William Blake class – 6 (Urizen continues)

continuing from last week… William Blake and The Book of Urizen

AG: Okay. Fine. Some of us got up to the library and went through the complete book in pictures, comparing it to other matters. So I’ll give you the picture references for those of you who have the book, but we’ve already gone through that for the small number of people who got up there actually. (Having less people) made it easier, but they’re really gorgeous, the books. So if you can get to the Special Collections and ask to see the prophetic books in color, it’s worth doing, don’t you think?. It’s pretty beautiful.

What we got to (was) we were on Chapter III then (of the Book of Urizen). I’m going to run back just to the beginning – it’s only two pages – and outline what happened

At the beginning of the Book of Urizen. there’s this establishment in the void of a solitary shadowy void, obscure Reason, Urizen, rising up. An entity. Some ego entity, some form, rose up. In the wrong place in the Universe, actually. It rose up in the place of Imagination. He divided, strove, reached out for texture and sensation and feeling, began choosing among the cliffs and rocks and fires and blasts of thunder for some solidification. “I have sought for a joy without pain, for a solid without fluctuation”. So he began reacting, positively and negatively, to the forms it encountered. Then, on page 71, towards the end of the second chapter, it (he) meditated and “formed of metals”, writ “the secrets of wisdom/ The secrets of dark contemplation”. And finally, comes to the conclusion of having established a continuum – one command, one joy, one desire, one king, one God, one law. So we’ve had, in a sense, in those two chapters, if you notice, a cycle from the rising of a blind form..You had the rising of a blind form in the first two chapters of Urizen. I want to point out a cyclical thing which’ll go over and over through Urizen. The rising of a blind form, the striving with shapes, the choosing among the shapes of a condition that’s wanted, the solidification of that, and the establishment of a whole kingdom of consciousness, right? – does that make sense. That’s from the beginning. That’s Chapter I and II. Then Chapter III we had gone through already.

Now I’m really talking totally to the text now. So any wandering of the mind will really leave you up in your own fantasies, because we’re zero-ing totally in on Los. Chapter III at this point. If you have your texts – Los – Chapter III – Again, you’re going to go through the whole cycle, just in Chapter III, Verse III – “Sundering, darkening, thundering/ Rent away with a terrible crash/ Eternity rolled wide apart/ Wide asunder rolling/ Mountainous all around” – So all of a sudden you’ve got this form rising in chaos. What I’m doing, for those who still can’t catch on, is showing how there is a cyclical repetition of stages of creation, from a blind form to a total consciousness, repeated over and over again in this Book of Urizen. The rising of a world, a universe, a world of consciousness, based on mathematical, or arithmetical, or logical, reasoning. And Blake repeats it over and over again. In the first two chapters, as I’ve just said, he has it rising from blind form, through four, five, or six various stages, to a completed consciousness. And he repeats it again, where I’m beginning right now, in Chapter III, the Book of Urizen, Verse III – “Sundering, darkening, thundering!” – Bang! – “Rent away with a terrible crash/ Eternity rolled wide apart/ Wide asunder rolling..” – So form rises again. Then the next thing that happens in this cycle, which he’s going to do over and over again, having created all these fragments – “Leaving ruinous fragments of life” (and)/ Hanging, frowning cliffs, and all between/ An ocean of voidness unfathomable”. “The roaring fires ran o’er the heavens” – this is verse IV – “In whirlwinds and cataracts of blood,/ And o’er the dark deserts of Urizen;/ Fires pour through the void on all sides/ On Urizen’s self-begotten armies” – I would imagine those would be the senses – “Urizen’s self-begotten armies” . Then, some reaction to these forms takes place there again, and then working with them again, working with mountains and hills, deserts and rocks, having found pieces, like choosing among them and working with them and building on them. So, in verse VI, on page 72 of the Erdman text, verse VI of Chapter III of (Urizen), Los, he’s putting it together again. In Verse VII, it’s formed some kind of continuum, like a skull – “.. a roof , vast, petrific, around/ On all sides he framed, like a womb” – So it’s like a sky-skin-skull roof. And finally a birth, again, of a whole world – “Like a human heart struggling and beating,/ The vast world of Urizen appeared.” So this is the second time. If you’ve noticed, Urizen seems to repeat itself doesn’t it?. The Creation story told several times from several different angles, sometimes from Urizen’s angle, sometimes from the Eternals who are watching Urizen, sometimes from the point of view of Los, sometimes some identical point of view where both of them seem to be the same person – the birth of separated consciousness, of individualized consciousness.

