Monday, December 10, 2018

Myth in Blake 9

Blake never forgot the involvement of the Christian Church in 2000 years of bloodshed, but here, under the influence of grace, he has a more understanding view of it than he has expressed elsewhere (See Chapter Seven).

In the last Night Blake let all of his feelings out in a magnificent vision of apocalypse that bears comparison with the one John wrote:

Four Zoas, Night IX, Page 117, (E 386)
"Los his vegetable hands 
Outstretched; his right hand branching out in fibrous strength 
Seized the Sun; His left hand, like dark roots, cover'd the Moon, 
And tore them down, cracking the heavens across from immense to immense. 
Then fell the fires of Eternity with loud & shrill 
Sound of Loud Trumpet thundering along from heaven to heaven
A mighty sound articulate Awake ye dead & come 
To judgment from the four winds Awake & Come away 
Folding like scrolls of the Enormous volume of Heaven & Earth"

And on and on it goes, much too imposing to describe in this short review. But two things will be said:
First, Blake draws on John's Apocalypse as he already has in Night viii. Revelation, the strangest book in the Bible, utterly incomprehensible to the literal mind, has much to offer to the trained imagination. To read the end of Plate 42 of Jerusalem with complete attention gives one a purchase on Blake's great source; Revelation begins to come alive in an exciting new way.

Jerusalem, Plate 42, (E 190)
"Los stood before his Furnaces awaiting the fury of the Dead: 
And the Divine hand was upon him, strengthening him mightily. 
The Spectres of the Dead cry out from the deeps beneath 
Upon the hills of Albion; Oxford groans in his iron furnace 
Winchester in his den & cavern; they lament against 
Albion: they curse their human kindness & affection 
They rage like wild beasts in the forests of affliction 
In the dreams of Ulro they repent of their human kindness. 
Come up, build Babylon, Rahab is ours & all her multitudes 
With her in pomp and glory of victory. Depart 
Ye twenty-four into the deeps! let us depart to glory! 
Their Human majestic forms sit up upon their Couches 
Of death: they curb their Spectres as with iron curbs 
They enquire after Jerusalem in the regions of the dead, 
With the voices of dead men, low, scarcely articulate, 
And with tears cold on their cheeks they weary repose. 
O when shall the morning of the grave appear, and when 
Shall our salvation come? we sleep upon our watch 
We cannot awake! and our Spectres rage in the forests 
O God of Albion where art thou! pity the watchers! 
Thus mourn they. Loud the Furnaces of Los thunder upon 
The clouds of Europe & Asia, among the Serpent Temples! 
And Los drew his Seven Furnaces around Albions Altars 
And as Albion built his frozen Altars, Los built the Mundane Shell, 
In the Four Regions of Humanity East & West & North & South,
Till Norwood & Finchley & Blackheath & Hounslow, coverd the whole Earth.
This is the Net & Veil of Vala, among the Souls of the Dead."
Yale center for British Art 
Plate 6
Second, as magnificent as it is, Blake simply wasn't able to 'Christianize' his apocalypse as he had done the two previous Nights. Perhaps it was already too deeply stamped with his pre-Christian mind. Forgiveness is the soul, virtually the alpha and omega of Blake's Christ, but Night ix shows little or no evidence of this new spirit. Only in Jerusalen, in its last plates, do we find a thoroughly Christian apocalypse. Neither Revelation nor Night ix has much of forgiveness; what they do have is vengeance and retribution. Both writers had suffered much at the hands of the ungodly, and both looked with anticipation to the Day of Vengeance. So we must say that Night ix is a modern redoing of John's Apocalypse, while the end of Jerusalem is a Christian recreation of it.

Blake's epic ends with the eternal man awake, his four zoas back in union, each carrying out his appointed function in the harmonious consummation of the Age. In the last harvest Urizen reaps, Tharmas threshes, Luvah tramples out the vineyard and Urthona bakes the bread.

Night ix contains much magnificent poetry. A few lines near the end will provide an appropriate end to this all too inadequate description of Blake's great poem:

Four Zoas, Night IX, Page 138, (E 406)
"The Sun has left his blackness & has found a fresher morning,
And the mild moon rejoices in the clear & cloudless night,
And Man walks forth from the midst of the fires: the evil is all consumed.
He walks upon the Eternal Mountains, raising his heavenly voice,
Conversing with the Animal forms of wisdom night & day,
They raise their faces from the Earth, conversing with the Man:
How is it we have walk'd thro' fires & yet are not consum'd?
How is it that all things are chang'd, even as in ancient times?

