Blake List — Volume 1999 : Issue 14

Today's Topics:
         Re: Ralph's first riddle
         Re: some of Ralph's stuff
         Thank You, Tim...
         For Raymond Peat...
         Re: Tim's herring
         Re: some of Ralph's stuff
         Re: Tim's definition


Subject: Re: Ralph's first riddle
Date: Mon, 01 Mar 1999 14:29:09 +0000
From: (Tim Linnell)

>Tom seems to want to see Blake only as an historical figure, trapped in quaint
>historical quarrels, and he assumes (with infuriating blitheness, I might add)
>that any understanding of Blake that does not start from the central importance
>of that historical context is a "misinterpretation ... based on ignorance".

Rubbish. I questioned the interpretation of a SINGLE quote, not the whole of
Blake's work, because it was used by two individuals as an example of
political engagement. And have been at pains throughout this discussion to
stress that I do not believe this to be the whole story, merely an important
part of understanding his statements that had not previously been alluded to.

Now Blake may well have expressed a different view in some of his
'dialogues' with you, but the last contact he had with anyone in my family
was about 175 years ago. You will therefore perhaps excuse my not being up
to date with his current political ideology, but would say that Blake to me
is not some figure of abstract and detached interest, but the man who put my
great great grandfather on his knee and sang songs to him. Blithe I may be,
but the historical context is of critical importance to me, as it should be
for anyone who wishes to know what Blake was truly about, rather than what
they would wish him to be about.



Subject: Re: some of Ralph's stuff
Date: Mon, 1 Mar 1999 09:37:29 -0500
From: (R.H. Albright)

>Let me resurrect yet another issue I used to discuss from time to time, that
>cropped up in discussions from the meaning of the introduction to the Songs
>of Experience to the scenarios of apocalyptic redemption in which persons
>are opened, slaves are freed, and tyrants overthrown.  Many have suggested
>that Blake claims that all one person has to do is to correct his defective
>perception of the cosmos and then its ilks disappear.  I submit that such
>people are bald-faced, bare-assed liars.  I insist that such people are
>deliberately castrating Blake's vision to make it acceptable to moth-eaten
>Jungians and other right-wing mystics.  Blake's entire symbolic universe is
>saturated with scenarios of oppression; the prevailing mood is overthrow,
>not attitude adjustment.  One person cannot obliterate an oppressive
>(cosmic) order, not in Blake's imaginative world.  It is a collective effort
>or it is nothing.

Is there not a way to read the Four Zoas as being both within and without
you? The "collective" means both a self that can be divided against its
self as well as people fighting over such sad things as who is the rightful
person to live in Northern Ireland or... South Africa.

Also, if one goes too far with Mr. Dumain's "collective effort", it
degenerates into what-- and I am sure this will get your GOAT, Messrs.
Dumain and others-- _Star Trek: The Next Generation_ calls THE BORG.
Perhaps one should go back with the fortune of *our* 1999 time to see why
socialists such as George Orwell and Doris Lessing became steadily more
disenchanted, or to remember the ridiculous, fascist, "left-wing" (and as
Henry Steele Commager used to say: What IS left, anyway? What IS right?)
"people's operas" that the Chinese Communists put on. They were collective
efforts, weren't they? And it comes as no surprise to me that the Lenin
statue which now lives in Seattle and gets a Red Santa's hat for Xmas looks
about as fascist as anything that Hitler did. Shostakovich loved his
country, and didn't leave. Freud didn't want to leave, either, and... got
out just in time. Thank God Thomas Mann's son married one of his daughters
to get her out.

The fact is that oppression creeps on both left and right. Pragmatically
speaking, I am terribly sorry to inform you, that people like John Stuart
Mill's "On Liberty" address, protecting the voice of one against the Mob,
is as powerful today as it is when trying to be regurgitated, with
additional things added, by Jurgen Habermas, perhaps the *best* that the
Frankfurt School produced.

But what I find most unBlakean is stuff like this:

>...I'll be happy to
>leave certain resident airheads to their own devices and stay out of their
>discussions as long as they leave me alone.

Because that is not only an *intellectual* put-down, it is a put-down by
every Zoa internally mustered by Mr. Dumain.

>But when you're talking about
>Blake and politics, that's my turf, and if I catch you in a lie, I'll kick
>your ass to the curb.

