Thursday, December 31, 2009


Sea of Unconsciousness
Book of Urizen, Plate 6

The aspect of the psyche which is hidden, buried and unknown is spoken of as the unconscious. It is unknown but not unknowable. Although the gate is closed to enter the unconscious; the gate for unconscious content to come out is not entirely closed. Much of what Blake has written about in his poetry has come from his unconscious.

One of the Four Zoas is mentioned less frequently than the others - Urthona - and when he is mentioned his name is frequently prefixed by the word dark. He has a manifestation in the outer world who is named Los, but as an Eternal he seems to play a lessor role. He is dark for Blake because he is in the unconscious. As he enters consciousness his forms and activities become a part of the world of consciousness.

Jung called Reason and Feeling the rational functions; Sensation and Intuition were called irrational. Blake has Tharmas and Urthona working together to repel the advances of Urizen into Urthona's territory. I have spoken of Tharmas (Blake's image for the physical body or senses) functioning as the Id, Urthona can be seen as functioning as the Intuition. Both reside in man's unconscious.

Here is an account of Urizen's attempt to invade the territory of Urthona, Four Zoas :

Night VI
, Page 74, (E 350):
"And now he came into the Abhorred world of Dark Urthona
By Providence divine conducted not bent from his own will
Lest death Eternal should be the result for the Will cannot be
Into the doleful vales where no tree grew nor river flowd
Nor man nor beast nor creeping thing nor sun nor cloud nor star
Still he with his globe of fire immense in his venturous hand
Bore on thro the Affrighted vales ascending & descending
Oerwearied or in cumbrous flight he venturd oer dark rifts
Or down dark precipices or climbd with pain and labour huge
Till he beheld the world of Los from the Peaked rock of Urthona
And heard the howling of red Orc distincter & distincter"

Urizen fails to occupy Urthona's territory. Later near the end of the Four Zoas, Urthona resumes his work which had been interrupted as he fell from Eternity with Urizen and Luvah. The association between Urthona and Tharmas continues.
Four Zoas: Night IX, PAGE 138 (E 405)

"Then Dark Urthona took the Corn out of the Stores of Urizen'
He ground it in his rumbling Mills Terrible the distress
Of all the Nations
of Earth ground in the Mills of Urthona
In his hand Tharmas takes the Storms. he turns the whirlwind
Upon the wheels the stormy seas howl at his dread command
And Eddying fierce rejoice in the fierce agitation of the wheels
Of Dark Urthona Thunders Earthquakes Fires Water floods
Rejoice to one another loud their voices shake the Abyss
Their dread forms tending the dire mills The grey hoar frost
was there
And his pale wife the aged Snow they watch over the fires
They build the Ovens of Urthona Nature in darkness groans
And Men are bound to sullen contemplations in the night
Restless they turn on beds of sorrow. in their inmost brain
Feeling the crushing Wheels they rise they write the bitter words
Of Stern Philosophy & knead the bread of knowledge with
tears & groans

Such are the works of Dark Urthona Tharmas sifted the corn
Urthona made the Bread of Ages & he placed it
In golden & in silver baskets in heavens of precious stone
And then took his repose in Winter in the night of Time"

As the Four Zoas ends it is Urthona who is the image of the restored and unified psyche. He is strong and undivided residing as always in man's 'inmost brain' after providing 'bread for the ages' from the 'distress of the nations.'

PAGE 139
"Urthona is arisen in his strength no longer now
Divided from Enitharmon no longer the Spectre Los
Where is the Spectre of Prophecy where the delusive Phantom
Departed & Urthona rises from the ruinous walls
In all his ancient strength to form the golden armour of science
For intellectual War The war of swords departed now
The dark Religions are departed & sweet Science reigns"

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The Word within the Word

Northrup Frye was a very famous literary critic,
and a great deal can be found about him on the
web. A Canadian, Frye went to seminary and became
a parish minister; then he went to Oxford and got
an M.A. in English Literature. He wrote his
thesis on William Blake.

A great many books came from his pen; the first
one was Fearful Symmetry (1944). Frye opens the
door to a depth understanding of Blake's poetry (and
pictures). It took five readings of Fearful Symetry
(30 years ago) to open my mind to William Blake.

In the eighties, near the end of his life, Frye
published two monumental volumes of "The Bible as
Literature"; they speak directly to the depth
understanding of our poet.

Some of the statements in 'The Word with the Word'
(chapter five of Fearful Symmetry) may sound
enigmatic; just stay with them, and light will come.
This chapter is a lucid description of Frye's primary
gift to literature, to meaning and religion.

All words are metaphors; the meanings they convey
depend upon the author's mind - and frame of mind
when he writes them; and upon the reader's (or
hearer's) mind when he reads or hears them. (Most
of the purposeless arguments over virtually anything
stem from failure to understand this basic fact.)

For Western culture the Bible is the Great Code of
Art; it embodies the Universal Myth, basically
fourfold: Creation, The Fall, Redemption,
Apocalypse. Blake believed that it was the
guiding myth undergirding virtually all discourse.

"Blake's poetry is all related to a central myth...
and the primary basis of this myth is the Bible.
The Bible is therefore the archetype of Western
culture, and the Bible...provides the basis for most
of our major art" (Fearful Symmetry, p. 109).

The word of God was Jesus (cf John 1). Anything
that you say or write may be the Word of God-- the
Jesus in you (Paul).

In Plate 3 of Jerusalem (Erdman p. 145) we can read:
"I also hope the Reader will be with me, wholly One in
Jesus our Lord, who is the God [of Fire] and Lord [of
Love] to whom the Ancients look'd and saw his day afar off,
with trembling & amazement. The Spirit of Jesus is continual
forgiveness of sin"

This is the Word in Blake's consciousness.
Jerusalem, (Erdman p. 180):
"Saying. Albion! Our wars are wars of life, & wounds of love,
With intellectual spears, & long winged arrows of thought:
Mutual in one anothers love and wrath all renewing
We live as One Man; for contracting our infinite senses
We behold multitude; or expanding: we behold as one,
As One Man all the Universal Family; and that One Man
We call Jesus the Christ: and he in us, and we in him,
Live in perfect harmony in Eden the land of life,
Giving, receiving, and forgiving each others trespasses.
He is the Good shepherd, he is the Lord and master:
He is the Shepherd of Albion, he is all in all,
In Eden: in the garden of God: and in heavenly Jerusalem."

Tuesday, December 29, 2009


The character Urizen dominates much of Blake's writing. He appears and reappears from the First Book of Urizen to the end of the Four Zoas. Why was his configuration of characteristics so important in the mind of Blake?

Trying to recall Urizen to his former self and to union with the Botherhood, Albion speaks thus to Urizen in Four Zoas, Night IX, PAGE 120 (E 389):

"The Eternal Man sat on the Rocks & cried with awful voice

O Prince of Light where art thou I behold thee not as once
In those Eternal fields in clouds of morning stepping forth
With harps & songs where bright Ahania sang before thy face
And all thy sons & daughters gatherd round my ample table
See you not all this wracking furious confusion
Come forth from slumbers of thy cold abstraction come forth
Arise to Eternal births shake off thy cold repose
Schoolmaster of souls great opposer of change arise
That the Eternal worlds may see thy face in peace & joy
That thou dread form of Certainty maist sit in town & village

While little children play around thy feet in gentle awe
Fearing thy frown loving thy smile O Urizen Prince of light"

Reclining Urizen This is an image of a man who lives almost entirely in his head; his body is atrophied and his hand rests on a second skull.

