Monday, August 20, 2012


  We live in a secular age; the reality of God has been largely barred from

 the consciousness of most people. It is a significant experience for only a

 minority of the population. Of course many people understand that

 everyone has a God of some sort--his ultimate concern. But the biblical

 God, the God of Abraham, Issac, and Jacob, the God and Father of our

 Lord Jesus Christ, is not a live issue in the minds of very many people


Our foremost modern psychologist, C.G.Jung, quite properly placed God in

 our unconscious and encouraged us to seek there for him. Jung understood

 very well Blake's statement that "all deities reside in the human breast" (end

 of Plate 11 of The Marriage of Heaven and Hell).

The secular currents so powerful today were already flowing strongly in

the late 18th Century in England. The prevalent deism put God back behind

 the present scene, a long way behind it. Strictly the Divine Architect,

 having made the world like a clock, he wound it up and left it to run on its

 own. He also left the deists to their own devices, and they were happy in 

this new freedom.  They felt that they had learned to control their destinies 

without divine assistance.

       Blake lived in the midst of these currents, but he opposed them

 emphatically. Unlike the deists he experienced the immediate presence and

 pervasive reality of God in his life. He completely filled his poetry and

 pictures alike with metaphysical images because his mind dwelt almost

 exclusively upon spiritual themes. The material realm interested him only

 as a shadow of the eternal. He abhored the materialism by which the deists

 lived. He might have been happier and more at home in the Middle Ages.

       But he was also a very modern man. He understood better than Jung

that an external objective God is an unknown quantity, a projection of

unsophisticated minds:

       "Mental things are alone Real....Where is the Existence Out of Mind or

 Thought? Where is it but in the mind of a Fool?" (Vision of the Last Judgment)

 (Erdman 565)

       The only God anyone can know is the image of God projected upon his

 mind or enclosed in his consciousness. Since time began, men have shared

 their visions of God with one another. All religions began in this way. The

 Bible makes most sense as an infinitely fascinating compendium of the

 visions of God shared by Moses, Isaiah, Paul and the other writers. This

 unfolding and composite vision has shaped western culture down to the

 present moment.

      Blake thoroughly surveyed this passing scene, not just the Bible, but

 every other religious document he could get his hands on, and related them

 all to his own direct and immediate visions. Over his lifetime he may have

 taken more liberties with God than any other systematic thinker ever did.

 He could do this because he so fully realized that all of these visions of God 

had come forth from human breasts like his own. Moses, Isaiah, and the

 others were his eternal brothers, and he joyously engaged with them in the

 eternal war, the intellectual war, which he called the "severe contentions of

 friendship"(J. 91:17).

       "The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you"

       From the beginning Blake realized the close and intimate relationship

 between a person's image of God and his political views. The authoritarian

 image in some form finds favor with establishment types, authority figures

 and all others who perceive their welfare as dependent upon the status quo.

 These people feel threatened by unrest in the social levels below their own;

 they look to God, their primary symbol of authority, to control it. They

 impose this vision of God upon society, and they use their power to control

 and discourage alternative visions.

       Liberal types in contrast more likely entertain an image of a benevolent

 God, a God of mercy whose basic activity is not to control the lower classes

 but to lift them up, nurture the needy, provide for the poor, and protect

 them from the rapacious powerful.

       Blake found both types of men among the authors of the Bible; they

 project the two basic images of God side by side. His simplified schema of

 interpretation assigned to the two types the designations of priest and 

prophet. The priest upholds the authority of the past, the authority of

tradition. The prophet sees a burning bush and hears a new word which

 judges the authority and tradition of the priest and invokes a new scene,

new ideas, new forms, new life.

       Rather obviously Jesus belonged to the prophetic type. He had as a

 fundamental aim raising our consciousness of the benevolence of God. He

 incarnated God, and he was supremely benevolent to all but the priestly

 party. They suppressed him in the flesh, and in his resurrected body they

 have always attempted to remake him in their image. As he warned, they

 have used his name to control, suppress, and even exterminate large

 numbers of people who would not do as they were told. Blake's real

 mission in life, both before and after his Moment of Grace was to rescue

 the world's image of God from the preemption of the priestly party.

No comments: