Friday, January 18, 2002

What's Now Proved Was Once Only Imagined

“Lo, a shadow of horror is risen
In Eternity! Unknown, unprolific,
Self-clos'd, all-repelling: what demon
Hath form'd this abominable void,
This soul-shudd'ring vacuum? Some said
'It is Urizen.’ But unknown, abstracted,
Brooding, secret, the dark power hid.”

----William Blake, from, “The Book of Urizen”

By Douglas McDaniel
Mythville MetaMedia

William Blake died again, not in cyberspace, but where he had been reborn, at least in some small way, in me. It was in the mid-air, or I should say, I was in the middle of a springy leap and he just floated off into space to become a ghost again, a new vision of Prometheus, this time unbound. He reached the alchemical peak in me in the middle of that scissor kick in a small theater in Haverhill, Massachusetts.

I was performing my one-man act, “William Blake in Cyberspace.” But actually, my sense of the act was more along the lines of: Be your own personal Bono. The moment came during the blasting of a song by the Waterboys called “Crown.” The tune, from the band's 2000 release, is pretty much the theme song for the second half of my ever-evolving performance art efforts. The a tune goes like this:

“I’ve had power
I’ve used and abused it
Tasted glory
I have wooed and refused it
Tried to live in a sacred way
I did and I did not
And for everything I lost
There’s been something else I got
And when love comes tumbling down
I will wear a crown.”

Peter Murphy, formerly of Bauhaus and then a decent solo career, once told me that a certain song gave him an incredible sense of power whenever he played it onstage. That’s my sense of “Crown,” as opposed to Emerson, Lake and Palmer’s version of “Jerusalem,” which is also part of the "William Blake in Cyberspace," which just makes me feel like I'm standing for "The National Anthem" at Fenway Park. "Jerusalem" was originally an old Anglican church standard written by William Blake. Maybe you know the song? It has that reference to “satanic mills.”

Anyhow, there I was (or William Blake in Cyberspace was), hanging in the mid-air. This was after a ceiling tile fell down, hitting my podium, but well before the whole trip came crashing down on me. I had taken this Dixie cup, see, and put a bunch of miniature Tarot cards inside. My little Dixie cup of magic. My unholy grail. Then, I looked a member of the audience in the eye (actually, it was probably Kristen, my girl friend, who has seen pretty much the entire lifetime of “William Blake in Cyberspace,” and could always be counted on to show up for a performance (bless her)). Then I began my take off, the Waterboys’ guitars, bass and drums building up to a fury. One step, two steps, my leather boots leapt from the Micro Theatah stage: Lift off. The Dixie cup of Tarot cards pushed up into the air … the strobe light pulsing up an epilepsy of energy ...
The year is 1790: One year after the fall of the Bastille. One year before the outbreak of French Revolution. Fourteen years after the signing of the Declaration of Independence in America, for William Blake, a heroic unbinding of the New World’s Prometheus. He would write in “America, A Prophecy” in 1793:

Silent as despairing love, and strong as jealousy,
The hairy shoulders rend the links; free are the wrists of fire

The year is 1790. Nine years before Napoleon seizes rule, crowning himself, appropriating the king myth, that is, mythappropriatin’ power. Euro-Zeus restored, the chains go back on Prometheus, rebound, when, nine years later, Bonaparte orders a further extension of the Network 1.0, that is, Claude Chappe’s optical telegraph. A system of linked towers with wooden, mechanical arms----controlled by macro marionettes that worked by pulling levers----to signal others operators in other towers, like referees signaling touchdowns at a football game; like archons pulling the strings for the new code to come. Architectural renderings look like a child’s stick-figure drawing, or, Don Quixote’s demon windmill, or, the Hopi symbol for a religious leader in Oraibi, Arizona, made permanent signal, since after all, it was etched in stone 1,000 years before.

The groundwork for the Web is born with Network 1.0. It’s a military appliance. Britain and Sweden join the race, steal the code, and communications windmills are thread across England and Western Europe, the tenuous membranes of a global communications spider. By 2002, 202 years after 1790, the race is still bein’ run, the Web is still bein’ spun. And unspun. An unnatural order, a thing with its very own mythic nature.

I actually met William Blake, the Romantic Period (later 18th and early 19th-century visionary poet and artist), in cyberspace. Please forgive me, because that statement is, in the true tradition of the poet and painter and apocalyptic freak, against pretty much every known rule of nature. Fuck the rules, I say!

