Monday, June 25, 2018


British Museum
Copy A, Plate 41
This short section from Critical Essays on William Blake, edited by Hazard Adams, in the Afterword by Hazard Adams, prepares the way for reading about annihilation on Plate 39, of Milton.  

"Blake's world-view, therefore, can be characterized as symbolical, though symbolizing nothing existent (that would be allegory in his language), but what is yet to exist, desirable both individually and socially. This symbolized does not exist somewhere like Platonic form or idea. Blake's symbols do not have objects to which they refer or previous ideas which they signify. They are radical possibilities in themselves, without attachment to things in themselves. In this sense, Blake's world-view is not view but is itself a sort of world, a world of language and design which does not copy nature, he declares, but projects a 'vision.'" (Page 196)

In this critical passage from Milton we can recognize Blake's method of building a symbolic image through a process which is beyond description. Blake brings together elements which have been formulated through events which have occurred in varied settings among interrelated mental aspects. There is no attempt to define entities or specify processes. We are not asked to follow events in time or recall events in space. We are asked to experience in ourselves eternity being expressed.

Annihilation is not a process we should attempt to avoid. But, because it does not take place without a struggle, it is not entered into lightly. It is not foreknown what will be annihilated when one consents to annihilation. Blake's Milton struggled to reassemble his mental structure, his self-perception, the identity around which his Zoas were ordered. His emanation, Ololon, observed the process until she realized that she must be involved. If Milton eliminated the errors in his perception, the outward manifestation of those perceptions would be eliminated as well. Natural Religion could not survive without the thought patterns which gave it form. But if the expressions of Natural Religion were allowed to survive, the process which had been so painfully achieved would fail to achieve its goal.

Blake struggled to present his vision in such a way that it could penetrate the human psyche. He took as his example the ministry of Jesus whose vision was beyond the psychic development of his followers. Blake was aware that those who followed Jesus did not produce the transformed humanity which Jesus attempted to introduce. The failure was not of Vision but was an inability to transcend the attachment to habitual ways of acting. Blake knew that annihilation was not complete until it resulted in the destruction of outer forms as well as inner attitudes. 

Milton, Plate 39 [44], (E 141)
"Urizen faints in terror striving among the Brooks of Arnon
With Miltons Spirit: as the Plowman or Artificer or Shepherd
While in the labours of his Calling sends his Thought abroad 
To labour in the ocean or in the starry heaven. So Milton
Labourd in Chasms of the Mundane Shell, tho here before
My Cottage midst the Starry Seven, where the Virgin Ololon
Stood trembling in the Porch: loud Satan thunderd on the stormy Sea
Circling Albions Cliffs in which the Four-fold World resides     
Tho seen in fallacy outside: a fallacy of Satans Churches
Plate 40[46]
Before Ololon Milton stood & percievd the Eternal Form
Of that mild Vision; wondrous were their acts by me unknown
Except remotely; and I heard Ololon say to Milton

I see thee strive upon the Brooks of Arnon. there a dread
And awful Man I see, oercoverd with the mantle of years.   
I behold Los & Urizen. I behold Orc & Tharmas;
The Four Zoa's of Albion & thy Spirit with them striving
In Self annihilation giving thy life to thy enemies
Are those who contemn Religion & seek to annihilate it
Become in their Feminine portions the causes & promoters       
Of these Religions, how is this thing? this Newtonian Phantasm
This Voltaire & Rousseau: this Hume & Gibbon & Bolingbroke
This Natural Religion! this impossible absurdity
Is Ololon the cause of this? O where shall I hide my face
These tears fall for the little-ones: the Children of Jerusalem  
Lest they be annihilated in thy annihilation.

No sooner she had spoke but Rahab Babylon appeard
Eastward upon the Paved work across Europe & Asia
Glorious as the midday Sun in Satans bosom glowing:
A Female hidden in a Male, Religion hidden in War          
Namd Moral Virtue; cruel two-fold Monster shining bright
A Dragon red & hidden Harlot which John in Patmos saw

And all beneath the Nations innumerable of Ulro
Appeard, the Seven Kingdoms of Canaan & Five Baalim
Of Philistea. into Twelve divided, calld after the Names      
Of Israel: as they are in Eden. Mountain. River & Plain
City & sandy Desart intermingled beyond mortal ken

But turning toward Ololon in terrible majesty Milton
Replied. Obey thou the Words of the Inspired Man
All that can be annihilated must be annihilated"  

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