Monday, June 18, 2018


Wikimedia Commons
Copy C, Plate 50
There is cause for rejoicing. The days of preparation are complete but Milton ends with work still to be done. Seeds have been planted and watered. The wheat and grapes have flourished in the summer heat. The harvesting is yet to be.
The masculine and feminine aspects of Milton unite to form an undivided human. Milton's Shadow or his Selfhood, had accepted annihilation preparing him to assimilate Ololon, his feminine portion. Ololon relinquished her Eternal form to become the human from that carries life. If we push this imagery further we might say that the spirit of Milton has cleansed itself of error and Ololon has accepted her role as Milton's contrary. Ololon had become Body to Milton's Soul and vice versa. This implies that Milton/Ololon together represent incarnation.

In the final image Ololon spreads the garment dipped in blood about her body. Milton is present in the vegetating stalks of wheat. Together they appear as 'The Bread of sweet Thought & the Wine of Delight' - the body and blood of Christ.

Matthew 26
[26] And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body.
[27] And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it;
[28] For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.
[29] But I say unto you, I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father's kingdom.

W. J. T. Mitchell contributed a chapter named Blake's Radical Comedy to the book Blake's Sublime Allegory, edited by Stuart Curran & Joseph Anthony Wittreich, Jr., On page 305 he wrote: 

"The meeting of Milton and Ololon, then is simultaneously a revelation of the archetypal errors of masculine and feminine consciousness and a redemption of those errors. ... [T]he courage required for self-annihilation is not in itself sufficient to redeem either the self or the world. Milton's act would remain within the fruitless cycle of creation and destruction which continues to trap the male imagination, even after his descent, if it were not for Ololon's response, her renewal of life to balance his descent to death. Ololon's final transformation into an ark and a dove, the bearer and messenger of life amidst the annihilating flood, occurs when she casts off her false femininity... [S]he sees that the stereotypes ruling the behavior of both sexes are the basis for the vicious cycle which entraps the best efforts of Milton and the Sons of Los, and these roles must be annihilated and recreated as human relationships before the cycle can be broken and transormed into the fruitful, liberating dialectic of contraries." 
Milton, Plate 42 [49], (E 143)
"Immediately the Lark mounted with a loud trill from Felphams Vale
And the Wild Thyme from Wimbletons green & impurpled Hills       

And Los & Enitharmon rose over the Hills of Surrey
Their clouds roll over London with a south wind, soft Oothoon
Pants in the Vales of Lambeth weeping oer her Human Harvest
Los listens to the Cry of the Poor Man: his Cloud
Over London in volume terrific, low bended in anger.             

Rintrah & Palamabron view the Human Harvest beneath 
Their Wine-presses & Barns stand open; the Ovens are prepar'd 
The Waggons ready: terrific Lions & Tygers sport & play 
All Animals upon the Earth, are prepard in all their strength

PLATE 43 [50]         
To go forth to the Great Harvest & Vintage of the Nations
Letters, (E 709)
    "You stand in the village & look up to heaven
     The precious stones glitter on flights seventy seven
     And My Brother is there & My Friend & Thine
     Descend & Ascend with the Bread & the Wine

     The Bread of sweet Thought & the Wine of Delight
     Feeds the Village of Felpham by day & by night"

Matthew 13
[27] So the servants of the householder came and said unto him, Sir, didst not thou sow good seed in thy field? from whence then hath it tares?
[28] He said unto them, An enemy hath done this. The servants said unto him, Wilt thou then that we go and gather them up?
[29] But he said, Nay; lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them.
[30] Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn.
[37] He answered and said unto them, He that soweth the good seed is the Son of man;
[38] The field is the world; the good seed are the children of the kingdom; but the tares are the children of the wicked one;
[39] The enemy that sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the world; and the reapers are the angels.
[40] As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire; so shall it be in the end of this world.
[41] The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity;
[42] And shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth.
[43] Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Who hath ears to hear, let him hear.

Saturday, June 16, 2018


New York Public Library
Copy C, Plate 45

The culmination of Blake's myth of regeneration was the bringing together of the broken parts. Under the domination of the Fall from Eternity divisions were created. Through the loss of relationship of the individual parts, they evolved into selfish parts jealous of the roles which were allocated to other parts. At the end of Milton various pieces confront their errors and become capable of fitting themselves together with the piece to which they were meant to be conjoined. Even the most fallen pieces can be redeemed if they are matched with their missing counterpart.

So it was that the Virgin form of Ololon found the Shadow of Milton. Together they portend a new beginning as was made by the ark of Noah which preserved a remnant. When the waters of materiality overwhelmed the dry land of a state of diffused consciousness, a detente was reached allowing the two to exist within limits. A means of moving forward was provided when the contrary states admitted the validity of the other.

Jesus entered the world not to be redeemed but to be the vehicle for redemption. He took on the garment of human life in order to walk upon the earth and enter into man by partaking of human experience. Blake reported that in the vision he was receiving, he heard and felt the total impact of Jesus entering 'Albions Bosom, the bosom of death.' The experience knocked him off his feet and he was left lying on his garden path, but ready for the new life he was entering.

Milton Plate 42 [49], (E 143)
"So saying, the Virgin divided Six-fold & with a shriek
Dolorous that ran thro all Creation a Double Six-fold Wonder!
Away from Ololon she divided & fled into the depths             
Of Miltons Shadow as a Dove upon the stormy Sea.

Then as a Moony Ark Ololon descended to Felphams Vale
In clouds of blood, in streams of gore, with dreadful thunderings
Into the Fires of Intellect that rejoic'd in Felphams Vale
Around the Starry Eight: with one accord the Starry Eight became
One Man Jesus the Saviour. wonderful! round his limbs
The Clouds of Ololon folded as a Garment dipped in blood

Written within & without in woven letters: & the Writing
Is the Divine Revelation in the Litteral expression:
A Garment of War, I heard it namd the Woof of Six Thousand Years

And I beheld the Twenty-four Cities of Albion
Arise upon their Thrones to Judge the Nations of the Earth
And the Immortal Four in whom the Twenty-four appear Four-fold
Arose around Albions body: Jesus wept & walked forth
From Felphams Vale clothed in Clouds of blood, to enter into    
Albions Bosom, the bosom of death
& the Four surrounded him
In the Column of Fire in Felphams Vale; then to their mouths the Four
Applied their Four Trumpets & them sounded to the Four winds

Terror struck in the Vale I stood at that immortal sound
My bones trembled. I fell outstretchd upon the path             
A moment, & my Soul returnd into its mortal state

To Resurrection & Judgment in the Vegetable Body
And my sweet Shadow of Delight stood trembling by my side"

Tuesday, June 12, 2018


New York Public Library

Plate 43
Blake continued to work out the process of annihilation on plate 41. The implication was that when the contraries have been reconciled there was still a residue of false reasoning which must be removed. A process of shedding the masks which obscure the Face of the Spirit must be undergone by casting off layers of error through  bathing in the Waters of Life.

