William Blake – (The Mental Traveller)

We might look at The Mental Traveller (also out of (William) Blake.  Does anybody know that?  The Mental Traveller? – That’s a terrific poem. [Editorial note – Allen’s earlier (1976) observations, duplicating, to some degree, what follows, can be found here] William Butler Yeats thought  it was one of Blake’’s greatest poems, and he said that it was impenetrable, nobody could ever understand it- and, apparently, no commentator has ever fully unraveled the scheme of it, (which is an obvious scheme of an eternal return, a recycle that goes back, snake eating its own tail, and it has a number of great slogans within it . There are interpretations of it by (S) Foster Damon.. His contention is that the two characters of Youth and Age, (Youth growing into Age), are… that “the Babe” is Revolution, (political revolution, as well as psychic revolution in the..), that it is only born from death – or (that) the Revolution is only born from cutting through, cutting through the present status quo, or the death of the present status quo, but that, as Revolution ages, it becomes more and more encrusted, solidified, conceptualized, and so becomes “an Old Woman” (the Babe becomes an Old Woman). So, you could apply that, say, to the Cuban Revolution or the Russian Revolution. He was writing about the French Revolution, which was somewhat betrayed by Napoleon (betrayed by Napoleon, in the sense that Napoleon finally had himself crowned King, after having been a Republican along). But it’s also a parable of alterations of mental states, that is to say, an uncreation of the solidified identity, and the opening up to open space, and then the slow solidification again. So it’s a cycle of solidification of conceptual thought-forms, and then the death or de-solidification of them.

“The Mental Traveller” – so it’s a terrific title – Imagine writing “The Mental Traveller”! – What journey does the mind make?

“I travld thro’ a Land of Men/A Land of Men & Women too/And heard & saw such dreadful things/as cold Earth wanderers never knew” –  (“cold” – he means un-visionary, un-formed, really, basically unvisionary – the chill of reason’s temperature) –
“For there the Babe is born in joy/That was begotten in dire woe”- (And that would make sense if you considered it as Revolution) –
“For there the Babe is born in joy/That was begotten in dire woe/Just as we Reap in joy the fruit/Which we in bitter tears did Sow/ And if the Babe is born a Boy/He’s given to a Woman Old/Who nails him down upon a rock/Catches his Shrieks in Cups of gold/ She binds iron thorns around his head…” –  (That’s just like this class! – this class in spontaneous poetry, you’ve got .. I’ve bound iron thorns around your head, making it into a regular scene and going “Gregory (Gregory Corso) Shhh” – I’m “the Old Woman” here!) – “And if the Babe is born a Boy/He’s given to a Woman Old/Who nails him down upon a rock/Catches his Shrieks in Cups of gold/ She binds iron thorns around his head/She pierces both his hands and feet/She cuts his heart out at its side/To make it feel both cold and heat”
The Woman is also.. You could also consider the Woman actually ..  of the terrestrial, the earth, the vegetable world, the world of matter, the material world, or.. at.. in some certain times in Blake’s system, there’s a sort of Gnostic Manichean notion of this world itself as beinga trap, a mine-trap, a trap, and so, if you read the prophetic Book of Urizen, there’s a whole outline of how, from the first shake in the void, the first thought in the void, iron worlds expand with nerves and blood and suffering and pain. Or you could call it just A Woman, actually, a Gnostic view of Women as being..  the Burroughsian Gnostic view of women as being totally evil – the creative principle that gives birth to this vegetable monster-hood. So, Yes?

Student: This would be identified with Christ?)
AG: Pardon me?
Student: (This would be identified with Christ?)

AG: Sure. in another poem, To Tirzah” (actually, in the Songs of Innocence and Experience), it might actually give some account, or notion, of what he’s coming on here.”Tirzah” is the Feminine Principle of birth and creation into this world, and like Ruha (R-U-H-A) in the Gnostic world… [- Yes?…yes? –David (Rome< (just) peeked in] – …like Ruha, in the Gnostic stories, Tirzah is a sort of evil feminine and Blake says – “Whate’ere  is born of mortal birth/Must be consumèd with the earth/To rise from generation free/Then what have I to do with thee?” (That’s the Christ-words to Mary)

Let’s hold it a minute – (Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche enters the classroom) – Good!  Welcome!

[Audio for the above can be heard here, beginning at approximately  fifty-four minutes in and concluding at approx sixty minutes in]

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