William Blake Class – 4 (Urizen and Milton)

Allen continues, lecturing on Blake’s Book of Urizen.

AG: “For he strove with battles dire/ In unseen confliction with shapes/ Bred from his forsaken wilderness,/ Of beast, bird, fish, serpent, and element/ Combustion blast, vapour and cloud” – He’s creating his own universe, like Jehovah – “Dark revolving in silent activity:/ Unseen in tormenting passions;/ An activity unknown and horrible;/ A self-contemplating shadow,/in enormous labours occupied. But Eternals beheld his vast forests/ Ages on ages he lay, closed, unknown,/ Brooding shut in the deep, all avoid/ The petrific abominable chaos” – “the petrific” – stony. The rhetoric there, you can hear echoes of (John) Milton, because, ultimately, one representative of Urizen, later on, will be Milton, or Milton over-dominated by Urizen in (the poem) “Milton”. Blake is actually taking off from Miltonic oratory and Miltonic mind and Miltonic consideration of these elementals, the Creation of the World and the nature of Jehovah and the justification of the ways of God to Man. So Milton is Blake’s foil, in a sense, or Blake’s shadow. Actually, Milton appears to Blake, later on, in an actual vision, which Blake describes, either in “Milton, (A Poem)” or (in) “The Four Zoas”, in which he draws a picture. There’s a picture of Milton’s angel, Milton’s angel appearing to Blake, which you might check out, actually. Why not?.. to find it is another matter!..does anybody know that one, by any chance? where the angel appeared to Blake in the garden of his cottage in Felpham? Do you know where that would be?

Student: It’s near the end of the book…

AG: Okay. It’s on page 256 of the Erdman’s illustrations, and, also..in that picture book you’ve got, in that square book, there’s an enlargement…I don’t know where in the book (if you want to come and look at it, you might be able to find yours, if you want to check it out). Or maybe I could find it in the picture book. No, I’m talking about your.. Oh, you don’t have your picture book here.

Student: Is this it, Allen?

AG: Yeah, that one, yeah, maybe bring it up. Does everybody (have) that? Page 256 – there’s an enlargement, yeah, here it is. Slightly larger size. If you want to pass it around. It’s the one realistic picture that Blake drew, the one still-life sketch. A picture he drew of his garden in Felpham (he’d retired, from London, down to southern England, near the countryside, to rusticate and get out of the war-torn, revolution-torn political ferments 1797-1800. There he worked on “The Four Zoas”, which precedes the book “Milton” (and maybe precedes “Urizen” too, I’m not sure..1794, no, it would be after “Urizen”, I guess}

Apparently Milton appeared to Blake and it was a question of.. Milton was perhaps lost in the world of.. having rejected sex and having not gone through the material world properly, (or having not gone through the entire cycle necessary, of the six worlds of gods and demons and hungry ghosts and hell-beings and animals,(and) humans). There is a good deal of explanation of what Blake’s relation to Milton was intellectually, and why he thought Milton was a heroic figure who had failed. So Blake set out, as his successor prophet, to redeem Milton by calling up Milton’s ghosts or encountering Milton’s (faerie), and (by) writing the book, Milton (A Poem), which put Milton through the necessary changes, so that (he) Milton would, finally, take on all faculties, including Tharmas and Luvah (the Body and Emotions), as well as Reason and Imagination.

I just went into a little side-matter here because you can hear Milton’s voice – “the petrific abominable chaos.”

John Milton 1608-1674

[Allen continues reading] – “His cold horrors silent, dark Urizen/ Prepared..” – Dark Urizen prepared his cold horrors silent – “ ..his ten thousand of thunders/Ranged in gloomed array stretch out across/ The dread world, and the rolling of wheels/ As of swelling seas sound in his clouds,/ In his hills of stored snows, in his mountains/ Of hail and ice; voices of terror/ Are heard, like thunders of autumn,/ When the cloud blazes over the harvests.”

I’ll get back to Urizen. The illustration there, I suppose, would be the fury of the clouds and thunders. A naked youth running leftward..Oh, a naked youth running leftward, as one of the Eternals (is) looking outward from bright Eternity. Well, you read that and figure that one out.

At that time, when Urizen was preparing his Creation.

[Allen continues reading, Chapter two of “The Book of Urizen” ] – “Earth was not, nor globes of attraction./ The will of the Immortal expanded/ Or contracted his all-flexible senses/ Death was not, but eternal life sprung/ The sound of a trumpet! The heavens/ Awoke and vast clouds of blood rolled/ Round the dim rocks of Urizen, so named,/ That solitary one in immensity.”

Now, he says here, before Urizen’s limitations – “The will of the immortal expanded/ Or contracted his all-flexible senses/ Death was not, but eternal life sprung” – There will be a lot of passages like this later on – ““The will of the immortal expanded/ Or contracted” – The immortal, I assume, here is Albion, the immortal man, the eternal man, the complete man.

