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

Thursday, February 15, 2018


Once years ago when we were visiting the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, we discovered that park service folks has constructed a tub mill near a cabin in a cove surrounded by steep slopes. The settlers in what became the park had scratched out meager livings along the creeks traversing the rugged and rocky terrain. Corn had been one of the crops they were able to grow. Although a portion of the harvest went to producing 'white lightning' there was a need also for meal to feed the 'young'uns'.

The  park service had reconstructed a simple mill to replicate one an ingenious farmer had built from the supplies at hand so that he could avoid transporting his corn to be ground at a larger commercial mill with a waterwheel.

Later park visitors would be prevented form operating the mill but we were lucky enough to find it unsecured but not in operation. The challenge was to figure out how it worked and set the water from the nearby creek running through the sluice and turning the millstone. Although we properly directed the water, the stone, of course, remained immobile until we gave it a push to overcome inertia.

We didn't grind any meal that day but I learned first hand the power of water to move stone, and the need to give the reluctant stone a push so that the water could do it's work.
Illustrations to Dante
Drinking at the River of Light

Religious writers and poets have found water and stone to be appropriate images to convey contrary states of consciousness. Since the stone is hard and inflexible it becomes a symbol for the state of mind which is rigid and unyielding. The fluidity of water which takes the shape of the container makes it symbolic of a mind which is malleable and accepting of new ideas and new modes of thinking. The mind that is prepared to receive expressions of truth in whatever form they come is not rigid or static but moving and yielding. The lesson of the water mill is that stone submits to the force that is incorporated in the energetic movement of the water.

Blake uses the water as symbolic of a liberating force. Those imprisoned by the law, convention, sense based reasoning, blindness to the Divine Vision, fear, or any other devise of Satan can be liberated by washing in the cleansing waters of the river of life. Blake's answer to the dilemma of humanity was accepting the message of Christ which released man from the stone-built prison of the law to the liberty of spiritual consciousness. 
Visions of the Daughters of Albion, Plate 3, (E 47)
"Silent I hover all the night, and all day could be silent.
If Theotormon once would turn his loved eyes upon me;            
How can I be defild when I reflect thy image pure?
Sweetest the fruit that the worm feeds on. & the soul prey'd on by woe
The new wash'd lamb ting'd with the village smoke & the bright swan
By the red earth of our immortal river: I bathe my wings.
And I am white and pure to hover round Theotormons breast." 
Milton, Plate 40 [46], (E 142)
"The Negation must be destroyd to redeem the Contraries
The Negation is the Spectre; the Reasoning Power in Man
This is a false Body: an Incrustation over my Immortal           
Spirit; a Selfhood, which must be put off & annihilated alway
To cleanse the Face of my Spirit by Self-examination.
PLATE 41 [48]
To bathe in the Waters of Life; to wash off the Not Human
I come in Self-annihilation & the grandeur of Inspiration" 

Four Zoas, Night IX, Page 134, (E 402)
"Rise & look out his chains are loose his dungeon doors are open
And let his wife & children return from the opressors scourge
They look behind at every step & believe it is a dream
Are these the Slaves that groand along the streets of Mystery    
Where are your bonds & task masters are these the prisoners
Where are your chains where are your tears why do you look around
If you are thirsty there is the river go bathe your parched limbs
The good of all the Land is before you for Mystery is no more

Then All the Slaves from every Earth in the wide Universe        
Sing a New Song drowning confusion in its happy notes"

Songs and Ballads, From Notebook, (E 473)
"Why should I care for the men of thames
Or the cheating waves of charterd streams
Or shrink at the little blasts of fear
That the hireling blows into my ear

Tho born on the cheating banks of Thames     
Tho his waters bathed my infant limbs
The Ohio shall wash his stains from me                          t
I was born a slave but I go to be free"  

Annotations to Berkley's Siris, (E 663)
    "The Four Senses are the Four Faces of Man & the Four Rivers
of the Water of Life"

Jerusalem, Plate 74, (E 229)
"The Spectre is the Reasoning Power in Man; & when separated      
From Imagination, and closing itself as in steel, in a Ratio
Of the Things of Memory. It thence frames Laws & Moralities
To destroy Imagination! the Divine Body, by Martyrdoms & Wars

Teach me O Holy Spirit the Testimony of Jesus! let me
Comprehend wonderous things out of the Divine Law" 

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