thought, not just to prove that he could produce extraordinary documents. He wanted to be read by people who would make themselves available to be influenced by the spiritual and psychological content of his work. It is for us to learn from Blake, if we have developed the consciousness to be receptive to his instruction.
 
Roger Easson  studied the relationship of Blake to his prospective reader in his essay Blake and His Reader in Jerusalem. Easson's chapter can be read in Blake's Sublime Allegory edited by Stuart Curran & Joseph Anthony Wittreich, Jr.
 
Easson writes:
"The bard must at once ensure that Jerusalem survives as a viable literary work, which will encourage the reader to labor at the furnace of Los, and ensure that those readers who do not enter in forgiveness and faith will endure throughout a frustrating, though alluring labyrinth. This labyrinthine poem is rooted both in Blake's disappointment with his contemporary audience and in his hope that one day an audience would receive his as he desired, transforming itself by a new awareness of its own infinite nature. This aesthetic creates within Jerusalem a cunning and magnificently ordered rhetorical screen to separate the sheep from the goats, the saved from the damned, the forgiving, faithful readers from the accusing, rational ones. Consequently, Blake's rhetorical apocalypse is more perfectly structured than rational men have acknowledged.
...
The faith Blake vested in the hypothetical audience of the future is cause for amazement. He entered into the Herculean labor of producing his magnificent graphic-literary artifact during those years when his reputation had sunk to obscurity, and when he was depending on patrons for livelihood. More amazing still is the internal strength of conviction with which he pursued such an aesthetic of imposition in the face of nearly universal neglect and commercial failure. Blake was not merely writing poetry of great beauty; he, in fact, sacrificed those vegetable traits we call beauty for another order of beauty altogether - an eternal sublime beauty, capable of restoring the fallen reader to a new and expanded vision. His gift to his fellow men is not majestic words of bold histrionics; it a cataclysm of vision, a most extraordinary education." Page 326
  

Marriage of Heaven & Hell, Plate , (E 40)
 "These two classes of men are always upon earth, & they should
be enemies; whoever tries [PL 17] to reconcile them seeks to
destroy existence.   
   Religion is an endeavour to reconcile the two.
   Note.  Jesus Christ did not wish to unite but to seperate
them, as in  the Parable of sheep and goats! & he says I came not
to send Peace  but a Sword.
   Messiah or Satan or Tempter was formerly thought to be one of
the  Antediluvians who are our Energies."

Jerusalem, Plate 3, (E 145)

    SHEEP                                          GOATS   

                       To the Public

     After my three years slumber on the banks of the Ocean, I
again display my Giant forms to the Public: My former Giants &
Fairies having reciev'd the highest reward possible: the
[love] and [friendship] of those with whom to
be connected, is to be [blessed]: I cannot doubt that
this more consolidated & extended Work, will be as kindly
recieved
     The Enthusiasm of the following Poem, the Author hopes
[no Reader will think presumptuousness or arroganc[e] when he
is reminded that the Ancients acknowledge their love to their
Deities, to the full as Enthusiastically as I have who
Acknowledge mine for my Saviour and Lord, for they were wholly
absorb'd in their Gods.] I also hope the Reader will
be with me, wholly One in Jesus our Lord, who is the God [of
Fire] and Lord [of Love] to whom the Ancients
look'd and saw his day afar off, with trembling & amazement.
     The Spirit of Jesus is continual forgiveness of Sin: he who
waits to be righteous before he enters into the Saviours kingdom,
the Divine Body; will never enter there.  I am perhaps the most
sinful of men! I pretend not to holiness! yet I pretend to love,
to see, to converse with daily, as man with man, & the more to
have an interest in the Friend of Sinners.  Therefore
[Dear] Reader, [forgive] what you do not
approve, & [love] me for this energetic exertion of my
talent.

