Catalogue


William Blake's sexual path to spiritual vision /
Marsha Keith Schuchard.
imprint
Rochester, Vermont : Inner Traditions, c2008.
description
xvi, 398 p. : ill. ; 23 cm.
ISBN
1594772118, 9781594772115
format(s)
Book
More Details
uniform title
imprint
Rochester, Vermont : Inner Traditions, c2008.
isbn
1594772118
9781594772115
contents note
Religion of the heart -- The mystical marriage -- Sex, wounds, and blood -- The mirth of the justified-sinner community -- Swedenborg and kabbalistic science -- Erotic dreams and ecstatic visions -- Sacramental sexuality -- Judaized yoga -- Phallic feet and tantric toes -- Moravian deaths and Blake beginnings -- School of art and eros -- Apprentice in art and romance -- The celestial bed -- The temple of Hymen -- Merry making and edifying discourses -- Animal magnetism and the Furor uterinus -- The men of desire -- Perpetual virile potency -- The frozen marriage bed -- The vissionary vulva -- Priapic prayer and randy antiquarians -- Kabbalistic cherubim and yogic yonis -- Thunder of thought & flames of fierce desire -- Appendix: Moravian archive letters of petition.
general note
"Originally published in England in 2006 in hardcover by Century and in 2007 in paperback by Pimlico Press under the title Why Mrs. Blake cried: William Blake and the sexual basis of spiritual vision"--Title-page verso.
catalogue key
7785139
 
Gift to Victoria University Library. Bentley, G.E., Jr. 2011/11/06.
Includes bibliographical references (p. 323-389) and index.
A Look Inside
About the Author
Author Affiliation
Marsha Keith Schuchard is the author of Restoring the Temple of Vision and lives in Atlanta, Georgia
First Chapter

From Chapter 22

KABBALISTIC CHERUBIM AND YOGIC YONIS


That Blake developed an eclectic combination of Tantric, Kabbalistic, and Swedenborgian themes is suggested by his startling self-portrait in Milton, which he began in 1804 while he was still working on Vala. Portraying himself nude with an erect blackened or charred penis, he flings himself backward with outstretched arms, as a flaming star descends toward his left foot.1 In this image and the accompanying verse, Blake seemed to draw upon Swedenborg’s description of the Moravian orgiasts, which the artist infused with his own Kabbalistic and Tantric perspective.
     After his return to London from Felpham in 1803, Blake’s interest in Swedenborg was revived by liberal and heterodox Swedenborgians, who explored not only Enochian but Asiatic sexual theosophy, which they related to Swedenborg’s more arcane teachings.2 Reflecting his own merged interests, Blake praised Swedenborg as a “Spiritual Preceptor” at the same time as he drew “an ideal design” of the Brahmins, which portrayed Charles Wilkins translating the Bhagavad Gita, which Blake called “the Hindoo Scriptures.”3
     Returning to the visionary sexuality of this more eclectic and esoteric Swedenborg, Blake hoped to redeem the spirit of John Milton, whose relationships with his three wives and three daughters were poisoned by his puritanism and self-love--defects that led England first into civil war and now into European war (“the phallic whip”). Though Blake revered Milton for his republican stand, he was obliged to “expose the falsehood” of the poet’s doctrine, taught in Paradise Lost, “That Sexual intercourse arose out of the Fall--Now that cannot be, for no good can spring out of Evil.”4 For Milton/Albion to be reunited with his fragmented female potencies, he must undergo a reunification of his ancient religious roots--from Asia and Israel.
     Thus Blake reported that he was carried in vision to the ancient cities of Asia, where he saw “those wonderful originals called in the sacred scriptures the Cherubim, which were sculpted and painted on walls of Temples.”5 Like the Tantric artists of Asiatic temples, he linked his erect and charred penis with the moment of divine influx, when Milton’s spirit descends into his foot (and great toe). “So Milton’s shadow fell / Precipitant, loud thundring into the sea of Time & Space”:

