Today I woke feeling great. I asked myself: Why do I love the world so much right now? And I answered: Because so many things are possible. It makes me happy to think that there might be aliens living somewhere out there in space—even unfriendly aliens: it’s not their fault how God made them; and even if we can never meet destruction at their hands, simply to know that they exist is enough.
My favorite planet has always been Jupiter. When I was a child, I had a picture book that contained large, full-color illustrations of each of our solar system’s planet’s scenery and beings (I mean, these images were artists’ depictions of how they guessed that each haunt might appear), and Jupiter consisted of plumes of fire everywhere: orange, red, and glittering gold; with wind like lava whipping all over the sky, which never stopped storming. And the inhabitants of this rapture were humanoid jellyfish.
Now I want to consider the English word “stem.” But first, very quickly, let me give a definition to “God.” Here is a quote from The Marriage of Heaven and Hell by William Blake:
…Ezekiel said, The philosophy of the east taught the first principles of human perception: some nations held one principle for the origin & some another; we of Israel taught that the Poetic Genius (as you now call it) was the first principle and the others merely derivative, which was the cause of our despising the Priests & Philosophers of other countries, and prophecying that all Gods would at last be proved to originate in ours & to be the tributaries of the Poetic Genius…
From this passage, I take the statement “God = the Poetic Genius.” I like this definition because poetic genius doesn’t have a formal existence outside of humans (and perhaps other living beings); also, it’s not a quality that can be possessed by all things unanimously: it’s not merely pantheistic.
Earlier in the same book, Blake begins a “Memorable Fancy” like so:
…I was walking among the fires of hell, delighted with the enjoyments of Genius; which to Angels look like torment and insanity…
So deity is “Poetic Genius,” the enjoyments of which are manifested as “fire,” or one could even say “hellfire.” These were the thoughts that sprang to my mind earlier, when I began considering the word stem. Here is what I was thinking:
I have heard the phrase “brain stem,” and I have heard the phrase “plant stem.” So I tend to think of the human brain as a plant. For instance, the biblical book of Exodus (3:2) proves that God appeared
in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush.
The stem of that bush is the stem of the brain; and genius’s enjoyment (fire) inhabits the Lord’s locale upon Mount Horeb (the mind). Thus the acts of God (poetic genius) can be thought of as the human brain aflame with imagination:
and, behold, the bush burned with fire, and the bush was not consumed.
The only confusing aspect of this insight is what it makes of all the poor angels in heaven. For if deity is simply genius whose blissfulness is exhibited as hellfire, then what place is left for the citizens of paradise? How is all of the above not just a plain reversal of the old church system?
The church system says: Those who join the angels on Jehovah’s team will be allowed to live, but those who do not submit to this heavenly enslavement will be tortured for eternity.
In contrast to this, Blake does not posit one team against another, as if spirituality were a sporting event, and then allow the victors to torment their opponents. Instead, the devils are those who have eyes to see and ears to hear; they can discern the depth of life: the life beneath life: the surreality—they participate therein and enjoy it. So the devils are the sublime, whereas the angels are the superficial. Angels do not deserve to be punished; they are simply unwise thinkers, quick to draw conclusions, desirous to organize humanity at the expense of harmony.
I love this perspective because it honors compassionate creativity: instead of harping on vengeance and judgment, it allows for growth—it provides an incentive to increase one’s innate divinity—for if one is self-shackled to the church’s system, one can break free at any time, simply by opening one’s mind to the effects of enlightenment. Near the end of Blake’s Marriage, a speech is delivered that has this most positive result on a soul who initially misunderstood:
I beheld the Angel who stretched out his arms embracing the flame of fire, & he was consumed and arose as Elijah.
Note. This Angel, who is now become a Devil, is my particular friend; we often read the Bible together in its infernal or diabolical sense…
I hope this does not come off as a forced callback, for I swear that it came to mind just as I was copying that last quotation. I’m amused by the coincidence that, as I mentioned at the start of this entry, my favorite planet Jupiter (whose namesake, as the Top God, is the equivalent of Jehovah) was portrayed in my childhood’s picture-book as being consonant with Blakes’s notion of poetic hellfire.
Here is a poem that I recorded myself reading today; it mentions Jupiter as well, but that is not why I chose it: