I have often been asked, when a person learns that I have had more than a reading acquaintance with Henry Miller, why Mr. Miller uses such language and describes such scenes. I have always wanted to quote in reply a passage which I seem never to be able to quote verbatim but which I now take this opportunity of copying out word for word from William Blake's The Marriage of Heaven and Hell:
I then asked Ezekial why he eat dung, & lay so long on his right & left side? he answer'd, "the desire of raising other men into a perception of the infinite: this the North American tribes practice, & is he honest who resists his genius or conscience only for the sake of present ease or gratification?"
If I could quote this to my questioner, and if he did not laugh me down but was interested in knowing more about why I think Mr. Miller has chosen to write in such a socially unacceptable way, I would say that William Blake has written down the answer for all time in that same part of The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, and that I believe that Miller, like Blake, is to be considered as a cherub:
For the cherub with his flaming sword is hereby commanded to leave his guard at three of life; and when he does, the whole creation will be consumed and appear infinite and holy, whereas it now appears finite & corrupt.
This will come to pass by an improvement of sensual enjoyment.
But first the notion that man has a body distinct from his soul is to be expunged; this I shall do by printing in the infernal method, by corrosives, which in Hell are salutary and medicinal, melting apparent surfaces away, and displaying the infinite which was hid.
If the doors of perception were cleansed everything would appear to man as it is, infinite.
For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things thro' narrow chinks of his cavern.
Level of Degree
First Committee Member (Chair)
Cecil Vivian Wicker
Second Committee Member
Dane Farnsworth Smith
Third Committee Member
Neiman, Gilbert. "Henry Miller: A Semi-Critical Approach." (1959). https://digitalrepository.unm.edu/engl_etds/252