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

Integral Yoga: The Mother’s Symbol
Wind Rose or Compass Rose

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.

William Blake — the Fourfold Vision or the quadrilateral
Rosenstock-Huessy’s new grammatical paradigm, “the cross of reality”

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.

Sacred Hoop

All very curious.

50 responses to “Blake: “Opposition is True Friendship””

  1. Luva says :

    Yex truuuu

  2. TheOakofNormal says :

    With time being such a main theme on the Chrysalis, what did you think about the whole 2012 significance, Scott? I was turned off by its handling in pop culture and all the new age jargon around it, but had a very interesting year that year and the number 12 became very important to me. The date 12/21/12 seemed to be pointing at the importance of the number 12 as mentioned in the post to add that idea to it.

    • Scott Preston says :

      I did not pay that a whole lot of attention. There’s no question that cosmological events influence us and the conditions of life on Earth. My skepticism lays in whether we can interpret those correctly.

  3. william says :

    I’m curious about how to reconcile Blake/Nietzsche’s ideas of “Opposition is true friendship” and “Will to Power vs Miserable ease” ie the need to overcome challenges to evolve, with the ideas of Taoism regarding “Go with the flow” and not setting oneself up in opposition to the currents of the time. These seem like opposites to me, but am I missing something?

    • Scott Preston says :

      Flow itself is the movement of the contraries. Consider electricity, or even just water. Electricity flows because of a tension between positive and negative poles, just as yin and yang forces result in flow, In general terms, there is a tension between the entropic and the neg-entropic forces, between centrifugal and centripetal forces. The paradox is that the contraries are complementaries. They require each other.

      In one of Blake’s proverbs of Hell, he actually speaks to the yin and yang of flow: “The cistern contains. The fountain overflows”, so cistern and fountain are contraries in terms of relative stasis and dynamis, rest and movement, release and tension. The Greek term for this contest between the contraries was “agon”. The very muscles of your body work in this way — a release and a stress or tensing produces movement.

    • Scott Preston says :

      Another example (there are plenty) is Buddhism’s distinction between Ultimate Truth and Relative Truth, which lies at the paradox of things — the identity of the One and the Many, which are contraries and yet complementary. Truth is always congruent with itself, but Ultimate and Relative are contraries and oppositionals. Hence paradox arises, such as Nagarjuna’s “nirvana and samsara are the same; nirvana and samsara are not the same.”. This has the same meaning as Blake’s “Eternity is in love with the productions of time” or “Eternity in the Hour” and “infinity in the palm of your hand”.

      Likewise, David Bohm’s “Undivided Wholeness in Flowing Movement” as his characterisation of ultimate reality is itself a paradox.

  4. Steve says :

    Resembles life what once was deem’d light,
    Too ample in itself for human sight?
    An absolute self—an element ungrounded—
    All that we see, all colours of all shade
    By encroach of darkness made?
    Is very life by consciousness unbounded?
    And all the thoughts, pains, joys of mortal breath,
    A war-embrace of wrestling life and death?

    Coleridge

  5. Steve says :

    – ” Strong men create good times – Good times create weak men – Weak men create hard times – Hard times create strong men” THE CYCLE REPEATS

    • Scott Preston says :

      Ah yes. Michael Purdy. I’m familiar with him from the old Gebser.org list (which seems to be defunct). He’s written a thing or two about the art of listening.

  6. Smitty's Gelato: A Film Blog says :

    Hi Scott.

    I am wondering if it would be alright with you if I cite your summary of Spider and Sunboy for a blog post I am working on? This would be your summary from your July 20, 2020 post. I’d also be curious to know which indigenous nation the legend originates from.

    Thanks!

  7. Steve says :

    “As D. H. Lawrence trenchantly put it, “Hate is not the opposite of love, the opposite of love is individuality.”

    • TheOakofNormal says :

      Everything is breaking down as agreed on here, healthy individuals/egos are the only thing that’s going to get us out of this mess; discernment, judgment, guidance are ego attributes. The whole the ego is evil is an outdated mode that needs to evolve, there are still plenty of healthy folks out there.

      • InfiniteWarrior says :

        You might appreciate the work of A.H. Almaas.