These are the characteristics which Albion sees as dividing Urizen from his Eternal form. He is cold, he deals in abstractions, he is asleep, and repetitive, and certain of his own correctness. Albion's hope is that he can return to a condition in which the Eternals as well as little children may enjoy his former demeanor.

During the unfolding of Blake's myth, Urizen's characteristics become expressed in the law. Urizen is portrayed as projecting his inner characteristics onto his outer experience; including his attitude as to how the world should function and the people in it should behave.

Blake himself outwardly rejects Urizen's attitudes of distance, rigidness, non-involvement, inflexibility, blindness, and fear of the unknown. But his poetry may reveal that he struggled internally against the very characteristics he objected to. His Shadow may have been expressed in Urizen.

Monday, December 28, 2009


Labor of Los

Quoting from A BLAKE DICTIONARY, S. Foster Damon, Introduction, Page XI:

"Every sect is self-limited, whereas Truth is Universal. Instead of any religion, Blake wanted the truth - the whole truth including all errors, life including death, the soul including the body, the world of mind including the world of matter, the profound discoveries of the mystics reconciled with the scoffing of the skeptics, heaven and hell married and working together, and in the ultimate heart, Man eternally in the arms of God."

The puzzle of the shift in relationship between Luvah and Urizen deserves careful consideration. Neither Urizen nor Luvah had an indisputable claim to the horses of light or the dominant position they represented; that should should have fallen to Urthona whose 'Vehicular Form' is Los. (Percival refers to Urthona as the 'essential' man.)

The struggle among Urizen, Luvah and Los occupies Blake's imagination. The conflict may be interpreted internally. In Blake's myth either reason or emotion is frequently firmly in control of the psyche. The balance between them shifts as they negotiate and seize power. Sometimes reason is recognized as the higher function and emotion is at the service of reason (or visa versa). Disasters ensue as each function tries to eliminate the other. The higher function, inspiration or Los, eventually succeeds in wresting power and reconstructing the psyche.

Often it is easier to observe the operation of the functions externally before we can recognize them internally. Blake's portrayal of the 4Zs may show us aspects of ourselves we do not already recognize. Likewise, we are more likely to identify another person under the domination of one aspect of the psyche (suppressing the expression of the others), before we can see the same thing in ourselves. But to have it brought to our attention either by reading Blake, or by observing associates consistently and unconsciously coming under the dominion of reason or emotion, may encourage us to deal with unconscious forces which are controlling us. (So too, these imbalances are visible in societal behaviors.)

In The Four Zoas, Night Four, Blake portrays a violent confrontation between Urizen and Los. Urizen is subdued but the cost to Los is high. Los has come under the dominion of his lower nature, expressing revenge, wrath and cruelty, and having taken on the characteristics of the entity whom he was trying to eliminate .

FZ4-53.11; (E335)
"The lovely female howld & Urizen beneath deep groand
Deadly between the hammers beating grateful to the Ears
Of Los. absorbd in dire revenge he drank with joy the cries
Of Enitharmon & the groans of Urizen fuel for his wrath
And for his pity secret feeding on thoughts of cruelty

The Spectre wept at his dire labours"

FZ4-53.21; E336
"And thus began the binding of Urizen day & night in fear
Circling round the dark Demon with howlings dismay & sharp
The Prophet of Eternity beat on his iron links & links of brass
And as he beat round the hurtling Demon. terrified at the Shapes
Enslavd humanity put on he became what he beheld"

Some scholars have suggested that the portrayal of this type of situation in The Four Zoas led to Blake's abandonment of the writing of the book. In Blake's later poetry, the solution to the problems between Los and Urizen comes through recognition of error, forgiveness, anniliation of the Selfhood, and restoration of Brotherhood.

The unity of the psyche - allowing each function to play its ordained role is the goal toward which Blake directed his readers.

Sunday, December 27, 2009


Blake has given us a treasure of insight, experience, and imagery. The cost to him of producing it was enormous. The reward was the satisfaction of using his innate gifts in expressing his imagination. That he produced a body of work that nourishes us two hundred years after his death, expresses the joy and gratitude with which he exercised his gifts. I like to think that in his case, "Eternity is in love with the productions of time." Marriage of Heaven and Hell, Plate 7, (E36)

From George W. Digby, Symbol and Image in William Blake, Page 19:

"He had as it were two eyes, an eye for the verbal image as it is spoken and written, and an eye for the pictorial image. The inner truth that he apprehended was something other than either of these, not confined or explicit in either of them, but something which could be expressed or implied by their means. For truth, reality, is always beyond the formulation of both words and of pictorial images. Sometimes the pictorial symbol parallels or amplifies the written one; sometimes gives the contrasting aspect, or opposite and contrary point of view. But always this double mode of expression is focused on man's subtle and complex nature, his illusions, self-deceptions, conceits, and his contradictory and insatiable desires. This twofold artistic capacity, and his vision of the infinite which the coarseness and opaqueness of human nature unnecessarily obscures, makes the creative work of Blake in art and poetry such an incomparable source of wisdom."

As Blake wrote in The Four Zoas on Page 35 (E324):

"What is the price of Experience do men buy it for a song
Or wisdom for a dance in the street? No it is bought with the price
Of all that a man hath his house his wife his children
Wisdom is sold in the desolate market where none come to buy
And in the witherd field where the farmer plows for bread in vain"

Thursday, December 24, 2009


Chorus of Angels

Since the first image we form of ourselves is that of a body, we may formulate the idea that at some point the spirit enters the body and begins to express itself through the body. But as Blake explains here, it is the bodies which are made for the spirits which pre-exist.

As Albion represents the Universal Man, Jerusalem represents the Universal Woman: the 'vast family wondrous in beauty and love.' Albion is fourfold, Jerusalem is unified: the expression of the Divine Vision within the Universal Man.

In this passage, Blake presents the idea that redemption begins when 'the Lamb of God' becomes visible within the Unified Spiritual Body which is Jerusalem. The song of the angels, sung when the birth of Jesus was announced to the shepherds, is echoed in Blake's verses at this point.

2:8-12 - "There were some shepherds living in the same part of the country, keeping guard throughout the night over their flocks in the open fields. Suddenly an angel of the Lord stood by their side, the splendour of the Lord blazed around them, and they were terror-stricken. But the angel said to them, 'Do not be afraid! Listen, I bring you glorious news of great joy which is for all the people. This very day, in David's town, a Saviour has been born for you. He is Christ, the Lord. Let this prove it to you: you will find a baby, wrapped up and lying in a manger.'
2:13-14 - And in a flash there appeared with the angel a vast host of the armies of Heaven, praising God, saying, 'Glory to God in the highest Heaven! Peace upon earth among men of goodwill!'"

Four Zoas: Night the Eighth, Page 103 (E376):

"Enitharmon wove in tears Singing Songs of Lamentations
And pitying comfort as she sighd forth on the wind the spectres
And wove them bodies calling them her belovd sons and daughters

Employing the daughters in her looms & Los employd the Sons
In Golgonoozas Furnaces among the Anvils of time & space
Thus forming a Vast family wondrous in beauty & love
And they appeard a Universal female form created
From those who were dead in Ulro from the Spectres of the dead

And Enitharmon namd the Female Jerusa[le]m the holy
she saw the Lamb of God within Jerusalems Veil
The divine Vision seen within the inmost deep recess
Of fair Jerusalems bosom in a gently beaming fire

Then sang the Sons of Eden round the Lamb of God & said
Glory Glory Glory to the holy Lamb of God
Who now beginneth to put off the dark Satanic body

Now we behold redemption Now we know that life Eternal
Depends alone upon the Universal hand & not in us

2:25-32 - "In Jerusalem was a man by the name of Simeon. He was an upright man, devoted to the service of God, living in expectation of the 'salvation of Israel'. His heart was open to the Holy Spirit, and it had been revealed to him that he would not die before he saw the Lord's Christ. He had been led by the Spirit to go into the Temple, and when Jesus' parents brought the child in to have done to him what the Law required, he took him up in his arms, blessed God, and said - 'At last, Lord, you can dismiss your servant in peace, as you promised! For with my own eyes I have seen your salvation which you have made ready for every people - a light to show truth to the Gentiles and bring glory to your people Israel.'"

Tuesday, December 22, 2009


Milton, Plate 32

Plate 32 does not appear in the first two copies (A&B) of Milton. It was added later to explain the important concept of 'states'. Blake had clarified his thinking and so gave Milton and the readers the benefit of his understanding. The idea of states is essential to understanding Blake's ideas about 'good and evil', imputing sin, annihilation, and forgiveness. The concept of a merciful and benevolent God, which is incompatible with a God of cruelty and vengeance, requires the idea of states to deal with the problem of handling evil. The understanding of 'states' allows us to 'turn our backs on Heavens builded on cruelty'.

Milton, Plate 32 [35], (E130)
"And Milton oft sat up on the Couch of Death & oft conversed
In vision & dream beatific with the Seven Angels of the Presence

I have turned my back upon these Heavens builded on cruelty
My Spectre still wandering thro' them follows my Emanation
He hunts her footsteps thro' the snow & the wintry hail & rain
The idiot Reasoner laughs at the Man of Imagination
And from laughter proceeds to murder by undervaluing calumny

Then Hillel who is Lucifer replied over the Couch of Death
And thus the Seven Angels instructed him & thus they converse.

We are not Individuals but States: Combinations of Individuals
We were Angels of the Divine Presence: & were Druids in Annandale
Compelld to combine into Form by Satan, the Spectre of Albion,
Who made himself a God &, destroyed the Human Form Divine.
But the Divine Humanity & Mercy gave us a Human Form
Because we were combind in Freedom & holy Brotherhood
While those combind by Satans Tyranny first in the blood of War
And Sacrifice &, next, in Chains of imprisonment: are Shapeless Rocks

Retaining only Satans Mathematic Holiness, Length: Bredth & Highth
Calling the Human Imagination: which is the Divine Vision & Fruition
In which Man liveth eternally: madness & blasphemy, against Its own Qualities,
which are Servants of Humanity, not Gods or Lords[.]

Distinguish therefore States from Individuals in those States.
States Change: but Individual Identities never change nor cease:
You cannot go to Eternal Death in that which can never Die.
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.

Judge then of thy Own Self: thy Eternal Lineaments explore
What is Eternal & what Changeable? & what Annihilable!

The Imagination is not a State: it is the Human Existence itself
Affection or Love becomes a State, when divided from Imagination
The Memory is a State always, & the Reason is a State
Created to be Annihilated
& a new Ratio Created
Whatever can be Created can be Annihilated Forms cannot
The Oak is cut down by the Ax, the Lamb falls by the Knife
But their Forms Eternal Exist, For-ever. Amen Halle[l]ujah

Thus they converse with the Dead watching round the Couch of Death.
For God himself enters Death's Door always with those that enter
And lays down in the Grave with them, in Visions of Eternity
Till they awake & see Jesus & the Linen Clothes lying
That the Females had Woven for them, & the Gates of their Fathers House"

The Eternal dimension which seems shadowy to the unawakened, is seen to be substantial and vividly real by those who have been given a 'perception of the infinite.' They have entered the door of death and prepared themselves for transformation. In awakening, they see their physical bodies as garments that can be discarded as they enter the true world of unencumbered Spirit.

From The Grave

Philippians 2:5-8 
"Let Christ himself be your example as to what your attitude should be. For he, who had always been God by nature, did not cling to his prerogatives as God's equal, but stripped himself of all privilege by consenting to be a slave by nature and being born as mortal man. And, having become man, he humbled himself by living a life of utter obedience, even to the extent of dying, and the death he died was the death of a common criminal."

Sunday, December 20, 2009


In later copies of Songs of Innocence and of Experience, the last three poems are TO TIRZAH, THE SCHOOL BOY, and THE VOICE OF THE ANCIENT BARD. In his The Illuminated Blake, Erdman postulates that, this "arrangement of the concluding plates impl[ies] an apocalyptic metamorphosis at the end of the series of emblems, beyond Innocence and Experience." Erdman suggests "that the Eternal Man 'has risen' out of the realm of' 'Contrary States.' 

TO TIRZAH picture
Songs of Innocence & of Experience, Plate 49, (E 30)
  "To Tirzah  

Whate'er is Born of Mortal Birth, 
Must be consumed with the Earth 
To rise from Generation free; 
Then what have I to do with thee? 
The Sexes sprung from Shame & Pride 
Blow'd in the morn: in evening died 
But Mercy changd Death into Sleep; 
The Sexes rose to work & weep. 
Thou Mother of my Mortal part. 
With cruelty didst mould my Heart. 
And with false self-decieving tears, 
Didst bind my Nostrils Eyes & Ears. 
Didst close my Tongue in senseless clay 
And me to Mortal Life betray: 
The Death of Jesus set me free, 
Then what have I to do with thee? 
[text on illustration: It is Raised a Spiritual Body]"

So looking at these three poems as a group, we ask why they are chosen to conclude Songs of Innocence and of Experience. TO TIRZAH represents the realization that mortal life has been a temporary substitute for the real thing in Eternity. The mortal body is to be raised a spiritual body. The picture recalls to my mind both the Good Samaritan and the Raising of Lazarus, two stories of healing and recovery.
SCHOOL BOY picture

Songs of Innocence & of Experience, Song 53, (E 31)
"The School Boy                                                 t 

I love to rise in a summer morn,
When the birds sing on every tree;
The distant huntsman winds his horn,
And the sky-lark sings with me.
O! what sweet company. 

But to go to school in a summer morn,
O! it drives all joy away;
Under a cruel eye outworn,
The little ones spend the day,
In sighing and dismay.

Ah! then at times I drooping sit,
And spend many an anxious hour.
Nor in my book can I take delight,
Nor sit in learnings bower,
Worn thro' with the dreary shower. 
How can the bird that is born for joy,
Sit in a cage and sing.
How can a child when fears annoy,
But droop his tender wing,
And forget his youthful spring.

O! father & mother, if buds are nip'd,
And blossoms blown away,
And if the tender plants are strip'd
Of their joy in the springing day,
By sorrow and cares dismay, 

How shall the summer arise in joy.
Or the summer fruits appear,
Or how shall we gather what griefs destroy
Or bless the mellowing year,
When the blasts of winter appear." 

