Thursday, March 8, 2012

William Blake Class - 4 (Urizen continued)

AG: Chapter III – Let’s see where we are - One God, one King and one Law. So you see the man mired in that in the flames. The (gross) flames of this Creation. On page 186. Urizen Plate 4b in Erdman – [Allen resumes reading – continues with Chapter III of The First Book of Urizen ] - “The voice ended, they saw his pale visage” – I guess this is the Eternals, judging all this – “The voice ended, they saw his pale visage/ Emerge from the darkness, his hand/ On the Rock of Eternity unclasping/ The book of brass. Rage seized the strong/ Rage, fury, intense indignation - / in cataracts of fire, blood and gall,/ In whirlwinds of sulphurous smoke/ And enormous forms of energy;/ All the seven deadly sins of the soul/ In living creatures appeared/ In the flames of eternal fury.” – I wonder what those seven deadly sins are actually. So, let’s look them up (because he’s referred to them twice now). (They) probably have names. You might run ahead of me, anyone who’s got the (list)?
Student: Lust, envy, (coverting thy neighbors…)
AG: What page is that? No, I’m thinking of Blake’s thing. Okay, lust, envy, avarice…
Student: (Jealousy, anger, gluttony, sloth, pride….)
AG: Well, we have seven. He’s got seven angels here, seven diseases and seven eyes. Probably, as in Buddhist systems, they are reversible. There’s the seven angels who are the reverse of the seven diseases. Well, the seven eyes of God, also. I’ll see what he (S.Foster Damon)’s got under “seven diseases”. Look under “disease”. Has anybody got that? If anybody’s got the book and can read faster than me, check it out. This is the way I’d read it. I’d just sort of look it up, I’m curious – what does he mean here, seven? - ““Disease” [reads from Damon} – “Disease is another word for Sin” – It was the Seven Deadly Sins. Yeah, okay – “Disease is another word for Sin, Jesus is the great healer. The Seven Deadly Sins, according to tradition, were Pride, Envy, Wrath, Lust, Gluttony, Sloth, and Avarice. Milton identified them with Satan, Beelzebub, Chemos and Baalim and Ashtaroth, the brutish Egyptian gods, Belial, and Mammon” – Mammon too. Now (let’s) see if he’s got any reference to it. Yes – “Originally, they were pure spiritual energies, Eno recalls the Golden Age, when Covet, Envy, Wrath, and Wantonness (and presumably the others) were un-banned and good. But when Urizen opened his Book of Brass, they became the “Seven deadly Sins of the Soul”.” It says here that Blake first mentioned these seven sins in an earlier prophetic work, The French Revolution, which I hope you’ll read, that’s a very great work. There’s not as much complication of symbolism in that. It’s just straight Surrealist exaggeration of the personages of the French Revolution into magnificent titanic form. Taking..(Henry) Kissinger and John Foster Dulles and (Dwight) Eisenhower and creating phantoms. Giant phantoms of Necker (the King, Louis), (Tom) Paine, the counselors. The Louvre becomes a vast palace. Necker, the counselor, walks through the Palace with burning babes falling in flames out of the folds of his robes to go to the Councils of War. It’s a very beautiful book to read. And for those who are interested in my poetry, I’ve modeled a lot of my own contemporary political poetry on that form of hyperbole that I found in Blake’s French Revolution - just taking contemporary figures and making archetypal monsters out of them. Okay, so we’ve got some Seven Deadly Sins here…
Well, (so) he’s got it all written down and figured out in the Book of Brass. So once he began to fixate on everything and judge and actually create the architecture, all out of his own self rather than letting it be a loose void, then he had to make regulations. It all had to be regularized - according to ratio and principle and arithmetic – and so things had to fit in, and therefore sin fitted in, with the system. Once he got a big system going then you have this system which would have to take care of conflict, and then you’d have sin, and the sins, wrath.. [resumes reading] –“All the seven deadly sins of the soul/ In living creatures appeared/ in the flames of eternal fury./ Sundering, darkening, thundering!/ Rent away with a terrible crash/ Eternity rolled wide apart” – The Abyss of Light – “Eternity rolled wide apart/ Wide asunder rolling/ Mountainous all around/ Departing, departing, departing.” – So he dharmakaya is departing. The Abyss of Light. Eternity is departing. Blake is really upset – “Leaving ruinous fragments of life/ Hanging frowning cliffs and all between/ An ocean of voidness unfathomable.” – So he’s leaving behind “ruinous fragments of life”, he’s left behind hanging frowning cliffs of the mind, of imagination, of anxiety, precipices, like when you dream that you’re on a giant precipice and somehow you have to get down. I don’t know if (you’ve had that dream). It’s sort of an archetypal dream. I don’t know how many have had that one. I like that, actually. Leaving behind, in the creation, hanging frowning cliffs, and all between the cliffs, an ocean of voidness unfathomable.