If I was walking down the street, going through your neighborhood, from door-to-door, like some Bible-thumping Jehovah’s Witness, you would, like, have more patience. Duh. But since I believe I met William Blake in cyberspace, and that he and I might in some way be related (even if only in some spiritual or intellectual way), I would likely have a much better chance of getting the boot down the road. So you material control freaks can just fuck off!

Sometimes, yes, often I have wondered: Are he and I genetically linked? We seem to have had an equal antipathy to all organizations of control. I recognized that Urizen was the enemy of the human imagination well before I’d even heard of Blake or Urizen. And not only because of all of the things I underlined, and recognized in myself, from perhaps the best biography of the artist written by Peter Ackroyd: “It is like his memory of being ‘threatened’ with a beating by his father, where the stray remarks of those in authority over him are turned into permanent mementoes of humiliation and fear; and, as a result, he could become very angry indeed … But the reverse side of such sensitivity, and anger, is a kind of obstinacy or extravagant self-confidence …”

And Ackroyd’s use of the terms “Blake’s predisposition toward anxiety” suited me since childhood, too.

But traveling in cyberspace really did me in. After a couple of years of that as senior editor at Access Internet Magazine (which is now deceased), an experience that left me, after thousands of hours of getting paid to surf, well, something broke, that is, my ability to think in a linear way. And then, as I began to understand the World Wide Web, I started to see Blake’s gothic vision unfold before my eyes. I saw Zeus in such archons of control as America Online and Microsoft. I saw centaurs and robot golems and avatars and other mythic figures as living digital beings in the virtual world. I recognized the public outcry for security against spam and hackers as natural as placing gargoyles on your front lawn to ward off the evil deed doers. After I began to understand the medieval nature of video games, it was all over. Urizen rhymed with Verizon, which was sewing up phone lines and airwaves but good. The archons of control were trying to control everything, at war with the pioneers and hackers. It was all Prometheus could do, as “a voice crying out in the wilderness,” sayeth Blake, to vent his rage by throwing electronic e-mail lightning bolts right back up the hill. Or, at least, play the Tragically Hip at top volume while surfing at high speed.

My information fetish, my "Road to Blakeville," all went into hyperdrive with a sweet-as-soda-pop energy drink called Red Bull, a fully patented, fully licensed excuse for an overdose of caffeine in a narrow, pressurized can. It cost seven Horus and went down like an artillery shell loaded for the Big One.

Certainly, the FDA had approved the drink as being safe for democracy. But who knows? How much study had really been done? One of its other powerful ingredients is taurine, which we produce when we need adrenaline. What happens to the electromagnetic bursts of taurine, pulsing in our mushy, data-permeated minds, when you add “Gotu Kola Herb” into a product already built for hypertension?

We already know quite a lot about caffeine. Caffeine is an alkaloid that acts as a mild stimulant. In mild doses, that is. What if you get up in the morning----presuming you have slept at least once in the last 30 days----and order a triple espresso in a dirty paper cup? It's certainly raw enough to seem dangerous. It's black pit stuff, like tobacco spit or industrial waste, a noxious brew so thick and powerful it makes you sweat at the first sip. Unlike your standard-brand, construction worker's coffee blend. With that big flask, once the thermos is finished, you spend the rest of the morning making trips to the latrine. Espresso has very little liquid to dispose of. There is compression. With very little energy wasted on processing. You get more bang for the buck.

In recent years we've tried, but failed, to find a good reason to squelch caffeine fiends. For caffeine abusers, well, we provide more rooms for that now in the form of coffee houses than all of the opium dens of 17th-century China. The drug increases blood pressure, stimulates the central nervous system, ignites a spark plug in the heart and lungs. But the Victorian elements in our society have found no way to suppress the stimulation. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration keeps caffeine off its “generally recognized as safe” list, but acknowledges no clear evidence of hazard at normal levels or use.

But it’s 3:46 a.m. in America and the fiend in you is wondering if you are normal and, perhaps, a victim of a conspiracy. This is the way we are to become more productive. If we can focus, without sleeping, then maybe we can compete with the whole emerging, coffee-producing Third World.

It's 3:47 a.m. in America. Do you know where your muses are? Do they live in the alleyways of innerspace, in whatever is bonding the molecules taurine to make us a fast, better, funnier machine?

The Red Bull tea-of-taurus was advertised at the bar and video game arcade called Bar Code, which is designed to appeal to cyber-geeks with kids in tow. The whole drink was advertised on the menu as a boost to higher cognitive abilities, to clarity, to a more focused, compressed brainstem. Adding value to the potency of Red Bull held the same attraction to me as uploading more RAM or throwing back a vial of some mysterious alchemist’s elixir.