The School Boy appears to be autobiographical. Young William was not forced to attend school, and his imagination benefited from the freedom he was allowed. He asks how can the adult have the resources to go beyond innocence and experience if the imagination has not been fed and nourished on the sights and sounds and simple joys of unfettered thought and play. He illustrates this by a delightful group of children playing marbles, stretching, climbing, swinging and reading. This plate was originally in Songs of Innocence; now we see it illustrating the stage beyond Experience where the contraries have been resolved through recognition, love and forgiveness. Blake himself has survived the 'blasts of winter' mentioned in the plate, and made us better for it.

The Voice of the Ancient Bard completes the series on an ambivalent note. The old man is singing and playing his song, and gathers a new generation about him, but he wears a shackle on his ankle. The faces of the children reveal anxiety as they are invited to the new morn and warned about past mistakes. Only if they can avoid being led by those who are not qualified, can they avoid repeating the cycle of despair which the previous generation followed. Blake's unstated answer to the children is that they should trust their own imaginations to provide them with the thread that connects them to the infinite.

So perhaps as a group the three poems are meant to be an invitation to go beyond Experience into Blake's favorite place, the world of Imagination and Vision.

BARD picture

Songs of Innocence & of Experience, Song 54, (E 31)
"The Voice of the Ancient Bard

Youth of delight! come hither
And see the opening morn,
Image of Truth new-born.
Doubt is fled, and clouds of reason,
Dark disputes and artful teazing.
Folly is an endless maze;
Tangled roots perplex her ways;
How many have fallen there!
They stumble all night over bones of the dead;
And feel—they know not what but care;
And wish to lead others, when they should be led."

Friday, December 18, 2009

Beulah II

I cut my teeth on Beulah Land; I was one of those babies sleeping on the front bench while my father preached. At about 9 years of age I read John Bunyan's Pilgrims Progress; here's a snippet:

"Now I saw in my dream, that by this time the Pilgrims were got over the Enchanted Ground, and entering into the country of Beulah, whose air was very sweet and pleasant, the way lying directly through it, they solaced themselves there for a season.

Yea, here they heard continually the singing of birds,and saw every day the flowers appear on the earth, and heard the voice of the turtle in the land. In this country the sun shineth night and day. wherefore this was beyond the Valley of the Shadow of Death, and also out of the reach of Giant Despair, neither could they from this place so much as see Doubting Castle.

Here they were within sight of the city they were going to,also here met them some of the inhabitants thereof; for in this land the Shining Ones commonly walked, because it was upon the borders of heaven. In this land also, the contract between the bride and the bridegroom was renewed; yea, here, As the bridegroom rejoiceth over the bride, so did their God rejoice over them.

Here they had no want of corn and wine; for in this place they met with abundance of what they had sought for in all their pilgrimage. Here they heard voices from out of the city, loud voices,saying, Say ye to the daughter of Zion, Behold, thy salvation cometh! Behold, his reward is with him! Here all the inhabitants of the country called them, The holy people, The redeemed of the Lord, Sought out"

Beulah appears in the Bible once; speaking of Jerusalem Isaiah wrote in 62:4:
"No longer will they call you Deserted, or name your land Desolate. But you will be called Hephzibah (King Hezekiah's wife), and your land Beulah; for the LORD will take delight in you, and your land will be married."

Blake drew on Isaiah and John Bunyan for Beulah; this is only one of many, many sources in the Bible that he used (for his own purposes!).


When Larry retired from working for the government in Washington, DC, we left the 'fast lane' and removed ourselves to the foot of the mountains in South Carolina. For the first and only time in our lives we had a few acres of land to enjoy and to tend. This retreat from congestion, traffic and competition, Larry was fond of calling Beulah.

He was following the nomenclature of his hero, William Blake, who called the level of existence just below the level of Eden, by the name Beulah. From Beulah one may return to 'the severe contentions of eternity' after a period of stress-free relaxation in Beulah. If one got addicted to a life of ease and intellectual laziness, one might slip down into the level of Generation or Ulro. Beulah was meant to be a transitional state not a permanent way of life.

Here is a passage from Symbol and Image in William Blake, by George W Digby, Page 51:

"The 'Daughters of Beulah' are man's inherent powers of recovering his inner harmony and sense of direction. They hold him by secret threads and represent a sort of psychological umbilical cord. They represent the power of the imagination to throw up symbols and present them intuitively to the mind (as these symbols come from the region of the mind most remote and other than ego-consciousness, they appear to come from the unconscious.) By means of these symbols, which are the 'Daughters of Beulah', the lost man may be rescued. Although they may become more and more obscure and tenuous the farther he sinks into the meshes of maya, yet the threads are always there and do not break. The compassion of the 'Daughters of Beulah' endures, as does man's capacity for acceptance and assimilation."

Milton, Plate 30 (E129)

"But the Emanations trembled exceedingly, nor could they
Live, because the life of Man was too exceeding unbounded
His joy became terrible to them they trembled & wept
Crying with one voice. Give us a habitation & a place
In which we may be hidden under the shadow of wings
For if we who are but for a time, & who pass away in winter
Behold these wonders of Eternity we shall consume
But you O our Fathers & Brothers, remain in Eternity
But grant us a Temporal Habitation. do you speak
To us; we will obey your words as you obey Jesus
The Eternal who is blessed for ever & ever. Amen

So spake the lovely Emanations;"

Four Zoas, Night 1, Page 5, Line 29 (E303)

"There is from Great Eternity a mild & pleasant rest
Namd Beulah a Soft Moony Universe feminine lovely
Pure mild & Gentle given in Mercy to those who sleep
Eternally. Created by the Lamb of God around
On all sides within & without the Universal Man
The Daughters of Beulah follow sleepers in all their Dreams
Creating Spaces lest they fall into Eternal Death"


"There is a place where Contrarieties are equally True
This place is called Beulah, It is a pleasant lovely Shadow
Where no dispute can come. Because of those who Sleep.
Into this place the Sons & Daughters of Ololon descended
With solemn mourning into Beulahs moony shades & hills
Weeping for Milton: mute wonder held the Daughters of Beulah
Enrapturd with affection sweet and mild benevolence

Beulah is evermore Created around Eternity; appearing
To the Inhabitants of Eden, around them on all sides.
But Beulah to its Inhabitants appears within each district
As the beloved infant in his mothers bosom round incircled
With arms of love & pity & sweet compassion. But to
The Sons of Eden the moony habitations of Beulah,
Are from Great Eternity a mild & pleasant Rest."

In the Blake Dictionary, Damon states that Beulah is the subconscious. As such it is out of touch with what we call the 'real world' of conscious thought, sensation, and ego-control. Since what it presents to consciousness is non rational - dreams, fantasy, intuitions,and imaginary constructs - we tend to classify it as illusionary. Psychologists however have found it an avenue for healing the psyche by revealing hidden damage deeper within the unconscious.

An Image of Beulah
Blake seems to have recognized the healing nature of a state where ideas were not rejected or judged; where there was not pressure to produce or conform; where the darkness could appear but not harm; where one could feel that one was held in compassionate arms. Blake's Beulah could be entered through gates from his other worlds, to provide the healing which souls needed to progress along their journeys. Perhaps he saw himself as requiring such recovery from his trials and toils, and wanted to share with us his gentle place where his imagination could spread its wings.

