WILLIAM BLAKE: GOLDEN STRING

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

Thursday, June 30, 2022

GREAT SIN

 

Laocoon
Jehovah & his two Sons Satan & Adam
 

William Blake was a man who interested Henry Crabb Robinson who made a hobby of interviewing the people who interested him. Robinson was not daunted by the fact that Blake spoke of subjects which were beyond his comprehension. We are indebted to Robinson for recording his first hand conversations with Blake, something which was done by no one else.

Henry Crabb Robinson, Reminiscences, Page 26

"It is one of the subtle remarks of Hume, on certain religious speculations, that the tendency of them is to make men indifferent to whatever takes place, by destroying all ideas of good and evil. I took occasion to apply this remark to something Blake had said. 'If so,' I said, 'there is no use in discipline or education, - no difference between good and evil.' He hastily broke in upon me: 'There is no use in education . I hold it to be wrong. It is the great sin. It is eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. This was the fault of Plato. He knew of nothing but the virtues and vices, and good and evil. There is nothing in all that. Everything is good in God's eyes.' On my putting the obvious question, 'Is there nothing absolutely evil in what men do ?' — 'I am no judge of that. Perhaps not in God's eyes.'

He sometimes spoke as if he denied altogether the existence of evil, and as if we had nothing to do with right and wrong ; it being sufficient to consider all things as alike the work of God. Yet at other times he spoke of there being error in heaven. I asked about the moral character of Dante, in writing his 'Vision,' — was he pure ? -- ' Pure,' said Blake, 'do you think there is any purity in God's eyes? The angels in heaven are no more so than we. 'He chargeth his angels with folly.'' He afterwards represented the Supreme Being as liable to error. 'Did he not repent him that he had made Nineveh?' It is easier to repeat the personal remarks of Blake than these metaphysical speculations, so nearly allied to the most opposite systems of philosophy. Of himself, he said he acted by command. The Spirit said to him, 'Blake, be an artist, and nothing else.' In this there is felicity. His eye glistened while he spoke of the joy of devoting himself solely to divine art. 'Art is inspiration. When Michael Angelo, or Raphael, or Mr. Flaxman, does any of his fine things, he does them in the Spirit.' Blake said: 'I should be sorry if I had any earthly fame, for whatever natural glory a man has is so much taken from his spiritual glory. I wish to do nothing for profit. I wish to live for art. I want nothing whatever. I am quite happy.'

Among the unintelligible things he expressed was his distinction between the natural world and the spiritual. The natural world must be consumed. Incidentally, Swedenborg was referred to. Blake said: 'He was a divine teacher. He has done much good, and will do much. He has corrected many an error.'"

In Fearful Symmetry, Northrop Frey clarifies Blake's objection to Plato's objective in education. 

 "The fact that in the world of vision or art we see what we want to see implies that it is a world of fulfilled desire and unbounded freedom. The rejection of art from Plato's Republic is an essential part of a vision of the human soul which puts desire in bondage to reason, a vision of a universe turning on a spindle of necessity, and an assumption that a form is an idea rather than an image...Imagination is energy incorporated in form...imagination creates reality, and as desire is a part of imagination, the world we desire is more real than the world we passively accept." (Page 26,27)

Marriage of Heaven and Hell, Plate 4, (E 34)

'2. Energy is the only life and is from the Body and Reason is the bound or outward circumference of Energy. 
3. Energy is Eternal Delight'

Laocoon, (E 273)

"Good & Evil are

Riches & Poverty a Tree of Misery 
propagating Generation & Death 
The whole Business of Man Is The Arts & All Things Common

Christianity is Art & not Money 
Money is its Curse

The Old & New Testaments are the Great Code of Art

Jesus & his Apostles & Disciples were all Artists
Adam is only The Natural Man & not the Soul or Imagination

The Eternal Body of Man is The IMAGINATION.
          God himself  |
that is                |<Hebrew>[Yeshua] JESUS We are his Members
        The Divine Body|

It manifests itself in his Works of Art (In Eternity All is Vision)
All that we See is VISION from Generated Organs gone as soon as come
Permanent in The Imagination; considered as Nothing by the NATURAL MAN 
All is not Sin that Satan calls so    all the Loves & Graces of Eternity." 
Jerusalem, Plate 9, (E 152)
"And this is the manner of the Sons of Albion in their strength
They take the Two Contraries which are calld Qualities, with which
Every Substance is clothed, they name them Good & Evil
From them they make an Abstract, which is a Negation             
Not only of the Substance from which it is derived
A murderer of its own Body: but also a murderer
Of every Divine Member: it is the Reasoning Power
An Abstract objecting power, that Negatives every thing
This is the Spectre of Man: the Holy Reasoning Power             
And in its Holiness is closed the Abomination of Desolation"
Jerusalem, Plate 74, (E 230)
"the Daughters of Albion ran around admiring
His awful beauty: with Moral Virtue the fair deciever; offspring 
Of Good & Evil," 

Jerusalem, Plate 98, (E 258)