“The roaring fires ran o’er the heavens/ In whirlwinds and cataracts of blood/ And o’er the dark deserts of Urizen/ Fires pour thro’ the void on all sides/ On Urizen’s self-begotten armies” - It’s very similar to the present problem the President has [1978] with deciding whether to employ the neutron bomb, (and) whether to push forward on the vast nuclear energy, or withdraw. The paranoic self-limiting territorial (urge) – comparing reasoning (and the) Urizonic mentality of the armaments workers and the Pentagon – is pushing for defenses against these self-begotten armies. That is, if the Russians get this bomb, or this development of this particular type of bomb then we have to compete with them. And, to a great extent, the Russian phantom is a projection from the American Urizonic mentality, as the American phantom is a projection from Russian Urizonic mentality, both of them, by arithmetic and measure, trying to balance and out-reason and out-construct architectural marvels which will threaten the other side. “..o’er the dark deserts of Urizen/ Fires pour through the void on all sides/ On Urizen’s self-begotten armies” - As you remember, (Chogyam) Trungpa’s definition of aggression. Once the self, the ego, the separated egoistic self has been born, aggression is territoriality. Territorial. It’s a defense of that territory which has been claimed as solidified and eternal and permanent for the self. So that naturally the winds of change dissolve that territory, and so aggression is a response to that constant threat. Once you set up an imaginary territory, it breaks down (either in your own mind, or in others, or in whatever architectural form you find for it). So there’s constant aggression, trying to repel any element of change within the Urizonic self.
“But no light from the fires: all was darkness/ In the flames of eternal fury/ In fierce anguish and quenchless flames,/ To the deserts and rocks he ran raging/ To hide, but he could not..” – “he”, being, I imagine, Urizen himself, frightened by what he’s created – “..combining/ He dug mountains and hills in vast strength” - Greater and greater efforts to protect his territory. Greater passion, greater aggression, greater ignorance. Not knowing that it’s all his own self-creation, therefore more passion necessary to keep the territory solidified, more aggression creating mountains – “…combining/ He dug mountains and hills in vast strength,/ He piled them in incessant labour/ In howlings and pangs and fierce madness/ Long periods in burning fires labouring/ Till hoary, and age-broke, and aged,/ In despair and the shadows of death/ - And a roof… “ – So, even though he’s created this universe, he’s still got the shadow of death coming on him (that) he’s worried about – “And a roof, vast petrific around,/ On all sides he framed like a womb/ Where thousands of rivers in veins/ Of blood pour down the mountains to cool/ The eternal fires beating without/ From Eternals..” – The eternal fire would be changed, then. That is, speaking here, the fires of the Eternals (are) at once the wrath of the Council of Eternals – the Gods of the Eternals, who are horrified an wrathful, filled with vajra wrath, that is, filled with clear, undiluted, useful response to Urizen’s presumption. So there are black fires burning from the Eternals. Actually, simply, once the Eternals’ situation has been disturbed, naturally, there’s all sorts of fires and disturbances started, once Urizen disturbed that and created mountain cliffs and mountains and gulfs. So these fires are simply change – the fires of change running through Eternity, or a by-product of the disturbance of Eternity. Once you create something non-eternal in Eternity, naturally, you’re going to have changes. So those are the fires of change.
In Buddhist terminology, that would probably be similar to the dakinis and herukas who inflict car-crash, heart-attack, shock – wisdom-teachings out of wrath or pain. That is, there is the Vajrayana interpretation of all painful experience as a situation of teaching, where you learn something. You break your leg, you learn something. You learn you’ve got bones, if nothing else. If you’re smart you learn what causes you to break your leg, what irritability caused you to step on the ice too fast.
