Blake List — Volume 1999 : Issue 15

Today's Topics:
         Re: [Tim's definition], and history...
         Re: For Raymond Peat...
         Re: Tim's definition
         Humanity of Humanities
         Re: [Re: Ralph's first riddle]; Richard Blumberg
         175 Years Ago...
         Re: Tim's herring
         For Mr. Dumain
         Re: 175 Years Ago...
         Re: [Re: Ralph's first riddle]; Tim on historical interp.


Subject: Re: [Tim's definition], and history...
Date: 1 Mar 99 11:15:48 PST
From: mark peterson 
To: wrote:
>I think Tim's argument is doing an injustice to history, as much as to
>Blake.  If Blake used the vocabulary of 18th century songs of religious
>dissent in attacking State and Class oppression, and therefore was
>spiritual rather than political, then the people who sang christian hymns
>while marching in the streets of the United States were primarily
>interested in religion, and the communists among them were for the moment
>no longer political revolutionists.  That's no way to argue.
>I think the historical approach to Blake's diction resolves the paradoxes
>in favor of Ralph Dumain's suggested interpretation.

I agree completely, and the whole question of synchronic and diachronic
understandings in interpreting poetic language-- even in looking at what our
beloved Blake meant-- continues to look like the biggest area of neglect in
looking at questions of Blake's political views. For my part, Blake's own
prophetic method (seeing the Holy Ghost as an immanent presence, which it may
have been for him in a way which many of us sometimes neglect...) does not
relieve one from facing the limits of his/her own consciousness-- in other
words, the need for "Torah" (Heb: 'divine instruction'). Taking the historical
limitations of our own existence seriously, which with all respect to Richard
Blumberg's opinion on the trans-historical validity of Blake's poetry for our
time, means that I can sincerely show some respect for the histrorical moment
of others . What has always struck me in much Blake scholarship is how little
critical insight (Northrop Frye excepted) has been devoted to what Blake's
"infernal method" of biblical exegesis did to aid or, at times, impede a
fuller understanding of what THAT (the approximately 1500 years of religious
insight which the biblical literature spans) historical moment's Message
was/is saying. I think when someone approaches the core of the 'religion of
Blake', as the source of his political vision, he or she will  hopefully see
how ill informed it is to try and lift the stamp of the 'religion of Isaiah'
or the 'religion of Ezekiel' off of their protege...

With that said, I'll add a comment on Mr. Blumberg's work (the links
graciously provided with the learned e-mail responses) since it is close to
the subject of 'historiography'. In my view, Richard Blumberg, Randall
Albright (as well as Raymond Peat), are right on the money in looking at the
political dimension of Blake's art-- over against some of the limited
treatment (looking at the Dumain stuff...). The thrill of 'receiving the
kingdom of God as a little child...', as the Gospel says, is something a true
poet like Blake seems to capture for all of us to enjoy (who could ever forget
the first time he/she read 'The vision of Christ that thou dost see// Is my
visions greatest enemy...', or any of the inspired verses which have stamped
our minds from the genius of Blake?), that moment when God seems nearer, as
the child-like joy of receiving a new realm/'kingdom' to live in (as in St.
Theresa's Interior Castle...). However, after reading Mr. Blumberg's take on
'the Yahwist' (by the way, does anyone else have an opinion of his "ceremony
for healing Yahweh Blake's 'devil-dialectical role playing'-- which Blake
truly made work so well-- again misused to play out a half-baked version of
'let's fix God'... Mr. Blumberg, reading your 'ceremony' was enjoyable until I
realized how-- in the end-- what your doing is missing the brilliance of what
Blake himself saw, as you know, as The Great Code of Art; and let me suggest a
few lines of further work to develop/improve your mission: First, what did
Jesus do to 'heal' Yahweh? (and why Jesus became the theological center for
Blake almost along the same lines as the canonical development from that of
the histrorical movement from Hebrew canon [Torah/Prophets/Writings ] to New
Exodus [NT], etc...). I think this will help in your Blake studies to see just
why the 'Grey Monk' figure became such an endearing one for WB himself in
later years. Second, was Blake as polytheistic as your 'mission' appears?
Blake talked of gods-- but all deities to him resided in the human breast, and
were ultimately One in Jesus... Blake's doctrine of 'many' never eroded his
vision of the 'One'-- and was perfectly complementary to the Yahwist religion
of ancient Israel (the Jesus who 'used the Pharisees like dogs' as Blake said
was One with the God who freed the Hebrew slaves 'using Pharaoh'... WB also
said [roughly from memory, and in various passages,esp Jerusalem] that 'Jesus
became Yahweh'-- if anything Blake cane be accused of the opposite of classic
polytheism, he's closer to 'monarchian-modalism' as the historical theologians
say...). Anyway, these apparent holes in the 'mission'-- I want to thank you
for an entertaining web-site, and I do agree with you earlier response that
the 'politics of Blake' was intrinsic to his Art...
   -- Mark Peterson

