Small Book of Designs
Copy A, Plate 11
This is an extract from Chapter Four (FAITH) of Ram Horn'd With Gold by Larry Clayton.
"Whosoever of you are justified by the law: ye are fallen from grace" Galatians 5:4
Just as he redefined hell, so Blake redefined sin. The only sin for Blake in hindering, oneself or another: "Murder is Hindering Another, Theft is Hindering Another." To subvert one's individuality is the sin against the Holy Spirit. "He who desires but acts not, breeds pestilence".
The responsibility for hindering another falls upon the Lawmaker and Enforcer, who has polluted life with his prohibitions: "over the doors Thou shalt not" (EUROPE, a Prophecy, 12.28; Erdman 64). One could say that Blake took Paul's letters to the Romans and to the Galatians too seriously. Luther had taken those epistles seriously enough to throw off the Roman yoke. Blake took them more radically and threw off the mosaic yoke--as Paul had suggested.
Paul had identified the Law with the flesh and opposed it with the Spirit. Our poet took with utmost seriousness these stirring passages calling the Christian to freedom from the Law. He didn't have the benefit of the 'interpretations' of such ideas afforded by the educational process. Sin stems from our ideas of morality, which Blake called hindering. When we presume to know what someone else should or must do, we have entered the state of Caiaphas, the Pharisee, who crucified Jesus, but "was in his own Mind/a benefactor to Mankind."
We lay down the law to another--our law--and thus violate the other's nature: "One law for the Lion and Ox is Oppression". We tell him what to do, and then we use the power of the Accuser, the God of this World, to compel him to do it and to punish him for his failures. This is sin, the way life happens in Ulro. As we have seen, Blake didn't call it life, he called it Eternal Death. Paul had said, "The wages of sin is death but the gift of God is eternal life."
The categories of sin and righteousness divide mankind. The division often proceeds to the point of physical violence. Corporeal war always rests upon a base of self righteousness and condemnation of the sins of the enemy. Religion too often allies itself with those attitudes and their violent results. Long before the peaceniks of the sixties Blake said in effect, "Make love, not war!" He said it at great length in dozens of different ways. He saw war as the ultimate end of hindering another. In the Book of Urizen we read how Urizen, the great Lawgiver (who lives in all of us!) discovers that none of his children can obey his laws, "for he saw that no flesh nor spirit could keep His iron laws one moment" (Cf There is none righteous, no, not one).
Annotations to Lavater, (E 601)
"Every mans leading propensity ought to be calld his leading Virtue & his good Angel But the Philosophy of Causes & Consequences misled Lavater as it has all his contemporaries. Each thing is its own cause & its own effect Accident is the omission of act in self & the hindering of act in another, This is Vice but all Act from Individual propensity is Virtue. To hinder another is not an act it is the contrary it is a restraint on action both in ourselves & in the person hinderd. for he who hinders another omits his own duty. at the time Murder is Hindering Another Theft is Hindering Another Backbiting. Undermining Circumventing & whatever is Negative is Vice But the origin of this mistake in Lavater & his contemporaries, is, They suppose that Womans Love is Sin. in consequence all the Loves & Graces with them are Sin."
So we see that Blake opposed the idea of sin; he opposed morality; he opposed Law. Paradoxically Blake lived a very law abiding life. Only such a person can afford the luxury of antinomianism without losing his integrity. For example Blake despised the marriage laws--and lived as a faithful and dutiful husband for forty years. But beyond the surface absurdities of his anarchism Blake tells us something profound about life: Goodness cannot be compelled; goodness grows only in a context of freedom. "To the pure all things are pure". Blake was basically pure; one of his mottoes was "everything that lives is holy". That in itself would have been enough to make him famous.
If we can suspend our judgments about people's conduct and stop tormenting ourselves because of our failures to do the good which we have laid upon ourselves, if we can accept what we have called bad, but which may be simply disowned facets of our true nature, in Blake's terminology if we can forgive, then we can put sin behind us and receive the gift of eternal life. Blake, drinking deeply from the primary fountains of scripture, intuitively expressed these universal truths in poetic terms. One hundred years later Jung came along and clothed them with the respectability of a scientific jargon.
From what has been said it is obvious that Blake didn't believe in Sin as it is commonly understood: "Satan thinks that Sin is displeasing to God; he ought to know that Nothing is displeasing to God but Unbelief & Eating of the Tree of Knowledge of Good & Evil". Jerusalem, Blake's symbol of the redeemed and pure consciousness, speaking to Vala, his symbol of the fallen mind, expressed Blake's candid evaluation of Sin as such: "Oh Vala...what is sin but a little error & fault that is soon forgiven?" (Jerusalem, 20.22; E165)
Vision of Last Judgment, (E 654)
as he came at first to deliver those who were bound under the
Knave not to deliver
the Knave He Comes to Deliver Man the [Forgiven] Accused & not Satan the Accuser we do not find any where that Satan is Accused of Sin
he is only accused of Unbelief & thereby drawing Man into Sin
that he may accuse him. Such is the Last Judgment a Deliverance from Satans Accusation Satan thinks that Sin is displeasing to God he ought to know that Nothing is displeasing to God but Unbelief & Eating of the Tree of Knowledge of Good & Evil
Men are admitted into Heaven not because they have
curbed & governd their Passions or have No Passions but because they have Cultivated their Understandings. The Treasures of Heaven are not Negations of Passion but Realities of Intellect from which All the Passions Emanate Uncurbed in their Eternal Glory The Fool
shall not enter into Heaven let him be ever so Holy. Holiness is not The Price of Enterance into Heaven Those who are cast out Are All Those who having no Passions of their own because No Intellect. Have spent their lives in Curbing & Governing other Peoples by the Various arts of Poverty & Cruelty of all kinds Wo Wo Wo to you Hypocrites"