Re: Ralph's questions
BLAKE/SARTRE-what is sin in BLake?
Dillingham / criticisms. -Reply
Some thoughts -Reply
Re: Re: Some thoughts / opiates -Reply
Book on Blake's art + writing
Re: Blake and Madness
Re: Some thoughts -Reply
the angel's words....
Fw: the angel's words....
Re: BLAKE AND SARTRE?
Re: the angel's words....
Date: Sun, 30 Aug 1998 23:40:37 -0700 (PDT)
From: Ralph Dumain
Subject: Re: Ralph's questions
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I shall endeavor in the future not to mistake Idyllic Izak for Glowering
Gloudina. OK, Izak, thanks for filling out the details and bringing in the
relevant quotes. I think that some of the very citations you adduce embody
the very unresolved tensions regarding the status of sacred codes that I
brought up in the first place.
If one reads the Bible in the spiritual or infernal sense, that demonstrates
an inherently flexibility of one sacred text that could be applied to many
more, if not all. If the New Testament corrects the barbarities of the old,
which reflect the barbarities of the Hebrew civilization, then how can the
whole Bible be the sacred code of art. Maybe the Old Testicle is no better
than the Geeta and the rest, maybe even worse, and maybe only the New
testament is of value, and then only the good parts, such as those dealing
with forgiveness of sin and freedom of conscience, not the parts telling
women to stop gossiping in the church and so on. The Koran would seem to be
an imposture too. Are all religions one or are they not? It seems that not
even one religion is one. If all religions are nets and gins and traps to
entrap the joys of eternity, as Blake so brilliantly characterizes them,
then why not have done with them all? Why preserve the illusion of sharing
similar beliefs with one's neighbors, when one does not do so, by persisting
in referring to oneself as a Christian, when one is plainly not? For all
the heinous crimes they've committed, who in their right mind would want to
associate themselves with them? With all of these heinous crimes in mind,
one ought to be wary of preaching the Gospel to the Jews. It's kind of
insulting, yes? And there are so many equivocations and unresolved
contradictions in the annotations to Watson, I can't even remember them all.
Now to some specific passages:
At 11:41 PM 8/30/98, Izak Bouwer wrote:
>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.
As mentioned above, the New Testament, if it is what Blake claims is to be,
tosses the Old one into the rubbish heap, negating it rather than completing
it. We know why official Christendom continues to deify the Old Testicle:
because state religion and cruelty and violence and retribution is all it
really believes in anyway and the New Testicle is just sentimental window
"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.
OK, Billy, what's the answer?
>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)]
This is complete nonsense. The existence of Jesus, whether a real or
fictional character, and the existence of Christianity is historically
placed and dated. If similar principles predated Christianity when
Christianity did not even exist, why call them such? What would then make
Christianity unique? If all religions preach the forgiveness of sins, then
they are all one, but if they don't, they are not. If the principle of
forgiveness exists in one instance without anyone having heard of Jesus,
then the principle can be accepted again without anybody having to care
about any Jesus or Gospel. Caught in this contradiction, Blake has to spend
a lifetime of equivocating, stretching and contracting definitions at will
to accommodate these contradictions. At some times, he shows that he is
well aware of the problem, and other times he suppresses this awareness.
The contradiction between the general principle and the specific symbolism
and mythology of Christianity is never resolved. If it could have been
resolved, Blake would never ave had to create the dozens of obscure
characters he did and expand the mythology to include his own ideas. If he
could do that and still call himself a Christian, why could somebody else
just chuck all the mythological clutter and not call themselves anything?
Blake has to use his terms of belief and unbelief in a very unorthodox
manner in order to strive for consistency. He has to define both God and
atheism in an unorthodox manner for the same reason. He has to invite us to
see through not with the eye in order to make this a viable project.
>And what "did Christ Inculcate? Forgiveness of Sins.
>This alone is the Gospel" [_EG_ (1818 on) K757]
That would be the distinguishing characteristic. And then the question is:
why is this so important? The answer is: to oppose the oppressive morality
of the ruling class, embodied in the form of Satan pretending to be God, the
Accuser, Old Nobodaddy, the Elohim, Urizen, the Old Testicle, the Brahmin
caste, Islamic authoritarianism and imperialism, and also the Greek
philosophers, Plato and Aristotle who numbered all the virtues great and
small, and the stolen and perverted writings of Homer and Ovid and the
Classics. And of course, Catholicism and all of the rest of official
Christendom throughout its entire bloody history. Forgiveness of sins
negates all of this and that is the one and only reason it matters.