        If we weren’t designed to have a sense of ourselves as individuals as well as differentiated aspects of a whole, I’m inclined to think we wouldn’t. Life would also be pretty bland if we were all the same. So, I’m very wary of those who insist only the whole is of any import whatsoever and seem to want to do away with individuality (or, perhaps more appropriately, “individuation”) altogether and/or that a single person is, in essence, as expendable as refuse. It’s most certainly not necessary to do away with our singularity in order to realize our true nature as human beings. Look beyond it, perhaps, but certainly not do away with it. It will be lost in time, regardless, but until such time, it serves a purpose, imho.

        There’s a line from an old song that goes: “We’re just born to die.” True enough. But, of course, it’s what we do in between birth and death with the time we have that counts, whether birth and death themselves are merely human concepts or not.

        • TheOakofNormal says :

          “There’s a line from an old song that goes: We’re just born to die”. That’s pretty wild, I was out camping away from Internet over the weekend and was working on my April song Dying to Live. I’ve been working on this Meditations in Normal for the last three years and getting pretty close on it, excited to share it with you all. It’s a long/song form poem that uses the seasons to tie it all together with an acoustic guitar song for each month that I’m going to put on my website I’m currently designing. The whole work is about the journey from little self to big Self. I know we all love Whitman, Dickensian and Blake here and that’s what I was getting at in the ego comment, how big personalities/egos have been able to exemplify both their distinct self while also showing a connection to the Source/Self/God/Intelligence/Nature, however one’s disposition relates to it, without totally dissolving into it. Whitman even said in his journals that one of his greatest achievements was resisting the urge of totally being taken over by the process and that seems to be be a very important insight.

  8. Steve says :

    Rudolph Steiner’s lecture ON EVIL ( given in Berlin during the dark winter of the First World War ) argued that ” The Root of all evil in human nature is what we call egoism. Every kind of human imperfection, of evil from insignificant shortcomings to the worst crimes, can be traced to this single trait.” And yet, Steiner went on to assert, an alert sense of self is required for spiritual development: ” When we enter the spiritual world, even if it is through the portal of death, we must live with the strength which we have developed in our inner being. But we cannot acquire this strength there: it must have been gained by living an altruistic life in the physical world. “

    • TheOakofNormal says :

      I need to get to Steiner, been hearing about him a lot lately. I’m honestly probably out of my league on this ego stuff related to spiritual matters and need more experience before making any statements other than through my own creative stuff. I just go with my gut most of the time and realize how different everyone is, so should think things through more carefully.

    • InfiniteWarrior says :

      Steve… I’m not quite sure, but…are you a cynicist?

      I can’t really tell. Not that it would matter if you were, of course. That’d be fine. That’s your business. Just, you know…curious.

      Not that most of us can really tell nowadays, you know what I mean?

    • dadaharm says :

      Hi,
      Nice video about john scotus eriugena. Interesting to hear, that somebody already had invented most of german idealism in the middle ages. The only criticism I have is that the maker of the video does not seem to distinguish between pantheism and panentheism. I would call eriugena a panentheist.

      This page provides some more info on eriugena.

  9. Steve says :


    A highly technical and intelligent discussion about the dangers of mass vaccination in the midst of a pandemic.

  10. Steve says :

    Are you asking me if I believe that people are motivated by self interest?
    YES !

  11. Steve says :

    Scott..Would you like me to stay more on the topic of this blog?
    I have a tendency to want to share things that interest me. As for the video’s
    on the danger of the vaccine’s I thinks those video’s are GOLD and
    felt obligated to share. I can’t imagine any video’s coming out that are going to top those so I will stop that also if you wish. I don’t want to wander too far off topic or your vision for how you want this blog to go.

    • Scott Preston says :

      I do not mind someone posting contrarian views, although the safety of vaccines aren’t really a topic I care to touch in The Chrysalis myself (I’m vaccinated and have no qualms about it).

      • InfiniteWarrior says :

        Canada apparently outstrips the US in the common sense department yet again.

        One would think vaccinating the most vulnerable among us would be a top priority. It isn’t in the States or, at least, in the state in which I live. Here’s what it’s like in my home state: “Is your work ‘essential’ to keep ‘the economy’ humming along? Yes? Congratulations. You’re on the list. No? Sorry, but you don’t qualify…yet. I don’t care if you’re considered high-risk.”

        Now that the vaccine has become less scarce, that’s beginning to change, but — wow, just wow.

    • TheOakofNormal says :

      Schelling was a Genius, from their conversations (as one can gather) you can tell neither him nor Goethe knew who had the upper hand and that’s how it should be… they were going to collaborate on an epic Nature poem, but never got to it, that would have been something!

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