Rather riding the tiger of wrath than the horse of instruction?

O pitiable foolish young man! O horrible! O dreadful state! consider the hot burning dungeon thou art preparing for thyself to all eternity, to which thou art going in such career.” Can I confront, challenge and provoke my friend in such a manner? How could he be responsive to this at all? Maybe in the form of a bet? “Perhaps you will shew me my eternal lot & we will contemplate together upon it and see whether your lot or mine is most desirable.”

And this bet – as being reported in The Marriage of Heaven and Hell – make William Blake and an angel, being respectfully called “My friend the Angel” by him. Nevertheless he is down-to-earth about their friendship: “We impose on one another, & it is but lost time to converse with you whose works are only Analytics.” Wow, first talking like an analyzer, yet he puts the boot in!? Wow! How much of this can a friendship bear? Blake thinks: A lot. “Opposition is true Friendship,” because “without Contraries is no progression. Attraction and Repulsion, Reason and Energy, Love and Hate, are necessary to Human existence.” Wherein lie the contraries between Blake and the angel? And are they therefore or still friends?

Blakes appraisal has something to do with what he sees to be true perception and acting. Still discomposed about the angels attitude he says: “I have always found that Angels have the vanity to speak of themselves as the only wise; this they do with a confident insolence sprouting from systematic reasoning.” Blake turns up his nose at this kind of thinking. Even more when it bands together with the certain kind of religious attitude the angel promotes: “Thou Idolater, is not God One? & is not he visible in Jesus Christ? and has not Jesus Christ given his sanction to the law of ten commandments, and are not all other men fools, sinners, & nothings?” However, for Blake behind this stands the nuisance of knowledge being communicated over generations: “In the fifth chamber (of a Printing house) were Unnam’d forms, which cast the metals into the expanse. There they were reciev’d by Men who occupied the sixth chamber, and took the forms of books & were arranged in libraries.“ From books read off knowledge and rule-behaving. As Ralph Waldo Emerson would say: The Self as a bare quote.

For Blake an absolute offence to which he responds: “If others had not been foolish, we should be so.” For he is convinced that “the road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom.“ Or speaking in a picture: „The tygers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.“ But as the title of his The Marriage of Heaven and Hell suggests he tries to think heaven and hell making friendship, even getting married. Which is to say, that hell alone would indeed be unacceptable hell on earth! However, for Blake the marriage of heaven and hell already took place: “It indeed appear’d to Reason as if Desire was cast out, but the Devils account is that the Messiah fell, & formed a heaven of what he stole from the Abyss. This is shewn in the Gospel, where he prays to the Father to send the comforter or Desire that Reason may have Ideas to build on.” Thats why for Blake the holiness and divinity of Jesus lies entirely elsewhere as for the angel: “If Jesus Christ is the greatest man, you ought to love him in the greatest degree; now hear how he has given his sanction to the law of ten commandments: did he not mock at the sabbath, and so mock the sabbaths God? murder those who were murder’d because of him? turn away the law from the woman taken in adultery? steal the labor of others to support him? bear false witness when he omitted making a defence before Pilate? covet when he pray’d for his disciples, and when he bid them shake off the dust of their feet against such as refused to lodge them? I tell you, no virtue can exist without breaking these ten commandments; Jesus was all virtue, and acted from impulse, not from rules.”

Only that way we are able to overcome the finite organic, say technical and purpose-driven, perception of nature and its creatures. Now we are free to discover infinity through aesthetic and believing perceptions: “I saw no God, nor heard any, in a finite organical perception; but my senses discover’d the infinite in every thing, and as I was then perswaded, & remain confirm’d; that the voice of honest indignation is the voice of God.” The ambition must be to improve sensual enjoyment. Only, this could be accomplished under one condition: “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.“ It is all about overcoming the body/soul-dualism: 

All Bibles or sacred codes, have been the causes of the following Errors. 1. That Man has two real existing principles Viz: a Body & a Soul. 2. That Energy, call’d Evil, is alone from the Body, & that Reason, call’d 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, the chief inlets of Soul in this age. 2. Energy is the only life and is from the Body and Reason is the bound or outward circumference of Energy. 3. Energy is Eternal Delight.”