The virgin form of Ololon was a false representation of her true nature. As Milton's contrary she was a woman and a wife not an innocent child who has not not endured the suffering of experience. Ololon saw that the virgin form in her could not endure the contentions of eternity. To truly be Milton's emanation, his contrary, she must go with him to Eternal Death - that is to annihilation.
When Milton and Ololon together enter the void outside of existence they find that they have entered the womb which is the Death Couch of Albion. Blake is bringing together all that has been dispersed into the one Body: Albion who is the total humanity.

The womb is a place of preparation, of building a new being from the potential which has found a home in it. Regeneration takes place in the womb, but not before Generation is 'swallowed up.' The 'Sexual Garment' must be surrendered before the 'Human Powers' evolve. 
Milton, Plate 40 [46], (E 142)
"That the Children of Jerusalem may be saved from slavery
there is a Negation, & there is a Contrary
The Negation must be destroyd to redeem the Contraries
The Negation is the Spectre; the Reasoning Power in Man
This is a false Body: an Incrustation over my Immortal           
Spirit; a Selfhood, which must be put off & annihilated alway
To cleanse the Face of my Spirit by Self-examination.
Plate 41 [48]
To bathe in the Waters of Life; to wash off the Not Human
I come in Self-annihilation & the grandeur of Inspiration
To cast off Rational Demonstration by Faith in the Saviour
To cast off the rotten rags of Memory by Inspiration
To cast off Bacon, Locke & Newton from Albions covering          
To take off his filthy garments, & clothe him with Imagination
To cast aside from Poetry, all that is not Inspiration
That it no longer shall dare to mock with the aspersion of Madness
Cast on the Inspired, by the tame high finisher of paltry Blots,
Indefinite, or paltry Rhymes; or paltry Harmonies.               
Who creeps into State Government like a catterpiller to destroy
To cast off the idiot Questioner who is always questioning,
But never capable of answering; who sits with a sly grin
Silent plotting when to question, like a thief in a cave;
Who publishes doubt & calls it knowledge; whose Science is Despair   
Whose pretence to knowledge is Envy, whose whole Science is
To destroy the wisdom of ages to gratify ravenous Envy;
That rages round him like a Wolf day & night without rest
He smiles with condescension; he talks of Benevolence & Virtue
And those who act with Benevolence & Virtue, they murder time on time
These are the destroyers of Jerusalem, these are the murderers
Of Jesus, who deny the Faith & mock at Eternal Life:
Who pretend to Poetry that they may destroy Imagination;
By imitation of Natures Images drawn from Remembrance
These are the Sexual Garments, the Abomination of Desolation
Hiding the Human lineaments as with an Ark & Curtains
Which Jesus rent: & now shall wholly purge away with Fire
Till Generation is swallowd up in Regeneration.

Then trembled the Virgin Ololon & replyd in clouds of despair

Is this our Feminine Portion the Six-fold Miltonic Female      
Terribly this Portion trembles before thee O awful Man
Altho' our Human Power can sustain the severe contentions
Of Friendship, our Sexual cannot: but flies into the Ulro.
Hence arose all our terrors in Eternity! & now remembrance
Returns upon us! are we Contraries O Milton, Thou & I            
O Immortal! how were we led to War the Wars of Death
Is this the Void Outside of Existence, which if enterd into
Plate 42 [49]             
Becomes a Womb? & is this the Death Couch of Albion
Thou goest to Eternal Death & all must go with thee."

Jerusalem, Plate 1, (E 144)
[Above the archway:]

"There is a Void, outside of Existence, which if enterd into
Englobes itself & becomes a Womb, such was Albions Couch
A pleasant Shadow of Repose calld Albions lovely Land

His Sublime & Pathos become Two Rocks fixd in the Earth
His Reason his Spectrous Power, covers them above                
Jerusalem his Emanation is a Stone laying beneath
O [Albion behold Pitying] behold the Vision of Albion" 

John 17
[9] I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine.
[10] And all mine are thine, and thine are mine; and I am glorified in them.
[11] And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are.
[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.

Saturday, June 09, 2018


British Museum
Copy A, Plate 41
This short section from Critical Essays on William Blake, edited by Hazard Adams, in the Afterword by Hazard Adams, prepares the way for reading about annihilation on Plate 39, of Milton.  

"Blake's world-view, therefore, can be characterized as symbolical, though symbolizing nothing existent (that would be allegory in his language), but what is yet to exist, desirable both individually and socially. This symbolized does not exist somewhere like Platonic form or idea. Blake's symbols do not have objects to which they refer or previous ideas which they signify. They are radical possibilities in themselves, without attachment to things in themselves. In this sense, Blake's world-view is not view but is itself a sort of world, a world of language and design which does not copy nature, he declares, but projects a 'vision.'" (Page 196)

In this critical passage from Milton we can recognize Blake's method of building a symbolic image through a process which is beyond description. Blake brings together elements which have been formulated through events which have occurred in varied settings among interrelated mental aspects. There is no attempt to define entities or specify processes. We are not asked to follow events in time or recall events in space. We are asked to experience in ourselves eternity being expressed.

Annihilation is not a process we should attempt to avoid. But, because it does not take place without a struggle, it is not entered into lightly. It is not foreknown what will be annihilated when one consents to annihilation. Blake's Milton struggled to reassemble his mental structure, his self-perception, the identity around which his Zoas were ordered. His emanation, Ololon, observed the process until she realized that she must be involved. If Milton eliminated the errors in his perception, the outward manifestation of those perceptions would be eliminated as well. Natural Religion could not survive without the thought patterns which gave it form. But if the expressions of Natural Religion were allowed to survive, the process which had been so painfully achieved would fail to achieve its goal.

Blake struggled to present his vision in such a way that it could penetrate the human psyche. He took as his example the ministry of Jesus whose vision was beyond the psychic development of his followers. Blake was aware that those who followed Jesus did not produce the transformed humanity which Jesus attempted to introduce. The failure was not of Vision but was an inability to transcend the attachment to habitual ways of acting. Blake knew that annihilation was not complete until it resulted in the destruction of outer forms as well as inner attitudes. 

