Wednesday, March 18, 2015


When Larry and I participated in the William Blake Yahoo Group several years ago we enjoyed the comments, advice, and encouragement of a fellow participant Clint Stevens. I would like to call to your attention Clint's publications which you may have access to on the internet. Clint's dissertation which earned him his Ph.D is available through ProQuest which may be provided by your academic institution.

Clint Stevens was awarded his Ph,D by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2009. His dissertation is titled Blake's buildings: Poetry and the reshaping of epistemology. The abstract of his paper reads:

"This study situates Blake within the epistemological crisis that signaled the end of the Enlightenment. During this time, a number of thinkers in Germany and England realized that an adequate theory of representation needed to include reflexivity: awareness of how our thinking shapes the objects perceived. Reflexivity in turn led to the argument that reality doesn't stand ready-made waiting for its interpreter. Instead, reality is composed by a dialogic interchange between multiple perceivers and their objects. Thus one of my main arguments is that Blake contrasts two modes of conceiving thought. The first sees thought standing before an independent and ultimately inscrutable reality that it strives to interpret. The second, represented by the figure of Jerusalem, represents thought as an activity that transforms the shape of reality by its performance---sending forth arrows of intellect and love to enlighten and transform the dim chaos on all sides around. By developing this and other related ways of representing thought, I demonstrate an emerging pluralism in Blake and that the nemesis of Blake's project is not false belief but self-righteousness---the belief that we have (or can have) access to the one true form of reality, which legitimates our desire to destroy or silence other worldviews in the name of truth. Blake's ideal is humane discourse, not truth. In this way, Blake can be read as a forerunner of a number of pragmatic and pluralistic writers including Ralph Waldo Emerson, William James and, more recently, Richard Rorty."

Clint Steven's article titled William Blake's Golgonooza and Jerusalem: a conversation in visionary forms dramatic appeared in European Romantic Review. (Vol. 20, No. 3, July 2009, 289307)

British Museum
Small Book of Designs
from Book of Urizen
Caption "Teach These Souls to Fly"
Stevens is demonstrating the alteration in consciousness which Blake advocated by studying the exchanges involving Jerusalem, the emanation of Albion, and Blake's spiritual fourfold London, Golgonooza. The figures of Golgonnoza as a object in space, and of Jerusalem as an activity which transforms thought by bringing forth love and forgiveness, are presented as two alternate ways of perceiving reality.

Stevens states:
"He wants to convince us to stop thinking that reality is something that exists apart from our thinking of it, something that exists out there, that we should strive to get right. In place of this kind of knowledge Blake advocates Jerusalem. There is nothing inscrutable about Jerusalem “not because of some essential quality it possesses“ but because Jerusalem is the activity that removes the inscrutable. Like a sculptor's work, Jerusalem isn't about discovering what's human in the inhuman, it's about giving the inhuman a human shape, awaking it to life."

In one of his early Illuminated Books, Visions of the Daughters of Albion, Blake presented the problem of discerning the source of the thoughts which occupy man. Theotormon, attempting to resolve his fears, resentments and insecurity, struggled with questions about the thoughts he couldn't control. He seemd to know that it is how things appeared to him that locked him into isolation and despair. He knew that he could not return to the 'joys of old', for he had not experienced Jerusalem which would transform his mind with the activities of love and forgiveness. 

Visions of the Daughters of Albion, Plate 3, (E 47)
"Then Theotormon broke his silence. and he answered.

Tell me what is the night or day to one o'erflowd with woe?
Tell me what is a thought? & of what substance is it made?
Tell me what is a joy? & in what gardens do joys grow?
And in what rivers swim the sorrows? and upon what mountains
Wave shadows of discontent? and in what houses dwell the wretched
Drunken with woe forgotten. and shut up from cold despair.

Tell me where dwell the thoughts forgotten till thou call them forth
Tell me where dwell the joys of old! & where the ancient loves?
And when will they renew again & the night of oblivion past? 

That I might traverse times & spaces far remote and bring
Comforts into a present sorrow and a night of pain
Where goest thou O thought? to what remote land is thy flight?
If thou returnest to the present moment of affliction
Wilt thou bring comforts on thy wings. and dews and honey and balm;  
Or poison from the desart wilds, from the eyes of the envier."
On Plate 98 of Jerusalem, Stevens finds the activity of Jerusalem delineated as it expands to incorporate all that Blake's Imagination had envisioned. Jerusalem brings forth the Humanity in every living creature because "God only Acts & Is, in existing beings or Men." (Marriage of Heaven & Hell, Plate 16)

Jerusalem, Plate 98, (E 257)
"The Four Living Creatures Chariots of Humanity Divine Incomprehensible
In beautiful Paradises expand These are the Four Rivers of Paradise   
And the Four Faces of Humanity fronting the Four Cardinal Points
Of Heaven going forward forward irresistible from Eternity to Eternity

And they conversed together in Visionary forms dramatic which bright
Redounded from their Tongues in thunderous majesty, in Visions
In new Expanses, creating exemplars of Memory and of Intellect  
Creating Space, Creating Time according to the wonders Divine
Of Human Imagination, throughout all the Three Regions immense
Of Childhood, Manhood & Old Age[;] & the all tremendous unfathomable Non Ens
Of Death was seen in regenerations terrific or complacent varying  
According to the subject of discourse & every Word & Every Character
Was Human according to the Expansion or Contraction, the Translucence or
Opakeness of Nervous fibres such was the variation of Time & Space
Which vary according as the Organs of Perception vary & they walked
To & fro in Eternity as One Man reflecting each in each & clearly seen
And seeing: according to fitness & order. And I heard Jehovah speak 
Terrific from his Holy Place & saw the Words of the Mutual Covenant Divine
On Chariots of gold & jewels with Living Creatures starry & flaming
With every Colour, Lion, Tyger, Horse, Elephant, Eagle Dove, Fly, Worm,
And the all wondrous Serpent clothed in gems & rich array Humanize
In the Forgiveness of Sins according to the Covenant of Jehovah."

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