blake-d Digest				Volume 1996 : Issue 82

Today's Topics:


	   Re: psychotic reaction, Nietzsche, &c.


	 sweet Science

	 Christianity/Experiment stew


	 Re: sweet Science

	 Re: Experiment Pictures

	       Re: Roob's new book with Blake's pics

	 Re: sweet science

	 Mechanization versus Romanticism



Date: Sun, 7 Jul 1996 18:56:23 -0700 (PDT)

From: Ralph Dumain 




Message-Id: <>

To begin to untangle Blake's attitudes towards rationality,

science, etc., we ought to be aware first of all of his use of

terminology.  If he had but one word for human thought processes,

we could go by that, but it is not so.  The word "science" is

sometimes used positively and sometimes negatively, as is

"experiment."  The word "reason" is used pejoratively, but words

such as "intellect" and "thought" are always positive.  Hence,

like many other thinkers, Blake is discriminating between

different levels and operations of reasoning processes.  In

Blake's terminology, "intellect" stands at a higher level of

thought than "reason", which means the mechanical or most

superficial logical operations of the process of thought.  Though

his use of words is unlike that of some other thinkers, the

distinctions he makes are familiar ones.  Reason for Blake means

the most mechanical operations of thought, where intellect refers

to a grasp of the whole, which proceeds not by gradual

accumulation of particular data, but by sudden leaps and

re-organizations of the conceptual relationships among particular


Blake was not a trained philosopher, and so he struggled with the

limitations of empiricism in his own peculiar manner, but he was

struggling with the fundamental tensions within the conceptual

universe of his time.  And because Blake was not trained to

distinguish between the conceptual content of the science itself

and the ideological clothing and social functions in which science

was embedded, and because Blake was concerned primarily with the

imagination and not literal, material things (the one aspect of

Blake that Albright has got right), Blake could not discriminate

between the literal conceptual content of chemistry or Newtonian

physics and the philosophical/ideological role that "science" was

playing in his society.  This is a flaw in Blake as a conceptual

thinker.  But what is not understood is that this flaw is much

less of a flaw in Blake than the same flaw to be found in

contemporary anti-scientific social studies of science, which also

cannot distinguish between the conceptual content of science and

the ideological and social relations in which it is embedded, but

which _does_ operate on the literal plane to demonstrate that we

can't know anything.  Blake was not anti-intellectual nor was he

interested in proving that nothing can be known in order to

glorify his own alienation; his fight is on another level

entirely.  Blake's opposition to empiricism, as expressed in

"There is no Natural Religion" and elsewhere, is not just

opposition to the positive empiricist conception of science and

cognition; it is equally in opposition to Humean skepticism.


Date:      Sun, 7 Jul 1996 22:31:41 -0400 (EDT)

From: "Avery F. Gaskins" 


Subject:   Re: psychotic reaction, Nietzsche, &c.


Ralph, I don't whine, but I refuse to indulge in the gutter language you in-

sist on using on this list at times. As ex-Army, I could match you expletive

by expletive, and if we met in an alley, you would find me able to handle my-

self, so hope we don't. But, expletives have no place on a list such as this.

That's what I have been trying to tell you along with the suggestion that you

are not the sole owner of the received truth.

                                              Avery Gaskins


Date: Mon, 8 Jul 1996 00:35:27 -0400




Message-Id: <>

Enjoyed the review mucho.

And I am a looooong time resident of DC.  And rehearsals are grueling now

because we open in 4 daze.  

Hugh Walthall


Date: Mon, 8 Jul 1996 10:01:41 -0400 (EDT)

From: Nelson Hilton 


Subject: sweet Science


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	"And isn't it strange," said the young lady, passing with

startling suddenness from Sentiment to Science, "that the mere impact of

certain colored rays upon the Retina should give us such exquisite


	"You have studied Physiology, then?" a certain young Doctor

courteously inquired.

	"Oh _yes_!  Isn't it a _sweet_ Science?"

	Arthur slightly smiled.  "It seems a paradox, does it not," he

went on, "that the image formed on the Retina should be inverted?"

	"It _is_ puzzling," she candidly admited.  "Why is it we do not

_see_ things upside-down?"

	"You have never heard the Theory, then, that the _Brain_ also is


		--Lewis Carroll, _Sylvie and Bruno_, ch. 17

(thanks to Tom Vogler)

Given many other associations with "sweet," one might imagine that "sweet

Science" is not just physiology but erotics--"golden pleasures" grow into

the "golden a(r)mour of science":  knowledge ("scientia") intellectual,

imaginative, and carnal. (Note the language two pages earlier, 137.2:

"sweet delights of amorous play")


Date: Mon, 08 Jul 1996 11:51:56 -0500

From: Mary Beth Jipping 


Subject: Christianity/Experiment stew

Message-Id: <>

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I've been listening for about 3 months to your discussions and comments.

