Saturday, September 01, 2012

God IX

The Divine Vision 

Throughout this chapter we have followed Blake as he encountered,
faced, studied, named, and denounced the false God in the many guises in which he 
appears to man. This enterprise occupied the first half of his adult life. But during this 
time he was always aware of something real behind the shadow. As a child he had 
loved the Lamb:

Little Lamb, who made thee?
Dost thou know who made thee?
Gave thee life, and bid thee feed
By the stream and o'er the mead;
Gave thee clothing of delight,
Softest clothing, wooly, bright;
Gave thee such a tender voice
Making all the vales rejoice?
Little Lamb, who made thee?
Dost thou know who made thee?
Little Lamb, I'll tell thee,
Little Lamb, I'll tell thee:
He is called by thy name,
For he calls himself a Lamb.
He is meek, and he is mild;
He became a little child.
I a child, and thou a lamb,
We are called by his name.
Little Lamb, God bless thee!
Little Lamb, God bless thee!

As a youth Blake's mind came to be overshadowed by the Tyger. Some interpreters 
believe that at a certain point he began to see Jesus as misguided: in the Song of Los he 
wrote that Jesus "received a Gospel from wretched Theotormon". Theotormon 
symbolizes the legalistic repression of impulse. If Blake did turn away from Jesus, it 
was by no means an uncommon stage of life for a young man.

Blake always put an ultimate trust in the imaginative power that gave him visions of 
infinite joy. But at the age of 24 through a failure of consciousness he had chosen a 
measure of satanic power with a consequent loss of spiritual perception; the Divine 
Vision faded. There followed the years of struggle with the God of this World, and as 
we have seen, his experience at Felpham (his "first Vision of Light") led to his definite 
rejection of the Tempter. In 1803 he returned to London, having prepared himself for an 
additional grace which shortly fell upon him. In a letter to Hayley dated Oct. 23, 1804 
he gave an account of an awesome change that had come into his life:
"Suddenly on the day after visiting the Truchsessian Gallery of pictures, I was again 
enlightened with the light I enjoyed in my youth, and which has for exactly twenty 
years been closed from me as by a door and by window-shutters."

It's doubtful that he expected Hayley to understand this fully, but we are eternally 
indebted to both of them for passing it down to us. It marks in a most objective way the 
return of the Divine Vision, which had been overshadowed by Blake's preoccupation 
with the God of this World.

The progression of Blake's poetry shows the eclipse of Christ through the long struggle 
of the nineties. Now he proceeded to introduce the Lamb into 4Z with a group of 
additional lines at strategic places. These images means relatively little to the secular 
reader, but cause great joy to the Christian.

The Destination The healing of Los, described in Night vii of The Four Zoas, prepares 
the way for Christ's coming into history. Night viii tells the story of Jesus: the 
Incarnation, the Crucifixion, and the Resurrection of the spiritual body. It's important to 
remember that in Blake's mental world and in his poetry these are psychic rather than 
historical events.

Blake had always worshipped the Divine Vision. In his twenty years in the wilderness 
the Divine Vision dimmed and lost the immediacy which had informed the beautiful 
poems of Innocence. Kathleen Raine points to a few lines that describe with peculiar 
luminosity this dimming of the Divine Vision:

And as their eye and ear shrunk,
the heavens shrunk away:
The Divine Vision became
First a burning flame (Moses),
then a column Of fire [the Exodus],
then an awful fiery wheel surrounding
earth and heaven [Ezekiel],
And then a globe of blood wandering distant
in an unknown night [false Christianity].
(Jerusalem 66:40)

This describes Blake's personal experience and that of Mankind. But at or after Felpham 
he recovered the Divine Vision and realized that his name is Jesus.
He spent the rest of his life celebrating the momentous event and the Name and 
proclaiming its reality in a hundred ways. It had happened to him, and it would happen 
to the world.

With the ensuing works of art Blake gives us a portrait of Jesus in many ways original. 
It may prove to be the most vital portrait of Jesus for the present age.

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