Monday, November 30, 2009


Blake offers us four levels of existence in time, plus a level of existence outside of time: Great Eternity.

The first thing to focus on in considering Great Eternity is that Eternity is not time. Eternity is not an extension of time. Eternity may contain time, but time cannot contain Eternity. Eternity may interact with time. There is a flexibility in Eternity that does not exist in time, because time is a restraint allowing only sequential experience (access.) Without time multiplicity and unity are not contradictory. In Eternity essence remains, appearances fluctuate.

"Then those in Great Eternity met in the Council of God
As one Man for contracting their Exalted Senses
They behold Multitude or Expanding they behold as one
As One Man all the Universal family & that one Man
They call Jesus the Christ & they in him & he in them
Live in Perfect harmony in Eden the land of life
Consulting as One Man above the Mountain of Snowdon Sublime"

This passage in Night the First of the Four Zoas (Page 21) uses the word one, five times in seven lines. It seems that Blake wanted to emphasize that in Great Eternity there is no division. Blake does not envision Great Eternity as a static place but as one in which the movement does not result in separation. Envisioning Eternity is impossible for mortals, but these are characteristics Blake offers:

1 Contracting their Exalted Senses, they see Multitude (Four Zoas, Page 21)
2 Expanding they see as One (Four Zoas, Page 21)
3 Visions of Human Life & Shadows of Wisdom & Knowledge are expandable (Milton, Plate34)
4 War & Hunting are the Two Fountains of the River of Life (Milton, Plate35)
5 Universal Brotherhood exists in Eternity (Four Zoas, E300, Lines 3.4-3.5)
6 Ideas may not be slain (they are the Divine Members) (Milton, Plate35)
7 Every particular form is the Divine Vision (Jerusalem, Plate 54)
8 Every form Emanates its Light which is its Garment (Jerusalem, Plate 54)
9 There is Continual Forgiveness of Sins and Perpetual Mutual Sacrifice (Jerusalem, Plate 61, Line 23-4)
The Eternal can be expressed but it cannot be contained.
We can be present to it, and it can be present to us as imagination and inspiration.
Forgiveness and Brotherhood are expressions of the Eternal.
Divisions and limitations disappear in Eternity.
Life and Light participate in the great exchange.
The energies of the mind and body and spirit interact freely and cooperatively in Great Eternity.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Was Blake religious?

This from Vision and Vesture

"For Blake's glory and Blake's significance
to our age is just this, that religion and art were
passionately fused in his own soul, and it is only by
doing full justice to both, and by presenting him
and his message whole and undivided that one can
hope to write worthily of a genius at once the most
creative and the most religious produced by the
western world."

Saturday, November 28, 2009


The plight of Albion as he falls from his original unity as an Eternal, is portrayed in Night the First of the Four Zoas.

"Then those in Great Eternity met in the Council of God
As one Man for contracting their Exalted Senses
- 310 -
They behold Multitude or Expanding they behold as one
As One Man all the Universal family & that one Man
They call Jesus the Christ & they in him & he in them
Live in Perfect harmony in Eden the land of life
Consulting as One Man above the Mountain of Snowdon Sublime

For messengers from Beulah come in tears & darkning clouds
Saying Shiloh is in ruins our brother is sick Albion He
Whom thou lovest is sick he wanders from his house of Eternity
The daughters of Beulah terrified have closd the Gate of the
Luvah & Urizen contend in war around the holy tent

So spoke the Ambassadors from Beulah & with solemn mourning
They were introducd to the divine presence & they kneeled down
In Conways Vale thus recounting the Wars of Death Eternal

The Eternal Man wept in the holy tent Our Brother in Eternity
Even Albion whom thou lovest wept in pain his family
Slept round on hills & valleys in the regions of his love
But Urizen awoke & Luvah woke & thus conferrd

Thou Luvah said the Prince of Light behold our sons & daughters
Reposd on beds. let them sleep on."

It is confusing but enlightening that Blake brings to our minds a reference to the death and resurrection of Jesus's friend Lazarus by including familiar words from the story as told in John's Gospel. Lazarus is Jesus's friend whom he loves. Jesus knows his friend is sick but holds back from visiting until Lazarus has been in the grave four days. Jesus weeps over his friend and then brings him back to life.

John, Chapter 11

When Jesus revives Lazarus it is a four stage process: he has the stone removed from the entrance to the grave, he wakes him up, he removes the grave clothes that restrain him, then he calls him forth.

Albion will be brought back from the brink of Eternal Death, but it will be a multi-stage process involving the four Zoas, the Emanations, the Spectres, and ultimately Jesus himself.

In John, the account of the raising of Lazarus is followed immediately by the passage in which the determination is made by the priests and Pharisees that Jesus must be killed.

Blake, through the retelling of the Christian myth using psychological and mythopoeic methods, aims to follow Jesus as described in this verse:

11:4 - When Jesus received the message, he said, "This illness is not meant to end in death; it is going to bring glory to God - for it will show the glory of the Son of God."

