Friday, October 21, 2016


British Museum
Small Book of Designs
From Plate 20, Marriage of Heaven and Hell
 There are two ways of living in the material world: one is to be immersed in the phenomena which are perceived by the senses; the other is to 'see' from the perspective of spiritual reality. One condemns man into living in a world of threat and fear. The other engenders a confidence that there is a higher order which transcends the apparent brutality and discomfort represented by Leviathan. In the material world Leviathan has power because man gives him power over his mind and emotions. When man sees that ultimate power resides in the creator not in the destroyer, he repents of his misinterpretation and is released from his preoccupation with a destroying, punishing God.

Job 40
[1] Moreover the LORD answered Job, and said,
[2] Shall he that contendeth with the Almighty instruct him? he that reproveth God, let him answer it.
[3] Then Job answered the LORD, and said,
[4] Behold, I am vile; what shall I answer thee? I will lay mine hand upon my mouth.
[5] Once have I spoken; but I will not answer: yea, twice; but I will proceed no further.
[6] Then answered the LORD unto Job out of the whirlwind, and said,
[7] Gird up thy loins now like a man: I will demand of thee, and declare thou unto me.
[8] Wilt thou also disannul my judgment? wilt thou condemn me, that thou mayest be righteous?
Job 41
[1] Canst thou draw out leviathan with an hook? or his tongue with a cord which thou lettest down?
[2] Canst thou put an hook into his nose? or bore his jaw through with a thorn?
[3] Will he make many supplications unto thee? will he speak soft words unto thee?
[4] Will he make a covenant with thee? wilt thou take him for a servant for ever?
[33] Upon earth there is not his like, who is made without fear.
[34] He beholdeth all high things: he is a king over all the children of pride.
Job 42
[1] Then Job answered the LORD, and said,
[2] I know that thou canst do every thing, and that no thought can be withholden from thee.
[3] Who is he that hideth counsel without knowledge? therefore have I uttered that I understood not; things too wonderful for me, which I knew not.
[4] Hear, I beseech thee, and I will speak: I will demand of thee, and declare thou unto me.
[5] I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth thee.
[6] Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.
[7] And it was so, that after the LORD had spoken these words unto Job, the LORD said to Eliphaz the Temanite, My wrath is kindled against thee, and against thy two friends: for ye have not spoken of me the thing that is right, as my servant Job hath.

Wikipedia Commons
The Spiritual Form of Nelson Guiding Leviathan
However long man gives power to Leviathan he will be enfolded in the wreathings of the great serpent. The power of Leviathan over man is produced by the fears that he himself will be destroyed by the external forces of nature. His fear spreads when he engages in war to eradicate his supposed enemies. In his image of The Spiritual Form of Nelson Guiding Leviathan, Blake pictured the nations of Europe encircled in the coils of Leviathan. Nelson, the British Admiral who in his physical form had defeated the navy of Napoleon at the Battle of Trafalgar, in his spiritual form was distanced from the conflicts which raged around him. Leviathan had no power him. Perhaps Blake was urging Britain to distance herself from the wars engulfing her neighbors. 

We learn more about the nature of Blake's conception of Leviathan in plates 18 and 19 of Marriage of Heaven and Hell. Blake demonstrated that the fear encountered by the Angel and spread to his Devil friend, was of his own making. It was dispelled when he ceased to behold it. The metaphysics of the Angel was that his life and comfort were threatened by the convolutions of the material world. When the Angel withdrew he took with him the image of the world produced by his fears that the Eternal could be overwhelmed by the manifestations in time and space.

Blake conceived that it was the reasoning mind that falsely constructed the metaphysics which supported the power that kept man in the bonds of the selfish fear that he would be consumed by the image which he created. The Fearful Symmetry of Leviathan resembled that of the Tyger. His power to do harm was undeniable, but his energy was only potential. Man's creative energy was the other side of the equation and had more than enough weight to tip the balance in the direction of the Human Form Divine.
Descriptive Catalogue, PAGE 1, (E 530)        
"The spiritual form of Nelson guiding Leviathan, in whose 
wreathings are infolded the Nations of the Earth."  

Marriage of Heaven & Hell, Plate 18, (E 41)
 "By degrees we beheld the infinite Abyss, fiery as the smoke 
of a burning city; beneath us at an immense distance was the sun,
black but shining[;] round it were fiery tracks on which revolv'd
vast spiders, crawling after their prey; which flew or rather
swum in the infinite deep, in the most terrific shapes of animals
sprung from corruption. & the air was full of them, & seemd
composed of them; these are Devils. and are called Powers of the
air, I now asked my companion which was my eternal lot? he said,
between the black & white spiders 
  But now, from between the black & white spiders a cloud and
fire burst and rolled thro the deep blackning all beneath, so
that the nether deep grew black as a sea & rolled with a terrible
noise: beneath us was nothing now to be seen but a black tempest,
till looking east between the clouds & the waves, we saw a
cataract of blood mixed with fire and not many stones throw from
us appeard and sunk again the scaly fold of a monstrous serpent.
at last to the east,distant about three degrees appeard a fiery
crest above the waves slowly it reared like a ridge of golden
rocks till we discoverd two globes of crimson fire. from which
the sea fled away in clouds of smoke, and now we saw, it was the
head of Leviathan. his forehead was divided into streaks of green
& purple like those on a tygers forehead: soon we saw his mouth &
red gills hang just above the raging foam tinging the black deep
with beams of blood, advancing toward [PL 19] us with all the
fury of a spiritual existence.
  My friend the Angel climb'd up from his station into the mill;
I remain'd alone, & then this appearance was no more, but I found
myself sitting on a pleasant bank beside a river by moon light
hearing a harper who sung to the harp. & his theme was, The man
who never alters his opinion is like standing water, & breeds
reptiles of the mind.
  But I arose, and sought for the mill, & there I found my
Angel, who surprised asked me, how I escaped?
  I answerd.  All that we saw was owing to your metaphysics: for
when you ran away, I found myself on a bank by moonlight hearing
a harper, But now we have seen my eternal lot, shall I shew you
Jerusalem, Plate 91, (E 251)
"So Los cried at his Anvil in the horrible darkness weeping!