And of course this is not exactly a "Pity your enemies" kind of tone,
either. But for those who know about Mr. Dumain's "residency" here, this
comes as no surprise.

        --- Randall


Subject: Thank You, Tim...
Date: Mon, 1 Mar 1999 10:17:59 -0500
From: (R.H. Albright)

for this clarification:

>...The interaction
>between religious and political activism in the 18th and 19th centuries is
>complex, and I have never sought to deny Blake a political voice, merely to
>point out a source of his statements which has been ignored by others in
>this discussion.

What do you think of the comment made by... somebody... that Blake was the
first person to properly understand Milton in the broader context of his
work? I disagree, personally, but... it's a nice thought. Certainly Thomas
Jefferson was only interested in writing the excerpts about better to rule
in hell than be oppressed by such a jerk up above while John Adams and
others understood the larger picture, and also had some prescient warnings
about Thomas Paine's faith in unicameral government or perpetual
revolution. The checks and balances which Milton wanted for the greater
public good were part of the reason that the American government was set up
to be so divided that an American president could not be thrown out of
office just for being a merely a two-faced, bimbo chasing fool by the other

>But in view of the fact he did nothing tangible to promote
>or implement his views, one has to say that if he was a political writer, he

Well... unfortunately, Edmund Burke WAS more on the mark on why the
American Revolution was justified and the French Revolution was going to...
not make it, I fear. (Hi, "right wing"?)

And as far as getting BEYOND politics-- Tim, you yourself have records of
the Linnell family to show what a kind man Blake was with children. It
makes no difference, all the... eccentric?... ideas he had, when he was
known to be a gentle and kind man.

And the works of Blake HAVE done something for many people, in many ways,
and in at *some* of the diversity of ways, I think Blake would be happy,
because he was trying to open doors of perception on a multiplicity of
level. The Ancients, some Swedenborgians, Emerson, Yeats, Lawrence, Jung,
Snyder, Ginsberg, and others who loved him-- when it takes David Erdman
three times to read a reading of _The Four Zoas_ to see if the guy isn't
just "making it up", and then realizes that maybe this could be possible...
fine! Stick with Damon, too. Don't use your own head. Don't argue with
Blake. Don't realize that when he's arguing with Bacon, it is not to negate
him as much as to serve as a contrary. Either that, or the man truly didn't
get Shakespeare. And I find that ironical, if that is the case, considering
Blake's preference for minute particulars, because Shakespeare created a
fair amount of "minute particular" characters, in my view.

You say other very good things in the post, my friend (even though you may
not want to admit me to your "party").

And if you do want to study American history, Ralph, I would recommend
many, many things-- like, oh, say-- early Quaker theology, Theodore Parker,
what those bourgeois Adams families were up to, and others. They didn't
need  Blake anymore than they needed Swedenborg to help, while The United
Kingdom two-facedly helped perpetuate the slavery system, and almost came
in on the side of the Confederacy during that bloody muddle called The
Civil War.

        --- Randall


Subject: For Raymond Peat...
Date: Mon, 1 Mar 1999 10:52:55 -0500
From: (R.H. Albright)

In the spirit of friendly opposition...

It sounds like you subscribe to the "Evil Empire" being... the United
States (?), because it has the greatest stock market capitalization, high
tech bombs, and basically does things without even asking the United
Nations Security Council because there might be dissent and... for another
thing, Clinton can't get the Republicans to pay the United States's back
dues to that organization?

There have been many, both before and after Blake, who have thought that
money is the root of all evil. I could substitute the word "power", but--
let's play with it.

by D.H. Lawrence

Kill money, put money out of existence.
It is a perverted instinct, a hidden thought
which rots the brain, the blood, the bones, the stones, the soul.

Make up your mind about it:
that society must establish itself upon a different principle
from the one we've got now.

We must have the courage of mutual trust.
We must have the modesty of simple living.
And the individual must have his house, food and fire all
        free like a bird.


This, I submit to you, is Utopian. It is sweet. It will never happen. What
Blake wisely understood is that Urizen and all the other Zoas of his
mythology have both good and evil aspects to them. There is nothing in and
of itself wrong with "money" or "power", particularly if you are a human
and happen to be in a position where you can do something to help other
humans or what we now call biosphere, in general. This is the Human Form

>Before Lenin, I don't think there was anyone who perceived the rationalism
>that was hidden in the crude materialism of the sciences.

