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

Tuesday, March 22, 2016


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
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" 

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