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

Friday, June 3, 2016

Blake's Bible

First published by Larry on February 07, 2010.

Genesis 3
[22] And the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever:
[23] Therefore the LORD God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken.
[24] So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life.

Northrup Frye referred to Blake as a 'Bible soaked Protestant.' He was certainly that-- and much more. He read the Bible like no other scholar I've come across. He read it uninhibited by conventions.

In his last years Frye published two large volumes with subtitles: The Bible and Literature. He had started out as a young minister, but made the fatal mistake of studying Blake, after which he became a literary critic - a real change for the better, IMO.

Working on his thesis (called Fearful Symmetry) Frye had discovered that Blake read the Bible very freely; so he became, like Blake, a Bible soaked Protestant but not (NO, NO!) a bibliolater. He read it with more freedom to go beyond the literal meaning than any conforming establishmentarian would dare to do.

In his visions Blake talked to Isaiah and Ezekiel. Re the cherub God put before the Gate of Eden with a flaming sword Blake had this to say:

"For the cherub with his flaming sword is hereby commanded to leave his guard at the tree of life, and when he does, the whole creation will be consumed, and appear infinite. and holy where as it now appears finite and corrupt. This will come to pass by an improvement of sensual enjoyment."  (MHH, Plate 14)

University of Adalaide
The Drawings and Engravings of William Blake
by Laurence Binyan
River of Life
Blake's desire was that the gate leading back into Eden be left open and unguarded because only a God of Vengeance would expel his children from his presence. Blake preferred to picture the River of Life drawing mankind back into the Garden where he may serve the Lord with joy. The Angel with the flaming sword is not among Blake's pictures, because his God empowered his children to re-enter Eden whenever they found their way back to the Gate.

Milton, Plate 34 [38], (E 135)
"Those Visions of Human Life & Shadows of Wisdom & Knowledge
PLATE 35 [39]
Are here frozen to unexpansive deadly destroying terrors[.]
And War & Hunting: the Two Fountains of the River of Life
Are become Fountains of bitter Death & of corroding Hell

Till Brotherhood is changd into a Curse & a Flattery
By Differences between Ideas, that Ideas themselves, (which are
The Divine Members) may be slain in offerings for sin"

Revelation 22
[1] And he shewed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb.
[2] In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.
[3] And there shall be no more curse: but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it; and his servants shall serve him:
[4] And they shall see his face; and his name shall be in their foreheads.
[5] And there shall be no night there; and they need no candle, neither light of the sun; for the Lord God giveth them light: and they shall reign for ever and ever.

Just poetry! you might say. Yes, but a fountain of life to non-authoritarians, free spirits who don't feel bound by the inerrancy-of-the-bible crowd. Blake sought Meaning in the Bible, not Law. Bible students divide along that line between free spirits and authoritarian types. Blake belonged to the first category, and so do I, and (hopefully) so do you. Let me know.

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