    Reader! [lover] of books! [lover] of
     heaven,
    And of that God from whom [all books are given,]
    Who in mysterious Sinais awful cave
    To Man the wond'rous art of writing gave,
    Again he speaks in thunder and in fire!                
    Thunder of Thought, & flames of fierce desire:
    Even from the depths of Hell his voice I hear,
    Within the unfathomd caverns of my Ear.
    Therefore I print; nor vain my types shall be:
    Heaven, Earth & Hell, henceforth shall live in harmony 

            Of the Measure, in which
              the following Poem is written"

Letters, to Thomas Butts, 1803, (E 782)
"Accept of my thanks for your kind & heartening Letter You
have Faith in the Endeavours of Me your weak brother & fellow
Disciple. how great must be your faith in our Divine Master.  You
are to me a Lesson of Humility while you Exalt me by such
distinguishing commendations.  I know that you see certain merits
in me which by Gods Grace shall be made fully apparent & perfect
in Eternity. in the mean time I must not bury the Talents in the
Earth but do my endeavour to live to the Glory of our Lord &
Saviour & I am also grateful to the kind hand that endeavours to
lift me out of despondency even if it lifts me too high--"
. 

Thursday, March 24, 2016

BLAKE'S FAITH

Posted by Larry February 25, 2011. Primarily derived from the Blake Primer.

Wikimedia Commons
Joseph of Arimathea preaching to the inhabitants of Britain
"...I rest not from my great task!
To open the Eternal Worlds, to open the immortal Eyes Of Man inwards into the Worlds of Thought, into Eternity
Ever expanding in the Bosom of God, the Human Imagination."
(Jerusalem Plate 5: line 17ff)
    Seek love in the pity of another's woe,
    In the gentle relief of another's care,
    In the darkness of night and the winter's snow.
    In the naked and outcast, seek love there. (William Bond)
The most striking tenet of Blake's faith was his vision of the Eternal; it was also his primary gift to mankind. Blake lived in an age when the realm of spirit had virtually disappeared from the intellectual horizon. This single fact explains why he stood out like a sore thumb in late 18th Century England and why for most of his contemporaries he could never be more than an irritant, an eccentric, a madman; their most common term of depreciation was 'enthusiast'. His primary concern was a world whose existence they not only denied, but held in derision.

The task of the Enlightenment had been to emancipate man from superstition, and Voltaire, Gibbon, and their associates had done this with great distinction. Blake was born emancipated, but he knew that closed off from Vision, from the individuality of Genius, from the spontaneous spiritual dimension, from what Jesus had called the kingdom of God, mankind will regress to a level beneath the human. In his prophetic writings he predicted 1940 and its aftermath. "Where there is no vision, the people perish" (Proverbs 29:19).

Blake was blessed with vision from his earliest days; his visions were immediate and concrete. He found the eternal inward worlds of thought more real than the objective nature exalted by John Locke and Joshua Reynolds. Their depreciation of vision, genius, the Eternal never failed to infuriate Blake. This fury strongly colored his work and often threatened to overwhelm it. It also led to his deprecatory view of Nature, which was their God. He wrote, "There is no natural religion".

Blake perceived the five senses as "the chief inlets of Soul in this age" (MHH plate 4). The rationalists had imposed upon their world the view that life consists exclusively of the five senses. Blake knew better:
"How do you know but ev'ry Bird that cuts the airy way, Is an immense world of delight, clos'd by your senses five?" (MHH plate 7)

Blake was keenly alive to another world, a world of Vision, of Imagination, of God, which he called the Eternal; it was a world that most of his contemporaries had deliberately closed their minds to. He spent his life furiously trying to strike off their mind forged manacles.
The man of faith believes some things; other things he knows by experience. Blake had experienced the Eternal from earliest childhood. At times the vision clouded, but its reality remained the one unshakeable tenet of his faith.

Every child begins in Eternity. Jesus said, "Except you become as little children...."
Blake knew this better than anyone since Jesus, or maybe anyone since Francis. He knew it because by a providential dispensation of grace the child in Blake remained alive throughout his life. At the age of 34 he wrote those beautiful 'Songs of Innocence', his "happy songs Every child may joy to hear". 'Songs of Innocence' hooked a great many people on Blake originally: transparent goodness transcribed into black type on white paper--somewhat beyond Locke's tabula rasa.

If life were only like that. If Blake were only like that, he'd have an assured place as one of England's best loved poets, a beloved impractical idealist and a threat to no one. But in 'Songs of Experience' he began to express a more complex reality. 'The Marriage of Heaven and Hell' represents a healthy beginning in working out the complexities. They have to be worked out, every minute particular in the corrosive burning flame of thought, etching away the surfaces, getting down to bedrock.

Most of us have refused Blake and his Eternal because we don't want to be bothered with reality; we don't want to take the trouble. We're content with the little sub-realities that inform our lives and values, the simple half truths and prejudices which we call the real world.

