Illustrations to Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress
Christian Reading His Book
Quoting from page 59 of Norvig's book on Blake's Illustrations to The Pilgrims Progress:
"But life as it is here and now can be known to be 'infinite and holy' as soon as distinctions between body and soul, medium and message, 'sensual enjoyment' and spiritual understanding, are recognized as expendable. Achieving such a visionary perspective is clearly not a matter of wresting a precept from an image. On the contrary, Blake's whole effort spent on encouraging trust in the immanent wisdom of observable form. For him, things are literally 'metaphors' of vision, designed to 'carry over' the imaginal archetypes they embody or express. One's attitude toward things, as toward the process of embodiment or ensouling, may need correction; but the problem is perceptual not ontological. So the 'infernal method' of etching on copper is intended to exemplify and to involve the participant in a process of sudden apprehension of surface truth, an apprehension that carries the certitude of revelation and no need of 'corporeal' explication. Just the reverse of Bunyan's formal strategy of recession, it reflects a coming-forth procedure. Every encounter with Blake's acid-forged forms is meant as a mutual epiphany, a friendship through the eye on the plane of appearance, between the deep structures of the spectator's psyche and the content displayed. The pun on the word apparent, in the phrase 'melting apparent surfaces away,' tells the story. For Blake real surfaces were made apparent (visible) by the elimination of apparent (seeming) surfaces. But the images of truth do not hide as ideas behind a false appearance in his conception, nor do they exist in contradiction to 'apparent surfaces.' Rather, Blake makes his vision of the infinite lift out of the everyday by emphatically affirming their concrete substantiality. Through the 'infernal method,' his printed language of forms - visual and verbal combined - a spiritual body is literally raised. There is a concept of redemption here, both of the spirit and of the body, both of the form and of the inward meaning - the 'infernal state' - of the form."
Jerusalem, Plate 32 , (E 179)
"Art & Science cannot exist but by Naked Beauty displayd Then those in Great Eternity who contemplate on Death Said thus. What seems to Be: Is: To those to whom It seems to Be, & is productive of the most dreadful Consequences to those to whom it seems to Be: even of Torments, Despair, Eternal Death; but the Divine Mercy Steps beyond and Redeems Man in the Body of Jesus Amen And Length Bredth Highth again Obey the Divine Vision Hallelujah" Marriage of Heaven & Hell, Plate 14, (E 39) "The ancient tradition that the world will be consumed in fire at the end of six thousand years is true. as I have heard from Hell. For the cherub with his flaming sword is hereby commanded to leave his guard at the tree of life, and when he does, the whole creation will be consumed, and appear infinite. and holy whereas it now appears finite & corrupt. This will come to pass by an improvement of sensual enjoyment. But first the notion that man has a body distinct from his soul, is to be expunged; this I shall do, by printing in the infernal method, by corrosives, which in Hell are salutary and medicinal, melting apparent surfaces away, and displaying the infinite which was hid. If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is: infinite. For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things thro' narrow chinks of his cavern. Plate 15 A Memorable Fancy I was in a Printing house in Hell & saw the method in which knowledge is transmitted from generation to generation. In the first chamber was a Dragon-Man, clearing away the rubbish from a caves mouth; within, a number of Dragons were hollowing the cave, In the second chamber was a Viper folding round the rock & the cave, and others adorning it with gold silver and precious stones. In the third chamber was an Eagle with wings and feathers of air, he caused the inside of the cave to be infinite, around were numbers of Eagle like men, who built palaces in the immense cliffs. In the fourth chamber were Lions of flaming fire raging around & melting the metals into living fluids. In the fifth chamber were Unnam'd forms, which cast the metals into the expanse. There they were reciev'd by Men who occupied the sixth chamber, and took the forms of books & were arranged in libraries." Post on Printing House.