>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)
To stem the fall? Hmmmmm.
>and that they must eventually be discarded.
So all religions are one in that they are emanations of the single evil
poetic genius, and they are all a crock of shit and must eventually be
>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].
All must be discarded except for this one good bit specific to Christianity.
OK, if you want to go with that iconography, Billy, you go girl. But when
you try to foist it on the spindle-nosed rascals, you become a source of
imposition, because some of us don't find the English the most attractive of
peoples, and we find your pinched-up little Anglo-Saxon beaks repulsive in
Date: Mon, 31 Aug 1998 00:14:03 -0700
From: Michael James Mahin
Subject: BLAKE/SARTRE-what is sin in BLake?
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To everybody, we're still on the same team right!!
To begin, in response to Mr. Tom Linell:
The ideal ofredemption, and forgiveness of Sin(2) are also important to Blake.
There really can be no place for essentially Christian concepts such as virtue or
sin in Existentialism's shifting moral perspectives.
In Simone de Beauvoir's Ethics of Ambiguity, she sets down a relatively solid
account of an ethics based on existentialism, it is one simply based on freedom.
Freedom in Sartre is the basis of consciousness, Beavoir extends this into the
political arena, asserting that on the basis of freedom actions are justified. It's
very democratic in a way, ie, I can act until I start infringing upon someone
else's freedom. She justifies rebellion, war on the basis of reacting against
oppression. But, you are correct in observing a certain sense of relativity
involved, it all seems to depend on where you're standing.
A clarification: I speak of existentialism in relation to Sartre and Beauvoir's
ideas as they were the only two thinkers to embrace the title. Certain
qualifications need to be made, nevertheless, when speaking of existentialism at
all; there are so many divergent schools.
In regards to Blake, my greatest difficulty has been trying to uncover an
Ethic, a practical frontier on which his cosmology may function. I think an ethic
based on Beauvoir's ideas , an ethics of freedom, is the only one that Blake could
allow for. He is constantly raving against institions, and the heads of these
institutions. He seems to have an aversion against existing rules. But what is
problematic is when I observe he seems to have a problem with systems, rules, laws,
by virtue of not what they stand for, but because they are systems, rules and laws,
ie "mind forg'd manacles". Therefore, an Ethics might be the very antithesis of
what Blake was trying to accomplish, that is, a constantly changing, undefined
cosmos. The one poem in which Blake seems overtly Ethical seems to be Augories of
Innocence. In this poem things are very "karmic" I think. (This in no way is
intended to revisit the discussion on Blake and Buddhism or Hinduism-I'm just using
the word.) I think in the end, an ethic derived from that poem infers, to put it
poorly, "If you act against something, be prepared for something bad to happen.
Unless, you act against something out of "nature" (The cut worm forgives)".
The other ethical point which Blake makes is embodied by Christ:
self-annihilation, self sacrifice, forgiveness (In forgiveness of sins which is
self-annihilation. it is the covenant of Jehovah (Jer. plate 98)).
The way freedom relates is that it justifies, in accord with what I have read
of Blake, a method of behavior. (Jerusalem is called Liberty among the daughters of
Albion). It allows me to define what "sin" is for Blake, an act against someone
So here's the rub, what is Sin to William Blake?
Tim Linnell wrote:
> >the ways that Sartre and Beauvoir fill in the proverbial blanks. The points on
> >which Sartre and Blake agree seem to me the major points of each man's system
> >(albeit the issue of imagination). There is no God in either man's cosmology
> >which is a somewhat trite observation, but fascinating nevertheless
> (Thanks for a very interesting and thought provoking post)
> While Blake certainly felt the Urizenic Judeo-Christian God to be an
> arbitrary lawmaker, out of tune with the infinite(1), I don't think you can
> infer from that a removal of God from Blake's universe, nor a lack of any
> consistent moral framework. Those who are all 'virtue' will do impulsively
> what is right, not merely obey rules (to paraphrase TMHH). The ideal of
> redemption, and forgiveness of Sin(2) are also important to Blake. There
> really can be no place for essentially Christian concepts such as virtue or
> sin in Existentialism's shifting moral perspectives.
> None of this detracts from your questions about what happens when the
> 'rules' of the net of religion are removed (by whatever means) from the
> equation though. I just think that although some of the conclusions are the
> same, Blake's philosophy and Existentialism are poles apart. Existentialism
> is, after all, a very 'natural religion' which denies the infinite.
