Monday, November 15, 2010

Urizen by William Blake Chapter 4

Click For Urizen 4 Text

The sort of logic that Blake is working with should by now be clear. It is heavily pragmatic. It considers the effect of certain philosophies on the people who are being forced to adhere to them. Blake considers philosophy an adaptation which has been form fitted to the weaknesses, and desires of each man or woman.

Now, Blake considers himself a psychic and prophet who can see with a specialized vision into this world and elaborate the consequences of our philosophies and actions.

Blake's attack on religion is swift and damning, having already been taken care of in the Marriage of Heaven and Hell. Blake's critique of science is more subtle, even more damning, and categorically dismissed.

Blake is ontologically committed to science. These are demonstrations, living proof of a discovery that Blake has made, that religion is not words in book, the favor of God, or an eternal battle of opposing forces, but a living memory that is playing itself out like a script toward some teleological aim.

The nature of this teleological aim is therapeutic in nature.

Scientists pride themselves, like psychics, on the their ability to make predictions based on solid and verifiable suppositions.

The thing is, so does Blake, but he has a different system of methodology, and Blake's critique on science is going to tell us a lot about how far we can take Blake's methodology and to what extent Blake is rejecting science.

So, as we begin with chapter four, Blake reiterates that Los' function within this system is to prevent changes. What is also going to happen now is that we have an elaborated and delineated sense of time. Also, Blake likes to use the term "roll" to describe what time is doing, and we'll see that used repeatedly.

This is the first time we see Los beating on his "rivets of iron" a motif which is repeated by Yeats in Sailing Toward Byzantium and again by Sylvia Plath in Blackberrying.

Urizen is about to fall again, last time from a state of Eternity into Time, this time, from continuous time into cinematic ticker time.

The imagery is basically describing the same sort of stuff that was being described before.

1. Pouring "soder"/blood to "cool"/freeze. Here the blood becomes metal, the imagery more industrial; rivets being beaten with hammers, belching sullen fires.

This is the fall into discontinuous time, which ticks via the passage of one repetition all the way through. Think of a loop, with a set of instructions:

Washing Dishes

Fill sink with soap and water
place dishes in water
rub dishes with scratchy pad
rinse excess soap from dishes
let dry

We execute this "script" (and I use this term variously to describe a tri-unal set of concepts) just once and the task is done.

A "script" can be like a movie script, or script for a play, it can be a chunk of instructions, like an algorithm, and by extension a recipe, or also a presecription, like a drug, hopefully a cure.

Each of these "aspects" of the script would be binary themselves in dimension, so what you have is threefoldedness which is two-fold at each point.

This sort of construction is limitless in terms of being able to rearrange it to fit into certain things. Four-folded-ness is a byproduct of this configuration, because it is binary, and so can be expressed as power of two. The problem then is that you have to rearrange the base.

Back to the actual text. Los demarcates time while Urizen sleeps. What's interesting is that Urizen controls with an infinitely passive force. By what compulsion does Los hammer the rivets, heave the bellows, divide and demarcate time, and find Eternals to confine?

Los' activities become the very chains that bind him, creating in their wake an opaque landscape of solid obstruction.

Chains, spines, snakes, Urizen rises as a dark negative of the body, growing out of its spine, connected in sequence to to the chains of ticker time, a "first age passes over, and a state of dismal woe.

Then, a second age, and branches shoot out of his bones like wires, like a vast net, a third age and it enclasps his heart, two little orbs, fixed in two little caves, eyes, you see, then ears, nose, throat, the orifices of the senses. Thirst and hunger now. His one arm goes up, the other goes down, like Christ pointing toward heaven and hell.

And thus the great body of Urizen is formed. A negation of the body, and itself a negative.

Los (called Time by mortals) prevents change in Urizen's void, his job is preserve continuity, but in the process of that preservation, certain inevitable changes occur, and thus begins the first Age of Urizen, with the Eternal Prophet (Los) “beating on rivets of iron” an image reused by Blake in several instances. Here Los beating at the rivets results in the measuring of time. It creates a chunking process, creating a discontinuous state of chunked repetitions.

Los also “heaves the bellows” and pours iron solder, and brass solder into molds, “inchained” to sleeping Urizen, who through Los creates and “inclos'd” roof, “in an orb, his fountain of thought. The motif of enclosing which was at once attributed to Urizen, is here attributed to Los who works under the agency of a sleeping Urizen. Forgetfulness, dumbness, necessity are introduced into the world as a result. Los beats on his own chains, and a vast Spine writhes in torment; “shooting pained ribs, like a bending cavern.”

The identification of the ribs with a cavern, which is by nature a negative space, like a hole, defined by the absence of surrounding rock. This isn't the body proper. This is an image of the body as a void, and as we've seen before echoed by Urizen's perspective that Nature's wide womb is also a void. And what the other Eternals see from there perspective is black globe, a negative image of the Earth, a place where light cannot escape. Urizen's desire is create a dark negative of the body to control the body. It is built out of laws and prohibitions. The simile however does not end with caverns, it extends to “bones of solid obstruction” which would be the result of a purely visual interpretation of the world around us. This image of the negative parallels the creation of the world of solid obstruction.

Urizen, although “rent from Eternity” retains his fourfold nature. Tharmas and Luvah rage from the fires in Urizen's void, and Los hovers above with the void for his feet, while Urizen himself sleeps. The primordial unity that existed in the Heavens among Urizen and the other Eternals, however has been deformed. Los is the fallen Urthona who comes into being when Urizen severs his connection with the other Eternals. Then First Age ends, with a state of “dismal woe.”

From the caverns of his spine, a red round globe appears and sinks into the Abyss. The result is “ten thousand branches shooting around his solid bones. Seven Ages pass over as Blake describes a body being formed from the inside out. First the bones appear, like caverns; then the ten thousand branches shoot around his bones, evidently appearing from with within the cavern, while at the same time sinking into the Abyss.

Slowly, Urizen takes corporeal form, on the one hand becoming a body, and on the other hand dividing into parts: the spine, the branches, and then the eyes, ears, nostrils, and mouth, the corporeal inlets of the five senses. His mouth, his stomach, are all negative spaces; they crave, they thirst, they hunger and they want.

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