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Detail from Jerusalem Plate 59
Northrop Frey's Fearful Symmetry never fails to yield insight into the intricacies of Blake complex imagery. On Page 381, he states:
"Most of the references to clothing in the Bible represent the transparent 'net' which the fallen world flings around us, woven by Vala, who also weaves armor of conflict, shells of stupidity, or coverings of concealment and shame like the fig-leaves of Adam and Eve.
On the other hand, the 'seamless garment' of the cross and the linen clothes abandoned by Jesus in his tomb represent the imagination's escape from this through another power, of which Blake gives us a glimpse in his remarkable picture of the solicitous Fates in Plate 59. This is the power of seeing the physical appearance as the covering of the mental reality, yet not so much concealing its shape so much as revealing it in a fallen aspect, and so not the clothing but the body or form of the mental world, through a physical and therefore fallen body or form. If we try to visualize this development of the 'clothing' symbol, we get something more like a mirror, a surface which reveals reality in fewer dimensions that it actually has.
The world in which we live therefore contains a 'heaven' or imaginative world in which all natural objects have a mental significance, and a 'hell' or Ulro in which the same natural objects have an opposite significance. The latter is thus a parody or mirror-image, a Vegetable Glass as Blake calls it, of the world of mental reality."
Larry's annotation on this passage - "For now we look through a glass darkly."
First Corinthians 13
 Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away.
 For we know in part, and we prophesy in part.
 But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.
 When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.
 For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.
 And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.
JB Phillips Translation
For the Word that God speaks is alive and active; it cuts more keenly than any two-edged sword: it strikes through to the place where soul and spirit meet, to the innermost intimacies of a man's being: it exposes the very thoughts and motives of a man's heart. No creature has any cover from the sight of God; everything lies naked and exposed before the eyes of him with whom we have to do.
Methodist Communion Liturgy
“Almighty God, unto whom all hearts are open, all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hid: cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of thy Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love thee, and worthily magnify thy holy name: through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”
|Library of Congress|
Unfortunately mankind seems to see the turmoil around him as real, and the world of peace, joy, faith, love and hope as an illusion beyond his grasp. One of Blake's great gifts to us is his images, visual and verbal, of a world more sharp, well defined and inviting than the blurry world mediated to us by our five senses.
In this image we see Milton removing the garment which obscures his ability to see in order that he may enter the world of Vision.
Jerusalem, Plate 16, (E 161) "In Enitharmons Halls builded by Los & his mighty Children All things acted on Earth are seen in the bright Sculptures of Los's Halls & every Age renews its powers from these Works With every pathetic story possible to happen from Hate or Wayward Love & every sorrow & distress is carved here Every Affinity of Parents Marriages & Friendships are here In all their various combinations wrought with wondrous Art All that can happen to Man in his pilgrimage of seventy years Such is the Divine Written Law of Horeb & Sinai: And such the Holy Gospel of Mount Olivet & Calvary:"
Jerusalem, Plate 59, (E 209) "in the midst of these Is Built eternally the sublime Universe of Los & Enitharmon And in the North Gate, in the West of the North. toward Beulah Cathedrons Looms are builded. and Los's Furnaces in the South A wondrous golden Building immense with ornaments sublime Is bright Cathedrons golden Hall, its Courts Towers & Pinnacles And one Daughter of Los sat at the fiery Reel & another Sat at the shining Loom with her Sisters attending round Terrible their distress & their sorrow cannot be utterd And another Daughter of Los sat at the Spinning Wheel Endless their labour, with bitter food. void of sleep, Tho hungry they labour: they rouze themselves anxious Hour after hour labouring at the whirling Wheel Many Wheels & as many lovely Daughters sit weeping Yet the intoxicating delight that they take in their work Obliterates every other evil; none pities their tears Yet they regard not pity & they expect no one to pity For they labour for life & love, regardless of any one But the poor Spectres that they work for, always incessantly They are mockd, by every one that passes by. they regard not They labour; & when their Wheels are broken by scorn & malice They mend them sorrowing with many tears & afflictions. Other Daughters Weave on the Cushion & Pillow, Network fine That Rahab & Tirzah may exist & live & breathe & love Ah, that it could be as the Daughters of Beulah wish! Other Daughters of Los, labouring at Looms less fine Create the Silk-worm & the Spider & the Catterpiller To assist in their most grievous work of pity & compassion And others Create the wooly Lamb & the downy Fowl To assist in the work: the Lamb bleats: the Sea-fowl cries Men understand not the distress & the labour & sorrow That in the Interior Worlds is carried on in fear & trembling Weaving the shuddring fears & loves of Albions Families Thunderous rage the Spindles of iron. & the iron Distaff Maddens in the fury of their hands, Weaving in bitter tears The Veil of Goats-hair & Purple & Scarlet & fine twined Linen"
Blake also provided images of the self-destructive world, enamored with its own Selfhood, opposed to receiving Imaginative Vision, it sees with astonishment the consequences of the failures of consciousness in which it engages.
Visions of Last Judgment, (E 558) "beneath these is the Seat of the Harlot namd Mystery in the Revelations. She is [bound] siezed by Two Beings each with three heads they Represent Vegetative Existence. as it is written in Revelations they strip her naked & burn her with fire it represents the Eternal Consummation of Vegetable Life & Death with its Lusts The wreathed Torches in their hands represents Eternal Fire which is the fire of Generation or Vegetation it is an Eternal Consummation Those who are blessed with Imaginative Vision see This Eternal Female & tremble at what others fear not while they laugh at what others fear Her Kings & Councellors & Warriors descend in Flames Lamenting & looking upon her in astonishment & Terror. & Hell is opend beneath her Seat on the Left hand. beneath her feet is a flaming Cavern in which is seen the Great Red Dragon with Seven heads & ten Horns he has Satans book of Accusations lying on the rock open before him"