For the Sexes: The Gates of Paradise
Plate 21, Epilogue
This is an extract (5) from Chapter Five (GOD) of Ram Horn'd With Gold by Larry Clayton.
With idols no longer possible what's left to worship? The answer depends upon your experience. With all the idols gone the true God remains, for those who can meet him. For others the highest possible is the Human Form, and here Blake settled before he came to see Jesus as God. He began by worshiping the Human Form, the Highest and Best Imaginable, and in 1800 he recognized this Highest and Best in Jesus. In terms of conventional theology Blake was a humanist before he became a committed Christian. In "The Marriage of Heaven and Hell' he loudly proclaimed his humanism: "God only Acts and Is, in existing beings or Men". And a few pages later:
The worship of God is: "Honouring his gifts in other men, each according to his genius, and loving the greatest men best: those who envy or calumniate great men hate God; for there is no other God."
According to Kathleen Raine it was "the central doctrine of the Swedenborgian New Church that God can only be known in human form". Blake illustrated this with his quatrain at the end of "Auguries of Innocence":
"God Appears and God is Light
To those poor Souls who dwell in Night,
But does a Human Form Display
To those who Dwell in Realms of day."
Finally in his "Annotations to Berkeley's Siris", which he read about 1820, he wrote "God is Man and exists in us and we in him". He was still a humanist, but his humanism had gained a strong Christian dimension. Blake's argument against the conventional images of God, from beginning to end, hinged upon their sub-human nature. The biblical writers frequently ascribed to their God attitudes and behaviour beneath the moral level of any self respecting human. God cannot be less than man; therefore the appropriate response to such an image is derision, especially in the face of the common credulous awe.
The spiritually open person, free of the common credulous awe and capable of a clear eyed gaze at the Bible, no longer finds it possible to view all the biblical images as portraying a God worthy of worship. Furthermore when one looks freely at the actions of political and religious leaders of Christendom of the past 2000 years, it becomes clear that they were often worshipping something other than the true God. Finally the actions and attitudes of our contemporaries and even our own point to domination by a vision that is something less than the Highest and Best. In his poetry Blake documents these three observations with voluminous detail. They led to his ultimate evaluation of the universal false God. The name he settled upon is refreshingly biblical and authentic:
For the Sexes: The Gates of Paradise, Plate 21, (E 269)
"To the Accuser, who is
The God of this World
Tho' thou art Worship'd by the Names Divine
Of Jesus and Jehovah, thou art still
The Son of Morn1 in weary Night's decline,
The Lost Traveller's1 Dream under the Hill."
Jesus had said it a long time before: "Why call ye me Lord, Lord...."
God of this World
Who is the God of this World? He is the God of those whose life is based upon the physical senses and centered in material existence, in this world. They provide for themselves now because there is no Other. They use law and power for their own advantage at the expense of others and consider that to be the nature of reality. These are the worshippers of the God of this World. In the end nothing could be more authentically biblical.
Once he began to focus upon the God of this World, Blake found in the Bible much positive information: he masquerades as an angel of light; he tempts; he accuses. "We do not find anywhere that Satan is accused of sin. He is only accused of Unbelief and thereby drawing man into sin that he may accuse him." Satan is particularly attached to the rulers of the world--economic, political, and ecclesiastical--and they to him. He is "Worshiped as God by the Mighty Ones of the Earth" (Jerusalem 29:18). They naturally regard him as God because their faithfulness to his values and methods has led them to great prosperity.
But in Satan's kingdom more basic than oppressive power is fear and timidity. Northrup Frye explains: "The morally good man tries to obey an external God instead of bringing out the God in himself. The external God [is] only the shadow of Caesar." Tyranny is only possible because men are willing victims. That's why the flaming rebel has such an important place in the renewal of life .
Interpreters have greatly misunderstood the role of Satan in Blake's structure of thought because he used the image of the devil to represent two different things. The Satan of 'Paradise Lost' was a flaming rebel against a ridiculous God, and in MHH Blake ironically identified himself with this devil and even claimed that Milton belonged to the devil's party without knowing it.