Oh, please. Is that why his name is linked with Marx so often? May I
recommend John Muir, Henry David Thoreau, and... a host of others? Dickens,
perhaps? Here's a good Muir quote:

        "Pure science is a most unmarketable commodity in California.
Conspicuous, energetic, unmixed materialism rules supreme in all classes."
        ---from a letter to Mrs. Carr, February 24, 1869

And he wasn't a commie. In fact, it was Lincoln who designated what was
then the Mariposa Grove (now Yosemite) as the first National Park. Lincoln
had his limits, but... that's part of the joke of the Zoas, isn't it? We
ALL do.

I personally think of "Nobodaddy" as the unilluminated "Human Form Divine",
myself. Or, if you want the officially released version, "The Human

The accuser. And guess who Blake *accuses*, but some of the Enlightenment's
greatest friends, as you say here:

>Blake's was the most coherent criticism of the terrible theology hiding
>within the "Enlightened" philosophies of Hume, Newton, Berkeley, that were
>in service to empire and commerce.

A closer viewing of the "Newton" watercolour-- and perhaps this is because
it was as Gloudina Bouwer points out during those days when Blake had
strayed?-- shows an intense ambivalence to the subject matter, to me. He is
no more limited than how Blake undoubtedly was, at times, etching his
plates, except in a different way. Newtonian physics still serve as a giant
leap that can be used either for humane or inhumane purposes. Hume's
empiricism, built upon Locke's, but enlarged to understand that what
appears to be "logical" is actually driven by the passion, roused Kant for
his dogmatic slumber, and some prefer Hume to what Kant did for... reasons
not relevant to this list. Again, the bashing of Rousseau-- also included
in the _To The Deists_ plate, is interesting. Certainly poor Jean-Jacques
was naive in ways where William was naive in others. Perhaps I can interest
you in a book called _Nietzsche contra Rousseau_ by Keith Ansell Pearson
just as a title to show that, again, contraries do not negate the greatness
of another.

Blake never takes on anyone who he does not see as powerful enough to be
overly powerful, to which he wants to throw counter-balance. Certainly, in
the political sense, "Orc" is a failure. But that may be because Blake has
divided him against Urizen, who has in fact fed him some cold, but very
good, information, that allows more people to talk today in the "free
world" than ever before.

The dilemma with "power" is that when you pull the plug on something like
the USSR *totally* and not remember the good aspects of socialism like
Finland has, there becomes a void, and... no wonder some Russian friends of
mine yearn for Papa Brezchnev, in comparison to the mess they're in, now.

>My point, and Blake's, was that the ruling class knows what it's doing when
>it controls art and science and philosophy, and art is exactly where
>political opposition makes its best contribution.

Do you think the rumor is true that the CIA bought and helped promote
Jackson Pollock's art? I mean, I don't know. I tend to prefer a whole room
full of Orc-like (anarchist) Pollock's to single efforts, but... was it
merely a capitalist tool, as Barbara Kruger might suggest, that the Museum
of Modern Art in New York recently put on that show?


>My suggestion is that,
>at present, there isn't much artistic opposition to the New World Order,
>which is just old-fashioned Empire at its culmination.

Au contraire, mon amigo! Underneath the surface of _A Ray of Light_ by
Madonna and songs like "Why's It So Hard" from _Erotica_ are some very
powerful themes about LOVE, and... accepting that differences... and...
more. All in "the New World Order" do not march to the "Holy Thursday"

It's a pity that Nathan Deeter doesn't appreciate fuzziness in writing. I
mean, Fuzzy Wuzzy was a bear. Fuzzy Wuzzy had no hair. Fuzzy Wuzzy wasn't
very fuzzy, was he? And was Blake as much of a "Christian" as much as
*used* the religion that his country-men and women understood, and which
also happened to be conquering the world, for more subversive themes,


        Randall Albright


Subject: Re: Tim's herring
Date: Mon, 01 Mar 1999 10:10:23 -0800
From: Raymond Peat 

