Kiss of the Gorgon, II

While it’s still fresh in my mind this afternoon, I want to give an example of someone who did overcome and transcend the Greek Mind and the Gorgon — William Blake. One of his visions — which are essentially what we call “lucid dreaming” — is very instructive.

But, first, a little explanation of “lucid dreaming”.

If you are familiar with Castaneda’s chronicle of his apprenticeship to the sorcerer or brujo don Juan Matus, you’ll know that one of the very first tasks that was required of Castaneda, besides constantly meditating on his personal mortality, was to find his hands in his dreams. This was called “setting up dreaming”, and it is a very difficult task for the conscious mind to take control of its dreaming, as you may well know. Blake, however, was a master of lucid dreaming, which he called his “visions”. And for him they were even more real than what we normally call “reality”, which he on the other hand considered completely unreal, calling it “the Mundane Shell” or “the Ulro”. The real world for Blake was this world of vision or lucid dream, which he called “Memorable Fancies” — especially the fourfold vision and “Imagination”.

Castaneda chronicled his own struggle and success with lucid dreaming in his book The Art of Dreaming.

But the example I have in mind from Blake occurs as one of his “Memorable Fancies” in his Marriage of Heaven and Hell. It’s too lengthy to reproduce here in full, so I’ll just recommend you link to the web page, and scroll down to the “Memorable Fancy” that begins with the line: “An Angel came to me and said: ‘O pitiable foolish young man! O horrible! O dreadful state! consider the hot burning dungeon thou art preparing for thyself to all eternity, to which thou art going in such career.'”

Blake takes on the challenge put by the angel, and accompanies the angel to a pit, where Blake is shown all manner of corruption, terrors of the deeps, and the vision of the great serpent Leviathan. A dreadful place, as the angel had described. After a while, the angel left and Blake remained to observe the scene. But after the angel left, the scene changed, and instead of a great serpent charging at him “with all the fury of a spiritual existence” the scene transformed into a peaceful night, the furious eyes of the serpent became the moon and its reflection in a clear, calm pool of water, and nearby a harpist (Orpheus) played a calming and peaceful tune.

Blake rose from this scene, found the angel and challenged the angel to allow him, Blake, to show the angel what his own destiny was — that the fate of the self-righteous would be even worse than what the angel had attempted to impose on Blake. And here is how Blake describes it,

Here,’ said I, ‘is your lot, in this space, if space it may be call’d.’ Soon we saw the stable and the church, & I took him to the altar and open’d the Bible, and lo! it was a deep pit, into which I descended driving the Angel before me, soon we saw seven houses of brick; one we enter’d; in it were a number of monkeys, baboons, & all of that species, chain’d by the middle, grinning and snatching at one another, but witheld by the shortness of their chains: however, I saw that they sometimes grew numerous, and then the weak were caught by the strong, and with a grinning aspect, first coupled with, & then devour’d, by plucking off first one limb and then another till the body was left a helpless trunk; this after grinning & kissing it with seeming fondness they devour’d too; and here & there I saw one savourily picking the flesh off of his own tail; as the stench terribly annoy’d us both, we went into the mill, & I in my hand brought the skeleton of a body, which in the mill was Aristotle’s Analytics.
So the Angel said: ‘thy phantasy has imposed upon me, & thou oughtest to be ashamed.’
I answer’d: ‘we impose on one another, & it is but lost time to converse with you whose works are only Analytics.’

In that passage, Blake confronts the Gorgon that is implicit in the Greek Mind — which he calls “Aristotle’s Analytics”, and he basically charges the angel with “perception management” based on a false metaphysics that is implicit to the Greek Mind itself. And the power of Blake’s spirit is such that he is able to overthrow and transform the scene that the angel has constructed for him as his fate and his perdition. This kind of thing happens every day to us! That transformative process is “alchemy” in effect, and Blake will not allow himself to be imposed upon or ensnared by the Greek Mind. He transfigures and transforms it, and then turns the tables on the angel using the angel’s own metaphysics.

It really is a remarkable passage. You might object that it’s all “fantasy”, but it deals with psychic realities. The Greek Mind isn’t a fantasy, and the metaphysics that underlie it and which justify it are just as real in determining the shape and structure of that consciousness, even if these foundations and pillars of the mental-rational structure are themselves unconscious for being unexamined. Blake’s “visions” and lucid dreamings dive into the very heart of these things which we normally overlook and take for granted.

Blake’s world is full to the brim with myth and magic, but with reason too. Only it’s not “Greek reasoning” or “Aristotle’s Analytics”, which he dismisses in the form of his false god “Urizen”. Urizen is the Greek Mind, who traps human beings in a “net” of false logic.

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