By George Albert Brown
The introduction to Who Killed Jerusalem? states:
It is Unnecessary to Know Anything about Blake
While Who Killed Jerusalem? is a riff on William Blake’s work, it is not necessary to know anything about the real-life Blake nor his work to appreciate the story.
Blake’s personality and life story bear no relation to the personality and life story of the fictional Ickey Jerusalem, and Blake’s work, produced over a fifty-year career, is often inconsistent, not to mention downright baffling. So, if you do happen to know something about the subject, you’d probably enjoy this book more if you just ignore all that and go with the flow.
Nonetheless, some readers can’t help feeling that knowing more about Blake and his works would help them solve the mystery. Unfortunately, there is no way I can accurately summarize fifty years of Blake’s work and if there were, it would only confuse the reader further. Nonetheless, if you are struggling with Ickey Jerusalem’s self-contained metaphysics and poetry which I derived, in part, from my reading of Blake, I will attempt to summarize it here.
Everything, everywhere, exists only in the mind of God, a figment of His infinitely creative imagination. There is no other reality outside the mind of God.
Since everything exists only in the mind of God, everything God imagines, by definition, exists. Thus, given that God’s creative imagination is omnipotent, if He imagines, say, a white rose, He takes in at once everything possible to see in the rose—the soft petals, the purity of the Virgin Mary, the paleness of death, the pollination by bees, the medieval War of the Roses, aphid infestations, etcetera—producing for Him an infinitely total experience of the rose’s reality, the greatest reality possible.
This unrestrained creativity is the highest level of God’s consciousness.
After a few eons of randomly imagining everything about everything, God, in an act of play, turned instead to focus on creating a complete physical world in His mind, using in its construction only those elements which could be perceived by the five senses—touch, taste, sight, sound, and smell.
God found the physical world he created unbelievably beautiful.
So absorbed did He become in its beauty, He forgot it was a mere part of His mind and fell into a deep, deep sleep.
As God feel asleep, His consciousness contracted into what became the human mind, inculcated first into the physical body of the newly created Adam, then passed on to Eve when she was molded from his rib, and thereafter, to all their progeny. Although everything was still a figment of God’s omnipotent imagination, the sleeping God’s shrunken consciousness, the human mind, could see only the small part of reality perceivable through the five senses. The sleeping God was reduced to peering out from a myriad of subjective human selves at what looked like separate physical objects, believing those objects to be all there was to reality.
This is the mid-level of God’s consciousness, where most of humanity passes their existence, unable to see past the concrete white rose.
Those humans who are slaves to reason then create the lowest level of God’s consciousness.
When asked to describe the rose precisely, they analyze it from a variety of points of view—its shape, its height, its width, its color, its softness, and so on, usually by reference to some abstract, lowest-common-denominator measuring rod, such as centimeters, spectral wavelength, or milligrams of pressure per square millimeter, allowing the reason slaves to compare the rose accurately with anything else in the world they wish.
These reason slaves then go further, developing abstract formulae and theories to describe the comparisons among the measurements
While the Fall from the highest level to the mid-level reduced God’s consciousness so it could see only concrete objects that can be perceived by the five senses, reason slaves now reduce God’s—that is, human—consciousness even further, so it can no longer experience the rose even as a concrete object, but instead only secondhand, as a bundle of self-created, lifeless abstractions, as far as possible from the white rose’s highest-level reality.
In the process, God’s reason-reduced consciousness becomes trapped between its pale screen’s abstract descriptions of the concrete reality below, and its black void of theories above, creating its own special prison, called, “Hell”, the abode of that part of God’s consciousness bearing the name, “Satan Incarnate”.
After God fell asleep, a certain residual creative imagination continued to exist in human minds, but it was much more limited—in part, because humans tend to focus only on what they can perceive with their five senses, and in part, even without that focus, the scope of the human mind is so much narrower than the mind of the omnipotently creative, fully conscious God. Most humans, therefore, use their limited creative imagination primarily to dream up new ways of manipulating the physical world for their benefit. There are, however, some—such as painters, musicians, sculptors, playwrights, and poets—who use their creative imagination to produce works of art, say, a poem about the sun being the Heavenly Host, organizing the words into a perfect unity of meaning and image, of intellect and emotion, of the necessary and the desired, taking everything in all at once on multitudinous, integrated levels, so as to pierce the façade of the physical-object sun and reimagine the fully conscious God’s holistic experience of the Heavenly Host sun, obliterating, in the shrunken consciousness of the sleeping God, to the extent of that small experience, the fallen world’s fictitious distinction between the self and the physical world.
In other words, artists, such as poets, are producing glimpses of how the fully awake God Himself saw—glimpses which will last forever in the sleeping God’s consciousness.