"Where is the Covenant of Priam, the Moral Virtues of the Heathen
Where is the Tree of Good & Evil that rooted beneath the cruel heel
Of Albions Spectre the Patriarch Druid! where are all his Human Sacrifices" 
On Homers Poetry, (E 269) 
"It is the same with the Moral of a whole Poem as with the Moral Goodness
of its parts Unity & Morality, are secondary considerations &
belong to Philosophy & not to Poetry, to Exception & not to Rule,
to Accident & not to Substance. the Ancients calld it eating of
the tree of good & evil." 
Everlasting Gospel, (E 521)
"Good & Evil are no more     
Sinais trumpets cease to roar
Cease finger of God to Write
The Heavens are not clean in thy Sight
Thou art Good & thou Alone     
Nor may the sinner cast one stone
To be Good only is to be
A Devil or else a Pharisee" 
Vision of Last Judgment,(E 554) 
"The Last Judgment when all those are Cast away who trouble
Religion with Questions concerning Good & Evil or Eating of the
Tree of those Knowledges or Reasonings which hinder the Vision of
God turning all into a Consuming fire <When> Imaginative Art &
Science & all Intellectual Gifts all the Gifts of the Holy Ghost
are [despisd] lookd upon as of no use & only Contention
remains to Man then the Last Judgment begins & its Vision is seen
by the [Imaginative Eye] of Every one according to the
situation he holds" 
Vision of Last Judgment, (E 620)
"Here they are no longer talking of what is Good &
Evil or of what is Right or Wrong & puzzling themselves in Satans
[Maze] Labyrinth But are Conversing with Eternal
Realities as they Exist in the Human Imagination   We are in a
World of Generation & death & this world we must cast off if we
would be Painters [P 91] Such as Rafa[e]l Mich Angelo & the
Ancient Sculptors. if we do not cast off this world we shall be
only Venetian Painters who will be cast off & Lost from Art"  

Vision of Last Judgment, (E 565)

" Angels are happier than Men <&
Devils> because they are not always Prying after Good & Evil in
One Another & eating the Tree of Knowledge for Satans
Gratification"
Annotations to Swedenborg, (E 604)
"Good & Evil are here both Good & the two contraries Married" 
Annotations to Bacon, (E 621)
"Self Evident Truth is one Thing and Truth the result of Reasoning is another Thing    Rational Truth is not the Truth of Christ but of Pilate  It is the Tree of the Knowledge of Good & Evil" 
 
 

Sunday, June 26, 2022

Sources

 Posted Feb 2014

British Museum
Illustrations to Young's Night Thoughts

Although he was many other things, Blake might well be considered a "man of books". His reading was omnivorous. He might also be considered a Renaissance man if such a thing were possible in the 19th Century.

In The Sacred Wood T.S.Eliot wrote an essay on Blake. He found him lacking in the poetic traditionKenneth Rexroth wrote more extensively about Eliot's relation to Blake; he referred to Blake's sources as "the tradition of organized heterodoxy." 
 
And this from a lecture given by Kathleen Raine:
"Blake's sources and reading proved to be not 'odds and ends' as T.S. Eliot had rather rashly described them. On the contrary, Blake's sources proved to be the mainstream of human wisdom. It was the culture of his age that was provincial, whereas Blake had access to the 'perennial philosophy', an excluded knowledge in the modern West in its pursuit of the natural sciences in the light of a materialist philosophy."

Blake was not 'unlettered'! Quite the contrary he was a modern throwback to medievalism when 'it all' could be known; he knew all of which Eliot knew nothing. Bacon, Newton (and presumably Eliot) cared little for these cultures, but Blake included them in his 'library' of acquaintance. He despised Bacon and Newton as shallow materialists.

In a Letter to Flaxman Blake wrote:
"Now my lot in the Heavens is this; Milton lovd me in childhood & shewd me his face, Ezra came with Isaiah the Prophet, but Shakespeare in riper years gave me his hand; Paracelsus & Behmen appeard to me."

His "nodding acquaintance" was actually much, much broader. Here are some of the disciplines with which Blake had at least a nodding acquaintance.

Some of Blake's Sources:

Swedenborg

 To Tirzah (K 220) was a concise summary of Swedenborg's teaching (Golgonooza page 96.)
 
A Vision of the Last Judgment, page 84:
"Around the Throne Heaven is opend & the Nature of Eternal Things Displayd All Springing from the Divine Humanity"
 
Although Blake owed much to Michaelangelo, his Vision of the Last Judgment was more closely related to Swedenborg's; Michaelangelo' picture had an exoteric orientation, while that of Swedenborg and Blake had a mystical one. To put it otherwise the great Italian painter suggested a material event some time in the future, while the other two concerned spiritual rather than material realities. Swedenborg and Blake, but not Michaelangelo, perceived the Last Judgment as an end and a beginning, or a death and rebirth (of individuals, nations, and the world).

Swedenborg has another very significant contribution to the thought forms of Blake in what they both referred to as states. A state is a condition through which a person travels in his journey through life.