Milton, Plate 39 [44], (E 141)
"Urizen faints in terror striving among the Brooks of Arnon
With Miltons Spirit: as the Plowman or Artificer or Shepherd
While in the labours of his Calling sends his Thought abroad 
To labour in the ocean or in the starry heaven. So Milton
Labourd in Chasms of the Mundane Shell, tho here before
My Cottage midst the Starry Seven, where the Virgin Ololon
Stood trembling in the Porch: loud Satan thunderd on the stormy Sea
Circling Albions Cliffs in which the Four-fold World resides     
Tho seen in fallacy outside: a fallacy of Satans Churches
Plate 40[46]
Before Ololon Milton stood & percievd the Eternal Form
Of that mild Vision; wondrous were their acts by me unknown
Except remotely; and I heard Ololon say to Milton

I see thee strive upon the Brooks of Arnon. there a dread
And awful Man I see, oercoverd with the mantle of years.   
I behold Los & Urizen. I behold Orc & Tharmas;
The Four Zoa's of Albion & thy Spirit with them striving
In Self annihilation giving thy life to thy enemies
Are those who contemn Religion & seek to annihilate it
Become in their Feminine portions the causes & promoters       
Of these Religions, how is this thing? this Newtonian Phantasm
This Voltaire & Rousseau: this Hume & Gibbon & Bolingbroke
This Natural Religion! this impossible absurdity
Is Ololon the cause of this? O where shall I hide my face
These tears fall for the little-ones: the Children of Jerusalem  
Lest they be annihilated in thy annihilation.

No sooner she had spoke but Rahab Babylon appeard
Eastward upon the Paved work across Europe & Asia
Glorious as the midday Sun in Satans bosom glowing:
A Female hidden in a Male, Religion hidden in War          
Namd Moral Virtue; cruel two-fold Monster shining bright
A Dragon red & hidden Harlot which John in Patmos saw

And all beneath the Nations innumerable of Ulro
Appeard, the Seven Kingdoms of Canaan & Five Baalim
Of Philistea. into Twelve divided, calld after the Names      
Of Israel: as they are in Eden. Mountain. River & Plain
City & sandy Desart intermingled beyond mortal ken

But turning toward Ololon in terrible majesty Milton
Replied. Obey thou the Words of the Inspired Man
All that can be annihilated must be annihilated"  

Monday, June 04, 2018


Yale Center for British Art
Plate 54
Los seized his opening and make his presence known. His implements of change were his furnaces; the assistance he could count upon was the Heavens. Satan knew the threat he faced. He surrounded himself with symbols of strength and dominion which in the past had succeeded in intimidating his opponents. However 'his visionary eye' saw that Albion was awake and beginning to rise from the couch to which he had retreated.
Blake created a visual image of the Giant Albion stretched over the geography of Great Britain. Satan, like a beast of prey, circled the sleeping giant. But it was not up to Albion or Satan or Los to initiate the next stage or redemption. They set the stage, but the action depended upon Milton and Urizen entering the drama in order to release Albion from his Deadly Sleep.
Blake's Beulah was not the place of activity but of rest and repose created for relief from the 'severe contentions of friendship' which occupy the the rational masculine mind in Eden. Albion did not have the strength to rise from 'his Couch In moony Beulah' before Milton resolved his issue of annihilating his selfhood. Albion would continue in 'selfish cold repose' until the passive feminine life of Beulah was no longer expressed in a separate female will.
Milton, Plate 39 [44], (E 140)  
"Then loud the Furnaces of Los were heard! & seen as Seven heaven 
Stretching from south to north over the mountains of Albion
Satan heard; trembling round his Body, he incircled it
He trembled with exceeding great trembling & astonishment
Howling in his Spectre round his Body hungring to devour
But fearing for the pain for if he touches a Vital,
His torment is unendurable: therefore he cannot devour:         
But howls round it as a lion round his prey continually
Loud Satan thunderd, loud & dark upon mild Felphams Shore
Coming in a Cloud with Trumpets & with Fiery Flame
 An awful Form eastward from midst of a bright Paved-work
Of precious stones by Cherubim surrounded: so permitted          
(Lest he should fall apart in his Eternal Death) to imitate
The Eternal Great Humanity Divine surrounded by
His Cherubim & Seraphim in ever happy Eternity
Beneath sat Chaos: Sin on his right hand Death on his left
And Ancient Night spread over all the heavn his Mantle of Laws   
He trembled with exceeding great trembling & astonishment

Then Albion rose up in the Night of Beulah on his Couch
Of dread repose seen by the visionary eye; his face is toward
The east, toward Jerusalems Gates: groaning he sat above
His rocks. London & Bath & Legions & Edinburgh                   
Are the four pillars of his Throne; his left foot near London
Covers the shades of Tyburn: his instep from Windsor
To Primrose Hill stretching to Highgate & Holloway

London is between his knees: its basements fourfold
His right foot stretches to the sea on Dover cliffs, his heel  
On Canterburys ruins; his right hand covers lofty Wales
His left Scotland; his bosom girt with gold involves
York, Edinburgh, Durham & Carlisle & on the front
Bath, Oxford, Cambridge Norwich; his right elbow
Leans on the Rocks of Erins Land, Ireland ancient nation,      
His head bends over London: he sees his embodied Spectre
Trembling before him with exceeding great trembling & fear
He views Jerusalem & Babylon, his tears flow down
He movd his right foot to Cornwall, his left to the Rocks of Bognor
He strove to rise to walk into the Deep. but strength failing    
Forbad & down with dreadful groans he sunk upon his Couch
In moony Beulah. Los his strong Guard walks round beneath the Moon"

Thursday, May 31, 2018


British Museum
Plate 95, Copy A
The process of reconciliation with the false reasoning power was not unopposed. Satan did not agree to relinquish the position of dominance which he enjoyed. Instead he asserted it more emphatically. The extravagant statement of Satan revealed the error of his position. The sand had flowed past the obstruction in the hourglass; the flow could be reversed by turning the device upside down. 

Mercy could not be overridden by Satan's definition of holiness. Milton had an Epiphany. Satan, too, was the recipient of the Divine Mercy and would be brought into Albion, the representation of total Humanity. Satan was not to be destroyed but integrated by Los.