At $2 for a mere medicine dropper of the stuff----much more expensive than most brands of tequila----$7 (or Horus) was enough to get an attractive blond bartender gal to put it on ice and tell you her name. Certainly, such high-end pricing had been targeted for the yuppies and upwardly mobile technophiles sufficiently numbed by their work and off-hours in front of the tube. The barkeep kept her story to herself, but what of technophobes?

Had the hired mass-marketing moguls for Bar Code, a virtual arcade along Times Square, New York, considered what might happen to those oversensitive folks, such as myself, whose absorption rate for the information ran faster than, say, those dogs numbed to anything other than what’s on TV tonight. An informational blitzkrieg that only New York City can provide, for newcomers, even visitors in normal states of mind, tends to lead on to think in mythic, epic, hideously cosmic contexts.

I was quite clearly suffering from the kind over stimulation that only Times Square, New York City, can incite. But I go to New York to gravitate toward the lunar outbound. Out of place. In awe. To be in the center of Times Square is to know how it feels to finally make it to the moon. So much trouble. So much technology. So many bookstores with tattered but cheap versions of Nietzsche that inspire repeated trips to the notebook to explain why Babe Ruth was America’s first uberman superstar:

Walking unlimited miles to whiskey
in the bars near Central Park,
Searching for the living
among the dead: History comes
in threes. It's a very
Roman Catholic thing
and there are as many anti-christs
as the incalculable stars in the sky.

Oh great genie, oh Babe, over the fence man,
a poor boy, but genes set right,
fine-tuned antenna to the natural world--
Big boar Roaring Twenty appetites
scorching Victorian-styled city streets,
humming New Orleans Dixieland rag.

Did he command the universal flux
cavorting with whores along Congo Square?
Did he find his Elvis there?

Black holes subtract starlight
and animal magnetism flirts with flash powder.
Walking into the good Cardinal's
green cathedral
he ignites the musty atmosphere,
slouching toward home plate to be born.

Uttering God's inviolate immaculate
sense of a woman's softest parts,
he penetrates the thin veil masking laws
we believe, tentatively, to exist:
He had the heart
of an anarchist.

Certainly, Babe Ruth was the kind of person who liked taste the Big Apple. To me, the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge is a guilty pleasure. I take it in until I can take no more. If I take pleasure in soaking up knowledge, I most also recognize the dark satanic mills. I begin to think about home.

To know sin and wisdom and every possible thing, eventually, just makes me want head right back to Penn Station. Get outta Dodge in a smoking wake of cigarette butts, flickering neon lights snapped out of sync and saloon girls with their legs in the air. Back to the green and pleasant countryside of New England. Back to Havasupai Canyon. To bird-bath pools made aquamarine and turquoise by rich calcium deposits up canyon, upstream to that mound of ground on the Kaibab Plateau, back to that place the Supai call the “navel of the world.” Where the pure waters start to flow, into a rivet, then a creek, then … Back to Patrick’s Point on the North Coast. Back to my favorite overlook, above the icy cold currents of the Pacific as they crash, in sweet rhythms of moon-mad waves, against black stone and pristine sandy shores. Back to the rural idyll. Back to the Garden. To Woodstock. To your own private Idaho.

Or, lacking that, to the protecting womb of Telluride at 10,000 feet in the San Juan range of Southwestern Colorado, walled off and isolated by 14,000-foot peaks, to where a prophet of another though similar time might write: Great things are done when mountains meet; This is not done by jostling in the street. To avoid every possible avenue, subway or blind dark alley, and seek, through much reflection and analysis, the clear-cut Mythville within.


I’ll give you the benefit of my loss of innocence with this voice from experience: Be fleeting, like fame, in New York. Take a look and get out of there with enough money in your wallet to get home, rest, dream of gravity, with your sanity and sense of time still whole. Sure, go to New York to get in touch with the famous. Feed your ego: eat, EAT! It will feed on you, too. Trust me, it does. You will lose more than you will receive.

New York is like that big full, not-cost-efficient moon. Just as on the moon, once we arrive, we will become dependent on machines to nourish and sustain us. Wouldn’t want to be there without light, electricity, without the systems that schedule everything from the openings and closings of manic stock markets to commuter vendors to the moment, each day, when hot dog vendors arise from bed and their impossible dreams of fast food franchises. The logic of technology is ubiquitous in New York. There is no trend left to wait for in New York. It’s just one big snowball rolling downhill toward your dream of Eden. To crush it. The big, moonish boot of mankind.


