Blake List — Volume 1998 : Issue 55

Today's Topics:
	       Re: Blake and Madness
	 Re: Some thoughts / opiates
	 RE: "He whose face gives no light shall never become a star."
	 Re:  Re: Some thoughts / opiates
	 Re: Some thoughts / opiates
	 "The Mental Traveller"
	 Ralph's questions
	 Re:  RE: "He whose face gives no light shall never become a star."


Date:          Sun, 30 Aug 1998 17:47:10 CST
From: "Ed Friedlander, M.D." 
Subject:       Re: Blake and Madness
Message-Id: <258B28F3753@ALUM.UHS.EDU>

> Those interested in diagnosing Blake might also look at Paul Youngquist's
> 1989 book _Madness and Blake's Myth_.
> Jennifer Michael
I saw and appreciated it, though I'll need to see it again if this
discussion gets interesting.  I remember Youngquist as a philosopher
and student of the literary tradition of "madness", rather than as a

Writing about madness, hallucinations, dreams, fantasies and so forth
is common, as it well should be.  Literature is about our perception
of the world, what we can believe, what we value, and so forth.

"Madness" is, of course, a lay person's term.  Discussions of
"madness" by ordinary folks are as interesting and enjoyable as the
"American Journal of Psychiatry" is Urizenic.

T.S. Eliot was once asked whether Hamlet's madness was real or
feigned.  He said he would like to know whether the madness of
Hamlet's critics is real or feigned.

* * *

Ed's Pathology Notes
Obviously, I cannot be your doctor, cannot diagnose or treat over the
internet, and can speak only for myself.  However, I can help you
find information, resources, articles, and experts... all as a free
public service.  Let me know how I can help you and your friends.

              -- Ed Friedlander, M.D. "the Pathology Guy"


Date: Sun, 30 Aug 1998 15:56:32 -0700 (PDT)
From: Ralph Dumain 
Subject: Re: Some thoughts / opiates
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At 01:40 PM 8/30/98 -0500, J. Michael wrote:
>While I'm thinking, here's a hot potato to throw into the discussion
>(rather less threatening than a grenade):  "The Chimney Sweeper" of
>Innocence.  Is Blake's view of the Angel entirely ironic, as he gives Tom
>the dangerous "opiate," the promise of heaven, that keeps him in bondage?
>Or does Tom's dream offer the only liberation possible in his situation?

Aaaaah .... and here's another decisive question:

"If all do their duty they need not fear harm".

It is essential to consider the meaning of this ambiguous expression.  Is it
that they won't be harmed, or that they will but they need not fear it?


Date: Sun, 30 Aug 1998 15:56:27 -0700 (PDT)
From: Ralph Dumain 
To: ,
Subject: RE: "He whose face gives no light shall never become a star."
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At 01:15 PM 8/30/98 -0700, Kerry McKeever wrote:
>Duly noted, Ralph.  I don't consider myself a "footnote whore," but I do 
>believe in paying respect to all of those who have worked so hard on texts 
>before we come to them.  

Yes, before, or after.  As for instances of footnote-whoring, I haven't had
a problem with that sort of thing in the Blake world.  However, in my line
of work, I do come into contact with a lot of academics, both profs and grad
students, in the humanities and human sciences, some from very prestigious
institutions, and it's a big problem with powerful social roots in the
division of labor and the professional socialization of intellectuals.  And
I must say that people in literature departments are the worst of the lot.
But that is another harangue.

>I still have difficulty with how you describe 
>"unorganized innocence," but I will ponder this further before I offer 
>another response.

It's not like I was completely explicit about how this Blakeian notion
applies to literary criticism.  It's something I think about intuitively,
and sometimes incorporate into aphorisms and poems, but it's not something I
have reasoned out in an explicit logical manner, not in writing, anyway.  So
let me just pose the issue in more familiar terms.  