"...Tell them that the Worship of God, is honouring his gifts
In other men: To his Genius: which is the Holy Ghost in Man; There is no other

P.S.: Raymond Peat, thank you for the data on Blake College, Dr. Christensen
did his work Th.D. at Harvard late 70's -- but I haven't yet asked him about
any involvement in International Univ. (I'll follow it up and write you soon
off-list). Thank you for the background info!

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Subject: Re: For Raymond Peat...
Date: Mon, 01 Mar 1999 10:55:49 -0800
From: Raymond Peat 

["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,

I think the ramifications of that insight are very far-reaching and
important.  It's hard for many intellectual types to see that whole
idea-complexes, as well as particular words, can be "used" creatively or
for oppression and manipulation.

The reason I jumped from Blake to Lenin is that I think Marx was only
abstract and sketchy in the way he revealed the theological idealism hidden
in the various philosophies, but Lenin in his notebooks prophetically and
concretely showed the fallacies that were repeated endlessly in 20th
century philosophies of science, positivism, language philosophy, etc.
Either people don't read Lenin's philosophical work, or they are so trapped
in their theologies of "pure science" and other abstract systems that they
can't respond in any way to his powerful analysis.  I think that's why
people don't talk about Blake's highly analytical revelations of the
philosophical self-contradictions of the big-shots, it's the deep
neokantianism that rules the official mental life at present.

As a biologist, I think Blake "used" the images of "a world all alive" as a
fiendishly clever way to by-pass the dogmatic abstractions that ruled
philosophy then as now.  I think this philosophical condition accounts for
the horrifying oppression that "vitalism" and "Lamarckism" have suffered.
With Vernadsky and Hoyle, et al., I am inclined to believe that at least in
an abstract and general sense, the universe is alive, but the "use" that
Blake made of that idea was, I think, possibly the most intelligent
philosophical act ever.


Subject: Re: Tim's definition
Date: Mon, 01 Mar 1999 11:24:21 -0800
From: Raymond Peat 

>>I think the historical approach to Blake's diction resolves the paradoxes
>>in favor of Ralph Dumain's suggested interpretation.
>This may be your opinion, but how can you possibly argue this on the basis
>of one quote and no context? I don't think even Ralph, who is an
>extraordinarily perceptive critic and a very gifted writer, has managed to
>do anything but list the paradoxes. You refuse even to consider the
>historical context of religious dissent may have been a factor! The
>"airhead's" (as opposed to what I might term the "windbags" on the other
>side of the argument) would have a completely different interpretation of
>your quote below as having a spiritual connotation, presumably claiming it
>as an attack on the corruption of worldly religion. I would add the the
>'reasoning power' (rationalism) is something that Blake clearly rails
>against, but is a major factor in promoting the radical politics of the era.

I don't discount the historical context of religious dissent at all.  Blake
would be largely unintelligible without that context.  But I think it
involves a lot more than "opening a history book" to find historical
"facts."  I was stating my opinion, not giving an argument.  I think the
argument first has to make sure that there is a clear understanding of what
the big-shot or "official" philosophers were claiming, and then to see how
the concepts of the culture of religious dissent could be used to show the
internal contradictions in those philosophies.  The religious dissenters
were concerned narrowly with those churchy issues, Blake wasn't.  But since
two large contexts are needed before an argument can be made regarding what
Blake meant when he talked about Substance and Qualities and Negation and
contradiction, I think it's appropriate just to say that I don't think
Blake was idiotic enough to have made merely literal use of the vocabulary
of religious dissent.


Subject: Humanity of Humanities
Date: Mon, 1 Mar 1999 14:31:41 -0500
From: (R.H. Albright)

Excuse me if this got through to the group, before. It did not come back to me.
        -- Randall

Raymond Peat said:
>>Maybe the political right, the Nazis, etc., are the only ones who take art
>>seriously, and can see that it is political work of the most effective

And Jennifer Michael replied:
>This hasn't always been the case.  Bertolt Brecht made a statement that
>always reminds me of Blake's Los:  "Art is not a mirror held up to reality
>but a hammer with which to shape it."