Finally, “Like a human heart struggling and beating,/ The vast world of Urizen appeared.” – It’s like an ego appearing, and, for those of you who know the sadhana, (Chogyam) Trungpa’s sadhanaRudra (or Ego), the birth of (the) ego, or the appearance of ego in the void. For those of you who know the “sadhana of all beings.”. how many here do? how many have read that? – Trungpa’s sadhana. Do you remember the description of Rudra, the great triangular green mountain?….just these great petrific shapes envisioned on the horizon in a vast void. Blake’s imagination and the imagination of Tibetan poetics and thankas are very, very similar, oddly enough, because they’re both in the same scheme of projection of three-dimensional visualizations. They’re projections, somewhere over here, visible,of 3-D visualizations, with definite colors, outlines, schemes. Something I’d like to point out for those of you who are studying Vajrayana – that the poetic mind in Blake is somewhat like the poetic mind in Tantric Buddhism. Blake also hasmandalas, but he also has infernal and terrific scenes with Mahakalas and Rudras, and this particular passage is almost identical in rhetoric and in spaciousness of visual imagination to contemporary translations of Tibetan books describing various states of consciousness. In this case – Rudra, or ego, or separated ego, impenetrable separated ego. Rudra would be the Tibetan ego equivalent of Urizen, I think. I think those would be the equivalents, (for those of you who are interested in Buddhism). And the aesthetic pictorial visual-verbal equivalent would occur in this passage (which I would suggest you would compare with the “sadhana of all beings” description of Rudra, so I’ll bring that in next time, just as a reference – I should’ve gotten that today)

Student: Do you mean the sadhana that is red?

AG: Yes

Student: (The Sadhana of Mahamudra)

AG: Yeah, sure. Do you know it by heart, by any chance?

Student: No

AG: Do you remember that description of the great red mountain of Rudra?>

Student: No, I (just) remember the colors, because (I never formally) studied at all.

AG: Well, I heard it a lot. It’s read on the new moon days, I think. But that sadhana of Trungpa’s is typically of many sadhanas and (part of a) composite Tibetan cultural tradition. And it’s amazing how Blake is about the closest to that.. and that’s about the closest to Blake that exists. Because of the extremely rarefied and subtle and very definite world of imagination they’re both dealing with. The Tibetans are dealing with very definite meditation images, and Blake is dealing with very definite cosmic symbols.. Many people have a remarkable power of visualization. I’m just pointing out the symbolic quality here and the symbolism here between Blake and the Tibetans. They seem to serve the same function of fixed images for meditation and contemplation (as well as being fixed images of psychological archetypes). And in this case, one (single) Urizonic ego (or, in the Tibetan case, Rudra, Urizonic ego or rationalistic ego, conceptual ego, heavily-conceptualized ego-sense. They’re identical here, I would say, These qualities are identical.

“And Los round the dark globe of Urizen/ Kept watch for Eternals to confine/ The obscure separation alone;/ For Eternity stood wide apart,/ As the stars are apart from the earth.” – Then Urizen is “rent from his side”, it says (and I think we had gotten onto this last time we were in the class) – “The Eternals said: “What is this? Death?/ Urizen is a clod of clay”/ Los howled in a dismal stupor,/ Groaning, gnashing, groaning,/ Till the wrenching apart was healed./ But the wrenching of Urizen healed not./ Cold, featureless flesh or clay,/ Rifted with direful changes/ He lay in a dreamless night,/ Till Los roused his fires, affrighted/ At the formless unmeasurable death.”

– Well, Los got scared and Los here becomes Loss, like loss, the loss of eternity. Because, as you’ll see if you look through the pictures, both Los and Urizen interchange, both in postures and in attitudes (and) in gestures. They are correlative. Those of us who were in the library went through this already, but, as a very specific sample, if you’ll look, for those of you who have the book, on (page) 194 and page 198, (there are) similar versions of Urizen and Los, both at the same moment, sort of mirror images of each other. In one, “I labor upward into futurity”, page 194 of the Erdman (the Illuminated Blake), that’s Urizen, stretching out into space uneasily waking up into birth. And on page 198, another version of Urizen, but this time it looks like Los. And the note on it says..note that when Los is weeping in the different versions of the paintings.. Blake made, among these, several versions, notice several copies of the book. So that each one is painted differently. Note that when Los is weeping in copy B, Urizen is not, and when Urizen is weeping in G, Los is not.

So there’s this correlation, correspondence, mirror imagery going back between Imagination and Reason. Because, actually, what’s going on, as I think I’ve said before, once the Reason is awry and wrecked and ruined and crazed, then what is the Imagination going to create? The Imagination still depends on (the) Body, on Emotions and on Reason. And so, if the Reason is crazy, the Imagination is going to build a crazed form and be tied to the crazed Reason, just like any person. If somebody’s Emotions are really disordered, his Imagination, although the shape will be normal, it will be a disordered intensity, possibly.

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