Swedenborg taught that there had been 27 churches, those of Adam, Noah, Abraham, Solomon...Paul, Constantine,Charlemayne and Luther. Blake substantially agreed with that:
 
"Distinguish therefore States from Individuals in those States.
States Change: but Individual Identities never change nor cease:
You cannot go to Eternal Death in that which can never Die.
Satan & Adam are States Created into Twenty-seven Churches."
(Milton 32:22-25 Erdman 321) 
The first ones were Adam, Seth..., and the last one as I recall was Luther. After which the same old round began again to repeat itself in the Great Year, a depressing form of church history. Neither Blake nor Swedenborg thought much of the organized church. The latter thought that it had passed out, to be replaced by a new church in the New Age. He dated it at 1757, the year of Blake's birth as it happened.

According to Raine it was "Swedenborg whose leading doctrine Blake was summarized in the Everlasting Gospel." But this is a very difficult poem; not really a poem but intermittent snatches of poetic thought. Very hard to understand because Blake's mood and tone modulates continually, sometimes ironic, sometimes not. It's a source book for whatever gems speak to you. It does indicate rather clearly Blake's (and Swedenborg's) view about the organized church and conventional theology.

Homer 

The primary source of the Cave of the Nymphs is certainly Homer's Odyssey, while the Myth of Persephone stems of course from the Iliad..
 
(from a lecture in India of Kathleen Raine re her initial search for Blake's sources)
"Then I came upon a marvellous clue in the works of Thomas Taylor the platonist, whose translations of the complete works of Plato, most of Plotinus, Proclus and the other Neoplatonic writings of the third century A.D were appearing contemporaneously with Blake's works."
  Taylor and Blake were almost the same age. Taylor, with his translations of Greek philosophy turned Blake's interest in this direction and led to his use of many of them in his search for symbolic material.

Plato

Blake also used a great variety of 'spiritual' documents beginning before Plato and stretching down to his own day. Some of the writings were:

Plato's Myth of the Cave can be seen as the locale of Visions of the Daughters of Albion

Plotinus

Plotinus, Platonism, neoPlatonism - Blake may have thought more of the latter than the former. He used Thomas Taylor's translations extensively in his myth making.  Blake in particular depended heavily upon Taylor's Dissertation on the Eleusinian and Bacchic Mysteries.

Hermes

Hermes Trismegistus: Wikipedia offers a useful introduction to this mythic figure.

Blake included the Hermetic writings in his library and made use of them in his own creations. The Divine Poemander was perhaps the most important of many works. In Jerusalem plate 91 Blake mentioned the Smaragdine Table of Hermes as the baleful influence on one of his failing characters. 
He endorsed Proposition 2:
"What is below is like that which is above, and what is above is like that which is below, to accomplish the miracles of the one thing." but felt that Hermes was a magician trying to pass as a mystic. (Magicians try to pull the beyond down to the material, while mystics have visions of the Beyond.)

Paracelsus

Paracelsus introduced Blake to the rich symbolic language of astrology.

Boehme

Boehme's Divine Vision not only figured largely in Blake's works, but expressed most aptly his personal approach to creativity.

Boehme provided one of many sources for Blake's doctrine of the descent (or fall) of Albion (man): "The one only element fell into a division of four.. and that is the heavy fall of Adam...for the principle of the outward world passeth away and goeth into ether and the four elements into one again, and God is manifested. Blake expressed "the division of four" of course with the Four Zoas. (Percival p 19). The divided four represent the principalities against which Paul wrestled (as he wrote in Ephesians 6:12).

Dante

Blake illustrated Dante's Divine Comedy. 

Shakespeare, Milton, Michaelangelo,
Bacon, Newton, Locke, Berkeley, The Bible

 

Saturday, June 25, 2022

SWEDENBORG

Library of Congress
Marriage of Heaven and Hell
Plate 3

 Quote from an earlier post by Larry:

"In the 18th century Emmanuel Swedenborg, the Swedish scientist, philosopher and religionist, had a very high reputation. In London a 'new church' sprang up espousing his values. William Blake's parents were members of the New Church. That probably explains several interesting things about Blake's early life. For example his father appeared to be about as permissive as the average modern father in our culture today, but very atypical for his generation.

Blake was imbued with a great many of the famous man's values, particularly his esoteric religious ones. As a young adult Blake found many of the same ideas among the great thinkers of the ages. He thus became less dependent on Swedenborg's thought forms. With MHH Plates 21 and 22 he declared his independence of his childhood teacher.

Marriage of Heaven and Hell, (E 42)

"Plate 21
  I have always found that Angels have the vanity to speak of
themselves as the only wise; this they do with a confident
insolence sprouting from systematic reasoning:
  Thus Swedenborg boasts that what he writes is new; tho' it
is only the Contents or Index of already publish'd books"
Plate 22
 "Now hear a plain fact: Swedenborg has not written one new
truth: Now hear another: he has written all the old falshoods.
  And now hear the reason.  He conversed with Angels who are
all religious, & conversed not with Devils who all hate religion,
for he was incapable thro' his conceited notions.
  Thus Swedenborgs writings are a recapitulation of all
superficial opinions, and an analysis of the more sublime, but no
further."