So – “Long periods in burning fires labouring/ Till hoary, and age-broke, and aged,/ In despair and the shadows of death/ And a roof..” - We had.. and I’ll get that again – “And a roof, vast petrific around,/ On all sides he framed, like a womb;/ Where thousands of rivers in veins/ Of blood pour down the mountains to cool / The eternal fires beating without/ From Eternals..” – The womb of “thousands of rivers in veins” would be all the sentient people with blood and veins, I suppose. – “..and like a black globe/ Viewed by sons of Eternity, standing” – Viewed from without, it’s “like a black globe”, “Viewed by sons of Eternity, standing..” [Allen resumes reading] – “On the shore of the infinite ocean,/ Like a human heart struggling and beating,/ The vast world of Urizen appeared./ And Los round the dark globe of Urizen/ Kept watch for Eternals, to confine/ The obscure separation alone;/ For Eternity stood wide apart,/ As the stars are apart from the earth./ Los wept, howling around the dark demon,/ And cursing his lot…” - And Los, as I think I remember, is the Poetic Imagination, a blacksmith, spirit of poetry and friendship. He’s up in the north (and) Urizen did this up in the north, so Los would be there in the Imagination. See, Urizen did this, in a sense, in his imagination, and so that would be Los’s/Urthona’s territory. So Los would be there, watching, and “Argh! What’s going on?” howling! What is it? .weeping and howling. And watching over it. Eternity would be the Sun, Gods, Earth, Gnomes, I think. Well, that’s irrelevant.
Now, who is Los? Well, he has a thumbnail picture of him as the fellow of (the) imagination. But, since Los has now entered into our cosmography, let me read you a little bit of (the Blake Dictionary entry on) Los. Did I give you any of Los last time, in any extent? No. So let’s check Los out.
File:Los Blake Urizen G p18.jpg
According to Damon’s interpretation in his “..Dictionary”, “Los is Poetry, the expression in this world of Creative Imagination. He is the manifestation in time and space of Urthona, (who is) the deepest Zoa, who is the center of each Individual…Urthona takes the name of Los, who is henceforth,”the Vehicular Form of strong Urthona”, until the very end (of the cycle) when Los is reabsorbed into Urthona” (when the problems of a divided Creation are resolved – It’s only in a divided Creation that you need the Poetic Imagination to dowse instinctively back toward the source, or back toward the original No-Mind ) – “His position is North, he works as a blacksmith, his sense is the Ear” (well, that’s great for poetry!) – “his element is Earth, his elementals are the Gnomes” (who work for him) – “his Emanation” (that is, his wife, his material form) is Enitharmon (spiritual beauty) – “his planet is the (spiritual) sun..It is reasonable to suppose that his name is an anagram of “Sol”” – S-O-L – L-O-S – Sun. – “Los is the last faculty of man to start functioning” (so the Fourth Zoa) – “..As a poet, Los is “the Prophet of Eternity”, who reveals the basic truths”. In Jerusalem, he’s “equated with the ideal prophet Elijah”. In Milton, he “directly inspires Blake himself”. “He creates the line of poet-prophets who destroy the kings” (this is, again, the revolutionary Blake, creating the line of “poet-prophets who destroy the kings”) – “He is a spiritual revolutionist, whose son Orc” (whom we will meet later), “is outward revolution”. “At the end of (the book of) Europe, when the French Revolution begins, Los wakes in the dawn and calls all his sons to the strife of blood” [Allen reads on] – “Los (is) the expression of the Imagination..creator of all that we see. “All Things Exist in the Human Imagination” [Damon quotes Blake from “Jerusalem” here] – “Like his original, Urthona, Los is a blacksmith, smelting the crude ore, consuming the slag, and casting the molten iron into new forms” – And that’s what he’s got to do, that’s what he’s going to have to do later on in these prophetic books, with all this mass of cliffs and fire and mountains that Urizen has created. He’s got to go back to the blacksmith-imagination,
Los, to reconstruct, to make, I think, the city of Golgonooza. And to make Jerusalem (in other words, to take all this raw egoistic matter and transform it into some spiritual matter) will be the job of Los, the poet, Creative Imagination, later on.
“The blow of his Hammer is Justice, the swing of his Hammer Mercy, the force of Los’s Hammer is eternal Forgiveness” – That’s “Jerusalem” (again). “He has seven furnaces” [Allen continues reading from Damon] – “evidently corresponding to the seven Eyes of God, at the climax of Creation, the Divine Finger touches the seventh Furnace.”
