“is this the Death Couch of Albion?/ Thou goest to Eternal Death & all must go with thee”
This Comment is in response to kathcal’s “The Necessity of Going Down.” This comment serves to add more support in terms of textual evidence to her argument. The passage that was assigned is in sync with kathcal’s statements on the sacrifice of autonomy in order to obtain oneness with God.
Milton, in his opening statements of the passage refers to the sacrifice of autonomy: “This is a false Body: an Incrustation over my Immortal Spirit; a Selfhood which must be put off.” Milton wishes to cast off his self-hood in order to become one with God–only attained through self-annihilation. He wishes to, in essence, be the impetus for a greater movement towards self-annihilation, to start a chain-reaction. He wishes to “to take off his filthy garments, & clothe him with Imagination.” In the passage he speaks to address a large scale of people that seem to shun his view of Imagination–he seeks to purify, to reveal.
It seems to Blake that the individual forms that we currently occupy–our self-hood–has made us quite…selfish (ha). He is calling for a global cleansing on the scale of the Last Judgment in order to bring about the New Jerusalem. Blake, through Milton, fears that the current generation is too corrupt and tainted–too concerned with false figures, rather than pure Imagination–to bring about the New Jerusalem: “These are the destroyers of Jerusalem, these are the murderers/ Of Jesus, who deny the Faith & mock at Eternal Life.” And connecting back to kathcal’s post, it ties closely with the spiritual calling others down to the river. His call for rebirth indeed mimics baptism–a “Regeneration.”
It is unfair to locate Blake on a political spectrum because by strict definition his theory has nothing to do with politics, just like Thomas Paine’s theory has nothing to do with religion.
In A Song of Liberty from The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, Blake disdains any possible kind of system: empire, any kind of government either democratic or not, church, slavery, monarchy. So I think it might be safe at least to call Blake an anarchist. He does not support any type of institution because institutions set standards.
However, he is definitely not just an anarchist because there is something dominant in Blake’s theory: the Poetic Genius. For here we need to examine the position of religion in Blake’s theory. Blake is against centralized church and religious morality. But he is still a Christian and believes Jesus is an artist and as rebellious as him, as a man who break the ten commands. In the relationship between state and church, he deletes the existence of state and decentralizes church into personal practice. Nevertheless, the religion exists and exists as the ultimate goal of his theory: the New Jerusalem. So Blake is a religious anarchist.
If we characterize all the political theories during that time period as rational, then Blake is a romanticist. The practice of art and imagination, the essence of Poetic Genius are irrational. Blake’s theory of revolution is irrational, thus system does not exist. He calls for the Poetic Genius in everyman and the undisciplined environment. A categorization for Blake is shameful.
By claiming All Religions Are One, Blake created a new religion himself, with utilizing Poetic Genius to present Prophecy and Art as its major practice. In this religion, he integrated all Gods, from whatever religions, as one. Therefore by assimilating all religions, he denied these religions’ original principles and recreated his own. True Men recorded their vision and imagination, through their own Poetic Genius, and delivered their understanding of this only and ultimate existence. All religions on this planet served as reflections of this highest existence. However, I would like to make no assumption about what this ultimate existence, the origin of all religion and the source of all Gods, exactly is. Unlike many other religions, Blake created a practice without a clear goal. His definition of divine and infinite, the highest goals of this religion, emphasize on the practice itself, not a practice of scientific analysis or logical deduction, but a practice of seeing vision. The practice of Poetic Genius in the form of Prophecy and Art enables one to see infinite. Nevertheless, as a Christian himself, where is the position of Christian religion in this interpretation when all religions are intrinsically the same? And what is the point to rebuild Jerusalem in the land of England if the goal is just to see the infinite?
Blake’s “Jerusalem” hymn performed by the London Symphany Orchestra at the Royal Wedding of Prince William and Catherine (“Kate”) Middleton, April 2011
How did a hymn that calls for the radical remaking of England as the New Jerusalem become today a nationalist symbol of the British monarchy, the church and state establishment that Blake so much detested?