The Marriage of Heaven and Hell
by Willliam Blake (1757-1827)
Blake's brilliant intellectual satire and revolutionary tract (ca.1790-93) is also a celebration of creative energy and active imagination in opposition to Cartesian dualism and "materialistic" philosophy. As you read the Bible, contrast the commandments, laws, prophecies and parables with the sensuous philosophy of William Blake. Which dogma resembles the way you think? Is there a difference between how you really feel and how you were taught to feel?
As a new heaven is begun, and it is now thirty-three years since its advent, the Eternal Hell revives. And lo! Swedenborg is the Angel sitting at the tomb; his writings are the linen clothes folded up. Now is the dominion of Edom, and the return of Adam into Paradise; see Isaiah xxxiv & xxv. Chap.
Without Contraries there is no progression. Attraction and Repulsion, Reason and Energy, Love and Hate, are necessary to Human existence.
From these contraries spring what the religious call Good and Evil. Good is the passive that obeys Reason. Evil is the active springing from Energy.
Good is Heaven. Evil is Hell.
THE VOICE OF THE DEVIL
All Bibles or sacred codes have been the causes of the following Errors:
1. That Man has two real existing principles, Viz: a Body and a Soul.
2. That Energy, called Evil, is alone from the Body, and that Reason, called Good, is alone from the Soul.
3. That God will torment Man in Eternity for following his Energies.
But the following Contraries to these are True:
1. Man has no Body distinct from his Soul; for that call'd Body is a portion of Soul discern'd by the five Senses, hte chief inlets of Soul in this age.
2. Energy is the only life, and is from the body; and Reason is th bound or outward circumference of Energy.
3. Energy is Eternal Delight.
Those who restrain desire do so because theirs is weak enough to be restrained; and the restrainer or reason usurps its place and governs the unwilling.
And being restrained it be degrees becomes passive, till it is only the shadow of desire.
The history of this is written in Paradise Lost and the Governor or Reason is called Messiah.
And the Original Archangel, or possessor of the command of the heavenly host, is called the Devil or Satan, and his children are called Sin and Death.
But in the Book of Job Milton's Messiah is called Satan.
For this history has been adopted by both parties.
It indeed appeared to Reason as if Desire was cast out; but the Devil's account is that the Messiah fell, and formed a heaven of what he stole from the Abyss.
This is shown in the Gospel, where he prays to the Father to send the comforter, or Desire, that Reason may have Ideas to build on, the Jehovah of the Bible being no other than he who dwells in flaming fire. Know that after Christ's death, he became Jehovah.
But in Milton, the Father is Desting, the Son a Ratio of the five senses, and the Holy-Ghost Vacuum!
Note. The reason Milton wrote in fetters when he wrote of Angels and God, and at liberty when of Devils and Hell, is because he was a true Poet and of the Devil's party without knowing it.
A MEMORABLE FANCY
As I was walking among the fires of hell, delighted with the enjoyments of Genius, which to Angels look like torment and insanity, I collected some of their Proverbs, thinking that as the sayings used in a nation mark its character, so the Proverbs of Hell show the nature of Infernal wisdom better than any description of buildings or garments.
When I came home, on the abyss of the five senses, where a flat sided steep frowns over the present world, I saw a mighty Devil folded in black clouds hovering on the sides of the rock. With corroding fires he wrote the following sentence now perceived by the minds of men, and read by them on earth:
How do you know but every Bird that cuts the airy way
Is an immense world of delight, closed by your senses five?
PROVERBS OF HELL
In seed time learn, in harvest teach, in winter enjoy.
Drive your cart and your plow over the bones of the dead.
The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom.
Prudence is a rich ugly old maid courted by Incapacity.
He who desires but acts not breeds pestilence.
The cut worm forgives the plow.
Dip him in the river who loves water.
A fool sees not the same tree that a wise man sees.
He whose face gives no light shall never become a star.
Eternity is in love with the productions of time.
The busy bee has no time for sorrow.
The hours of folly are measured by the clock, but of wisdom no clock can measure.
All wholesome food is caught without a net or trap.
Bring out number, weight and measure in a year of dearth.
No bird soars too high if he soars with his own wings.
A dead body revenges not injuries.
The most sublime act is to set another before you.
If the fool would persist in his folly he would become wise.
Folly is the cloke of knavery.
Shame is Pride's cloke.
Prisons are built with stones of Law, Brothels with bricks of Religion.
The pride of the peacock is the glory of God.
The lust of the goat is the bounty of God.
The wrath of the lion is the wisdom of God.
