The Portable William Blake

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Authors: William Blake
eastward on
    Europe to Euphrates & Hindu, to Nile & back in Clouds Of Death across the Atlantic to America North & South.
    Hence, too, the poetic atrocities:
    In torrents of mud settling thick
With Eggs of unnatural production
    Which is dreadful, but only a paraphrase of the noble rant which deafens and dulls us all through the later books:
    But in the Optic vegetative Nerves Sleep was transformed To Death in old time by Satan, the father of Sin & Death: And Satan is the Spectre of Orc, &. Ore is the generate Luvah.
    Blake cannot get away from the materialist trappings, the naturalistic “spectre”; no one can, and his collapse as an artist in the later Prophetic Books is due to his effort to dispel the natural forms by a mythological explanation of them. He created his myth to contain his defiance, as it were; when he found it insufficient, he let it supplant life itself. On the subject of God, he even borrowed a thought from the Gnostic heresy, as he was indebted to the Jewish Cabala for his vision of the man who anciently contained all things of heaven and earth in himself. The Gnostic heresy is one the Catholic Church understandably rooted out in furious alarm—for it held that the world was dominated by Satan. It is not hard to understand how comforting this thought must have been to Blake. If this world is a mere deception, and all its natural appearances a masquerade through which man must look for spiritual vision, it is because the “real” God has been supplanted by Satan. So all spiritual vision leads us back to the “real” God, who is now Jesus. Blake’s Jesus is the defiant iconoclast, the friend of artists and revolutionaries. When one reads Jerusalem, one thinks of Nietzsche, who when he went mad signed himself “The Crucified One,” and of that old cry from the defeated—“Thou has conquered, O Galilean!”
    Blake does not “yield” to Jesus; he creates Jesus in his own image.
    The Son, O how unlike the Father! First God Almighty comes with a Thump on the head. Then Jesus Christ comes with a balm to heal it.
    But not before he has shown us the inner thread in his snarled Prophetic Books—which is the lament against his own “selfhood” and the appeal against the Accuser, “who is the God of this World.” It is impossible to read Blake’s vehement and repeated cries against the “Accuser” without being moved by the tremendous burden of guilt he carried despite his revolt and independence. The “Accuser” is Satan, who rules this world, which is “the Empire of nothing.” It is he who tormented man with a sense of sin; who made men and women look upon their own human nature as evil; who plunged us into the cardinal human heresy, which is the heresy against man’s own right and capacity to live. The “Accuser” is the age in which Blake lived and it is the false god whose spectre mocks our thirst for life. It is the spirit, to Blake, of all that limits man, shames man, and drives him in fear. The Accuser is the spirit of the machine, which leads man himself into “machination.” He is jealousy, unbelief, and cynicism. But his dominion is only in you; and he is only a specter.
    The Accuser is the prime enemy, yet he is a fiction; he need not exist. But Blake fought him so bitterly that he acknowledged how great a price he had paid for his own audacity. What was it that made him long at the end, above everything else, for “forgiveness?” What was it he had to be “forgiven” for?
    And now let me finish with assuring you that, Tho’ I have been very unhappy, I am so no longer. I am again Emerged into the light of day; I still & shall to Eternity Embrace Christianity and Adore him who is the Express image of God; but I have travel’d thro’ Perils & Darkness not unlike a Champion. I have Conquer’d, and shall go on Conquering. Nothing can withstand the fury of my course among the Stars of God & in the Abysses of the Accuser. My enthusiasm is still what it

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