March 31, 2012

Blake's Bible was not Scofield's

The following is taken from one of Ellie Clayton's Post in William Blake: Religion and Psychology.  It sets forth a number of ways that Blake understood the Bible and used it in his poetry.

We have often spoken of the distinctive way in which Blake read, studied and interpreted the Bible. Northrup Frey who was an ordained minister of the United Church of Canada before he became primarily a literary critic, shows in this passage from Fearful Symmetry (page 370) how he and Blake were able to read the Bible according to the light which was given to them:

"The career of Jesus is visualized in the gospels as a recreation or epitome of the story of Israel. He comes of the seed of "David" that is, he is the new Orc or Luvah. A "father" who did not begat him, named Joseph, leads him to "Egypt," Herod's slaughter of the innocents being in counterpoint to the earlier Passover story. Returning from Egypt,he grows up and is baptized in the Jordan, corresponding to the crossing of the Red Sea; then he wanders forty days in the wilderness as the Israelites wandered forty years, resisting all the temptations the Israelites fell prey to, including at least one not presented as such in the earlier vision, the miraculous provision of bread. He emerges from the wilderness, gathers twelve followers, appears on a mountain with Moses and Elijah, enters and cleanses the Temple, and is finally lifted up like the brazen serpent in the harlot Jerusalem he came to redeem. In the mean time he raised up a new civilization through the power of the unlearned and oppressed people who were most receptive to his teaching.The new historical cycle is symbolized in Blake by Lazarus of Bethany and the Lazarus of the parable, and who is, like Samson, a vision of Orc suggesting the larger contours of Albion, whose resurrection may not be far off. Thus the "life" of Jesus presented in the Gospels is really a visionary drama based on the earlier vision of Jehovah, worked out not, in terms of historical accuracy or evidence but purely as a clarification of the prophetic visions of the Messiah."

Blake's Poem 'Milton', PLATE 24 [26], (Erdman p.120)
"When Jesus raisd Lazarus from the Grave I stood & saw
Lazarus who is the Vehicular Body of Albion the Redeemd
Arise into the Covering Cherub who is the Spectre of Albion
By martyrdoms to suffer: to watch over the Sleeping Body.
Upon his Rock beneath his Tomb. I saw the Covering Cherub (Ezekiel 28:12-19)

Divide Four-fold into Four Churches when Lazarus arose
Paul, Constantine, Charlemaine, Luther;"

(You might say that Blake is being less than complimentary to the four epochs of what became known as the Church.)

Here is an earlier post on Albion and Lazarus.

Blake created his own 'visionary dramas' to present his prophetic visions of the Messiah which he was convinced could reveal the contours of a New Age.


At 10:22 a.m., Blogger forrest said...

Okay, we have all these symbolic pointers to how those 'unlearned and oppressed people' interpreted the actual life of Jesus, as the ongoing resurrection of a dead People.

And then we get Blake's symbolic reference to the different flavors of interpretation that came along later. (Leaving out the Quakers, mercifully, although I understand he was familiar with us. Would he have been read out of Meeting for poetry? Like our Whitman would have been?)

But Frey is pretty much sticking, here, to the Jesus Myth of 20th Century pharisaic "Christianity."

That sweaty, bleeding guy being "lifted up" isn't just a prophetic sign...

Here's a poem by a friend of mine, who reportedly "burned all his poems" before he died of our collective sins... Anne & I published this one in 'We Accept Donations' Winter 1985. [Sorry I can't reproduce his layout here.]

A CHRISTMAS POEM (by Larry Milligan)
lay bleeding to death
the corner
of 42nd and Broadway
in front
of the all night movie
showing The Ten Commandments
for the hundredth time.
The priests
proud of their work
held up
red stained
for all to see

a crowd gathered
the hustlers
from down the street
moved up
hoping to score a quick trick
a priest walking away remarked
no one can rebuild the statue of liberty
in three days.

At 3:06 p.m., Blogger forrest said...

This last comment may sound like I'm just dismissing your perspective here... but closer, I think, is that I simply do not understand it. Continue?

At 2:45 p.m., Blogger Larry said...

Okay, Forrest; we have a rather colossal communication problems because you don't understand what I'm saying in the post, nor do I understand you in your comment. Life like that is always a stuggle; it's only through sweat and blood that we have any chance to 'becoming one'.

Blake is saying that the church is for the birds. Roughly speaking he adored Jesus and considered that Paul's flavor of the gospel which Blake referred to as 'Church Paul' was fallen.

At 5:28 p.m., Blogger forrest said...

Sometimes a "communications problem" is a sign that we've got important things to communicate, getting down to basic differences in approach, which makes things harder to communicate but well worth the effort!

I think that's the kind of problem we've got; so I hope to have time for a closer look later today. Thanks!

At 8:59 p.m., Blogger forrest said...

How I'm understanding our divergence... You seem to me to be upholding a high-level, distant view of Jesus as seen from the 19th (or later) centuries

while I think I'm emphasizing the connection between the ground-level, person-on-the-scene view from the 1st Century-- and whatever cosmic, universal meaning we can derive from that.

I personally don't think that Paul "got" Jesus very well; he was simply the best interpreter available for the gentile audience of the Roman Empire. Without familiarity with the rest of the poem I couldn't tell whether Blake liked Paul's construct or not.

"Lazarus" as a metaphor for "Israel being restored to life by Jesus' message" does make sense to me... but what I'm not seeing is: What new thing about Jesus' mission to the Jews (& hence to the rest of us) does this metaphor


[A metaphor, to me, is a tool of thought. There's a mapping from one object, which I know about, to another object that puzzles me. The "aha!" that results comes from seeing the old object as a working model of the new...]

For someone to whom Orc, Luvah, Albion etc are merely unfamiliar fictional characters... the comparison tells me a lot less than, say, "Myshkin == Jesus." Because I know Myshkin as more than an ideal type...

Can we somehow put together a 3-d vision from our two I's?


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