Thursday, March 22, 2012

William Blake Class - 10 (Urizen continues)

[Allen, recapitulates from previous class]: I think we were somewhere around Chapter VII of (The Book of) Urizen. Orc has been born, the babe Orc, falling from Heaven on page 202 of the Illuminated works (and on page 203, we had Los, now looking more like Urizen, chains growing out of his body, staring down jealously at revolutionary young Orc, Urizen, at this point, is all wakened up, and by the cries - "The dead heard the voice of the child,/And began to wake from sleep,/All things heard the voice of the child,/And began to waken to life."
And Plate 228 on page 204 of the Illuminated, might show Urizen waking (among the other things he's doing, he's waking there) - " And Urizen, craving with hunger,/Stung with the odours of nature,/Explored his dens around/ He formed a line and a plummet/ To divide the abyss beneath;/He formed a dividing rule;/ He formed scales to weigh;/He formed massy weights;/He formed a brazen quadrant;/He formed golden compasses/And began to explore the abyss/And he planted the garden of fruits" - We had gotten up to that. That's actually the Garden of Eden. The "garden of fruits" - that's where Blake is paralleling Genesis. Since he's forming lines, plummets, compasses, divisions, the prosody here is kind of funny again, because it's that anapestic trimeter, and Blake becomes very conscious of being playful now with his fixed meter - "He formed a line and a plummet" - duh-dah-duh-dah-duh-duh-dah-dah. Duh-duh-dah-duh-duh-dah-duh-dah. Duh-dah-dah-duh-dah. Duh-dah-dah-duh-dah. - "He formed a line and a plummet/ To divide the abyss beneath;/He formed a dividing rule;/ He formed scales to weigh;/He formed massy weights;/He formed a brazen quadrant;/He formed golden compasses" - It gives one or two examples of "duh-dah-duh-duh-dah-duh-dah", and then "duh-dom-bom-buh-dah". Creating the hammer-strokes to create the universe - bom-bom-buh-dah -"He formed massy weights". So the prosody, when it gets to this "massy weight", gets less light, but, actually, gets like the hammer-blows, echoing the old hammer-blows of Los, but actually it's just Urizen getting his architectural structure in order and Blake architects the syllables in an interesting way right there,
So (as) Harold Bloom points out, he planted a Garden of Eden (Bloom also says that this (here) is a parody of Genesis). The other day, we were talking about what was Genesis, what actually happened in Genesis, so (today) we have a Bible here - the seven stages of Genesis (just to see if they relate at all) - Do you want to read that? Just the...

Student [reads from the Bible] - "In the beginning of Creation when God made heaven and earth, the earth was out of form and void with darkness over the face of the abyss and a mighty wind that swept over the surface of the waters. God said, "Let there be light," and there was light. God saw that the light was good and he separated light from darkness. He called the light day and the darkness night and that was the first day. And then the second day..."

AG: So what would that be? form? that first part..

Student: Light, and it looks like just light and dark - darkness from the void. "And then the second (day)..Let there be a vault between the waters to separate water from water. And God called the vault heaven. The third day, let the waters of heaven be gathered into one place so that dry land may appear. The fourth day, let there be light in the vault of heaven to separate day from night and let them serve as signs both for festivals and for seasons and years. And that includes stars. The fifth day, let the waters teem with countless living creatures and let birds fly above the earth across the vault of heaven. The sixth day, let the earth bring forth living creatures according to their kind - cattle, reptiles, and wild animals, all according to their kind. Let us make man in our image and likeness to rule the fish in the sea, the birds of heaven, the cattle, all wild animals on earth and all reptiles that crawl upon the earth. And then on the seventh day, he rested."

