Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Blake's Vision of Christian

Blake was a dissenter.  His parents (at times) were Swedenborgians.  As a
young man he flirted with Swedenborg, but found him wanting.

                       Opposition is True Friendship

PLATE 21 of Marriage of Heaven and Hell (erdman 41-2)
  I have always found that Angels have the vanity to speak of
themselves as the only wise; this they do with a confident
insolence sprouting from systematic reasoning:
  Thus Swedenborg boasts that what he writes is new; tho' it
is only the Contents or Index of already publish'd books
  A man carried a monkey about for a shew, & because he was a
little wiser than the monkey, grew vain, and conciev'd himself as much
wiser than seven men.  It is so with Swedenborg; he shews the
folly of churches & exposes hypocrites, till he imagines that all
are religious. & himself the single [PL 22] One on earth that
ever broke a net.
Now hear a plain fact: Swedenborg has not written one new
truth: Now hear another: he has written all the old falshoods....
And now hear the reason.  He conversed with Angels who are
all religious, & conversed not with Devils who all hate religion,
for he was incapable thro' his conceited notions.
Thus Swedenborgs writings are a recapitulation of all
superficial opinions, and an analysis of the more sublime, but no
Have now another plain fact: Any man of mechanical talents
may from the writings of Paracelsus or Jacob Behmen, produce ten
thousand volumes of equal value with Swedenborg's.
and from those of Dante or Shakespear, an infinite number.
But when he has done this, let him not say that he knows
better than his master, for he only holds a candle in sunshine.

Blake's values had a close affinity with Quakerism, but certain features of late
18th Century Quakerism were repellent.  Like all Christian denominations the
earliest quakers were most often from the lower classes.  But like Wesley said,
they got religion, quit their foolishness, saved their money, got rich, and like all
rich people exploited the poor.

Like Quakers Blake had mixed feelings about Wesley, who lived until 1791, when Blake was 
 35. Wesley had an orthodox theology, but wasn't able to preach in orthodox churches.  
 Blake was much more radical in his religious views; nevertheless he admired Wesley from a 
distance.  He used 'Westley' in Plate 22 and 23 of Milton:

But then I [Rintrah] 
rais'd up Whitefield, Palamabron raisd up Westley,    
And these are the cries of the Churches before the two 
     Witnesses[']                                               t
Faith in God the dear Saviour who took on the likeness of men:
Becoming obedient to death, even the death of the Cross
The Witnesses lie dead in the Street of the Great City
No Faith is in all the Earth: the Book of God is trodden under 
He sent his two Servants Whitefield & Westley; were they Prophets
Or were they Idiots or Madmen? shew us Miracles!
PLATE 23 [25]
Can you have greater Miracles than these? Men who devote
Their lifes whole comfort to intire scorn & injury & death
And in Jerusalem Plate 52 (Erdman 201) he wrote
Your Religion O Deists: Deism, is the Worship of the God
of this World by the means of what you call Natural Religion and
Natural Philosophy, and of Natural Morality or
Self-Righteousness, the Selfish Virtues of the Natural Heart. 
This was the Religion of the Pharisees who murderd Jesus.  Deism
is the same & ends in the same.
  Voltaire Rousseau Gibbon Hume. charge the Spiritually Religious
with Hypocrisy! but how a Monk or a Methodist either, can be a
Hypocrite: I cannot concieve. 
Blake disagreed with much that's considered 'Christian'. He
thought chastity was not a virtue.  It's said that in his early marriage days
he proposed taking a concubine,  but desisted when it made
his wife cry. Actually he and Catherine lived together faithfully
until his death.

Whereas salvation is conventionally thought to come by faith
in Christ, he thought salvation came when one forgives.

‘And throughout all Eternity
I forgive you, you forgive me.
As our dear Redeemer said:
“This the Wine, and this the Bread.”’
(Erdman 476)

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