ABSTRACT

William Blake's poem Jerusalem (1804–20), like all Perennial utopias, achieves a dialectical synthesis of the ideal and the actual through the narrative focalization of a religious experience at the level of character, one that is at once transhistorical and universal. By reading the poem through the lens of the Perennial paradigm, we discover that the temporal aspects of Jerusalem are intimately tied to the religious dimensions of Blake's utopian vision. In addition to giving us a new way to understand the well-documented distinctiveness of Blake's religious message, the Perennial paradigm shows Blake's soteriology in Jerusalem to be utopian rather than salvationist (that is to say, individual-religious as opposed to collective-political). Because of the ultimately subjective nature of apprehension of the Divine Vision, Blake's utopian thought is not “clearly a forward-directed anticipatory and visionary concept,” as Magnus Ankarsjö has recently argued (15). Blake does not rally the reader towards some “ensuing peaceful millennium” (15) but rather to find enlightenment in the eternal moment. In light of Blake's suspicion of ratiocination, combined with his deliberate use of narrative focalization of Albion's religious vision, reading Jerusalem as a Rational utopia grounded in Judeo-Christian of notions of Apocalypse is to miss Blake's core religious message.

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