But the God of this World is an altogether sinister image. The devils of MHH represent fiery creativity. The God of this World opposes creativity of every sort in favor of rigid obedience to the powers that be. They are his powers. A lineal descendant of Urizen, he claims everything he can touch for Eternal Death.
Blake's reversal of symbols is admittedly confusing. But then everyone has or should take the freedom to change his values and symbols as he goes through life. Actually in the course of his development as a poet and thinker Blake used 'Satan' with a variety of meanings. The God of this World is a less ambiguous term. It connotes Deceiver, Tempter, Perverter, Accuser, Killer. The God of this World is the God of Eternal Death.
The third temptation of Jesus in the wilderness was to fall down and worship the God of this World. Had he succumbed, the Jews would have had their political messiah, and the spiritual history of the world would have been different. The story of this temptation is a critical element in Blake's system of thought. He doesn't apply it to the historical Jesus so much; he applies it to the members of Christ.
When a pilgrim sets out to pursue the narrow path, his primary problem remains the temptation to worship the God of this World. With great interest Blake watched the careers of his fellow men as they met and responded to that moment. 'The Four Zoas', as its biblical superscription suggests, is largely devoted to wrestling against the rulers of the darkness of this world. In CHAPTER ONE we saw how Blake's life may be interpreted in terms of this fundamental psychic and spiritual event.
The Felpham Moment represented the ultimate level of the problem posed to him. Blake knew that Hayley was his friend and wished him well. But at Felpham he came to realize that life offers us two kinds of friends. "Corporeal friends are spiritual enemies." A corporeal friend may offer you the world and take your soul. Hayley was Blake's corporeal friend; he wanted for him the best that he knew; he wanted to help him make his way in the world!
Hayley was a worldling; he knew nothing of the Realms of day. His corporeal friendship was eternally dangerous to his protege. As a matter of fact he had sponsored Godwin, before that spiritually oriented poet went crazy. It took Blake a while to work all this out, but when he did, the whole problem of God became clear. The God of this World was clarified, named, cast into the lake, and soon thereafter the Divine Vision came to him with power. We have already quoted Blake's eloquent poetic description of the event:
Jerusalem, Plate 37 , (E 184)
"Each man is in his Spectre's power
Until the arrival of that Hour
When his Humanity awake
And cast his Spectre into the lake."
In the circumstances of the Felpham visit Hayley incarnated to Blake the Spectre, the God of this World--not Hayley the man, but Hayley the spiritual principle who had acted upon Blake at his point of weakness to take his soul. Hayley the man was simply a fellow sufferer whom Blake continued to encourage through the years ahead, but what he had represented in Blake's mind, the smiling worldling, no longer had influence upon Blake's life. The Spectre was cast into the lake.
The Spectre is the individual internal form of Satan or the God of this World. Another name for him is the Selfhood. He is the internal egocentric principle that causes a man to see himself over against the rest of humanity. In his poem, 'Milton', Blake makes this identity clear with the words of Milton at the conclusion of the "Bard's Song", which has been devoted to an elaborate description of how Satan arises and acts in human life: "I in my Selfhood am that Satan: I am that Evil One!/ He is my Spectre!"
The Job series shows more eloquently than any words could how the conventional idea of God, a part of a man's psyche, eventually proves to be satanic. Job, a ruler of the world, comes to recognize that his God is satanic, passes through a spiritual death, and is reborn with a clarified vision. That's Job's story and Blake's story and everyman's story.
The gospel truth reveals that the satanic God of this World, our Spectre, our Selfhood, will die, and the Divine Image in us will rise to meet the true God in the Realms of day. The theology here is a composite of Job and Revelation. Blake's life and work both attest that the way in which the satanic God dies is through our becoming aware of him. Blake strove to do this consciously as an artist through what he called "building Golgonooza", but the Moment of Grace for him as always was not something that he did, but something that happened to him when he had made himself ready.