Perhaps the chief objection of the mature Blake was that Swedenborg had a positive demeanor re the established church. But one of the things that stayed with Blake was Swedenborg's concept of the Divine Humanity." 

Here is a section of An Interview Conducted with Kathleen Raine on July 12, 1993 by Donald E. Stanford:

interview 

"Stanford: Why did he leave the Church of the New Jerusalem? 

Raine: Ah, that’s a good question. He wasn’t a churchman really. But he remained to the end of his life a Swedenborgian. This is this much-disputed Blake system. The scholars all scratch their heads about this; but it’s no problem. If you read the “Everlasting Gospel,” which is one of his latest works, it is in fact a point-by-point summary of the five leading beliefs of the Swedenborgian Church of the New Jerusalem, and in his interviews with Crabb Robinson, Robinson asked him about Swedenborg, and Blake said that he was a sent and inspired man, and then added, “but sometimes inspired men go beyond their commission from God.” He followed the Swedenborgian teaching. In fact, we’re all deeply familiar with the phrase “Divine Humanity,” but this phrase is not Blake’s invention; this is Swedenborg. And the Grand Man of the heavens, the one in many, and many in one, of all human souls — this is Swedenborg, and Blake uses this concept in a very beautiful passage in the Four Zoas in which he talks about man contracting our exalted senses with the multitude and expanding what we hold as one, as one man, all the universal family. Swedenborg’s greatest idea, I think, was this of the one in many, and many in one, and the divine presence in man. It was a really very wonderful idea because for him, the Divine Humanity was the eternal Christ, not the historical Christ. That was the Divine Humanity of whom Blake speaks and writes and speaks of as “Jesus the Imagination.” This is purely Swedenborgian. He disagreed with Swedenborg only in one respect: He said Swedenborg put all the good in heaven and the sinners in hell and didn’t realize that both the good and the evil are included in the Divine Humanity who transcends good and evil. That is what The Marriage of Heaven and Hell is about. Point-by-point, it’s quite a funny book. It takes up Swedenborg and his memorable experiences—it’s a running discussion with Swedenborg in semi-satirical terms, but although he poked fun at Swedenborg in certain respects, nevertheless, his system is pure Swedenborgian. I’m sure the only reason why everyone doesn’t know this is that the works of Swedenborg are so boring to read that none of the academics have read them, and I don’t blame them."

Descriptive Catalogue,(E 544)
   "Reasons and opinions concerning acts, are not
history.  Acts themselves alone are history, and these are
neither the exclusive property of Hume, Gibbon nor Voltaire,
Echard, Rapin, Plutarch, nor Herodotus.  Tell me the Acts, O
historian, and leave me to reason upon them as I please; away
with your reasoning and your rubbish.  All that is not action is
not [P 45] worth reading.  Tell me the What; I do not want you to
tell me the Why, and the How; I can find that out myself, as well
as you can, and I will not be fooled by you into opinions, that
you please to impose, to disbelieve what you think improbable or
impossible.  His opinions, who does not see spiritual agency, is
not worth any man's reading; he who rejects a fact because it is
improbable, must reject all History and retain doubts only."
Annotations to Reynolds,(E 658) 
 "The Ancients did not mean to Impose when they  affirmd 
their  belief  in Vision & Revelation  Plato was in Earnest. 
Milton was in Earnest.  They believd that God did Visit Man
Really & Truly & not as Reynolds pretends" 
Marriage of Heaven and Hell, Plate 3, (E 34)
  "As a new heaven is begun, and it is now thirty-three years
since its advent: the Eternal Hell revives. And lo! Swedenborg is
the Angel sitting at the tomb; his writings are the linen clothes folded up. 
Now is the dominion of Edom, & the return of Adam into
Paradise; see Isaiah XXXIV & XXXV Chap:
  Without Contraries is no progression.  Attraction and
Repulsion, Reason and Energy, Love and Hate, are necessary to
Human existence.
  From these contraries spring what the religious call Good &
Evil. Good is the passive that obeys Reason[.] Evil is the active
springing from Energy.
  Good is Heaven. Evil is Hell." 
Milton, Plate 22 [24], (E 117)
"O Swedenborg! strongest of men, the Samson shorn by the Churches!
Shewing the Transgresors in Hell, the proud Warriors in Heaven:
Heaven as a Punisher & Hell as One under Punishment:
With Laws from Plato & his Greeks to renew the Trojan Gods,
In Albion; & to deny the value of the Saviours blood.
But then I rais'd up Whitefield, Palamabron raisd up Westley,    

And these are the cries of the Churches before the two Witnesses' 
Faith in God  the dear Saviour who took on the likeness of men:
Becoming obedient to death, even the death of the Cross
The Witnesses lie dead in the Street of the Great City
No Faith is in all the Earth: the Book of God is trodden under Foot:       
He sent his two Servants Whitefield & Westley; were they Prophets
Or were they Idiots or Madmen? shew us Miracles!
Plate 23 [25]
Can you have greater Miracles than these? Men who devote
Their lifes whole comfort to intire scorn & injury & death
Awake thou sleeper on the Rock of Eternity Albion awake
The trumpet of Judgment hath twice sounded: all Nations are awake
But thou art still heavy and dull: Awake Albion awake!" 
Descriptive Catalogue, (E 546) 
 "The spiritual Preceptor, an experiment Picture.