This appears to be Blake's recognition that the religious approaches can live side by side: that justice and mercy are both aspects of the Divine Humanity. To oppose one contrary only allows the negation to flower. If the Law prevents the Gospel from being heard, Natural Religion is allowed to flourish.
Milton, Plate 38 [44], (E 139)
"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
I hold the Balances of Right & Just & mine the Sword
Seven Angels bear my Name & in those Seven I appear             
But I alone am God & I alone in Heavn & Earth
Of all that live dare utter this, others tremble & bow
Plate 39 [44]
Till All Things become One Great Satan, in Holiness
Oppos'd to Mercy, and the Divine Delusion Jesus be no more

Suddenly around Milton on my Path, the Starry Seven
Burnd terrible! my Path became a solid fire, as bright
As the clear Sun & Milton silent came down on my Path.           
And there went forth from the Starry limbs of the Seven: Forms
Human; with Trumpets innumerable, sounding articulate
As the Seven spake; and they stood in a mighty Column of Fire
Surrounding Felphams Vale, reaching to the Mundane Shell, Saying

Awake Albion awake! reclaim thy Reasoning Spectre. Subdue        

Him to the Divine Mercy, Cast him down into the Lake
Of Los, that ever burneth with fire, ever & ever Amen!
Let the Four Zoa's awake from Slumbers of Six Thousand Years"

Monday, May 28, 2018


Wikipedia Commons
Plate 16, Copy D
It is one thing to see the consequences of mistaken thinking as it is manifest in the outer world. It is quite another to look within oneself and confront the options which were available and the decisions which one made affecting how one lives. We can see things which go wrong in the world as being caused by someone else. However the mess which we make by internal failures like selfishness, greed, blame, fear, or timidity can only be corrected by internal solutions

Milton had seem in the Covering Cherub the results that misperceptions created as they influenced the society or culture. His task now was to confront the internal demons which generated the disorder in his home and family, in his city and nation, and in the countries and continents of the world. The direct attack on functions creates counterattack. Milton realized that aggressive measures would make him more like the entities which he opposed. To remove the offending qualities within himself, he needed to see them not as enemies but as friends who could be brought into the tent of love by forgiveness.
Milton, Plate 38 [43], (E 138)
"And Milton collecting all his fibres into impregnable strength  
Descended down a Paved work of all kinds of precious stones
Out from the eastern sky; descending down into my Cottage
Garden: clothed in black, severe & silent he descended.

The Spectre of Satan stood upon the roaring sea & beheld
Milton within his sleeping Humanity! trembling & shuddring
He stood upon the waves a Twenty-seven-fold mighty Demon
Gorgeous & beautiful: loud roll his thunders against Milton
Loud  Satan thunderd, loud & dark upon mild Felpham shore
Not daring to touch one fibre he howld round upon the Sea.

I also stood in Satans bosom & beheld its desolations!           
A ruind Man: a ruind building of God not made with hands;
In the Eastern porch of Satans Universe Milton stood & said

Satan! my Spectre! I know my power thee to annihilate
And be a greater in thy place, & be thy Tabernacle               
A covering for thee to do thy will, till one greater comes
And smites me as I smote thee & becomes my covering.
Such are the Laws of thy false Heavns! 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"

Songs of Innocence & of Experience,  (E 28)
A POISON TREE.           

"I was angry with my friend;
I told my wrath, my wrath did end.
I was angry with my foe:
I told it not, my wrath did grow.

And I waterd it in fears,
Night & morning with my tears:
And I sunned it with smiles,
And with soft deceitful wiles.

And it grew both day and night.
Till it bore an apple bright.
And my foe beheld it shine,
And he knew that it was mine.

And into my garden stole,
When the night had veild the pole;
In the morning glad I see;
My foe outstretchd beneath the tree."

Thessalonians 1 
5:13b-18 - Live together in peace, and our instruction to this end is to reprimand the unruly, encourage the timid, help the weak and be very patient with all men. Be sure that no one repays a bad turn by a bad turn; good should be your objective always, among yourselves and in the world at large. Be happy in your faith at all times. Never stop praying. Be thankful, whatever the circumstances may be. If you follow this advice you will be working out the will of God expressed to you in Jesus Christ.

Friday, May 25, 2018


New York Public Library
Plate 36
In the first book of Milton, Blake had encountered Los and become one with him. On Plate 36 Blake reentered his poem. Ololon descended to Blake's garden with the appearance of a twelve year old virgin. Blake's response when he perceived her in his garden was a question, "What am I to do?" Ololon's interest was in Milton whose shadow she encountered as the Covering Cherub - the summation of all of the religious errors which plagued humanity. Ololon was shown the total range of errors which Blake lumped together as false attempts to follow God by using rituals, rules, fear and force.

One  particular error which Blake saw in Milton was his adherence to the Puritan faith which was based on a system of law and punishment. To the Puritan, man was by nature sinful and whatever adversity he experienced was God's justified punishment. Blake saw the tenets of Milton's religious faith expressed in his Paradise Lost.

It was Ololon who had been sent to complete the redemption of Milton. Blake was to be the witness to the process and to be redeemed in Milton's redemption.

Milton, Plate 36 [40], (E 137)
"Walking in my Cottage Garden, sudden I beheld
The Virgin Ololon & address'd her as a Daughter of Beulah[:]

Virgin of Providence fear not to enter into my Cottage
What is thy message to thy friend: What am I now to do
Is it again to plunge into deeper affliction? behold me          
Ready to obey, but pity thou my Shadow of Delight
Enter my Cottage, comfort her, for she is sick with fatigue
Plate 37 [41]
The Virgin answerd. Knowest thou of Milton who descended
Driven from Eternity; him I seek! terrified at my Act
In Great Eternity which thou  knowest!  I come him to seek

So Ololon utterd in words distinct the anxious thought
Mild was the voice, but more distinct than any earthly           
That Miltons Shadow heard & condensing all his Fibres
Into a strength impregnable of majesty & beauty infinite
I saw he was the Covering Cherub & within him Satan
And Rahab, in an outside which is fallacious! within
Beyond the outline of Identity, in the Selfhood deadly           
And he appeard the Wicker Man of Scandinavia in whom
Jerusalems children consume in flames among the Stars
Descending down into my Garden, a Human Wonder of God
Reaching from heaven to earth a Cloud & Human Form
I beheld Milton with astonishment & in him beheld            
The Monstrous Churches of Beulah, the Gods of Ulro dark
Twelve monstrous dishumanizd terrors Synagogues of Satan.
A Double Twelve & Thrice Nine: such their divisions.

And these their Names & their Places within the Mundane Shell"

Plate 37 [41], (E 138)
"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"

Phillips Translation
Corinthians II
        This means that our knowledge of men can no longer be
        based on their outward lives (indeed, even though we knew
        Christ as a man we do not know him like that any longer).
        For if a man is in Christ he becomes a new person
        altogether - the past is finished and gone, everything
        has become fresh and new. All this is God's doing, for he
        has reconciled us to himself through Jesus Christ; and he
        has made us agents of the reconciliation. God was in
        Christ personally reconciling the world to himself - not
        counting their sins against them - and has commissioned
        us with the message of reconciliation. 

Monday, May 21, 2018


Illustration to Milton's L'Allegro and Il Penseroso
Night Startled by the Lark
Blake was fascinated by the writings of John Milton. Since he had begun reading Paradise Lost as a child, he has sought to understand Milton's theology and reconcile it with his own. Milton's God, his Messiah and his Satan eventually became unacceptable to Blake. He could not reconcile the God whose ways Milton tried to justify, with Jesus' benevolent God of forgiveness with whom he interacted. So Blake wrote his poem Milton about forgiveness, our need to forgive and be forgiven. Blake knew that he needed to forgive Milton and himself and God before he could be an instrument of forgiveness and healing in a confused and troubled world. It is that old conundrum of being a part of the problem or a part of the solution.

As Blake saw it, the Immortals who lived in Eternity took the initiative of reaching down to him and entering the world of mortality. They sent a messenger in the form of a mighty angel, but on earth the appearance was that of a Lark:

Milton, Plate 31 [34], (E 130)
"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" 
The arrival of Ololon in Blake's cottage garden at Felpham was announced by the voice of the lark. She appeared not in time and space but in a flash of illumination like lightening. Blake was describing a vision in which Ololon assumed the appearance of a prepubescent child. She was innocent - unmarred by the demands or wounds which the world inflicts. She would become a vehicle for reconciliation.

Milton 36 [40], (E 136)
"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.

For Ololon step'd into the Polypus within the Mundane Shell
They could not step into Vegetable Worlds without becoming
The enemies of Humanity except in a Female Form          
And as One Female, Ololon and all its mighty Hosts
Appear'd: a Virgin of twelve years nor time nor space was
To the perception of the Virgin Ololon but as the
Flash of lightning but more  quick the Virgin in my Garden
Before my Cottage stood for the Satanic Space is delusion        

For when Los joind with me he took me in his firy whirlwind
My Vegetated portion was hurried from Lambeths shades
He set me down in Felphams Vale & prepard a beautiful
Cottage for me that in three years I might write all these Visions
To display Natures cruel holiness: the deceits of Natural Religion" 

Friday, May 18, 2018


Wikipedia Commons
Illustrations to Milton's On the Morning of Christ's Nativity
Annunciation to Shepherds

In the second book of Milton Ololon followed Milton out of Eternity into the world of matter. She mistakenly thought that she had forced Milton to descend from Eden into our world of Generation. She elected to enter the lowest level of decay and be exposed to depravity.

In Eternity Blake's Ololon was not an individual but a multitude of spirits. She was striped of her retinue and becomes singular in order to experience the world of mortality. Before entering she looked through the Gates of the Dead and saw the world that mankind had created without the imaginative vision which he had lost in the Fall from Eden. She saw that she must fully participate in the society which had grown out of the failure to love and nurture and forgive, and which lay in stark brutality before her. She could not avoid passing the Polypus - the ugly, grasping manifestations of 'man's inhumanity to man.' But beyond the Polypus lay Golgonooza - the efforts that man makes to live by Eternal principles in spite of what he sees happening around him. 

Milton, Plate 34 [38], (E 134)
"Seeing Miltons Shadow, some Daughters of Beulah trembling
Returnd, but Ololon remaind before the Gates of the Dead

And Ololon looked down into the Heavens of Ulro in fear
They said. How are the Wars of Man which in Great Eternity       
Appear around, in the External Spheres of Visionary Life
Here renderd Deadly within the Life & Interior Vision
How are the Beasts & Birds & Fishes, & Plants & Minerals
Here fixd into a frozen bulk subject to decay & death?
Those Visions of Human Life & Shadows of Wisdom & Knowledge      
Plate 35 [39]
Are here frozen to unexpansive deadly destroying terrors.
And War & Hunting: the Two Fountains of the River of Life
Are become Fountains of bitter Death & of corroding Hell
Till Brotherhood is changd into a Curse & a Flattery
By Differences between Ideas, that Ideas themselves, (which are  
The Divine Members) may be slain in offerings for sin
O dreadful Loom of Death! O piteous Female forms compelld
To weave the Woof of Death, On Camberwell Tirzahs Courts
Malahs on Blackheath, Rahab & Noah. dwell on Windsors heights
Where once the Cherubs of Jerusalem spread to Lambeths Vale      
Milcahs Pillars shine from Harrow to Hampstead where Hoglah
On Highgates heights magnificent Weaves over trembling Thames
To Shooters Hill and thence to Blackheath the dark Woof! Loud
Loud roll the Weights & Spindles over the whole Earth let down
On all sides round to the Four Quarters of the World, eastward on
Europe to Euphrates & Hindu, to Nile & back in Clouds
Of Death across the Atlantic to America North & South

So spake Ololon in reminiscence astonishd, but they
Could not behold Golgonooza without passing the Polypus
A wondrous journey not passable by Immortal feet, & none         
But the Divine Saviour can pass it without annihilation.
For Golgonooza cannot be seen till having passd the Polypus
It is viewed on all sides round by a Four-fold Vision
Or till you become Mortal & Vegetable in Sexuality
Then you behold its mighty Spires & Domes of ivory & gold" 

Tuesday, May 15, 2018


I was delighted to hear this little poem spoken in a movie I recently viewed. The film Leonie is a semi-biographical account of a poet, his editor and their son the sculptor, Isamu Noguchi. When Leonie Gilmore was in Japan teaching English to a poet friend of Yone Noguchi, her student quoted the Blake poem out of respect for the English poet.

Songs of Innocence and of Experience, Plate 43, (E 25)
"Ah Sun-flower! weary of time,
Who countest the steps of the Sun:
Seeking after that sweet golden clime
Where the travellers journey is done.

Where the Youth pined away with desire,
And the pale Virgin shrouded in snow:
Arise from their graves and aspire,
Where my Sun-flower wishes to go."

Wikipedia Commons
Fitzwilliam Museum
Songs of Innocence and of Experience
Plate 43
The sun-flower who daily follows the path of the sun as it traverses the firmament, longs to complete its travels in time and reach the sweet golden clime of Eternity. The Youth and the Virgin trapped in emotion and the body likewise seek to be released from the prison-house of time to enter their Eternal home.

Saturday, May 12, 2018


Following his objective and exhaustive study of religious experience as a topic for observation, William James concluded The Varieties of Religious Experience with a chapter exploring religion from the subjective point of view. In his final chapter he developed his reasoning concerning his own experience of the practice of religion. He identified himself as one who sensed that religion as a personal experience is the means by which answers to the perennial and ultimate questions can best be explored.