The loss of "innocence" in the human sciences is well known to us.  The
autonomous bourgeois individual, with an integrity existing outside of and
prior to socialization, has been recognized as an ideological myth by those
sophisticated enough to have lived through an historical period where they
can and must see otherwise.  The idea that your mind is not just individual,
but has society in it, in your language, the formation of your inner world,
etc., that the immediacy of your self-perception of being an autonomous,
self-determined individual is an illusion, is now an idea widely accepted.
Didn't Foucault write something about the abolition of "Man"?  Now many
people think there is something very profound about all this; I'm not one of
them, though.  The self-abasement of intellectuals in the face of their own
impotence is a pattern that has been repeating itself since the
mid-nineteenth century.  They capitulate to unreason once they learn that
reason doesn't rule the world as they or their forbears once bragged.  I can
sniff out the type a mile away.  (Oddly enough, I don't see much analysis of
this phenomenon in print, but you must read Adorno's essay on Spengler, the
most eloquent essay of its kind.)  So they end at the point where they
should be just beginning.  

The reason they do so is that as products of bourgeois ideology at its
highest level, they are more mesmerized by it than any other segment of
society.  They squirm inside of their constricted bourgeois selves in
desperation: the form of their rebellion is spitting on the ideology of the
autonomous bourgeois self.  This is also easy to do because prostration
before power is how their social grouping is trained to behave.  Deprived of
any social context that would give their existence a grounding and a meaning
beyond their functional existence as a cog in the social machine of
ideology, they become obsessed with contextualizing everything.  Meanwhile,
millions and millions of people, trapped in the social conjunctures--the
ruts--in which their circumstances have dug grooves for them so deep they
will never get out, don't have to worry about contextualizing; they don't
know who they are distinct from their social roles as mother, sister,
daughter, breadwinner, beast of burden, what have you, and if they were able
to consciously articulate what is missing in their inner being, they would
cry out to achieve that autonomous bourgeois self which the social
democratic intellectual has dismissed as a scam.  

We can take this scenario and transpose it to the situation of the
"innocent" and "experienced" reader.  While it is easy enough to prove that
reading can never be completely innocent, and that the mastery of language
and cultural codes and unspoken presuppositions required to make sense out
of any text comes from a long-term process of socialization that is anything
but "innocent".  We can show that the spontaneous, "innocent", immediate
response to textual stimuli is a highly mediated affair.  Now where to go
from here?

Blake juxtaposes innocence to experience as the two contrary states of the
soul. But these are not states that just exist in temporal succession, from
childhood to adulthood, or innocence to experience.  No sir.  Experience
shows that innocence cannot remain unorganized for long, for its perspective
is too simplistic and abstract in the Hegelian sense.  But if one loses
one's fundamental simplicity, one can get lost in experience, and become
absorbed and corrupted by the limitations and complexities of the
environment in which one must survive.  Hence one must navigate through the
minefield of experience with a perspective cynical enough to outmaneuver the
mendacity one encounters but yet animated by a principle not reducible to
the principles of the world of experience.  This is what being organized
means.  But how can something be spontaneous and organized at the same time?
Well, what is the root of the new, where are the germs of change and growth,
where are the grains of sand and how come about the moments in each day that
Satan cannot find?

I give you the end of a golden string; now it's up to you to wind it up in a


Date: Sun, 30 Aug 1998 16:07:57 -0700 (PDT)
From: Ralph Dumain 
Subject: Re:  Re: Some thoughts / opiates
Message-Id: <>
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Tom Devine made the point far more eloquently than I did.

Also, the theologian aims to convince by pitching a doctrine.   The poet
makes us experience certain states of being.  This is how he communicates to
us devils who all hate religion.

At 01:16 PM 8/30/98 EDT, wrote:
>I don't think anyone could argue against this statement, but we could all
>argue what it MEANS for years -- because Blake's definition of spirituality,
>or religion, is precisely the point at issue
>Does Blake believe in a God outside the Imagination, who enters History to
>guide and save us?  Sometimes .....



