Ginsberg on Blake continues – 1

We continue this week with transcription of Allen’s February 1978 class on William Blake,  and “The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, continuing from here

AG:  Let me get the books out. Where were we ?  We got up to Plate XVI?  Yes… Max Plowman)  says – this is about the origin of the Gods. We had some of that before in Plate X1. And it began, again, with an echo of the revolutionary slogan – I think this is where I left off? – “Man is born free and everywhere he is in chains”– Man is born free but is everwhere in chains”. That’s from (Jean Jacques) Rousseauwho had written a great deal on the rights of man –  “The Giants who formed this world into its sensual existence and now seem to live it in chains are, in truth, the causes of its life & the sources of all activity..” –  (So those “Giants”, according to (Geoffrey) Keynes, are the senses – the five senses, or six senses (it’s sort of gigantic to us, and in that sense they’re the giants within our body, they’re the giants that form the world for us).

“(T)he weak in courage is strong in cunning” – Did we go over this at all?  Can you remember?   and how far did we get in to it?  Does anybody remember?  Got any little note?  Well, ok, there was, in the second paragraph there – “Thus one portion of being, is the Prolific, the other, the Devouring: to the devourer it seems as if the producer was in his chains, but it is not so; he only takes portions of existence and fancies that the whole. But the Prolific would cease to be Prolific unless the Devourer it seems received the excess of his delights. Thus one portion of being, is the Prolific, the other, the Devouring: to the devourer it seems as if the producer was in his chains, but it is not so; he only takes portions of existence and fancies that the whole.”

Now some have seen this as the slave-holder versus the capitalist. The slave-owner versus the slave-holder.  The producer, the prolific, and the devourer, the producer and the devourer of the fruits of production. So some people see this as a parable of the revolutionary situation that people were picking up on then. The “cunning” and “devouring” could also be the boundary or outline of the Prolific.

There is also the further idea, in the next line, “But the Prolific would cease to be Prolific unless the Devourer as a sea recieved the excess of his delights.” – (And some have interpreted that “prolific” there as art itself – that there is always necessary this exchange between the prolific artist and the devourer of his art.  There needs to be devourer to receive the energy of the prolific.  So it’s an extension of that same image of the energy and its boundaries. So maybe, applied to the art and the art production and the citizen who reads, (it) might be slave producer, laborer, and capitalist, but also (it) might be some parable of class war).

“Some will say, Is not God alone the Prolific? I answer, God only Acts & Is, in existing beings or Men. These two classes of men are always upon earth, & they should be enemies, whoever tries to reconcile them seeks to destroy existence. Religion is an endeavour to reconcile the two. Note. Jesus Christ did not wish to unite but to seperate them, as in the Parable of sheep and goats! & he says I came not to send Peace but a Sword. Messiah or Satan or Tempter was formerly thought to be one of the Antediluvians who are our Energies.”

“These two classes of men are always upon earth, & they should be enemies; whoever tries to reconcile them seeks to destroy existence” –  (that is, whoever tries to reconcile them by compromise, like Lafayette … Is that what we covered the last time?  Did we get up to that?)

Student: Yeah.

AG: Yeah, I think that was the last quote I had, that the meaning there, whoever seeks “to reconcile them seeks to destroy” them. And he quotes Christ saying, “I came not to send Peace but a Sword” –  to actually not reconcile, or compromise, or make a wishy-washy peace-and-quiet, (it’s not) “don’t revolt.”  So he’s actually, in a sense, he’s encouraging revolt when he says, “whoever tries to reconcile them seeks to destroy existence.”

Next “Memorable Fancy”? , does that start off Plate XVI?

Student: Plate XVII.

AG: I want to get through these fast now.

AG:  “An Angel came to me and said  O pitiable foolish young man! O horrible! O dreadful state! consider the hot burning dungeon thou art preparing for thyself to all eternity, to which thou art going in such career” – (Now, this particular angel… Have you all read this “Memorable Fancy”? You all know it?)  (This particular angel, according to Erdman, is a Tory philosopher, representing (the) Tory viewpoint, that is to say, pro-slavery, anti-revolution, anti-French Revolution, anti-American Revolution, anti-change, anti-conflict, anti…  and  someone who wants to cool the scene down, keep the status quo).

So, the two of them, Blake and his mind-enemy or his mind-contestant – the Tory Angel – go down through eternal lot to see, through each others eyes’, what the actual nature of politics and reality and the senses are.

“So he took him through a stable..”, (where you might find “the horses of instruction”).  “& through a church, & down into the church vault”. (this is into religion. So they’re going in to explore religion).  “At the end of which was a mill” –  (the mill of reason, remember?).  And “through the mill we went until we came to a cave” (which is the skull).  So this is like an exploration down through all the dead passions, so to speak, according to Keynes.

“[D]own the winding cavern” – (that’s the caverned man, looking out through his senses) – “..down the winding cavern we groped our tedious way til a void boundless as a nether sky appear’d beneath us.” – (The stable, incidentally, where the horses of instruction are, might be the stable of Christ’s birth, by the way, because remember Christ was born in a stable.  So that’s why you get through the stable you get into religion, through the vault.  The vault would be dogma, actually, according to some.  The mill would be analytic logic, that is, Urizen, the over-rationalizing, over-dominant, over-abstract mind, building dogma, a dogmatic vault in the skull, making of the skull a dogmatic vault).

So, “…we groped our tedious way til a void boundless as a nether sky appeard beneath us. & we held by the roots of trees and hung over this immensity, but I said, if you please we will commit ourselves to this void, and see whether providence is here also, if you will not I will? but he answer’d, do not presume O young-man but as we here remain behold thy lot which will soon appear when the darkness passes away. So I remained with him sitting in the twisted root of an oak. he was suspended in a fungus which hung with the head downward into the deep…” – (Well, Keynes says the fungus is blind dogma or doctrinal.  The root of an oak is the old Druid oak, actually, or vegetative error, or..  The oaks were used by the Druids for human sacrifice, apparently).

Audio for the above can be heard here. beginning at the beginning of the tape and concluding approximately nine-and-a-half  minutes in

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