The Sun arises from his dewey bed, & the fresh airs
Play in his smiling beams giving the seeds of life to grow,
And the fresh Earth beams forth ten thousand thousand springs of life."

Christian or not, it does have the most beautiful visions!

Saturday, December 08, 2018

Myth in Blake 8

The Spectre of Urthona, a new thing on Blake's imaginative horizon, foreshadowed the Moment of Grace which was to revolutionize his spiritual world. (Chapter One of Ram Horn'd with Gold dealt at length with these dynamics.)

Suffice it here to say that the appearance of the Spectre marks man's (and Blake's) dawning awareness that the evils of the world, which he had so deplored, exist in his own psyche. It marks what Jung referred to as the withdrawal of the projections, which Jung considered vital to the survival of the world. Blake agreed about the seriousness of the process; he stated it with great poetic intensity in the reversed writing found in the illustration to Jerusalem plate 41:

Jerusalem, Plate 41, (E 184)
"Each man is in his Spectre's power 
Until the arrival of that hour 
When his humanity awake 
And cast his Spectre into the Lake."
(Try reading lower left with a mirror!)
Yale Center for British Art
Plate 41
But in Night vii Los doesn't cast his Spectre into the lake; he embraces it, which in a manner of speaking is the same thing. In his play, After the Fall, Arthur Miller talked about "kissing the idiot', his way of expressing the same reality.

The reason Los doesn't (yet) cast his Spectre into the lake is because his humanity is not yet fully awake, but only beginning to awaken. As Blake aptly put it the redemptive union "was not to be effected without Cares & Sorrows & Troubles of six thousand years of self denial and of bitter Contition". That beautiful line points to the redemptive dimension of all the fallenness and horror we have been reading about. It was Blake's way of saying what Paul said in Romans: "All things work together for good to them that love God...." Blake and Jung and probably Paul would agree that we begin to love God (and stop trying to be God!) when we recognize and accept out own involvement in the horror around us. That's the moment when the six thousand years of change begins.

The birth of Rahab and the integration of Los lead to an intensification of a drama that has already stretched out for seven nights of excruciating intensity. In Night viii the drama has not only intensified, but it has clarified so that we can no longer fail to understand that the forces of life and of death are in bitter conflict. It has become the old, old story, and Blake leaves no doubt about who represents light and who darkness. Urizen resumes his war for control and out of his ranks of War comes Satan. Rahab conspires to put to death the Saviour who has come down from Heaven and emerged from Jerusalem. The Christian knows that this death is foreordained for final victory, but neither Rahab nor Jerusalem has that awareness, and near the end of Night viii we read these richly evocative words:

Four Zoas, Night VIII, Page 114 [111], (E 385)
"Jerusalem wept over the Sepulcher two thousand years. 
Rahab triumphs over all; she took Jerusalem 
Captive; a Willing Captive, by delusive arts impell'd 
To worship Urizen's Dragon form, to offer her own Children 
Upon the bloody altar. John saw these things revealed in Heaven
on Patmos Isle & heard the Souls cry out to be deliver'd"