At 08:47 AM 3/1/99 +0000, you wrote:
>>to was broadly historical.  Blake appeared to be perfectly conscious of the
>>ways in which not just official censorship, but access to the official
>>exhibitions, and the official promulgation of styles in all the arts,
>>supported the Evil Empire, and oppressed people like him.
>This sounds rather like uninformed reading from the hymn sheet to me. Anyone
>who takes the time to look at 18th and early 19th Century political cartoons
>will realise how little practical censorship existed in the arts.
>Furthermore, it is a little unfair on institutions like the Royal Academy,
>who provided free training for artists on the basis of their talent alone.
>It is true that the hangers at RA exhibitions effectively created trends in
>artistic taste, but they were taken from amongst the artists themselves, and
>their motivation was aesthetic, not in any sense political (Blake certainly
>was represented at the RA from time to time). Incidentally, from the 1850s,
>the function or arbitor of taste was pretty much ceded to (capitalist)
>dealers, who in fact still do it, and art has become almost wholly commerce
>as a result.
>In what sense was art destroyed? I'd argue that the plein air naturalism of
>the early 1800s was in fact a renewal of art, springing from the traditions
>of Poussin and Gainsborough, and the true destruction of art did not take
>place until well after Blake's death, when the industrial revolution had
>created an affluent middle class who wished for decorative and sentimentally
>accesible objects for their front parlours. But then I suspect you read
>different books than me.

We might have read the same books, but when I read things by 18th century
Tory Gentlemen I try to understand how it was possible to achieve such a
uniformly insipid tone of self-righteousness.  The academic commentators on
art who write that "the true destruction of art" was caused by capitalism
are, as far as I have been acquainted with them, trying to imbue themselves
with something of the nobility of the earlier ruling classes.  Good art was
sometimes produced under the catholic church, and that fact is sometimes
used to try to separate the "aesthetic" from the "political," though I
think it provides more evidence of their linkage.  The ideology is heavy in
"their motivation was aesthetic, not in any sense political," though it's
the ideology that likes to say "I don't have any ideology."  Like the
academic types who have asserted that "there are no classes in the United

  I suppose some people have been impressed by Macauley's "English
literature was emancipated forever" by the disappearance of the Licensing
Act, but I have never seen any reason to believe that tyrannies take their
own laws very seriously.  Preventive censorship was replaced by punitive

In the United States, which hasn't had any Licensing Acts, censorship has
been rampant.  For example, a college catalog with Blake's Glad Day on the
cover, was embargoed by the post office, and couldn't be distributed until
language in the text had been deleted.

Do you suggest that Blake was having paranoid delusions when he spoke of
the forces that destroy art?


Subject: Re: some of Ralph's stuff
Date: Mon, 1 Mar 1999 10:15:37 -0800 (PST)
From: Ralph Dumain 

Normally, I wouldn't even pay attention to the number the spin of Albright's
mental roulette wheel lands upon, but in this case a little clarification
might help.

Am I assuming too much or too little of my audience, or is a stretch for
someone else to suppose that by mentioning collective effort I am reading
Blake through Stalin or Mao?  Perhaps I should expand on this statement so
that even the most determined knucklehead cannot misconstrue.

(1) First, I am stating that it's Blake, not just me, who holds that a
collective effort is necessary.

(2) I did not specify what this collective effort is.  I did not suggest,
for example, that a Marxist-Leninist party is required, nor did I suggest
anything even about physical, violent or even non-violent revolution.  I
said only collective effort.

(3) Blake turned his attention away from the outward creation, dust on my
feet. Still, this Great Refusal did not prevent Blake from observing how
little he eats, drinks, can't pay his bills, can't buy soap, can't stop
hunger, can't stop state violence, can't beat the police state ... i.e. that
everything goes on as usual no matter how forcefully he wields his arrows of

(4) Blake says that when men cease to behold this infernal creation, it
begins to burn up.  However, most of us would agree and so would he that
this withdrawal of allegiance is only a drop in the ole bucket for how much
difference it makes.  The public role of the prophet is to persuade others
of his vision.  An individual gesture does not solve the problem for the
rest of the world.  If I go a tippietoeing through Chopra's subjective
universe, that doesn't mean that the prisons, the famines, the torments
experienced by millions of others vanish into thin air, just 'cause I'm on a

(5) Obviously, by this logic, everyone would have to turn their attention
away from the Urizenic order for it to collapse.  Ergo, collective effort.