The Spectre builded stupendous Works, taking the Starry Heavens
Like to a curtain & folding them according to his will
Repeating the Smaragdine Table of Hermes to draw Los down
Into the Indefinite, refusing to believe without demonstration[.]
Los reads the Stars of Albion! the Spectre reads the Voids
Between the Stars; among the arches of Albions Tomb sublime
Rolling the Sea in rocky paths: forming Leviathan
And Behemoth: the War by Sea enormous & the War
By Land astounding: erecting pillars in the deepest Hell,     
To reach the heavenly arches; Los beheld undaunted furious
His heavd Hammer; he swung it round & at one blow,
In unpitying ruin driving down the pyramids of pride
Smiting the Spectre on his Anvil & the integuments of his Eye
And Ear unbinding in dire pain, with many blows,            
Of strict severity self-subduing, & with many tears labouring.

Then he sent forth the Spectre all his pyramids were grains
Of sand & his pillars: dust on the flys wing: & his starry
Heavens; a moth of gold & silver mocking his anxious grasp
Thus Los alterd his Spectre & every Ratio of his Reason       
He alterd time after time, with dire pain & many tears
Till he had completely divided him into a separate space.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016


Wikipedia Commons
Illustrations to Milton's Paradise Regained
Page 11, Christ Ministered to by Angels
Although the Lark carries messages directly between God and man, according to Blake, the Lark is also active in bringing God's message to man through the Twenty Seven Churches. Flawed though they be, they were attempts of God and man to make the unknown known. Spiritual truth carried by the Larks is circulated among the Twenty Seven Churches so that their error may be annihilated and their truth shared. The Seven Eyes of God are provided by the Eternals that man may continue in his search for truth in the churches - the political/religious structures which evolve in history.

One of Blake's illustrations to Milton's Paradise Regained facilitates our understanding of Blake's writings on the subject of the Lark, the Eyes of God, and the Twenty-seven Churches. First we notice the angels who are back to back with their wing tips touching as Blake describes the Larks. They are speaking or singing and playing music on their lyres or harps. Central in the picture is Jesus, not yet glorified by acting as intermediary between man and God. The bread and wine are offered by two additional angels who are not ascending but supporting the vision of Christ which has been given to them. If the Twenty-seven Churches are seen to be represented in the lower part of the picture, we can envision the Lark/Angels ascending and descending with messages which clarify the portion of truth with which successive revelations were entrusted. 

Milton, Plate 13, (E 157) 
"Los walks round the walls night and day.
He views the City of Golgonooza, & its smaller Cities:
The Looms & Mills & Prisons & Work-houses of Og & Anak:
The Amalekite: the Canaanite: the Moabite: the Egyptian:
And all that has existed in the space of six thousand years:
Permanent, & not lost not lost nor vanishd, & every little act,  
Word, work, & wish, that has existed, all remaining still
In those Churches ever consuming & ever building by the Spectres
Of all the inhabitants of Earth wailing to be Created:
Shadowy to those who dwell not in them, meer possibilities:
But to those who enter into them they seem the only substances   
For every thing exists & not one sigh nor smile nor tear,
One hair nor particle of dust, not one can pass away."
Milton, Plate 17 [19], (E 110)
"The Mundane Shell, is a vast Concave Earth: an immense
Hardend shadow of all things upon our Vegetated Earth
Enlarg'd into dimension & deform'd into indefinite space,
In Twenty-seven Heavens and all their Hells; with Chaos
And Ancient Night; & Purgatory. It is a cavernous Earth
Of labyrinthine intricacy, twenty-seven folds of opakeness
And finishes where the lark mounts;
here Milton journeyed
In that Region calld Midian among the Rocks of Horeb
For travellers from Eternity. pass outward to Satans seat,
But travellers to Eternity. pass inward to Golgonooza."

, Plate 32 [35], (E 132)
"Satan & Adam are States Created into Twenty-seven Churches

And thou O Milton art a State about to be Created
Called Eternal Annihilation that none but the Living shall
Dare to enter: & they shall enter triumphant over Death
And Hell & the Grave! States that are not, but ah! Seem to be."