Faithfully, I believe we have been to the moon. I have a copy of a newspaper that says so. Why would it lie? Every article in that July 21, 1969 issue has some tie-in to the moon. Even the sports page. That’s so like New York. The overkill, I mean. New York is our national endorsement for ego, hubris, for fully licensed, cross-promotional insanity. In New York, advertising is everything.

New York spams us with everything it knows, and, everything it knows about us. In New York, temptation is everything. The forces of gravitational pull are compressed into advertising, into motivational icons, hanging from the sides of skyscrapers at all angles, as big as your neighborhood grocer, giant grins and girls rivaling----at least in terms of size----the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.

A video game arcade is a bizarre place to run into anything stimulating enough to invoke profound thoughts. Guzzling Gotu Kola, caffeine and taurine in Bar Code, I thought about just who or what, exactly, is running things from the deep and impenetrable layer of myth. What is the reason to despair when the Beast is no longer in hiding. Isn’t that proof that an iron-clad, compassionate cosmos actually gives a shit. More significant clues to what it all means, you would think, might be frustratingly beyond our fingertips down the street at the NASDAQ headquarters, if we could only crunch the right numbers for chaos and (Pie Symbol). Or, more likely, inside some closeted peep show around the corner.

You know, the Underworld. The Overlord. The Demiurge. Urizen. The lesser god within the God. Whatever. Such an entertainment venue, at best, provides furious craving for just one more quarter to blow a demon back to digital hell. But the Big Apple, especially someone who has bitten from the forbidden fruit of knowledge too many times, does have a tendency to push the thinking toward megalomania. Such as when a hot dog vendor dreams of owning a McDonald’s.

Or when the poet dreamer believes William Blake is calling him from his unmarked grave.


I was writing down the words, “Gotu Kola Herb,” so that I would remember downloading----Ok, Ok, drinking----and I thought of that alchemist’s elixir, and gulped it down. My eyes narrowed with a quick compression on the orgy of techno-pagan icons in a multimedia lounge, restaurant and video arcade. The muse amused me and we both laughed together. Funny, this place seemed to be some kind of premeditated Mythappropriation: a marriage of corporate heaven, and, the charismatic Christian’s imminent Big Brother.

The very worst of all anxieties in apocalyptic culture, the fear that an ISBN unique identifier might be stamped on our foreheads, is tamed, fully licensed and packaged for trendy, positivistic commercial concerns. Co-branding is everything. It cools. It soothes the senses. Makes us docile and compliant and repeat customers. Their memetic icons and are implanted on our brains by repetition, via telecommunications entering every known mammalian orifice. Convergence is a well-supported attack of chess pieces, mate: Game over. Insert another quarter to return, again, to Mythville.

I drank another slug, took a long drag on a cigarette, and considered myself inoculated for the Brave New Databasing to come. To my back were rows of video arcade games. In front, the bar, the waitress in her Bar Coded uniform. She dispensed brain-enhancing fluids beneath a horizontal wall panel simultaneous video displays that streamed pulsing, chimerical patterns of color in tight syncopation with familiar pop music. Nothing new in particular, but the blue light of a roaming overhead projector, which produced circular blue patterns on the bar’s counter to imitate the roving eye of a bar code scanner----now, that was new. Involuntary invasions of personal information harvesting as a source for happy-hour amusement. Even if it was faked up by some graphic art school geek, now that was an inspired idea.

Next, the poet William Blake reached out and spammed me. From two centuries of stony sleep he arrived, right when I needed him.
On the wall-hanging were the following words, “What is now proved was once only imagined.” Bar Code had appropriated the line (Napsterized it, even, since there was no attribution) from “The Marriage of Heaven and Hell.” What it hadn’t appropriated, but should have, from the same passage, was this: “The path of excess leads to the Palace of Wisdom.”


Here’s a little mystery worth revealing to those still reading.

The code is embedded in the lines of Blake’s “Jerusalem”:

“And did those feet in ancient time
Walk upon England’s mountains green?
And was the holy Lamb of God
On England’s pleasant pastures seen.”

Now, after this, you need to do your own homework. Clues include the old Holy Grail legends, and most certainly, run a search on “Rex Deus.” And ask yourself, and certainly get your Catholic priest to confess: Did Jesus really die on the cross. Or did he, as the Knight’s of Templar believed, escape?

And if he did escape, where did he go?


Shortly after the first time I signed off to Mon Amis as "William Blake in Cyberspace" in the fall of 2000, the mission was begun. I would become a self-publishing multimedia event. My life would become a performance.

