Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Good and Evil

Fatal words: they came to us early in the Bible. The creation was very good; God had put all kinds of trees in the Garden, including the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil (found in the 3rd chapter of Genesis).

Blake had a dim view of 'good and evil'; the term good & evil appears in Erdman 21 times, six of them in Vision of the Last Judgment; but first it appears in Plate 3 of the Marriage of Heaven and Hell:

"Without Contraries is no progression. Attraction and Repulsion, Reason and Energy, Love and Hate, are necessary to Human existence. From these spring what the religious call Good & Evil. Good is the passive that obeys Reason[.] Evil is the active springing from Energy. Good is Heaven."
Bear in mind that this is a parody; Blake is satirizing.

In Erdman Blake introduced A Vision of the Last Judgment:

"The Last Judgment when all those are Cast away who trouble Religion with Questions concerning God & Evil or Eating of the Tree of those Knowledges or Reasoning which hinder the Vision of God turning all into a Consuming fire.."
Then "they are no longer talking of what is Good &
Evil or of what is Right or Wrong & puzzling themselves in Satans Labyrinth But are Conversing with Eternal
Realities as they Exist in the Human Imagination.."

What's next:
[PAGE 86] The Combats of Good & Evil is Eating of the Tree of Knowledge
The Combats of Truth and Error is Eating of the Tree of Life....These are not only Universal but Particular:....There is not a Truth but it has also a Man Good & Evil are Qualities in Every Man whether Good or Evil Man"

What's next: "Satan thinks that Sin is displeasing to God he ought to know that Nothing is displeasing to God but Unbelief &
Eating of the Tree of Knowledge of Good & Evil
[Page 87]

What's next:
[Page 94]...Angel are happier than Men because they are not always
Prying after Good & Evil in One Another & eating the Tree of Knowledge for Satans Gratification."
(Erdman 554-65)

(Speaking in general VLJ is an excellent place to get an inkling
of what Blake's system in about.)

We find good and evil at several other places in Erdman's book:

Annotations to Swedenborg's Heaven and Hell
London 1784:
In Erdman 604

Memoranda from the Notebook

In Jerusalem we find the phrase 4 times:
in Erdman 152 In Jerusalem Plate 10:
"And this is the manner of the Sons of Albion in their strength
They take the Two Contraries which are call Qualities, with which\
Every Substance is clothed, they name them Good & Evil
From them they make an Abstract, which is a Negation
Not only of the substance from which it is derived
A murderer of its own Body: but also a murderer of every Divine Member:
It is the Reasoning Power An Abstract objecting power,
that Negative every thing This is the Spectre of Man:
the Holy Reasoning Power
And in its Holiness is closed the Abomination of Desolation."
(We could write a post on that paragraph!)

Plate 74 (in E230):
"......Moral Virtue the fair deciever; offspring
Of Good & Evil, they [daughters of Albion] divided him in love upon the Thames..."

Plate 92 (in E253):
"Where the Druids reard their Rocky Circles t make permanent Remembrance
Of Sin & the Tree of Good & Evil sprang from the Rocky Circle & Snake Of the Druid...."

And Plate 98 (in E258):
Where is the Covenant of Priam, the Moral Virtues of the Heathen
Where is the Tree of Good & Evil that rooted beneath the cruel hell
of Albions Spectre the Patriarch Druid! where are all his Human Sacrifices
For Sin in War & in the Druid Temples of the Accuser of Sin:
The Oak Groves of Albion that coverd the whole Earth beneath his Spectre
Where are the Kingdoms of the World & all their glory that grew on Desolation...."
(Another passage well worth another post!)

Blake used good & evil several other times.
To review these quote as time permits gives you a pretty good idea of what Blake was talking about. All of them may be considered as commentary on Genesis 3.

No comments: