blake-d Digest				Volume 1996 : Issue 98

Today's Topics:

	 Re: Eternity and Blakean Evolution -Reply

	 RE: Thel

	 Re: Eternity and Pictures

	 RE: Thel

	 Thel -Reply

	 RE: Thel -Reply

	  Returned mail: Host unknown -Forwarded

	   Re: Thel -Reply

	 Re: Thel -Reply

	 Re: Thel -Reply

	 Re[2]: Thel -Reply

	   Re: Thel -Reply

	 Re: Thel -Reply -Reply

	 Re: Thel -Reply -Reply

	 Re: Thel -Reply -Reply


Date: Fri, 02 Aug 1996 08:50:37 +0200

From: P Van Schaik 


Subject: Re: Eternity and Blakean Evolution -Reply


Avery, I agree with all you say here and would like to attempt a reply to

what happens to the `bounding line' in Eternity where time and space are

merely potential, not actual.   Blake's ` Eternal Great Humanity Divine', the

humane God who presides over Eternity  permits His Children infinite

freedom.  Thus, they may expand fully into His/Her bosom (since male

and female are united totally in Eternity) or contract towrds the core of

Selfhood which is necessary for every one to have individuality.  The

degree of expansion or contraction is the `wiry' bounding line.

Yet, as some discussing this question have intimated, there IS a sense in

which time-space is inherent in Eternity since a portion of the godhead

itself contracts whenever a portion of an Eternal  (as represented by

Urizen) contracts.  Thus, in a very real sense, each Eternal carries his/

her own Heaven and Hell within him/herself.  The `radix malorum' is like

the funnel of a tornado in my own imagination -  opening from Eternity

into the created universe.  Although Blake sees Urizen as creating the

initial downward-sucking vortex and then falling through 27 (at least)

vortices (an idea which, I think, Yeats picks up in A  Vision, although

BLake's seems more closely related to Kabbalah, and Yeats's to



Date: Fri, 02 Aug 1996 06:11:24 -0500 (CDT)



Subject: RE: Thel

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I can't speak for Pam, but the reading she suggests is very similar to that

offered by Helen Bruder in *Historicizing Blake* (1994), edited by Steve Clark

and David Worrall.  I think Bruder's reading is fairly persuasive as far as it

goes -- she raises an interesting alternative to the standard reading, an

alternative that many of my students seem to sense as well -- but the

strangest (??) thing about the essay is her characterization of Bob Gleckner's

critique of *Thel* as having "an almost rabid ferocity" (148).  There is a

ferocity about Bruder's essay that makes it something of a self-consuming

artifact, and a certain hyperbolic wittiness to it.  But anyone who has worked

with Gleckner (he directed my dissertation, 1992) must be surprised at such

a characterization.  I like Bentley's remark on this entry in his bibliographic

summary in *BIQ* Spring 1995:  "I have encountered no other rabid critics this

year" (144).

It's worth a read.

Paul Yoder


Date: Fri, 2 Aug 1996 09:33:18 -0500 (CDT)

From: Darlene Sybert 


Subject: Re: Eternity and Pictures


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On Wed, 31 Jul 1996, R.H. Albright wrote:

> >> To me, that's empowerment and justifies... terribly sorry the intervention

> >> was ill-timed, Darlene and Paul, but... feeling that you should tap the God

> >> within you, as well as recognizing that there's a God greater than you. If

> >> eternity is made up of the little seconds like when Blake lived and when we

> >> live...>

> >

> >        If you are still talking about Blake's works and haven't dropped

> >        back into this world, then where did the God stuff come from?


	I know I'm not making my question clear here because you didn't

	even come close to ansering it.  So let me try just once more..

	You were discussing the relationship between time and eternity in

	Blake's prophetic works...and jumped to the idea the God in everyone

	has something to do with it.

	Let's suppose that Blake did talk about the God within

	you in his works...beyond that one line; and maybe he linked that to

	the concept of Eternity...but YOU didn't.  You leap from one topic

	to the other.  So I'm just asking how do you justify that leap?

	I'm not saying the connection between God and Eterenity isn't there,

	 but I'm just wondering what led you to that conclusion.

	Are you suggesting that--according to Blake-God is always in 

	everyone?  everyone is always in Eternity? God and Eternity are

	connected?  Is that in his works? Or are you projecting your

	Judeo-Christian heritage into Blake's poetry and READING 

	something into it that isn't there?

	You seem to be saying that eternity implies a God so intrinsically

	that Blake doesn't have to mention it...but is that true?  If you

	except the idea of eternity, do you then have to believe in God's


	If you still don't see what I'm getting at, just ignore me and 

	I'll go away...maybe...    :)

Darlene Sybert 

University of Missouri at Columbia   (English)

TuTh 12:30-2:00  Tate Hall, Room 16 (Knock)


They say that Hope is happiness;/ But genuine Love must prize the past

And Memory wakes thoughts that bless/ They rose the first--they set the last. 

And all that Memory loves the most/  Was once our only Hope to be,

And all that Hope adored and lost/  Hath melted into Memory.

Alas! it is delusion all;/ The future cheats us from afar/

Nor can we be what we recall,/  Nor dare we think on what we are. -Byron



Date: Fri, 2 Aug 1996 18:43:42 -0400



Subject: RE: Thel

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Date: Mon, 05 Aug 1996 09:25:23 +0200

From: P Van Schaik 


Subject: Thel -Reply


Yes, Jennifer, I am saying , as you suggest,  that the Fall should be

avoided if possible and that I find the concept of `higher Innocence' to be

gained because of the Fall misleading.  In Blake's longer poems, Africa,

like Albion, could have fallen, but his dear friends in Eternity came to his

rescue in time - before he fell too deeply into the `Sleep' which

overwhelms the soul and causes it to forget the principles of

Selflessness in Eternity.    Friends, and even Jesus, also try to rescue

ALbion, but the downward tug of contraction is already too strong and

so he succumbs to his delusions.  When LYca strays away from home,

she too begins to desire `Sleep' and becomes incarnated, much to her

parents' dismay.  Thel is luckier because she flees in horror from her

foreseen lot on earth, after being kindly and eloquently reminded of the

divine vision of selfless love and the need to be mutually useful -even to

the point of self-annihilation  - in the perpetual flux and transience of the

eternal worlds. 

This is the view I presented  of Thel in my doctoral thesis, and,  in the

book I am writing on BLake and Kabbalah, I try to show how consistent

BLake's views are with those of the Kabbalah in this regard.  As in Infant

Sorrow, where the child resists the restraints which are imposed on it

by mortal garments, swaddling bands and society, so in Kabbalah (in the

Zohar) the infant descending into flesh is resentful.  Of course,

Wordsworth's "Intimations on Immortality" also come to mind here.

I would have responded sooner, but my computer keeps going into sullen

spasms. It too seems to want to remain unpolluted in cyperspace.  Hope

it allows me to answer other letters today.   Pam


Date: Mon, 05 Aug 1996 12:14:26 +0200

From: P Van Schaik 


Subject: RE: Thel -Reply


Dear Paul,  I was interested to hear of Helen Bruder.  My own views

haven't been published but are fully recorded in my doctoral thesis on

BLake as long ago as 1973.  I'll try  to scan in some of the detailed writing

I've done on Thel when I get a chance to do so,  ... right now, my car is

performing and getting stuck on the highway, my home telephone is out

of order, and this comouter gets `hung' and won't work!  Pam


Date: Mon, 05 Aug 1996 13:06:53 +0200

From: P Van Schaik 


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Date: Mon, 05 Aug 1996 09:52:47 +0200

From: P Van Schaik 


Subject: Re: Eternity and Pictures -Reply

Dear Randall,  I think God , for Blake , IS in all and that heaven and hell

are, in a sense, mental constructs.  Urizen's becoming oblvious to the

divine vision of love causes the `hell' of this mortal life (which seems so

real and is so real to those embodied),  .... but freed from the `cloud'

which obscures the heat of God's love (as in The Little Black Boy),

heaven may be perceived again by mortals. 

In his `Proverbs of Hell' , Blake purports to have been a tourist in `hell',

where he says he gathered  his Proverbs.  However, what he means is

that he recalls  wandering through imaginative visions in the holy fires of

God's spritiual realms where everything is the reverse morally of  what

the church practises on earth.   Thus, it is in Innocence that `Energy is

eternal delight'  - certainly not on earth where the church becomes the

Restrainer of Energy and advocates `good'  Passivity and parents follow

suit and teach children `to be seen , not heard' and all the other `thou

shalt nots' which Blake abhors.   

Blake frequently takes this stand - of the one who has seen the

beginnings  of the soul's journey in Eden and who is horrified by what he

sees, by contrast, on earth.  This is his stance in "London", and in The

Book of Thel and many other of his `Songs'.  Again, however, this view

of mine is not one which I have seen critics adopt  - yet, without

understanding that Blake often poses as the Traveller from afar who has

seen Jerusalem in all her spledour, as opposed to Babylon in all her

Whoredom, much of Blake's meaning remains obscure and critics find it

necessary to posit several contradictory Blakes.  

Pam van Schaik 


Date:      Mon, 5 Aug 1996 08:35:25 -0400 (EDT)

From: "Avery F. Gaskins" 


Subject:   Re: Thel -Reply


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Dear Pam,

   I can see that you reject Hazard Adams's thesis that remaining in innocence

stifles the growth of the soul into "Higher Innocence" and I'll be very eager

to read your book and see how you argue your stance more fully. Is it already

in your dissertation? If so, does your university have a circulating copy that

I could request? In the meantime, I would just like to say that there is one

little detail in "The Book of Thel" that seems to underscore the idea that it

is a shame that Thel rejects Experience. She returns to "The Vales of Har"

which is populated by other eternals in a state of innocence (the family of

Tiriel) who act like spoiled brats. Selfishness is one of the aspects of  a

child in innocence. Have you ever read "The Toddler's Creed"? It's amusing and

right on the mark. As Adams see the progression, we carry our selfishness into

Experience (cynicism) then move to Higher Innocence when we learn to reject it.

Yearning to return to a more innocent state (Beaulah) is proof that we still

are wallowing in selfishness. I'm sure you have answers to all this, and I'll

be eager to read them with an open mind, but I have to admit, I have found

Adams very useful for a long time and it will be hard to give him up.

                                            Avery Gaskins


Date: Mon, 5 Aug 1996 11:43:00 -0500

From: (J. Michael)


Subject: Re: Thel -Reply


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> When LYca strays away from home,

>she too begins to desire `Sleep' and becomes incarnated, much to her

>parents' dismay.

As I read "The Little Girl Lost" and "Found," when Lyca's parents

eventually find her in the "desart wild," they see that she isn't "lost" at

all, but safe in a Peaceable Kingdom of tygers, lions, and wolves, which

they apparently join also:

To this day they dwell

In a lonely dell

Nor fear the wolvish howl,

Nor the lions growl.

This isn't to say that a fall is necessary, but that what looks like a fall

sometimes isn't.  In this case, it seems that the "desart wild / Become[s]

a garden mild" through a change in human perception.

But back to Thel:

>Thel is luckier because she flees in horror from her

>foreseen lot on earth, after being kindly and eloquently reminded of the

>divine vision of selfless love and the need to be mutually useful -even to

>the point of self-annihilation  - in the perpetual flux and transience of the

>eternal worlds.

But the examples of "mutual usefulness" are all profoundly embodied and

reek of mortality, e.g. becoming food for worms.  It seems to me that the

Clod, the Lily, the Cloud, etc. are trying to reconcile Thel to her

mortality, and she can accept it in theory, but when she comes to the mouth

of the grave (which is also the gate of birth) she loses her nerve.  The

questions that emanate from the pit all lament the opening of the senses to

danger and destruction, but the alternative is that they be closed, and

everywhere else Blake censures those who "close themselves up."

I'm by no means settled in my reading of the poem, however; I found out

recently when teaching it for the first time just how little I understand


Jennifer Michael


Date: Mon, 5 Aug 1996 13:46:52 -0400 (EDT)

From: Alexander Gourlay 


Subject: Re: Thel -Reply


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Jennifer Michael is right that the Hazard-ous reading by Adams (and

countless others who don't know the natural world from a hole in the 

ground) is completely unjustified by the text of the poem.  The

vales of Har in the Book of Thel, whatever they are in Tiriel, are a place

where beings live and die, and love if they're smart.  It is a version of

Arcadia, not heaven or preexistence.  If it is an extraordinary world that

is so because it seems to have no male humans in it, except for Luvah, who

is the universal lover (and whose existence Thel cannot grasp).  Thel is

like most Arcadians in that she doesn't get it-- though the beings she

meets assure her over and over that death (which is in most cases the

sacrifice of one's virgin self) is nothing important, she is convinced

that the real answer is in the grave.  When she finally goes there she

hears only the echoes of her own silly questions from an empty pit; her

shriek is presumably a sign that she finally realizes that she has been

barking down the wrong hole. There are still plenty of questions about 

this poem, but there is no question that Thel is heading in the right 

direction at the end.

Sandy Gourlay


Date: Mon, 5 Aug 96 17:25 CST


To:, Alexander Gourlay 

Subject: Re[2]: Thel -Reply

Message-Id: <>

     Although I see Thel's final shriek as more ambiguous than Sandy 

     Gourlay does -- is she deeply enough shocked to break out of her 

     self-centeredness? -- I thoroughly agree with him that in this poem 

     the Vales of Har are not the same as in *Tiriel*: they do allow for 

     growth and change, living and dying, and the mother Earth who entices 

     Thel to explore the grave says that she's not only being given the 

     change to enter, but also to "return." Ages ago (1970), I tried in an 

     article in JEGP to get past the then-standard view that Har was a 

     pre-existent state and/or Lower Innocence and that Thel's dilemma was 

     whether or not to be born, and/or whether or not to give up her 

     virginity. It still seems to me that readers should NOT assume that 

     Thel's sole purpose in life is to find a lover and have babies, and 

     she's resisting her destiny. Her coming-of-age, meaning-of-life 

     questions are much broader and might be asked by young men as well: 

     Why does everything alive eventually have to die? When I die, of what 

     value will my life have been? Why are other (non-human) creatures able 

     to die without these complaints and regrets? How can I be happy in the 

     natural world when I have no real place or purpose in it, when my only 

     participation in nature is after death to feed the worms?


        In her first two conversations, with the Lilly and the Cloud, Thel, 

     looking for obvious parallels with her own situation, draws back, 

     believing that their experience doesn't apply to her; she doesn't hear 

     the common theme that they are happy because they are in loving, 

     self-giving relationships, participating in the larger life of the 

     whole; she can't understand the secret of their affirmation of life:  

     "every thing that lives, / Lives not alone, nor for itself." But just 

     before she speaks with the Clod of Clay, she has something of a 

     breakthrough in being able, to her astonishment, to see the worm from 

     a new perspective: as an infant deserving of care and attention. I 

     believe that's why she seems more receptive to mother Earth's "I 

     ponder, and I cannot ponder; yet I live and love" and doesn't have to 

     be referred to yet another expert tutor. After hearing the Clod, Thel 

     quits crying, re-states what she's learned, and summons the courage to 

     enter ("and to return" from) the realm of death and, specifically to 

     linger beside "her own grave plot," where earth has stored up all her 

     sighs and moans (and complaints and fears). In my article I called 

     what Thel hears in the grave the "voice of her buried self." 


     I don't think she was ever supposed to stay down in that grave, which 

     she has entered prematurely, at the Clod of Clay's invitation, solely 

     in order to learn something. Finally, instead of asking others, she is 

     confronting her deeper identity and seeking her own answers -- which 

     turn out to be questions about sensuality and the senses and why there 

     should be restraints on the fulfillment of desire. This opportunity to 

     explore her fears was "given" especially to her by the Clod of Clay 

     and, presumably, by him "who smiles on all" and who "loves the lowly." 

     I see no reason to believe that IN THIS POEM Blake is presenting the 

     grave as the gateway to a richer, fuller life (that's just a 

     carry-over from neoplatonic interpretions or an over-schematic fixed 

     fourfold compartmentalized diagram: Eden, Beulah, Generation, Ulro, 

     from later poems superimposed backward on this one). But the grave IS 

     there to teach her, now that she's ready, something about life AND 

     death: Thel needs to die to herself in order to live more abundantly; 

     she needs to overcome her fear of death and (by implication) of sexual 

     experience. (Sandy is right that there aren't any male counterparts in 

     Thel's world, but maybe even if they had been there she wouldn't have 

     been able to see them.) At any rate, the poem ends with a piercing 

     moment of self-recognition, self-understanding -- but doesn't tell us 

     what Thel does with her new knowledge.


     What are the possibilities? Her older sisters are shepherdesses (not, 

     apparently, wives and mothers). Thel has been too sickly and secretly 

     self-absorbed even to do this job. At the beginning of the poem she 

     has slipped away from everyone else, half in love with easeful death 

     as Keats might say, wishing to "fade away like morning beauty from her 

     mortal day" and "gentle sleep the sleep of death," yet questioning why 

     everything has to die. At the end she rejects death and flees back 

     into the sunlight of her own world, where we may hope she will at 

     least take up her neglected sheep-herding duties and go on learning 

     from those around her. She's no longer in her shell, no longer so 

     passive and weepy; maybe she'll open herself to a more demanding and 

     fulfilling way of life.


     Didn't mean to go on so long.  -- Mary Lynn Johnson


Date:      Mon, 5 Aug 1996 23:17:46 -0400 (EDT)

From: "Avery F. Gaskins" 


Subject:   Re: Thel -Reply


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Please show me Mr. Gourlay where anyone dies in "Tiriel."

                                                   Avery Gaskins


Date: Tue, 06 Aug 1996 09:17:18 +0200

From: P Van Schaik 


Subject: Re: Thel -Reply -Reply


Dear Avery, both my MA and PhD theses are available .  The first,

written under my maiden name of Dembo and for the University of North

Carolina at CHapel Hill was entitled "The Contrary Images of Light and

Darkness in the Prophetic Works ofWilliam Blake", 1973.  The PhD is

entitled "Blake's Vision of the Fall and Redemption of Man", under my

married name, Van Schaik, University of South Africa, 1983.  The Library

of Congress certainly has a copy of the first  and I assume also of the

second.  Re Thel and my understanding of Blake's vision of Innocence  -

this, is , of course, fully developed in the doctorial thesis in which I

explore all the contrary images as they relate to Innocence and

Experience (whereas in the Ma I only focused on light and darkness, 

constantly aware of how these spill over  into all the others).

In answer to the specific problems you raise, to see selfishness as

carried into the fallen world of Nature from the realms of Innocnece is to

invalidate all that Innocence stands for  - and not to have grasped at all

the central significance of Jesus and Jerusalem as the prototypes of

divine love in Eternity.  All that exists in Innocence aspires to expand into

the light of Jerusalem and through unity with her, become one with

Jesus.  This expansion away from the core of selfishness is what

sustains all beings in Innocence.  To assume that there never was a

complete state of expansion into the bosom of God on the part of all his

Children is simply to discard one entire half of the equation since

Experience is seen as a Negation of the necessary contraries  in Eden

and Beulah.  Not only is Eden (being the fieriest realm in the `bosom. of

God) the contrary of Beulah (where the light of God is less fierce, so

allowing for forms to be visible because there is some contrat between

light and dark),  but in these two realms of Innocence, all the contraries,

created by the various degrees of expansion and contraction of the

Eternals,  are represented.

When any spiritual being in these realms of Innocent contraries

contracts too far into the SElfhood, only then does Adams' image of

selfishness appear.  Those who do so contract, however, immediately

begin to wish to lie down and `Sleep' becuase their eternal expansive

senses become sluggish when they cease to behold the divine vision of

love which sustains them in Innocence.  This is why Thel wants to lie

down and fade from her eternal day.  Being the youngest of the

Seraphim who burn with ardour in praise of God, she has not fully

understood the principles which sustain all in Innocence.  The Liliy and

CLoud try to remind her of the selfless loves exemplified by Jesus and


My problem with practically ALL the critics on BLake is that they do not

seem to grasp the central symbols of the poet  on which they have built

successful careers.  There is `higher innocence' only in the sense that

all the  Eternals learn what happens when one of their number contracts

too far, and too fast for remedy,  into the Selfhood.  From Albion's

example, all the female emanations of heaven learn to take particular 

care to remain `one' in intellect and will with their `masculine'

counterparts  as, only in this way, can error be averted in a system

which depends on the systole and diastole of expansion/contraction.

Blake's  placing of THel in the Vales of Har which are associated with

the walrussy Har and Heva  is , I think,  the cause of much 

misinterpretation.  But to build a case re Thel's selfishness in fleeing back

to Beulah on the fact that she is like the characters in Thiriel,    is to base

one's assumptions on very narrow data.  Place this assumption against

all that one gleans of the Fall in the Prophetic Books and the case

appears very weak.

Hope this helps ... will have to get over my addiction to replying here if I

am to get on with putting everything up on a Website... but after years of

silence,  this group provides a wonderfully spontaneous democracy of

interpreters.  Thanks Seth and all who are participating for a liberating

experience. Pam van Schaik.


Date: Tue, 06 Aug 1996 09:31:46 +0200

From: P Van Schaik 


Subject: Re: Thel -Reply -Reply


Dear Sandy,  I think you are right in suggesting that Blake;s vision in The

Book of THel is Arcadian, but this does not mean that it is not his view of

Beulah in heaven in Innocence. (The anti -Hazard  Adams view,

incidentally, is mine, not Jennifer' s ... my mail got sent to her in some

way  and she re-routed it to the line.)  Pam van Schaik


Date: Tue, 06 Aug 1996 10:01:14 +0200

From: P Van Schaik 


Subject: Re: Thel -Reply -Reply


Dear Jennifer,  I don't think that the advice given by the Cloud and Lily

can be seen as primarily reconciling Thel to her mortality,  given the fact

that she is the youngest of Mne Seraphim and so clearly a spiritual being 

- yet one who lacks , on account of her youth, the depth of

understanding of other Eternals re Innocence.  As a type of sublime

allegory, however, the poem has the effect of reconciling us to our

mortality since it intimates a world in which divine love restores every

particle of earthly life to eternal life.  Implied, surely, is the notion that we

should not assume that our mortal bodies are our only, or true, identities. 

Constant   Self-annihilation is seen as the  mystical paradox of eternal

life:  all the beings in the eternal realms who appear and dissolve like

rainbows, or reflections in a mirror, or a baby's smiles (to paraphrase

Thel herself) know that the perpetual flux of life in God's light is what

sustains them in unity with the divine source of light and love.

Mortal life is the `grave' of all that Innocence is.  I always find it hard to

understand in what sense critics can find the sexual and selfish loves of

those enclosed in flesh superior to the commingling of one's entire

essence with that of others in the fiery loves of Eden.  Of course, like

every other mortal, I am in no hurry to discard my mortal covering, but I

love Blake for presenting a view of a wonderfully loving God in a

wonderfully intellectually stimulating and erotic heaven (i.e. the Eternal

Great Humanity Divine as opposed to little Urizen).

I do not see the CLoud and Lily as `profoundly embodied' and `reeking of

mortality' because, as Blake's illustrations suggest, he is depicting the

divine human forms of the Cloud, Lily and Clay  - the faces they have

when infused with the humanity of God in the spiritual realms of

Innocence.    In Kabbalah, too, there is a concept of the Large and Small

faces of God  which can easily be related to Blake.     

I'll try to reply re Lyca on a separate letter  ...after going to tea.  Pam


End of blake-d Digest V1996 Issue #98