“He also gives..” – this is real interesting now. This is one of the most interesting points in all of Blake coming up now. Are you all ready? It’s one of the most brilliant ideas I’ve ever heard of. I think Blake is an original with this one, though you might find Buddhist correlatives. And I don’t know anybody else who came up with this – “He also gives “a body to Falshood..” [again, Damon is quoting from Blake’s “Jerusalem”] – he gives “a body to Falsehood”, to that which is non-existent, to the lie, to non-entity, to self-hood, to illusion, to error, to opacity – he gives “a body to Falshood”. Why? So that it may be clearly seen by the senses and cast off forever. In other words, so that it may be apprehended visually by the senses, or optically, or textually. The principle is somewhere else in Blake. (It’s) explained by Blake elsewhere. The continuation here (is) – “He gives a body to Falshood that it may be cast off for ever”. [Damon notes] “Only thus can an error be limited, recognized and annihilated”. - [Allen again] -He has to take on Urizen, you see. He has to give a body to Urizen, finally. So [Allen quotes Damon] – “His first great feat is forging a body for Urizen. In doing this, he creates Time..”
Student: Is at least a part of his point that the limit itself is a falsification?
AG: Well, yeah, but there’s a mental creation there on Urizen’s part. So far Urizen doesn’t have a body. There’s phantom bodies and phantom appearances and cliffs and mountains, but, later on in this book, Urizen is going to be given a body, by Los, I think. An actual mortal body, or some symbolic body, that we can see, touch, deal with, and begin to recognize. He makes use of limitation. Urizen is limitation. He makes use of that natural principle of Urizen to work with it, rather than oppose it. Take it, transform it into something poetically visible, which can then be analyzed, observed, reasoned upon, understood, seen clearly, and related to. Blake goes on elsewhere on that (I’ve forgotten exactly where). It’s (in his line) – to understand Satan, you have to understand his reasons. That is, to understand Satan, you have to understand his system. If you want to get to the bottom of Satan (or opacity, or error, or ignorance, or whatever, however you want to generate your Satan). Once you have an independent Satan, try and find out his system. Because if you have his system then you’ll have his secret. Then you’ll know wherefrom he comes, how he operates, why he’s doing what he’s doing and what his functioning is. And every Satan has a system.
In day-to-day dealings, to understand a psychotic, as R.D.Laing would point out, you’d have to enter into his world system and try and understand what his system is. If you’re dealing with the central holder of investments in nuclear energy, if you want to get to the economic center of that, or, if you want to know about the terrific powers of nuclear energy, you would then have to examine the economic system – that is, the system of economics – who owns the atomic energy? who’s profiting from it?. If you do such an examination, you’ll find that the largest single investor in atomic (or) nuclear energy is the Rockefeller group – the single largest block. To begin to understand the Satanic politics of nuclear energy, you’d have to examine its system. Simple - on a simple level. And you’d come to a sort of black-hole in American politics, which is the Rockefeller group, and there you’d find that they have the largest single investment, both in petrochemical and in nuclear energy, and then a great deal of political information would be then apparent and clearer. Like (Nelson) Rockefeller, as Governor, spent several billion dollars to subsidize researcj, development and land claims for atomic energy companies which his family had investments in. And as Vice-President, he proposed (a) $100,000,000,000 government subsidy for experiments in high-risk energy ventures (which sounded like solar, but was actually nuclear). So there was the proposition for (a) $100,000,000,000 Atomic Energy Commission, or Nuclear Energy Control Commission, which would subsidize all energy companies who were willing to build the now-bankrupting nuclear plants. So that’s the beginning. If you want to know (or) you want to deal with Satan, you’d have to understand opacity, you’d have to understand the system, what makes it opaque.
Then, furthermore, if you want, I was thinking, as poet, (of) dealing with Rockefeller as an emblematic figure, as Blake might deal with him. One would then really have to do some research to find out, what is Rockefeller’s metaphysics? and what’s his system? And what’s actually his understanding Blake of the whole nuclear balance, In other words, you couldn’t merely make a figure for a blind attack. If you wanted to understand his particular emblem, you would then really have to do some questioning and research, finding how he relates to Picasso, and how he relates to his art objects, and how he relates to energy. Does he know of Blake’s phrase, “Energy is eternal delight”? It’s something that Gary Snyder pointed out in his ecological tracks on decentralization of energy. “Energy is etermal delight” (which is a wholly, totally, different approach to energy than the petrochemical nuclear (industry)). “Eternal delight” would be (E.F.) Schumacher’s proposition for large-scale tree crop agriculture as an alternative to the nuclear and petrochemical (energy). But that’s another matter…

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