(6) There is only one place I should have been more clear, what this
collective effort means.  By that I don't mean the spiritual vs. the
material interpretation, which I will get to shortly, but rather whether the
effort is really joint, i.e. coordinated and organized, or an effort of
millions of individuals as uncoordinated separate individuals all
simultaneously.  Either way, we are talking about the preponderant populace
and not just a handful of spaced-out individuals.

(7) Now we go to the heart of what makes a political or apolitical
individual in Linnell's sense of the term.  It is of course a commonplace of
apolitical righteous Christians that if everyone would change their hearts,
then the world would change.  This is held by such delicate flowers to be
the only path to real change.  Precious Pam for one has this view.  In this
view, individual attitude is abstracted from the complex of material and
social relations, and held out as a self-determining absolute.  As an
obvious tautology, it holds: if everyone changed their hearts, the world
would change. But then they never do, do they?  They always find themselves
influenced by larger circumstances beyond their control and adjust
accordingly, making the necessary compromises.  More than that, not only are
their actions compromised, but their underlying attitudes are compromised
from early childhood as the structure of their motivations is built up by
the power of environment.  Blake also wrote about this loud and clear:

She nails him down upon a rock
catches his shrieks in cups of gold.

The meaning of this is plain as day.

Now the question for Blake, and for us, is how one breaks this vicious
circle.  At his best moments, Bake is rather ambiguous about this process,
but he does see it to a certain extent as a self-generating process, that
social crisis becomes so extreme and intolerable that a radical rupture
occurs, and a reversal takes place.

In this one respect Blake is apolitical in the usually defined sense of the
term: in those phrases in which Blake says basically that you've got to
change your heart and then the tyrants can't touch you.  This attitude
divides the quietist from the man of action, for the latter is willing to
take on the impurities of the world and take the necessary chances, knowing
full well that he's got to wrestler with factors and ultimate outcomes way
beyond his control.

Blake, whose role in the division of labor is as a prophet-artist, is not
wiling to go this far, but for most of his life he doesn't oppose it, or for
that matter thinks it can possibly go otherwise.  Rather, as a prophet,
turning his eyes inwards into the worlds of thought, know that ther is
always more at stakes than people are conscious of, and his specialty is
consciousness, to go deeper into matters as other people cannot do, in a
world where thought is crushed by the iron hand of power, and the logic of
domination is inscribed in the very souls of those who most need to be
liberated from it.  Blake knows this, and it is not his nature to play the
political game:

If you play a game of chance, know, before you begin,
If you are benevolent you will never win.

However, Blake never for one moment preaches to the starving and tortured:
don't act, accept your lot and pray for the hereafter.  He knows that they
will obey their humanities and do as they must, and it is not his place to
preach perfect goodness and pretend holiness, something that is impossible
and hypocritical.

See further comments below.

At 09:37 AM 3/1/99 -0500, R.H. Albright wrote:
>>{Dumain:} ..... Blake's entire symbolic universe is
>>saturated with scenarios of oppression; the prevailing mood is overthrow,
>>not attitude adjustment.  One person cannot obliterate an oppressive
>>(cosmic) order, not in Blake's imaginative world.  It is a collective effort
>>or it is nothing.
>.....Also, if one goes too far with Mr. Dumain's "collective effort", it
>degenerates into what-- and I am sure this will get your GOAT, Messrs.
>Dumain and others-- _Star Trek: The Next Generation_ calls THE BORG.

I plead guilty: I too watch all the STAR DREKs religiously, though they are
all childish drivel on the level of the 12-year old Randallian mind.
Perhaps Randall has also heard of Stevie Wonder, who penned some lines
approximately as follows:

"When you say, you're in it not of it,
make sure you're not helping to make this world
a place sometimes called hell"

>But what I find most unBlakean is stuff like this:
>>...I'll be happy to
>>leave certain resident airheads to their own devices and stay out of their
>>discussions as long as they leave me alone.
>Because that is not only an *intellectual* put-down, it is a put-down by
>every Zoa internally mustered by Mr. Dumain.

