Friday, June 04, 2010

Illustrations to Job - Introduction

In 1794, near the beginning of Blake's serious career,  he came forth with the  Gates of Paradise; it set his agenda for the years ahead, pointing to the cycle of life, from babyhood to the end of life.

In 1826, near the end of Blake's life his benefactor and friend, Capt. Butts, asked him about The Book of Job.  In consequence Blake created a work called Illustrations of the Book of Job.  It has a remarkable consistency with the work done 32 years before.

Job, one of the latest O.T. books, produced at some time fairly near the advent of the Son, consists of a chapter or two of novelistic material at the beginning and then at the end.  Between, the author wrote many pages of poetic material.  The casual Bible reader may read the 'novelistic' and let the poetry go.

The cover page (in this link) precedes  21 plates illustrating Job, his family and friends, and his adventures.  The first thing I noticed was the marked resemblance between Job in the middle layer and Job's God above; from this we may infer that Job's image of God was internal, an element of his psyche. (Our experience consists of nothing except our images of reality.)

Blake also concentrated on the prose story but used it in extremely poetic ways.  21 pictures make up this work with the words of Job scribbled around the edges.

Like so many of Blake's pictorial creations we see three layers: a 'God-like or Eternal upper one, a middle one representing the conscious mind, and the lower for the Unconscious fountain.

With these plates Blake described the cycle of Life: Albion's, Blake's, mine and yours.

C.G.Jung, a poet masquerading as a Scientist and perhaps the closest thing to Blake that the 20th Century gave us, also found in Job a central mystery, which he tried to fathom, much like Blake had.  The record of Jung's  Answer to Job appears in pages 519-650 of a translated work called The Portable Jung.

At 76 Jung found the courage to confess his feelings about Job's God.  When he began this he decided that he would treat the psychic fact of God as a person , just as religionists do.  (Doing this of course, he gave up the guise of a Scientist to speak poetically -- a more direct approach to Truth IMO, reminiscent of the four year old's dream of the gigantic turd falling on the cathedral.  In effect Jung denounced the conventional picture of a God as a Rewarder of the righteous.

All of this bears on our discussion of the central mystery of Illustrations of the Book of Job.  Here is a scholarly paper on the subject of Blake and Jung.

4 comments:

Susan J. said...

very interesting... made me haul out my Hebrew Bible and start re-reading Job... I notice that the cover page to which you link shows the name of the book in Hebrew letters at the top: Sefer Yov. Any idea what facility in Hebrew Blake might have had, if any? I notice he makes his Hebrew Alef more like a capital N... possibly that was typical of his time, but I'd be surprised....

I think I read somewhere that Blake learned some Greek later in life -- is that right?

Thanks for a most interesting post. Anything in particular you recommend I read, to refresh my slight previous acquaintance with Jung?

Susan J. said...

still learning to navigate my way around the various online resources -- this has me confused:

You wrote:
"The first thing I noticed was the marked resemblance between Job in the middle layer and Job's God above"

but the illustration to which you link ("marked resemblance") is the illustration that the Library of Congress labels "Satan Going Forth from the Presence of the Lord and Job's Charity." So it seems to me that the the central figure in the middle layer is Satan, not Job. Job is the guy with the beard at the bottom. Oh! I do see a great resemblance between Job at the bottom at God at the top! God has more muscles in his arms, but otherwise they look a lot alike. :-)

Larry said...

Right, Susan; I should have said "Job in the lower layer" (an all too typical senior moment!).

Yes, Blake was reported to have learned Greek; I think he was versed in several languages, much like the modern day European.

Re 'reading recommendations': I suggested Answer to Job (which I have in The Portable Jung); the Jung I like best is Memories, Dreams, and Reflections, just about his last writing and quite readable, in which at my present age he came across with who he really was-- his spiritual autobiography, so to speak. Why oh why do people find it so hard to do that?

Susan J. said...

thanks, Larry. I just ordered the 2 Jung books you suggested....