Blake wrote, etched, painted, sang his visions of Eternity throughout a long life time. In order to learn we systematize his visions as they address and relate to the general constructs of Christian theology. That enterprise of course violates the spirit of his creative genius, which refused systematization. Nevertheless we systematize in the hope that a coherent picture of his faith may emerge and lead the faithful reader to an encounter with the original, organized in Blake's own inimitable style.
.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

PILGRIM & EVANGELIST

Reposted from February 04, 2015. 
 
Pilgrims's Progress 
John Bunyan
"{12} Now, I saw, upon a time, when he was walking in the fields, that he was, as he was wont, reading in his book, and greatly distressed in his mind; and, as he read, he burst out, as he had done before, crying, "What shall I do to be saved?"
{13} I saw also that he looked this way and that way, as if he would run; yet he stood still, because, as I perceived, he could not tell which way to go. I looked then, and saw a man named Evangelist coming to him and asked, Wherefore dost thou cry? [Job 33:23]
{14} He answered, Sir, I perceive by the book in my hand, that I am condemned to die, and after that to come to judgement [Heb. 9:27]; and I find that I am not willing to do the first [Job 16:21], nor able to do the second. [Ezek. 22:14]
CHRISTIAN no sooner leaves the World but meets EVANGELIST, who lovingly him greets With tidings of another: and doth show Him how to mount to that from this below.
{15} Then said Evangelist, Why not willing to die, since this life is attended with so many evils? The man answered, Because I fear that this burden is upon my back will sink me lower than the grave, and I shall fall into Tophet. [Isa. 30:33] And, Sir, if I be not fit to go to prison, I am not fit, I am sure, to go to judgement, and from thence to execution; and the thoughts of these things make me cry.
{16} Then said Evangelist, If this be thy condition, why standest thou still? He answered, Because I know not whither to go. Then he gave him a parchment roll, and there was written within, Flee from the wrath to come. [Matt. 3.7]
{17} The man therefore read it, and looking upon Evangelist very carefully, said, Whither must I fly? Then said Evangelist, pointing with his finger over a very wide field, Do you see yonder wicket-gate? [Matt. 7:13,14] The man said, No. Then said the other, Do you see yonder shining light? [Ps. 119:105; 2 Pet. 1:19] He said, I think I do. Then said Evangelist, Keep that light in your eye, and go up directly thereto: so shalt thou see the gate; at which, when thou knockest, it shall be told thee what thou shalt do."

Illustrations to Pilgrim's Progress
Plate 3
Christian Meets Evangelist
Blake's third illustration to Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress shows the meeting of Christian and the Evangelist. Bunyan himself could be the Evangelist since he was employed as both a tinker and an itinerant preacher. Blake pictures alternatives which are available to Pilgrim as he considers his journey: the city of destruction from which he came, the forest of confusion, the mountain of illumination, and the gate to which Evangelist directs him. The gate, however, is not pictured in the direction Evangelist points but close-by if Christian were to look back. Significantly Pilgrim is no longer is scrutinizing his book of scripture from which he could directly encounter God's Word. 

There was a broad range of dissenting Christians in England from the time of Bunyan and Milton and Fox in the 17th century to Blake's time in the 18th and 19th centuries. Although Blake and Bunyan were both dissenters their theologies were vastly different. Bunyan was from the Puritan tradition; Blake determined to create his own system rather than be enslaved to another mans. Pilgrim's Progress conforms to the approach to religious faith and practice which Bunyan sought to propagate. The path was predetermined and one's choices were limited. Bunyan and Blake both went to scripture as their primary source of spiritual teaching but approached it differently. 

Gerda Norvig explains this difference on Page 37 of Dark Figures in the Desired Country:
"The reason for this rigidity was that there was no [Puritan] sanction for interpreting episodes of Scripture as dynamic myth or vision, quite the reverse. Many influential tracts warned readers not to 'raise their contemplations by fancy and imagination above Scripture revelation' lest they dark[en] counsel without  knowledge, uttering thing which they understood not, which have no substance or spiritual food of faith in them.' Blake's conception that the purpose of scriptural prophecy, like that of art, was 'to open the immortal Eyes of Man inwards into the Worlds of Thought: into Eternity / Ever expanding' would have seemed anathema to the Puritan exegete of Bunyan's day. The inner worlds of thought were simply not felt to be trustworthy enough regions in which to find truth, and the idea of expanding into eternity would have terrified men and women who sought definitive boundaries to clarify a shaky divine identity and to keep them safely focused on the straight and narrow."