THIS subject is taken from the visions of Emanuel Swedenborg.
Universal Theology, [P 53] No. 623.  The Learned, who strive to
ascend into Heaven by means of learning, appear to Children like
dead horses, when repelled by the celestial spheres.  The works
of this visionary are well worthy the attention of Painters and 
Poets; they are foundations for grand things; the reason they 
have not been more attended to, is, because corporeal demons 
have gained a predominance; who the leaders of these are, will 
be shewn below.  Unworthy Men who gain fame among Men, 
continue to govern mankind after death, and in their spiritual 
bodies, oppose the spirits of those, who worthily are famous; 
and as Swedenborg observes, by entering into disease and 
excrement, drunkenness and concupiscence, they possess
themselves of the bodies of mortal men, and shut the doors of
mind and of thought, by placing Learning above Inspiration, O
Artist! you may disbelieve all this, but it shall be at your own
peril."
  

Wednesday, June 22, 2022

BLAKE & TRADITION

First posted March 2015

Kathleen Raine became immersed in the study of William Blake when she was a student at Cambridge University. When, at the age of 85, she was interviewed by Donald Stanford, she was asked about the roots of Blake's sources which had formed the foundation of her masterwork Blake and Tradition, published in 1969, forty years after she received her masters degree from Cambridge. The following interview is available on the blog, Explorations: The Twentieth Century
 
An Interview Conducted with Kathleen Raine on July 12, 1993
Donald E. Stanford

"The audio tape of the interview that follows with Kathleen Raine is housed among the Donald E. Stanford Papers in the Louisiana and Lower Mississippi Valley Collections of the Louisiana State University Libraries, in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Some of the questions that Donald Stanford posed in the interview, which took place, in London, in Kathleen Raine’s flat on July 12, 1993, were submitted by Herbert V. Fackler (January 23, 1942 – December 18, 1999) and Joseph Riehl, both members of the faculty of English at the University of Louisiana, Lafayette. Kathleen Raine had celebrated her 85th birthday on June 14."
...

"Stanford: Would you say a little more about this excluded tradition?

Raine: We know that he had read Swedenborg and Paracelsus, because he tells us so in the Marriage of Heaven and Hell. The first important source I discovered was the new Platonic writings translated into English during Blake’s lifetime by Thomas Taylor the Platonist, whom Blake knew at one time. He was a friend of Blake’s friend Flaxman. Blake had certainly read many of the Neo-Platonic writings in the translations of Taylor, and Neo-Platonism is one important source. He had also read the Bhagavad-Gītī. This we know because he had made a painting, since lost, of Mr. Wilkins translating the Bhagavad-Gītī. He had read a great deal of the mythologies, all the traditions that were accessible to him. He knew the Greek myths, the Norse, a certain amount about the American Indian myths. He’d read the Koran. In fact, he was working within a tradition which holds the prime element of life to be mind and not matter, which, of course, is the normal view of the perennial philosophy throughout the world and throughout all civilizations prior to our own, which takes matter to be the basic substance within the universe. And Blake’s great contribution, his great battle cry, was to open the eyes of men into the inner worlds, into the worlds of thought. He was challenging the materialism of his time. He challenged the thought of Newton, Bacon, Locke, the whole movement of the Royal Society, and the whole Western trend which was at that time towards materialism. Blake went on affirming the primacy of mind, spirit, imagination, and in order to do so he had a great tradition to draw on. In fact, when it comes to Jung, they both had read many of the same works, which accounts to a great extent for their undoubted similarities
...
     Sanford: Kathleen, could you please tell us a little more about your procedures in researching your volumes of
Blake and the Tradition?


Raine: Well, it was a life’s work. It was enormous fun, I must say. I started, as I have said, with Ruthven Todd and the sources that he had already pointed to, and then it was just that one thing led to another. One just went on winding in the golden thread and far from its being just a few odd books, like Bryant’s mythology and antiquities and so on, it proved that this golden thread wound in the works of Plato, the works of Plotinus, and the works of Jacob Boehme (of course one knows from Blake that these were his sources) and the works of Paracelsus. I spent weeks and months and years reading dusty volumes in the North Library of the British Museum, and my eyes were opened. I simply had no idea of the richness of the tradition which modern academia and our civilization as a whole, based as it is on material process, had exploded. It was virtually the wisdom of the world that Blake had drawn on. My most important contribution, I suppose, at that time was finding the importance of Thomas Taylor, the Platonist. Blake did not read Greek. Shelley of course did, and Coleridge, but Blake read only English and French. And his acquaintance with Thomas Taylor has since been verified by scholarship in a reference to Blake and [George] Cumberland. There is a description by a member of Cumberland’s family of visiting Thomas Taylor and finding him sitting talking with William Blake and expounding to him the theorem of Pythagoras and Blake saying, “Never mind the proofs, I can see it with my own eyes,” which is very characteristic of both, because Taylor, of course, was a mathematician and Blake was not. Well, I discovered quite early on that the Arlington Court tempera is an illustration of Porphyry’s work De antro nympharum and Keynes of course accepted that, but no other professional Blake scholars have done so hitherto, but it is just a plain fact that it is, every detail. Blake would have read it in Taylor’s “Essay on the Restoration of the Greek Theology by the Late Platonists” which was known to Blake. If two people live next door to one another the critics won’t accept that as evidence, it has to be in writing. And it is known that, for example, Taylor gave six lectures on Platonic theology at the house of Flaxman. It is known that Flaxman and Blake were close friends from youth, but “Oh, no,” they say; “this is no proof that Blake knew anything about Taylor,” you see. This is the sort of blinkered mentality of those who will only accept the evidence of written text. If people see each other every day, they don’t tend to write one another letters. On the whole, one writes letters to people one does not see every day.
...
British Museum
after Michelangelo
Copy of engraving by Adamo Ghisi
c. 1785