Date: Sun, 30 Aug 1998 19:22:31 -0500 (EST)
From: Alan 
Subject: Re: Some thoughts / opiates
Content-Type: TEXT/PLAIN; charset=US-ASCII

   I don't believe the angel can occupy an ironic position in the poem. 
It's difficult to clearly label the angel's presense as ironic or
benefical in its liberation or entrapment of Tom, because the angel's
presence can only serve as a mechanism of entrapment.  I would have to say
that the angel's dialogue with Tom is a subversive mechanism which
attempts to invert and mask the exploitation with a belif of greater
dreams ahead.  Within the ethos of Blake's diabolical and anti-exegetial
philosophy, an angel is inherently imbued with the perverted beliefs of
Christianity, and thus is a sinister entity whose presence would have to
belie any orthodox perception associated with it by Christianity.  The
very presence of the angel and its speech, "And the Angel told Tom, if
he'd be a good boy, / He'd have God as his father and never want joy" 
(19-20) is a literalization and affirmation of the subliminal and subtle
way way in which the Christian mind/body split affords exploitation and
commodifaction of the body. Thus historically, a good Christian could send
a boy to work for 15 hrs a day and not have guilt since the body is
  To Tom, the angel is representative of a holy and benign entity, and yet
this same benign entity is also wholly representative of Christian imagery
and its ability to coerce and enable exploitation through salvation. Tom's
vision of a futuristic emancipation from his lot is false, in that the act
they do to achieve emnancipation is not done for its intrinsic worth, but
done only to avoid harm.  The angel serves to reinforce the bondage of
work given by society.  The angel's political agenda of entrapment and
exploitation through illusion of salvation does negate the orthodox
perception of the angel governened by Christianity but does reinforce
Blake's non-secularized perception of the angel as an agent not of God's
but of the government's. Even though Tom's perception of his work likely
shifts from negative to positive, perhaps the only medium for his
freedoom, the shift nevertheless is predicated on an unspoken legitimizing
of his forced labor enroute to salvation.  The angel could not clearly be
ironic to the reader, as it carries out its political purpose to exploit
Tom through visions of the sublime.  I'm not sure if this answers the
question, but I hope it has some merit. 


Alan Lopez

Indiana University South Bend. 

> Well, I'm thoroughly embarrassed to have misread Paul's allusion to "the
> opiate of the masses."  I suppose I could blame it on the freshman who had
> just told me the last book he'd read was Huxley's _Doors of Perception_.
> I'll have to come back to Paul's real question, which I take to be, "What
> is the place of spirituality in a Marxist reading of Blake, or, what is the
> place of religion in Blake's social vision?"
> While I'm thinking, here's a hot potato to throw into the discussion
> (rather less threatening than a grenade):  "The Chimney Sweeper" of
> Innocence.  Is Blake's view of the Angel entirely ironic, as he gives Tom
> the dangerous "opiate," the promise of heaven, that keeps him in bondage?
> Or does Tom's dream offer the only liberation possible in his situation?
> Until later,
> Jennifer Michael


Date: Sun, 30 Aug 1998 20:57:47 -0400
From: (R.H. Albright)
Subject: "The Mental Traveller"
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Does anyone know where the following poem came from?
I found it in a dead man's wallet, and...
I think it's from the Bible,
but he didn't bother to give the source
as he kept it as solace, undoubtedly, as I do now.



>From bondage to spiritual faith,
        From spiritual faith to great courage,
>From great courage to liberty,
        From liberty to abundance,
>From abundance to selfishness,
        From selfishness to complacency,
>From complacency to apathy,
        From apathy to dependency,
>From dependency to bondage.


I wonder if there's a grain of truth, if it is the Bible, that Blake used
it as *part* of his inspiration for "The Mental Traveller".


        A W A R E . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


Also, if anyone knows the source of this, I'd be grateful:

Let nothing disturb you.
Let nothing frighten you.
Everything passes away except God.
God alone is sufficient.


The price of an ever expanding tent
of understanding and forgiveness and tolerance
in the "Jerusalem" of tomorrow
is being forever vigilant...............................

Thank you.

Because, like Jurgen Habermas, I believe that the Enlightenment Project
needs to be
*improved*, not abandonned.

What do you think Blake thought?