Blake searched Pilgrim's Progress for episodes which would lend themselves to support his own experience that the scripture was meant to be internalized, enabling it to become transformative. Bunyan thought in terms of altering outward behavior by following the path to salvation outlined by his Puritan faith. Blake, however recognized the critical events in Pilgrim's journey were changes in the psyche which allowed the pilgrim or the dreamer to achieve further growth toward becoming healed and whole (or individuated as Jung would define it.)

Letters, Number 52, (E 758) 
 "For O happiness never enough to be
grateful for! I have lost my Confusion of Thought while at work &
am as much myself when I take the Pencil or Graver into my hand
as I used to be in my Youth I have indeed fought thro a Hell of
terrors & horrors (which none could know but myself.) in a
Divided Existence now no longer Divided. nor at war with myself I
shall travel on in the Strength of the Lord God as Poor Pilgrim
says" 
Vision of Last Judgment, (E 554)
"The Last Judgment is not Fable or Allegory
but Vision   Fable or Allegory are a totally distinct & inferior
kind of Poetry.  Vision or Imagination is a Representation of
what Eternally Exists.  Really & Unchangeably.  Fable or Allegory
is Formd by the Daughters of Memory.  Imagination is Surrounded
by the daughters of Inspiration who in the aggregate are calld
Jerusalem     The Hebrew Bible & the Gospel of
Jesus are not Allegory but Eternal Vision or Imagination of All
that Exists   Pilgrims Progress is full of it   the Greek Poets the
same but  ought
to be known as Two Distinct Things & so calld for the Sake of
Eternal Life" 
. 

Monday, March 14, 2016

COMPANY OF DISSENTERS

Wikipedia Commons
Marriage of Heaven & Hell
Plate 24
In any society there are those who ascribe to the system, and those who disagree with the prevailing ethos. In England the system of government was the monarchy supported by an aristocratic class. There was a state church - the Church of England - which was the required form of worship. Those who would not accept the government or church were dissenters. The government enacted laws to restrict the freedom of dissenters to associate with one another, or disseminate anti-authoritarian information, or to fully participate in their system. In spite of attempts by the government to prevent people from practicing religion as the chose, numerous sects arose among the populace. 

Blake was born into a family of dissenters. Although he was baptised as an infant in an authorized church, the family dissented from established religion. As an adult Blake also dissented from supporting the system of government which led to the oppression of the masses by the ruling authorities. His opposition to the established government and the established church became a prevailing theme in his poetry. If his poetry had been read and understood by those in authority he would have been subject to sanctions as were George Fox, John Bunyan and Thomas Paine for their activities and writings. As it was, Blake was very nearly convicted of treason after expelling a enraged soldier from his garden.

 

Although dissenters were opposed to the dominant motifs of their society, they were usually, with some exceptions, not outside of the structure which prevailed. If they maintained a low profile, or avoided direct confrontations, they formed threads in the economic, political and social fabric of life. Although they could not be educated in establishment schools, be buried in Church of England churchyards, publish their ideas publicly, assemble in large groups, or hold public office, their influence was felt in religion, business, art and social improvement for the underclass.
 

Since one of the sanctions against dissenters was that they were no eligible for burial in churchyards, alternative burial grounds were developed, of which Bunhill Fields in London was one. The influence which dissenters had on their culture is apparent in the names of people buried in Bunhill Fields. Like many dissenters buried in Bunhill Fields Blake chose to have a Church of England funeral service which would have included prayer, readings from the Old and New Testaments and singing of hymns led by a clergyman of the Church of England. Several of William's family members including his parents and his brother Robert had previously been buried in Bunhill Fields, and his wife too would subsequently rest there among a long line of dissenters.
 

Not just in death but in life, Blake had joined a company who had set themselves apart not to exclude those whose work maintained a system based on exclusion, but to maintain solidarity with the universality of humanity.
 
Songs of Experience, The Chimney Sweeper, (E 22) 
"Because I was happy upon the heath, 
And smil'd among the winter's snow: 
They clothed me in the clothes of death, 
And taught me to sing the notes of woe.
And because I am happy, & dance & sing,
They think they have done me no injury:
And are gone to praise God & his Priest & King
Who make up a heaven of our misery."

