Monday, February 21, 2011

Tree of Mystery

We learned in an earlier post that Blake's Tree of Mystery corresponded to the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.

The Human Abstract ends with this quatrain:
"The Gods of the earth and sea
Sought thro' Nature to find this tree
But their search was all in vain:
There grows one in the Human Brain"
(Erdman 27)

The Genesis Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil! Let's explore this theme for a bit: The Blake Concordance shows 12 occurrences of the Tree of Mystery:

1. In the Book of Ahania,PLATE 4:
"from the dismal shade
The Tree still grows over the Void
Enrooting itself all around
An endless labyrinth of woe!

The corse of his first begotten
On the accursed Tree of MYSTERY
Look at those last two lines; do you understand what he's saying?

The Book of Ahania is worth studying, but we might presume
the implication to be that Jesus was crucified on the Tree of
Mystery, equivalent to the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.
(That idea is worth some serious thought.)

The other ll occurrences all appear in The Four Zoas:

Occurrences 2-6 come in Night VIIa:
2. "Los sat in showers of Urizen watching cold Enitharmon
His broodings rush down to his feet producing Eggs that hatching
Burst forth upon the winds above the tree of Mystery
Enitharmon lay on his knees. Urizen tracd his Verses
In the dark deep the dark tree grew. her shadow was drawn down
Down to the roots it wept over Orc....."
(Erdman 356)

3 and 4: "Thus Los lamented in the night unheard by Enitharmon
For the Shadow of Enitharmon descended down the tree of Mystery
The Spectre saw the Shade Shivering over his gloomy rocks
Beneath the tree of Mystery which in the dismal Abyss
Began to blossom in fierce pain shooting its writhing buds
In throes of birth & now the blossoms falling shining fruit"
(Erdman 357)
The shining fruit of course corresponds to the fatal 'apple' Eve ate (first).

5 continues the above:
"Appeard of many colours & of various poisonous qualities
Of Plagues hidden in shining globes that grew on the living tree
The Spectre of Urthona saw the Shadow of Enitharmon
Beneath the Tree of Mystery among the leaves & fruit
(Erdman 358)

6: "She burst the Gates of Enitharmons heart with direful Crash
Nor could they ever be closd again the golden hinges were broken
And the gates broke in sunder & their ornaments defacd
Beneath the tree of Mystery for the immortal shadow shuddering
Brought forth this wonder horrible a Cloud she grew & grew
Till many of the dead burst forth from the bottoms of their tombs
In male forms without female counterparts or Emanations
Cruel and ravening with Enmity & Hatred & War
In dreams of Ulro dark delusive drawn by the lovely shadow"
(Erdman 360)

Your first question might well be 'who is she?'. To answer that you need to read Erdman 359-60, pages 84 and 85 of the First Night. You may then be even more confused, as I am here. You may note the mention of the 'delightful Tree by the Every Man insane brutish, etc.

7. In Night VIIb (says the Concordance) we have
"She joyd in all the Conflict Gratified & drinking tears of woe
No more remaind of Orc but the Serpent round the tree of Mystery
The form of Orc was gone he reard his serpent bulk among
The stars of Urizen in Power rending the form of life
Into a formless indefinite & strewing her on the Abyss
Like clouds upon the winter sky broken with winds & thunders
This was to her Supreme delight The Warriors mournd disappointed
They go out to war with Strong Shouts & loud Clarions O Pity
They return with lamentations mourning & weeping"
(Erdman 365)

Would you believe that Blake is telling us where the serpent came from, the horrid creature who played such a frightful role in the biblical Fall. That is (at the least) his visionary conclusion.

If you're sufficiently confused now (as I am!) you (we) had best study the pages in Night VII of 4Z, namely Erdman 356-367; but it probably pay off more to study the following occurrences ("If the fool would persist in his folly he would become wise" MHH Plate 7; E36):

8 "And all the Songs of Beulah sounded comfortable notes
Not suffring doubt to rise up from the Clouds of the Shadowy Female
Then myriads of the Dead burst thro the bottoms of their tombs
Descending on the shadowy females clouds in Spectrous terror
Beyond the Limit of Translucence on the Lake of Udan Adan
These they namd Satans & in the Aggregate they namd them Satan
(Well in Blake's visionary world here's where Satan came from. For Blake Satan was never anything but a State, never a person.)