Certainly it came as no surprise to me that when Auden went Christian and
Brecht went Commie, they still remained friends. They had, perhaps, higher
things in common?

And didn't Blake, a Christian,  have (at least at times) an affinity with
Percy B. Shelley, an atheist?

Couldn't one call Thomas Paine a humanitarian, as well as a political writer?


Really, I think the key is to see the "Yin" in the "Yang" of Experience and
Innocence. Beyond these two sets of art/poems illustrating the contrasting
nature of human existence-- they are IN each other's sets of poems. For
example, do you honestly believe that "The Little Vagabond" in Experience
is getting solace from "The Human Abstract" or the unilluminated "A Divine
Image" from *experience*? I mean, anything's possible, but it looks like
Jesus to me. Same with "Holy Thursday" in Innocence. What are those poor
kids doing, marching around like that, THERE?

And isn't the opening "Introduction" to Innocence have more than a bit of
experience in it, knowing as I do what happened to that person who became a
child (Jesus)? He got nailed to a cross and died for my sins, as far as
most Christians then and now would believe, did he not? No wonder the child
"wept with joy to hear".


But getting back to my favorite poem by Blake:

Another person named on one of my fave plates is now known as Paracelsus.
What was he all about?

        "Have now another plain fact: any man of mechanical talents may,
from the writings of Paracelsus or Jacob Behmen, produce ten thousand
volumes of equal value with Swedenborg's, and from those of Dante or
Shakespear an infinite number.
        "But when he has done this, let him not say that he knows better
than his master, for he only holds a candle in sunshine."
        ---end of plate 22, MHH

And I know Charles Darwin wasn't around yet, but his grandfather Erasmus was.

        "A man carried a monkey about for a shew, & because he was a little
wiser than the monkey, grew vain; and conceiv'd himself as much wiser than
seven men...."

And what was REALLY wrong with Swedenborg, as stated on this plate? Well...

        "....It is so with Swedenborg; he shews the folly of churches &
exposes hypocrites, till he imagines that all are religious, & himself the
single one on earth that ever broke a net.
        "Now hear a plain fact: Swedenborg has not written one new truth.
Now hear another: he has written all the old falshoods.
        "And now hear the reason. He conversed with Angels who are all
religious, & conversed not with Devils who all hate religion, for he was
incapable thro' his conceited notions."

So at this point of his life, Blake is willing to deal with both, isn't he?

        "Without Contraries is no progression. Attraction and Repulsion,
Reason and Energy, Love and Hate, are necessary to Human existence.
        From these contraries spring what the religious call Good & Evil.
Good is the passive that obeys Reason. Evil is the active springing from
        Good is Heaven. Evil is Hell."
                ---from plate 3

In fact, doesn't he seem a bit biased towards energy, himself? Is it true
that this is the first "free verse" poem in English. Unfettered, unlike
Milton's problem? Or is Blake one with the Devil's party, too?

--- Randall Albright


Subject: Re: [Re: Ralph's first riddle]; Richard Blumberg
Date: 1 Mar 99 11:41:33 PST
From: mark peterson 

The e-mail I just sent left out your words to Tim, which I wanted to say to
you as well (about "see this too"...). The Karl Popper reference is excellent,
but with regard to your criticisms of the Yahwist (or are you just putting
down small minded readings of the work?), I believe another look at Popper's
concepts of World Three and Objective Knowledge will confirm the vision of
'Yahwist religion' in ancient Israel -- the canonical inclusion of other valid
spiritual Truths into One, made for example, the inclusion of two (and
more!)differing world-views and creation accounts into One grand epic
possible. One that linked into HISTORICAL narrative the movement of a god so
anthropomorphic (Blake's love) that he 'walks in the garden in the cool
breeze'__with__ 'Another' so beyond the limits of human awareness that he says
"My thoughts are not your thoughts//Nor are my ways your ways...--says YHWH
[trans: 'He who brings into Being']"(Is.55) Popper saw in World Three a truly
unified philosophy of the Logos (and which does not conflate a historical
moment's 'thoughts' with the Divine 'world-spirit'-- as Hegel has rightly been
exposed of by many). Regards,

> ---------------------------------------------
>Note, Tim, that I am not saying, "do not see that." I am saying, "see this
too." And that, Ralph, is what I suppose Blake to be saying when he reveals
his anti-consensual visions; it is not that the "Globe rolling thro Voidness"
is un_real_. It is that its appearance, to the reasoner, as the only reality
is un_true_. That is the "delusion of Ulro", the notion that reality can be
reduced to what is visible through the Telescope or the Microscope.