Thanks a bunch.  I'm a biochemist working in enzyme kinetics to keep food on

the table and a neophyte poet.  (I first got interested in Blake through

Greg Brown's _Songs of Innocence and Experience_ and have been reading the

rest more closely for the last year.)

Why hasn't anyone mentioned the _Tao Te Ching_?  If they have, could someone

direct me to the archive posting?

>(I know what Bloom says about it in his footnote, and I know that "science"

>formerly referred to "knowledge" more generally, but I thought this might

>be an interesting morsel to toss into the Christianity/Experiment stew.)



Date: Mon, 8 Jul 1996 07:47:39 -0700 (PDT)

From: Ralph Dumain 




Message-Id: <>

Another time perhaps I will broach the topic of why Blake's piece

is called "There is no Natural Religion" and not "A Logical

Critique of Empiricism," but much of both versions of this work

consists of the latter.  I go by my old and familar, dog-eared

Keynes edition.

First version, proposition II: "Man by his reasoning power can

only compare & judge of what he has already perciev'd.  III. From

a perception of only 3 senses or 3 elements none could deduce a

fourth or fifth."  Second series, proposition II: "Reason, or the

ratio of all we have alrwady known, is not the same that it shall

be when we know more."

This is of course a critique of Lockean and Humean pretensions to

be able to base cognitive generalizations upon sense impressions

and their combinations alone.  Blake suggests that knowledge

involves not just sensations but something more.  Note second

series, proposition I: "Masn's perceptions are not bounded by

organs of perception; he percieves more than sense (tho' ever so

acute) can discover."  Remember how threadbare English empiricist

philosophy was compared to other philosophical traditions.

(Remember Marx's comment that the German idealists, not the

materialists or empiricists, were the ones who advanced the

understanding of active human cognition.)  Blake criticizes that

very philosophy to show that no progress would be possible were

the empiricist model of cognition to be true.  Blake is convinced

that the human mind's capacity goes beyond the power to measure

and compare discrete quantities, that progress in knowledge

involves dialecfical leaps that go beyond the mere accumulation of

empirical generalizations, or, in modern terms, that theories are

underdetermined by sense data.  This notion is a commonplace in

the philosophy of science at least since Einstein.

Blake, of course, is not interested the relation of scientific

theories to empirical verification, but rather in the defense of

the faculty of poetic imagination, hence the other propositions

about desire and infinity.  However, knowing no other discourse

besides antinomian Christianity and British empiricism, Blake

lacks the tooks to cast his ideas in the form of a logically

elaborated dialectical philosophy, so he formulates his

propositions in terms of the poetic genius and prophetic

imagination.  Hence, first series, proposition VI: "Conclusion.

If it were not for the Poetic or Prophetic character the

Philosophical & Experimental would soon be at the ratio of all

things, & stand still, unable to do other than repeat the same

dull round over again."

Isn't this obvious?

There's more, however.  Blake recognizes the skeptical

implications of being locked up in that which is provable by a

priori reasoning.  All of modern spketicism is based on the

assumption that we can't really know anything objective because we

can't prove we can, given that there is no absolute proof of any

scientific generalization by induction, and further, that we can

never prove that we correctly perceive the external world, but

only know that we perceive our own perceptions.  In other words,

our practical engagement with the world that produces knowledge

transcends the limits of formal proof.  Blake refutes the modern

narcissistic skeptic, from Hume to Derrida, in the conclusion of

the second series:

"Application.  He who sees the Infinite in all things, sees God.

He who sees the Ratio only, sees himself only."

Blake recognized that Humean skepticism was just one more form of

a prioristic philosophy, that tries to deduce the world, in this

case its unknowability, by means of the old fashioned static, a

prioristic mode of reasoning.  This was quite an accomplishment,

given that it took decades more for Engels to appear on the scene

to point out that empiricist skepticism was but a new twist on the

old metaphysical mode of reasoning.


Date: Mon, 8 Jul 1996 11:08:11 -0400

From: (R.H. Albright)


Subject: Re: sweet Science


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Do I take it that the Marriage between Art and Science has been

indefinitely postponed? Listening to Nine Inch Nails and Nirvana, or

reading William Blake, I would say so!

-Randall Albright

>        "And isn't it strange," said the young lady, passing with

>startling suddenness from Sentiment to Science, "that the mere impact of

>certain colored rays upon the Retina should give us such exquisite


>        "You have studied Physiology, then?" a certain young Doctor

>courteously inquired.