Annotations to Watson, (E 615)
 "The Bible or <Peculiar> Word of God, Exclusive of Conscience
or the Word of God Universal, is that Abomination which like the
Jewish ceremonies is for ever removed & henceforth every man may
converse with God & be a King & Priest in his own house

Letters, To Cumberland, April 1827, (E 784) 
 "Flaxman is Gone & we must All soon follow every one to his
Own Eternal House Leaving the Delusive Goddess Nature & her Laws
to get into Freedom from all Law of the Members into The Mind in
which every one is King & Priest in his own House God Send it so
on Earth as it is in Heaven
I am Dear Sir Yours Affectionately
WILLIAM BLAKE"
1ST Corinthians 15
[53] For this perishable nature must put on the imperishable, and this mortal nature must put on immortality.
[54] When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: "Death is swallowed up in victory." 

.

Friday, March 11, 2016

DEATH TO MORTALITY

Blake's Autograph in the Album of William Upcott, (E 698)
     "WILLIAM BLAKE one who is very much delighted with being in
good Company
                                  Born 28 Novr 1757 in London 
                                  & has died several times since
January 16 
  1826
     The above was written & the drawing annexed by the desire of
Mr Leigh how far it is an Autograph is a Question   I do not
think an Artist can write an Autograph especially one who has
Studied in the Florentine & Roman Schools as such an one will
Consider what he is doing but an Autograph as I understand it, is
Writ helter skelter like a hog upon a rope or a Man who walks
without Considering whether he shall run against a Post or a
House or a Horse or a Man & I am apt to believe that what is done
without meaning is very different from that which a Man Does with
his Thought & Mind & ought not to be Calld by the Same Name.
     I consider the Autograph of Mr Cruikshank which very justly
stands first in the Book & that Beautiful Specimen of Writing by
Mr Comfield & my own; as standing [in] the same Predicament they
are in some measure Works of Art & not of Nature or Chance
       Heaven born the Soul a Heavenward Course must hold 
     For what delights the Sense is False & Weak 
     Beyond the Visible World she soars to Seek 
     Ideal Form, The Universal Mold
  Michael Angelo.  Sonnet as Translated by Mr Wordsworth"
 
Death to his physical body came to Blake after a debilitating illness which lasted many months. He never stopped working or hoping his health would improve. We can follow Blake's final months in the letters he wrote to his friends and supporters concerning his health, his work and his spiritual condition. The receipt of money form Linnell was in payment for the commissions from Linnell to illustrate Job and Dante. 

Letters, (E 781) 

Letter 87 
"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" 
Letter 91
"[To] George Cumberland Esqre, Culver Street, Bristol
N 3 Fountain Court Strand 12 April 1827
Dear Cumberland
     I have been very near the Gates of Death & have returned
very weak & an Old Man feeble & tottering, but not in Spirit &
Life not in The Real Man The Imagination which Liveth for Ever.
In that I am stronger & stronger as this Foolish Body decays."
Letter 92
"[To] Mr Linnell, 6 Cirencester Place, Fitzroy Square
25 April 1827
Dear Sir
     I am going on better Every day as I think both in hea[l]th &
in Work I thank you for The Ten Pounds which I recievd from you
this Day which shall be put to the best use as also for the
prospect of Mr Ottleys advantageous acquaintance I go on without
daring to count on Futurity. which I cannot do without Doubt &
Fear that ruins Activity & are the greatest hurt to an Artist
such as I am. as to Ugolino &c I never supposed that I should
sell them my Wife alone is answerable for their having Existed in
any finishd State--I am too much attachd to Dante to think much
of any thing else--I have Proved the Six Plates & reduced the
Fighting Devils ready for the Copper I count myself sufficiently
Paid If I live as I now do & only fear that I may be unlucky
to my friends & especially that I may not be so to you
I am Sincerely yours
WILLIAM BLAKE"
Letter 93
"[To] Mr Linnell, 6 Cirencester Place, Fitzroy Square
3 July 1827
Dear Sir
     I thank you for the Ten Pounds you are so kind as to send me
at this time.  My journey to Hampstead on Sunday brought on a
relapse which is lasted till now.  I find I am not so well as I
thought I must not go on in a youthful Style--however I am upon
the mending hand to day & hope soon to look as I did for I have
been yellow accompanied by all the old Symptoms
I am Dear Sir
Yours Sincerely
WILLIAM BLAKE"

Wikimedia Commons
Illustrations to Robert Blair's The Grave
 Reunion of the Soul & the Body
But his final journey could not the postponed infinitely. He made his ultimate drawing, sang his last song, and expressed his culminating gratitude to Kate. He passed through the gate between the mortal world of Generation to the Eternal world of Resurrection. 