   Raine: What I’ve been trying to do all my life is to challenge and reverse the premises of modern Western materialism. That is what Blake was attempting. That is why the hippies had a sort of feeling for him—they felt there was something there—and that is what Yeats was trying to do and that is why I was taking up the torch in very frail hands myself, I don’t compare myself with Blake or Shelley or Yeats, but nevertheless that is what my life’s work has also been trying to do."
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 Marriage of Heaven & Hell, Plate 21, (E 42)
  "I have always found that Angels have the vanity to speak of
themselves as the only wise; this they do with a confident
insolence sprouting from systematic reasoning:
  Thus Swedenborg boasts that what he writes is new; tho' it
is only the Contents or Index of already publish'd books
  A man carried a monkey about for a shew, & because he was a
little wiser than the monkey, grew vain, and conciev'd himself as
much
wiser than seven men.  It is so with Swedenborg; he shews the
folly of churches & exposes hypocrites, till he imagines that all
are religious. & himself the single 
Plate 22
One on earth that ever broke a net.
  Now hear a plain fact: Swedenborg has not written one new
truth: Now hear another: he has written all the old falshoods.
  And now hear the reason.  He conversed with Angels who are
all religious, & conversed not with Devils who all hate religion,
for he was incapable thro' his conceited notions.
  Thus Swedenborgs writings are a recapitulation of all
superficial opinions, and an analysis of the more sublime, but no
further.
  Have now another plain fact: Any man of mechanical talents
may from the writings of Paracelsus or Jacob Behmen, produce ten
thousand volumes of equal value with Swedenborg's.
and from those of Dante or Shakespear, an infinite number.
  But when he has done this, let him not say that he knows
better than his master, for he only holds a candle in sunshine."
 
 

Saturday, June 18, 2022

VISION

Mercy and Truth are Met Together 
Psalms 85:10

When Carl Jung was 69 years old he had a serious heart attack from which he slowly recovered. In the weeks before he fully reentered consciousness, his mind was occupied with visions which are recorded here:  

Carl Jung: Wounded Healer of the Soul, Claire Dunne, Page 158

"All of these experiences were glorious...So fantastically beautiful that by comparison this world appeared downright ridiculous. As I approached closer to life again, they grew fainter, and scarcely three weeks after the first vision they cease altogether....

We shy away from the use of the word 'eternal,' but I can describe the experience only as the ecstasy of a non-temporal state in which present, past and future are one. Everything that happens in time has been brought together into a concrete whole. Nothing was distributed over time, nothing could be measured by temporal concepts. The experience might best be defined as a state of feeling, one which cannot be produced by imagination.... One is woven into an indescribable whole and yet observes it with complete objectivity."  

William Blake had an analogous experience of enhanced consciousness when he first left London and moved to Felpham. The poem he sent to his friend Thomas Butts recorded his ecstasy at the expansion of consciousness he felt. He awoke to a new confidence in the voice with which he could speak to God's people. 

Letters, To Butts, (E 712)
"To my Friend Butts I write
     My first Vision of Light
     On the yellow sands sitting
     The Sun was Emitting
     His Glorious beams
     From Heavens high Streams
     Over Sea over Land
     My Eyes did Expand
     Into regions of air
     Away from all Care
     Into regions of fire
     Remote from Desire
     The Light of the Morning
     Heavens Mountains adorning
     In particles bright
     The jewels of Light
     Distinct shone & clear--
     Amazd & in fear
     I each particle gazed
     Astonishd Amazed
     For each was a Man
     Human formd.  Swift I ran
     For they beckond to me
     Remote by the Sea
     Saying.  Each grain of Sand
     Every Stone on the Land
     Each rock & each hill
     Each fountain & rill
     Each herb & each tree
     Mountain hill Earth & Sea
     Cloud Meteor & Star
     Are Men Seen Afar
     I stood in the Streams
     Of Heavens bright beams
     And Saw Felpham sweet
     Beneath my bright feet

