Sunday, December 16, 2012

Blake Sources 6

This is a reprise of Blake and Plato

   Thomas Taylor, 1758-1835, was an early friend of Blake's.
He was the first translator into English of Plato. As a young
man  Blake came under Taylor's influence.  His station in life
was a bit above Blake's; he was influential in the organization
that became the Royal Society of Arts.
Encouraged to pursue Classical Greek he became famous as an
admirer of Hellenism.
Like Blake he severely criticized the corruption of the
Established Church.
Taylor was a prolific writer and translator.
In an early satire Blake referred to himself as Quid the Cynic
and to  Taylor as Sipsop.
What Blake said about Plato from the Concordance:
PLATE 1 [i]  Milton
The Stolen and Perverted Writings of Homer & Ovid: of Plato &
Cicero. which all Men ought to contemn: are set up by artifice
against the Sublime of the Bible.
(IMO what he meant here was that the 'religious community' of his day
had turned from the Bible to the Deists, generally with a focus on the
Greek thought.)
O Swedenborg! strongest of men, the Samson shorn by the Churches!
Shewing the Transgresors in Hell, the proud Warriors in Heaven:
Heaven as a Punisher & Hell as One under Punishment:
With Laws from Plato & his Greeks to renew the Trojan Gods,
In Albion; & to deny the value of the Saviours blood.
(Erdman 117-18)
                                           The Laocoon
The Gods of Greece & Egypt were Mathematical Diagrams See Plato's
(Erdman 274; The Laocoon)
                   A Vision of the Last Judgment
[ Visions of Imagination] ought
to be known as Two Distinct Things & so calld for the Sake of
Eternal Life Plato has made Socrates say that Poets & Prophets do
not Know or Understand what they write or Utter this is a most
Pernicious Falshood.  If they do not pray is an inferior Kind to
be calld Knowing Plato confutes himself>
(Erdman 554)
The Gospel is Forgiveness of Sins & has No Moral Precepts
these belong to Plato & Seneca & Nero
(Erdman 619; Annotations to Watson)
Plato and Aristotle considered God as abstracted or
distinct from the natural  world.  But the Aegyptians considered
God and nature as making one whole, or all things together as
making one universe.
(Erdman 663; Annotations to Berkeley)
 What Jesus came to Remove was the Heathen or Platonic
Philosophy which blinds the Eye of Imagination The Real Man
( 664)
There is not one Moral Virtue that Jesus Inculcated but Plato &
Cicero did Inculcate before him what then did Christ Inculcate.
Forgiveness of Sins This alone is the Gospel & this is the Life &
Immortality brought to light by Jesus.
(Erdman 875)

Where I may oft outwatch the Bear
         With thrice great Hermes or unsphear
         The Spirit of Plato to unfold
         What Worlds or what vast regions hold
         The Immortal Mind that has forsook Its
         Mansion in this Fleshly nook
         And of those Spirits that are found
         In Fire.  Air.  Flood. & Underground</!WB>
    The Spirit of Plato unfolds his Worlds to Milton in
Contemplation. The Three destinies sit on the Circles of Platos
Heavens weaving the Thread of Mortal Life these Heavens are Venus
Jupiter & Mars, Hermes flies before as attending on the Heaven of
Jupiter the Great Bear is seen in the Sky beneath Hermes & The
Spirits of Fire.  Air.  Water & Earth Surround Miltons Chair
((Erdman 685) (See also this post.)

If you've looked over these places where Blake mentioned Plato, you've probably concluded that Blake in general took a dim view of Plato and Platonism. He thought it was instrumental in the inferior forms of religion, such as Deism.

But following 'Golgonooza' by Kathleen Raine we perceived that Urizen's cave bore much resemblance to Plato's cave. In both cases man was shut off from the Eternal Sun and confined to the five senses, which is to say that our lives are essentially sensual and purely materialistic, utterly lacking a spiritual consciousness.

In this particular Blake and Plato were closely akin. From this we may see that Blake's evaluation of Plato was ambivalent.

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