Right Reason and ‘Sense Supernaturall’

  • Matthew J. A. Green

Abstract

‘The Jewish & Christian Testaments are An original derivation from the Poetic Genius’, reads the sixth principle of All Religions, ‘this is necessary from the confined nature of bodily sensation’ (E1). The confinement of sensation, as we have seen, results from historically specific representations of the body, and of matter in general, which sharply distinguish the material from the spiritual, the human from the divine. The derivative status of the Bible, however, is more difficult to reconcile with Blake’s later description of the First and Second Testaments as ‘the Great Code of Art’ (Laocoön; E274). Though these comments come much later in his life (Bentley suggests a possible dating of 1826),2 the centrality of the biblical text, both conceptually and stylistically, remains consistent across his corpus, even if Blake insists on reading it diabolically. Perhaps we may see a certain anticipation of Paine’s prioritisation of conscience over scripture at work in All Religions, as we find it reverberating throughout the annotations to Watson:

The Bible or <Peculiar> Word of God, Exclusive of Conscience or the Word of God Universal, is that Abomination which like the Jewish ceremonies is for ever removed & henceforth every man may converse with God & be a King & Priest in his own house. (p. 9)

Keywords

Burning Dust Europe Assure Gall 

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Notes

  1. 1.
    Lodowick Muggleton, A True Interpretation of all the Chief Texts […] of the Revelation of St John (London: the author, 1665; repr. [London(?)]: [n. pub.], 1746), p. v.Google Scholar
  2. 3.
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  3. all quotations from Boehme’s works come from this edition, unless otherwise stated. In addition to consulting this addition, I have also made use of Jacob Boehme, The Signature of all Things; of the Supersensual Life; of Heaven and Hell; Discourse Between Two Souls (London: M. Richardson, 1764–81; repr. [London]: Kessinger, 2004), which reprints volumes from the Ward and Langcake edition. The pagination between these collections is consistent.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Bryan Aubrey, Watchmen of Eternity: Blake’s Debt to Jacob Boehme (London: University Press of America, 1986), pp. 51–2.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Marsha Keith Schuchard, ‘Why Mrs. Blake Cried: Swedenborg, Blake and the Sexual Basis of Spiritual Vision’, Esoterica, 2 (2000), <http://www.esoteric.msu.edu>, pp. 45–93 (p. 47). For connections between Blake’s family and the Moravians, see Keri Davies ‘William Blake’s Mother: A New Identification’ and also Marsha Keith Schuchard and Keri Davies, ‘Recovering the Lost Moravian History of William Blake’s Family’.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Laurence Clarkson, ‘A Single Eye’, in A Collection of Ranter Writings from the 17th Century, ed. Nigel Smith (London: Junction, 1983), pp. 161–75 (p. 162, 11. 17–19). All quotations from Clarkson, Coppe and Salmon are from this edition.Google Scholar
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    ‘A Rout, A Rout’, in A Collection of Ranter Writings from the 17th Century, ed. Nigel Smith (London: Junction, 1983), pp. 189–200 (p. 195).Google Scholar
  8. 10.
    Christopher Hill, The World Turned Upside Down: Radical Ideas During the English Revolution (London: Penguin, 1975), p. 93.Google Scholar
  9. 14.
    Lodowick Muggleton, The Acts of the Witnesses of the Spirit (London: [n. pub.], 1699), pp. 25, 39.Google Scholar
  10. 15.
    John Reeve and Lodowick Muggleton, A Divine Looking-Glass: Or the Third and Last Testament of Our Lord Jesus Christ, 3rd edn (London: [n. pub.], 1656; [London(?)]: [n. pub.], repr. 1719), p. 4.Google Scholar
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    Barry Reay, ‘The Muggletonians: An Introductory Survey’, in The World of the Muggletonians, ed. Christopher Hill, Barry Reay and William Lamont (London: Temple Smith, 1983), pp. 23–63 (p. 29).Google Scholar
  12. 17.
    Edward Tayor, Jacob Behmen’s Theosophik Philosophy Unfolded, ed. and abr. Edward Taylor (London: Tho[mas] Salusbury, 1691), p. 1. This edition was brought to my attention by Hirst’s discussion in Hidden Riches, p. 91.Google Scholar
  13. 18.
    Joseph Viscomi, ‘The Evolution of The Marriage of Heaven and Hell’, Huntington Library Quarterly, 58 (1997), pp. 281–344 (p. 324). Viscomi is unable to provide a definite position for plate 4 within this series, although he suggests that it appears to be associated with plates 14 and 15 (ibid., p. 333).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. 19.
    Robert F. Gleckner, ‘Priestley and the Chameleon Angel in The Marriage of Heaven and Hell’, Blake: An Illustrated Quarterly, 13 (1979), pp. 37–9. Priestley’s description is from The History and Present State of Discoveries Relating to Vision, Light, and Colours. By reversing the order of the colour-changes, Gleckner argues, Blake is suggesting the Angel’s movement from ‘malleability’ to ‘steely self-righteousness’ (p. 38).Google Scholar

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© Matthew JA Green 2005

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  • Matthew J. A. Green

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