Thursday, December 06, 2012
Blake Sources 2
One of the things that stayed with Blake was Swedenborg's concept of the
Divine Humanity .
To Tirzah was a concise summary of Swedenborg's teaching (Raine's Golgonooza page 96.)
Blake wrote in A Vision of the Last Judgment, page 84:
"Around the Throne Heaven is opend & the Nature of Eternal Things Displayd
All Springing from the Divine Humanity";
Michaelangelo also composed a Vision of the Last
Judgment; Blake's was more closely related to Swedenborg's; Michaelangelo' picture had an
exoteric orientation, while that of Swedenborg and Blake had a mystical one. To put
it otherwise the great Italian painter suggested a material event some time in the future,
while the other two concerned spiritual rather than material realities. Swedenborg and
Blake, but not Michaelangelo, perceived the Last Judgment as an end and a
beginning, or a death and rebirth (of individuals, nations, and the world).
Swedenburg has another very significant contribution to the thought forms of
Blake in what they both referred to as states. A state is a condition through
which a person travels in his journey through life.
One can also recognize a close correspondence between Swedenborg and
Blake relative to an inveterate hostility toward the established church (cf
William Blake and the Radical Swedenborgians page 99). Swedenburg taught
that there had been 27 churches, those of Adam, Noah, Abraham,
Solomon...Paul, Constantine,Charlemayne and Luther. Blake substantially
agreed with that:
"Distinguish therefore States from Individuals in those States.
States Change: but Individual Identities never change nor cease:
You cannot go to Eternal Death in that which can never Die.
Satan & Adam are States Created into Twenty-seven Churches."
(Milton 32:22-25 erd 321)
The first ones were Adam, Seth..., and the last one as I recall was Luther. After which the same
old round began again to repeat itself in the Great Year, a depressing form of church history. Neither Blake nor Swedenborg thought much of the organized church. The latter thought that it had passed out, to be replaced by a new church in the New Age. He dated it at 1757, the year of Blake's birth One of the things that stayed with Blake was Swedenborg's concept of the
Divine Humanity .
According to Kathleen Raine it was "Swedenburg whose leading doctrine Blake
summarized in the Everlasting Gospel". But this is a very difficult poem; not
really a poem but intermittent snatches of poetic thought. Very hard to
understand because Blake's mood and tone modulates continually, sometimes
ironic, sometimes not. It's a source book for whatever gems speak to you.
It does indicate rather clearly Blake's (and Swedenborg's) view
about the organized church and conventional theology.
Homer: The primary source of the Cave of the Nymphs is certainly Homer's
Odyssey, while the Myth of Persephone stems of course from the Iliad..
"Then I came upon a marvellous clue in the works of Thomas Taylor the
platonist, whose translations of the complete works of Plato, most of Plotinus,
Proclus and the other Neoplatonic writings of the third century A.D were
appearing contemporaneously with Blake's works."
Taylor and Blake were almost the same age. Taylor, with histranslations of Greek philosophy turned Blake's interest in this direction and
led to his use of many of them in his search for symbolic material (from a lecture in India of Kathleen Raine re her initial search for Blake' sources).
Blake also used a great variety of 'spiritual' documents beginning before Plato
and stretching down to his own day. Some of the writers were:
Plato's Myth of the Cave can be seen as the locale of Visions of the Daughters
of Albion. Here is the poetry. Here is a short introduction to Plato's philosophy;
it closely parallels Blake's myth.
Plotinus: Platonism, neoPlatonism- Blake may have been more of the latter than
the former. He used Thomas Taylor's translations extensively in his
mythmaking. (If you're up for reading it, here's a colorful description of the
man's life. Blake in particular depended heavily upon Taylor's Dissertation on
the Eleusinian and Bacchic Mysteries.
Hermes Trismegistus: Wikipedia offers a useful introduction to this mythic
Blake included the Hermetic writings in his library and made use of them in his
own creations. (Hermes Trismegistus has an introduction to this material.) The
Divine Poemander was perhaps the most important of many works. In
Jerusalem plate 91 Blake mentioned the Smaragdine Table of Hermes as the
baleful influence on one of his failing characters. He endorsed Proposition 2:
"What is below is like that which is above, and what is above is like that which
is below, to accomplish the miracles of the one thing." but felt that Hermes was
a magician trying to pass as a mystic. (Magicians try to pull the beyond down
to the material, while mystics have visions of the Beyond.)
Paracelsus introduced Blake to the rich symbolic language of astrology.
Boehme's Divine Vision not only figured largely in Blake's works, but expressed
most aptly his personal approach to creativity.
Boehme provided one of many sources for Blake's doctrine of the descent (or
fall) of Albion (man): "The one only element fell into a division of four.. and that
is the heavy fall of Adam...for the principle of the outward world passeth away
and goeth into ether and the four elements into one again, and God is
manifested. Blake expressed "the division of four" of course with the Four
Zoas. (Percival p 19). The divided four represent the principalities against
which Paul wrestled (as he wrote in Ephesians 6:12).
Blake illustrated Dante's Divine Comedy (Many of these pictures are online).