> Tim Linnell
> (1) This is perhaps very understandable position for a religious dissenter,
> as was Blake, being as much a reaction to earthly priestly domination as
> anything else.
> (2) Sin in this sense is not as defined by the (Urizenic) Church, but harks
> back to a more truly Christian 'love thy neighbour'. This, I think, is an
> important point in understanding Blake's theology and the split between
> Urizen and Christ - the established Church traditionally denied access to
> the Bible to the populace, allowing them to interpret the 'word of God' to
> suit its own ends (the Pope still does this). One key goal of religious
> dissenters was to provide English language Bibles to everyone so that they
> could make their own judgements, and this was continuing well into the 19th
> Century via various Bible societies. Anyone reading the Gospels for
> themselves (as Blake did) would have been astonished by the differences
> between the Church's fire and brimstone, with the simple teachings of Christ.
Date: Mon, 31 Aug 1998 10:23:20 +0200
From: P Van Schaik
Subject: Dillingham / criticisms. -Reply
I have to agree fully with your perception of the rapture of response to
the primary text. That is why I do like to stay as close as possible to
Blake's own use of imagery in arriving at any conclusions and also have
resisted, throughout decades of teaching literature, all ready-made
models --other than the kabbalah which I came to only after delighting in
the original texts of Blake, and found to my astonishment fits like hand in
glove with the interpretations I had arrived at independently of any
knowledge of kabbalah. When I studied for two years in America, I was
actually seen as rather odd in wanting to base most of my essays on
what I saw in the primary text, though I did, of course, do the required
secondary reading and refer to it in footnotes --- so many of them I used
to dream of them at night.
Date: Mon, 31 Aug 1998 11:03:49 +0200
From: P Van Schaik
Subject: Some thoughts -Reply
>>> TOM DILLINGHAM 29/August/1998
I doubt that this is worth the effort, but I would like to comment
on the direction of some recent posts to this list.
First, I would be very interested to see anyone offer some examples
of my having posted narrow, authoritarian, dogmatic, pedantic,
or singleminded "readings" or "interpretations" of any text--any
Blake text or any other text.
This is not what I think you do ...but you are rude and insulting to others
because you falsely assume that they are `fanatics' who first come with
a model and then impose it on the text. In my own case, as I have
repeatedly said, the oppositie is the case.
Moreover, I seldom formally lecture to my students as I teach from a
distance and seldom physically see them. What I do encourage is
response to the vitality of the texts they study and personal response to
them. I do, however, try to provide some help in approaching their texts
... some reflection of whatever insights I think most exciting and inspiring
... something that will kindle their own interest and delight in the subject. I
certainly don't want them to regurgitate anything I say, but use it to find
their their own pleasure in the work.
Now what really disturbs me about the way Dillingham and Dumain insult
others is that they treat them as objects... their insults are always based
on assumptions about others that turn them unjustly into the enemy to be
booted ignominiously offstage. These are the tactics of schoolyard
bullies as may be clearly seen in Dillingham's own words in which
everyone who speaks of kabbalah must be a fnatic or cretin.
If your interpretation of others is so susect, what chance is there
of your treating the texts you read with any greater respect than you do
the faceless people online?
Note the way Dillingham moves from stating his position lucidly to defining
the enemy in whatever way best suits himself:
I am opposed to the people (fans and cultists) who come to Blake
with a preconceived belief system (whether it is a literary theory,
a religious faith, a fascination with Jungian archetypes or the
Tarot or Druidism or Kabbalah or any of the other panoply of
"systems") and who cut, trim, twist and distort Blake's texts to
force him to conform to their own systems.
Let us put the onus on you to point out specific examples of such
distortion of the text by trimming and cutting --- because to ignore the
entire spiritual side of Blake is one cut which reduces him to
gobbledegook... that is apparently the side that seems most to irritate
II do support my arguments at length but in the book I have written -- so I
suppose I should quit talking to you all and simply focus on getting this
published. In any case, your general dismissal of others (all in a group)
as harbouring and disseminating absurd interpretations which they don't
support is absurd in itself. What do you want to see by way of support?
Articles published on the subject? Papers given at Conferences?
Chapters from an unpublished book? Copies of theses?
Whatever the case, why not avoid making false assumptions about
anyone? If you can't respect other living people, but treat them as
objects, chances are high that you are doing the same to the texts you
Date: Mon, 31 Aug 1998 11:30:46 +0200
From: P Van Schaik
Subject: Re: Re: Some thoughts / opiates -Reply
Yes, Tom, surely all the ways of being part of one timeless, eternal, unity
with God are implicit in ALL of the quotations from Blake and positions re
the spirit you mention? It is surely a certainty that Blake believes that
once we all participated in the divine humanity of God, and that , when
he calls us to awaken, he wishes us to re-recognize this truth that we
That is, Innocence is the awakening to the truth that we are all
`Members' of God's divine body and that we are all capable of being like
Jesus if we realize that, in Selfhood (our mortal ego-consciousness) we
are transient and small? Personally, I think there is little doubt that Blake
saw our true selves as eternal and as particpating in the endless flux
of being within God. This isn't religion as opiate but for Blake a truth he
never ceased to believe in .... all of his work serves as testament to this.
The proof is in the eating of this pudding.
Date: Mon, 31 Aug 1998 13:44:39 +0200 (MET DST)
From: Henriette Stavis
Subject: Book on Blake's art + writing
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I have been off the list for some time now, but I was just re-reading
some of the old entries when I discovered your query about books on
Blake's art and writing. You might already have found some interesting
sources in the archives, but a quick glance on my book shelf revealed
some possible titles:
1) Mitchell, W.J.T. BLAKE'S COMPOSITE ART: A STUDY OF THE ILLUMINATED
POETRY. (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1978).
2) Butlin, Martin. WILLIAM BLAKE. (London: Tate Gallery Publications,
1966), reprint of 1993.
3) Lister, Raymond. THE PAINTINGS OF WILLIAM BLAKE. (London: Cambridge
University Press, 1986), reprint of 1994).
4) Blunt, Sir Anthony. THE ART OF WILLIAM BLAKE. London, 1959.
I hope these suggestions help,
Date: Mon, 31 Aug 1998 11:40:15 -0500
From: "J. Michael"
Subject: Re: Blake and Madness
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Ed, it's been a while since I read Youngquist too. I used the term
"diagnosing" rather tongue-in-cheek, since Youngquist is, like me, a
student of literature. I have to say I question the ability of even a
clinician to diagnose a dead poet through his writings, just as you say you
cannot diagnose or treat over the internet. But I appreciate hearing what
an MD has to say about the poems, just as I appreciate the expertise of
theologians, historians, etc.
>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: Mon, 31 Aug 1998 13:04:44 -0500
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (TOM DILLINGHAM)
Subject: Re: Some thoughts -Reply
I invite members of this list to consult their archives to see when, if
ever, I have used Ms. Van Schaik's name or personally attacked her on
this list. In the deep past, such may have occurred but I have not,
in fact, singled her out for vilification, as she has me on several
recent occasions. Take that for what it is worth.
Date: Mon, 31 Aug 1998 14:21:06 -0500
From: "Matthew Bodie"
Subject: the angel's words....
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In response to the following question,
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?
--- Jennifer Michael
"…(I)f he'd be a good boy/ He'd have God as his father and never want joy."
Only a Blakean angel would say that, for salvation or redemption in the
mainstream Christian religion is not necessarily found in "being good."
Good deeds, rather, seem to be encouraged as testimonies to the faith,
something that happens following redemption. I think, however, the angel
is perpetuating Blakean theology -- indeed, based upon freedom – but it is
a freedom that is only maintained through a triad of vision: sight,
direction, and imagination.
For instance, we see these three qualities in the Piper's actions in the
introduction to Innocence. He says, "And I took a hollow reed/And I made
a rural pen/And I stain'd the waters clear…." This progression reveals
Optical Vision (seeing something as possibly being beneficial), Directed
Vision (having the motivation to make it beneficial) and, finally,
Imaginative Vision (taking knowledge and creativity, in order to make the
element the most beneficial). Furthermore, Blake puts a final directive
on Vision: one must share it with others. This indicator is seen in the
fact that the Piper must write his songs for "all" to hear.
The bottom line is: Blake places each of us in the state of innocence and
experience, so we can head toward a higher innocence – a perfection
culminating in Jesus Christ, the God-Man representing the ultimate in
imagination, forgiveness and redemption. Subsequently, the angel's words
to Tom Dacre about being a "good boy" are directives, encouraging
forgiveness and imagination – possibly even enough to get him out of his
situation. From sharing these two qualities with others, Tom will find
joy where others find misery (someone may even have it worse than him); for
with Christ-caused redemption, even in death there is life.
Date: Mon, 31 Aug 1998 14:35:30 -0500
From: "Matthew Bodie"
Subject: Fw: the angel's words....
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> From: Matthew Bodie
> To: Blake
> Subject: the angel's words....