AG: I don't know then whether there is any precise correlation. You can see just somewhat (of) a parody or satire. I don't like the word "satire", that Bloom uses, but there is, at least, a parallel, and Blake is taking off from that. Bloom, who is somewhat of a Urizonic intellectual, who's correlated every possible reference, sees it as (a) satire. And I was thinking about it the other day, and it does look like it is, maybe, a very grotesque.. maybe (the Book of) Urizen is just an English send-up, or satire, of "The Book of Genesis" - satire, from the point of view of really putting-down the notion of a Jehovaic central authoritarian figure. My own reading was that it was Blake's serious somber Beethoven-ian (intelligence) showing how the principle of Reason would create a universe around itself, going to complete excess and dragging everything with it to the limit, until it was limited by its own self-contradiction. Finding a limit it would have a form. That is, the limit would show the form. That is, the limit would show the form as Los, furthest-out imagination of what Reason could do if it was creating a Universe.. Bloom, when he's talking about it, sees it as just a satire on Genesis, or a send-up or take-off, Genesis, and a lot of other myths, including Prometheus. He sees it almost as a sly parody. There may be that element, but, what I was trying to point out is, that there is also an archetypal serious matter going on that anyone can get in their imaginations, or everyone has thought of when they're kids, which is, that if a thing rose in the void to create a universe, if a logical thing rose, Urizen, and was backed by all the possible power of the Imagination, how far could it go? Well it would go to the limit before it began contradicting itself and destroying itself, and that limit would be the form given to Urizen by Los (Imagination). And that has some parallels. It would fit in with Blake's notion, "The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom"(from "The Proverbs of Hell" in "The Marriage of Heaven and Hell"). That is, if you took crazy excess to its extremes, finally you'd reach a wall, or a limit, where excess would break itself down and reach a boundary. Through reading (the Book of) Urizen, (it) is the first time I've understood what Blake meant by "The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom" - or this is (at any rate) one angle of it. It's a famous aphorism, is that right? - "The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom" - but I had never thought of it from the ultimate, metaphysical psychological, point of view.., from the very beginning. I was thinking of it in Bohemian terms - that if you drink enough, you'll get wise, or something. But, on a much deeper level - for creation itself, for creation of the universe - the road of excess will lead to the palace of wisdom. Maybe. Yeah, that's one of Blake's most famous lines - "The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom" - or (also from "The Marriage of Heaven and Hell") "If the fool would persist in his folly he would become wise". If Urizen would persist in his own folly, he'd come to his own limits. Yeah..

..The Four Zoas..yeah, The Four Zoas.. The Four Zoas, or four basic principles, or four basic natures that go into man, are not, officially, part of the Divine Council (sic) though they have relations. And Los, is both representative of Urthona (or a) material representative of Urthona (Imagination) and also has the right to go into the Divine Council and speak. He's one of the Eternals there (that is, I guess, because the imaginaton is most free) and finally is the one thing that redeems the whole situation from the solidification that Urizen has made, from the solidified universe that Urizen has worked out with Los' help. Los' motive in doing that is to provide a form so it can be seen and dealt with, so it can become mindful. If it never had a form, it would never be mindful. It wouldn't be able to discern it or perceive it in any way or deal with it. And that, as I said before, relates to Blake's conception - if you want to know Satan, find his system, if you want to know evil, find out its system (which I think is a really intelligent thing). In other words, if you're mad at something, find out its system first...and..yeah..not merely from the point of view of being able to deal with it as a contestant, but also to be able to be compassionate..

Okay, so we've now got Urizen "exploring his dens" in Chapter VIII. Just before that (though), we have a thing that I don't quite understand. Maybe somebody can explain it? - "But Los encircled Enitharmon/ With fires of prophecy/ From the sight of Urizen and Orc./ And she bore an enormous race." - (So) Los made a veil or curtain around Enitharmon, apparently, and didn't want her to see Urizen and Orc, apparently. "And she went on to bear an enormous race" - I imagine not seeing what had already been born, not taking into account the horrors that had already been born. Do you have any recollection of what that was supposed to be? Los, encircling "Enitharmon/ With fires of prophecy/ From the sight of Urizen and Orc"?

Student: (Protection?)

AG: Uh-huh.. Once man has fallen, generation is the only salvation. So it's an act of mercy to protect Enitharmon in her generation from seeing that is behind it, or to come? - Okay?
"Fires of Prophecy" - "Prophecy" is (sometimes) capitalized there. And the Prophet.. In A Blake Dictionary, he (Damon) has a long description of the role of the prophet which you might check - mainly, not that he knows that it's going to rain at ten o'clock tomorrow..but (that) he tells eternal truths from the heart. His definition of prophecy is interesting because it can apply to (Walt) Whitman and it can apply to modern poetry. Page 335 of the Dictionary - "Prophets are not foretellers of future facts; they are revealers of eternal truths...it is comprehensible then that in the very first tower of the Bastille before its fall a man was confined for writing "a writing prophetic" (in Blake's The French Revolution, he has that line). Blake's own two books with the subtitle "A Prophecy" were not prophecies in the conventional sense, as they were written after the facts, but they are prophecies in the poetic sense because they record the eternal formula of all revolutions" (and one thing that's hapening in this series of books is the "formula for revolution", I think I've mentioned it before, as Orc gets born...). Then Blake himself has a little annotation to the works of Doctor (Samuel) Johnson , in which he talks about what he means by the word "prophecy" - "Prophets, in the modern sense of the word, have never existed. Jonah was no prophet, in the modern sense, for his prophecy of Nineveh failed. Every honest man is a Prophet: he utters his opinion both of private & public matters.
/Thus/ If you go on So/the result is So/He never says such a thing will happen let you do what you will.." - In other words, he never says, "No matter what you (do), this will happen". He just says,"If you do this, then the result will be that". So, Blake has just pointed to cause-and-effect, or what we would call, in Buddhist terms, karma. So a prophet is someone who discerns karma, that's all, or cause-and-effect. He doesn't say, "No matter what you do, it's going to rain on you", or "You're going to break your leg" - "A Prophet is a Seer, not an Arbitrary Dictator" - That's a very clever phrase for the 18th century - "A Prophet is a Seer, not an Arbitrary Dictator" (that's from the Blake Dictionary, page 335 - "On Watson", apparently - his notations on Watson). Okay.