Wednesday, December 05, 2018

Myth in Blake 7

At this point Blake, in a later revision, made his first obvious attempt to Christianize his myth. The Daughters of Beulah in their "Wars of Eternal Death" give what is probably the most straight forward, impartial account of the Fall.
Four Zoas, Night I, Page 22 [20], (E 313) 
 "The Daughters of Beulah beheld the Emanation they pitied 
They wept before the Inner gates of Enitharmons bosom 
And of her fine wrought brain & of her bowels within her loins 
Three gates within Glorious & bright open into Beulah 
From Enitharmons inward parts but the bright female terror 
Refusd to open the bright gates she closd and barrd them fast 
Lest Los should enter into Beulah thro her beautiful gates 
The Emanation stood before the Gates of Enitharmon 
Weeping. the Daughters of Beulah silent in the Porches 
Spread her a couch unknown to Enitharmon here reposd 
Jerusalem in slumbers soft lulld into silent rest 
Terrific ragd the Eternal Wheels of intellect terrific ragd 
The living creatures of the wheels in the Wars of Eternal life 
But perverse rolld the wheels of Urizen & Luvah back reversd 
Downwards & outwards consuming in the wars of Eternal Death"
As Night ii begins, the Fallen Man, on the point of falling asleep, commissions Urizen as his regent. Urizen soars with pride but immediately falls into the fearful fantasies of the future which dominate all of his attempts at creation. He casts Luvah into the furnaces of affliction and proceeds to build the Mundane Shell, giving Blake a chance to expatiate at great length on how wrongly the world is made.
British Museum
Small Book of Designs 
Plate 14
Tharmas and Luvah are now thoroughly fallen and estranged from their emanations, and Urizen's turn comes in Night iii. Ahania, Urizen's emanation, reacts to his fearful aggressions with her own vision of the Fall and the infuriated Urizen casts her out and promptly falls himself like Humpty Dumpty, an eloquent comment on the fate of all the 'strong' who in fear cast out the 'weak'. With the fall of Reason,Tharmas rises to power from the depths of the sea, although he is mentally incompetent in the extreme. He commissions Los to create endlessly and futilly:
Four Zoas, Night IV, Page 48, (E 332)
"Renew these ruin'd souls of Men thro' Earth, Sea, Air & Fire, 
To waste in endless corruption, renew thou, I will destroy."
Los proceeds to bind Urizen with the chains of time and space in the parody of Creation which we have already studied in The Book of Urizen, but "terrified at the shapes enslav'd humanity put on, he became what he beheld". (The second extended Christian interpolation occurs in the midst of this story.)
Los begins Night v with a sort of St. Vitus' Dance to "put on the shape of enslav'd humanity", a convulsion which Enitharmon shares, leading to the birth of Orc, a manifestation of Luvah, who at this point represents fallen human feeling. Immediately:
Four Zoas, Night V, Page 58, (E 339)
"The Enormous Demons woke and howl'd around the new born King, Crying 
Luvah, King of Love, thou art the King of rage & death"
As in The Book of Urizen Orc is bound in the Chain of Jealousy, but his tormented cries awaken Urizen, who concludes Night v with the “Woes of Urizen". His suffering has brought him to a point of self-recognition; he has come to himself in a way reminiscent of the prodigal son's moment of truth: "I will arise", which Blake took directly from the story in Luke. Urizen thus shows himself to be human. Unfortunately it's only a temporary lapse, for in Night vi he explores his dens, faces all the brokenness and horror of a ruined universe and as his solution comes up with the "Net of Religion". Since pure political tyranny won't work, he turns to a form of religious control.
We come to the climax of this epic in Night vii when Urizen has approached Orc's prison and induced him to climb the Tree of Mystery, turning into a serpent. This sets the stage for the Genesis account of the Fall, which Blake sees as the beginning of the Return. Enitharmon, attracted by the cries of her son, Orc, comes down to the Tree of Mystery, where she meets the Spectre of Urthona. The Spectre closely corresponds to Jung's 'shadow', and like a skilled analyst Blake brings about the reconciliation of shadow and anima on the way to wholeness .
From the union of Spectre and Enitharmon two things ensue. The Good News is that Los begins to get himself together with his Spectre and his Emanation. From this integration comes forth Jerusalem and from Jerusalem will proceed the Lamb. The Bad News is the immediate birth of Rahab, the most sinister female of Blake's pantheon. She personifies all the evils of deceit, treachery, and hateful female pride that most appalled Blake about life. Blake's Rahab is the same character whom John of Patmos called Mystery, the Whore of Babylon; Blake eventually gives Rahab these names--and several others as well.

Tuesday, December 04, 2018

Myth in Blake 6

Wikipedia Commons
Song of Los 
Copy E, Plate 4
This central event of the Fall gives the key to the meaning of The Four Zoas. Before we proceed with the outline of the poem, we need to look at one other central fact: the identity of Los, the fourth zoa (in Eternity called Urthona). Whereas the 'central event' gives the key to six thousand years of fallenness, so the identity of Los gives the key to redemption. This becomes clear in the end when we read about Jesus, the Imagination, but from the beginning we should be aware that Los is the fourth who makes Man whole. Blake derived the first three in part from Daniel's three friends who were cast into the fiery furnace by Nebuchadnezzar. Los was the fourth, whom the king saw walking in the furnace "like the Son of God". Like the other zoas Los has a chequered career, but he is always moving toward this ultimately revealed identity. 

Near the end of 'Jerusalem' Blake put the finishing touches on Los's identity with these words:

Jerusalem, Plate 95, (E 255)
"Therefore the Sons of Eden praise Urthona's Spectre [Los] in songs 
Because he kept the Divine Vision in time of trouble"
And in the following plate:

Jerusalem, Plate 96, (E 255)
"Then Jesus appeared....
And the Divine Appearance was the likeness and similitude of Los"
The clue to this identity appears at the very beginning of The Four Zoas where the poet states his theme:

Four Zoas, Night I, Page 3, (E 301)
"Four Mighty Ones are in every Man; 
a Perfect Unity 
Cannot Exist but from the Universal 
Brotherhood of Eden, 
The Universal Man, to Whom be 
Glory Evermore. Amen.
Los was the fourth immortal starry one, & in the Earth 
Of a bright Universe, Empery attended day & night, 
Days & nights of revolving joy. Urthona was his name
In Eden....... Daughters of Beulah, Sing, 
His fall into Division & his Resurrection to Unity: 
His fall into the Generation of decay & death, & his Regeneration by the Resurrection from the dead."

