Monday, December 27, 2010

Father and Spectre

God and the Devil

or

Blake's Contraries

These are the two primary functions of Blake's life (and likely yours and mine as well). All of Blake's poetry might be perceived as a commentary on the forty days of Jesus in the Wilderness (Matthew 4).
"Without contraries is no progression" (MHH; plate 3; Erdman 34)
That comes early in Blake's corpus and remained until the end. The end of course is Union (Oneness), when all is at rest.

Hot and Cold
Large and Small
Innocence and Experiece
Heaven and Hell
Fall and Redemption
and many, many others.
Blake adds Sun and Moon.
Joy and Woe
Pleasure and Pain
Hard and Easy

We live in a world where thought and communication are dualistic; it's very hard to get away from that although some philosophers attempt to overcome it--with success or failure.

Once again the primary contrary is contained in the (triple) title. Check the labels on the sidebar, and you may find 34 posts with God and none with Spectre (but 18 with Annihilate!)

Blake began his life with negative feelings about God (remember the angry God in the window?), especially the O.T. God. As he matured, it moderated, but (like most ordinary Bible readers today) he preferred the N.T. God over the O.T. one.

Blake's idea of God developed over his lifetime, as did his Devil (whom he most often referred to as his Spectre). That is true not just of Blake, but of anyone with a spiritual life: The God you may have worshipped at age 10 is likely not the same God you may worship today. Likewise with the Devil!

Our Father which is in Heaven; hallowed be thy name.
To worship God is this way intails recognizing Him as the primary force of your life, and obeying his directions.

Otherwise your Spectre assures you that you are in charge:
"I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul." (Invictus).

You don't look to the Father; you look to yourself (your Spectre).

These two contraries are in continuos tension (conflict) until that day when it is resolved and you become a man; you are Man.

(For advanced students: with the Blake Concordance follow the two words (God and the Spectre or Jesus and the Spectre), and you may get a better grasp of Blake's spiritual development and religion.)

4 comments:

Susan J. said...

Do you know whether Blake explicitly or implicitly made use of the classical idea of "daimon" or "daemon"? I used the concordance tool and only came up with one reference:
"Daemon The Gods all Serve her at her will so great her Power"

I'm going to email you the article whence cometh this question... I can't see a way to attach it here...

Thanks!!

Susan J. said...

Another question -- I'm reading this "Father and Spectre" post alongside your December 13 "Blake's Devil."

So.... it would seem that Union would eventually reconcile (unite?) Blake with his perceived contraries -- Bacon, Newton, Locke --

This idea makes sense to me, as I often find myself reacting defensively to Blake's disdain for Reason and What We Can Know Through Our Senses... :-)

Larry said...

Susan:
For an email or a comment you can always direct your reader to the url from which you got the info: for example:
http://city-journal.org/2010/20_4_history-of-freedom.html.

Your reader can copy that url and paste it in a browser.

Re Blake and Socrates' daemon I have a very sketchy acquaintance with Plato, but get the impression that it was a gift that Socrates lived by. What Blake lived by he call Vision. He lived for Vision. The competing force in Blake he called the Spectre, which might be closer to Socrates' daemon than Blake's Vision.

I got from the essay that Socrates was condemned to be free; that sounds much more like the Spectre than Blake's Vision.

Blake felt that the Spectre had undue and inappropriate control over him for his first 20 adult years, until what I call his rebirth.

In Plate 98 of Jerusalem Blake's analogy of the Parousia he wrote:
"The innumerable Chariots of the Almighty appeard in Heaven
And Bacon & Newton & Locke, & Milton & Shakspeare & Chaucer..."

For many years Blake used the first three as metaphors of the terrible materialism that infested the culture I had to live in, but he uses it here to mark his awareness that all those who had bothered him were forgiven, as he knew that God had forgiven him.

Susan J. said...

thanks, Larry! and thanks for tracking down the url... I got the article via email & didn't know how to get to a link.

I really like the part you wrote at the end - about "his awareness that all those who had bothered him were forgiven, as he knew that God had forgiven him."

life is short.... :-)