"But Los encircled Enitharmon/ With fires of prophecy/ From the sight of Urizen and Orc./ And she bore an enormous race." - Then Chapter VIII - "Urizen explored his dens -/ Mountain, moor and wilderness,/With a globe of fire lighting his journey" - So we've got him walking with a globe of fire, whereabouts, somewhere along the.. yeah...on page 205, the Illuminated.. that same globe..very similar to the globe that Los divided into. And those of us who were up at the library checked out the first plate of Jerusalem on page 280 - there's a Hebraic-looking fellow going into the tomb with the same globe - page 280 - 2-8-0 - I forgot, who is that supposed to be?

Student: Los

AG: Is that Los again? Los going into the tomb? You know that?. And just what's kind of interesting in this passage.. I don't know how much Walt Whitman, who was a kindred nature to Blake, knew Blake, but Whitman asked that his tomb be designed after this form. So Whitman's tomb in Camden (New Jersey) has this door, this door and some other Blake designs for the triangular roof of it - kind of odd and interesting - (a) little collocation of prophecy, and old bards taking their lineage from each, or looking to each other for lineage.

So we go through a whole creation cycle again, which I would say is again somewhat similar to the idea of "form, feeling, concept.." What have we got for this guy? - "form, feeling, concept...

Student: Perception

AG: ..perception and consciousness". No, how do they do it?

Student; "Form, feeling, perception, and consciousness"

AG: Is that what they use in the Prajnaparamita translation? Is that (it)?

Student: (I think so)

AG: Okay, I was looking over the terminology of that last night. I had used "form, feeling, discrimination, concept (concept-habit) and then, consciousness" - it's very complicated, they're shifty terms. The Prajnaparamita, the highest perfect wisdom sutra, I think, (has) form, feeling..

Student: (Chogyam Trungpa) Rinpoche, in, I guess, The Myth of Freedom, (says) there's form, feeling, perception, concept...

AG: Yeah, "concept" is the fourth, yeah...Okay..and I think (that) the new translation has something similar.

Well, this next little Chapter VIII goes through this again in a way. If you want to.. I have it analyzed in an odd way, so I'll go through that - "Urizen explored his dens -/ Mountain, moor and wilderness,/With a globe of fire lighting his journey,/A fearful journey, annoyed/ By cruel enormities, forms/ Of life on his forsaken mountains" - So you've got the establishment of these giant forms. Then, second phase of the "exploration of his dens", second stanza (so there's some change in his mind) - "And his world teemed vast enormities/ Frightening, faceless, fawning/ Portions of life, similitudes/ Of a foot, or a hand, or a head/ Or a heart, or an eye, they swam - mischievous/ Dread terrors, delighting in blood." - Third division - "Most Urizen sickened to see/ His eternal creations appear/ Sons and daughters of sorrow on mountains/ Weeping, wailing..." - Now four children come out of Reason, come out of Urizen - "First Thiriel appeared,/ Astonished at his own existence" - (A) picture of the four appearing is on page 206. Can you check that out in your pictures? - Thiriel, kind of cute-looking, blond airy, floating in the air, because he is air, pleasure, actually, in a sense. Air and pleasure perhaps? If this were to be considered the skandha of discrimination, or, what was that?, the third, third skandha?