Then took the tree of Mystery root in the World of Los
Its topmost boughs shooting a fibre beneath Enitharmons couch
The double rooted Labyrinth soon wavd around their heads
But then the Spectre enterd Los's bosom"
(Erdman 367)

Here in Occurrence 9 is a critical passage I've quoted it
at length, and you might do well to study pages 375-6 at length:

"Urizen heard the Voice & saw the Shadow. underneath
His woven darkness & in laws & deceitful religions
Beginning at the tree of Mystery circling its root
She spread herself thro all the branches in the power of Orc
A shapeless & indefinite cloud in tears of sorrow incessant
Steeping the Direful Web of Religion swagging heavy it fell
From heaven to heavn thro all its meshes altering the Vortexes
Misplacing every Center hungry desire & lust began
- 375 -
Gathering the fruit of that Mysterious tree till Urizen
Sitting within his temple furious felt the num[b]ing stupor
Himself tangled in his own net in sorrow lust repentance

Enitharmon wove in tears Singing Songs of Lamentations
And pitying comfort as she sighd forth on the wind the spectres
And wove them bodies calling them her belovd sons & daughters
Employing the daughters in her looms & Los employd the Sons
In Golgonoozas Furnaces among the Anvils of time & space
Thus forming a Vast family wondrous in beauty & love
And they appeard a Universal female form created
From those who were dead in Ulro from the Spectres of the dead"
(Erdman 375-76)

10 "For this Lake is formd from the tears & sighs & death sweat of
the Victims
Of Urizens laws. to irrigate the roots of the tree of Mystery
They unweave the soft threads then they weave them anew in the
Of dark death & despair & none from Eternity to Eternity could
But thou O Universal Humanity who is One Man blessed for Ever
Recievest the Integuments woven Rahab beholds the Lamb of God"

11 "Thus was the Lamb of God condemnd to Death
They naild him upon the tree of Mystery weeping over him
And then mocking & then worshipping calling him Lord & King
Sometimes as twelve daughters lovely & sometimes as five
They stood in beaming beauty & sometimes as one even Rahab
Who is Mystery Babylon the Great the Mother of Harlots

Jerusalem saw the Body dead upon the Cross She fled away
Saying Is this Eternal Death Where shall I hide from Death
Pity me Los pity me Urizen & let us build
A Sepulcher & worship Death in fear while yet we live
Death! God of All from whom we rise to whom we all return
And Let all Nations of the Earth worship at the Sepulcher
With Gifts & Spices with lamps rich embossd jewels & gold

Los took the Body from the Cross Jerusalem weeping over
They bore it to the Sepulcher which Los had hewn in the rock
Of Eternity for himself he hewd it despairing of Life Eternal"
(Erdman 379)

12 "In the fierce flames the limbs of Mystery lay consuming with
And deep despair. Rattling go up the flames around the Synagogue
Of Satan Loud the Serpent Orc ragd thro his twenty Seven
Folds. The tree of Mystery went up in folding flames
Blood issud out in mighty volumes pouring in whirlpools fierce
From out the flood gates of the Sky The Gates are burst down pour
The torrents black upon the Earth the blood pours down incessant
Kings in their palaces lie drownd"
(4Z Night 9; Erdman 388)

Blake has come to end of his Myth; it is the Apocalypse,
the Parousia, the Second Coming, whatever you will.

It'important to realize that Blake is thinking psychologically
and poetically. If you take it literally it likely seems
grotesque. It's about Blake's life, his destiny, mine and yours
as well. These figures are mental constructs, not prophecies
or future events.

After completing The Four Zoas Blake moved on to the use of other
metaphors. The Tree of Mystery is heard no longer; we might
wonder why; did his theology change to the point where it no
longer seemed as appropriate?

Actually the Tree is heard often, sometimes as the 'Tree of Life',
sometimes as the Tree of Knowledge, etc. In Jerusalem 28.17ff; E174:
"The Tree spread over him its cold shadows, (Albion groand)", and
many other times. Use the Concordance to research tree, and you'll
likely find lots of places where the Tree (obviously of Mystery) occurs.

With familiarity with Blake's use of the word you may read his poetry
more creatively that you could before.

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