From his earliest writings Blake expressed the idea that the Natural approach to experience of the Divine Presence was closed. The mind which relied on sense data and reasoned processing could not reach what was accessed through a different path. Blake found that his awareness of the numinous which had been present to him since childhood was enhanced after the death of his younger brother Robert. He continued to feel his brother's presence, hear his brother's voice and act from his brother's instruction. He realized that man cut himself off from his full human potential if he did not develop the dimension of himself which was connected to areas which were unconnected to matter and the reasoning mind. He choose 'Inspiration & Vision' as his 'Element' and 'Eternal Dwelling place.'
British Museum
Copy A, Plate 6
Los and his Spectre

Quotes from The Varieties of Religious Experience by William James - from Chapter XX, Conclusions
Page 489: "If religion be a function by which either God's cause or Man's cause is to be really advanced, then he who lives the life of it, however narrowly, is a better servant than he who merely knows about it, however much.

Page 490: "The sciences of nature know nothing of spiritual presences..."
Page 491: "Today, quite as much as in any previous age, the religious individual tells you that the divine meets him on the basis of his personal concerns.
Science, on the other hand, has ended by utterly repudiating the personal point of view."
Page 496: " long as we deal with the cosmic and the general, we deal only with symbols of reality, but as soon as we deal with private and personal phenomena as such, we deal with realities in the completest sense of the term."
Page 499: "The axis of reality runs solely through the egoistic places - they are strung upon it like so many beads."
Page 500: "I think, therefore, that however particular questions with our individual destinies may be answered, it is only by acknowledging them as genuine questions, and living in the sphere of thought which they open up, that we become profound...By being religious we establish ourselves in possession of ultimate reality at the only points at reality is given us to guard. Our responsible concern is with our private destiny, after all."

Page 515: "Confining ourselves to what is common and generic, we have in the fact that the conscious person is continuous with a wider self through which saving experiences come, a positive content of religious experience which, it seems to me, is literally and objectively true as far as it goes." 

Page 519: "The whole drift of my education goes to persuade me that the world of our present consciousness is only one out of many worlds of consciousness that exist, and that those other worlds must contain experiences that have meaning for our life also; and that in the main their experiences and those of this world keep discrete, yet the two become continuous at certain points, and higher energies filter in.
...the total expression of human experience, as I view it objectively, invincibly urges me beyond the narrow 'scientific, bounds.'"

No Natural Religion, (E 2)
"II  Reason or the ratio of all we have already known. is not
the same that it shall be when we know more."  
No Natural Religion, (E 3)
"VII The desire of Man being Infinite the possession is Infinite
& himself Infinite"

Milton, Plate 26 [28], (E 124)
"So they are born on Earth, & every Class is determinate
But not by Natural but by Spiritual power alone, Because         
The Natural power continually seeks & tends to Destruction
Ending in Death: which would of itself be Eternal Death
And all are Class'd by Spiritual, & not by Natural power.

And every Natural Effect has a Spiritual Cause, and Not
A Natural: for a Natural Cause only seems, it is a Delusion      
Of Ulro: & a ratio of the perishing Vegetable Memory."

Jerusalem, Plate 8, (E 151)
"All the infant Loves & Graces were lost, for the mighty Hand
Plate 9
Condens'd his Emanations into hard opake substances;
And his infant thoughts & desires, into cold, dark, cliffs of death.
His hammer of gold he siezd; and his anvil of adamant.
He siez'd the bars of condens'd thoughts, to forge them:
Into the sword of war: into the bow and arrow:                   
Into the thundering cannon and into the murdering gun
I saw the limbs form'd for exercise, contemn'd: & the beauty of
Eternity, look'd upon as deformity & loveliness as a dry tree:
I saw disease forming a Body of Death around the Lamb
Of God, to destroy Jerusalem, & to devour the body of Albion     
By war and stratagem to win the labour of the husbandman:
Awkwardness arm'd in steel: folly in a helmet of gold:
Weakness with horns & talons: ignorance with a rav'ning beak!
Every Emanative joy forbidden as a Crime:
And the Emanations buried alive in the earth with pomp of religion:          
Inspiration deny'd; Genius forbidden by laws of punishment:
I saw terrified; I took the sighs & tears, & bitter groans:
I lifted them into my Furnaces; to form the spiritual sword.
That lays open the hidden heart: I drew forth the pang
Of sorrow red hot: I workd it on my resolute anvil:              
I heated it in the flames of Hand, & Hyle, & Coban
Nine times; Gwendolen & Cambel & Gwineverra
Are melted into the gold, the silver, the liquid ruby,
The crysolite, the topaz, the jacinth, & every precious stone,
Loud roar my Furnaces and loud my hammer is heard:               
I labour day and night, I behold the soft affections
Condense beneath my hammer into forms of cruelty
But still I labour in hope, tho' still my tears flow down.
That he who will not defend Truth, may be compelld to defend
A Lie: that he may be snared and caught and snared and taken     
That Enthusiasm and Life may not cease: arise Spectre arise!

Thus they contended among the Furnaces with groans & tears;
Groaning the Spectre heavd the bellows, obeying Los's frowns;
Till the Spaces of Erin were perfected in the furnaces
Of affliction, and Los drew them forth, compelling the harsh Spectre."

Annotations to Reynolds, (E 660) 
mock Inspiration & Vision   Inspiration & Vision was then & now
is & I hope will
always Remain my Element my Eternal Dwelling place. how can I
then hear it Contemnd without returning Scorn for Scorn"   

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Type and Antitype

Reposted from 2014

The Great Code: The Bible and Literature, Chapter Four is entitled typology. This was a great discovery for me; in large part it unlocked the secret of Blake's use of the Bible (and of every other poet's use of it for that matter). Once you outgrow the naive notion of 'Biblical inerrancy' and the idea that every word of it is historically true, you are to some degree on your own. I long ago settled on the awareness that:
1. 'every word of the Bible is poetry' (you may certainly debate that if you wish)
2 'poetry is the highest form of truth."

Truth is in the mind of the believer. Our belief is a function of our psyche, and everyone's psyche is unique (unless you believe that we're all lemmings). So what does the Bible mean? Not history! History is subjective; everyone chooses his own history. Poetry is subjective in a more creative way; to a large degree it's a function of your experience (and mine - very different). What it boils down to is that one man's truth may (appear to) be another man's lie.

Marriage of Heaven and Hell, Plate 8, (E 37)
"Every thing possible to be believ'd is an image of truth."

Poetry doesn't claim to be the whole complete exclusive truth; it's not rigid; it's allusive. One of the most important truths about the Bible (and all subsequent literature) is that it uses typology.

In a few words the type is the earliest occurrence (of an idea); psychologists may call it an archetype. Subsequent occurrences Frye calls antitypes:

Type: Moses delivered the Israelites from bondage in Egypt.
Antitype: Jesus delivered human beings from slavery to sin.
Antitype: Lincoln delivered black people from slaves of their southern 'owners'.
Antitype: Pope John delivered Catholics from outmoded legalities like the Latin Mass.

The type and all subsequent antitypes are incomplete. Hence there must and will be more.