Milton, Plate 42

Thursday, December 17, 2009


Art today is a fiercely competition business. A successful artist must subordinate his own interests and values to those which are 'commercial', that is to say those that sell. Many young men and women abandon the field, unwilling to serve the interests of people with means and no taste!

That was Blake's dilemma from ages 23 to 43. For 20 years he struggled to make a living for Catherine and himself while remaining true to his Visions of Life. From that dilemma he was hopefully delivered in 1800.

An affluent man commonly referred to as a poetaster named William Hayley invited William Blake to occupy a cottage on his property at Felpham, a seaside town in Sussex. William and Catherine moved there with much enthusiasm hoping to get away from the 'dog eat dog' commercial milieu of London. But their enthusiasm was short lived.

Hayley proposed to engage Blake in 'profitable' art work such as painting miniatures, and he uniformly discouraged Blake from pursuing his Eternal (non-material!) interests.

Blake endured this travail --an internal one-- for three years; Hayley was kind, trying to be helpful (Blake decided that corporeal friends are spiritual enemies.) (Milton 4.26 Erdman 98).

In 1803 the travail ended; read the letter to Hayley (Erdman 756). It appears that he was miraculously delivered from the stress of 'serving two masters'; he was soon back in London. A truer friend named Thomas Butts bought whatever Blake chose to paint. The Shoreham Ancients (Use the browser to see this article; if you page down instead you may get an ad for wikipedia.) gradually gathered around his house to discuss his work, and to support Blake in other ways.

We are basically indebted to Butts and the Shoreham Ancients for the tremendous inheritance that our poet left for us.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009


Desire for the Infinite From There Is No Natural Religion, Plate 5

Reading from George W. Digby, Page 124, Symbol and Image in William Blake:

"For not only is the infinite present in everything, but one thing is the mirror of another, and everything is linked and harmonized in a translucent chain of correspondences. This is the translucence of which Blake often speaks. Eckhart said, 'anything known or born is an image', and Jacob Boehem could see the inner life and nature of every natural object recorded on it as a 'signature.' In the poem sent to his friend Thomas Butts from Felpham, which begins 'To my Friend Thomas Butts I write / My first Vision of Light...,' Blake describes the miracle of the divine manifesting in the phenomenal. The poem records an instance of the power of contracting and expanding vision, which is one of Blake's fundamental images... This contracting and expanding of consciousness is the essence of human life; it is what makes possible the co-existence in one body of the divine and the human."
Letter to Thomas Butts, Oct 2 1800 (E 711)

Jerusalem, 98.28 (E257)
"And they conversed together in Visionary forms dramatic which

Redounded from their Tongues in thunderous majesty, in Visions
In new Expanses, creating exemplars of Memory and of Intellect
Creating Space, Creating Time according to the wonders Divine
Of Human Imagination, throughout all the Three Regions

Of Childhood, Manhood & Old Age[;] & the all tremendous
unfathomable Non Ens

Of Death was seen in regenerations terrific or complacent varying
According to the subject of discourse & every Word & Every

Was Human according to the Expansion or Contraction, the
Translucence or

Opakeness of Nervous fibres such was the variation of Time &

Which vary according as the Organs of Perception vary & they

To & fro in Eternity as One Man reflecting each in each & clearly

And seeing: according to fitness & order. And I heard Jehovah

Terrific from his Holy Place & saw the Words of the Mutual
Covenant Divine"

"The most beautiful and profound emotion we can experience is the sensation of the mystical. It is the sower of all true science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead. To know that what is impenetrable to us really exists, manifesting itself as the highest wisdom and the most radiant beauty which our dull faculties can comprehend only in their primitive forms, this knowledge, this feeling, is at the centre of true religiousness."

Albert Einstein

Tuesday, December 15, 2009


Generation to Blake was a gift from God to prevent the part of eternity that separated from the whole, from falling into nonentity. Each birth is a reenactment of that mercy which gives a new opportunity for a return to the wholeness of eternity.

The entry into the physical world of the immortal spirit, is what the images of nativity attempt to portray. Incorporation of the spiritual in the physical is a movement that sets off a process of evolving awareness of incarnation: the unity of body and spirit.

In Blake's words, the Nativity is concerned with the 'mortal birth.' Blake's primary interest was in the birth to immortality. Blake added TO TIRZAH to Songs of Experience in later copies of songs as his affirmation of the raising of the spiritual body. But just as 'generation is the image of regeneration', birth is the image of rebirth, and the child is the image of the new man.

Here is a passage from Jung in which consciousness itself is the child which is born daily, or moment by moment out of the inner depths.

"Consciousness does not create itself-it wells up from unknown depths. In childhood it awakens gradually, and all through life it wakes each morning out of the depths of sleep from an unconscious condition. It is like a child that is born daily out of the primordial womb of the unconscious. . . . It is not only influenced by the unconscious but continually emerges out of it in the form of numberless spontaneous ideas and sudden flashes of thought." ["The Psychology of Eastern Meditation," CW 11, par. 935.]

The consciousness that Blake tried to convey was that of being a part of the one body; and being open to a direct connection to the world which is unseen but always present: Eternity.

Songs of Innocence and Experience, Song 52 (E30)


"Whate'er is Born of Mortal Birth,
Must be consumed with the Earth
To rise from Generation free;
Then what have I to do with thee?

The Sexes sprung from Shame & Pride
Blow'd in the morn: in evening died
But Mercy changd Death into Sleep;
The Sexes rose to work & weep.

Thou Mother of my Mortal part.
With cruelty didst mould my Heart.
And with false self-decieving tears,
Didst bind my Nostrils Eyes & Ears.

Didst close my Tongue in senseless clay
And me to Mortal Life betray:
The Death of Jesus set me free,
Then what have I to do with thee?"

[text on illustration: It is Raised a Spiritual Body]

Jerusalem, Plate 7 (E149)

"And the Religion of Generation which was meant for the
Of Jerusalem, become her covering, till the time of the End.
O holy Generation! [Image] of regeneration!
O point of mutual forgiveness between Enemies!
Birthplace of the Lamb of God incomprehensible!"

Monday, December 14, 2009

publish picture

National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C..
The Great Red Dragon and the Woman Clothed in Sun

This picture of a scene in Revelations is public domain. Putting Blake's pictures directly into a post should certainly make it easier for the reader to grasp what is being said by it.

Revelation 12
1And there appeared a great wonder in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars:
2And she being with child cried, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered.
3And there appeared another wonder in heaven; and behold a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads.
4And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth: and the dragon stood before the woman which was ready to be delivered, for to devour her child as soon as it was born.
5And she brought forth a man child, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron: and her child was caught up unto God, and to his throne.
6And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she hath a place prepared of God, that they should feed her there a thousand two hundred and threescore days.
7And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels,
8And prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven.

(Blake would not have agreed with John's 'rod of iron', thinking as he did that Jesus was forgiveness. John was quoting a psalm when he used that figure.)