     In soft Female charms
     And in her fair arms
     My Shadow I knew
     And my wifes shadow too
     And My Sister & Friend.
     We like Infants descend
     In our Shadows on Earth
     Like a weak mortal birth
     My Eyes more & more
     Like a Sea without shore
     Continue Expanding
     The Heavens commanding
     Till the jewels of Light
     Heavenly Men beaming bright
     Appeard as One Man
     Who Complacent began
     My limbs to infold
     In his beams of bright gold
     Like dross purgd away
     All my mire & my clay
     Soft consumd in delight
     In his bosom sun bright
     I remaind.  Soft he smild
     And I heard his voice Mild
     Saying This is My Fold
     O thou Ram hornd with gold
     Who awakest from sleep
     On the sides of the Deep
     On the Mountains around
     The roarings resound
     Of the lion & wolf
     The loud sea & deep gulf
     These are guards of My Fold
     O thou Ram hornd with gold
     And the voice faded mild
     I remaind as a Child
     All I ever had known
     Before me bright Shone
     I saw you & your wife
     By the fountains of Life
     Such the Vision to me
     Appeard on the Sea"

Isaiah 6

[1] In the year that king Uzziah died I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple.
[2] Above it stood the seraphims: each one had six wings; with twain he covered his face, and with twain he covered his feet, and with twain he did fly.
[3] And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory.
[4] And the posts of the door moved at the voice of him that cried, and the house was filled with smoke.
[5] Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts.
[6] Then flew one of the seraphims unto me, having a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with the tongs from off the altar:
[7] And he laid it upon my mouth, and said, Lo, this hath touched thy lips; and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged.
[8] Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I; send me.
Vision of the Last Judgment, (E 555)
   "The Nature of Visionary Fancy or Imagination is very little
Known & the Eternal nature & permanence of its ever Existent
Images is considerd as less permanent than the things of
Vegetative & Generative Nature yet the Oak dies as well as the
Lettuce but Its Eternal Image & Individuality never dies. but
renews by its seed. just so the Imaginative Image
returns by the seed of Contemplative Thought 
the Writings of the Prophets illustrate these conceptions
of the Visionary Fancy by their various sublime & Divine Images
as seen in the Worlds of Vision"
 
 

Wednesday, June 15, 2022

Mortal and Eternal

Published Feb 2015

Blake read British poetry widely and found the same "kernel of meaning" in every kind of literature. He knew and loved Spenser, Queen Elizabeth's poet laureate who wrote The Faerie Queen. Kathleen Raine provided  two examples from Spenser of the oldest myth central to Blake's poetry, namely the descent of the soul and eventual return. 
 
These are the passages taken from 'THE THIRD BOOKE OF THE FAERIE QUEENE CANTO VI.....
"It sited was in fruitfull soyle of old,
And girt in with two walles on either side;
The one of yron, the other of bright gold,
That none might thorough breake, nor over-stride:
And double gates it had, which opened wide,
By which both in and out men moten pas;
Th'one faire and fresh, the other old and dride:
Old Genius the porter of them was,
Old Genius, the which a double nature has.
xxxii
He letteth in, he letteth out to wend,
All that to come into the world desire;
A thousand thousand naked babes attend
About him day and night, which doe require,
That he with fleshly weedes would them attire:
Such as him list, such as eternall fate
Ordained hath, he clothes with sinfull mire,
And sendeth forth to live in mortall state,
Till they againe returne backe by the hinder gate."

Blake used this (timeless idea) in one of his earliest works, Book of Thel, Plate 6:
"The eternal gates terrific porter lifted up the northern bar".
 
British Museum
Book of Thel
Plate 6



Blake used the Northern (down to earth) and Southern Gates more pointedly in The Arlington Tempera. Look closely and you may see Thel at the bottom of the northern stairs with her pail still full; she has seen more than she wants to see and she is purposefully going back against the stream of the nymphs which is heading for mortality.

The Angel is pointing the traveler back up the Southern Gate; he has tasted mortality fully and is ready to go home.

Nevertheless with the Enlightenment this sort of idea had fallen into obscurity in most of the materialistic and rational minds of England. Bacon, Newton, and Locke were the primary exponents of rationalism in Blake's day. This meant in reality that no one was interested in the kind of poetry and philosophy that interested Blake.
 

 
From the Beyond (Eternity) the world was created; man was created; time and space were created; birth and death were created; good and evil are creatures, figments of a frail and created mind.. In the world - in time and space - we perceive duality, or a multiplicity. In Eternity we imagine Unity.
 
The ultimate duality is between Eternity and the World, between God and man, but this is a sometime thing - until the end of time. As a creature the world will end; you, too, will end, as a creature.
 
But the vision of the mystic suggests that you are more than a creature. The writer of Genesis had such an inkling when he described man as made of the dust of the earth, but in the image of God. The Quakers believe there is 'that of God' in everyone.
 
Eternal Death in Blake's language refers to the soul's descent from Eden (and Beulah) to the nether regions (Ulro) where Eternity is lost and only the created remains. Lost! but not forever; Eternal Death dies, too; Eternity waits for the soul's Awakening, which may be at the moment of mortal death or whenever he casts off error and embraces truth.
 
