Wednesday, June 18, 2014

William Blake and New Age (Part 3)

Ancient Mystics/ Medieval Alchemists/ Freemasonry 

THE Stolen and Perverted Writings of Homer & Ovid, of Plato & Cicero, which all Men ought to contemn, are set up by artifice against the Sublime of the Bible: but when the New Age is at leisure to Pronounce, all will be set right & those Grand Works of the more ancient & consciously & professedly Inspired Men will hold their proper rank & the Daughters of Memory shall become the Daughters of Inspiration. Shak- speare & Milton were both curb'd by the general malady & infection from the silly Greek & Latin slaves of the Sword.   
Milton, William Blake [1]


    William Blake suggests in the above passage that the writings of Homer, Ovid, Plato, and Cicero were stolen, changed, and that “all men ought to contemn” them.  Furthermore, he adds that these works were interpreted in such a way as to make them hostile to the Bible.  Essentially, the Greeks and Romans were rationalists, who included warfare as part of their rational; where as Blake was a Romantic, who used his imagination to make war irrational.  In addition to that, the Greek and Roman republics were premised on the notion of Democracy, which excluded the majority of their populations, whom were slaves.  I mention this because democracy was the same form of government the founding fathers of America would choose; and they were also slavers, and members of Freemasonry, who would appear to be influential on Blake.
     Blake demonstrates in his writing knowledge of Freemasonry, Freemasons, and their symbols in his own art.  He essential writes a tribute to the Freemasons involved in the American Revolution in America: A Prophecy.  He also mentions ancient mystic Greeks: Pythagoras, Plato, Trismegistus.  In addition he shows knowledge of medieval Alchemists’ such as Paracelsus and Jacob Boehme.  It is through this lineage of secret societies has the mushroom secret been preserved and passed down; and used to initiate a select few into the inner circle; and William Blake was one such individual.
     In addition to being familiar with the classics, Blake was familiar with occult writing as well. One of the things that stands about Blake’s writing, are his references to alchemists and other mystics, such as Jacob Boehme, Paracelsus, Trismegistus, Pythagoras, Plato, and Swedenborg.   Considering that some of the books written by these authors were rare.  For example, only 9 copies of Blake’s own The Marriage of Heaven and Hell known to exist.[2] One can only assume that he had access via some secret society; it has been suggested that Blake was a Grand Master of the Ancient Order of Druids from 1799-1827[3]. Consider the following quote in which Blake mentions:
     Any man of mechanical talents may, from the writings of Paracelsus or Jacob Boehme, produce ten thousand volumes of equal value with Swedenborg's, and from those of Dante-or Shake-spear an infinite number.
     But when he has done this, let him not say that he knows better than his master, for he only holds a candle in sunshine. The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, William Blake [4]      
     Blake essentially provides a lineage of great occultists, starting with Paracelsus (1493-1541) the inventor of laudanum and father of modern Alchemy[5]. Next he lists Boehme (1565-1624), German mystic and Christian, who reintroduced Gnostic traditions into Christianity after a 1000-year hiatus.[6]  Last mentioned, Immanuel Swedenborg (1688-1772), the Swedish inventor and theologian who’s Heaven and Hell inspired Blake’s The Marriage of Heaven and Hell.  While Blake’s quote appears derogatory, he is actually claiming the works of these men contain a truth, which understood can serve as a model to reproduce similar works; which is what Blake does with the majority of his work.
     Although many suppose alchemy to be the secret art of transforming lead into gold, it is much more than that.  It is a allegory for transformation: the useless into the useful; Heaven to hell; idea to reality.  According to H. J. Sheppard:
Alchemy is the art of liberating parts of the Cosmos from temporal existence and achieving perfection which, for metals is gold, and for man, longevity, then immortality and, finally, redemption. Material perfection was sought through the action of a preparation (Philosopher's Stone for metals; Elixir of Life for humans), while spiritual ennoblement resulted from some form of inner revelation or other enlightenment (Gnosis, for example, in Hellenistic and western practices).[7]
In fact, the quest for the creation of the Philosopher’s Stone was one of the main goals of alchemy.  Consider the following:
The philosophers' stone was the central symbol of the mystical terminology of alchemy, symbolizing perfection at its finest, enlightenment, and heavenly bliss. Efforts to discover the philosophers' stone were known as the Magnum Opus ("Great Work").[8]

But what is the Philosopher’s Stone?  What substance could liberate one from the Cosmos, offer an inner revelation resulting in spiritual ennoblement?  Amanita muscaria mushrooms.[9]  When Blake writes that any man “mechanical talents” can create works equivalent to Swedenborg’s, Shakespeare, and Dante, he means that their works were inspired by mushrooms; and that any man initiated into the inner circle of various secretive societies will gain the insight required produce their own mystical works, which subsequently is what all of these men did.  They knew the secret, and veiled it with occult writings and images, which once made known, are obvious to the initiated. The literary term is irony.
     In The Song of Los, Blake mentions that his character Palamabron gave an abstract law (mushroom?) to Trismegistus, Pythagoras, Socrates, and Plato; and all these Greeks were associated with secret societies.  Blake writes:

To Trismegistus, Palamabron gave an abstract Law;  
To Pythagoras, Socrates, and Plato.

