William Blake’s infernal wisdom: that evil is the energy of the body and acts upon desire. Good bounds this energy, and wants to restrain desire.
That if your desire can be restrained, then it was a weak desire.
That desire, once restrained, becomes even weaker, a mere shadow of what you once felt. You end up in a state of absolute detachment. You don’t even desire what you think you desire. All you can do now is think about desire, since you are incapable of feeling it.
Blake is saying this from the point of view of the Devil, because both sides have to be heard.
Nothing else has worked so we’ve got to try this.
The infernal is very different from the satanic. The infernal recognises the necessity of evil as part of the universe contained within every individual. The satanic is the self-righteousness that, refusing to recognise that a universe is enclosed in every living creature, would impose the restraint of the Good uniformly on every soul.
Reason alone sits still, is “self-enclosed,” incapable of activity. Everything is already done. The perfection of God. In Blake’s vision Moses and Christ are rebels against Reason, standing for the energy of the body. For the individual’s right to their own vision, to find their own balance, to follow the winding path of their own desire towards the Good.
(I’ve been reading The Complete Poems of William Blake, edited by Alicia Ostriker.)
“William Blake’s infernal wisdom: that evil is the energy of the body and acts upon desire. Good bounds this energy, and wants to restrain desire.”
Freud said this was the role of the superego.
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