Blakean Gnosticism (William Blake’s – “America – A Prophecy” – 13)

William Blake – “The Temptation and Fall of Eve” – illustration to Milton’s ‘Paradise Lost’ (1808, pen and watercolour on paper)

Allen Ginsberg continues his observations on  William Blake’s “America – A Prophecy” –  from here

AG:   And,  “The terror answerd: I am Orc,  wreath’d round the accursed  tree..” – What “accursed tree”?  The Tree of Paradise, The Tree of Knowledge in Paradise, The serpent in Paradise. So finally Blake is taking the side of the serpent in the Garden of Eden.  Blake is totally identifying with the serpent, finally, and identifying as revolution.  That is to say, the serpent, Orc, is the Messiah who tempts man to break the prohibition.  The serpent is the Messiah, in Blake’s imagery here, and he’s taking that from, I think I’ve already gone through this old tale of the Ophitic interpretation of the Garden of Eden.  Did I do that earlier here..?

Student: I don’t believe so.  [Editorial note – much of the following material can also be accessed here (from a June 1975 Naropa lecture of Allen’s), and also here, (transcript of a 1978 Naropa series of classes on Blake, focusing, on that occasion, on The Book of Urizen)]

AG:  The Mandaean Gnostic, I think it’s the Mandaean Gnostic, interpretation of the Garden of Eden.  Does anybody know that here?  I haven’t mentioned it?

Student: No.

AG: Well, Blake would have known it from his work with Thomas Taylor, the Platonist who translated all of the earlier Gnostic fragments.  Do you know that story?

Student: No, but I read an article in … about train of thought and relationship …

AG: Um-hmm.

Student: … one of those books, I can’t remember who? Carlo Suares?, or….

AG: Suares?

Student: Yeah, or somebody else’s account.

AG:  Yeah, (he) had something of it?

Student: Yeah, Alchemical version of..the Garden of Eden..

AG: Yeah.  Well, the traditional….

Student: Yeah, that the serpent was actually another path of God’s consciousness that he wasn’t aware of … that..

AG: Part of God’s unconscious!  Well….

Student: It was a subtle snake, he knew the language.

AG: Yeah.  Well, the traditional thing (which I make use of in the last long poem I wrote called “Plutonian Ode”),  which I’ll take a minute to tell, then, is –  in the beginning was dharmakaya  (according to the Buddhists) – or the Abyss of Light, (according to the Cabalists and hermetic teachers, according to the Mandaean Gnostics, who had this Ophitic, or snaky (Ophitic, ophite – snake), Ophitic or snaky interpretation of the story of the Garden of Eden, which is that in the beginning is the Abyss of Light, (open void, according to the Existentialists), and there was a little shudder of intelligence or movement in this Abyss of Light, which would be perhaps be something similar to the first skandha in Buddhism – some shudder or gleam of intelligence or self-reflection.  A reflection in the Abyss of Light. Light reflecting on itself. And that’s known as Sophia, the word, wisdom, the Goddess Sophia. Mother of creation, or thought, or consciousness.  Sophia – “In the Beginning was the Word”, in the beginning was consciousness, or the Word.  This is like (William S.) Burroughs, basically.  The Word’s been with us all along, rub out the Words?  The Word has created this vegetable universe.

Well, anyway.  So, Sophia thinks, and as Blake says in The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, “One thought fills immensity. Right?  So, her thought is an entire universe.  Then, within her universe, it produces other thoughts, or other things think within that universe, and so there’s a whole Aeon of thought called “IO” – I-O  – and Io is the Archon, or owner, or magister, or ruler, or king, or Urizen, of that Aeon.  And he has a thought and his thought is called Ialdabaoth – which is the Archon or Aeon of Ialdabaoth. Ialdabaoth has a thought and his thought is better known to us –  It’s a whole Aeon, and the owner, or Archon, or magister, or Urizenic creator, or possessor of that is called Elohim.  That’s how we got Elohim.  Then Elohim had a thought and his thought was Jehovah.  And Jehovah had a thought and his whole Aeon was the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve, and the Tree of Knowledge.

Now, he had Adam and Eve in it, so he said, “You enjoy yourself, worship me, take care of everything and be good-good, but don’t ever take that Apple of Knowledge from that tree because it’s forbidden.”

Student: It’s bad.

AG: Well, see, if they ever tasted (it) they’d realize that he doesn’t exist, (that) he’s just a thought of a thought of a thought of Sophia, who’s just a reflection in the Abyss of Light. And Jehovah’s a great egotist like Urizen, who solidified his own self-hood, and doesn’t want him to disappear, and doesn’t want any question of it, doesn’t want any crack of insight, much less Adam and Eve, his own creations, taking a bite of the apple and realizing that they’re not really under his power, that it’s all samsaric dream, so to speak.

So, there’s a stasis.  However, Sophia, realizing the situation, realizes that all these descendants from the Abyss of Light are little particles of light – they still pertain to the light, or they are reflections of the light –  and she takes pity on them because they’re separated from the main body of light. (And in this case, it’s very similar to the old Cabalistic-Hebraic tales, that the Rabbis are engaged in returning the light to the light – I don’t know if you’re familiar with that phraseology, but it’s famous – The picking up of the pieces of light then returning (it) in Cabalistic terminology),

So Sophia realizes that because of her own thought she’s created this karmic world in a fix, in a thrall to its own self-hood and its own projections, and her own projections (it’s her own projection).  And she realizes all these self-hoods are very jealous of their Aeons and they don’t want to see their territory broken up, or invaded, or dispersed, or dissolved. So, she can’t launch a frontal assault on it, so she has to..  she sends a messenger down to Adam and Eve. But it has to be somebody in disguise who just goes slinking along under the feet of Archons, along the floors of the Aeons, from Aeon to Aeon, so nobody will notice them.  And the name of the messenger traditionally is called “The Caller of the Great Call” (a fantastic phrase! ) You know, (one) who calls throughout all creation, to waken creation to its own nature, to its own transitory nature, – or the “Caller of the Great Call”, or “the Messenger”, or “the Wanderer”.  (I guess that’s where the Wandering Jew notion is derived).

But the “Caller of the Great Call” is the snake.  So the snake goes down through the Aeons, goes to Adam and Eve and says, “Eat the apple. You’re being used.  Eat the apple, get out of the Garden of Eden and Paradise.  Be willing to live and die”. Because otherwise you’re up in the Vales of Har, so to speak, otherwise you’re stuck in the Vales of Har.

So Jehovah’s Eden would have been the Vales of Har. Remember the Vales of Har?  Is that mysterious language to anyone?  That was sort of the limbo where nobody died ever (but) just went on playing with the little birdies. ( So), it was Love and Light. Love and Light Universe.

to be continued

Audio for the above can be heard here , beginning at approximately sixty-nine-and-a-half minutes in and concluding at approximately seventy seven minutes in


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