Trismegistus, which means “thrice great Hermes”, was a mysterious character.  Little is know about him, but he: 
may have represented three different teachers in the Illuminist tradition described as a very powerful ancient mage, not a god in his writings, collectively called the Corpus Hermeticum, Hermes describes himself as "Philosopher, Priest, and King" wrote the Emerald Tablet and taught Pythagoras, among other exploits.[10]

Hermes Trismegistus
If Trimegistus was Pythagoras’ teacher, then Blake again has provided a lineage of teachings passed down through secret societies.  And perhaps even includes himself when he describe his own work as Illuminations. Pythagoras was also a teacher in a secret society and his followers were called Pythagoreans.  In fact, Pythagoras taught from behind a curtain, and only his most adapt students were permitted into this esoteric circle.[11] Interesting too that he should describe himself as a religious, philosopher king, which is exactly whom Socrates suggested should be our rules via the writings of Plato.  Plato’s, who’s real name was Aristocles, was also a leader of a secret society called the Academy, which continued the Pythagorean tradition.  

     Like a phoenix rising from the ashes of Alchemy, a new secret society would emerge in 18th century Europe and New England, Freemasonry.  And Freemasonry was directly responsible for the French and American Revolutions (or social alchemy).  Blake continues listing men in his works who are associated with secret societies.  These men were his contemporaries and though separated by an ocean, they were his fellow Englishmen before the war.  In his tribute, America: A Prophecy, Blake mentions American revolutionaries whom were all freemasons.  Blake writes:
The Guardian Prince of Albion burns in his nightly tent,
Sullen fires across the Atlantic glow to America’s shore:
Piercing the souls of warlike men, who rise in silent night,
Washington, Franklin, Paine & Warren, Gates, Hancock & Green;[12] 

George Washington was the president of American Freemasonry, and consequently the first American President under the masonic Constitution; he is on the dollar bill; there is a temple for him and countless monuments (including the Washington Monument; a state named for him; his image carved into a mountain.  

Ben Franklin, was another Mason who used his Masonic connections to gather support from France; his image on the $100 bill.  

Thomas Paine, wrote Common Sense, as propaganda for revolutions; and he wrote a history of Freemasonry.  There was also a story that Blake and Paine were close friends, with Blake helping him escape England.  

Joseph Warren was also a member of the Sons of Liberty, another secret society dedicated to terrorist attacks and false flags designed to gain the conspirators sympathy from the majority of colonist who were against a separation from England.  
Joseph Warren

Horatio Gates, while not a turncoat, he was an original British officer, who left England for life in the colonies on a plantation.  He became a major figure in the American Revolution, wining and losing battles.[13]  
Horatio Gates

John Hancock, whose name is synonymous with signature, used his money to finance the war, and ships to fight and smuggle for the war.  

Nathanael Greene, another Freemason, who rose from the rank of private to general in the American Revolutionary War.
Nathanael Greene

     Blake was in his 20’s during the revolution, and one can only assume that he would have known these names through newspapers.  
William Blake

He would of course known many more, but chooses to mention men who would go on to be deified as the Founding Fathers of the United States, and some men’s faces would eventually grace our currency, as would their Masonic symbols.  Blake demonstrates in his work a knowledge of authors whose mystical writings influenced his own, giving some indication that he had access to these writings.  He also writes about his contemporaries who involved in Revolution, and was likely a friend of one the great propagandists of his time.  Through his occult knowledge, Blake would have known the identity of the Philosopher’s stone and Jesus to be one in the same. And that he used that knowledge to generate his own art in the same occult genre, writing for his brethren, not the public.

[1] Blake’s Poetry and Designs, Page 237
[4] Blake’s Poetry and Designs, Page 99
[12] Blake’s Poetry and Designs, page 110 George Washington, Ben Franklin, Joseph Warren, Horatio Gates, John Hancock, Nathaniel Greene were all known freemasons.  Thomas Paine wrote a history of Freemasonsry, yet can not be identified for certain, yet who he keeps company with, and his revolutionary actions suggest he was.