Here Blake has made the antecedent of 'his' deliberately ambiguous: Albion, the Ancient Man, of course, but also los. It is Los's career that we follow most intently. Blake deeply identified with Los, and so do we if we read the poem with imagination.
But "Begin with Tharmas, Parent power dark'ning in the West". Tharmas represents the Body, or in the psychic realm the instinct, and in Eternity he's a glorious shepherd. But "dark'ning in the West" beneath the jealous attack of his emanation, Enion, he sets in motion the Circle of Destiny and sinks into the sea where he becomes an insane old man. From his 'corse' arises the ravening spectre, a most gruesome embodiment of pure egocentricity. A loveless embrace of Enion leads to the birth of Los and Enitharmon, the divided earthly form of Urthona. (Note that all this happens after the 'central event', although in the poem we read about it first.)
This first earthly family displays the ubiquitous dialectic of Blake (and of universal experience); the angelic and demonic processes go on side by side. Enion's intense mother love turns her daughter, Enitharmon, into a teasing and heartless bitch and drives Enion to the abyss where she becomes a disembodied voice of pure consciousness. We hear her voice at the end of Nights i, ii, and viii sounding the purest prophetic judgment on what has transpired. In a real sense Enion is Blake. (For more on Enion see Pages 75 and 88).
When Enitharmon sings her Song of Death (quoted a few pages back), Los strikes her down and then gives his own, more prophetic account of the Fall. Enitharmon retaliates by calling down Urizen. This precipitates the first encounter between these two adversaries in one of the relationships that dominates the poem--and Blake's life as well (See Chapter One). In this initial confrontation Los weakens through his pity or remorse over Enitharmon and joins the Nuptial Feast of Fallenness. In the New Testament the marriage of the Lamb inaugurates the Kingdom of Heaven; this demonic parody of it announces the Kingdom of Satan. Enion responds with her first stirring prophetic utterance, concluding the first night in the earlier draft.

Monday, December 03, 2018

Myth in Blake 5

Yale Center for British Art
Plate 19
Always fiercely eclectic, Blake has gathered his symbols here from a number of sources into a new creation: sleeping man equals fallen man living in darkness; this most general symbol fills the New Testament. For example, "Awake thou that sleepest, and Christ shall give thee light". We live by the light of reason (not always Christ's light!). Urizen, the Sun God, must be asleep to allow Luvah, like the Greek adolescent, Phaethon, to seize his Horses of Light and rise into the Chariot of Day. Zeus struck Phaethon down with a thunderbolt in the story in Ovid’s Metamorphoses. Blake used Ovid as a primary source for his borrowings from Greek mythology.

In Night ii we will find Urizen casting Luvah into the furnaces of affliction, where there is much heat but no light. What was once eternal delight has become unmitigated hell.

Luvah and Vala personify the masculine and feminine dimensions of feeling, and s├ęparated from Luvah, Vala becomes the goddess of fallen nature. Luvah's seizure of the sun and Vala's dalliance on the pillow express in different ways the same event. The Prince of Love is bound to get his wings scorched, and the sleeping Albion is rather foolish to allow this to happen; he has lost his head over a part of himself.

Blake used this double event to say many things to us at many levels. Fundamentally Blake is saying that Man has lost his heavenly wholeness (which he calls the Divine Image) and begun to worship the material, a relatively insignificant part of himself. He turns his back upon the Divine Vision in his dream of Vala. The former is Eternal Life and the latter Eternal Death. The dalliance of Albion with Vala leads to the Eternal Death (fallenness) that we read about in the first six nights. Blake described it symbolically, in many ways, for example, "to converse in the wilds of Newton and Locke". We find here Blake's primary dialectic, between eternal vision and fallen materialism.