>        "Oh _yes_!  Isn't it a _sweet_ Science?"

>        Arthur slightly smiled.  "It seems a paradox, does it not," he

>went on, "that the image formed on the Retina should be inverted?"

>        "It _is_ puzzling," she candidly admited.  "Why is it we do not

>_see_ things upside-down?"

>        "You have never heard the Theory, then, that the _Brain_ also is


>                --Lewis Carroll, _Sylvie and Bruno_, ch. 17

>(thanks to Tom Vogler)


>Given many other associations with "sweet," one might imagine that "sweet

>Science" is not just physiology but erotics--"golden pleasures" grow into

>the "golden a(r)mour of science":  knowledge ("scientia") intellectual,

>imaginative, and carnal. (Note the language two pages earlier, 137.2:

>"sweet delights of amorous play")


Date: Mon, 8 Jul 1996 11:16:11 -0400

From: (R.H. Albright)


Subject: Re: Experiment Pictures


Content-Type: text/plain; charset="us-ascii"

Elisa writes:

>I don't think Blake was confused; I think he saw Newton and Locke as

>Urizenic priests, priests who exalted reason inappropriately and marginalized

>the possibilities offered by the imagination.>>>>>>

Well... that was their thing (reason). But Locke is about as kind and

gentle in comparison with Hobbes as you can get. Why not demonize a real

Urizenic guy like Hobbes? Or how about the sadistic people in the Spanish

Inquisition who tortured people, made Galileo recant?

Science in and of itself is nothing. It's how it's used. By retreating into

Christianity and mysticism, Blake has sealed himself off from some of the

major thinkers of his age. And I'd like to hear more than the one quote

from "Jerusalem" where he finally allows a 3-fold Newton and Locke (Bacon,

too?) to come riding on their chariots... God save me from the Apocalypse.

You're right to call him a millenialist, Elisa. I remember another time

"they" thought Christ was coming. A history friend of mine told me it was

in Russia, and everyone built these bomb shelters and just kind of


Good quote from "The Four Zoas", Jennifer. Where else do you see him

building up to that statement?

-Randall Albright


Date:          Mon, 8 Jul 1996 19:23:35 MET



Subject:       Re: Roob's new book with Blake's pics


July 8th, 1996

I almost fully agree with Michael Anderson's favourable short take on 

Alexander Roob's *Das hermetische Museum: Alchemie & Mystik* (1996). 

However, I find that the 

> ... quality [of the plates] is outstanding ... 

only if 

> ... compared to the [recent marred reimpressions of the cheap] 

Oxford editions > and those 1$ [???] editions from Dover.

The standard of colour reproductions in the Taschen editions is, at 

best, uneven, and Roob (who, of course, is not to be held responsible 

for what is part of the publisher's job) would probably agree.

> Roob is working on a translation of Blake's later works and started 

> assembling an archive of images to aid in his translation.  I assume that 

> he's in need of money, so he put this book together and Tashen, known for 

> its well-made but inexpensive art books, decided to release it.  

Hopefully, Roob's translation of *Milton* will be published by Ritter 

in Klagenfurt, Austria in the not-so-far-away future. Read side-

by-side with Hans-Ulrich Moehring's recent translation of the 

same epic (1995) into German, it will allow for an exemplary 

comparative study of the *creative* aspects of the translator's work. 

But, first of all, Roob is an artist, not a translator. The sections 

from his pictorial `novel' *CS* that I have seen are breathtaking 

examples of contemporary draughtsmanship--highly recommended to those 

subscribers who feel drawn toward modern art as well as to Blake. In 

any case, we ought to be grateful to Michael Anderson for pointing 

out this "Blake sighting/citing", especially since Roob's 

pictorial anthology offers such a `handy' blockbuster introduction 

(700+ pages in crown 8vo.) to the visualization of "the process of 

alchemy" and of the hermetic tradition.

    Since Michael Anderson writes from Tuebingen, may I add that yet 

another artist-translator, similarly fascinated with Blake's verbal 

and visual art is living in that small university town? His name is 

Dieter Loechle, and he mounted an exhibition of his Blake-related 

prints and drawings at Tuebingen university library in spring 1995. 

The catalogue/exhibition handbook contains a number of Loechle's 

Blake translations plus short essays by him on Blake and by Susanne 

Padberg on Loechle. Presumably, copies of this publication and of the 

limited editions of two portfolios of prints are still available from 

the Galerie Druck & Buch in der Buchhandlung Hugo Frick 

(Nauklerstrasse 7, D-72074 Tuebingen, Germany).

