Saturday, August 18, 2012

God II

The Church periodically gave birth to men and women who, from the platform of the
orthodox tradition, were elevated to a direct vision of God. This is particularly true of
our poet. Most of the creative change in the Church originated with such types. The
Church rather uniformly discouraged mystical visions of God unless they conformed in
full detail to the orthodoxy of the moment. God refused such limitations; the entire
period prophetically judged the priestly position. A long volume could be written about
the many prophetic visions which in one way or another resemble that of our poet;

The Church was broad enough to include and even honor many of these free spirits, but
the works which followed them in the hands of their more militant disciples generally
fell into ill repute. The early Franciscan movement is a case in point. St. Francis
preached to his little sisters the birds; he shared the stigmata of Christ and suggested
that to share Christ's poverty might be fitting for his disciples, an extremely radical idea
which an extremely wealthy pope indulged. But many of Francis' disciples faced
persecution of various sorts.

Roughly contemporary with Francis another monk named Joachim of Flora
rediscovered for the nth time the dominance of the Spirit over the letter. Preaching what
he called the Everlasting Gospel Joachim proposed to dispense with the corrupt and
worldly political structures of the establishment and move into a New Age, the era of
the Holy Spirit. The New Age would replace the age of the Church; it would be an age
of freedom with everyone led directly by the Spirit. Jeremiah had foretold this. Even
Moses had said, "would to God that all the Lord's people were prophets". For the
creative poet the New Age represented freedom at its best, exactly what Jesus had come
to bring us. For most of the priests it represented antinomianism at its worst.

The Everlasting Gospel and the New Age came down the centuries through the various
subterranean channels of the heterodox tradition. Swedenborg announced its advent in
1757, which happened to be the year of Blake's birth; Blake noted this with obvious
delight in 'The Marriage of Heaven and Hell'. Years later, in the autumn of his life,
Blake filled his spiritual journal with a fragmentary poem called 'The Everlasting
Gospel'. It was his systematic attempt to set forth in the most direct terms possible his
precise view of Christianity and its founder. He probably never concluded the project to
his full satisfaction.

Blake tells us that radical materialism with its worship of the God of this World is a
state of mind from which a man may awaken at any moment into a realization of the
infinite and of his kinship with the Divine Man, Jesus. So these two Gods, the Satan of
the World and the Jesus of Eternity remain in continuous opposition in men's minds,
and they are best understood in contrast to one another.

Jesus is the Lord of the Eternal realm, which is imaginative, creative, non-violent,
gracious, and above all forgiving and uniting into life. Satan is God of this World, of
power, might, law, man against man, separation, finally death. One is Lord of Life,
the other the Lord of Death. Satan is actually not a person but a state and will eventually
go to his own place, which is a way of saying that Jesus will eventually get him off our
backs. This happens at the Last Judgment when all Error is burnt up.

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