Wrestling with God’s Existence on a Sunday

From the third chapter of William Blake’s poem, Jerusalem: The Emanation of the Giant Albion (plate 60, lines 52-64):

O Lord & Savior, have the Gods of the Heathen pierced thee?

Or hast thou been pierced in the House of thy Friends?

Art thou alive! & livest thou for-evermore? or art thou

Not: but a delusive shadow, a thought that liveth not.

Babel mocks, saying, ‘There is no God nor Son of God’—

That thou, O Human Imagination, O Divine Body, art all

A delusion. But I know thee O Lord when thou arisest upon

My weary eyes even in the dungeon & this iron mill.

The stars of Albion cruel rise; thou bindest to sweet influences:

For thou also sufferest with me altho I behold thee not;

And altho I sin & blaspheme thy holy name, thou pitiest me;

Because thou knowest I am deluded by the turning mills.

And by these visions of pity & love because of Albion’s death.

What strikes me most here is the last two lines, which I interpret as referring to the scientific and technological reduction of the cosmos to mechanism (“the turning mills”) and the problem posed for God’s existence in the light of suffering and loss in the world (which Blake experiences as wounded “pity & love”). These cloud (“delude”) Blake’s mind intellectually, making it impossible for him to access God innocently.

No rest for grown-ups.

About Santi Tafarella

I teach writing and literature at Antelope Valley College in California.
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