When Blake's friend Flaxman died he commented, "I cannot consider death as anything but removing from one room to another." In a letter to Linnell he stated, "I verily believe it Every Death is an improvement of the State of the Departed."  Blake willingly left the world of shadows or reflections to rejoin the Eternals where every thing "shines by its own Internal light." 

 
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.
... 
What 
is Immortality but the things relating to the Spirit, which Lives 
Eternally!
 
Second Timothy
Chapter 4
[6] For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand.
[7] I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith:
[8] Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.
.

Monday, March 7, 2016

GENERATION II



Yale Center for British Art
Laocoon Drawing
Although an Immortal soul may fall from Eden and enter the state of Ulro by a failure of his faith in the Divine Vision, he still has the ability to return from the chaos of unbelief by passing through the stage of Generation. The Souls in Ulro are unembodied: fragments of unorganized spirit without a centering motif (Vision.) In Blake's system, if bodies (or emanative portions) are provided for the Souls seeking existence, they may enter the field of time and space, which to us is the material world or Generation.
 

  It is informative to think of the material world as having come into existence in order to provide a place and period to acquire experience. There is a process we learn by living in the sea of time and space: we learn to see the unity as multiplicity, and the multiplicity as unity. The contribution of time and space to the process is that we actually experience in our own bodies and minds the breaking apart and coming together.
 

  But the experience must occur on multiple levels. It is not enough to become mentally aware of conflict in the material world, we need to become spiritually aware that Souls are being shaped through enduring and resolving conflict, and confronting adversity.

Four Zoas, Night VIII, Page 98 [90], (E 370) 
"So Enitharmon spoke trembling & in torrents of tears

Los sat in Golgonooza in the Gate of Luban where
He had erected many porches where branchd the Mysterious Tree
Where the Spectrous dead wail & sighing thus he spoke to Enitharmon

Lovely delight of Men Enitharmon shady refuge from furious war
Thy bosom translucent is a soft repose for the weeping souls
Of those piteous victims of battle there they sleep in happy obscurity
They feed upon our life we are their victims. Stern desire
I feel to fabricate embodied semblances in which the dead
May live before us in our palaces & in our gardens of labour 
Which now opend within the Center we behold spread abroad
To form a world of Sacrifice of brothers & sons & daughters  
To comfort Orc in his dire sufferings[;] look[!] my fires enlume afresh
Before my face ascending with delight as in ancient times

Enitharmon spread her beaming locks upon the wind & said   
O Lovely terrible Los wonder of Eternity O Los my defence & guide 
Thy works are all my joy. & in thy fires my soul delights
If mild they burn in just proportion & in secret night
And silence build their day in shadow of soft clouds & dews
Then I can sigh forth on the winds of Golgonooza piteous forms  
That vanish again into my bosom   but if thou my Los
Wilt in sweet moderated fury. fabricate forms sublime      
Such as the piteous spectres may assimilate themselves into
They shall be ransoms for our Souls that we may live" 

Descriptive Catalogue, (E 541)
"The connoisseurs and artists who have made objections to
Mr. B.'s mode of representing spirits with real bodies, would do
well to consider that the Venus, the Minerva, the Jupiter, the
Apollo, which they admire in Greek statues, are all of them
representations of spiritual existences of God's immortal, to
the mortal perishing organ of sight; and yet they are embodied
and organized in solid marble.  Mr. B. requires the same latitude
and all is well.  The Prophets describe what they saw in Vision
as real and existing men whom they saw with their imaginative and
immortal organs; the Apostles the same; the clearer the organ the
more distinct the object.  A Spirit and a Vision are not, as the 
modern philosophy supposes, a cloudy vapour or a
nothing: they are organized and minutely articulated beyond all
that the mortal and perishing nature can produce.  He who does
not imagine in stronger and better lineaments, and in stronger
and better light than his perishing mortal eye can see does not
imagine at all.  The painter of this work asserts that all his
imaginations appear to him infinitely more perfect and more
minutely organized than any thing seen by his 
mortal eye.  Spirits are organized men: Moderns wish to 
draw figures without lines, and with great and heavy shadows; 
are not shadows more unmeaning than lines, and more heavy? O 
who can doubt this!"

