Wednesday, September 05, 2012

God XI

The philosophic garment with which Blake clothed Jesus was his Neo-platonic
idealism. The Eternal Jesus whom Blake envisioned and worshipped is radically 
separated from the Hebrew peasant who lived in the first century. Blake understood that 
the worship of the historical Jesus had become an insidious form of idolatry, an 
advanced form of Satanism.

The priest claims the historical Jesus as his exclusive possession and as the ultimate 
sanction of his particular form of religious tyranny. He uses the figure first to cow and 
then to exploit his credulous followers. In this way he denies the indwelling Spirit in 
himself as well as in his flock. Blake's Jesus, in contrast to the priests', exists not in 
history but in heaven, which is not a far off never, never land, but a psychic reality.
The never, never land is a materialistic illusion. The reality of Jesus is eternal rather 
than material; preoccupation with the material Blake saw clearly as a rejection or 
refusal of the eternal. 

In 4Z Jerusalem, the embodiment of the church, responds materialistically to the death 
of Jesus: "let us build a Sepulcher and worship Death in fear while yet we live." What a 
powerful commentary on the response of the Church to the Christ event!

As long as our minds are centered in that particular century, Christ is dead for us. 
Preoccupied with the corporeal, we fail to discern the (spiritual) body. A few pages 
later we read that "Jerusalem wept over the Sepulcher two thousand years". Blake 
means that we Christians have done this under the influence of the established Church, 
dominated by the materialistic spirit of the age. While Jerusalem weeps over the 
corporeal body, like Mary Magdalen at the empty tomb, Jesus in his spiritual body 
stands beside her waiting to be recognized, but this won't happen until we (Jerusalem) 
awaken from our obsession with the material:

And Los and Enitharmon builded Jerusalem, weeping
Over the Sepulcher and over the Crucified body
Which, to their Phantom Eyes, appear'd still in the Sepulcher;
But Jesus stood beside them in the spirit....
(FZ9-117.1-4; E386|)

The Eternal Man, both First and Second Adam, had God (Spirit) for father and Earth 
(Clay, Matter) for mother. Blake's profound allegiance to this traditional symbolism led 
to what many have perceived as a savage attack on Jesus' mother. The attack was 
savage, but the object of Blake's savagery was not Mary herself but the veneration of 
Mary, which he could only see as a reversion to Nature Worship and the fertility cults. 
He understood the veneration of Mary as an alternative to the Living Christ, a direct 
rival in fact of true Christianity.

This background helps one to understand the psychic meaning of the "Visions of 
Elohim Jehovah" concerning Joseph and Mary found on Plate 61 of 'Jerusalem'. Too 
lengthy to quote here, it gives the clearest picture of Blake's feelings about the 
corporeal ancestry of Christ. A brief but cogent statement of the same thing appears in 

'The Everlasting Gospel'.

As soon as people attempt to frame Christianity within rules and fit it into a prescribed 
law and order, it stops being Christianity. There is a general failure to understand that 
Christians are handed over to the Holy Ghost.... Where God's Spirit is, there freedom 
must be; there Moses must keep silent, all laws withdraw, and let no one be so bold as 
to prescribe law, rules, order, goals, and measures to the Holy Ghost, nor attempt to 
reach, govern, and lead those who belong to him.

All his life Blake had an implacable hatred of law, which he equated with coercion or 
hindering of others; to him that was the only sin. Consequently Blake's Jesus was a 
thorough going antinomian. Perhaps his most extreme expression of this occurs in 
MHH, written before his conversion:

If Jesus Christ is the greatest man, you ought to
love him in the greatest degree; now hear how he has
given his sanction to the law of the ten
commandments: did he not mock at the sabbath, and so
mock the sabbath's God? murder those who were
murder'd because of him? turn away the law from the
woman taken in adultery? steal the labor of others
to support him? bear false witness when he omitted
making a defence before Pilate? covet when he pray'd
for his disciples, and when he bid them shake off
the dust of their feet against such as refused to
lodge them? I tell you, no virtue can exist without
breaking these ten commandments. Jesus was all
virtue, and acted from impulse, not from rules.
(Erdman 43)

That's the proud, tongue in cheek, announcement of a young man not yet marked by the 
suffering of life. As he matured, his language became more moderate, but his attitude 
remained substantially the same. Blake hates the law, and his Jesus forgives the 
lawbreaker. The letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.

Law is an expression of authority. Life presents to us two kinds of authority: spiritual 
authority or God and political authority, his worldly shadow. Blake consumed his early 
years in rebellion against the shadow. Then at age 43 he met God and was able to 
submit to and affirm the true authority.

Some means of coercion characterizes all forms of political authority; ecclesiastical 
authority is no exception. Blake temperamentally renounced all forms of political 
authority; he felt that they were satanic, based on coercion and fear and earthly power. 
Political authority is the authority of this world, and he had no use for it.
In contrast spiritual authority as Blake experienced it is the exercise of the purest form 
of love with an absence of any sort of constraint. The release from constraint by the 
active good will calls forth the Divine Image from the dark sepulcher or cave of 
corporeal life. Blake had uniquely experienced this spiritual authority as a child; he 
rediscovered it in the experience which he understood as Self-annihilation or 

Henceforth for him this was the basic and intimate character and quality of Jesus. This 
was the good news. In 'Milton' the old antinomian made his commitment to the law of 
self giving love, referring to it as the "Universal Dictate". A free Blakean translation of 
John 3.16 with a touch of Philippians 2 added might read: God so forgave the world 
that he annihilated his transcendent Deity and united himself through a corporeal 
sepulcher with sinful, materialistic man to lift us up to Eternity. Here is the ultimate of 
spiritual authority, and those who meet Jesus begin to exercise it in the way that he did.
Although Blake did not often use the conventional Christian symbolism of the cross, 
after his conversion he did believe from the depths that by dying for one another we 
live eternally:

Jesus said: "Wouldest thou love one who never died
For thee, or ever die for one who had not died for thee?
And if God dieth not for Man and giveth not himself
Eternally for Man, Man could not exist; for Man is Love
As God is Love; every kindness to another is a little Death
In the Divine Image, nor can Man exist but by Brotherhood."
(Jerusalem, 96.23ff; E256)

Freedom from materialism and from the law are the philosophic and moral coloring 
which Blake gave to his portrait of Jesus the One. In this way he accomodated his new 
vision of God to his existing value structure.

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