Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Speaking of the Spectre

Strangely enough I haven't found any labels for the spectre, certainly a central image in Blake's poetry. It might be labeled as ethics, but that would be putting Blake in a box too small for him. Psychology would be more like it.

Modern thinkers speak of the shadow side of the ego, but Blake generally intended something else when he used shadow. I've posted on My Spectre around me night and day often enough, and that middle sized poem tells us as much about the Spectre as anything else Blake composed.

Does Blake's Spectre have any analogues? Indeed it does, the leading one of which might be Satan; then there's the covering cherub (plate 37 lines 4-18), the angel with the two-edged sword standing before the door to Eden. But the most pointed analog is the Selfhood. You could say that all of these images are synonymous-- a fourfold Image.

The second thing to say is that none of these (Spectre, Satan, covering cherub, Selfhood) are persons; they are states. Can you imagine getting into a satanic state? Some people profess to believe that they are living above sin, or even that there's no such thing. Blake met some such people, and he watched them carefully; the ones he thought the least of were Bacon, Newton, and Locke.

The complete myth (the Old Old Story) is that we are Innocent as babes, living in Beulah, but we lose our innocence in the world of Experience; then we struggle in the Sea of Time and Space, where many drown, especially the Elect. Los and Enitharmon clothe our souls with bodies (called Generation). In due time a fortunate few are regenerated and eventually regain Beulah on The Way to Eden.

And the Spectre? well it's annihilated.

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