--DW Doerrbecker (who's *not* being paid for this advert, but happens 

to be aquainted with Loechle, Moehring, and Roob)


Date: Mon, 8 Jul 1996 14:28:20 -0400 (EDT)

From: Ruegg Bill 


Subject: Re: sweet science


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Boxing was known as the "sweet science," I believe, at the time Blake 

wrote this line.  Notice the pun on "reigns"...

* * *

Bill Ruegg

"The tygers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction." --Will Blake

On Sun, 7 Jul 1996, J. Michael wrote:

> What do people make of the last line of _The Four Zoas_:


> "The dark Religions are departed & sweet Science reigns"


> ?


> (I know what Bloom says about it in his footnote, and I know that "science"

> formerly referred to "knowledge" more generally, but I thought this might

> be an interesting morsel to toss into the Christianity/Experiment stew.)


> JM






Date: Mon, 8 Jul 1996 14:44:56 -0400

From: (R.H. Albright)


Subject: Mechanization versus Romanticism


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Mechanization. Dreadful thing, isn't it? And a recurring theme through

Blake and beyond. And yet, what is one to do? How can romanticism be turned

into pragmaticism to make the world a better place? How is a computer, in

and of itself, BAD?

The world in which Blake lived has largely disappeared from England. It's

now a "post-industrial" society. The chimney sweepers are gone. Clean

industries like software have taken their place. People from the poorer

nations of the European Community, particularly Spain, flock to London for

what we might consider "bad" jobs. They're happy just to HAVE jobs.

In the meantime, in the Third World, I think Blake would be screaming.

Manila is a pigpen. Bangkok is better, but that's not saying much. Beijing

is Smog Central overlaid on Stalinist boulevards. And yet if you ask a

great many of the citizens, "Are you happier now than 10 years ago?" The

answer is often an unequivocal "Yes!" They WANT Coca-Cola. They WANT

rollerblades. They WANT Arnold Schwarzenegger films. In fact, one of the

saddest things I saw outside of Jakarta was a truck with a hand-painted

Rambo holding a machine gun. Next to it was the slogan: "American Way." Oh.

Great. So they're losing, in Indonesia, their high arts like gamelon and

wayung kulit, because the kids would rather watch "90210" on TV. And it's a

free world, isn't it? In China, they lost their rug making capability

because Mao killed or "re-trained" the great rug artisans. Blake would be

depressed, indeed, by this turn of events.

But there's a deeper problem involved. I call it:


We're all on an escalator. And as much as we can try to turn back and run

against the tide, the overriding current is... toward further

industrialization. What are we going to do? How do we keep romanticism and

yet pragmatically deal with this tidal wave we're riding? How can we make

recycling profitable for corporations as well as cities and towns? How do

we encourage population growth to slow down (particularly with a Pope who

often says "BREED!")? These are some of the major issues of our time. How

can Blake help? Or is he frozen in the time in which he wrote? Can he

inspire people to keep their local crafts, can we hear him echoed in

someone like David Bowie or Yeats... or how about just in how he was

keeping handwriting alive at a time that typesetting was taking over

everything? How much is "against the tide" and how much do we appreciate

those who bucked the tide, like Blake?

-Randall Albright


Date: Mon, 8 Jul 1996 14:47:39 -0400

From: (R.H. Albright)




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Ralph Dumain writes:

>What is most ironic in all this folderol about reflexivity is how

>limited in scope and character this precious self-consciousness of

>the petty bourgeois is, and how unconscious it is of so many


Mr. Dumain... what are you talking about? In fact, why are you studying

Blake? Are you using the "Jew, give up your counting gold" from "The

Marriage of Heaven and Hell" as a connection with Marx? I've never seen you

try to discuss the relationship in a positive way. This most recent tirade

of a post doesn't illuminate your approach much, either. Usually I see

laundry lists of books that you ask others whether you should or shouldn't

buy. What do the good books say and how do you interact with (or glean

from) them? Since Nietzsche is obviously in the doghouse with you, do tell

how Marx, who has his own problems with reductionist mechanistic reasoning,

compared to Nietzsche's faith in the Dionysian, is better for a comparison

with William Blake? Jesus, too, was anti-marketplace, come to think of


Books are not Bibles upon which we should fall in deference and interact.

Blake is not only a poet. He is one of the greatest visual artists of all

time. In fact, I would argue in something like "The Book of Urizen", he

tells more through his visual art than his poetry does. How does that fit

into your VIEW of Blake. And I capitalize VIEW because that's all it is.

It's not the objective truth, it's just your subjective VIEW.