Whenever in the mid-level someone with creative imagination does manage through their artistry to unite the sleeping God’s consciousness with such a glimpse, Satan immediately hides the glimpse from the sleeping God’s view between Satan’s planes of abstraction and theory.
Let’s say the uniting is through a poem. Before the ink has dried, literature professors spring up from Hell and begin abstracting and analyzing the details of the poem’s construction, explaining its meaning, boxing the piece into a particular poetic theory, issuing rules to others on how it should be read, and so on, until eventually, the poet’s holistic glimpse of God’s infinite and eternal creative imagination can no longer be directly experienced by the reader. While claiming to be enhancing the glimpse, the literature professors are, in fact, doing the exact opposite. Not because they are evil, but because, being slaves to reason, they are able to take in visions only as a collection of abstractions to fit into theories.
In the Orc cycle, the good guys are represented by an innocent, freedom-loving, passionate youth called Orc. The baddies are represented by an experienced, tyrannous, highly rational senior citizen called Urizen. As the parable progresses, Orc and Urizen keep reappearing to do battle in a myriad of guises—everything from a finger-painting, nursery student being chastised by a neatness-obsessed teacher, to a poet being analyzed into nothingness by literary critics, to Jesus being crucified by the Old Testament’s righteous laws.
At the end of each battle, Urizen kills Orc, turning him into a serpent hanging on a barren tree. Immediately afterwards, Orc is reincarnated into another form.
Gradually, it becomes clear that Orc and Urizen are facets of the same person, Orc morphing into Urizen as each cycle ages. For instance, shortly following Jesus’s crucifixion, Orc appears in the form of the early Christian visionaries, experiencing directly and totally Christ’s love. Soon, however, the Christian Church thus created begins, under the influence of the Urizen part of Orc’s nature, abstracting, theorizing, ritualizing, and institutionalizing, until—while still paying lip service to Christ’s love—the Church turns into its exact opposite: an inescapable, totalitarian tyranny requiring absolute obedience in action and even thought, and condemning to eternal hellfire those who don’t obey the Church’s laws—a hyper-abstract New Testament form of the Old Testament’s righteous law from which Jesus intended to free humanity.
However, all is not lost. Each time a cycle repeats, Orc’s newly created permanent glimpses of the unfallen world accumulate in the consciousness of the sleeping God in a form Jerusalem calls—for comic relief, presumably—Golgonooza. At the same time, Urizen’s abstract camouflage of those glimpses accumulates in Hell (a place like Satan and everything else, merely a part of God’s overall mind) in a form Jerusalem calls the Consolidation of Error—which consists of two planes, a solid white screen below Satan’s chin, to filter out all but the lowest-common-denominator abstractions about his fellow human beings, and a solid black screen above the crown of Satan’s head, representing the void of pure theory created from those abstractions—separating Satan not only from love, but also, as result of the various cycles, from joy, from beauty, from, from nobility, from more and more of what it means to be truly human.
When a sufficient number of Orc’s glimpses have accumulated in Golgonooza to produce a complete picture of the fully conscious God’s omnipotent imagination, and that picture has been totally camouflaged by the two planes of the abstract Consolidation of Error, Satan’s flattened mind, struggling manfully to filter and refilter up through the screen of pure abstraction below a conceptual description able to fit precisely into his grand, unifying void of pure theory above, each time failing in the task, all at once, Satan comprehends how shallow he, the difference between the two planes, has become, and how that shallowness is the exact opposite of the unlimited freedom promised by his Consolidation of Error. Whereupon the Consolidation of Error vanishes, allowing the sleeping God to now see Golgonooza’s complete picture of the fully conscious God’s mind. Recognizing who He really is, the sleeping God awakes, allowing His formerly shrunken consciousness to rapidly expand in an apocalypse of fire, reuniting with the hitherto hidden part of His mind and obliterating all the illusory bifurcations of the fallen world.
Ded Smith does not exist in William Blake’s work. I had to create him from whole cloth.
Literary writers naturally do not like philistines, and so delight in presenting them as ignorant, status-seeking, shallow Babbitts. I’ve created Ded to be, instead, a highly intelligent, if naïve, philistine, a seeker of truth with a well-thought-out, reductionist philosophy that is not only the exact opposite of Blake but also represents a view of the world that even literary writers, when they don’t have to spout platitudes for their peers, may suspect contains a certain truth.
In any case, the clash of perspectives does create an interesting exchange of views and some humorous moments.
The names of the main characters are amalgams of the names of characters in Blake’s epic poetry and their philosophical characteristics are derived in part from those works. However, most of the characters’ specific appearance and back story in the novel bear little relation to those in Blake’s works. While it may be interesting after you have finished the book, to research how those characters were described by Blake at different times of his life in different poems and drawings, nothing you will find there will give you a clue as to how the mystery in the novel is solved. Everything you need to know for that is laid out in the text of the novel based solely on the characters as they have been presented In the novel.