William Blake 1979 Naropa Lectures continues – 14


Allen Ginsberg on William Blake’s Europe continues from here

AG: Now, the next passage is sort of interesting.  It’s like in Enitharmon‘s dream, the rise of the religion of authority and vengeance as symbolized by Druidism in England, and the closing down of the senses inside the skull and the making of the cave, and thought changing from immensity and infinity into a contricted serpent.  But a great passage.

(On) Plate 10 you’ll see that snake that he speaks of.  The thought changing that changed the infinite to a serpent.

I’ll read this passage straight through but explain a little bit before.  The massy stones and high towering reared pillars are the Druid temples.  Blake really hated the Druids.  For him they symbolized human sacrifice, or authoritarian religion. Opaque, opacity, or ignorance or you can’t see through it, is his notion of satanic – of real evil and satanic.  So you’ll find this phrase “give light in the opaque, and placed in the order of the stars.”  That attempt by the Druidic Urizenic reason to light up the opaque as if the opaque were workable, let us say.

He also recapitulates what he’ll go through at great length in the book, Urizen,  which somewhat goes through the series of Skandhas in tracing the rising of separate selfhood from the infinite space and its forming through whirls and nerves, eyeballs and ears and senses and then creating an outer universe. Petrifying or solidifying a universe.

He associates the flood at the end of this passage, the Biblic Flood, with the Fall of Man and the rising of the material universe.  The materialistic, unimaginative universe.  God a tyrant.

Okay.  So that’s basically the argument in this particular passage.

“In thoughts perturb’d, they rose from the bright ruins silent following/The fiery King, who sought his ancient temple serpent-form’d/That stretches out its shady length along the Island white./Round him roll’d his clouds of war; silent the Angel went,/Along the infinite shores of Thames to golden Verulam./There stand the venerable porches that high-towering rear/Their oak-surrounded pillars, form’d of massy stones, uncut/With tool; stones precious; such eternal in the heavens,/Of colours twelve, few known on earth, give light in the opake,/Plac’d in the order of the stars, when the five senses whelm’d/In deluge o’er the earth-born man; then turn’d the fluxile eyes/Into two stationary orbs, concentrating all things./The ever-varying spiral ascents to the heavens of heavens/Were bended downward; and the nostrils golden gates shut/Turn’d outward, barr’d and petrify’d against the infinite./ Thought chang’d the infinite to a serpent; that which pitieth:/To a devouring flame; and man fled from its face and hid/In forests of night; then all the eternal forests were divided/Into earths rolling in circles of space, that like an ocean rush’d/And overwhelmed all except this finite wall of flesh/.Then was the serpent temple form’d, image of infinite/Shut up in finite revolutions, and man became an Angel;/Heaven a mighty circle turning; God a tyrant crown’d”.

Student:  What are fluxile eyes?
AG:  Rolling eyes.  Fluxile eyes.  And also, I think something to do with water.  Flux.  Changing eyes.

He’s just beginning to get his ideas, which he’ll expound at great length in (The Book of) Urizen, which is a book in Buddhist terms of Abhidharma.  That is to say, the actual creation from alienation to reaction to sensation.  No, from alienation to sensation to reaction to mentation.  No, alienation to sensation to reaction to fixation to mentation.  If you want to call those the five Skandhas.  That is the heaps of appearances beginning with a separated glimmer of one thought filling immensity, which then solidifies itself and creates senses and the senses create an outer universe.  In other words, something we’ve talked about here before.  The opposite of the materialist view that the universe creates the senses.  This is more like unto the Buddhist or Gnostic idea that we project the universe outward.

“Now arriv’d the ancient Guardian” – (Urizen) – “… at the southern porch,./That planted thick with trees of blackest leaf, & in a vale/Obscure, inclos’d in Stone of Night” – (That’s the skull –  the “Stone of Night”) – “… oblique it stood, o’erhung/With purple flowers and berries red; image of that sweet south,/Once open to the heavens and elevated on the human neck,/ Now overgrown with hair and coverd with a stony roof,/Downward ’tis sunk beneath th’ attractive north, that round the feet/A raging whirlpool draws the dizzy enquirer to his grave”

to be continued

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