>That thousands of so-called

>intellectuals could convince themselves that such a paltry,

>narcissistic view of the world shows any common capacity of

>intellect at all, let alone genius -- the apotheosis of all of

>reflective thought -- should tip us off that something has gone

>terribly wrong.>>>>>

Yes, terribly wrong. Like the entire Existentialist movement. Like people

fighting totalitarianism under the guise of Marx or "socialism, the Burmese

way" as a guise for repression. Actually, I too believe Marx was a

romantic, and many of his ideas have been subsumed under what we call the

"welfare state." But talk about tyrannies, Mr. Dumain! Did you travel to

any of those iron curtain countries before they fell? China was a really

nice one... and even now they are "fascist" because they still keep an iron

grip on free speech. Cuba could be better if we didn't embargo them to

death. Actually, Cuba has the highest literacy rate and longest lifespan, I

believe, in the Caribbean. Not bad, considering their repression of other

elements in their society!

>Another striking feature is how thin and pale the abstractions

>employed by these philosophers are to explain their predicament

>and the society that produces them.>>>

Nietzsche is pale and thin? Maybe for you. In fact, I wouldn't care if you

disregarded him totally in your studies except that I find it hard to

figure out what your studies really are! Why do you continued to even bring

him up in your tirade if you're onto such greater things than poor old

Friedrich was thinking about!

>underlying assumptions of all of "western thought,">>>>>

Actually, people ranging from Blake to Marx  thought they understood

"underlying assumptions to all of 'western thought.'" What's inherently bad

in trying to make an imaginative connectivity?

>show how serious the debilitating influences of alienation are on

>the human mind, how crippling alienated existence is on the most

>refined intellects>>>>>

Alienated? I feel plugged in! But this is all far away from Blake!

>In fact, the debilitation comes from one and the same source,

>meaning that the professional intellectual can no longer pose as

>the repository of universality.>>>>>

Ah-hah! You have more in common with Camille Paglia than perhaps you know,

Mr. Dumain! She too blames the academic establishment, but unlike you, she

encourages people to THINK FOR THEMSELVES, not trust in books upon books to

give them the answers. She asks that people engage critically and

creatively with source texts, which in fact she does quite brilliantly at

times! Yes, it's that "professional intellectual" that's to blame. Maybe

you can expound more on this dilemma!

>What is most galling is how old all this is.  For Marx (with the

>assistance of Engels) disposed of the precious self-consciousness

>of the petty bourgeois intellectual in THE GERMAN IDEOLOGY in

>1845-1846, his biggest mistake being in not getting this work

>published in his lifetime.>>>>>>>

But of course! And what has that got to do with your work on Blake?

>Another sad observation that can be made by anyone who chooses to

>actually think through the history of thought in social

>development, is how utterly counterrevolutionary the development

>from Nietzsche to Derrida is.>>>>

Tragic! What kind of revolution are you in favor of, Mr. Dumain? Getting

rid of the five senses? Overrunning commerce with its inherent evils in

favor of... what? An eye for an eye? To each man or woman, whatever they

can bring to the commonwealth?

>For the expose of the alienated,

>religious character of "philosophy" came not from Nietzsche but

>from Ludwig Feuerbach, representing a moment in the progressive

>and affirmative development of a social and intellectual project.>>>>>>>

Ah, Ludwig! The missing key in it all! Again, what has this got to do with


>Ultimately, it was Marx who pulled together the various threads of

>philosophical, economic, and sociological knowledge to create a

>total picture of the development and maldevelopment of human

>powers under the hierarchical organization of society and the

>division of labor.>>>>>>>>

Yes, it was Marx. He tied it all together in a nice little bow! Forget

Nietzsche, Freud, Jung, Levi-Strauss, and God save us from semioticians,

deconstructionists, or people like Coleridge and HIS theory on artists in

perspective of their time. What about artists themselves, like Blake,

Lawrence, Kafka, Orwell, or Camus? They had philosophies as described in

their art.

What Marx once imagined, has now been proven to be.... a utopia! (Well, not

completely. Every time a mega-merger happens, I think of his late

capitalism phase...)  What about other ECONOMISTS, which Marx was: people

like Adam Smith, Jeremy Bentham, John Stuart Mill, Keynes, and more. I've

always like Jean-Baptiste Say... Say's Law: the one about letting free

markets do their work. No, let's leave it to Marx! He had all the

answers!... pulling together the awesome "threads of philosophical,

economic, and sociological knowledge to create a total picture of the

development of human powers..." And you say Nietzsche is too

all-encompassing? Or too arrogant?

And I ask once again: what has this all got to do with William Blake? How

are you making connections between a Romantic artist and a Romantic


-Randall Albright


End of blake-d Digest V1996 Issue #82