From Blake: PLATE 12 or 13 of Milton"For her light is terrible to me. I fade before her immortal beauty.
O wherefore doth a Dragon-form forth issue from
my limbs To sieze her new born son?" (E105)

Here Leutha forecasts what is described in Revelation

"Abraham, Moses, Solomon, Paul, Constantine, Charlemaine
Luther, these seven are the Male-Females, the Dragon Forms
Religion hid inWar, a Dragon red & hidden Harlot"
(This from Plate 37 of Milton) (E138)
"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"

This adequately reflects the top half of the picture. When you may engage in the universal sea of Erdman's Blake text you will find a more complete statement of the above at the end of Plate 77 of Jerusalem.

Sunday, December 13, 2009


Blake was capable of making beautiful pictures of birth and renewal as he did in "On the Morn of Christ's Nativity." His poetry too could create lovely images of the gentle side of renewal and new beginnings. In The Four Zoas, as the process of rebuilding a world whose fallen state had made the critical reversal of direction, we find a passage which may surprise and delight us. Tharmas and Enion who had become aged and exhausted as they had wandered futilely in a world of pain and frustration, are the subjects of this passage. Plucking Grapes

The Four Zoas, Page 129 (E397)

"Then Vala lifted up her hands to heaven to call on Enion
She calld but none could answer her & the Eccho of her voice returnd

Where is the voice of God that calld me from the silent dew
Where is the Lord of Vala dost thou hide in clefts of the rock
Why shouldst thou hide thyself from Vala from the soul that wanders desolate

She ceas'd & light beamd round her like the glory of the morning

And She arose out of the river & girded on her golden girdle
And now her feet step on the grassy bosom of the ground
Among her flocks & she turnd her eyes toward her pleasant house
And saw in the door way beneath the trees two little children playing
She drew near to her house & her flocks followd her footsteps
The Children clung around her knees she embracd them & wept over them

Thou little Boy art Tharmas & thou bright Girl Enion
How are ye thus renewd & brought into the Gardens of Vala

She embracd them in tears. till the sun descended the western hills
And then she enterd her bright house leading her mighty children

And when night came the flocks laid round the house beneath the trees
She laid the Children on the beds which she saw prepard in the house
Then last herself laid down & closd her Eyelids in soft slumbers

And in the morning when the Sun arose in the crystal sky
Vala awoke & calld the children from their gentle slumbers

Awake O Enion awake & let thine innocent Eyes
Enlighten all the Crystal house of Vala awake awake
Awake Tharmas awake awake thou child of dewy tears
Open the orbs of thy blue eyes & smile upon my gardens

The Children woke & smild on Vala. she kneeld by the golden couch
She presd them to her bosom & her pearly tears dropd down

Why dost thou turn thyself away from his sweet watry eyes
Tharmas henceforth in Valas bosom thou shalt find sweet peace
O bless the lovely eyes of Tharmas & the Eyes of Enion"

This was not the end of the process or regeneration, but it was the sort of vision we are occasionally given in the midst of sorrow and woe, that provides hope that all will be well. Being able to see the possibility of starting afresh, of casting off the accumulated debris of traveling through a world of sorrow, eases our way along the path to Eternity.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

The Perennial Philosophy

Jesus shook Buddha's hand and called him brother.

Blake pretty generally adherred to the Perennial Philosophy, which has existed since time immemorial;
it's not a denomination; it's universal.  It has
equal relevance to 'Turk and Jew' (by which Blake
meant everybody; in his day 'Turk' meant Muslims
or Asians-- or simply non-Westerners.)

All of which means that exponents of the perennial
philosophy were not 'Christians', but worldlings
(not in the sense of Paul's 'bad world', but
denoting those with a universal outlook).  Buddha
might have equal weight with Christ.

Among Blake's special friends were Shakespeare,
Spenser, Behmen (Boehme), Trismegistus, Plato,
Thomas Taylor, etc., all who held a universal

There are those who believe that during the period
of his life -- aged 12-30 -- Jesus may have gone to Asia
to visit with and learn from Buddhists and others.
Some believe (or profess to believe) that he may have gone with his Uncle Joseph to Cornwall and established the English church:

"     And did those feet in ancient time,
     Walk upon Englands mountains green:
     And was the holy Lamb of God,
     On Englands pleasant pastures seen!"

There are many definitions of the word
'Christian', but I like best the one that Blake
gave to us in his inscriptions on the Lacoon
(Erdman 273-5):

"The whole Business of Man Is The Arts & All Things Common......Christianity is Art & not Money
Money is its Curse.....
The Old & New Testaments are the Great Code of
Art ....Jesus & his Apostles & Disciples were all
Artists....ART is the Tree of LIFE GOD is JESUS
....Art Degraded Imagination Denied War Governed the Nations

Prayer is the Study of Art
Praise is the Practise of Art
Fasting &c. all relate to Art
The outward Ceremony is Antichrist

A Poet a Painter a Musician an Architect: the Man
Or Woman who is not one of these is not a

(Blake has obviously defined the word 'Art' in a
very special sense, but it describes his life and
explains the enormous contribution which he made
to the Christian culture.)

Friday, December 11, 2009


Returning to "The Morning of Christ's Nativity" by John Milton, for which Blake made two sets of five watercolor illustrations, there is a lot more to observe. Blake's pictures like Milton's poetry did not focus only on the supplanting of Apollo and heathen gods. The first and last pictures, like the beginning and ending of Milton's poetry present a more conventional portrait of the birth of the child based on accounts in the Gospels of Luke and Matthew.

Here is Blake's first illustration for On the Morning of Christ's Nativity.

Blake of course, added distinctive features to his illustrations. In her book Blake's Vision of the Poetry of Milton, Bette Charlene Werner, on page 119 and following, points out some things that speak of Blake's own philosophy. Quoting from her book:

> "With the angelic figure of Peace and the recumbent form of Nature the artist suggests the union of heaven and earth in the Word made flesh.
> the Huntington version of the design emphasizes the divinity, not only of Christ, but also by implication of man.
> The Child is pictured springing forth in unfettered freedom. The figure suggests at once the "Heav'n-born-childe" of Milton's ode and the preexistent soul whose material birth Blake describes in "Infant Sorrow" (E27, SoE48):
"My mother groand! my father wept.
Into the dangerous world I lept."
The Blessed Infant, ablaze with the radiance of spiritual existence, is the light that puts the inferior flame of the sun to shame.
> According to Blake "everything that lives is holy for the source of life / Descends to be a weeping babe." (E323) That understanding may explain his portrayal of Nature here, not as one whose ugliness requires a covering, but as a figure whose naked beauty is still apparent beneath the translucent covering of snow. The veiled form of Nature in this illustration is, like the Vala of Blake's own mythology, an embodiment of the vale of tears and the veil of materiality.
> Like Milton, Blake sees in the Incarnation not only the humility of Christ, emptying himself of his Godhead, but the glorification of man. He identifies Jesus, the Divine Humanity, with Imagination and insists: "Man is All Imagination God is Man & exists in us & we in him." (E664) This understanding makes the Nativity not only the fulfillment of God's becoming man, but a promise of salvation through the spiritual union of all men in in the One Man who is Jesus, the Savior."
End of Quotes

Milton's On the Morning of Christ's Nativity

Thursday, December 10, 2009


Blake in his characteristic way, sees the birth of Christ as part of a larger picture. The Bible, John Milton, the history of religion, cosmology, and his own myth; each play a role in Blake's response to Jesus' birthday.