I am with Ralph wholeheartedly in his continuing plea that we not abandon the
notion of objective reality in our quest to understand and absorb the truth in
Blake's visions, and I suspect that we would be together in an admiration of
the enterprise of science and its accomplished understandings. But I would
submit that works of Imagination, including Blake's visions, belong to
Popper's Third World of reality, between the First World of Objective Reality
and the Second World of pure Subjectivism - the world of reality that humanity
creates with its consciousness and will and imagination. Popper demonstrates
convincingly that the constructs of the Third World affect (The Popper Web

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Subject: 175 Years Ago...
Date: Mon, 1 Mar 1999 14:43:16 -0500
From: (R.H. Albright)


Again, since you only have text of a Blake and your family from 175 years
ago, have you seen... oh, say... some suggestions from Gloudina's "a very
literal eye" which could correlate with Richey's thesis of Blake having an
*altering* aesthetic, of which he had done, perhaps, a clever erasure by
the time he had met John Linnell? To me, what Gloudina is saying in this
most recent post is expanding upon Richey's book, in very interesting ways.
And even with the return of Swedenborg to be "greatest of men" in _Milton_,
one needs again to think about why "All Religions Are One", or why it would
make just as make of a good story for Blake to have this experience as for

After being excommunicated by the Church in Sweden for heresy and moving to
London for good, Swedenborg was living next to a little girl, who kept
asking him "How is it that you can see angels?" Finally, he did something
of... a return of the request. He sat her down in a nice, comfy chair, in
front of a draped object, from which he then removed the drape, and it
turned out to be a mirror. "You want to see an angel?" he said, "There.
There's an angel."

Sweet, isn't it?

Kind of reminds me of Blake, late in life, after all the Heavens and Hells
he had been through, seeing a little girl, and saying to her, "I hope that
life is as good to you as it has been to me."

        --- Randall


Subject: Re: Tim's herring
Date: Mon, 1 Mar 1999 14:05:57 -0600

Because I have been receiving Blake-l posts intermittently and
irregularly, with the result that I seem to be in a situation of
reading sometimes isolated segments of an ongoing discussion, I have
hesitated to enter into this thread, though I think I get its drift.

I do have, however, two questions prompted by some nearly incomprehensible
parts of Mr. Peat's recent post--first:  please cite some "academic types"
who claim that the USA is a classless society????  I have read a good
deal of commentary on American history and culture, and the notion that
it is a common or even an occasional *academic* point of view that
US is a classless society comes as a considerable surprise to me.  On
the contrary, it is usually *academics* who cry in the wilderness
against the "common wisdom" that the USA is "classless."
Second:  please clarify the event cited with reference to the college
catalogue with "Glad Day" on the cover????? The Postal Service
"embargoed" it until "the language of the text inside" was altered?
This is truly incomprehensible.  Why would the presence of a
picture on the cover require the alteration of the text inside?
How would that solve any problem?  Presumably, the "embargo,"
assuming it ever occurred and is not an example of a foaf tale,
would have been caused by the exposed male genitalia on the cover,
not by text inside.  Very odd narrative, but possible as a form
of urban belief legend.

Finally, though I feel sure I have missed parts of the discussion on
Blake as a political/religious writer (though unfortunately, I have
seen a couple of characteristically incoherent lengthy posts on the
subject), I wonder if anyone has dealt with the impossibility of
separating politics from religion in a state with an established
religion and people attempting to gain what Americans consider
to be civil liberties with reference to freedom of worship.  How could
such protests (against the various restrictions on religious activity
or publication) be anything but political, even if expressed, as
Tim conclusively demonstrated, I think, in the conventional language
of dissent.  (Actually, I very much appreciate Tim's contextualization
of that language, which is comparable to Jon Mee's similar efforts and
to those of the excellent study by Clement Hawes of the language of
dissent and its association with "madness".)  It seems to me to be
a case of splitting mustard seeds to insist on a complete separation
of politics and religion, especially in the mind of a Blake.
Tom Dillingham


Subject: For Mr. Dumain
Date: Mon, 1 Mar 1999 15:26:29 -0500
From: (R.H. Albright)

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

And who is "she"? Nature? And who is "he"? Jesus?