Then first I saw him in the Zenith, as a falling star
Descending perpendicular, swift as the swallow or swift;
And on my left foot falling on the tarsus, enterd there;
But from my left foot a black cloud redounding spread
over Europe.
6

     Decades earlier, Swedenborg connected the “toe of the left foot” with “the genitals; for the genitals correspond to the Word.”7 He followed Kabbalistic teaching in which the foot functions as “a euphemism for the phallus, human and divine,” while the toes represent the “ten demonic powers.”8 Placing hell under the soles of the feet of the Grand Man, he described the “vastation” that can purge the demonic evil from feet and toes. He also seemed familiar with the Yogic significance of the great toe, which plays a crucial role in breath control.9 The initiate is taught to massage the ankle and great toe, opposite the side through which he wishes the breath to flow. The capacity to breathe on one side was connected with the precoital position of the Tantric couple, who mutually visualized the god within the other and achieved a kind of spiritual copulation.
     Blake’s drawing and lines about the spiritual-erotic influx into his “tarsus” suggests his reading of Swedenborg’s similar scene, in which Kabbalistic-Tantric meditation and stroking send a stream of fire into the glans penis and “at the same time into the big toe of the left foot, and through a burning sensation under the midfoot sole, especially into the nail of the big toe of the left foot, which at length co-responds with a fiery burning of such a kind in the glans penis (bulbo); it became fiery.”10 Commenting on the Kabbalistic symbolism of Blake’s drawing, Sheila Spector notes that the entry of Milton’s spirit into Blake’s left foot is an act of sacrificial yet redemptive materialization that will allow psychic and cosmic sexual reunification.11
     Just as Swedenborg described the sexual energy progressing from the midfoot sole to the toe of the left foot, so Blake stressed that Milton’s spirit entered at the tarsus, which is the space on the sole of the foot just before “the five long bones which sustain and are articulated with the toes.”12 After the spirit enters Blake’s foot, “a black cloud redounding” from it “spread over Europe.” The moment of entry is one of visionary ecstasy in which the toxic poison of repressed sexuality is released. Like the sculpted Lingams of India, which were carved out of black stone, Blake’s erect penis is blackened or charred.13 One can only wonder if tarsus and toe stimulated a fiery burning in Blake’s bulbo! That Blake or his cautious executors added shorts (underpants) to subsequent copies suggests that his erotic self-portrait was deemed too explicit in its original version.
     Like Maurice and the eclectic Illuminists, Blake merged Yogic with Kabbalistic symbolism. When he again described “Milton entering my Foot,” he placed him within the mysteries of the Grand Man (Adam Kadmon). In this moment of mystical union, “all this Vegetable World appeard on my left Foot, / As a bright sandal formd immortal of precious stones & gold: I stooped down & bound it on to walk thro’ Eternity.”14 Elliot Wolfson observes that in the Zohar, the sandal symbolizes the feminine and the foot the masculine, or, more specifically, the phallus: “the symbols have a twofold connotation; they refer to mundane realities and their correlates in the divine realm, the sandal symbolizing the Shekhinah and the foot Yesod.”15
Reviews
Review Quotes
"Exposes a forgotten visionary/sexual underworld. Scholarship with the momentum of a detective story."
"Fans of biographical minutiae will find it invaluable, and the closing insights into the refusal of Blake's libido to synchronize with his fading physicality are deeply moving."
"Fueled by new archival discoveries of Blake family documents, [Schuchard's] analysis probes spiritual paths and recreates sexual focuses of his work which were initially changed by his pious executor. New Age libraries will find it a winner."
"Influenced by alchemists, kabbalists, and Emanuel Swedenborg, Blake became interested in sexual techniques in order to achieve spiritual vision. . . . [This book] bravely explores the 'sexual-spiritual underworld'of this great poet and artist, drawing on newly uncovered archives and photographic techniques that reveal the extreme eroticism of Blake's drawings before they were censored. . . . A fascinating history of both the erotic and the occult. The prose is fast-paced and accessible, and the author thoroughly reanimates her subject's extraordinarily unorthodox ideals of sexuality."
"Dr. Schuchard has worked diligently to present information which expands our understanding of William Blake's lifetime (1757-1827), and its impact on his own and subsequent generations."
"Dr. Schuchard (Ph.D. in British literature) has worked diligently to present information which expands our understanding of William Blake's lifetime (1757-1827), and its impact on his own subsequent generations. He has been praised and vilified; exalted and suppressed; called a genius and a pervert. Modern research has done much to flesh out the perceptions which have existed, and the author has made a major contribution by assembling much of this newly discovered information into an easily accessible, and readable, book."
"This remarkable book opens the reader's eyes to what fired Blake's writings and art."
" . . . using new and fastidious research methods, Schuchard breaks new ground with her investigation of the psycho-sexual practices that surround this famous artist."
"This is a landmark book and critical to anyone seeking to appreciate the cultural climate of esotericism in the late Eighteenth into the early and mid Nineteenth Century."
"Schuchard places Blake at the heart of a secret London as high on spiritualized sexuality as San Francisco in the 'summer of love.'"
"Influenced by alchemists, kabbalists, and Emanuel Swedenborg, Blake became interested in sexual techniques in order to achieve spiritual vision. . . . [This book] bravely explores the 'sexual-spiritual underworld' of this great poet and artist, drawing on newly uncovered archives and photographic techniques that reveal the extreme eroticism of Blake's drawings before they were censored. . . . A fascinating history of both the erotic and the occult. The prose is fast-paced and accessible, and the author thoroughly reanimates her subject's extraordinarily unorthodox ideals of sexuality."
"Blake's efforts to go very deeply into the physical in order to better experience the divine are typical of most refined thinking of his day, in which science lagged behind the longings of the human spirit for true unfettered spiritual opening. Its author is a recognized expert in this subject matter."
"Schuchard reveals a weird esoteric, erotic, and apocalyptic counterculture, brewing in what we otherwise consider the 'enlightened' eighteenth century."
To find out how to look for other reviews, please see our guides to finding book reviews in the Sciences or Social Sciences and Humanities.
Summaries
Main Description
The secret and mystical sexual practices at the heart of William Blake's creative and spiritual life Reveals newly discovered family documents connecting Blake's mother and Blake himself to Moravian and Swedenborgian erotic and visionary experimentation Shows Blake had access to kabbalistic and tantric techniques of psychoerotic meditation, which used sexual arousal to achieve spiritual vision William Blake (1757-1827) has long been treasured as an artist and poet whose work was born out of authentic spiritual vision. The acutely personal, almost otherworldly look of his artwork, combined with its archetypal casting and depth of emotion, transcend societal conventions and ordinary experience. But much of the overtly sexual work has been destroyed or altered, deemed too heretical by conservative elements among the mystic Moravians and Swedenborgians, whose influence on Blake has been uncovered only recently. The author's investigation into the radical psychosexual spiritual practices surrounding William Blake, which includes new archival discoveries of Blake family documents, reveals that Moravian and Swedenborgian erotic and visionary experimentation fueled much of Blake's creative and spiritual life. Drawing also upon modern art restoration techniques, Marsha Keith Schuchard shows that Blake and his wife, Catherine, were influenced by secret kabbalistic and tantric rituals designed to transcend the bonds of social convention. Her exhaustive research provides a new context for understanding the mystical practices at the heart of Blake's most radical beliefs about sexualized spirituality and its relation to visionary art.
Long Description