, Plate 35 [39], (E 136]
"Just at the place to where the Lark mounts, is a Crystal Gate
It is the enterance of the First Heaven named Luther
for The Lark is Los's Messenger thro the Twenty-seven Churches
That the Seven Eyes of God who walk even to Satans Seat
Thro all the Twenty-seven Heavens may not slumber nor sleep

But the Larks Nest is at the Gate of Los, at the eastern
Gate of wide Golgonooza & the Lark is Los's Messenger"

Milton, PLATE 36 [40], (E 136)
"When on the highest lift of his light pinions he arrives
At that bright Gate, another Lark meets him & back to back
They touch their pinions tip tip
: and each descend
To their respective Earths & there all night consult with Angels
Of Providence & with the Eyes of God all night in slumbers
Inspired: & at the dawn of day send out another Lark
Into another Heaven to carry news upon his wings

Thus are the Messengers dispatchd till they reach the Earth again
In the East Gate of Golgonooza, & the Twenty-eighth bright
Lark. met the Female Ololon descending into my Garden
Thus it appears to Mortal eyes & those of the Ulro Heavens
But not thus to Immortals, the Lark is a mighty, Angel."

, Plate 37 [41], (E 138)
"And these the names of the Twenty-seven Heavens & their Churches
Adam, Seth, Enos, Cainan, Mahalaleel, Jared, Enoch,
Methuselah, Lamech: these are Giants mighty Hermaphroditic
Noah, Shem, Arphaxad, Cainan the second, Salah, Heber,
Peleg, Reu, Serug, Nahor, Terah, these are the Female-Males
A Male within a Female hid as in an Ark & Curtains,
Abraham, Moses, Solomon, Paul, Constantine, Charlemaine
Luther, these seven are the Male-Females, the Dragon Forms
Religion hid in War, a Dragon red & hidden Harlot

All these are seen in Miltons Shadow who is the Covering Cherub
The Spectre of Albion in which the Spectre of Luvah inhabits
In the Newtonian Voids between the Substances of Creation"

, Plate 35 [39], (E 181)
"Los was the friend of Albion who most lov'd him. In Cambridgeshire
His eternal station, he is the twenty-eighth, & is four-fold."

Thursday, October 13, 2016


Wikipedia Commons Illustrations to Dante's  Divine Comedy
The Inscription over Hell-Gate

Reposted from March 2014.
 Our thoughts, our interests, and our activities either go out in many directions or they become focused on a single point that acts as a magnet drawing everything to it. The point of convergence doesn't prevent one from reaching out to multiple influences but brings those influences together to amplify them around an organizing principle. When we look at Blake's life history we can recognize that his ultimate focus was for the purpose of communicating his perception of the infinite by creating a new art form which he called illuminated books . His original intention could not have been directed to that outcome because neither the means nor the content existed before he invented them.

I've been reading Bob Dylan's Chronicles, Vol 1 searching for similarities between Blake and Dylan. I found that the two men endured many of the same types of experiences and reacted to them in similar ways. The lessons that they learned from experience surfaced in their art. I think that the reason that we are reminded of Blake in Dylan's work is that these two gifted artists shared the same intensity of focus and developed the ability to bring from the depths of their psyches symbolic material.

Dylan presents his development as an artist as pursuing multiple avenues within his chosen field of Folk Music until he discovered his own calling and voice. The intensity with which he followed each style, and the thoroughness with which he mastered the techniques of each of his chosen 'masters' was exhaustive. But imitation was not his goal. With Blake, Dylan could have said:
"I must Create a System, or be enslav'd by another Mans
I will not Reason & Compare: my business is to Create" (Jerusalem


You might say that Blake and Dylan each reached many dead ends in their lives and began anew. In Blake's writings this scenario was described as being thrown into 'the furnace of affliction', or pursuing error until it could be annihilated. Both men annihilated their error by taking from their experience the 'gold' which had been refined and allowing the 'dross' to be consumed in the fire.

The life scrips of Blake and Dylan were different in many ways but they both were fiercely independent. Neither would allow himself to be defined by the majority culture. Each pursued his art as an avenue to open the minds of men to content which lay buried, but could be accessed for the development of humanity. Each was led to the message he would deliver by his single minded willingness to follow the execution of his art in the direction it was leading him. If neither man was able to maintain the pinnacle of creativity he had reached, there is no fault in that.

Quotes from Chronicles, Volume One by Bob Dylan:
Page 115
"All I'd ever done was sing songs that were dead straight and expressed powerful new realities...I had very little in common with and knew even less about a generation I was supposed to be the voice of...Being true to yourself, that was the thing. I was more a cowpuncher than a Pied Piper."

Page 236
"Folk music was a reality of a more brilliant dimension. It exceeded all human understanding, and it called out to you, you could disappear and be sucked into it. I felt right at home in this mystical realm made up not with individuals so much as archetypes, vividly drawn archetypes of humanity, metaphysical in shape, each rugged and filled with natural knowing and inner wisdom. Each demanding a degree of respect. I could believe in the full spectrum of it and sing about it. It was so real, so more true to life than life itself. It was life magnified. Folk music was all I needed to exist." 