File:Birth of the sons of urizen.jpg

Student: Perception

AG: (Yes, the) perception impulse - that is, liking, disliking, or indifference - Then these sons of Urizen could be considered Thiriel - "Astonished at his own existence/ Like a man from a cloud born. And Utha/ From the waters emerging laments/ Grodna.." - "Utha" is water, then - these are also the earth, air, fire, water - air, water, earth and fire, in that order - Thiriel, Utha, Grodna and Fuzon - From Reason springs these four elements, to create the dens of Reason, or crevasses or universes or aeons or spaces of the universe. But I'm comparing these four elements to Rasas - to moods, too, here. You could also say that Thiriel could be pleasure, Utha, ("from the waters emerging, laments"), displeasure, or rejection, and Groda ("rent (from) the deep earth howling -/ Amazed"), perhaps the animal indifference, or indifference (neither pleasure or displeasure, just sort of stupidity), which would be three reactions in that skandha of relating to the outside - by repelling it, or taking it in, or being indifferent to it, (before building up a whole set of habits, which then would build up a whole world of consciousness). Is this stuff about the skandhas too esoteric for the non-Buddhists here? It may be irrelevant, actually. It's just interesting to correlate the natural fall-out from the cracking (of) the atom of the first thought of existence in Blake's mind, or in (the) Buddhist mind.
"Grodna rent the deep earth howling -/ Amazed, his heavens immense cracks/ Like the ground parched with heat" - Fire. Actually, the blowing from heaven, you see the fire, in the illustration (on) page 206 - "Urizen's four sons, who disgust him by breeding form of life, are crudely element: flaming Urizen at the top, Thiriel, hair curly blue or brown, his head in a bubble of air, Utha, emerging "from the waters" and lamenting at once, and Grodna, climbing right up out of the parched earth, the cracks in which seem to him Heavens." - "Then Fuzon/Flamed out, first begotten, last born/ All his eternal sons in like manner;/ His daughters from green herbs and cattle/ From monsters, and worms of the pit" - This is being fruitful and multiplying - "He in darkness closed viewed all his race,/ And his soul sickened. He cursed/Both sons and daughters; for he saw/That no flesh nor spirit could keep/ His iron laws one moment" - So this is actually like Jehovah cursing Adam and Eve over the apple, dig? Jehovah's given out this iron law, "take anything you want, but leave this Tree of Knowledge". So Urizen - "..cursed/Both sons and daughters; for he saw/That no flesh nor spirit could keep/ His iron laws one moment." - Pretty smart. That would be the skandha of conceptions and habit, Urizen's habit-conception. Set. - "For he saw that if life lived upon death./ The ox in the slaughter-house moans,/ The dog at the wintry door,/ And he wept and he called it pity,/ And his tears flowed down on the winds." - Well, this is a kind of hypocritic(al) pity, according to Damon, because, after all, it was his own idea, this whole universe, his own insistency, his own creation, his own exploration. These children (of whom he's now horrified (by)), his own deeds, the entire material universe that he's stuck with, was (through) his own insistency, (and) he wanted to be created and born into a material universe, so now it's going to be like what it is, with its own limits. (And) now he's upset - "And his tears flowed down on the winds" - "The ox in the slaughter-house moans" and "The dog at the wintry door" - that's kind of interesting, because that really has some strange political connotation too. Does anybody know the poem "Let the Brothels of Paris be opened.. said the beautiful Queen of France" at all? Ever heard that?. It's actually very interesting.. I set it to a tune once [Allen begins singing - "Let the Brothels of Paris be opened/Said the beautiful Queen of France/And fife and drum..."] - I read that because it has "The dog at the wintry door" (which is one of Blake's great lines). I assigned that the other day, actually. A form of it is on (page) 490 - 1793 - about the French Revolution - Lafayette had taken part on the Revolution but Blake felt that Lafayette had been very ambivalent in his relationship to the King and Queen and had given them pity instead of really rejecting them (and so had sentimentalized and identified with the Urizonic King and Queen) and so there is another slight version. But let's look at this - "Let the Brothels of Paris be opened/With many an alluring dance/To awaken the Physicians thro' the city/Said the beautiful Queen of France" - There's another version of this around. Does anybody know where that is? - Yeah (so) well, there's two versions. Let's read both of them. I'll read this and then you read the other (or, then you give me the other) [Allen reads] - "To awaken the Physicians thro' the city/Said the beautiful Queen of France/ Then old Nobodaddy aloft/Farted and belched and coughed/ And said I love hanging and drawing and quartering/ Every bit as well as war and slaughtering/ Then he swore a great and solemn Oath/ To kill the people I am loth/ But If they rebel they must go to hell/They shall have a Priest and a passing bell/ The King awoke on his couch of gold/As soon as he heard these tidings told/Arise and come both fife and drum/And the [Famine] shall eat both crust and crumb/ The Queen of France just touched this Globe/And the Pestilence darted from her robe/But our good Queen quite grows to the ground/And a great many suckers grow all around" - Incidentally, the image of the suckers growing out of the tree of the Queen is like later in this poem the image of the suckers growing out of Urizen and him getting trapped in his own growths. I think we'll see that in another couple of stanzas. The "net of Urizen" (it's either here or in The Book of Ahania..Ahania..that image..yeah..so it's related to that sucker..is that at the end, or something?..yeah..for then in Ahania..wait a minute..well, we'll find out when we get to Ahania).
