Friday, August 10, 2012

Faith VIII

In MHH Blake examined most directly the conventional idea of Hell
and pronounced it a delusion of a certain type of mind. 
In VLJ he gave his straightforward views about the meaning 
of the biblical Hell. 

In 'Jerusalem:
"What are the Pains of Hell but Ignorance, Bodily Lust, Idleness & 
devastation of the things of the Spirit?" However the conventional Hell 
does seem to have some biblical basis: 

Isaiah 66.24, Mark 9.43ff; Matthew 25.41 provide examples. 
How do you deal with all those scriptures? 
In the first place Blake felt perfectly free to discount anything in the 
Bible that he found incongruent with his vision, at least to discount 
its conventional meaning. The immediate experience always exercised 
authority over anything second hand. The inerrancy of scripture, another 
of the Five Fundamentals, meant just about as much to him as 
Double Predestination.

 In the second place, although the doctrine of hell has most often 
been used as a means of anathematizing those with whom one disagrees, 
there are certainly more creative ways to deal with it. 
Blake chose one of these, what he called the doctrine of states
In a conversation with the "seven Angels of the Presence" 
Milton is told by Lucifer: "We are not individuals but states...
Distinguish therefore states from individuals in those states.
 And at the end of the first chapter of 'Jerusalem' the daughters of 
Beulah pray as follows:

Descend, O Lamb of God and take away the imputation of Sin
By the Creation of State and the deliverance of Individuals Evermore
But many doubted & despair'd and imputed Sin and Righteousness
To individuals and not to States, and these Slept in Ulro.
(Jerusalem, 25.12; Erdman 170)

Double Predestination is a consequence of a more fundamental 
error of Rahab, the whore of Babylon, the organized Church, 
"Imputing sin and righteousness to individuals". 
Blake addressed that error with his doctrine of states, 
which we look at in a moment.

To distinguish states from individuals is the only means of 
forgiveness of sins. 
In the centuries since Blake enlightened Christians have learned 
to condemn sin without condemning the sinner. 
The most enlightened condemn no one, realizing that we ourselves are 
as sinful as anyone else. 
For such a consciousness the only authentic preaching 
becomes confessional preaching. 
 The relationship between Blake's doctrine of states and the 
conventional doctrine of hell becomes clear in plate 16 of Illustrations
to Job series where Job and his wife watch the 'old man' in themselves 
take the plunge with their master "into the everlasting fire prepared 
for the devil and his angels". 

This of course is a spiritual or psychic event. 
The crude and ludicrous superstition of the conventional doctrine of hell 
stems from a spiritual blindness that attempts to impose the material 
upon the Beyond--once again the Lockian fallacy, 
the assumption that 'material' is 'real'. 

 The Last Judgment in Blake is the consummation devoutly to be hoped 
for when truth takes its rightful place in man's psyche. 
Error is "burnt up the Moment Men cease to behold it". 
The person wedded to error finds this a fearsome prospect; 
the one who wants to be free finds it a glorious one. 

We're all headed for the last judgment--by the direct childlike route 
or the torturous worldly route. 
It's the fervent hope of the eternalist and the bane of the materialist. 
Blake, as was said before, traveled both routes. 
His exquisite lyrics attest to the first; 
his (often tormented) prophetic declamation to the second. 

The childlike route is so crystal clear as to need little explanation; 
the second obviously needs a great deal. 
Looking closely at the first may be good preparation for the second. 

An incident from Blake's last years suggests something of the nature 
of the torturous route which was Blake's life. 
The old poet was telling the story of the Prodigal Son. 
He got to the moment when the wandering boy at last returns to the Father. 
At that point Blake broke down in tears; he couldn't go on. 
The story casts a revealing light on a primitive relationship 
that must have provided a lot of the dynamic for Blake's creativity. 
 Psychologists tell us that a person's early relationship with his father
has a great bearing on his image of God. 
Applying that idea to Blake's poetry one could infer that Blake
as a child had a gruesome relationship with his father. 
However we find little suggestion of this in the biography. 
On the contrary the preponderance of the evidence suggests
a permissive and understanding parent. 
(The only exception seems to be the threat to beat the eight year old 
for his 'lie' about the tree full of angels.) 
In any event 'father' has unpleasant associations in Blake's poetry, 
especially in the theological realm. 
He adored Jesus, but he obviously had trouble believing Jesus' word 
about the loving Father.

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