Ginsberg on Blake (“The Four Zoas”) continues from here
‘They eat the fleshly bread, they drank the nervous wine”
AG: … no, of nerves. The wine of nerves. Flesh and nerves of flesh.
Student: That means bones and nerves, and…
AG: Well, I would take it as the same. Fleshly bread. They’re eating humanity or feasting on humanity, according to (Alicia) Ostriker, which is, in a sense, like eating the bread and wine of Christ. That is to say, the body and the blood of Christ. But in this case humanity itself is the Christ that they are devouring or eating. Humanity in this case is unfettered imagination. However, by fettering it into nerves of flesh or by embodying it or accepting the mortal meat and nervous system as developed in the Book of Urizen, they’re drinking the nervous wine. I guess that would be feeling. “Nervous wine” would actually be sensations and feelings. Whatever phenomena the nerves would carry.
Student: This is so interesting to me. (I mean, I think about it often)here we have a statement – “They eat the fleshly bread, they drank the nervous wine.” And we have two interpretations – One which sees this as a dastardly act – a bad act, as cannibalistic, (and) gives it a bad name.
Student: The other, (Harold) Bloom, gives it a sort of a positive lift. So that….
AG: Well, Bloom is saying the acceptance of mortality in this case is a fall, I think.
Student: Oh, he’s seeing it as a fall.
AG: Acceptance of mortality, but as a fall. However, in the grand scheme it’s necessary to have the fall in order to redeem Albion to begin with. In other words, when we get to the end of this chapter there’ll be the notion of the seven eyes of God. On page three-oh-eight (in) Erdman ((or page) nineteen (of the First Night (“Night the First”) for Blake) – “Then they Elected Seven. called the Seven/Eyes of God.” See, the Eternals are now observing all this – observing this successive series of battles between Urizen and Los, between Urizen and Luvah, and then between Urthona and Urizen, and then will emerge at the end in the last pages, on page nineteen, with the notion of the Eternals finally taking action, electing seven witnesses – the seven eyes of God – enclosing themselves off from this horrible scene of chaos to preserve what is left of eternity.
And in the accounting of the seven eyes of God, Damon points out that there are seven states of error until finally there’s the mercy which redeems all the errors. Remember that listing of the seven eyes and their function at all? It’s a really interesting thing because it somewhat explains why he’s going through all these nine books and telling the whole story as if it were necessary for everybody to fight and fall into chaos in order to give form to error and finally see through the error, reject it and arrive at some kind of saving grace or conclusion.
Damon says, “These seven Eyes are the whole course of human thought in its search for an ideal by which to live”, (which actually is the process we are going through in this class in trying to figure out what Blake is proposing in his experimental book).
Now, “the path of Experience fixed for the Individual by the Divine Mercy, so that proceeding through his errors he must eventually reach the true God.” – (In other words, trial by error, or, learn by your mistakes).
“They are established by the Eternals. The immediate object is to find one who will sacrifice himself for Satan.” (to find someone willing to redeem the apparently unredeemable).
“The first Eye is Lucifer, the complete egotist …” the second, “Moloch, the Executioner, who would solve problems by annihilating all opposition.” – (Those would be in (William) Burroughs’s terms of the Naked Lunch, the Liquidationist Party). Third, “Elohim, the Judge (definer of guilt), who creates Satan and Adam, then faints, wearied , Four, Shaddai, the Accuser, who fails through anger…. (Five,) Pahad … the state of bewildered terror at the results of” this angry Justice. (Next there’s the law-giver – someone who tries to recreate order out of all of this) – (Sixth is) “Jehovah, the law-giver, who becomes leprous, seeking to grasp Eternity.” I’m just quoting Damon’s outline. And “Finally (Seventh) Jesus, who abrogates the whole system with the Forgiveness of Sins, and is sacrificed to Satan.” And is sacrificed to Satan.
Which means that the whole process seems to be an exhaustion of all possible avenues of reason. Or of all possible tactics to get to some kind of dark night of the soul or complete hopelessness or abandonment of all attempts to regulate the universe by limiting it, and then giving in to unlimited forgiveness, unlimited mercy, unlimited imagination that goes beyond the rational limit of what is possible. That goes beyond nature, presumably. Goes beyond Vala, goes beyond Urizen.
So that would account, I suppose, for that problem, which was … what was the problem? Yeah, why this fall into mortality, to the extent that Bloom says acceptance of mortality as inevitable, or Alicia Ostricker is much more negative. She sees it like cannibalistic feasting on the Eternal Man.
The fleshly bread and nervous wine is also the flesh of Albion and the nerves of Albion. All of Albion’s nerves are now being tortured by these nightmarish conflicts.
“They listened to the Elemental Harps & Sphery Song/ They view’d the dancing Hours, quick sporting thro’ the sky/With winged radiance scattering joys thro the ever changing light/ But Luvah & Vala standing in the bloody sky/ On high remaind alone forsaken in fierce jealousy..”
Student: Yeah. It was.
AG: And here he is. – “Eternity appeard above them as One Man infolded/ In Luvah(s) robes of blood & bearing all his afflictions/ As the sun shines down on the misty earth Such was the Vision”
And then there’s a weird vision that comes (out) of our own natural world – “But purple night and crimson morning & golden day descending/Thro’ the clear changing atmosphere display’d green fields among/ The varying clouds, like paradises stretch’d in the expanse/With towns & villages and temples, tents sheep-folds and pastures/ Where dwell the children of the elemental worlds in harmony./Not long in harmony they dwell, their life is drawn away/And wintry woes succeed; successive driven into the Void/Where Enion craves: successive drawn into the golden feast”
Well, “the golden feast” is this marriage of Los and Enitharmon – creative poetic imagination and spiritual beauty – Spectres of them making a Spectral world which is mortal, perishing, where beings are successively into the golden feast, nourished in sheep-folds and pastures, dwelling with children of elemental worlds in harmony, and then suddenly life is withdrawn, the Spectre ends, the dream folds up, and wintry woes succeed. So it’s this funny… like it’s a little visionary birth of our mortal universe pictured as a result of the marriage, or as part of the marriage, or as the result of the imagination of Spectral imagination and Spectral beauty. – Yes? Yes?
Student: When Luvah first started the poetic imagination was (defined) Could you put (this) into kind (of similar Blakean terms)?
AG: I would say, yes. It’s similar there. Luvah, that is that aspect of the poetic imagination which was macho-Beatnik.
AG: Macho-beatnik. Beatnik-macho aggressive, was relating to Urthona, I think. I would say. Urthona. Represented by Buddhist imagination (as) being closer to Urthona in terms of some conception that we create our own space and time and so that the cops that the macho-beatniks were trying to fight with were created by the imaginative eye of the macho-beatniks.
Audio for the above may be heard here, beginning at approximately thirty-one-and-a-quarter minutes in and concluding at approximately forty-and-a-half minutes in