Blake: “Opposition is True Friendship”
Against “Easy Street”.
We should perhaps discuss something about Nietzsche’s philosophy which, like so much else, is often misconstrued and misunderstood, and that is what he called “the will to power” as a general operative principle active in the universe as a whole. And against the will to power he set what he called “miserable ease” or “wretched ease” — that is to say, life lived without resistances and challenges to be overcome and transcended. The will to power is the expression of life’s innate vitality, but it does form something of a paradox.
The fundamental paradox of things is often expressed as the yin and yang of things, or, in Freud’s terms, eros and thanatos characteristics of “libido” or energy. This double-nature of everything is the reason you often find very contradictory information about the alleged health benefits (or lack of thereof) of certain foodstuffs. Probably both are true since everything has this double-nature: yin and yang, eros and thanatos, positive and negative poles of energy, light and shadow, life and death as two aspects of one and the same energy.
This paradox is the ultimate paradox of Buddhism, too. “Nirvana and Samsara are the same; Nirvana and Samsara are no the same”, and the Buddha himself reportedly exclaimed upon his enlightenment, “O Wonderful! Wonderful! Everything is perfect just as it is”, which itself expresses something of a paradox. The Buddha is also called “the Chakravarta” — the Wheel-Turner, which is a name that describes a conqueror, and indeed the life of the Buddha is a record of conquests, culminating in his ultimate victory over the demon Mara called “the Architect”, or “Lord of Illusion” or “Lord of my own Ego”. It is probably identical in meaning to the Christ’s victory over the temptations of “Satan” during his desert sojourn.
These are, of course (including Blake’s “Urizen”) names for the Shadow, and over-coming the Shadow is the same as self-overcoming. “In times of peace, a warrior goes to war against himself” is how Nietzsche expressed the meaning of the Chakravarta.
Life needs challenges and resistances to evolve and to continuously transcend itself, or to achieve “higher levels” of functioning, and it will thrust us into situations where that will occur even despite our desire for “Easy Street”. This is what even Jean Gebser calls “Shicksal” or “fate” as well as Nietzsche’s principle of “amor fati” — or love of fate. “It is so because I willed it thus” is how he expressed it. He compared the triumph of the spirit to a feeling of convalescence from a long disease, much as Buddhism describes the victory over samsaric existence or dukkha.
“Opposition is true friendship”, wrote Blake, and so too is the relationship between yin and yang or eros and thanatos, and nirvana and samsara. Life receives what Death bequeaths, and vice versa. Likewise “Without Contraries there is no progression”, wrote Blake, and this echoes Heraclitus’s controversial remark that “War [Strife} is the father of all things”, although all things ultimately belong to the Logos which, as you may surmise, is called elsewhere the Tao.
Life’s continuous transformation requires also the continuous overcoming of challenges and resistances to itself, and for that reason we enter into physical existence. The great Indian sage Aurobindo once remarked that only the bravest of souls actually enter into physical existence — the domain of Time and Death and the Law of Impermanence — with tasks to be fulfilled, purposes to be attained, challenges to be met, lessons to be learned, and goals to be accomplished both individually and collectively. This is referred to by Jungians as one’s ruling or dominant “archetype”, or by Joseph Campbell as one’s “personal myth” — the archetype or mythic narrative that becomes the rule or the predilection of one’s life, or at least for certain phases of one’s life.
In Jung’s psychology, there are 12 principle archetypes, which oddly resemble Rosenstock-Huessy’s own “Twelve Tones of the Spirit” (an essay one can find online as Chapter VI in his book I Am An Impure Thinker). You may think of these Twelve Tones as your personal “predilections”, although the integral consciousness is capable of participating in all of them. Twelve, of course, is an archetypal number in itself — the 12 disciples, the 12 gods of high Olympus, the 12 sectors of the Zodiac, or Plato’s dodecahedron, perhaps even the still mysterious Roman dodecahedrons found in various archaeological sites and whose purpose and function is unknown, or the twelve winds of the Medieval Compass Rose. It is also the Mother’s Symbol of Aurobindo’s Integral Yoga
These have similar, if not identical, significance, one that we also find in Rosenstock-Huessy’s model of the quadrilateral or fourfold “cross of reality” and the twelve tones of the spirit; or in Jung’s psychology of the four main “psychological functions” (thinking, feeling, sensing, intuiting) and the twelve principle archetypes. Similarly, although Blake has his “fourfold vision” of “Albion divided fourfold” into the four Zoas (who reside in the human brain), he also states that “all gods reside in the human breast”, which sounds quite like Jung’s archetypes.
Regarding Rosenstock-Huessy’s “cross of reality”, if you were then to incorporate his “twelve tones of the spirit” into the structure, you would get a symbol very similar to the Medieval Compass Rose or the Mother’s Symbol.
This may also hint at the mystery of why Plato thought of the dodecahedron as the essential model of the universe. And, curiously, the Lakota Medicine Man Black Elk had a similar vision (recounted in the book Black Elk Speaks) of the Sacred Hoop, but at each direction of the Sacred Hoop stood 12 horses of different colours.
All very curious.