"Jerusalem" had another name, as I recall, in that last golden book:

                L I B E R T Y

----Randall Albright


Date: Sun, 30 Aug 1998 23:41:19
From: Izak Bouwer 
Subject: Ralph's questions
Message-Id: <>
Content-Type: text/plain; charset="us-ascii"

At 09:08 PM 8/28/98 -0700, Ralph Dumain wrote:
>How does this early poem [the tractate _ARO_] square with
>remarks made later on?  Taking for example the following 
>PRINCIPLE 6  The Jewish & Christian Testaments are 
>An original derivation from the Poetic Genius.  this 
>is necessary from >the confined nature of bodily sensation

This quote should be read in conjunction with
Principle 7: As all men are alike (tho' infinitely various),
So all Religions, as all similars, have one source.
The true Man is the source, he being the Poetic Genius.

>How does this square with:
>(1) Blake's privileging of the Christian revelation above 
     all others?

Blake privileges Christianity partly because these
were the cards he was dealt. But this is no ordinary 
traditional Christianity that he is explicating, and 
he told Robinson that "he understands by the Bible the 
spiritual sense."  He passionately believes in the Christ 
that taught the Gospel of the "Forgiveness of Sins"
>(2) Blake's condemnation of the Jews as well as Judaism?

 In _Anno. to Watson_, Blake condemns the Old Testament 
"Wickedness of the Israelites" to murder thousands under 
pretence of a command from God, and asks: "[Did Christ not 
come] to abolish the Jewish Imposture? Was not Christ 
murder'd because he taught that God loved all Men . . . 
in opposition to the Jewish Scriptures, which are only an 
Example of the wickedness & deceit of the Jews." 
[_Anno. to W._ (K387)]  In a later annotation, he
again refers to the Jews as "Murderers & Revengers."
Of course, Blake was referring to the theological necessity
to augment the Patriarchal cruelty of the OT with Christ's
Gospel of love in the New, thus forming the Bible complete.

>(3) Blake's characterization of the Koran as a loose Bible?

Blake refers to the Koran in exactly one place:
_Song of Los_3:"So Antamon ... to Mahomet a loose Bible gave."

And one should go back and take note of the context: 
various persons such as Jesus, Brama, Trismegistus, Plato,
etc. - i.e. major figures in religion and philosophy - were
given laws or codes or gospels by individual 'deities' in
Blake's system, e.g. Theotormon, Rintrah, Palamabron, etc.
Thus various "Laws & Religions" were passed "to the sons of 
Har, binding them more/ And more to Earth, closing and 
restraining,/ Till a Philosophy of Five Senses was complete."
The implication clearly is that Man eventually would have to 
free himself from the restrictions of all these religions & 
laws in order to reach "the true Man, or Poetic Genius" within. 

". . . All deities reside in the human breast." [_MHH_11]

>(4) Blake's characterization of Brahmanism (Hinduism?) as 
    abstract philosophy?
"When Rintrah gave abstract philosophy to Brama in the East."

 Kathleen Raine has the interesting suggestion that the 
source of this information may be Sir William Jones stating,
in 1794, that "among other Indian curiosities . . . was a 
technical system of logick, which the Mohammedan writer 
supposes to have been the ground work of the famous 
Aristotelian method." [_Bl and Trad_ 1, p.351 n.44]

 In _MHH_12, Blake states that "the philosophy of the East
taught the first principles of human perception." 

>(5) Blake's later condemnation of Deism, forgetting his 
>earlier exculpation>of Paine? 
>(6) Blake's lifelong equivocations about honest conscience 
>as voice of God>(e.g. Paine), along with his complaints 
>about the limitations of sacred>codes,  and his adoption 
>of the Bible (in his own heterodox interpretation)
>as the universal standard?