No Natural Religion, [a], (E 2)
 IV  None could have other than natural or organic thoughts if
he had none but organic perceptions

Marriage of Heaven and Hell, Plate 14, (E 39)
 "If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would
appear  to man as it is: infinite.
   For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things thro'
narrow chinks of his cavern."

Book of Urizen, Plate 25, (E 82)
"2. Till the shrunken eyes clouded over
Discernd not the woven hipocrisy
But the streaky slime in their heavens
Brought together by narrowing perceptions
Appeard transparent air; for their eyes                    
Grew small like the eyes of a man
And in reptile forms shrinking together
Of seven feet stature they remaind"

Jerusalem, PLATE 30 [34], (E 177)
"If Perceptive Organs vary: Objects of Perception seem to vary:  
If the Perceptive Organs close: their Objects seem to close also:"

Jerusalem, Plate 49, (E 198)
"The Visions of Eternity, by reason of narrowed perceptions,
Are become weak Visions of Time & Space, fix'd into furrows of death;
Till deep dissimulation is the only defence an honest man has left"

Annotations to Berkley, (E 664)
  "Knowledge is not by deduction but Immediate by Perception or
Sense at once    Christ addresses himself to the Man not to his
Reason   Plato did not bring Life & Immortality to Light  Jesus
only did this"  

RSV
Second Timothy 1
[5] When I call to remembrance the unfeigned faith that is in thee, which dwelt first in thy grandmother Lois, and thy mother Eunice; and I am persuaded that in thee also.
[6] Wherefore I put thee in remembrance that thou stir up the gift of God, which is in thee by the putting on of my hands.
[7] For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.
[8] Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me his prisoner: but be thou partaker of the afflictions of the gospel according to the power of God;
[9] Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began,

Phillips
Second Timothy
1:5-7 - I often think of that genuine faith of yours - a faith that first appeared in your grandmother Lois, then in Eunice your mother, and is now, I am convinced, in you as well. Because you have this faith, I now remind you to stir up that inner fire which God gave you at your ordination. For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but a spirit of power and love and a sound mind.
1:8-12 - So never be ashamed of bearing witness to our Lord, nor of me, his prisoner. Accept, as I do, all the hardship that faithfulness to the Gospel entails in the strength that God gives you. For he has rescued us from all that is really evil and called us to a life of holiness - not because of any of our achievements but for his own purpose.

.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

BLAKE'S DEATH


First posted by Larry on February 16, 2010.

Wikimedia Commons   Jerusalem
Frontispiece, Copy b

Entering the Door of Death (Frontispiece of Jerusalem)

The word die is carefully avoided by most of us; when a loved one dies, we say he/she passed away.

The question is - what dies? The Roman Empire died; the British Empire died? But those were not people per se; they were states, conglomerates of materiality.

So death is relative - from what to what? Ellie asked a workmate if he considered himself a body or a spirit; "a body", he said; "a spirit", she said.

So what dies? A body or a spirit or both? (In mortal life our bodies are said to actually die (cell by cell) and be renewed every 7 years.)

So at the end of mortal life what dies? the body of course, the garment that we acquired when we descended into the Sea of Time and Space and the 'daughters of Enitharmon' began to cut and splice it.

When Odysseus (or Luvah) threw the garment back to the sea goddess, he was on his way back to Eternity, where we all go sooner or later.

---------------------------------------------------
In the French Quarter in N.O. a black friend told me about her dead son; he had had an incurable and painful disease; he came to her and asked her permission to die, which she of course granted.

In one of Charles Williams' delightful metaphysical thrillers two characters are especially memorable: a saintly lady fully in tune with the life of the Spirit, and a man who generations before had been hanged; his spirit still hung around that locale, which happened to be outside her window. She met him there and gave him permission to depart in peace.

In the series called William Blake Meets Thomas Paine we witness a conversation that Will Blake had with his brother, Robert (long deceased), and we're led to believe that this was commonplace in Blake's life.