Type: Elijah used a stony altar, flooded with water, and then fire to finish off the 450 prophets of Baal (1st Kings, 18:19).
Antitype: Jesus used stone jars, full of water, which became wine to bring Spirit to a wedding party (John 2).
British Museum 
llustrations to Young's Night Thoughts

Many events in the Bible have multiple occurrences. Many Old Testament events recur in the New Testament; some of them reoccur in later parts of the Old Testament.

The New Testament writers found O.T. types for many events in the O.T.: Psalm 22 practically describes the Crucifixion. N.T. writers often quoted O.T. sources. What happened in the N.T. a was a realized form of something foreshadowed in the O.T. For instance Christian baptism became the antitype of the saving of mankind from the flood of Noah.
In Romans 1:17 Paul wrote "the just shall live by faith", making Habbakuk 2:4 the type of his antitype.

Blake adopted this kind of typology for his own verbal creations; he frequently quoted Holy Scripture, and more often used it allusively. All this boils down to the simple fact that his poetry found its main source in the Bible. As for Blake, so for Milton, so for Shakespeare and for the other handful of sources that he mentioned in his letter to Flaxman. 
Letters, to Flaxman, (E 707) "Now my lot in the Heavens is this; Milton lovd me in childhood & shewd me his face Ezra came with Isaiah the Prophet, but Shakespeare in riper years gave me his hand Paracelsus & Behmen appeard to me. terrors appeard in the Heavens above"
Here's an assignment for a Blake student:
You need these two resources: Complete Works and a Complete Bible.
Now read Blake (wherever you're interested, pick out a key word, go to your Bible, select Search and put your 'Blake word' in the search window. You may find 'a Blake type' and a 'Bible antitype.' You may also find types and antitypes by searching the Complete Works with a word from the Bible.

Frye devoted two chapters of The Great Code to typology. An advanced Blake student might do well to absorb them as well as he can.

This may be hard to believe, but someone said that in Western culture all discourse, religious, secular, atheist, or a foul-mouthed sailor are using antitypes to the King James Bible. That's worth thinking about.

Welcome to Blake Studies.

Friday, May 04, 2018


New York Public Library
Plate 30
Only once in his illuminated books did Blake use the word simplicity. In mirror writing as an epigraph for the Second Book of Milton he wrote these words:

"How wide the Gulf & Unpassable! between Simplicity & Insipidity
Contraries are Positives A Negation is not a Contrary"

The gulf between simplicity and insipidity is not that of contraries which in Beulah may be equally true. Insipidity is a negation of simplicity. Blake's intends his poetry to be clear and unadorned, not encumbered by superfluous ornamentation. Neither does he choose to direct his poetry to those who concentrate their attention on triviality and frivolity. Simple truth and simple beauty are expressions of inner verities to which he gave his attention.

If complexity is the contrary of simplicity, the two are not mutually exclusive. Discovering the order of a complex pattern elucidates the simplicity which underlies it. What appears to be simple on the surface may depend on intricate, complex execution to produce the final product. But if either the complex or the simple is misunderstood as being reducible to the superficial it becomes insipid, providing false reasoning about its true nature. Often Blake's simplicity hides deep hidden meaning; and his complexity becomes simple truth when it is understood.

In his drawings, paintings and engravings Blake aimed to achieve clarity and simplicity by making his lines firm and definite. The bounding line separated the definite from amorphous undefined exterior. Blots and blurs confused the distinction between truth and falsehood. The certainty which was Blake's aim came from the knowledge of the Presence guiding the hand and eye that shapes the fearful symmetry.
Milton, Plate 30, (E 129)
[mirror writing)
"How wide the Gulf &
Unpassable! between Simplicity & Insipidity 

Contraries are Positives
A Negation is not a Contrary"

Descriptive Catalogue, Page 21, (E 536)
  "The Plowman is simplicity itself, with wisdom and strength
for its stamina.  Chaucer has divided the ancient character of
Hercules between his Miller and his Plowman.  Benevolence is the
plowman's great characteristic, he is thin with excessive labour,
and not with old age, as some have supposed."             

Letters, To Flaxman, (E 710)
"Dear Sculptor of Eternity
     We are safe arrived at our Cottage which is more beautiful
than I thought it. & more convenient.  It is a perfect Model for
Cottages & I think for Palaces of Magnificence only Enlarging not
altering its proportions & adding ornaments & not principals.
Nothing can be more Grand than its Simplicity & Usefulness.
Simple without Intricacy it seems to be the Spontaneous Effusion
of Humanity congenial to the wants of Man.  No other formed House
can ever please me so well nor shall I ever be perswaded I
believe that it can be improved either in Beauty or Use"

Letters, To Butts, (E 733)
 "Dear Sir This perhaps was sufferd to Clear up some doubts &
to give opportunity to those whom I doubted to clear themselves
of all imputation.  If a Man offends me ignorantly & not
designedly surely I ought to consider him with favour &
affection.  Perhaps the simplicity of myself is the origin of all
offences committed against me.  If I have found this I shall have
learned a most valuable thing well worth three years
perseverance.  I have found it!  It is certain! that a too
passive manner. inconsistent with my active physiognomy had done
me much mischief I must now express to you my conviction that all
is come from the spiritual World for Good & not for Evil."

Letters, To Trusler, (E 702)
you ought to know that What is Grand is necessarily obscure to
Weak men.  That which can be made Explicit to the Idiot is not
worth my care.  The wisest of the Ancients considerd what is not
too Explicit as the fittest for Instruction because it rouzes the
faculties to act.  I name Moses Solomon Esop Homer Plato"

Letters, To Cumberland, (E 703)
     "I ought long ago to have written to you to thank you for
your kind recommendation to Dr Trusler which tho it has faild of
success is not the less to be rememberd by me with Gratitude--
     I have made him a Drawing in my best manner he has sent it
back with a Letter full of Criticisms in which he says it accords
not with his Intentions which are to Reject all Fancy from his
Work.  How far he Expects to please I cannot tell.  But as I
cannot paint Dirty rags & old Shoes where I ought to place Naked
Beauty or simple ornament.  I despair of Ever pleasing one Class
of Men--Unfortunately our authors of books are among this Class
how soon we Shall have a change for the better I cannot Prophecy."