Perhaps I should give some quotes from Blake first:

 "That God does & always did converse with honest Men, 
Paine never denies." [_Anno. to W_ (K389)] 

The laws [i.e. "sacred codes"] of the Jews were . . . 
the basest & most oppressive of human codes, & being like 
all other codes given under pretence of divine command . . . 
i.e. State Religion, which is the source of all Cruelty." 
[_Anno. to Watson_ (K393)] 

 "The antiquities of every Nation under Heaven, is no less
sacred than that of the Jews. They are the same thing, as
Jacob Bryant and all antiquaries have proved. How other 
antiquities came to be neglected and disbelieved, while 
those of the Jews are collected and arranged, is an enquiry 
worthy of both the Antiquarian and the Divine. All had
originally one language, and one religion: this was the
religion of Jesus, the everlasting Gospel. Antiquity
preaches the Gospel of Jesus." [_DC_ of 1809(K578)]

 And what "did Christ Inculcate? Forgiveness of Sins. 
This alone is the Gospel" [_EG_ (1818 on) K757]

So we find Blake saying: "All Religions Are One."  Then
he sets about criticizing them, including that of the Jews, 
and Deism. At best he considers them as necessary vessels
(to stem the Fall) and that they must eventually be discarded.
To me it seems that his prerequisite is that 
there must be a redemption, and towards this end he favors 
Christ's teaching of "Forgiveness of Sins, which is 
Self Annihilation" [_J_ 98].

Izak Bouwer


Date: Mon, 31 Aug 1998 00:10:36 EDT
Subject: Re:  RE: "He whose face gives no light shall never become a star."
Message-Id: <>>
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>Hence one must navigate through the
>minefield of experience with a perspective cynical enough to outmaneuver the
>mendacity one encounters but yet animated by a principle not reducible to
>the principles of the world of experience.  

Thanks, Ralph.  I agree with this.  What you describe here is illustrated in
the frontispiece to Songs of Experience, where the Shepherd walks out of the
pastoral landscape into our world, staring us straight in the eye with a hard
look (at least in one copy), with the angel/genius of innocence on his
shoulders and above his head, also looking straight at us, and (I imagine)
helping the Shepherd keep to his course -- animating him, as you say.

--Tom Devine


Date: Sun, 30 Aug 1998 23:42:31 -0700
From: Michael James Mahin 
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Dear Ralph,
When you say existential here:

And then there's the question of Blake's peculiar use of the word "belief".
Blake is for belief, and against unbelief (e.g. atheism), but he uses the
word rather liberally to cover people he admires, e.g. in defending Paine,
or when saying about certain people "Perhaps they didn't disbelieve for all
that."  Belief seems to me something far more directly existential for Blake
than simply adhering to a set of some propositions about some subject matter.

Might the word dispositional work better? I was just wondering what you meant by
saying Blake's use of the idea of Belief is existential. I interpreted your
statement as saying that Blake's use of the word or idea of belief changes, or
morphs depending on what he is talking about. I have hear the word dispositional
used in regards to Blakean ethics, and think it refers to an ethics based on a
certain type of constant interpretation.
Ralph Dumain wrote:

> At 10:32 AM 8/29/98 -0700, Kerry McKeever wrote:
> >[Kerry McKeever]  Ralph, do you think it possible that Blake recognized in
> >Byron and his Cain not so much a self doubt but a doubt in God, and such
> >doubt was understanable and, indeed, acceptable?
> In Blake's universe, is there a difference between self-doubt and doubt in
> God? Blake does have an unorthodox view of God, does he not?
> And then there's the question of Blake's peculiar use of the word "belief".
> Blake is for belief, and against unbelief (e.g. atheism), but he uses the
> word rather liberally to cover people he admires, e.g. in defending Paine,
> or when saying about certain people "Perhaps they didn't disbelieve for all
> that."  Belief seems to me something far more directly existential for Blake
> than simply adhering to a set of some propositions about some subject matter.
> Of course such doubt was acceptable to Blake.  It's a recurring theme, e.g.
> "A Little Boy Lost" in Experience.  Blake accepts the validity of such a
> perspective, though it is limited from his standpoint.  People can't believe
> what other people tell them to contrary to conviction.
> Quite clearly Blake accepts the validity of Byron's rebellion, but it
> doesn't go far enough for him.  It still accepts the terms of what is being
> rebelled against.  To use an analogous example, it's like saying people are
> forlorn because God is dead or nonexistent (early Sartre?), or if God
> doesn't exist, then everything is permitted, or similar rubbish.  The guilt,
> the emptiness, etc., suggests that the person who has rebelled against the
> official morality is still under the sway of what he has rebelled against,
> and hence is exiled in the wilderness.
> This is not an immediate explanation, but a meta-explanation.
> >I ponder this because of
> >Blake's specific illusion to Elijah and the telling part of Kings to which
> >Blake refers in his Address.  I have written on this subject, but I would
> >much appreciate yours and anyone else's comments.
> When it comes to interpretation of Biblical illusions, I'm not your man.
> I'd rather read what you have written.  I don't do this stuff for a living,
> I'm a complete amateur, but I've developed my own explanatory criteria.
> It's one step to interpret one symbolism by means of another symbolism, one
> mythological structure by means of another, but in my lights that's only the
> first step.  Ultimately, one needs to explain what the underlying motivation
> behind all of the symbolism is, because (a) such is a fundamental
> characteristic of rational explanation, (b) it is necessary to account for
> the response to poetic expressions on the part of people who don't share the
> same belief system as the poet.  If a symbolic poet means something to me,
> it's got to appeal to some model I have in my head of how the world works,
> some way I have of interpreting the empirical data of a symbolic statement
> so that it is meaningful to me, especially if I don't share the same
> religious framework as the poet who is communicating to me.  I am stubbornly
> empirical, for lack of a better term.  I'm not satisfied with top-down
> explanations of what I am supposed to read into something.  I'd rather work
> my way from the bottom up, not to assume a pre-digested set of concepts, but
> to justifying them by trying to discern the realities to which the symbols
> or myths likely symbolize.  I've tried to explain this principle in previous
> discussions, esp. in arguing with the spiritualists, and I'm sure I have not
> yet succeeded in refining my account of my own cognitive procedures to the
> satisfaction of even those who might agree with me, let alone those who do not.
> >As well, I would like
> >any comments on Blake's short play, "The Ghost of Abel" as well,
> >particularly in interpreting Adam and Eve's response to the death of Abel.
> > Does Blake write it as a corrective to Byron's harpy-like Eve, as a
> >corrective human forgiveness?  Or are we fooled once more?  Is Adam and
> >Eve's reaction too passive, too doctrinaire?  Hmm.
> Well, I'm puzzled by this too and wold love to read other interpretations.
> Cain has committed a murder.  The ghost, who is not the real Abel cries out
> for revenge.  Do I remember correctly?  Sounds like the forgiveness of sins.
> Then again, there's the question of why Cain killed Abel in the first place.
> The same God who would condemn Cain for murder is the one who drove him to
> murder in the first place by the injustice and inequity committed by the
> Divine Criminal. Who is ultimately responsible for Cain lashing out at Abel
> in revenge in an unfair world?  Why did you accept Abel's offering and not
> mine, huh, Asshole?  Cain is but one link in a cycle of violence.  If the
> Abel who cries out for revenge is not the real Abel, is Abel, ass-kisser of
> the heavenly tyrant, (a) an innocent victim?  (b) the real Abel?  There are
> multiple puzzles to be solved here.  Clearly the whole universe is askew,
> hence the question of who gets there just desserts for doing what to whom is
> an obscure one.
> PS: I'm not an actor but I once was a stage manager.  We did a play back in
> 1976 by Jean-Claude van Itallie called THE SERPENT (I think).  It was an
> experimental play which included the Garden of Eden, the Kennedy
> assassination, and audience participation.  I watched Cain killing Abel in
> rehearsal after rehearsal.  One day they needed someone to stand in and
> rehearse Cain, so they picked me.  The very concept of performing in public
> is enough to give me hives, but I went into a trance, worked myself up into
> a fury, and pretend-strangled Abel.  I am as far from being a physically
> violent person as just about anyone could be, but I'm here to tell you I
> really relished wringing the little fucker's neck.

End of blake-d Digest V1998 Issue #55