The nakedness of woman is the work of God.
Excess of sorrow laughs. Excess of joy weeps.
The roaring of lions, the howling of wolves, the raging of the stormy sea, and the destructive sword are portions of eternity too great for the eye of man.
The fox condemns the trap, not himself.
Joys impregnate. Sorrows bring forth.
Let man wear the fell of the lion, woman the fleece of the sheep.
The bird a nest, the spider a web, man friendship.
The selfish smiling fool and the sullen frowning fool shall be both thought wise, that they may be a rod.
What is now proved was once only imagined.
The rat, the mouse, the fox, the rabbit watch the roots; the lion, the tyger, the horse, the elephant watch the fruits.
The cistern contains; the fountain overflows.
One thought fills immensity.
Always be ready to speak your mind, and a base man will avoid you.
Every thing possible to be believed is an image of truth.
The eagle never lost so much time as when he submitted to learn of the crow.
The fox provides for himself, but God provides for the lion.
Think in the morning. Act in the noon. Eat in the evening. Sleep in the night.
He who has suffered you to impose on him knows you.
As the plow follows words, so God rewards prayers.
The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.
Expect poison from the standing water.
You never know what is enough unless you know what is more than enough.
Listen to the fool's reproach! it is a kingly title!
The eyes of fire, the nostrils of air, the mouth of water, the beard of earth.
The weak in courage is strong in cunning.
The apple tree never asks the beech how he shall grow, nor the lion the horse how he shall take his prey.
The thankful receiver bears a plentiful harvest.
If others had not been foolish, we should be so.
The soul of sweet delight can never be defiled.
When thou seest an Eagle, thous seest a portion of Genius; lift up thy head!
As the catterpillar chooses the fairest leaves to lay her eggs on,
so the priest lays his curse on the fairest joys.
To create a little flower is the labor of ages.
Damn braces. Bless relaxes.
The best wine is the oldest, the best water the newest.
Prayers plow not! Praises reap not!
Joys laugh not! Sorrows weep not!
The head Sublime, the heart Pathos, the genitals Beauty, the hands and feet Proportion.
As the air to a bird or the sea to a fish, so is contempt to the contemptible.
The crow wished every thing was black, the owl that every thing was white.
Exuberance is Beauty.
If the lion was advised by the fox, he would be cunning.
Improvement makes strait roads, but the crooked roads without improvement are roads of Genius.
Sooner murder an infant in its cradle than nurse unacted desires.
Where man is not, nature is barren.
Truth can never be told so as to be understood and not be believed.
Enough! or Too much.
The ancient Poets animated all sensible objects with Gods or Geniuses, calling them by the names and adorning them with the properties of woods, rivers, mountains, lakes, cities, nations, and whatever their enlarged and numerous senses could perceive.
And particularly they studied the genius of each city and county, placing it under its mental deity.
Till a system was formed, which some took advantage of and enslaved the vulgar by attempting to realize or abstract the mental deities from their objects; thus began Priesthood.
Choosing forms of worship from poetic tales.
And at length they pronounced that the Gods had ordered such things.
Thus men forgot that All deities reside in the human breast.
The ancient tradition that the world will be consumed in fire at the end of six thousand years is true, as I have heard from Hell.
For the cherub with his flaming sword is hereby commanded to leave his guard at tree of life; and when he does, the whole creation will be consumed and appear infinite and holy, whereas it now appears finite and corrupt.
This will come to pass by an improvement of sensual enjoyment.
But first the notion that man has a body distinct from his soul is to be expunged. This I shall do, by printing in the infernal method, by corrosives, which in Hell are salutary and medicinal, melting apparent surfaces away, and displaying the infinite which was hid.
If the doors of perception were cleansed, every thing would appear to man as it is, infinite.
For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things through narrow chinks of his cavern.
As you work on turning your hell into a heaven or vice versa, think of Blake's Contraries, a theme that returns again in The Clod and the Pebble:
"Love seeketh not Itself to please,
Nor for itself hath any care,
But for another gives its ease,
And builds a Heaven in Hell's despair."
So sang a little Clod of Clay
Trodden with the cattle's feet;
But a Pebble of the brook
Warbled out these metres meet:
"Love seeketh only Self to please,
To bind another to its delight;
Joys in another's loss of ease,
And builds a Hell in Heaven's despite."
What are the time constraints in your heaven or hell? Have humans destroyed their chance for eternal life through an insatiable need to own and control? What, for you, is eternity?
He who binds to himself a joy
Does the winged life destroy;
But he who kisses the joy as it flies
Lives in eternity's sun rise.
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