"On the Morning of Christ's Nativity"

The Blake Archive provides this in its introduction to "On the Morning of Christ's Nativity:"

"Blake's interest in the 'Nativity Ode' began some years before his execution of these water colors. His illuminated book, Europe a Prophecy (1794), clearly shows the influence of Milton's ode. By 1809, Blake may have taken a renewed interest in the poem because of his increasingly Christocentric theological views. His harsh criticism of classical civilization resonates with two of the 'Nativity' designs, 'The Old Dragon' and 'The Overthrow of Apollo and the Pagan Gods' (objects 3 and 4). Modern critics have been hard pressed to find Blake dissenting from Milton's own iconography and perspectives in the ode."

Milton, Nativity Ode

From Europe a Prohecy (E61,2.12):
"Ah! I am drown'd in shady woe, and visionary joy.

And who shall bind the infinite with an eternal band?
To compass it with swaddling bands? and who shall cherish it
With milk and honey?
I see it smile & I roll inward & my voice is past.

She ceast & rolld her shady clouds
Into the secret place.


The deep of winter came;
What time the secret child,
Descended thro' the orient gates of the eternal day:
War ceas'd, & all the troops like shadows fled to their abodes."

Wednesday, December 09, 2009


The Bible story reports that Joseph of Arimathea lent his tomb for the burial of the crucified Jesus.

Legend suggests that Joseph of Arimathea, was the Lord's uncle (maternal no doubt), that he owned tin mines in Cornwall (England), and that Jesus may have accompanied him in a trip to Britain as a youngster. From that the legend grew.

Blake of course was familiar with both stories (the biblical one and the legendary one), and they led to the famous poem and hymn called Jerusalem that appears in the Preface of Milton. Here are the tune and words:

And did those feet in ancient time,
Walk upon Englands mountains green:
And was the holy Lamb of God,
On Englands pleasant pastures seen!

And did the Countenance Divine,
Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
And was Jerusalem builded here,
Among these dark Satanic Mills?
Bring me my Bow of burning gold:

Bring me my Arrows of desire:
Bring me my Spear: O clouds unfold!
Bring me my Chariot of fire!
I will not cease from Mental Fight,
Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand:
Till we have built Jerusalem,
In Englands green & pleasant Land.

(Would to God that all the Lords people were Prophets.) Numbers XI. ch 29 v.
This hymn became immensely popular and bid fair
to replace God Save the King (at least in some circles.)

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

The Two Witnesses

In Milton (Erdman plate 22 [24] Lines 53-63: Blake referred to Wesley and a confederate, Whitefield, as the two witnesses mentioned in Revelation 11:3 As far as I know, Blake never mentioned Fox, but one may consider Blake's term in The Divine Image, 'Turk and Jew' in the nature of a quotation from Fox.

Condemning those Christians who deny the light Fox wrote, "you make a profession of Christ in his flesh, and will not own his light, which enlightens every man, which is the life in him, you are as bad or worse than the Jews, Turks, or Indians; for they will confess to that light which does condemn evil in them, but you make a profession, of Christ in the flesh, yet deny his light, which is life in him; and the Jews, Turks, and Indians, will confess to the light that does reprove them....." (from The Works of George Fox, Vol 5, p. 200)

Fox, and Blake as well, had only contempt for Established religious practices, ceremonies, dogmas, special days, etc.; for them the Spirit, the Light was what matters.

Two dissenters in two centuries provided a creative leavening that may have saved England from complete disorder and chaos. Things there were bad enough anyway. Religious dissenters beheaded England's king in 1651 just as Fox was beginning to
spread the Light of the Prince of Peace; he would "remove the cause of War", recognizing that of God in everyone.

Fox went to the steeple houses to denounce the hireling priests---and spent many a day in prison (something our poet fortunately escaped).

The 18th Century dawned; William and Mary brought a semblance of order into England, but political, economic and religious corruption abounded.

Wesley was born; he didn't denounce hireling priests; he just showed a better way. In that day the churches, the cathedrals, had minimal congregations; the average Brit would not dare to enter the place; it was reserved for the uppers, and virtually the entire population held the 'state church' in low regard. On Sundays ordinary men attended saloons, bear baitings, cockfights, you name it. Wesley went to these places, to the public square, to gathering places of miners and blessed them with the love of God. He preached to thousands in those places while a handful of pious souls went to the cathedrals. He saved England from a revolution.

All this was part of the backdrop in which William Blake was born and grew up; Wesley died in 1791 when Blake was 24.

In England Fox and Wesley were the foremost witnesses to the kingdom of God in the 17th and 18th centuries. Blake was the third one; in the 19th century.

Here are some attributes the three men shared:
anti political and religious corruption
anti economic exploitation

for love
for peace
for food for the poor
for industry
for integrity
for Universal inclusion

Monday, December 07, 2009

Annihilate the Selfhood

We hear about this from Blake only after his conversion
to Christianity; it was a consequence of the Moment of Grace.

Blake spent his youth denouncing the 'Enemy': an
oppressive political and economic conspiracy against
Albion--its tool, the 'State Church' (all churches in
fact), exploitation of the poor, the Art merchants
who approved only commercial art (they had dealt with
Blake like the Pharisees dealt with Jesus), and
finally the misguided help of a 'corporeal friend'.

Jerusalem, Plate 76

After all this came the Moment when he heard the voice:
"thou ram horn'd with gold", and he knew himself accepted
and used by the Eternal Powers that abide after all the
above has passed away. Here's where he was at that point
in his journey through life, and the system with which he
reported it.

He came to see that the 'Enemy' was within (we have met
the enemy, and he is Us). He 'came to himself', he
confessed his sins. Henceforth the annihilation of his selfhood (Jerusalem 5, line 23) and the power of Forgiveness became his chief motifs. The old, old story was told again.

Sunday, December 06, 2009


In spite of the difficulty of some of Blake's poetry, he was not trying to hide from us the truth that had been revealed to him, but to make it known. Like us, Blake lived in the world of generation, with all its distractions, distortions, oppressions and disappointments. But the Eternal world of the Imagination he knew to be the real world. He wanted us to know as he knew, that the real world in which nothing is worthless or can be lost, was open for us to enter. He felt with all his being that if each individual could know that Eternal Reality, it would assist in renewing the earthly world we inhabit. Not that we could create a better world, but we may create the conditions for God's transforming power to be manifest.
Vision of the Last Judgment, Page 90, (E562)

"Here they are no longer talking of what is Good &
Evil or of what is Right or Wrong & puzzling themselves in Satans
[Maze] Labyrinth But are Conversing with Eternal
Realities as they Exist in the Human Imagination We are in a
World of Generation & death & this world we must cast off if we
would be Painters [P 91] Such as Rafa[e]l Mich Angelo & the
Ancient Sculptors. if we do not cast off this world we shall be
only Venetian Painters who will be cast off & Lost from Art"

The following passage is from an article by Michael Vannoy Adams which is the first chapter in Joseph Reppen (ed.), Why I Became a Psychotherapist (Northvale, NJ, and London: Jason Aronson, 1998), pp. 1-14.

