Monday, January 25, 2010


The term Identity is not used frequently in Blake. It seems to have been introduced to describe the Eternal nature of man, as the Selfhood is used to represent Man's fallen nature.

Vision of the Last Judgment, Page 80, (E556)
"These States Exist now Man Passes on but States remain for Ever he passes thro them like a traveller who may as well suppose that the places he has passed thro exist no more as a Man may suppose that the States he has passd thro exist no more Every Thing is Eternal In Eternity one Thing never Changes into another Thing Each Identity is Eternal"

Vision of the Last Judgment, Page 79, (E 556)
"A Man can never become Ass nor Horse some are born with shapes of Men who may be both but Eternal Identity is one thing & Corporeal Vegetation is another thing"

Vision of the Last Judgment, Page 93, (E 565)
"Forgiveness of Sin is only at the Judgment Seat of Jesus the Saviour where the Accuser is cast out. not because he Sins but because he torments the Just & makes them do what he condemns as Sin & what he knows is opposite to their own Identity
It is not because Angels are Holier than Men or Devils that makes them Angels but because they do not Expect Holiness from one another but from God only"

John Middleton Murry, in his book William Blake on Page 32, clarifies the distinctions between Selfhood and Identity:
"To make it clearer we will employ two distinct words: the Self to denote the conscious and superficial self which is manifested as Will or deliberate Mind; and the
Identity (which comes from Blake's later
language) to denote the unconscious, instinctive, positive self which is hindered or restrained by the Self...The Identity is, in one sense, passive: it is an instrument rather than an agent, a vehicle rather than an initiator, obedient rather than sovereign. But this passivity is a passivity only in respect to the conscious and willed activity of the Self. The identity is passive towards influences felt to come from greater depths than the Self: towards those influences it is obedient; but in obeying those influences it is active indeed.
"It is the thwarting of this active Identity which Blake considers indisputably evil, and the only evil. It is obedience to and expression of, this active Identity which he considers indisputably good, and the only good. Conversely, by allowing the Self to triumph in themselves, they are moved to thwart Identity and so to create Selfhood in others. Self breed Self, Evil begats Evil. Such is the genesis and operation of the Moral Law, in Blake's belief...The Moral Law as external ordinance is merely Selfhood objectified; as internal restraint it is a disguise for the Selfhood of the individual.
..If the Identities of all men could be released, Evil would disappear; not merely because all Evil proceeds from the Negation of Identity by the Self, but also because it is inconceivable that one Identity should thwart another. The very idea of restraining is impossible to an Identity."

The idea of the Identity is expressed by Paul in First Corinthians when he speaks of the time to come (or in Eternity) when we shall "see reality whole and face to face."

Corinthians I, 13:12
"At present we are men looking at puzzling reflections in a mirror. The time will come when we shall see reality whole and face to face! At present all I know is a little fraction of the truth, but the time will come when I shall know it as fully as God now knows me!"

C.S. Lewis writes of the same condition of Identity in his novel Till We Have Faces, A Myth Retold. In the final scene the heroine who has seen herself as she is, says to the Lord: "You yourself are the answer. Before your face questions die away. What other answer would suffice?" When she had a face - Identity of her own - she can look into the Lord's face without questioning.

"And by his health, sickness, / Is driven away, / From our immortal day.

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