Friday, August 24, 2012

God V

When it comes to worship, commitment, ultimate allegiance, a person has basically two
choices. He may trust himself to whatever external authority has most forcibly grasped 
his mind. Or he may put his trust more fundamentally in his own conscience. The first 
choice, taken by the vast majority of mankind, has been called 'other directed'. "Pastor, 
tell us what we believe;" that phrase aptly reflects the theological stance of most of the 
devout. The second choice is largely confined to the prophet, the poet, the creative 
genius who shapes the thoughts of the rest of us. It's called 'inner directed'. Few men 
have been more inner directed than Blake. Though he had little impact upon the 
thoughts of the 18th Century, he may well shape those of the 21st.

In theology the concept of inner direction bears such names as the Living Word, the 
protestant principle, the inner light or New Light, and in the mystical tradition 
the Everlasting Gospel. In his pre-Christian days Blake referred to it as the Poetic 
Genius. His poetic genius appeared at age four with the face in the window, and more 
happily with the tree full of angels . Thereafter Blake's poetic genius drew him apart 
from the general theological views of mankind, dominated as they were by the 
materialism of the deists and the crass exploitation of the religious establishment. 
Henceforth he felt a fundamental distrust of convention and a correspondingly intense 
communion with the inner light.

The Poetic Genius provides the immediate vision which overthrows or supersedes the 
existing version of Truth. We have for example the accounts of the burning bush, the 
"Lord high and lifted up" (Isaiah 6), the fiery chariot with the strange wheels (Ezekiel). 
We have Stephen's vision of heaven as he was stoned, Paul's experience in the third 
heaven, John's visions on Patmos. We have the celestial cities of Augustine and 
Bunyan...and Blake's face in the window. All these immediate visions reformed or 
recreated or at the least significantly added to man's collective vision of God.

The poetic genius had little trouble disposing of the king's God. Blake's picture of 
George sitting in his papal dignity expresses such an immediate and elementary truth 
that it still does service on dormitory walls where sophomores cope with deans and 
presidents. The King's God represents the existing version of Truth; Blake's poetic 
genius will replace it with his own original visions, culminating in the first Vision of 
Light with Jesus, the Forgiveness.

Early Images of God:
       'Songs of Innocence' and 'Thel', both composed shortly before MHH, contain 
perhaps the most exquisite images of a benevolent God to be found in modern 
literature. Written by a man of 34, they vividly evoke the faith of a child like mind 
unsullied by the world. Writing them Blake performed the imaginative feat of a 
supreme artist able in vision to project his psyche back to the days before the Fall. 
Actually at this stage of his life Blake already had a keen awareness of the Fall, a mind 
deeply shadowed by it; but no trace of the shadows appears in these exquisite sacrifices 
of praise. It's as if with prescience that his art will shortly be submerged in visions of
fallen man and a fallen God, he paused for one preliminary glimpse of the Golden Age.

That pause brought a precious gift to mankind. The faith of the Clod can hardly be 
improved upon. The God in "The Little Black Boy", not so much in the imagined father 
as in the spirit of the child, has been a candle in the life of many a hard pressed pilgrim 
tempted to curse the darkness.

After 'Songs of Innocence' begin the curses. It may be worthwhile to curse the darkness 
if thereby we make someone aware of it. This was Blake's aim, like that of most social 
prophets. Dickens rubs our noses in the darkness over and over, and we're better men 
for having read him. Like Dicken's novels Blake's poems are full of darkness. From 
1790 to 1800 he directed our thoughts to the fallen God whom we worship, who 
promotes the darkness and calls it light.

Few or no specimens of humanity would stoop so low as to consign a fellow man to 
everlasting torment; any Being imagined to do such a thing must be at best subhuman. 
The worship of such a being is devil worship. In a poem on the French Revolution 
Blake descended to the crudest vulgarity in trying to put such a theological notion in its 
rightful place:
in Europe

"The King awoke on his couch of gold
As soon as he heard these tidings told
Then he swore a great and solemn Oath:
"To kill the people I am loth,
"But if they rebel, they must go to hell:
"They shall have a Priest and a passing bell."
Then old Nobodaddy aloft
Farted and belch'd and cough'd,
And said, "I love hanging and drawing and quartering
"Every bit as well as war and slaughtering.

"Damn praying and singing
"Unless they will bring in
"The blood of ten thousand by fighting or swinging

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