The sensual perception of reality and creature was contaminated by this body/soul-dualism. Contaminated because enjoyment is taken only as a matter of satisfying physical needs. Or as Johann Georg Hamann writes: “If the belly is your god, then even the hairs on your head are under its guardianship. Every creature will alternately become your sacrifice and your idol.” The infinity of nature and creature lies in this: each individual being fathomless, each person being an individuality, each man changingaspects of aesthetic and religious life forms.

As it is for Hamann so it is for Blake: A believing view has to complement and cap technical approaches (as is the case with science, book reading, rule-following etc.). To experience and live believing means for Blake to designate oneself as a subject, to become an individual that experiences and lives non-conformistand recognises and acknowledges others as such. Unsurprisingly, Blake could say: “Opposition is true Friendship.” Since no system allows contraries, say everything should run smoothly, there could be no progress. However, neither does a system represent reality or living beings, nor does it embrace them in an appropriate manner. The arrogance of a human being against me, to be treated by me that way or another or to impose her or his “we” upon me, perhaps means opposition to me and my beliefs. Anyway, as soon as I want to act for the sake of the other, if I want to do justice to her or him and check whether I am part of her or his “we” I have to engage with his or her arrogances, but without renouncing mine. This is to be negotiated every time anew. There are no rules for treating mutual confrontation. And this will make us humans wiser. To act from an impulse being examined by reasonto act like this means to accept responsibility and to be responsive.

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7 responses to “Rather riding the tiger of wrath than the horse of instruction?

    • unassertive waving back 😉 I worked on this text a year ago and was so excited about it! 😀 but I have to say, that I’m way behind to deal with all the aspects of this text in presenting it. but I head to make this mistake, so I’m hoping to be able to do Blake’s text more justice with a revised version… some time 😉

  1. Pingback: Lest we forget that collecting could flood its particularities. | sinister pink·

  2. hello, J.A… i read this again, twice, to make some sense of it, ahaha. for some reason, i can’t place friendship in the discussion… :c on the same subject matter, i find Aristotle’s take on friendship worth poring over. also, Ralph Waldo Emerson’s. do look them up when you’ve more time – full of insights into human relations. 🙂

    about the body-soul dualism. i seem to get the energy-evil- body versus the soul-reason equation… the body is more inclined to follow its desire, is that right? and its actions and choices may not, as often the case, sit well with reason. maybe, it is because reason recognizes the existence of other people, other individuals (who have desires and aspirations of their own).

    so, reason goes about setting the limits of an individual’s actions, the parameters with which he can pursue his ends such that actions will not result to danger, shame, frustration or even death. by itself, by its nature, the body will risk all to get what it wants, what it intends to claim… there are times when it succeeds, though (given this framework).

    nowadays, in the modern period, or even in the past, we have known of leaders who stop at nothing to get what they want – conquer other civilizations and people, ignore the rights of others, use other people (individuals and society) to realize their ambitions – to secure material gains, to enjoy fame, to have hoards of women and all the benefits of being on top of the race. and regretfully, society often rewards these types: the overly ambitious.

    recently, we have been flooded with so many adverts, commercials, all endorsing the pursuit of raw, naked and out- and -out desire. as though this were the only thing important in life and in this world… it can be said, people who become bosses of this game rule the roost. the overly desirous enjoy themselves at the detriment of others who envy them, suppress their own desires (although not the same level, in fact, very limited) and dream of the days when they can be put in the same situation – when they have the shot over the lives of others and yet, are not accountable. they maybe the ones referred as false idols. they exist, unfortunately. they do and are very much around.

    on the subject of love… love supposedly grounds people, it gives them roots and domesticates individuals. when a person loves, he seeks and finds connection in another. together, they explore, satisfy and in a way, bind each other’s desires… left to his own devices, on his or her own, an individual’s desires could be limitless. he may have almost everything and yet, continue to subject others, to conquer and to conquer – lands, peoples, education, career and culture, etc. love then becomes a peg. the couple stops in their conquest and rebuild civilization anew, the way they see it…

    in this sense, love is there to protect the lover and the loved – from the flow of life (never stops, frustrating, in many ways and is often hurtful), from the harshness and boredom of daily existence and the individual’s inner desire to destroy himself and others… in a way, in several ways, love is an illusion, a lie and is very deceiving… but that seems to be the only way life could be made bearable. because the reality of our existence is such that an hour of it – alone, unguarded and without an anchor – could make us lose ourselves in the never-ending swirl. 🙂

    i hope i muddled it enough for you, ahaha. the last time i read up seriously on Philosophy was like, 18 years ago, hehe. btw, you have another post that i copied as a Word document so i could analyze. i hope i could go over that one soon. happy weekend to you. 😉