The first general idea went along the lines of a compact disc that would serve as a hyperlinked novel. Then, after I left Access and moved to Telluride, Colorado, it became a radio satire for the NPR affiliate there. “William Blake in Cyberspace” became such a personal phenomenon a local coffee house let me write little messages on its blackboard early in the morning. Chalk became my low-tech lightning sword.

I would write: “The road to Mythville leads to the Palace of wisdom.”

I would wake up, chalk up: “Fear nothing, and nothingness will run.”

My own private proverb of hell would explain, in dusty white signs: “Although it may not be apparent, everything is in order.”

And then, my favorite, inspired by Emanuel Swedenborg, who inspired William Blake, was used to end the radio satire: “The real question isn’t how to turn lead into gold, but how to turn our gold into soul.”

The following was used in “William Blake in Cyberspace,” too: “Can you see the trees behind the trees, the sun behind the sun?”


The year is 1790, seven years before The Encylopedia Britannica, still unplugged, observes: “The capitols of distant nations might be united by chains of posts, and the settling of those disputes which at present take up months or years might be accomplished in as many hours.”

The year is 1790, which means it will be 16 years before Mary Shelley will get to writing chapter four of Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus. Eighteen years before Mary Shelley went to work that day, Blake was already be well on the way to completing his groundbreaking new technology in convergent media, an “illuminated book” for two tracts, “All Religions Are One” and “There is No Natural Religion.” The first begins with the line, “The voice of one crying in the wilderness,” and then, stating his argument, observes: “As the true method of knowledge is experiment the true method of knowing must be the faculty which experiences.”

The latter poem, “All Religions Are One,” in which the artist attempts to explain the embracing of both good and evil, Blake looks as far back as Heracleitus, an ancient Greek philosopher who 1,800 years before decided pretty much the same thing, that everything is interrelated, and that the reason we suffer is because we live the false dream of failing to comprehend the logos. Whenever we see the connection between the opposites, sayeth Heracleitus, that world order is “an ever-living fire kindling in measures and being extinguished in measures.” Then, we are walking in the real.

Just like William Blake, the Greek philosopher was extraordinarily unpopular, at least considering his intellectual gifts. All the same, 1,800 years later, Blake could even appreciate that the publishing world that resisted him, the rational minds of his days, the logic choppers out there preaching the new material regime of man, the mechanical God, well, all of that was working counter-intuitive wonders with his creativity. He even had compassion for his oppressor, writing in his tract in 1788, “The bounded is loathed by its oppressor. The same dull round even of a universe would soon become a mill with complicated wheels.”

A mill with complicated wheels, indeed. A snow ball rolling down the hill.


Eventually, things Blake sorta died for me in Telluride. I fell back into a kind of sleepy daydream. Which was actually good. Such points of mindless rest are the best of what an isolated town like Telluride could offer.

But one guy, Cal Rhodes, a crazed vagabond, would never let me forget it. “William Blake,” he’d say, every time he’d see me. He wanted to syndicate his odd comedies online. Which he has done at Finally, before I left Telluride to return to Boston last August, he talked me into doing a photo shoot. I really had no idea what his concept was for his toons. But now I know.


Fifty four years down the road from Blake’s productive day in 1790, the first Samuel Morse telegraph line is complete, and the first message from the Supreme Court in Washington D.C., via the first halfway decent bandwidth, to Baltimore, is this: “What hath God Wrought.”

One-hundred and thirty years after William Blake’s productive day, a new convergent form of text set to flickering light would release a string of surreal worlds within worlds, self-contained mysterious gothic works with titles like “Metropolis,” “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari,” and another about a child-man with bolts in his neck.

But the year is 1790. Those Luddite films have yet to be imagined. That’s 114 years before the outbreak of World War I, when Promethean links fail to send the signal to return the troop trains loaded with a subsequently doomed generation. They would never get to see the new century, the New Deal, or drink the New Coca-Cola. Certainly, Red Bull, as a refreshing and energizing drink, was beyond all physical possibilities, and “Batman” was just a dream that had yet to be dreamed. Stealth bombers, which look like flying Batmobiles … forget it.

The fodder for machine guns to come in World War One would never see their grandchildren raise the New World Order. Nor join in on the hype that an upgraded Network 3.0----the World Wide Web----would really, really make peace possible via mutually co-dependent cyborg-servants via e-commerce. We could even avoid the use of a carpet bombing a nation to “send a strong message” to its leader when a simple diplomatic message, delivered by e-mail, might do. The doomed troops on the World War I trains won’t have grandchildren who get a voice, a vote or an e-mail address in the merging of the nations into One in cyberspace.