No, Ralph's put-downs are most Blakeian; Blake was as harsh as he could be
with blockheads; he didn't feel it necessary to be too delicate when doing
intellectual battle.  You won't grow up and you want a free ride to be a
chowderhead.  Well, you've got the right of free speech, as do I, and while
for the most part I'll happily ignore you as you use the Blake list as your
personal pissoir, when you start pissing in my direction I'll kick your
sorry mixed-up ass up and down the block.


Subject: Re: Tim's definition
Date: Mon, 1 Mar 1999 14:04:07 -0500 (EST)
From: johnmartinevansiii 


I like a lot of what you're saying, and want to try and resolve the
standoff which is producing your exasperrated attempts to clarify
religious dissent.
I think the principle problem is fundamentally semantic dissonance between
our era and Blake's, on the word "political."

Take this quote:
> non-conformists. I can only repeat once more that because of the established
> nature of the Church, acting against it was implicitly an act against the
> state, but the primary aim was overthrow of the religious hierarchy rather
> than of the government.

My point is that you shouldn't be throwing away the clause about
implicitly acting against the state, for a variety of reasons.  First of
all, the church in Blake's society was far far larger and more influential
than anything we can conceive of in today's society.  Studying the
intersection of church and state in that time period I'm always moved to
call these governments theocracies, both in conception through divine
mandate on the king and in practice with the enormous worldly influence of
the church.  To take the point even further, I think religion is a target
much more suited to Blake's universal humanitarian aims than government,
which is a localized and widely diverse concept.  Through religion Blake
can critique his entire contemporary world and the treatment of humans
within it.  This would be absurd to us today, because today the concept of
religion and church is fully and widely splintered, so that a critique of
religion on the whole serves little or no purpose, whereas a critique say
of democratic and capitalist principles might.  The point is, were Blake
writing today, would he still be writing purely religious dissent?  I want
us to acknowledge that in part the answer is no, because religion is no
longer an appropriate vehicle for broad-based humanitarian critique,
whereas the political establishment is.  Two concessions: 1. certainly a
variety of his contemporaries WERE critiquing the political establishment,
so Blake certainly could have.  2. Blake is a spiritual man, and we must
assume he would be so today, so his dissent today would likely be rooted
in religion as well.  Well, my reasoning is that his spirituality moved
him into the religious sphere and out of the place where we could have
easily identified him as political, but that because of the political and
societal largesse of religion at the time, religious dissent, even by
Tim's standards, has to be granted a political focus BY TODAY'S STANDARDS,
even though the "political" could have been distinct then.  I think Tim is
arguing completely in the context of the time, along those distinctions,
but I think the rest of us want to understand Blake as a political writer
according to today's standards, standards which certainly apply to
the religious as well as political dissent of Blake's era.

And one note on the flowering of Blake during the 60s: I agree that his
free love and brotherhood style appealed to a lot of flowerchildren, but
that's not all that was happening.  I would argue that the more important
aspect of Blake which prompted his popular resurrection was precisely what
we've been talking about with the political debate, namely the stance
against oppression and tyranny, the distrust of religious hierarchy and
bureaucracy, and the advocacy of equality and freedom for humanity.  And
Blake didn't just show up at Woodstock.  Bill Clinton, while he was a
Rhodes Scholar at Oxford preparing for a career in government and
democracy, used to carry a copy of Blake in his back pocket.  My point
being that while the superficial elements of our consumer culture did
jump on some of Blake's flowery and rather superficial elements, some of
our most serious intellectuals jumped on his humanitarian stances for
purely political reasons, during the civil rights movement and
general rejection of constrictive American culture, both very
Blakean but very political issues.  These people were viewing him as a
political writer according to OUR standards, though maybe not yours, Tim.

In the most intensely political era since the Civil War, the time of the
most rigorous political debate, a thousand political writers were thumped
and quoted, and so was Blake.  Tim, you accurately point out that Blake's
philosophies belonged to a religious category in his context, but those
philosophies are, through paradigm shifts in society not the ideas
themselves, the stuff of politics now.  Talking about the oppressed and
equality among men was a religious topic for Blake: yes, because he was a
religious man, but also because those issues were deeply linked to
religion and its role in society.  To talk about those issues now in
relation to religion would be absurd, since, with the shift in power to
the secular, they are purely political in our time.  Thus my claim that we
are essentially arguing semantics on the contextual vs. contemporary
usages of the word "political."


John M. Evans III
Yale University