The Mental Traveller
In the last Mental Traveller post, we left our masculine and feminine figures as a couple caught in dissension, but in verse 22 we find her aged into an old woman and him 'reverse aged' into a babe. This is the fourth influx of energy into the poem - the male babe (born in joy), the youth released from manacles, the female babe (who sprang from the fire), and now the 'wayward babe'. Unexpected bursts of energy from new paradigms of thought appear when old organizations are spent and have reached their limits of usefulness. In the furnaces of Los, thought forms which have been shown to be in error are subjected to the cleansing fire to become part of the purified whole. This releases the energy, which changes the direction of the action.
"Till he becomes a wayward babe
And she a weeping woman old.
Then many a lover wanders here,
The sun and stars are nearer rolled,"
The pendulums have swung to the extremes, and movements are reversed.
This is a period of calm, the babe (potential for burst of energy), though wayward is not strong enough (or ready) to wreck havoc. The 'weeping woman old' is still his companion but reminds us of the hopeless, lamenting Enion. Imagination exists here but in a disorganized, aimless fashion. The movement, however, is toward the Eternal rather than away from it.
The strength of the new system is exposing the weakness (error) of the old. Jesus, by allowing the religious and political systems to perform their functions is revealing their powerlessness in the spiritual realm. He is exposing their error that it may be annihilated.
Milton Percival in William Blake's Circle of Destiny gives us this insight: "But, though the rational mind fears the fiery form of Orc, the imaginative mind knows that it is not evil, but rather an indictment of evil, a revelation of the mistaken character of the authority which has brought it into being. Orc is the personification of a deathless phenomenon, the spirit of revolution that arises when energy is repressed."
Milton, PLATE 29 ,(E 127)
"And Satan is the Spectre of Orc & Orc is the generate Luvah"
"The trees bring forth sweet ecstasy
To all who in the desert roam,
Till many a city there is built,
And many a pleasant shepherd’s home."
This verse is presented from the viewpoint of Eternity. Progress is being made, eternal values (human) are returning. Golgonooza is taking form with its sweet and pleasant delights of love and brotherhood and imagination and productivity.
Jesus has made progress in fulfilling his earthly role. He has drawn together a brotherhood which has an inkling of what has been going on. He has woken sleepers to an alternative consciousness. He has exposed the barrenness of the desert landscape. He has planted the seeds of hope in the hearts and minds of common folk.
"But when they find the frowning babe
Terror strikes through the region wide;
They cry, ‘The Babe! the Babe is born!’
And flee away on every side."
If the last verse was from the perspective of Eternity, this one is from the perspective of Ulro. The changes which are appearing are to be feared not embraced. Why should the babe strike terror? Because he announces the sweeping away of the society which has benefited those in power, and been accepted as the 'best we can expect' by the hoi polloi.
"Whose fan is in his hand, and he will throughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire."
Marriage of Heaven and Hell, Plate 25,26,27 (E 45)
A Song of Liberty
"7. In her trembling hands she took the new, born terror howling;
8. On those infinite mountains of light now barr'd out by the
atlantic sea, the new born fire stood before the starry king!
9. Flag'd with grey brow'd snows and thunderous visages the
jealous wings wav'd over the deep.
10. The speary hand burned aloft, unbuckled was the shield,
forth went the hand of jealousy among the flaming hair, and
hurl'd the new born wonder thro' the starry night".
The fear of change - especially the reordering of the status quo - is present at every level of experience: psychological, political, social, personal status, economic, spiritual or even geographic location. Not to say that fear is the only reaction to change, but to the wanderer who is roaming without the protection of a home of his own, the sudden appearance of a packet of energy like a whirlwind, volcano or earthquake is likely to provoke terror.
The terror is followed by the spreading of alarm to inflame the mob into an irrational fleeing from what may be opportunity and not threat.
Birth is symbolic of the most traumatic of changes. In birth the new has been introduced and separated from the milieu which produced it. Furthermore birth is only a beginning, the babe will grow as it unfolds a life of its own. Should Herod have feared the babe in the manger? He knew he should and he reacted in the way the world reacts to that which could destroy it. Our own culture is constantly finding babes and reacting in alarm to what they represent.
The man's reverse aging (growing younger) resulted in the fourth outbreak of energy. This time we see a broader reaction to it. Eternity rejoices in renewed productive imagination. The system which is in power reacts in fear and retrenchment.