"But when once I did descry

The Immortal Man that cannot die,
Thro' evening shades I haste away
To close the labours of my day."
(From Gates of Paradise)

 
"Every Death is an improvement in the State of the Departed." (Letter 74 - to Linnell; Erdman 774)
 
By Death Eternal Blake implied descent into mortal life.
By Life Eternal he meant return to our Eternal Origin.


But what have you and I learned here in our mortal life?
(One Post can do no more than introduce this subject; it has other major ramifications.) 


.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

LIFE ETERNAL

For The Sexes: THE GATES of PARADISE, Plate, (E 269)
"The Keys of the Gates
...
13   But when once I did descry 
     The Immortal Man that cannot Die
14   Thro evening shades I haste away 
     To close the Labours of my Day
15   The Door of Death I open found                             
     And the Worm Weaving in the Ground
16   Thou'rt my Mother from the Womb 
     Wife, Sister, Daughter to the Tomb 
     Weaving to Dreams the Sexual strife
     And weeping over the Web of Life"


Yale Center for British Art
Illustrations for Young's Night Thoughts
The immortal life is not the life after death alone; it is the essential life of the Divine within us which is ever present and Eternal. No words can capture its essence. Neither can words adequately describe a rainbow. We can speak of its colors, calculate its arc mathematically, describe the refraction of light by ice crystals, or study its symbolic meaning. But we must see it to appreciate it. So we must open the doors of our souls to be flooded by the living waters of Life Eternal.


Nothing makes immortality real except experiencing it directly as an activating force which lives within and without. Because Blake, through his visionary sight, knew the reality of Eternal Life, he incorporated in his poetry allusions to immortality attempting to stimulate others to recognize their own connection with the Eternal.

When Blake writes:  

Milton, Plate 35 [39], (E 136)
"There is a Moment in each Day that Satan cannot find
Nor can his Watch Fiends find it, but the Industrious find
This Moment & it multiply. & when it once is found
It renovates every Moment of the Day if rightly placed",

he is expressing a truth about connecting with immortality. Awareness of Eternity once it is perceived colors every moment of the day. Once the infinite is perceived, the finite loses its claim to predominance.

Milton, Plate 15 [17], (E 109)
"They saw his Shadow vegetated underneath the Couch
Of death: for when he enterd into his Shadow: Himself:           
His real and immortal Self: was as appeard to those
Who dwell in immortality, as One sleeping on a couch
Of gold; and those in immortality gave forth their Emanations
Like Females of sweet beauty, to guard round him & to feed
His lips with food of Eden in his cold and dim repose!           

But to himself he seemd a wanderer lost in dreary night."

Jerusalem, PLATE 99, (E 258)   
"All Human Forms identified even Tree Metal Earth & Stone. all
Human Forms identified, living going forth & returning wearied
Into the Planetary lives of Years Months Days & Hours reposing
And then Awaking into his Bosom in the Life of Immortality.

And I heard the Name of their Emanations they are named Jerusalem

                  The End of The Song
                     of Jerusalem"

 Songs of Innocence, SONG 21 (2), (E 14)
"When wolves and tygers howl for prey  
They pitying stand and weep;
Seeking to drive their thirst away,
And keep them from the sheep.
But if they rush dreadful;
The angels most heedful,    
Recieve each mild spirit,
New worlds to inherit.

And there the lions ruddy eyes,
Shall flow with tears of gold:
And pitying the tender cries, 
And walking round the fold:
Saying: wrath by his meekness
And by his health, sickness,
Is driven away,
From our immortal day. 
    
And now beside thee bleating lamb,
I can lie down and sleep;
Or think on him who bore thy name,
Graze after thee and weep.   
For wash'd in lifes river,   
My bright mane for ever,
Shall shine like the gold,
As I guard o'er the fold."  
RSV
2ND Corinthians 4
[15] For all things are for your sakes, that the abundant grace might through the thanksgiving of many redound to the glory of God.
[16] For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day.
[17] For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory;
[18] While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal. 

Phillips Translation
2ND Corinthians 4
15-18
We wish you could see how all this is working out for your benefit, and how the more grace God gives, the more thanksgiving will redound to his glory. This is the reason why we never collapse. The outward man does indeed suffer wear and tear, but every day the inward man receives fresh strength. These little troubles (which are really so transitory) are winning for us a permanent, glorious and solid reward out of all proportion to our pain. For we are looking all the time not at the visible things but at the invisible. The visible things are transitory: it is the invisible things that are really permanent.

.
.