The secret and mystical sexual practices at the heart of William Blake's creative and spiritual life - Reveals newly discovered family documents connecting Blake's mother and Blake himself to Moravian and Swedenborgian erotic and visionary experimentation - Shows Blake had access to kabbalistic and tantric techniques of psychoerotic meditation, which used sexual arousal to achieve spiritual vision William Blake (1757-1827) has long been treasured as an artist and poet whose work was born out of authentic spiritual vision. The acutely personal, almost otherworldly look of his artwork, combined with its archetypal casting and depth of emotion, transcend societal conventions and ordinary experience. But much of the overtly sexual work has been destroyed or altered, deemed too heretical by conservative elements among the mystic Moravians and Swedenborgians, whose influence on Blake has been uncovered only recently. The author's investigation into the radical psychosexual spiritual practices surrounding William Blake, which includes new archival discoveries of Blake family documents, reveals that Moravian and Swedenborgian erotic and visionary experimentation fueled much of Blake's creative and spiritual life. Drawing also upon modern art restoration techniques, Marsha Keith Schuchard shows that Blake and his wife, Catherine, were influenced by secret kabbalistic and tantric rituals designed to transcend the bonds of social convention. Her exhaustive research provides a new context for understanding the mystical practices at the heart of Blake's most radical beliefs about sexualized spirituality and its relation to visionary art.
Back Cover Copy
Biography / Sexuality"Schuchard places Blake at the heart of a secret London as high on spiritualized sexuality as San Francisco in the 'summer of love.'" --Miranda Seymour, The Sunday Times "This remarkable book opens the reader's eyes to what fired Blake's writings and art."--David V. Bennett, The Independent"Exposes a forgotten visionary/sexual underworld. Scholarship with the momentum of a detective story."--Iain Sinclair, The GuardianWilliam Blake (1757-1827) has long been treasured as an artist and poet whose work was born out of authentic spiritual vision. The acutely personal, almost otherworldly look of his artwork--combined with its archetypal casting and depth of emotion--transcends social convention and ordinary experience. In this book, Marsha Keith Schuchard breaks new ground with her investigation of the psychosexual practices that surrounded this famous artist. Her fastidious research includes new archival discoveries of Blake family documents and reveals how early Moravian and Swedenborgian erotic and visionary experimentation fueled much of Blake's creative and spiritual life and found expression in the explicit sexual imagery of his art. Much of this was lost to posterity, however, when religious conservatives pressured Blake's pious executor to suppress the more overtly sexual aspects of his work, which were subsequently altered or destroyed.Schuchard's latest findings, combined with advances in photographic techniques used in modern-day art research, reveal this previously censored imagery. The recovery of these elements supports the belief that Blake explored kabbalistic and tantric extramarital sexual practices that were designed to transcend the bonds of socialconvention and that he pressured his wife to join him in these explorations. author's exhaustive research provides a new context for understanding the mystical practices at the heart of Blake's most radical beliefs about sexualized spirituality and its relation to visionary art.MARSHA KEITH SCHUCHARD received a Ph.D. in British literature for her explorations into the esoteric-erotic underground traditions of seventeenth- to twentieth-century secret societies and their influence on British and Irish poets and artists. She is the author of Restoring the Temple of Vision and lives in Atlanta, Georgia.
Table of Contents
Acknowledgmentsp. ix
List of Illustrationsp. xi
Introduction: Why Mrs. Blake Cried-William Blake's Sexual Path to Spiritual Visionp. 1
Religion of the Heartp. 12
The Mystical Marriagep. 21
Sex, Wounds, and Bloodp. 30
The Mirth of the Justified-Sinner Communityp. 42
Swedenborg and Kabbalistic Sciencep. 54
Erotic Dreams and Ecstatic Visionsp. 63
Sacramental Sexualityp. 77
Judaized Yogap. 92
Phallic Feet and Tantric Toesp. 102
Moravian Deaths and Blake Beginningsp. 116
School of Art and Erosp. 132
Apprentice in Art and Romancep. 143
The Celestial Bedp. 156
The Temple of Hymenp. 166
Merry Making and Edifying Discoursesp. 176
Animal Magnetism and the Furor Uterinusp. 189
The Men of Desirep. 202
Perpetual Virile Potencyp. 216
The Frozen Marriage Bedp. 231
The Visionary Vulvap. 245
Priapic Prayer and Randy Antiquariansp. 259
Kabbalistic Cherubim and Yogic Yonisp. 275
Thunder of Thought & Flames of Fierce Desirep. 295
Epiloguep. 314
Moravian Archive Letters of Petitionp. 320
Notesp. 323
Works Citedp. 369
Indexp. 390
Table of Contents provided by Ingram. All Rights Reserved.

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