Introduction: The Wheel of Birth/Death
|On ignorance depends karma;
On karma depends consciousness;
On consciousness depend name and form;
On name and form depend the six organs of sense;
On the six organs of sense depends contact;
On contact depends sensation;
On sensation depends desire;
On desire depends attachment;
On attachment depends existence;
On existence depends birth;
On birth depend old age and death, sorrow, lamentation, misery, grief, and despair.- The Buddha’s twelvefold concatenation of cause and effect
The sixth century BC saw the rise of rational philosophers, who used withering arguments to discredit Vedic rites and beliefs. Paralleling the surge in logic was the appearance of super-rigorous practices whose aim was to help the individual achieve union with the god-head by bypassing the priesthood. The Jains were an ascetic sect that advocated the denial of all bodily wants as the highest form of spirituality. The more extreme adherents believed it was a triumph to die of starvation.
Despite its austere creed, Jainism gained many followers. Counterbalancing the ascetics was the increasingly popular Bhakti cult, which proclaimed that a communion with the divine could be only achieved through the senses. Worshippers chose a god or goddess upon whom to project their feelings, then used right-brained experiential pathways to achieve a state of ecstasy. Dance, chanting, shouting, and unbridled sexuality accompanied Bhakti rituals.
The hypertrophy of reason that results from the introduction of alphabet literacy inevitably galvanises a countermovement that seeks to exalt the wisdom of the senses. I would suggest that alphabet literacy was the impetus behind Rationalism, Jainism, and Bhakti in India. It also prepared the ground for a new religion – Buddhism.
Frozen is now the second highest-grossing animated film of all time, and one of the highest-grossing films in any medium ($1.3 billion in worldwide box office sales). 676 million youngsters have viewed and sung along to the YouTube clip of it’s hit song Let It Go, and as Dorian Lynskey notes, “it’s shaped the imagination of a generation”. Beyond the sparkle and CGI patina something about the movie clearly resonates powerfully with children and young people, and I think it’s secret – and what lies at the heart of its appeal – is its potent exploration of themes of childhood anger, ‘ice-olation’, inner devitalisation and self-absorption, which the film both addresses and amplifies.
Prophetic Vision in Blake’s Poetry
In a previous study, Blake’s Eyes of God Cycles to Apocalypse and Redemption, the seven Eyes of God in Blake’s prophetic books were correlated with biblical and historical periods. Directed by the spirit of imagination, these cycles were seen as intrinsic to apocalypse. Here we examine the poetic inspiration of Blake’s eighth Eye and relate it to the prophetic vision in some of Blake’s designs.
Blake created two versions of his Illustrations of the Book of Job, and it is now agreed that about twenty years separates his first watercolour series and the final engraved set of plates. The first (‘Butts’) series of water-colours was the product of the tumultuous and creative years 1805-10, following a time when Blake experienced a strong sense of vision and Christian regeneration; whereas the engraved set was produced 1821-1826, at the end of his life.
This article explores Blake’s treatment of the Job theme, in which the ‘friends-turned-accusers’ seem to have been a central pre-occupation. Blake’s illustrations contain important elements which are not found in the Old Testament text, and I consider Blake’s imaginative use of this material, exploring in particular the importance to Blake of St.Teresa, Fenelon, Mme. Guyon, Hervey and other people of ‘prayer’.
Blake’s Job was unique in the corpus of his work. Previous studies have followed Wicksteed in concentrating on the engraved set, and no one has explored the implications of the earlier dating now agreed for the watercolour series. The thesis is essentially concerned with Blake’s Christocentric theme, and Job’s inner journey of prayer, in these illustrations.
Is reason the root of all evil? That’s the core theme romantic era poet and artist, William Blake, tackles in his alternative-to-Genesis creation story, The Book of Urizen.
William Blake is justifiably considered to be among the greatest of England’s poets and artists. His place in the books of art history is assured despite his general disengagement from any definable movement, except perhaps romanticism, to which he belonged in spirit more than in form. Blake was professionally an engraver and acquired little acclaim for his work in his lifetime. To a degree this was due to Blake’s strange beliefs and obsessions – he at times claimed to see the dead, communicate with Biblical prophets and experience ecstatic visions. The Book of Urizen, Blake’s masterpiece – an epic poem originally created in seven copies using copperplate engravings, is of particular interest since it displays a unique artistic style, complex poetic form and most interestingly a spiritual vision whose intensity is at the least a mystic’s, if not a prophet’s.
Jerusalem and the Origins of Patriarchy
“O Albion why wilt thou Create a Female Will?” Los wails in Jerusalem (30:31). The term “Female Will” here makes its first appearance in Blake’s poetry, though for years critics have used it retroactively to explicate prior works, because it ties together so many of the sinister actions of the women characters of the earlier poetry.
The word “deluge” hails from the Latin “diluvium,” meaning to wash away or dissolve. The Deluge, as a world-shaping event, is recorded in the collective mythologies of nearly every ancient culture from Pre-Inca Tiahuanacu, the story of Vishnu and Manu in the Hindu tradition, and the Turtle Island myth of the Anishinaabe to our most antiquated accounts in “The Epic of Gilgamesh” and “The Book of Genesis.”
The common narrative that binds them is the meeting of a man (often a demi-god) with a greater divinity. The divine being warns the man of the coming flood and gives him instructions to build a ship, in which he is taken away to a Holy Mountain where he waits until the Earth is restored or cleansed by the waters. One of the most interesting details of Deluge mythology is the adaptation of the myth to best suit the cosmological understanding of the culture meant to receive it. Both the ancient Sumerian and primitive Hebrew cultures relied heavily upon the symbolic use of numbers to transmit ideas.
Through examination of numerical variations in “The Epic of Gilgamesh” in relation to “The Book of Genesis,” one will discover that although the details of Deluge mythology are as divergent as human culture, this is not a result of the mistranslation of an ancient historical account, but an adaptation of symbols to conjure the same meaning; thus transcending both cultural and religious differences, in order to communicate “the secret of the gods.”