This week I picked up my complete collection of William Blake and started looking for hell. I’ve been having a little wander round the idea of evil recently, thinking initially that finding a satisfying definition would be easy. The simplest version is that it is an absence of good, or simply to be bad. Both of which don’t really provide anything like the grander sense of evil that I was hoping to find. I was looking for the texture of it, the shape, something kind of tangible and describable aspect of it that didn’t rely on good as opposition.
So we come to The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, by William Blake — you can see a PDF of it here.
The pamphlet is a post-French Revolution weekend away in Hell, and frankly it doesn’t seem that bad. It’s less grand than Dante’s trip, less torture, and more forgiving. There are sections which concern evil directly, suggesting initially that Evil is an energy of the body and Good the product of a well-flexed soul, before immediately conceding you can’t have one without the other.
I particularly like the trip to the printing press, which probably does the most architectural work in the pamphlet, offering you a few half-beasts to consider as Blake takes you through the creation process of the etching so that books can be made. These caves are considered to represent a limiting of perception elsewhere in the work — and the books created here are a way of widening it again.
The process described fits well with Blake’s feelings on inspiration — from Songs of Innocence & Experience — which suggest there is a process that follows: some expansive work or mundane experience, the expansion of the idea and adornment in your mind, the forming of the direct language in your mind, and then an unknown process between (where cherubs of inspiration disappear) which occurs immediately before the hand gets involved makes it reality and grounds it.
This is the acceptance of body and the soul, that they cannot be separated or treated as if one does the evil and one does the good. It is only through both of them that anything can be done.
One like, one terrifying scenario involving a duck.
Not usually something we cover in ETTO, but comic book are something I sometimes enjoy. Here’s a piece on Kirby’s collage backgrounds.
Thanks for reading Etch To Their Own — it was written by @CJEggett with a heavy head. No, William Blake didn’t give me the answer I wanted about evil. If you liked this in any way at all, please send it to someone you love and tell them to sign up.