“Shrill the trumpet & myriads of Eternity/ Muster around the bleak deserts/ Now filled with clouds, darkness and waters” – I think this is Plate 4 (Erdman) so 4b on page 186 of your book would give you some of that illustration to the lines coming – “Now filled with clouds, darkness and waters” – the myriads of Eternity mustering around the bleak deserts” – [reads note] – “A naked External inside the curtain of raining fire sits on fluctuating ground, more liquid than solid” – [continues reading] – “..and myriads of Eternity/ Muster around the bleak deserts/ Now filled with clouds, darkness and waters/ That rolled perplexed, labouring, and uttered/ Words articulate, bursting in thunders/ That rolled on the tops of his mountains:/ From the depths of dark solitude; from/ The eternal abode in my holiness,/ Hidden, set apart in..” – This is, I guess, Urizen speaking – “From/ The eternal abode in my holiness,/ Hidden, set apart in my stern counsels/ Reserved for the days of futurity,/ I have sought for a joy without pain/ For a solid without fluctuation/ Why will you die, O Eternals?/ Why live in unquenchable burnings?” – The Eternals, you’ve got to understand, are willing to die. The Eternals are willing to go through the worm, are willing to enter the earth with a clod of clay and a worm. And Urizen wants to protect his territory. He never wants to die. It’s total egotism, total solidification of ego, where he wants to have a “solid without fluctuation”. That’s what makes him opaque, “A solid without fluctuation”, something changeless, he doesn’t want to get old, he doesn’t want to have old age, disease, and death, he doesn’t want the second mark of existence – change. He’s looking for a fixed point, and he’s complaining to these Eternals, who are willing to pass through many transmigrations. – “Why will you die, O Eternals?/ Why live in unquenchable burnings?”/ ‘First, I fought with the fire, consumed/ Inwards into a deep world within -/ A void immense, wild, dark and deep,/ Where nothing was, nature’s wide womb/ And self-balanced stretched o’er the void/ I alone, even I, the winds merciless/ Bound. But condensing, in torrents/ They fall and fall. strong I repelled/ The vast waves and arose on the waters,/ A wide world of solid obstruction.” – “..and arose on the waters,/ A wide world of solid obstruction.” – So, actually, this passage is paralleled by a description of the birth of the solitary, individual, unique, isolated consciousness in (Chogyam) Trungpa’s Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism . There’s a description (there) that’s very similar to the description of the birth of Urizen, the conception of Urizen, and even the creation of ganglia nerves (which will come later in “(the Book of) Urizen”). But first, the conception – a whirling, dizzying space – and then, an individual entity emerging from that, wanting a reference point and a solid base and a stopping to all that change and a fixed obstruction, So this actually the birth of ego, or the birth of self-reflecting self-consciousness – “..and arose on the waters,/ A wide world of solid obstruction.” – Of course you notice the parallel to the Creation in Genesis in the Bible – Creation of the waters.. [Allen resumes reading] – “ ‘Here alone, I, in books formed of metals,/ Have written the secrets of wisdom,/ The secrets of dark contemplation/ By fightings and conflicts dire/ With terrible monsters sin-bred,/ Which the bosoms of all inhabit – / Seven deadly sins of the soul./ ‘Lo I unfold my darkness and on/ This rock..” – like Christ! – “..and on/ This rock place with strong hand the book/ Of eternal brass, written in my solitude./ ‘Laws of peace, of love, of unity,/ Of pity, compassion, forgiveness./ Let each choose one habitation,/ His ancient infinite mansion,/ One command, one joy, one desire,/ One curse, one weight, one measure,/ One King, one God, one Law.’” – Well you can hear that in Richard Nixon [this class is conducted in 1975 – sic]. That’s familiar. You can read it in Commentary magazine, you can read it in corrupt Presidential addresses, you can read it in (the) CIA, you can read it in the FBI, you can read it in any LSD lunatic that thinks he’s God. You can read it in your own soul, any time – the search for the One, the great melancholic search for the one reference point in the Universe. Actually, naturally, one’s own perceptions, or one’s own ego, or one’s own self, by which to measure everything else, and make everything conform to your own existence’s perpetuation, rather than allowing the dissolution of the clod of clay and the worm.

It’s precisely also what Milton was seeking – One God. And, interesting enough, in our own Buddhist terms, this is the distinction between the theistic and non-theistic points of reference. The theistic point of reference is ultimately a projection of ego-hood onto (a) cosmic scale – that one avenging, or one central, reference, a sense that, since you realize that one’s self cannot be perpetual.. One can be perpetual, but you can’t be continuous solid obstruction forever. One’s self is fated to change and dissolution, so there is a projection of one’s self on the Universe. “Well, at least that won’t change. There’ll be some part of me always there, keeping track of all my soul thoughts, and getting all my thoughts collected up, so I can be One with Him.” – which is, ultimately, conceptual thought – Urizonic conceptual thought.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.