Monday, August 05, 2013


Marriage of Heaven & Hell
 Plate 16, copy H

In his preface to The Great Divorce, C. S. Lewis cites Blake's The Marriage of Heaven and Hell as representing the position that the division between good and evil can be bridged. Lewis admits that he may not know what Blake's work means but he warns against "embrace[ing] the false and disastrous converse and fancy that everything is good and everywhere is Heaven."

Many would agree that Blake was attempting to shake up the system in The Marriage of Heaven and Hell but few would think that he proposed "to turn evil into good" by "mere development or adjustment or refinement." Blake is urging his readers to reconsider conventional thought: to look from the perspective of the Devil as well as the Angel. He is convinced  that the Devourer (reason) has kept the Prolific (energy) in chains long enough. Liberty can emerge from the bonds of tyranny, commandments, institutional religion, and sexual repression.

On page 69 of The Great Divorce, Lewis expresses his attitude about the permanence of heaven and hell in this passage addressed to himself by his spiritual teacher George MacDonald:
"Both processes begin even before death. The good man's past begins to change so that his forgiven sins and remembered sorrows take on the quality of Heaven; the bad man's past already conforms to his badness and is filled only with dreariness. And that is why, at the end of all things, when the sun rises here and the twilight turns to blackness down there, the Blessed will say "We have never lived  anywhere except in Heaven," and the Lost, "We were always in Hell. "And both will speak truly.'"

The difference between Lewis and Blake results from their attitudes toward universal salvation. Lewis believes that the sinner will go to hell unless he reverses his course and rejects his sin. Blake believes that 'Everything that lives is Holy' and that error will be annihilated so that all human forms may be gathered into the final harvest of Souls.
Jerusalem, Plate 99, (E 257)
"All Human Forms identified even Tree Metal Earth & Stone. all
Human Forms identified, living going forth & returning wearied
Into the Planetary lives of Years Months Days & Hours reposing
And then Awaking into his Bosom in the Life of Immortality.
And I heard the Name of their Emanations they are named Jerusalem"

Milton, Plate 25 [27], (E 121)
"And Los stood & cried to the Labourers of the Vintage in voice of awe.

Fellow Labourers! The Great Vintage & Harvest is now upon Earth
The whole extent of the Globe is explored: Every scatterd Atom
Of Human Intellect now is flocking to the sound of the Trumpet
All the Wisdom which was hidden in caves & dens, from ancient    
Time; is now sought out from Animal & Vegetable & Mineral

The Awakener is come. outstretchd over Europe! the Vision of God is fulfilled
The Ancient Man upon the Rock of Albion Awakes,"

Jerusalem, Plate 31 [35], (E 177)
"Then the Divine hand found the Two Limits, Satan and Adam,
In Albions bosom: for in every Human bosom those Limits stand.
And the Divine voice came from the Furnaces, as multitudes without
Number! the voices of the innumerable multitudes of Eternity.
And the appearance of a Man was seen in the Furnaces;            
Saving those who have sinned from the punishment of the Law,
(In pity of the punisher whose state is eternal death,)
And keeping them from Sin by the mild counsels of his love."

Jerusalem, Plate 45 [31], (E 194)
"What shall I do! what could I do, if I could find these Criminals
I could not dare to take vengeance; for all things are so constructed    
And builded by the Divine hand, that the sinner shall always escape,
And he who takes vengeance alone is the criminal of Providence;
If I should dare to lay my finger on a grain of sand
In way of vengeance; I punish the already punishd: O whom
Should I pity if I pity not the sinner who is gone astray!"  
Paul in Romans 12 advises us to:
[21] Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.

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