Other accounts of this decisive event occur at various places throughout the poem. The most definitive is that of Ahania. Her dream relates the central event, the primary fall, to an idolatrous worship; just so Blake evaluated organized religion. Albion's worship of his shadow has two immediate consequences: he breaks out with the boils of Job, a biblical symbol of the Fall of Mankind, and he exiles Luvah and Vala from their rightful place in the psychic economy.
There are at least six occurrences of the story which I call the central event of the Fall:
K=Keynes, E=Erdman

Enitharmon's Song of Death     Night i. 261-80 K 271-2 --- (E 305)
Ambassadors from Beulah                    i. 484-559 K277-9 --- (E 311)
Ahania's vision                                      iii. 42-102 K 292-4 --- (E 326)
The Spectre of Urthona (first)              iv. 84-110 K 299-300 --- (E 334)
The Shadow of Enitharmon                vii. 239-64 K 326 --- (E 358)
The Spectre of Urthona (second)       vii. 277-98 K 327 --- (E 359)

Saturday, December 01, 2018

Myth in Blake 4

Continuing the description of the The Four Zoas from Larry's Ram Horn'd with Gold we learn of the Zoas - Tharmas, Urthona, Urizon and Luvah. When in the Book of Urizen Blake pictured the elements - water, earth, air and fire - he gave us images to associate with the Zoas. 

University of Adalaide Book of Urizen Plate 24

The first four nights of this aborted masterpiece recount the fall of each of the four zoas: Tharmas, the body; Luvah, the feelings; Urizen, the mind; and finally Urthona (Los), the imagination or spirit.. These four steps in the fall of Man contain a wealth of rich detail, but one central event Blake described repeatedly in the words of various characters: Urizen and Luvah (Mind and Feeling) struggle for dominion over the sleeping man, Albion. Luvah seizes Urizen's steeds of light and mounts into the sky. Urizen retreats into the north, the rightful place of Urthona, the imagination. These mistakes lead to a long sequence of cataclysmic disasters that condemn mankind to his fallen condition. For six nights we read an almost unrelieved account of the Fall; we read about falling, about fallenness, described in voluminous detail in a hundred ways. Blake felt intensely that we have come a long, long way from the Garden, and he explored with exceeding minuteness every step of the dismal journey, down and out.

We can begin our orientation to the poem by looking closely at what I have called the central event of the Fall. Blake put it in the mouths of several characters and each one has his or her own particular slant. The reader has to decide for himself whose account to believe. This may depend upon the reader as much as it does upon Blake.

The earliest description of the central event comes in the words of Enitharmon, a notoriously untrustworthy character at this point; we may call her the Queen of fallen space. In a conversation with her consort, Los, the prophetic boy, she gives her interpretation of the Fall:

Four Zoas, Night I, Page 1, (E 305)
“Hear! I will sing a Song of Death! it is a Song of Vala!
The Fallen Man takes his repose, Urizen sleeps in the porch,
Luvah & Vala wake & fly up from the Human Heart
Into the brain from thence; upon the pillow Vala slumber'd,
And Luvah seized the Horses of Light & rose into the Chariot of Day
Sweet laughter seized me in my sleep...”
The Fallen Man takes his repose, Urizen sleeps in the porch,
Luvah & Vala wake & fly up from the Human Heart
Into the brain from thence; upon the pillow Vala slumber'd,
And Luvah seized the Horses of Light & rose into the Chariot of Day
Sweet laughter seized me in my sleep...”

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Myth in Blake 3

When Larry wrote his unpublished book, Ram Horn'd with Gold, he gave the title Myth to Chapter 3. This summary of The Four Zoas (Blake's first attempt at epic poetry) was included in the hardcopy of Chapter 3 but didn't make it into the digital version which is on line as the Primer.

The Four Zoas

Many a musical masterwork on its initial performance has met a cold reception. In the same way the taste for many foods grows with experience; young children often reject what their parents keenly enjoy; in due course they may develop a taste for what they at first found exotic and repulsive.

4Z is a very exotic masterpiece and most definitely an acquired taste. The reader initially encounters an appalling mass of strange ideas and much that appears to be sheer gibberish. But with perseverance the strange ideas become familiar bit by bit, and the gibberish clarifies into some of the most exalted thought forms of the human mind. To the seasoned reader 42 is a treasure house of imaginative delights. Or call it a mine that releases its gold to the pertinacious. The same could be said of the Bible!

Vala or The Four Zoas
Page 3
Blake wrote the poem over a period of years while his mind and spirit were rapidly developing and changing. It began as the story of Vala, the incarnation of the Female Will. Later it became an account of cosmic and psychic history written in terms of the four Giant Forms--their breakup and struggle for dominion. At Blake's spiritual crisis this seedbed gave birth to Jesus and Jerusalem, his bride. Blake then made an attempt to rewrite 4Z to reflect his new spiritual orientation but after a while he gave up. 4Z was aborted because Blake's world had fundamentally changed, and he was ready to start over. After many years of looking for the New Age he had become a New Man. The New Man wrote 'Milton' and 'Jerusalem' using 4Z as a quarry. 4Z is fascinating in its own right, although unfinished, but most significant as a platform from which to rise to the ethereal glory of the mature poems.