> Date: Monday, August 31, 1998 2:21 PM
> In response to the following question,
> 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?
> --- Jennifer Michael
> I write:
> "…(I)f he'd be a good boy/ He'd have God as his father and never want
> Only a Blakean angel would say that, for salvation or redemption in the
> mainstream Christian religion is not necessarily found in "being good."
> Good deeds, rather, seem to be encouraged as testimonies to the faith,
> something that happens following redemption. I think, however, the angel
> is perpetuating Blakean theology -- indeed, based upon freedom – but it
> a freedom that is only maintained through a triad of vision: sight,
> direction, and imagination.
> For instance, we see these three qualities in the Piper's actions in the
> introduction to Innocence. He says, "And I took a hollow reed/And I
> a rural pen/And I stain'd the waters clear…." This progression reveals
> Optical Vision (seeing something as possibly being beneficial), Directed
> Vision (having the motivation to make it beneficial) and, finally,
> Imaginative Vision (taking knowledge and creativity, in order to make the
> element the most beneficial). Furthermore, Blake puts a final directive
> on Vision: one must share it with others. This indicator is seen in
> fact that the Piper must write his songs for "all" to hear.
> The bottom line is: Blake places each of us in the state of innocence
> experience, so we can head toward a higher innocence – a perfection
> culminating in Jesus Christ, the God-Man representing the ultimate in
> imagination, forgiveness and redemption. Subsequently, the angel's words
> to Tom Dacre about being a "good boy" are directives, encouraging
> forgiveness and imagination – possibly even enough to get him out of his
> situation. From sharing these two qualities with others, Tom will find
> joy where others find misery (someone may even have it worse than him);
> with Christ-caused redemption, even in death there is life.
Date: Mon, 31 Aug 1998 11:10:14 -0700 (PDT)
From: Ralph Dumain
To: email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org
Subject: Re: BLAKE AND SARTRE?
Content-Type: text/plain; charset="us-ascii"
At 11:42 PM 8/30/98 -0700, Michael James Mahin wrote:
>Might the word dispositional work better? I was just wondering what you
>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
>used in regards to Blakean ethics, and think it refers to an ethics based on a
>certain type of constant interpretation.
Obviously, I didn't choose my word(s) carefully. I should be careful of
casually usually the word "existential" in a discussion about existentialism.
We tend to think of the word belief in terms of knowledge only, holding to a
set of opinions, doctrines, theories, etc. Clearly Blake is not using or at
least is not limiting the word "belief" (hence "unbelief") in this way.
Blake seems to suggest that the type of person you are reveals what you
really believe and don't. So believer is as believer does; atheist is as
atheist does. Which is fine for preserving his own allegiances and avoiding
sectarian narrowness, but Blake's recoding of traditional religious
terminology allows him to have it both ways (being a Christian and
non-Christian at the same time) and is disconcerting to those who don't come
from the same sort of background that uses such terminology because it
excludes them even while generously extending itself to include the
righteous among the heathen.
Anyway, at this point I would rather read your thoughts on the subject.
I've been on a roll, but I think the list could use a rest from my
ubiquitous presence of late, and now I've got to get back to my real work.
Date: Mon, 31 Aug 1998 16:19:39 -0500
From: "J. Michael"
Subject: Re: the angel's words....
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Matthew Bodie wrote:
>The bottom line is: Blake places each of us in the state of innocence and
>experience, so we can head toward a higher innocence =96 a perfection
>culminating in Jesus Christ, the God-Man representing the ultimate in
>imagination, forgiveness and redemption. Subsequently, the angel's words
>to Tom Dacre about being a "good boy" are directives, encouraging
>forgiveness and imagination =96 possibly even enough to get him out of his
>situation. From sharing these two qualities with others, Tom will find
>joy where others find misery (someone may even have it worse than him); for
>with Christ-caused redemption, even in death there is life.
I would only add that it's Tom's imagination that brings him the angel in
the first place, who turns the key and releases him from his coffin. The
angel's words are, in their social context, coercive and exploitative, as
someone else pointed out (sorry, I've lost the post), insofar as they are
meant to reconcile a child to intolerable and unjust conditions. But they
are ironic to me because of their other meaning, the meaning you point to,
a "higher Innocence" if you will which can rise above exploitation, just as
the children in "Holy Thursday" who are being exploited by the Church also
rise above their "wise guardians."
Sorry this is rushed--I'm on my way to a meeting.
End of blake-d Digest V1998 Issue #56