The Genitals as Private Property: Sexual Possessiveness and the roots of Jealousy, Monogamy and Patriarchy
“Albion here is at the stage where patriarchy institutionalizes and encourages the worship of the mother-goddess; Babylon was such a civilization”
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.
All Religions are One
Religion, so Blake believed, was the basic problem of mankind. Early in his life he conceived the idea of a fundamental and universal religion that he developed throughout his life.
He was born in the third – Revolutionary – generation of the eighteenth century. The orthodox Anglican Church had become devoted to place-hunting and was spiritually dead. The Dissenters considered themselves members of this church, but keep apart. Deism had captured the intellectual world and established the “Age of Reason” by denying all miracles and revelations. Generally the public was hostile to all religious controversies, which had been responsible for some of the bloodiest pages in religion. “Enthusiasm” was a term of contempt.
How the Sleep of Imagination Produces Dissociation
Any attempt to explain Blake’s symbolism will involve explaining his conception of symbolism. To make this clear we need Blake’s own definition of poetry:
Allegory addressed to the Intellectual powers, while it is altogether hidden from the Corporeal Understanding, is My Definition of the Most Sublime Poetry; it is also somewhat in the same manner defined by Plato.
The “corporeal understanding”, according to Blake, cannot do more than elucidate the genuine obscurities, the things requiring special knowledge to understand (such as the contemporary allusions in Dante), or the literal mechanics of a poem (meter, structure, general themes etc). The “intellectual powers” go to work rather differently: they start with the hypothesis that the poem in front of them is an imaginative whole, a unique and irreplaceable event, and work out the implications of that hypothesis. The way that poetry is generally taught in schools therefore, by converting it into “corporeal understanding” – into a form of machinery – completely misses its whole point, like explaining a joke or analysing a dead body to find out what makes it tick.
‘Excrement’: John Keating’s apt description of the corporeal understanding’s approach to poetry