Book of Thel, Plate 6, (E 6)
"The eternal gates terrific porter lifted the northern bar:
Thel enter'd in & saw the secrets of the land unknown;
She saw the couches of the dead, & where the fibrous roots
Of every heart on earth infixes deep its restless twists:
A land of sorrows & of tears where never smile was seen.

She wanderd in the land of clouds thro' valleys dark, listning
Dolours & lamentations: waiting oft beside a dewy grave
She stood in silence. listning to the voices of the ground,
Till to her own grave plot she came, & there she sat down.
And heard this voice of sorrow breathed from the hollow pit.     

Why cannot the Ear be closed to its own destruction?
Or the glistning Eye to the poison of a smile!
Why are Eyelids stord with arrows ready drawn,
Where a thousand fighting men in ambush lie?
Or an Eye of gifts & graces, show'ring fruits & coined gold!  
Why a Tongue impress'd with honey from every wind?
Why an Ear, a whirlpool fierce to draw creations in?
Why a Nostril wide inhaling terror trembling & affright.
Why a tender curb upon the youthful burning boy!
Why a little curtain of flesh on the bed of our desire?          

The Virgin started from her seat, & with a shriek.
Fled back unhinderd till she came into the vales of Har
                                    
                  The End" 
 

Thursday, June 9, 2022

CHOICE

Yale Center for British Art
Jerusalem
Plate 84

We tend to think of crises as rare events which occur, are solved and can be forgotten. But as we look back over our lifetimes from the perspective of world events, we see a series of recurring crises with solutions which prove to be temporary. In Blake's lifetime he was affected by numerous crises going on in his personal life, his city and country, and around the world.

Each crisis presents a choice. Blake's poetry was his response. He knew that if we are not conscious of the nature of our circumstances, the solution would escape us. 

Northrop Frye understood what Blake was saying better than I. In Fearful Symmetry on Page 391 he wrote:

"The redeemable Luvah of Jerusalem approaching the crisis of vision is of course not Blake himself, who got past it long ago, but England. The Los, Luvah, and Satan of the great struggle, then, are in this case Jesus, Albion, and Satan. The England Blake is addressing is Albion in a fallen or sleeping state in the World of Generation which is Luvah's world: that is, Albion at present is Luvah. The function of Jerusalem is to recreate the vision of the Jesus of action, the divine man whose impact miraculously increased the bodily and mental powers of those who saw what he was, in order to bring the impact directly to bear on the English public. This occurs at a time when both English civilization and one of its artists have reached the point we described as imaginative puberty. England has to choose weather to turn its green and pleasant land into Jerusalem or a howling waste of Satanic mills, and Blake is practically the only Englishman who can express the fact that the choice is now before England and is still a choice. Jerusalem is Blake's contribution to the struggle between the prophet and the profiteer for the soul of England, Armageddon: it is the burning-glass focusing the the rays of a fiery city on London in the hope of kindling an answering flame." 

Jerusalem, Plate 83, (E 243)
"Our Father Albions land: O it was a lovely land! & the Daughters of Beulah
Walked up and down in its green mountains: but Hand is fled
Away: & mighty Hyle: & after them Jerusalem is gone: Awake
Plate 84
Highgates heights & Hampsteads, to Poplar Hackney & Bow:
To Islington & Paddington & the Brook of Albions River
We builded Jerusalem as a City & a Temple; from Lambeth
We began our Foundations; lovely Lambeth! O lovely Hills
Of Camberwell, we shall behold you no more in glory & pride    
For Jerusalem lies in ruins & the Furnaces of Los are builded there
You are now shrunk up to a narrow Rock in the midst of the Sea
But here we build Babylon on Euphrates, compelld to build
And to inhabit, our Little-ones to clothe in armour of the gold
Of Jerusalems Cherubims & to forge them swords of her Altars   
I see London blind & age-bent begging thro the Streets
Of Babylon, led by a child. his tears run down his beard
The voice of Wandering Reuben ecchoes from street to street
In all the Cities of the Nations Paris Madrid Amsterdam
The Corner of Broad Street weeps; Poland Street languishes     
To Great Queen Street & Lincolns Inn, all is distress & woe."

Four Zoas, Night VII, Page 87, (E 369)

"But I have thee my [Counterpart Vegetating] miraculous
These Spectres have no [Counter(parts)] therefore they ravin
Without the food of life Let us Create them Coun[terparts]
For without a Created body the Spectre is Eternal Death

Los trembling answerd Now I feel the weight of stern repentance
Tremble not so my Enitharmon at the awful gates    
Of thy poor broken Heart I see thee like a shadow withering
As on the outside of Existence but look! behold! take comfort!
Turn inwardly thine Eyes & there behold the Lamb of God
Clothed in Luvahs robes of blood descending to redeem
O Spectre of Urthona take comfort O Enitharmon   
Couldst thou but cease from terror & trembling & affright
When I appear before thee in forgiveness of ancient injuries  
Why shouldst thou remember & be afraid. I surely have died in pain
Often enough to convince thy jealousy & fear & terror
Come hither be patient let us converse together because  
I also tremble at myself & at all my former life"