But they may have understood the promise (made at about the time many of the inbred nobles who sent them to doom were born, whose own ancestors dodged the guillotine during the French Revolution) of a poem called “Victory,” a 1872 tribute (that is, 80 years after Blake, who was then lifting his head from a dream about his dead brother) to Samuel Morse, the spidery Web (Network 1.2) was celebrated with the words:

We are one! Said the nations, and hand met hand,
in a thrill electric from land to land.
…and Science proclaimed, from shore to shore,
That Time and Space rules man no more

Blake would have blanched at such tripe. The doomed of World War One would have no impact on the creation of the World Wide Web, fashioned as a marriage of heaven and hell in cyberspace, exactly 200 years after William Blake published the words, “What’s now proved was once only imagined.” They would never log in at The Well, salon of neo-masons on acid, code-slingers and hackers and digerati connected to the Whole Earth Catalog, high on the wholeness, the ying and yang of interconnectivity like a Parisian salon for enlightenment, electrified by hyperlinks: Annuit Coeptus, our enterprise will prevail.

The year is 1794, and William Blake is ever-so-painfully etching his “Proverbs of Hell” with the words: “The wrath of the lion is the wisdom of God.” That’s done now, and Blake sighs, making certain the watercolor paint is dry on the plate with the following words, “The road of excess leads to the Palace of Wisdom.” He throws it on the pile 13 years before Mary Shelley will start writing chapter four of Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus, and so on. Another “illuminated book” is done for William Blake, the first convergent self-publishing empire in the post-revolutionary world.

He would, of course, as an innovator in his time, be virtually forgotten by the time he died.


Sept. 11 came and went, and suddenly, I wanted to finish every idea I ever had, quick, before the anthrax came in the U.S. mail. “William Blake in Cyberspace” was up and running again, this time a play, possibly, with a dream of Broadway (still standing, last time checked). The working title is, “The Marriage of Heaven and Hal.” The latter name more or less inspired by the run amok computer in “2001 Space Odyssey.”


William Blake had a revelation when death was an intimate companion all around him. The vision was a gift confirming his coming of age, at 30, when the Christ meme had come out of nowhere, from out of the forgotten years. Imagine coming unhinged when your father had just died, and then, your younger brother. The old quick-copy shop was never the same. The small printing establishment in London for commercial art is now lonely and quite unsatisfactory.

Imagine, in the 1780s you could still have visions----as a child----and not be regarded as a loon. As an adult spouting weird arcane imagery through poetry was acceptable, too, but the world was changing. The enlightened man of science knew better, knew that knowledge would cast out the myths and superstitions. Beyond sitting still for a Blake performance at the home of a radical bookseller, any rational mind can get increasingly impatient with such tomfoolery.

But now this man, this eccentric hopeless (yes, gifted) brayer of fanciful romantic words, who claimed in his youth to see angels in a tree and the prophet Ezekial in a field, well … it was getting harder and harder for an avowed deist to even imagine what, exactly, an Ezekial might look like, and how he might be subsumed in the world to come. After all, it gets harder and harder to find a suitable cave in the wilderness to crawl into, and we’re all losing our taste for locust.

But what was this now, this crazy idea: It would never sell. Certainly not enough to make a respectable living. And the trouble and toil. For a few shillings or 10 guinea, tops. Dear, dear. What a madman! That’s what happens for want of a sympathetic publisher. What would he call it sometimes, his “illuminated printing”? Illuminated, as in light?

Indeed, the affront, no, an ethereal attack, on the bounds of decency and common sense. Hanging out with his Jacobite degenerate Freemason pals too long in the night. And he quarrels with that lot, too. He who is not of this world. Damned hard as it is to try to embrace both good and evil at once, it’s even harder to live with someone who tries. Just too much!

He claimed his dear dead brother had come to him in his sleep and provided the full details for a method of engraving text and illustrations together. A Job of self-fulfilling torments, a Jesus of Nazareth at the marketplace as a bull in the china shop, just asking for it. Sometimes, he claimed to be a direct descendant of Joseph of Arimathea. The clown!

Brother Robert’s soul. Rising. Joyfully … Right after a pretty mundane chat about relief etching, monochrome prints from an engraved plate, all painted up as if the Renaissance were still with us? Get real. As if the things of the other world really worked through the material? A believer in ghosts?

Get a job.


