‘Religion Hid in War’: The Revelation of the Whore and the Beast
Introduction: The Twenty-Seven States or “Churches” of Human History
“the Twenty-Seven Heavens & their Churches”. The word “church” originally meant “circle” or “circus”, because early congregants gathered in a circle – as in the “church” of Stonehenge. These evolving “churches” denote the progression – like the wheels on a chariot – of human consciousness in its long journey towards liberation and imaginative uncovery. This journey has been recorded and embodied in all of the dominant religions and cultural narratives of human history, from Adam to Luther, suggesting that this story or evolution is both spiritual and political. It its fallen form (ie, to the rationalising, left brain mind and eye), these powerful revolving “heavens” appear to us as the literal, material “heavens” projected into the sky, with their cycles or circles similarly literal. The Babylonian Zodiac was an early and important stage in this fall within perception (zodiac, from Greek zodiakos, circle, and Zoa or zôion, “Living Beasts”, alluding to their true psychological origins within the Imagination).
The Twenty-Seven States, or Heavens, represent dogmatic Christianity in its successive aspects. They are to man’s spiritual life what the Mundane Shell (which contains them) is to his physical being: an enclosure which shuts him from Eternity. They are “Satan & Adam … States Created into Twenty-seven Churches” (Mil 32: 25). They are described in Milton 37:35–43 (after the analysis of paganism as the Twelve Gods of Asia) and in Jerusalem 75:10–26.
From the Hermaphrodite to the Androgynous: Reintegrating the Male and Female
Introduction: Sexual Warfare: The Origins of the Battles of the Sexes
Detail from Blake’s The Marriage of Heaven and Hell. Which is also a marriage of Male and Female – not understood externally, inter-psychically, in the fallen and projected way, but intra-psychically – to overcome the divisions and separations within oneself. Note that the figures here are themselves androgynous.
The imagery of sexual warfare is central to the vision of apocalypse which Blake proclaims as his poetic mission. The political apocalypse of the earlier work, such as The French Revolution, fades as the spiritual gains prominence, for Blake’s vision of the natural world seems to have darkened over the years so that by the time he was writing Jerusalem the only apocalypse he could endorse was one in which the ”sexes must cease and vanish” in the psyche so that humanity can assume its spiritualized “body.” It became clear to Blake that political reform of society could not be effected until an individual and spiritual redemption took place in every heart. To become androgynous, to overcome the flaws inherent in each sex, emerges as the central challenge for all Blake’s characters.
The Illusion of Objectivity and the Division of Perceived and Perceiver
Introduction: Gender and Perception
There are several accounts of the Fall in Blake but the invariable characteristic of them is Albion’s relapse from active creative energy to passivity. This passivity takes the form of wonder or awe at the world he has created, which in eternity he sees as a woman. The Fall thus begins in Beulah, the divine garden identified with Eden in Genesis.
Once he takes the fatal step of thinking the object-world independent of him, Albion sinks into a sleep symbolizing the passivity of his mind, and his creation separates and becomes the “female will” or Mother Nature, the remote and inaccessible universe of tantalizing mystery we now see. Love, or the transformation of the objective into the beloved, and art, or the transformation of the objective into the created, are the two activities pursued on this earth to repair the damage of the Fall, and they raise our state to Beulah and Eden respectively.