Monday, December 31, 2007


This is a response to friend Clint Stevens' post to the Yahoo Blake group.

It really doesn't respond to Clint's architectural questions, but the general question of Golgonnza in Blake's vision. However re spatial concepts: you may understand that the culmination of Gol is in Beulah, where space is completely evanescent. In that light Blake may be expected to use spatial (and temporal) terms playfully.

Blake was a highly spiritual (religious) man and Golgonooza can be best seen in that light.
In my simplistic understanding of Golgonooza it is the work of "art" and "artists", or perhaps the imaginative work of creative people in the world, or in Albion if you prefer, or in your own psyche-- of a period of 6000 years.

These works have a ambiguous history or nature, continually building and destroying like Jeremiah was called to do. You might also call it the work of angels in a demonic world (truth forever on the scaffold). The best work of the artisans of Golgonooza is chequered or flawed with many vestiges of Ulro, but consciously or hopefully moving toward Beulah. There of course it becomes Jerusalem.

The Church, which purports to be about growing into or building the kingdom of God can only be one of the lesser dimensions of Gol's inhabitants. As the master said,
"A Poet a Painter a Musician an Architect: the Man
Or Woman who is not one of these is not a Christian"
(LAOCOON prose; Erdman 274).

The final image from Illustrations to the book of Job (The Linnell Set) shows Job's family as musicians playing their instruments.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Exaggeration for Emphasis

People use one (or both) of two basic languages:
1. The vernacular or ordinary
2. Poetic language.

Our Blake spoke the poetic language from birth (as do most babies, but they unfortunately soon lose it). In many places ordinary language is understated: "I don't like him", may announce an intention of killing him.

In contrast poets are free to exaggerate. It may shock us into the truth they mean to convey. Blake was very, very good at that. Sometimes we just have to make allowances, but best of all is to be shocked into the truth.

Now which of these languages do we have here:
Good and Evil are deadly dreams that the Soul may fall into when it leaves Paradise following the Serpent.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Lewis and Blake

We know that Lewis was familiar enough to name one of his best books, The Great Divorce, in response to Blake's Marriage of Heaven and Hell. But I wonder if he had read the major poems.

"'When Aslan said you could never go back to Narnia,' he meant the Narnia you were thinking of. But that was not the real Narnia. That had a beginning and an end. It was only a shadow or a copy of the real Narnia which has always been there and always will be there: just as our own world, England and all, is only a shadow or copy of something in Aslan's real world. You need not mourn over Narnia, Lucy. All of the old Narnia that mattered, all the dear creatures, have been drawn into the real Narnia through the Door. And of course it is different; as different as a real thing is from a shadow or as waking life is from a dream.'" (from The Last Battle, 1956)"

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Blake and the Bible

I've written a detailed explanation of Blake's basic use of the Bible and of the meaning it had for him. Go to Finally the Bible.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Jesus said Love

Early on in his career Blake realized that the church had it all wrong. Since the days of Constantine the church has been the bastion of society, the very same (sort of) society that Jesus deplored. He didn't suck up to the organizations; he named them for what they were. They were Rome and the Temple Worship; they were and are about power. But power is not Jesus's program; he preferred Love.

They cast him out; and Blake also doesn't go well in church.

Perception of the Infinite

Ezekiel once acted out a bizarre symptom of the prospects of the Israelites, lying for 3 months on his right side, then 3 months on his left. Mr.Blake once had a conversatiion with him and asked him why he had done it and the answer came clearly: "the desire of raising other [people] into a perception of the infinite".

Who can doubt that William actually had that interview with Zeke? But if truth be known, that desire became the agenda for Blake's life, and perhaps the generic life purpose of every true prophet.

He saw things that most of us don't, and he urgently needed to show them to us, to show us how to see them.

There are many kinds of seeing and many levels of consciousness, but with the natural proclivity to resort to the dialectic we might say there are two:

1. The sense-based, natural, materialistic consciousness (Blake called this Ulro; Jesus called it Hell).

2. Vision, coming forth from the inner man, the Light, the Now. It's a different kind of consciousness, a perception of the infinite (Blake called it Eden; Jesus called it the Kingdom of Heaven or the Kingdom of God).

Jesus showed us with his life how to live eternally; and he told us we could do it. Blake did it, periodically at least, and like Jesus he wanted us to share that heavenly gift.

He called it Vision; that's what he lived for, those eternal moments were all that matters. If you can't do it continuously, then you can talk about it, write about it, draw it, paint it. He did (and you can) show us how to see.

Do you want to see? Read Blake.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Urizen and Ahania

You will find Assault on a Woman here.

For further information keep following the Blake Primer.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Blake's Women

This is not about Catherine, Blake's wife, with whom he lived in happy conjugal relationship for 40 years (her only complaint was that he spent too much time in heaven).

Nor is it about the fictional Catherine, who only serves to titillate the gossip lover.

Nor is it about Mary Wollencraft, although the story goes that William once proposed to Catherine that he bring Mary in as a concubine; Catherine cried, and William abandoned the idea. Blake hated and dispised 'jealousy', but it seems that Catherine's jealousy on this occasion solidified a very solid marriage relationship.

None of these, this post is about the women Blake met in heaven:

Thel was a kind of foretaste of the women to come; she exposed the seediness of mortal life and went back to heaven. In her life Blake posed the question 'is mortal life of any value?' (Raine).

Lyca is a microcosm of the three main women that Blake met in heaven. In Plate 6, 7, and 8 read two ethereally beautiful poems that reveal the kernel of the 'system' Blake developed after he said, "I must create a system or be enslaved by another man's".

Vala is the main woman in Blake's myth (The Four Zoas was originally named Vala). In the development of his story Blake splits Vala into two: Tirzah (the earthly woman) and Jerusalem (the heavenly one).

In To Tirzah Blake starkly presents the dichotomy:

"[Woman], what have I do to with thee?".

From a purely material viewpoint Blake has Jesus say this to his mother, actually a quotation from The Gospel of John 2:4. From a more significant viewpoint the woman represents mortality (Mary was his mortal mother). Jesus of course is something other than mortal. From the most significant viewpoint Blake is talking about you and me: we are made of clay, but an immortal spirit resides within the 'matter'.

Jerusalem of course is the obvious biblical metaphor for the "bride of Christ" and the heavenly (eternal) kingdom.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

The Immortal Man

It was early morning; I sat in the breakfast room reading the paper. Then I turned to Kathleen Raines' Blake and Antiquity. It led to some deep thoughts about life, death-- the various meanings of those two words, and especially how much Blake's poetry and pictures parallel Eastern Religion. Suddenly these two verses from Gates of Paradise popped into my head (click on Of the Gates):

13. But when once I did descry
The Immortal Man that cannot die,

14. Thro' evening shades I haste away
To close the labours of my day.

(Should this link go on the chapter on Poetry or the chapter on Myth?)

Blake frequently gives us the fundamental truths of life and death, but clothed in a symbology that we have to learn to get the full impact.

Monday, May 21, 2007

The Book of Brass

As committed a Christian as Blake was, he still receives little or no coinage in conventional religious circles. The reasons are rather obvious: he exploded the pet values and prejudices of the conventional Christian, like the "inerrency" of the Bible, etc. etc.

In MHH Blake promised to write the Book of Hell:
The Book of Urizen shows Urizen (Old Nobodaddy) with the Book of Brass; it doesn't save; it condemns. As Moses (and Blake) said, "would to God that all the Lord's people were prophets", and able to hear God speaking directly in Jesus' tones of love rather than like Urizen heard it.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Learning Blake

I got into Blake re 1978 and published my Blake book five years later.