Wednesday, September 15, 2010

A Golden String

Perfect Peace

"Thou wilt keep him in perfect Peace, whose mind is stayed on thee" (Isaiah 26:3)
How do you "stay your mind" on God? That's a hard matter; I try and try and sometimes succeed for a moment, but then 'things' intrude; I leave the air (spirit) and return to the sea (matter). It seems impossible although some Quakers I know seem to have done it to a considerable degree. One wonders.

What about Blake; he was Bible soaked; did he focus on -- 'Nobodaddy'? My gosh, no! the Eternal, Heaven! (Mrs. Blake said he spent too much time like that.) William Blake was one of a small handful of human beings who had ready access to "thee".

By 'thee' Isaiah obviously meant the Hebrew God. But is that what God meant??? (One of the attributes of poetry is that the writer frequently doesn't understand the meaning of his words, and rarely or never the full meaning. Something may mean a particular thing to the poet and something entirely different years or centuries later.

Isaiah meant Jehovah, but Christians mean Jesus. Our poet, Blake, knew Isaiah all too well; in fact he had dinner with him once (MHH plate 12); but he also knew that Jehovah was not worth 'staying his mind' on. He spent many years trying to dispose of that mental construct; at times it was Nobodaddy; then it became Urizen ("Schoolmaster of souls great
opposer of change" {
The Four Zoas [Nt 9], 120.21; E389}). He had many other ways to describing his enemy.

Actually he thought about Jehovah for many years, denounced him, defied him, particularly Jehovah in the shape of King George; that led to a meeting with a judge that might well have ended in the gallows (near the end of his three years at Felpham).

As a young man Blake had ready access to 'thee' (thee being the Eternal and Heaven). But as a married man the world took him in thrall and shut out his access to his 'thee' (the Eternal)--for twenty years. Then, like Jesus, 'he overcame the world'. He told about that in Letter 51 to Hayley:
"I was a slave bound in a mill among beasts and
devils; these beasts and these devils are now,
together with myself, become children of light and
liberty, and my feet and my wife's feet are free from
fetters. O lovely Felpham, parent of Immortal
Friendship, to thee I am eternally indebted for my
three years' rest from perturbation and the strength
I now enjoy. Suddenly, on the day after visiting the
Truchsessian Gallery of pictures, I was again
enlightened with the light I enjoyed in my youth, and
which has for exactly twenty years been closed from
me as by a door and by window-shutters."
Heaven came back; he was a new man; now he stayed his mind, not on Isaiah's 'thee', but on Jesus. Blake's 'Jesus' was no thing; he was the door to Heaven.

"I give you the end of a Golden String
Only wind it into a ball;
It will let you in at heaven's gate
Built in Jerusalem's wall."


Susan J. said...

How timely -- I just found this post as I'm nearing the end of a 6-week course on the book of Isaiah.

I just posted a link for my students, and asked them to consider:

"Is the YHWH ("Jehovah") of the book of Isaiah -- as distinct from Jesus -- worth "staying one's mind on"? and is the book Isaiah of value to Christians pretty much entirely in its connection to Jesus Christ?"

Larry said...

Lovely to hear from you, Susan. Years ago our Friend, Sally gave us a memo with Isaiah 26, and it still means a great deal to me.

In fact I'm leading Bible Study Sunday. and the verse has a prominent part in the Lesson. I'd be glad to send you the notes if you're interested.

When are you coming back to this area?