Part of my play, “The Marriage of Heaven and Hal,” is also influenced by Christopher Marlowe, who influenced William Shakespeare, and then, was assassinated by the English church authorities, I suspect, for his play, “Dr. Faustus.” The good doctor, a great Promethean character, was tempted by the devil with, what, the World Wide Web. That is, the ability to click through the Baphomet head (a Knight’s of Templar reference (giggle, giggle)), thus surfing his way through the ethosphere, into the courts of kings and other people’s lives. A real spammer.

The concept behind the play was this: William Blake was the first man to be, literally, e-mailed through cyberspace, “from the end of the world to your town.”

I haven’t decided if it will end badly. Got other issues these days.


Instead, look back on what we can learn from the Revolutionary Era of 200 years ago, when the poet and artist William Blake, perhaps the prototype self-publisher, self-empowered himself like an Eddie Vedder with a new Web site for MP3s----or better yet, Stephen King with an experimental e-offering of mutual how-to-do-it-hood.

The year is 1790 and the visionary poet’s first multimedia device is also built on a revolutionary new, if somewhat sluggish content delivery system, the “illuminated manuscript,” starting with “Songs of Innocence and Experience” and then “The Marriage of Heaven and Hell,” two works that resonate with a creative sheen that breaks down the toughest firewall of all, time, as in breaking the bonds of the distant past with an idea that had been, in its time, far ahead of its time.

Admittedly, with Blake’s arduous technique of printing and engraving, he could only produce at a painstaking rate, far slower than an ever evolving might find to be acceptable before it determined a need for a new business platform, to be followed by a series of press releases to participating authors who were told there work didn’t fit the new model.

But he could produce it all in his own print shop, distribute it as far as he could mail, ship, by boat or buggy, or, lacking wagon wheels or a mighty steed, he could carry his self-published product as far as his two feet could take him. He would sell them for very little, usually just a few shillings. But at least derived all of the proceeds of the sale. By eliminating the middleman, he could conduct his imaginative campaign against the enemy of the poetic imagination, Urizen, exclusively, as an attempt to overcome the mortal tether of time and earthly gravity.

There was no cut for the agent, no intermediaries of any kind. Since his technique and artistry was a idiosyncratic concoction of pre-existent myths and cosmic metaphors, all transmuted into gold by the very genius of a uniquely gifted imaginator who could paint like a master painter who could also match wits with Dante, Milton and Shakespeare, copyright theft was hardly an issue. In fact, even at his most recognized point during his life, he was a cult phenom at best.

Sure, he could have used the benefit of a little free-form viral marketing techniche. All the same, Blake is now regarded as one of the greatest artists of this or any day. Find him at the local museum, or at your local bookstore, where he is frequently repackaged and resold as a prophet for his time and, perhaps, all time remaining.


One might wonder if it does a person’s lingering spirit well to live beyond the grave. Those limited edition “illuminated” works now are regarded among the world great art treasures. If the Age of Reason, followed by the Industrial Revolution, followed by Network versions 1.0 on ad infinitum, sheds even the darkest mysteries of the NSA into the banality of daylight, then one might wonder how, exactly, this prophet of the superiority of the imagination over the “organs of perception” could summon the persistence of bandwidth to become an anonymous post in Times Square, New York, right on the wall of Bar Code, a somewhat cyber-hip video game spot, 206 years after that single productive day at the copy shop.

Just what is it about “The Marriage of Heaven and Hell” that rings so true as it relates to cyberspace fused, like an unstoppable fungus, to the New World Order?

In the 1790s William Blake’s logos of cosmic myths, his ever expansive, open-ended universe of epic and free-floating bodies impacting the Void, all derived from his imaginative, but quite worldly opposition to the forces of Urizen. Shed of layers of literature and philosophy and suffering by everyone who ever lived to question why, Urizen is the perfect metaphor for mankind’s imposition of order on space, both cyber and dirt real. The spurned and outcast immortal, who fell from the First World onto the second to build everything from pyramids to atom smashers, the Jehovah who gave man fire, the fruit of knowledge, the incessant dissatisfaction and need to hack into the environment, the garden, to supposedly, improve on the nature of things.

To be fruitful and multiply.

Desire, say the Hindu masters, is the source of all suffering. And reason, as well as the accumulating result of that first question, industry, only goes on to spread like a wildfire across the compromised plain. In the process, restricting, caging, suppressing the natural enemies of the human soul, and, devouring the world upon which he depends.