Jerusalem, Plate 55, (E 205)
"They Plow'd in tears, the trumpets sounded before the golden Plow
And the voices of the Living Creatures were heard in the clouds of heaven
Crying: Compell the Reasoner to Demonstrate with unhewn Demonstrations
Let the Indefinite be explored. and let every Man be judged
By his own Works, Let all Indefinites be thrown into Demonstrations
To be pounded to dust & melted in the Furnaces of Affliction:
He who would do good to another, must do it in Minute Particulars 
General Good is the plea of the scoundrel hypocrite & flatterer:
For Art & Science cannot exist but in minutely organized Particulars
And not in generalizing Demonstrations of the Rational Power.
The Infinite alone resides in Definite & Determinate Identity
Establishment of Truth depends on destruction of Falshood continually    
On Circumcision: not on Virginity, O Reasoners of Albion

So cried they at the Plow. Albions Rock frowned above
And the Great Voice of Eternity rolled above terrible in clouds
Saying Who will go forth for us! & Who shall we send before our face?"

Jerusalem, Plate 80, (E 237)
"And Rahab like a dismal and indefinite hovering Cloud
Refusd to take a definite form. she hoverd over all the Earth
Calling the definite, sin: defacing every definite form;
Invisible, or Visible, stretch'd out in length or spread in breadth:
Over the Temples drinking groans of victims weeping in pity,   
And joying in the pity, howling over Jerusalems walls."

Public Address, (E 576)
     "I have heard many People say Give me the Ideas.  It is no
matter what Words you put them into & others say Give me the
Design it is no matter for the Execution.  These People know
Nothing Of Art.  Ideas cannot be Given
but in their minutely Appropriate Words nor Can a Design be made
without its minutely Appropriate Execution. The unorganized
Blots & Blurs of Rubens & Titian are not Art nor can their Method
ever express Ideas or Imaginations any more than Popes
Metaphysical jargon of Rhyming. Unappropriate Execution is the
Most nauseous affectation & foppery He who copies does
not Execute he only Imitates what is already Executed   Execution
is only the result of Invention"

 Annotations to Reynolds, (E 646)
  "The Man who asserts that there is no Such Thing as Softness
in Art & that every thing in Art is Definite & Determinate has
not been told this by Practise but by Inspiration & Vision
because Vision is Determinate & Perfect & he Copies That without
Fatigue Every thing being Definite & determinate   Softness is
Produced Alone by Comparative Strength & Weakness in the Marking
out of the Forms
     I say These Principles could never be found out by the Study
of Nature without Con or Innate Science"

Descriptive Catalogue, (E 550)
  "The great and golden rule of art, as well as of life, is
this: That the more distinct, sharp, and wirey the
bounding line, the more perfect the work of art; and the less
keen and sharp, the greater is the evidence of weak imitation,
plagiarism, and bungling.  Great inventors, in all ages, knew
this: Protogenes and Apelles knew each other by this line.
Rafael and Michael Angelo, and Albert Durer, are known by this
and this alone.  The want of this determinate and bounding form
evidences the want of idea in the artist's mind, and the       t
pretence of the plagiary in all its branches.  How do we 
distinguish the oak from the beech, the horse from the ox, but 
by the bounding outline? How do we distinguish one face or 
countenance from another, but by the bounding line and its 
infinite inflexions and movements? What is it that builds a house 
and plants a garden, but the definite and determinate? What is it 
that distinguishes honesty from knavery, but the hard and wirey 
line of rectitude and certainty in the actions and 
intentions.  Leave out this line and you leave out life itself; 
all is chaos again, and the line of the almighty must be drawn 
out upon it before man or beast can exist.  Talk no more then of 
Correggio, or Rembrandt, or any other of those plagiaries of 
Venice or Flanders.  They were but the lame imitators of lines 
drawn by their predecessors, and their works prove themselves 
contemptible dis-arranged imitations and blundering misapplied 

Tuesday, May 01, 2018

How Blake Read the Gospel

First posted by Larry Nov 2010.

All his life Blake read the Bible, loved it, and engaged in dialogue with its immortal authors. Virtually every line of his poetry and every picture he painted had direct reference to some biblical idea that Blake had meditated upon.

In vivid contrast many of the orthodox don't read the Bible at all; they just wave it! Little wonder they dislike Blake. His early ironic description of his work as the Bible of Hell certainly helped to confirm their prejudice.

"Thou read'st black where I read white."
Everlasting Gospel (E 524)

There are essentially two ways to read the Bible; Blake referred to them as black and white. What did he mean? We might look at Urizen's Book of Brass as the black book. It's a book of rules, a book of law. It tells people what to do, and more poignantly, what not to do.

Even today ordinary people see the Bible in this way, which helps to explain why hardly anyone reads it today. The few who do read it dutifully and dully. Such a reading constrains consciousness; it makes the reader obedient and unimaginative. The faithful few who feel that they should read their Bible often approach it in a child like way bordering on the childish. Reading the black book inhibits the imagination, deadens the mind and prevents spiritual development. At its worst it has led to many instances of religious persecution and mass murder.

Wikimedia Commons
There Is No Natural Religion
But Blake read it white. The white book is not a book of rules, but a book of visions, a book of wonders. It provokes thought, causes the imagination to soar. Blake must have learned to read at about the age of four, when he had his first vision-- the frightful face at the window. Perhaps we've all been frightened by the Bible in one way or another; most people have had a sufficiently negative experience to leave it strictly alone. But little William overcame his fright and kept reading, and the next vision we hear of was more positive--a tree full of angels.

All the evidence suggests that for the next sixty five years Blake's Bible reading and his visions went hand in hand; his art is the record of it all. Whoever becomes really interested in Blake's visions will find himself reading the Bible because that's where most of them begin. In spite of this his secular critics have looked all over the world for his sources.

One of the greatest things that Blake has to offer the reader is that he makes you see and read the Bible in a new and better way. Not for nothing did the youthful circle of admirers of Blake's last years refer to him as the Interpreter.

The black book has most often been read as law, as history, in a restricted, literal interpretation. If the priest can get people to see it this way, and only this way, then he has secure control over his flock of sheep. In contrast Blake suggests that it's symbolic. Although written in categories of time and space, the temporal dimension is only instrumental; it points to the Beyond, the Eternal, the Real.

Too often people reading 'black' concern themselves with foolish questions such as "Did it really happen? Was Jonah really swallowed by the whale, or rather by the big fish?" But in Blake's vision that isn't the important thing. The important thing is "What does it mean?" The reader of the black book gets himself tied up in knots about the veracity or historicity of Jonah and his aquatic friend.

Blake shows you the Jonah in your psyche and helps you get some grasp of what the turbulent sea means to you personally. It's experiential, exciting! it puts you in touch with reality!, which is not material at all but spiritual. Literal or symbolic is black or white, and probably the two minds will never meet. At this point I simply urge you to join Blake and read white:
    "Why is the Bible more Entertaining & Instructive than any other book? Is it not because [it is] addressed to the Imagination which is Spiritual Sensation, and but mediately to the Understanding or Reason?"
    (Letter To Trusler; Erdman 702-3)