Page 292
"The folk music scene had been a paradise I had to leave, like Adam had to leave the garden...The road out there would be treacherous, and I didn't know where it would lead but I followed it anyway. It was a strange world ahead that would unfold, a thunderhead of a world with jagged lightning edges. Many got it wrong and never did get it right. It was wide open. I went straight into it. One thing for sure, not only was it not run by God, but it wasn't run by the devil either." 

Page 218
"I would have liked to give him the kind of songs that he wanted, like "Masters of War," "Hard Rain," "Gates of Eden," but those kinds of songs were written under different circumstances, and circumstances never repeat themselves. Not Exactly. I couldn't get to those kinds of songs for him or anyone else. To do it you have to have power and dominion over the spirits. I had done it once, and once was enough. Someone would come along eventually who would have it again - someone who see into things, the truth of things - not metaphorically, either, but really see, like seeing into metal and making it melt, see it for what it was and reveal it for what it was with the hard words and vicious insight."


 You can find in Chronicles what you are looking for. What I was seeking was some way that Dylan might be connected to William Blake. I never found that Dylan read Blake or was overtly influenced by Blake's work. What I did find was that the cauldrons in which Blake and Dylan immersed themselves led them to experience life and thought is similar ways. The intensity of focus transformed their minds in such a way that the unconscious archetypal realities came to the surface.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016


William Blake's religious position is that God and man are not separated by a chasm which requires bridging. God resides in man, and the life of man is within the Divinity. Just as a magnet exercises its force on iron filings which come into its field of influence causing them to create a pattern, so the Spiritual force draws man to it. Within the magnetic field there is a reciprocal response from the particles within it; each particle attracts the magnet and the other particles within the field. Blake's position is that God and man are in such a reciprocal relationship, influencing one another and responding to each other. In reality there is no isolation of man from man, or man from God.

But the ties which bind the system must be in communication. Blake postulates that the Spiritual Force never rests but is always reaching out to draw together the scattered pieces. Blake uses 'Gates' as an image to suggest that man must be prepared to receive communication. Blake specifies a particular gate through which the communication between man and God passes. This he names the Gate of Los. Furthermore Blake develops a metaphor for the movement of communication or messages which pass through the Gate of Los: messages are carried by 'Larks' from the human perspective or 'Angels' from the divine. 

When Blake illustrated Milton's poem L'Allegro he choose to enhance these four lines with an illustration:
         "To hear the Lark begin his flight
          And singing startle the dull Night
          From his Watch Tower in the Skies
          Till the dappled Dawn does rise"

Blake added this explanatory note to clarify his illustration: 

"The Lark is an Angel on the Wing Dull Night starts from his
Watch Tower on a Cloud.  The Dawn with her dappled Horses arises
above the Earth   The Earth beneath awakes at the Larks Voice"

Wikipedia Commons
Illustrations to Milton's L'Allegro
Night Startled by the Lark
The arrival of the Lark or angel announces an awakening. Night is dispelled with a message to man (or to Earth) which comes in the form of a dawning. Earth has become receptive to communication from the Eternal dimension and has responded by passing the message on to receptive ears.

God's communications to us comes in such a way: an awakening to a possibility which had previously been concealed. Messages from God to man are not rare. Any time man seeks an opening in the surrounding wall he has constructed around himself in order to remain separated, the Lark can find the Gate of Los and arrive with a new dawning. 


Milton, Plate 31 [34], (E 130)
"Thou hearest the Nightingale begin the Song of Spring;
The Lark sitting upon his earthy bed: just as the morn
Appears; listens silent; then springing from the waving Corn-field! loud
He leads the Choir of Day! trill, trill, trill, trill,
Mounting upon the wings of light into the Great Expanse:
Reecchoing against the lovely blue & shining heavenly Shell:
His little throat labours with inspiration; every feather
On throat & breast & wings vibrates with the effluence Divine    
All Nature listens silent to him & the awful Sun
Stands still upon the Mountain looking on this little Bird
With eyes of soft humility, & wonder love & awe.

Then loud from their green covert all the Birds begin their Song
The Thrush, the Linnet & the Goldfinch, Robin & the Wren         
Awake the Sun from his sweet reverie upon the Mountain:
The Nightingale again assays his song, & thro the day,
And thro the night warbles luxuriant; every Bird of Song
Attending his loud harmony with admiration & love.
This is a Vision of the lamentation of Beulah over Ololon!"       

Milton, Plate 35 [39], (E 136)
"Beside the Fount above the Larks nest in Golgonooza
Luvah slept here in death & here is Luvahs empty Tomb
Ololon sat beside this Fountain on the Rock of Odours.           

Just at the place to where the Lark mounts, is a Crystal Gate
It is the enterance of the First Heaven named Luther: for
The Lark is Los's Messenger thro the Twenty-seven Churches
That the Seven Eyes of God who walk even to Satans Seat
Thro all the Twenty-seven Heavens may not slumber nor sleep      

But the Larks Nest is at the Gate of Los, at the eastern
Gate of wide Golgonooza & the Lark is Los's Messenger"

Friday, October 07, 2016


First posted March 2011.

We all reach God in some way, but among those closest to God were several Soldiers of the Cross. These examples all show a long continued inner turmoil and struggle rewarded in due course by that special gift that Eternity offers to the most faithful.

His heart leapt for joy

“Now after I had received that opening from the Lord that to be trained at Oxford or Cambridge was not enough to equip a man to be a minister of Christ, I respected the priests less, and looked more after the dissenting Christians. And among them I saw there was some tenderness, and many of them came afterwards to be convinced, for they had some openings from God. But as I had forsaken all the priests, so I left the separatist Preachers, also, together with those called the most experienced people. For I saw there was no one among them all who could speak to my condition. And when all my hope in them and in all men were gone, so that I had nothing outwardly to help me, nor could I even tell what to do, then, Oh then, I heard a voice which said, “There is one — even Christ Jesus — who can speak to thy condition!” And when I heard it, my heart leapt for joy. Then the Lord showed me why there was no one on the earth who could speak to my condition. The reason was that I was to give him all the glory. For all are concluded under sin, and shut up in unbelief as I had been, so that Jesus Christ might have the pre-eminence, as the one who enlightens, and gives grace, faith and power. So, when God works, who shall prevent it? And I knew this experimentally through my experiences.”"
(From the Journal of George Fox)


The Loss of the Burden in Pilgrims Progress

Blake's Illustrations to Bunyan's Pilgrims Progress

Christian is at the Cross; his burden is cast off (at the lower left of the picture):
"To take my cross up day by day,
And serve the Lord with fear.
Now I saw in my dream, that they went on,
and Great-Heart before them. So they went,
and came to the place where Christian's
burden fell off his back and tumbled into a
sepulchre. Here then they made a pause; and
here also they blessed God."
(from Pilgrim's Progress)


His Heart was strangely warmed

.John Wesley was a super-Christian at Oxford. He demanded rigorous adherence to certain practices, carried out by his disciples; they were called methodists.
Once ordained he went to Georgia to save the heathen, but he came to realize that
he needed salvation himself.

Returning to England there was a terrible storm at sea and everyone quailed with fear for their lives; everyone that is except a group of Moravians who continued in prayer and showed great equanimity.

Back in London Wesley continued to worry about his salvation until, in 1738:
"In the evening I went very unwillingly to a society in Aldersgate Street, where one was reading Luther’s preface to the Epistle to the Romans. About a quarter before nine, while he was describing the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone, for salvation; and an assurance was given me that he had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death."

He was generally considered to be the greatest man in the 18th century and was thought by many to have saved England from Revolution.

The Truchsessian Museum

The Enlightenment of William Blake was on this wise:
"O lovely Felpham, parent of Immortal Friendship, to thee I am eternally
indebted for my three years rest from perturbation and the strength I now
enjoy. Suddenly, on the day after visiting the Truchsessian Gallery of
pictures, I was again enlightened with the light I enjoyed in my youth, and
which has for exactly twenty years been closed from me as by a door and by window-shutters. Consequently I can, with confidence, promise you ocular demonstration of my altered state on the plates I am now engraving after
Romney, whose spiritual aid has not a little conduced to my restoration to
the light of Art." (Erdman 756)
He wrote this in Letter 51 (To William Hayley) 23 October 1804.



".....Albert Schweitzer's biography of J. S. Bach, written in 1905, had also proved an immediate success. At 30 years of age Schweitzer was tall, broad-shouldered, darkly handsome, and a witty charismatic writer, preacher, and lecturer: clearly, a bright future lay before him. However, one spring morning in 1905, he experienced a
stunning religious revelation: it came to him that at some point in the years just ahead he must renounce facile success and devote himself unsparingly to the betterment of mankind's condition.Accordingly, several years later, Schweitzer threw over his several careers as author, lecturer, and organ recitalist and plunged into the study of medicine - his aim being to go to Africa as a medical missionary. He won his medical degree in 1912. The year before, he had married Helene Bresslau, a professor's daughter who had studied nursing in order to work at his side in Africa; in 1919 the couple had a daughter, Rhena.
In 1913 the Schweitzers journeyed to what was then French Equatorial Africa. There, after various setbacks, they founded the Albert Schweitzer Hospital at Lambaréné, on the Ogooué River, "at the edge of the primeval forest." This area now lies within the independent West African republic of Gabon. Funds were scarce and equipment primitive, but native Africans thronged to the site, and in the decades that followed, many thousands were treated." (From Answers.Com)
Magdalene Encounters the Risen Christ

British Musem

Jerusalem, Plate 62, (E 213)
"But I thy Magdalen behold thy Spiritual Risen Body"

Tuesday, October 04, 2016


British Museum                  Small Book of Designs
From Visions of Daughters of Albion
Although Thomas Merton acknowledged that he owed a debt to William Blake, the spiritual paths of the two men deviated dramatically. Ultimately the path of Merton led through Orthodoxy and that of Blake followed the nonconformist route.
On Page 97 of Thomas Merton's autobiography, The Seven Storey Mountain, he made this statement about the role Blake played in his his spiritual development:

"The Providence of God was eventually to use Blake to awaken something of faith and love in my own soul in spite of all the misleading notions, and all the almost infinite possibilities of error that underlie his weird and violent figures. I do not, therefore, want to seem to canonize him. But I have to acknowledge my own debt to him, and the truth which may appear curious to some, although it is really not so: that through Blake I would one day come, in a round-about way, to the only true Church, and to the One Living God, through His Son, Jesus Christ."

Merton was a graduate student at Columbia University deciding on what topic he should write his thesis. He had been introduced to Blake as a young child by his father who was an artist. His mother, who died of cancer after a long illness when Thomas was only six years old, had been a practicing Quaker. The conjunction of art and religion in William Blake may have the motivation leading Merton to select William Blake's philosophy for studying and writing his thesis:
"Nature and Art in William Blake, an Essay in Interpretation."

In his autobiography on page 221-2 Merton wrote:

"The subject I had finally chosen was 'Nature and Art in William Blake.' I did not realize how providential a subject it actually was! What it amounted to, was Blake's reaction to every kind of literalism and naturalism and narrow, classical realism in art, because of his own ideal which was essentially mystical and supernatural. In other words, if I treated it at all sensibly, could not help but cure me of all naturalism and materialism in my own philosophy, besides resolving the inconsistencies and self-contradictions that had persisted in my mind for years, without my being able to explain them."      
"I had learned from my own father that it was almost blasphemy to regard the function of art as merely to reproduce some kind of sensible pleasure or, at best, to stir the emotions to a transitory thrill. I had always understood art as contemplation, and that it involved the highest faculties in man.
When I was once able to discover the key to Blake, in his rebellion against literalism and naturalism in art, I saw that his Prophetic Books and the rest of his verse at large represented a rebellion against naturalism in the moral order as well."
"What he was glorifying was the transfiguration of man's natural love, his natural powers, in the refining fires of mystical experience; and that, in itself, implied an arduous and total purification, by faith and love and desire, from all the petty materialism and commonplace and earthly ideals of his rationalist friends."

At that point in Merton's life he was a crossroads. His reading had led him to Scholasticism, a system of philosophy and theology based on Aristotelian logic for promoting and defending traditional thought. He was drawn to Catholicism to provide the structure both intellectually and morally which he sought for his life. He explored the Catholic religion for the first time in his life and soon adopted it wholeheartedly. The internal discernment of light and truth which Blake advocated and followed was a blind alley for a young man who was eager to place himself under the guidance of traditional Catholicism. Blake's rebellion against natural religion and an art devoted to outer, worldly imagery acted as a catalyst for Merton's spiritual development which turned in another direction. 

Jerusalem, Plate 91, (E 251)
"It is easier to forgive an Enemy than to forgive a Friend:
The man who permits you to injure him, deserves your vengeance:
He also will recieve it; go Spectre! obey my most secret desire:
Which thou knowest without my speaking: Go to these Fiends of Righteousness
Tell them to obey their Humanities, & not pretend Holiness;
When they are murderers: as far as my Hammer & Anvil permit
Go, tell them that the Worship of God, is honouring his gifts
In other men: & loving the greatest men best, each according
To his Genius: which is the Holy Ghost in Man; there is no other
God, than that God who is the intellectual fountain of Humanity; 
He who envies or calumniates: which is murder & cruelty,
Murders the Holy-one: Go tell them this & overthrow their cup,
Their bread, their altar-table, their incense & their oath:
Their marriage & their baptism, their burial & consecration:
I have tried to make friends by corporeal gifts but have only    
Made enemies: I never made friends but by spiritual gifts;
By severe contentions of friendship & the burning fire of thought.
He who would see the Divinity must see him in his Children
One first, in friendship & love; then a Divine Family, & in the midst
Jesus will appear; so he who wishes to see a Vision; a perfect Whole        
Must see it in its Minute Particulars;"

Milton, Plate 38 [43], (E 139)
"but Laws of Eternity
Are not such: know thou: I come to Self Annihilation
Such are the Laws of Eternity that each shall mutually     
Annihilate himself for others good, as I for thee[.]
Thy purpose & the purpose of thy Priests & of thy Churches
Is to impress on men the fear of death; to teach
Trembling & fear, terror, constriction; abject selfishness
Mine is to teach Men to despise death & to go on            
In fearless majesty annihilating Self, laughing to scorn
Thy Laws & terrors, shaking down thy Synagogues as webs
I come to discover before Heavn & Hell the Self righteousness
In all its Hypocritic turpitude, opening to every eye
These wonders of Satans holiness shewing to the Earth     
The Idol Virtues of the Natural Heart, & Satans Seat
Explore in all its Selfish Natural Virtue & put off
In Self annihilation all that is not of God alone:
To put off Self & all I have ever & ever Amen

Satan heard! Coming in a cloud, with trumpets & flaming fire     

Saying I am God the judge of all, the living & the dead
Fall therefore down & worship me. submit thy supreme
Dictate, to my eternal Will & to my dictate bow"

Songs of Innocence and of Experience, Song 44, (E 26) 
The GARDEN of LOVE                   
"I went to the Garden of Love,
And saw what I never had seen:          
A Chapel was built in the midst,        
Where I used to play on the green.

And the gates of this Chapel were shut, 
And Thou shalt not. writ over the door;
So I turn'd to the Garden of Love,      
That so many sweet flowers bore.

And I saw it was filled with graves,
And tomb-stones where flowers should be: 
And Priests in black gowns, were walking their rounds,
And binding with briars, my joys & desires."

Sunday, October 02, 2016

Natural Religion

First posted November 2010.

After the Biblical Fall the Old Testament drama unfolds as a protracted struggle between two Gods. In every age the majority of Mankind have worshipped Mother Earth, Matter or the recurring cycle of vegetative life. She has many names; in the Bible one of the most common is Astarte. In our day "Astarte" exacts an acceptance of things as they are, an attempt to flow with the stream of Nature. The Bible called this "whoring after other gods".

Blake called it Natural Religion or Druidism. He meant by Natural Religion the worship of the principle of fallen life; those most conformed and faithful to it become the rulers of this world. Natural Religion involves choosing to remain at the level of the material, which Blake called vegetative life.

The believer in Natural Religion closes his mind to the reality of spiritual development; he turns his back upon the Spirit. Unable to endure the tension of struggling and waiting for spiritual evolution he erects a golden calf. He either acquiesces in or actively contributes to the brutishness and horror of a life that "lives upon death".

The Bible and Blake's poetry alike are filled with gory images of this ultimate horror, which comes from identifying life with the merely natural. T.S.Eliot said in The Sacred Wood that Blake's poetry is unpleasant, as all great poetry is unpleasant. It is "unpleasant" basically because Blake, like the Bible, insists on calling a spade a spade. Nowhere is Blake closer to the Bible than in his constant reiteration of the ultimate horror of unredeemed life, celebrated in page after page of minute particulars.

Blake and the Bible both insistently remind us that Nature is fallen , and that one flows with this fallen Nature to one's destruction. Abraham and Moses knew a higher God: he was above Nature; he was Spirit. He called men to rise above the natural and to become sons of a God opposed to everything Astarte stood for, to live by the laws, not of earth, but of heaven.

The children of Abraham tried to put this God first, but rarely with notable success. Instead at every opportunity they turned away from Jehovah "under every green tree", back to Nature. This inevitably led back to Captivity in the iron furnaces of Egypt/Babylon/Rome, etc. The biblical cycle discussed above thus relates to the alternating dominance of Jehovah and Astarte. Blake's myth recreates this biblical story, but with one vital difference.

Vala and her fellow females--Tirzah, Rahab, the Daughters of Albion--represent the various forms of Astarte, the Earth Goddess. Urizen represents Jehovah, the Sky God. But in 'The Four Zoas' both are fallen. Blake claims that the Hebrew consciousness of God is flawed at best. Secular materialists had reached this conclusion long before, but it was a startling and revolutionary idea for a man like Blake, embedded in the biblical faith and firmly attached to the life of the Spirit.

Blake had made as serious a commitment to the Eternal as anyone could, and now at the mid point of his life he saw an Eternal without a God worthy of worship. It was a dark night of the soul indeed!

This honest and painful confrontation with what was for Blake an existential reality has made him into the pariah of the orthodox. To them the black book has no place for any criticism of the Hebrew consciousness of God; he is perfect from first to last, and everything the Bible says about him is perfect (inerrant!) as well. The superstitious awe which has been called bibliolatry forbids any questions of Abraham's God or Moses' God.

Although when we read without blinders, we can see their consciousness of God changing before our eyes. Note Abraham bargaining with God for the survival of his nephew in Sodom and Moses simply defying God if he refuses to forgive the worshippers of the golden calf. In the spirit of these two revealing passages Blake in his own recreation of the biblical story dramatically portrayed an evolving God consciousness, which the black book simply cannot permit. It was Blake's willingness to let the old die that made him notably ready for the new birth. The dark night of the soul had intensified until it became the "Sickness unto Death."

(The above taken from Chapter Six of the Blake Primer.)

Yale Center for British Art
Plate 75
Jerusalem, Plate 52, (E 201)
"Every Religion that Preaches
Vengeance for Sins the Religion of the Enemy & Avenger; and not
the Forgiver of Sin, and their God is Satan, Named by the Divine
Name   Your Religion O Deists: Deism, is the Worship of the God
of this World by the means of what you call Natural Religion and
Natural Philosophy, and of Natural Morality or
Self-Righteousness, the Selfish Virtues of the Natural Heart. 
This was the Religion of the Pharisees who murderd Jesus.  Deism
is the same & ends in the same.
  Voltaire Rousseau Gibbon Hume. charge the Spiritually Religious
with Hypocrisy!"