Yeah, there's actually a description of a tree growing (with), like, suckers all around. See, the upas tree (which (Alexander Sergeyevich) Pushkin also wrote of), some kind of very strange tree that you planted - it is poison and, at the same time, it grows into the ground and creates other trees, like suckers, into the ground. Actually, the Bo tree, the great Buddhist Bo tree, is somewhat like that in form. Then there's the classical, mysterious, poison upas tree. There's a very famous 19th century Russian poem by Pushkin about the upas tree also, a very Blakean poem, by the way, if you ever get a chance to check it out, it's considered in Russia a poison tree. It's like Blake's "Poison Tree", because we have Blake's poison tree also. Did I go through that last time? - "I was angry with my friend:/ I told my wrath, my wrath did end.." (from Songs of Innocence and Experience).
Well, we'll get to that next. First of all, we're in the middle of "But our good Queen quite grows to the ground/And a great many suckers grow all around" - "Who will exchange his own fireside/For the stone of another's door?/Who will exchange his wheaten loaf/For the links of a dungeon floor?", "Fayette beheld the King and Queen/In curses and iron-bound;/But mute Fayette wept tear for tear/And guarded them around", "O who would smile on the wintry seas/And pity the stormy roar?/Or who will exchange his new-born child/For the dog at the wintry door?" - Then, the other version is - "Fayette, Fayette, thou bought and sold/And sold is the happy morrow/Thou gavest the tears of pity away/In exchange for the tears of sorrow" - So it's a later version, a later working of the same poem, a kind of curse on Lafayette, because 'Fayette "gave.. the tears of pity away/In exchange for the tears of sorrow", and that's parallel to what was going on (with) the birth of Enitharmon, remember? Enitharmon, born from the creative temperament, Los, in a moment of pity, or (from) the horrific pity by Imagination, or (by) the Poet, when he sees the totally square Urizen, sees the beauty of square Urizen. So this version is - [Allen bursts into song, singing it to his melody] - "Let the Brothels of Paris be opened/With many an alluring dance/To awake the Physicians thro' the city/Said the beautiful Queen of France/ Then old Nobodaddy aloft/Farted and belched and coughed/ And said I love hanging and drawing and quartering/ Every bit as well as war and slaughtering/ Then he swore a great and solemn Oath/ To kill the people I am loth/ But If they rebel they must go to hell/They shall have a Priest and a passing bell/ The King awoke on his couch of gold/As soon as he heard these tidings told/Arise and come both fife and drum/And the [Famine] shall eat both crust and crumb/ The Queen of France just touched this Globe/And the Pestilence darted from her robe/But our good Queen quite grows to the ground/And a great many suckers grow all around" - "Fayette beside King Lewis stood/He saw him sign his hand/And soon he saw the famine rage/About the fruitful land/ Fayette behold the Queen to smile/And wink her lovely eye/And soon he saw the pestilence/From street to street to fly/Fayette beheld the King and Queen/In curses and iron-bound;/But mute Fayette wept tear for tear/And guarded them around/ Fayette, Fayette, thou'rt bought and sold/And sold is thy happy morrow; Thou gavest the tears of pity away/In exchange for the tears of sorrow/ Who will exchange his own fireside/For the stone of another's door/Who will exchange his wheaten loaf/For the links of a dungeon floor?/O who would smile on the wintry seas/And pity the stormy roar?/Or who will exchange his new-born child/For the dog at the wintry door?" - Well that's an expansion of "For he saw that life lived upon death/ The ox in the slaughter house moans/The dog at the wintry door/And he wept, and he called it pity/ And his tears flowed down on the winds" - So this is like a political/psychological, or a psychological, analysis of pity. In other words, it's the guy who created the situation, then laying down a story that it wasn't his fault, and (that) he's really trying to be helpful, and weeping, and (experiencing) real, actual pain - the realization of his own karma. And there's a political application in this, with his appreciation of Lafayette as bought and sold, emotionally, and the entire future world sold off by Lafayette's refusing to be severe and cut off from his aristocracy habit - "(M)ute 'Fayette wept tear for tear/And guarded them around". He gave the tears of pity away in exchange for tears of actuality, or sorrow, in exchange for tears of the sorrow of realization of how hopeless he and (the) King (Urizen) were.

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