>The meaning of this is plain as day.

Actually, I've heard different interpretations of the meaning of "The
Mental Traveller" both on this list from Isaac Bouwer and Mark Trevor
Smith, as well as in written form, from Camille Paglia to Northrop Frye.

>Now the question for Blake, and for us, is how one breaks this vicious

With that, I will agree with you. Although I think he also warns, as any
good person familiar with Hindu, Buddhist or Christian mythology (not to
mention the ancient Greeks) would know, that to be merely *born* is to FALL
and be at the mercy of such forces. The question is how to master them in a
humane manner.

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

Actually-- no. The story of Jesus is one which Blake gives as an example of
how someone who you think has "lost" (at least on the temporal throne) can
still WIN, by giving solace, by saying that friendship is all that matters,
and that in the course of friendship, forgiveness is absolutely a
necessity. But then, Mr. Dumain, I don't see you thinking of things like
The Golden Rule much with sad statements like the one above.

I suppose you think that Martin Luther King "lost", too. Or Paracelsus,
mentioned in MHH alongside Behmen and Swedenborg and Dante and Shakespeare?
If it's any comfort, his medical discoveries  were at least noted by
another one of your nemeses, C.G. Jung.

        --- Randall Albright


Subject: Re: 175 Years Ago...
Date: Mon, 01 Mar 1999 16:50:13
From: Izak Bouwer 

Posting by Gloudina Bouwer:

At 02:43 PM 3/1/99 -0500, Allbright wrote:
>Again, since you only have text of a Blake and your family from 175 years
>ago, have you seen... oh, say... some suggestions from Gloudina's "a very
>literal eye" which could correlate with Richey's thesis of Blake having an
>*altering* aesthetic, of which he had done, perhaps, a clever erasure by
>the time he had met John Linnell? To me, what Gloudina is saying...

       Please note, I did not write "a very literal eye."
       My husband Izak did. I am the airhead. Izak has
       his head screwed on the right way. (I hope this is
       a North American expression.)
       (Maybe Izak and I should start our respective posts
       announcing our names.)

       I wish that the recent discussion about Blake's
       "politics" and "activism" had not got us derailed
       from Ralph Dumain's original question : "the
       question of Blake's attitude towards the literal..
       acts of defiance of material reality.. "

       This is a constant theme with Ralph. I found this
       long ago posting of his the other day: ".. there
       is a sense that interests me in which Blake may
       be more materialist, i.e. concrete in the Hegelian
       sense, than others. For example, could there be a
       sense in which Blake's vision is more concrete,
       and hence "materialist", than Feuerbach's abstract
       materialism and humanism? I've never seen anyone
       ask this question before, but this is _my_ question."

       My personal opinion will no doubt get me branded as
       airhead again by Ralph, but I am convinced that one
       has to take seriously the fact that Blake operates
       in the tradition of people like Boehme and Swedenborg
       (and Buddhism) that takes as "reality" a  universe
       in which terms like "God" or "heaven and hell" or
       "nirvana" are anthropomorphic artifacts of the psyche,
       and therefore to be taken seriously in a scientific
       and "real" way. Moreover, in all these traditions,
       one of the chief features seems to be the ability
       by the will to manipulate "reality."  This belief
       that one can do something about,  can manipulate
       the psyche, seems to me of the utmost importance,
       and one should focus in Blake on his pronouncements
       in connection with the four types of vision, the
       reality of the different states, the achievability
       of "Jerusalem", because for me that is ultimately
       what I think Blake wanted to achieve, a communally
       reachable new dispensation.

       Gloudina Bouwer


Subject: Re: [Re: Ralph's first riddle]; Tim on historical interp.
Date: 1 Mar 99 14:02:55 PST
From: mark peterson 
To: wrote:
>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 befor anyone who wishes to know what Blake >was truly about,
rather than what they would wish him to be about.


Tim, thank you for this. You hit on what my last two e-mail concerns are
trying to say (and what our own time's 'corrosive surface' really is when 20th
century readers try understanding the Ancients): whether we are relating to
W.Blake, Shakespeare, Socrates, St. Paul, Jesus, Isaiah, Moses...-- as rabbi
Abraham Heschel said-- 'our task is to know what we see, rather than to see
what we know...', or as WB says in MHH, '...If the doors of our perceptions
were cleared we would see all things as they are: Infinite...'[roughly from
memory, no copy of MHH here at work]--
   Mark Peterson

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