In the “Marriage of Heaven and Hell,” in the appropriated passage at Bar Code from the section called, “Proverbs of Hell,” Blake flames Milton’s Satan of “Paradise Lost” with taut verse reminiscent of the elliptical logic of Jesus on the Mount, creating the voice of bound up imagination, of Los, making the case that up was down, and down was up. It was written in 1793, just as France was in revolt, just as Blake’s mythic being for rebellion, Orc, is loosed upon the world; Shortly after the New Jerusalem across the sea had decided to incorporate and marketeer itself with the name-brand symbolism of the all-seeing Masonic eye. All serve the master, Horus proclaims. We must now be, sayeth that eye in the sky, each of us, a subservient master to corporate reason of the New Age of Man.

The work on the wall at Bar Code was, ironically, the romantic period’s version of “Sympathy for the Devil.” Returned to its proper context and accreditation, the line was an incitement to riot against Urizen. That rebellious figure, the voice from subsumed Hell, was allowed to spin doctor himself this way to the court of poetic opinion:

In seed time learn, in harvest teach, in winter enjoy.
Drive your cart and your plough over the bones of the dead.
The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom.
Prudence is a rich ugly old maid courted by incapacity.
He who desires but acts not breeds pestilence.
The cut worm forgives the plough.
Dip him in the river who loves the water.
A fool sees not the same tree the wise man sees.

And then, a few lines later, an observation rendered strangely appropriate in an age of security states, closed networks, feudal Internet strategies, affiliate deals and pop-up boxes you can’t click out of: All wholesome food is caught without a net or a trap. And then there’s always this: “A cistern contains. A fountain overflows.”

Coo coo cachoo. What do you want your Web to be? C’mon baby, light my fire.


The mad designer for Bar Code couldn’t have of really peppered up the place anymore by “repurposing” more of Satan’s sympathetic Mo’ Better Blues. My response to Bar Code’s iconographic stimuli was similar to the eerie feeling I’d often felt----but had learned to accept almost casually----whenever such synchronicities confirmed themselves as, what shall we call them, the usual suspects? Sayeth Blake, in one of his typical arguments about the limits of techgnosis, as well as global authority and those who cling to any earthly relationship out of fear:

Does the Eagle know what is in the pit?
Or wilt thou go ask the Mole:
Can Wisdom be put in a silver rod?
Or Love in a golden bowl?

I get the same feeling. As one resistant to the imposition of order in my space, be it cyber or dirt real. I live a life of seemingly over-sensitive and morally overwrought opposition to anyone who seeks to limit me, or control me, or clip the wings of my potentially creative leap from this earth. From the micro to the macro, from home, to the Web, to the planet and beyond: You know, that shining moment when our worst subterranean fears appear in the boldfaced type of life, as opposed to hidden between the lines. When we consider such hobgoblins of liberalism as “video violence.” When the mob bosses advertise, as they did in the past decade, that a new Las Vegas was opening with a Darth Vader-styled menace: We are the mob, and We are going national. When we think of how “wicked” or “bad” is turned inside out to mean something positive. When we think of how weird it is that chocolate is marketed as “decadent.” When mass insanity is fully sponsored, licensed, and packaged as commodity. When we feed the facts of our basic identity into America the Database, but only get queasy after the click-through is complete. When we find it curious that Urizen rhymes with Verizon. When I feel like kissing the very barcode applied, oh so fashionably, next to the belly button of TV’s “Dark Angel.”

When I go to the ATM and think of the money tree, plug in my debit card and my four-number code, and then, muse on that line in the Book of Revelations …

When William Blake spams you from cyberspace. And it’s the mask of Satan, smiling. “I must create a system, or be enslaved by another man’s,” Los proclaims in “Jerusalem, A Prophecy.”

“I will not reason or compare; my business is to create.”

Get a job.


The Tarot cards in the Dixie cup were flying in the air. And like Bono, opening the Joshua Tree tour in Phoenix in 1987, I kicked it up, a spray into the sky as the strobes made them sputter and glitter, if for just a brief moment. Geologically speaking, of course. I figure the William Blake in Cyberspace project is pretty much cooked, for now. Things Blake just seem to out of time, not of this world, and so on.

But regardless of that, I will always believe in one of my favorite lines from the play. Hopefully, someday, after I find a way making money doing all of this, it will all make perfect sense. And that line by Blake, "what's now proved was once only imagined," will apply to me.

That statement goes: "The dead, at dusk. You've got to listen. The dead are coming back. They are here again. The dead, they are rising up from the graves ... No, no ... you've got to listen ... The dead, at dusk ..."