A very prominent symbol in the Bible, 'stones' occurs
161 times in the Old and New Testaments. One that
Blake especially loved occurred in Ezekiel 28:
"13 Thou hast been in Eden the garden of God; every
precious stone was thy covering, the sardius, topaz,
and the diamond, the beryl, the onyx, and the jasper,
the sapphire, the emerald, and the carbuncle, and gold:
the workmanship of thy tabrets and of thy pipes was
prepared in thee in the day that thou wast created.
14 Thou art the anointed cherub that covereth; and I
have set thee so: thou wast upon the holy mountain of
God; thou hast walked up and down in the midst of the
stones of fire."
The covering cherub! the stones of fire!
Blake may be best understood as an expander of the
Bible. He made very good use of the two symbols
mentioned above, and amplified the meanings used by
Stones of Fire appears in the Prologue
The Gates of Paradise:
"Mutual Forgiveness of each Vice
Such are the Gates of Paradise
Against the Accusers chief desire
Who walkd among the Stones of Fire" (E 258)
Now what in the world does that mean??? We get a clue
from 1 Kings 18:38:
"Then the fire of the LORD fell, and consumed the burnt
sacrifice, and the wood, and the stones, and the dust,
and licked up the water that was in the trench."
This is from the account of Elijah's contest with the
prophets of Baal.
Notice how the fire consumed the stone. We know the
fire was from God, the stone a symbol of matter: Spirit
burns up matter.
That's Blake's message in a nutshell: spirit takes the
place of matter. In our pilgrimage through life the
material is gradually superceded by the spirit (God,
'Stones of fire' represents a conjunction of matter and
spirit. Ezekiel was speaking of a brilliant, successful
potentate of his day, who had achieved greatly, who
would be brought down by God. One such as Lucifer,
associated by Ezekiel and by Blake with the Covering Cherub (another name for Satan or the Selfhood).
Blake's source for the Covering Cherub was Ezekiel, but Ezekiel's might have been Genesis 3:
23:"So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life."
In The Marriage of Heaven and Hell Blake had this to say about the Covering Cherub:
"The cherub with his flaming sword is hereby commanded to leave his guard at tree of life, and when he does, the whole creation will be consumed, and appear infinite, and holy whereas it now appears finite & corrupt" (Marriage of Heaven and Hell, plate 14). This shows what Blake thought of the biblical story of the Fall. In his myth the Fall occurs when man is kicked out of Eden (or just falls asleep), but so does the Return.
In all versions of Blake's myth the end of the story is a happy event; the literary heads might call it a Romance rather than a Tragedy.
There's a great deal more to be said about the story of the Fall, especially about the Tree of Good and Evil; I'll tell you more about the Tree if you encourage me,