    • hi San,

      thank you so much for your many thoughts. they are really challenging and mind inspiring. 🙂

      – about the body/soul-dualism. I think Blake’s motivation in referring to this is the following: he critices this dualism and interrelated evaluation. neither desires nor reason are good or bad per se. it’s bad what you make out of it: just using one of them or claiming predominance of one over the other. instead, he wants to interconnect body and soul, desires and reason. but since reason isn’t ruling there aren’t any rules to follow in finding a solution for every situation. it is taking responsibility for one’s decision and action, and learning from mistakes we probably make. you aren’t taking responsibility for your actions and some other when you follow some logic (e.g., Kant following truthfulness and his categorical imperative making him handing over a refugee to his persecutors when they ask whether the wanted person is in the house) or your desires (e.g., as Sade is sometimes). you’d claim: it’s the inference tha even a computer could have found that makes this decision right; or: I couldn’t withstand my desires. and why should I!? — I’d say, this is what Blake is – more or less – thinking. I don’t agree with him in every point, but in many.

      – “on the subject of love… love supposedly grounds people, it gives them roots and domesticates individuals. when a person loves, he seeks and finds connection in another. together, they explore, satisfy and in a way, bind each other’s desires… left to his own devices, on his or her own, an individual’s desires could be limitless. he may have almost everything and yet, continue to subject others, to conquer and to conquer – lands, peoples, education, career and culture, etc.”

      so far I get and agree with you. but this I don’t understand: “love then becomes a peg. the couple stops in their conquest and rebuild civilization anew, the way they see it…” what is a peg? (the dictionary gives too much hints… 😉 )
      unfortunately I also didn’t understand this: “because the reality of our existence is such that an hour of it – alone, unguarded and without an anchor – could make us lose ourselves in the never-ending swirl.”

      finally, I’d like to know in which way do you think love is an illusion. the way how I understand love I can think of some aspects that could make it an illusion, but in the same time I’m thinking whether this is just another phenomenon of love or another form. I’m not sure…

      best wishes and a good week to you,
      Alexander

      • hello, J.A…. sorry for the rather late response, am pretending to be busy, ahaha. a peg is a stake (wooden or metallic) that one uses to build a tent, is that familiar? in a way, love serves that purpose. marriage means settling down, camping, ahaha. it’s suppose to ground people. i think i have a post that somehow discussed that – When Love Comes A-Knockin’…

        about love and manageability of existence. when an individual is alone, he or she is restless and aimless. love, when formalized and settled, gives a person things purposeful to do – housework, earning a living, raising children, tending the house, working on improving the relationship, etc…

        love is a lie and an illusion in the sense that it is a splendor, a great feeling – to be protected and to protect, to be kept warm and to provide warmth, to be loved and to love and to be known by another person and to know that other person… is a person, a human being really knowable, as in knowable – to himself and to another? no. but to love is to make the efforts to know a person completely and be known to him completely… that is why love is a risk, a lie and an illusion and it needs a lot of time – a lifetime. and yet, people still do not know one person completely, ahaha. love only allows people to try, to give effort towards knowing and loving another. there… do tell me what you think. kind regards… 🙂

      • hi San, your are thoughts of the third paragraph I also considered, but in a completely different context. 😀 I didn’t made this connex. but it makes absolutely sense to me and sounds enlightening. 🙂 I fully agree with you!

        hmm… what do I think about love? first, I have to admit that I don’t have any consistent thoughts about this.

        on the one hand I tend with German couple therapist Arnold Retzer to say that love and marriage are completely different things. marriage is about organizing a relationship (or relationships when children are included), love is about creativity and what you have written about.
        on the other hand, love to me is being ready to realize the best for the other (or for me when it comes to self-love). hence, love is no feeling. which makes it possible to love one’s ennemy, even when I hate him or her. it is not hate that is naturally opposite to love but indifference, because I can wish overcoming hate, but I cannot wish overcoming indifference.

        with warm regards to you and best wishes for a new week, 🙂
        J.A.

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