"For Jung, the purpose of psychoanalysis is, as Blake says, 'Conversing with Eternal Realities as they Exist in the Human Imagination' (1810, p. 613) - or, in Jungian terminology, dialoguing with archetypal realities that exist in fantasy. According to Jung, the images in a dream - or in active imagination - are exactly what they seem to be or seem to mean. He proposes a precision theory of the imagination. 'Precision means whatever is actually presented,' Hillman says. 'Simply: the actual qualities of the image' (1977, p. 69). The unconscious, Jung argues, is incredibly precise in the selection of qualitatively apt images to epitomize psychical reality. It is difficult to interpret psychical reality not because some censor distorts, or encrypts, reality in a code that we then have to decipher, but simply because the unconscious, like some poet, communicates in images with which we are only more or less familiar. We do not have to translate these images; we have to define them. We have to explicate all that a specific image implies. The imagination is, in this sense, what the philosopher of science Michael Polanyi (1966) (who also befriended me in Texas and later in England) calls a 'tacit dimension,' or what the physicist David Bohm (1981) calls an 'implicate order.' Jungian analysis employs a phenomenological (or 'essentialist') method. It inquires into the essential being or meaning of images, the fundamental phenomena of psychical reality. From a Jungian perspective, the unconscious does not so much conceal as it reveals. What an image is or means is not hidden from us, as if there were some deceptive intent; it is simply unknown to us, because we have not mastered the poetic, or imagistic, language that the unconscious employs."

Engaging in Activities of the Imagination

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Father and Son

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was
with God, and the Word was God" (John 1:1).

God was the Father. Christ was the Son.

The relationship between God, the Father, and Christ, the Son was central to Blake's theology (and mine).

This was the first pair, father and son. Every man since 'the beginning' has also been part of a pair.

Read Jerusalem plate 42 again; here Albion is the father, Los is the son. What's happening?

Blake celebrates the usual conflict between father and son-- like a 20th century father and a 21st century son, like the sixties flower boys and their fathers, like America and King George in 1776, and on and on we could go adding types of this archetypal relationship.

My Son, My Son!

The Generation Gap is always with us; Blake used it here to humanize God, much as C.G.Jung was to do with Answer to Job. They also help us (poor suffering sinners) to rise above the conventional image of God imprinted upon the public by our so called religious leaders.

Before the end of Jerusalem Albion and Los had achieved an amiable (loving?) relationship, as most of us rebels do with our fathers when we mature (fortunate if they are still alive).

Friday, December 04, 2009


Jerusalem, Plate 42

From Symbol and Image in William Blake by, George W. Digby (Page 10-11):

"Now Blake in his Prophetic Books used two ideas, or images, for measuring man's growth, his limitation to or freedom from the confined and crawling state typified by the caterpillar or worm. Both ideas are expressed in terms of a scale of degrees between two opposite states, or qualities. The first is a scale of Contraction-Expansion; the second is the scale of Opaqueness-Lucidity. In The Four Zoas, Milton, and Jerusalem Blake often uses and refers to these very significant ideas. In the scale of Contraction-Expansion, contraction is the lower limit of the scale; this is a physical, animal-like state which is regulated absolutely by the five senses. This he called the state of Adam. Adam is man, or human nature dominated exclusively by physical urges or impulses.
In the scale of Opaqueness-Lucidity, opaqueness stands at the lower limit. This a state in which all imagination and sensibility, all those promptings of the heart, all understanding which springs from human feeling and sympathy are absent. In this state man is utterly opaque and dark; he is bereft of every glimmer of intuitive insight. This state Blake called Satan.
The idea of Expansion is not so much the full development of man's nature, his facilities and talents, as it is the awareness that he is a part of a greater whole; that although he constitutes an individual center with marvelous capacities, man is not the lord of the earth, nor anything in himself alone.
For Lucidity refers to man's inner nature, his psychological state, his intuitive awareness of himself his motives and values. Just as expansion is not primarily concerned with the development of faculties and talents, but the relation with the whole, so lucidity is less concerned with a particular understanding or realization than with awareness of man's total psychosomatic being, with all its contradictions and conflicts."

Jerusalem, Plate 42 (Lines 25-40) Text Los speaking to Albion.
"Thou wast the Image of God surrounded by the Four Zoa's
Three thou hast slain! I am the Fourth: thou canst not destroy
Thou art in Error; trouble me not with thy righteousness.
I have innocence to defend and ignorance to instruct:
I have no time for seeming; and little arts of compliment,
In morality and virtue: in self-glorying and pride.
There is a limit of Opakeness, and a limit of Contraction;
In every Individual Man, and the limit of Opakeness,
Is named Satan: and the limit of Contraction is named Adam.
But when Man sleeps in Beulah, the Saviour in mercy takes
Contractions Limit, and of the Limit he forms Woman: That
Himself may in process of time be born Man to redeem
But there is no Limit of Expansion! there is no Limit of
In the bosom of Man for ever from eternity to eternity.
Therefore I break thy bonds of righteousness; I crush thy
That they may not crush me and mine: do thou be righteous,
And I will return it; otherwise I defy thy worst revenge:"

Wednesday, December 02, 2009


"The Voice of One Crying in the Wilderness"

The figure of the prophet is rooted in Old Testament Literature. The priests were in charge of the religious activities of the Jews. They developed a religion based on law. The ten commandments of Moses multiplied until
there were laws and rules for every facet of Jewish life. Following the law was supposed to please Jehovah and induce him to protect the Israelites. But the law was broken in letter and in spirit, and the nation of Israel endured many calamities which was often interpreted as punishment from Jehovah for sinfulness. Prophets arose outside of the established religious organization to lay before the people their failures and the predicted consequences. The prophets spoke as instruments of God, attempting to lead the people into more a just, merciful, and equitable society. The Old Testament prophets usually used threats as well as promises in trying to induce the Israelites to be obedient to God as they understood him.

Blake, with his sensitivity to injustice, and his vision of the elevated role man should play in God's world, felt affinity for the role of prophet. He knew how the world could be, should be, and would be if man would recognize and accept the role that God offers him.

God had endowed William with outstanding gifts. He had an unusual ability to see beyond the superficial appearances around him. He had an intellect that could absorb vast amounts of information and analyze and organize it. He had communication skills as a verbal and visual artist. Recognizing these talents as gifts from God, he wanted to use them in His service.

So it seems predictable that Blake should assume the role of prophet, and attempt to lead the people into a better understanding of what had gone wrong with the plans God had for mankind, and how man might get back on the right track. The right track to him was not obedience to the law as it was for the prophets of old; the right track was the New Testament innovation of being led by the Holy Spirit.

Blake created the character Los as the Eternal Prophet, and allowed him to enact many of the prophetic roles Blake played himself. Like the prophet Ezekiel, Blake and Los used demonstrations, not words alone to project their message.

Jerusalem 5:18
"I rest not from my great task!
To open the Eternal Worlds, to open the immortal Eyes
Of Man inwards into the Worlds of Thought: into Eternity
Ever expanding in the Bosom of God. the Human Imagination"

Jerusalem 12:13
"Giving a body to Falshood that it may be cast off for ever."

Jerusalem 88:49
"The blow of his Hammer is Justice. the swing of his Hammer:
The force of Los's Hammer is eternal Forgiveness"

Jerusalem 96:7
"Because he kept the Divine Vision in time of trouble"