Ginsberg on Blake continues – 74

The Destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah – John Martin, 1852, oil on canvas in the collection of the Laing Art Gallery, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, England

Allen Ginsberg’a 1979  Naropa class on William Blake’s The Four Zoas continues from here

AG: From what I understand –  because we’re all such different natures and readings and stages of reading in Blake – what’s been going on in here in class must have been confusing to a lot of people who haven’t read any Blake before and don’t know the basic symbols or worldview or weltschmerz or tone, so that this whole class may have been kind of chaotic all along, and too much at once.  Too much close analysis of the trees and no overview of the forest (which is) partly my fault.  We probably should have started with a big survey.  So I don’t know what to do except apologize for being so sloppy in teaching.  But I’ve just been trying to go inch-by-inch or line-by-line as far as possible, along with the text, trying to figure it out myself, and then hoping there would be some collaboration, which there has been, on that.
So, we’re (only) at the end of Book Three, actually.

Student:  Can I ask a question?
AG:  Yeah.
Student:  About just the end here.
AG:  Yeah.
Student:  What you just read.
AG:  Yes.

Student:  Is Blake at all speaking about literal prophecy?  Would there be an end of … would there be no prophets in a time of this apocalyptic….

AG:  Well, if you didn’t need a prophet… a prophet has to figure out what went wrong and what to do right, but if everything finally is reunited in harmony, there might not be need of a prophet.  But there might not be need of a heaven and earth, either.  He was perfectly right. [to Student] – What were you saying the other day about apocalypse?

Student (2):  I’m trying to decide whether it is really the end, when the wine-presses get going at the end and the human beings are ground up into.. merely odors, and that’s all that’s left, and that it might really be Blake’s vision of the end-of-time ..into something completely different than we could ever imagine.  We wouldn’t even be human forms any more.

AG:  We were talking about it the other day and he was saying that apocalypse might precede the reunion –  in fact, there is an apocalypse of a sort – but that might mean, for instance,  that, finally, all the hydrogen bombs and nuclear bombs explode and the earth is transformed into pure fire and light – and then what?  That might be actually the key.
That finally going through all the fire. What it says – “How is it we have walkd thro fires & yet are not consumed.”  If the saving thing is the imagination, there might be something left after all the complete destruction of everything.  What would happen?  It would all turn into bliss, perhaps – the Buddhist term is Mahasukha –  That total suffering would turn into total bliss, and the traditional Indian myth of a Kali Yuga is that when things get so petrified, solidified, in hatred and fear and paranoia that there’s nothing left but a metallic universe covered with lizards eating their own children, when evil and grasping and passionate aggression and ignorance are so intensified that they become one hundred percent complete, then the whole thing is revealed as an illusion which it is, and that’s the unveiling of the Golden Age.  The Dawn of the Golden Age only comes when everything is totally….

Student:  But who’s going to be here to enjoy it?  This Golden Age?

AG:  Well, the original imagination that dreamt it all up.  The guy that went daydreaming, or the girl that went (daydreaming), Sophia who went daydreaming, for a minute and “one thought filled immensity” [Allen is quoting from Blake’s Proverbs from the Marriage of Heaven and Hell, of course, here],  it lasted billions of years, and then, all of a sudden, when the bum trip thought got bad enough, finally she woke up and realized it was a dream.  It’s just like in meditation practice almost anything thought is a bum trip, and then when you go back to your breath and come back to space it dissolves.  You realize you’ve been on a trip. Yes?

Student (3):  Just in line with that one, when I was talking to (Timothy) Leary last year about Rocky Flats, he was talking about … and it was the first time.. (he was expressing his concerns) about that plutonium and Rocky Flats situation (and said that maybe it’s) is a good thing because it’s getting us outside of the (wounded) earth and..
AG:  Um-hmm.
Student:  … that Darwinian progression.
AG:  Yeah.  Well, yes.
Student:  Another perspective.

AG:  Yeah, well, in other words, the way that would happen, maybe, is when earth gets bad enough, people (will) pop out and leave and go and discover that there’s angels singing behind the sun who have been waiting for us all along, or something.

Student (2):  That is the shape of the Biblical Apocalypse..
AG:  Yeah.
Student (2):  …which is really…
AG:  Things gotta get really bad, doesn’t it, and then….
Student (2):  Oh, yeah, there’s the great.. the appearance of the Antichrist, the Great Tribulation and the Wrath and Judgement
AG:  Um-hmm.
Student (2):  … and then the … in the Bible there’s the Millennium, which I think is the era of the … winepress and the flowers …
AG:  Um-hmm.
Student (2):  … eucharistic.  And then, the end of time and the entrance into eternity.
AG:  Let’s see, who else has that?  That would be both Hindu and Christian, actually.

to be continued

Audio for the above can be heard here, beginning at approximately thirteen minutes in and concluding at approximately eighteen-and-three-quarter minutes in

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