Visions of the Daughters of Albion
Why was Blake so opposed to 'moral virtue'? He was a man of character who had compassion for his fellow man. What he defined as 'moral virtue' was opposite to all that fostered benevolence among men or brought man closer to God. 'Moral virtue' grew from false reasoning which Blake incorporated in Urizen. A proliferation of characters evolve from Urizen's fallen reasoning - Rahab, Babylon, Vala, Tirza, Hyle, Hand and Satan himself. The book of Jerusalem is occupied with Albion's infection with the false ideas of Urizen.
Moral virtue is one law for all.
Moral virtue is putting abstractions above persons.
Moral virtue is attempting to impose one's values on another.
Moral virtue is justifying cruelty to implement obedience.
Moral virtue is destroying the works of others.
Moral virtue is the disguise used to hide the Selfhood.
You will find many of the characteristics of 'moral virtue' among the Pharisees of the New Testament. Blake's anger against 'moral virtue' like Jesus' anger against the Pharisees, fell upon upholders of law rather than upon lawbreakers.
Matt 23:1-5 "Then Jesus spoke to the multitudes and to His disciples, saying: "The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat. Therefore whatever they tell you to observe, that observe and do, but do not do according to their works; for they say, and do not do. For they bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men's shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers. But all their works they do to be seen by men."
Matt 23:13 "But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut up the kingdom of heaven against men; for you neither go in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in."
This is Blake's explanation of why he is so opposed to the false religion deriving from the false reason:
Four Zoas, PAGE 121, (E 390)
"My anger against thee is greater than against this Luvah
For war is energy Enslavd but thy religion
The first author of this war & the distracting of honest minds
Into confused perturbation & strife & honour & pride
Is a deceit so detestable that I will cast thee out
If thou repentest not & leave thee as a rotten branch to be burnd
With Mystery the Harlot & with Satan for Ever & Ever
Error can never be redeemd in all Eternity
But Sin Even Rahab is redeemd in blood & fury & jealousy
That line of blood that stretchd across the windows of the morning
Redeemd from Errors power. Wake thou dragon of the Deeps
Urizen wept in the dark deep anxious his Scaly form
To reassume the human & he wept in the dark deep"
These passages epitomize the exercise the 'moral virtue' which Blake so opposed:
Jerusalem, Plate 28, (E 174)
"And Albion spoke from his secret seat and said
All these ornaments are crimes, they are made by the labours
Of loves: of unnatural consanguinities and friendships
Horrid to think of when enquired deeply into; and all
These hills & valleys are accursed witnesses of Sin
I therefore condense them into solid rocks, stedfast!
A foundation and certainty and demonstrative truth:
That Man be separate from Man, & here I plant my seat.
Cold snows drifted around him: ice coverd his loins around
He sat by Tyburns brook, and underneath his heel, shot up!
A deadly Tree, he nam'd it Moral Virtue, and the Law
Of God who dwells in Chaos hidden from the human sight.
The Tree spread over him its cold shadows, (Albion groand)
They bent down, they felt the earth and again enrooting
Shot into many a Tree! an endless labyrinth of woe!"
Jerusalem, PLATE 45 ,(E 194)
"every minute particular, the jewels of Albion, running down
The kennels of the streets & lanes as if they were abhorrd.
Every Universal Form, was become barren mountains of Moral
Virtue: and every Minute Particular hardend into grains of sand:
And all the tendernesses of the soul cast forth as filth & mire,
Among the winding places of deep contemplation intricate"