Jerusalem, Plate 73, (E 228)
"Where Luvahs World of Opakeness grew to a period: It
Became a Limit, a Rocky hardness without form & void
Accumulating without end: here Los. who is of the Elohim
Opens the Furnaces of affliction in the Emanation                
Fixing The Sexual into an ever-prolific Generation
Naming the Limit of Opakeness Satan & the Limit of Contraction
Adam, who is Peleg & Joktan: & Esau & Jacob: & Saul & David

Voltaire insinuates that these Limits are the cruel work of God
Mocking the Remover of Limits & the Resurrection of the Dead     
Setting up Kings in wrath: in holiness of Natural Religion
Which Los with his mighty Hammer demolishes time on time
In miracles & wonders in the Four-fold Desart of Albion
Permanently Creating to be in Time Reveald & Demolishd
Satan Cain Tubal Nimrod Pharoh Priam Bladud Belin                
Arthur Alfred the Norman Conqueror Richard John
[Edward Henry Elizabeth James Charles William George]
And all the Kings & Nobles of the Earth & all their Glories
These are Created by Rahab & Tirzah in Ulro: but around

These, to preserve them from Eternal Death Los Creates           
Adam Noah Abraham Moses Samuel David Ezekiel
[Pythagoras Socrates Euripedes Virgil Dante Milton]    t
Dissipating the rocky forms of Death, by his thunderous Hammer
As the Pilgrim passes while the Country permanent remains
So Men pass on: but States remain permanent for ever"       

Wednesday, September 28, 2016


Reformatted from February 26, 2015.

We saw in a previous post that Blake thought Natural Religion an "Impossible absurdity." Something which calls itself religion and limits perception to sensing and reasoning, has misunderstood the meaning of the concept of religion. Without God religion is absurd. In one of Blake's earliest engraved poems he presented his argument that man sees only himself, not God, if he relies of his senses and his reasoning to provide him with a religion.

There is no Natural Religion, (E 2)
  The Author & Printer W Blake 
  The Argument   
Man has no notion of moral
  fitness but from Education.   
Naturally he is only a nat- 
   ural organ subject to Sense.     
 Man cannot naturally Per- 

cieve, but through his natural 
or bodily organs
As a natural man all data from the exterior world comes through the senses.

 Man by his reason- 
ing power. can only 
 compare & judge of 
what he has already 
  Man's reason can only process what it has received

From a perception of 
only 3 senses or 3 ele- 
ments none could de- 
duce a fourth or fifth
  Each sense is limited to its own ability to receive data.

None could have other
 than natural or organic 
thoughts if he had none 
but organic perceptions
  Sense perceptions provide only material which can be processed mechanically.

 Mans desires are 
limited by his percepti
ons. none can de 
-sire what he has not 
  Without the ability to perceive extra-sensory data man is cut off from desire for more.

The desires & percepti- 
ons of man untaught by
 any thing but organs 
of sense, must be limited 
to objects of sense.
  Without desire or additional means of perceptions, man is trapped in a state of 'single vision.'

  Mans percepti- 
ons are not bound- 
ed by organs of 
perception. he per- 
cieves more than 
sense (tho' ever 
so acute) can 
  Man's senses provide limited information. However man has the ability to perceive more than the narrow range which his eyes, ears, nose, mouth and skin can sense.

Reason or the ra-
tio of all we have 
already known. 
is not the same that 
it shall be when
 we know more.
  If we were to depend on reason alone we would not be able to go beyond the limit that reason is able to discern.

[III lacking]  
The bounded is 
 loathed by its pos- 
sessor. The same 
dull round even 
of a univer[s]e would 
soon become a 
mill with complica- 
ted wheels.
  Input from outside of a limited system prevents it from becoming a continual repetition of the same events.

 If the many be-
come the same as 
the few, when pos- 
sess'd, More! More! 
is the cry of a mista 
-ken soul, less than 
All cannot satisfy  
  Continually treading the same ground cannot satisfy man no matter how often it is repeated.

If any could de- 
sire what he is in- 
capable of pos- 
sessing, despair must
be his eternal 
  The desire for more than man can access through his senses and reasoning power would lead to a dead end if he were incapable of perceiving more.

The desire of 
Man being Infi- 
nite the possession 
is Infinite & him- 
self Infinite
  If man is capable of desiring more than his limited faculties provide, he opens himself to achieving a perception of the Infinite through perceiving the Infinite within himself.

 If it were not for the 
Poetic or Prophetic 
character. the Philo- 
sophic & Experimen- 
tal would soon be 
at the ratio of all 
things & stand still,
 unable to do other
 than repeat the same
 dull round over a- gain
  There is a level of perception which is beyond that which is reached by sensing and reasoning. Poetry and Prophecy are expressions which allow man to reach outside of the static repetition of natural patterns.

He who sees the In- 
finite in all things 
sees God. He who 
sees the Ratio only 
sees himself only.
  Unless an individual develops the ability to go beyond depending on his own sense perception and reasoning power, he is trapped within himself. Seeing more than the surface - into the depths - will open the way to seeing the Infinite in all things and God. 

Wikimedia Commons


The presence of God within man provides him with the ability to recognize that Presence. Through that recognition he develops the ability to see as God sees - the Infinite in all things. We are in the process of becoming with God. The whole of creation is an expression of God. As creation recognizes God, God becomes as we are and we as he is. God has chosen to be articulated through his creation. As creation strives to respond to the God which is embodied in it, Man and God become One

 John 17
[20] Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word;
[21] That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.
[22] And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one:
[23] I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me.

Romans 12
[2] And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.

Colossians 1
[15] He is the image of the invisible God, the first-born of all creation;
[16] for in him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or authorities -- all things were created through him and for him.
[17] He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.
[18] He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the first-born from the dead, that in everything he might be pre-eminent.
[19] For in him all the fulness of God was pleased to dwell,
[20] and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.