Friday, March 07, 2014


Kay Parkhurst Easson and Roger R Easson wrote Milton, A Poem by William Blake in 1978. Unusual among Blake books, it contains all of the plates of Milton in color, a transcription of the text, and commentary on the poem. Used copies of the book are available at modest prices on the internet. 

The Eassons wrote of the mindset which alarmed Blake in the 18th century and is even more pervasive in the 21th century:

"Some of us are surprised to learn that the world beyond the body is uncertain, yet one of the basic tenets of Einstein and scientific methods after him is the impossibility of separating the observer from his observations. That is to say, our perception of events beyond the body is the result of our views about the nature of reality. Blake thought we become what we behold. For this reason, he set out to transform the relationship between the perceiver and perceived by guiding his reader on a journey of spiritual  discovery. It is important that we perceive not from the selfhood, that aggregated of biases, prejudices, and hypocrisies which in its dogmatic desire for control negates our potential and becomes our existence, but that we perceive within an attitude of surrender, thereby opening to worlds of eternity. Modern psychologists have catalogued at length the assumptions of orthodox Western psychology, the assumptions which often form the nature of the modern reader's self and its perceptions. The chief of these may be summarized as follows: a person is his body and nothing more; each person is isolated from all others, locked in his nervous system; consciousness is identical with the activity of the brain; death is the termination of human consciousness; a person perceives the physical world and obtains sensations from the internal operations of his body and nervous system; a person can trust his senses to inform him accurately of the physical world. It is crucial to reading Milton for us to understand that these assumptions of the modern world view were developed as a direct result of the scientific revolution of Blake's time, and that they are the assumptions underlying what may be called worship of the physical world or what Blake called Natural Religion...Those of us educated in this scientific  world view - who earn our livings through the advanced technologies of daily life - constantly dwell in an environment fabricated out of these assumptions." (Page 138-9)
New York Public Library
Plate 13

We no longer use the term Natural Religion to refer the world view in which each individual is a self-contained consciousness, with his sensory perception as the way that the world communicates with his mind. We have so assimilated this world view that it now goes by the name reality. If we can learn from Blake, we will change the assumptions which we make about ourselves, the world and God. We will see ourselves not as a body but as an eternal spirit, we will see the world as one interconnected system comprised of all mankind and nature, we will see God not as distant from us in time and space but as ever present and everywhere.

Milton, Plate 24 [15], (E 108)
Then there was great murmuring in the Heavens of Albion
Concerning Generation & the Vegetative power & concerning        
The Lamb the Saviour: Albion trembled to Italy Greece & Egypt
To Tartary & Hindostan & China & to Great America
Shaking the roots & fast foundations of the Earth in doubtfulness
The loud voic'd Bard terrify'd took refuge in Miltons bosom

Then Milton rose up from the heavens of Albion ardorous!         
The whole Assembly wept prophetic, seeing in Miltons face
And in his lineaments divine the shades of Death & Ulro
He took off the robe of the promise, & ungirded himself from the oath of God

And Milton said, I go to Eternal Death! The Nations still
Follow after the detestable Gods of Priam; in pomp               
Of warlike selfhood, contradicting and blaspheming.
When will the Resurrection come; to deliver the sleeping body
From corruptibility: O when Lord Jesus wilt thou come?
Tarry no longer; for my soul lies at the gates of death.
I will arise and look forth for the morning of the grave.       
I will go down to the sepulcher to see if morning breaks!
I will go down to self annihilation and eternal death,
Lest the Last Judgment come & find me unannihilate
And I be siez'd & giv'n into the hands of my own Selfhood"

Milton, Plate 39 [44], (E 142)
"The Negation must be destroyd to redeem the Contraries
The Negation is the Spectre; the Reasoning Power in Man
This is a false Body: an Incrustation over my Immortal           
Spirit; a Selfhood, which must be put off & annihilated alway
To cleanse the Face of my Spirit by Self-examination.
Plate 41 [48]
To bathe in the Waters of Life; to wash off the Not Human
I come in Self-annihilation & the grandeur of Inspiration
To cast off Rational Demonstration by Faith in the Saviour
To cast off the rotten rags of Memory by Inspiration
To cast off Bacon, Locke & Newton from Albions covering          
To take off his filthy garments, & clothe him with Imagination
To cast aside from Poetry, all that is not Inspiration"

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