The raising of Lazarus as shown by Blake in three different ways:

Lazarus in No Natural Religion

Lazarus in Tate Gallery

Lazarus in Young's Night Thoughts

Friday, November 27, 2009


In the Gospel of John, Nicodemus heard Jesus say, "you
must be born again" representing the most significant
event in a person's life-- their awakening from a purely
physical, materialistic life to a Perception of the Infinite
(MHH, Plate 13, lines 21-23, E39).

A person with inherent gifts of imagination and insight
into their psyche may be susceptible to moments of new
insight that seem like a rebirth. (Three seminary
professors told this student that 'you must be born
again, and again, and again'.)

Such a rebirth for our poet occurred in 1804, and he
immediately reported it to his (corporeal) friend and
physical benefactor, William Hayley; in Letter 51,
dated 23 October 1804 (Erdman 756) Blake wrote:

"Suddenly, on the day after visiting the Truchsessian
Gallery of pictures, I was again enlightened with the
light I enjoyed in my youth, and which has for exactly
twenty years been closed from me as by a door and by
window-shutters." (This letter is well worth reading
but I skipped the first three paragraphs.)

Although the experience had brought Blake a
significant increase in his creative powers, you may
envision even more significant ones in the years before:

Letter 16 to Butts (Oct 2, 1800), mentioned often
, which I called first vision of light, appeared
to me to be more critical in Blake's spiritual development.
It was the word from God that empowered him to the
magnificent statement of faith that his great poems

The letter to Hayley was of another genre; we might call
it an attempt to express his own spiritual attitude in a
way acceptable to the 'non-spirtual friend'. In
contrast Blake poured out his heart to his really
supportive friend, Butts.

All 91 of the letters, printed on 85 pages of Erdman's
Complete Poetry and Prose... reward the reader. You may
become weary from coping with the continuous barrage of
metaphors, figures, images, etc in Blake's works of art;
turn to the letters, which offer few obstacles to good

We read and study Blake many different ways. The 91
letters might provide other 'visions of light'.

Thursday, November 26, 2009


Among Blake's works is a little book of only 16 plates which he produced early in his career - in 1793. It is titled To the Children: Gates of Paradise. In 1818 he re-engraved the same images, added a frontispiece, tailpiece, and explanatory couplets for each picture. The new book was titled To the Sexes: Gates of Paradise.

The children to whom the first book was addressed, may be the innocents, those who had not traveled far along the journey. Gates of Paradise is not presented as an account of violent activities such as those portrayed in The Book of Urizen. Instead it's a roadmap to psychic development. Blake is trying to lead us through the process of psychological evolution, but he does not express himself in clear rational language in either the first or second version. The reader is asked to use his intuition to retrieve from his unconscious, archetypal content to associate with the images supplied. The second version addressed to the Sexes seems to recognize that it is those who are in the stage of 'generation' who will benefit from these insights.

In his book Symbol and Image in William Blake, George Wingfield Digby, presents a through psychological commentary plate by plate. On page 6, Digby says: "But the purpose of this form of communication is not to make explicit statements. It is to evoke and direct attention to psychological events and states of consciousness by means other than that of the intellectual concept, which is rooted in dualism."

Frontispiece, Gates of Paradise

So the first plate pictures a caterpillar on a leaf and a chrysalis with the face of a baby; the caption is 'What is man!'; and the associated couplet is 'The Sun's Light when he unfolds it / Depends on the Organ that beholds it.' So we are at the beginning; we want to find out what man is; we may go in one direction or another; to develop psychologically man must begin to see things differently; not just what one sees, but the way in which one sees things must be altered.

The first plate gets us started, now we must ask each plate what is the next step we must follow to arrive at the Gate of Paradise. (Or more likely each plate will be a Gate through which we must find our way). Digby seeks clues to meanings in Blake's other poems and illuminations. It is remarkable that the later works can be recognized as elaborations on such a concise and seemingly simple presentation as Gates of Paradise. Everything you have already learned from Blake can be applied to absorbing the contents of this book. Here is one clue: the four elements are associated with the four Zoas.

The Keys of the Gates

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

What it all comes to

Hear the words of the Lord as expressed by William Blake near the end of his great poem, Jerusalem, Plate 96 (E255):

"Then Jesus appeared standing by Albion as the Good Shepherd
By the lost Sheep that he hath found & Albion knew that it
Was the Lord the Universal Humanity, & Albion saw his Form
A Man. & they conversed as Man with Man, in Ages of Eternity
And the Divine Appearance was the likeness & similitude of Los

Albion said. O Lord what can I do! my Selfhood cruel
Marches against thee deceitful from Sinai & from Edom
Into the Wilderness of Judah to meet thee in his pride
I behold the Visions of my deadly Sleep of Six Thousand Years
Dazling around thy skirts like a Serpent of precious stones &
I know it is my Self. O my Divine Creator & Redeemer

Jesus replied Fear not Albion unless I die thou canst not live
But if I die I shall arise again & thou with me
This is Friendship & Brotherhood without it Man Is Not"

Plate 76

Tuesday, November 24, 2009


The self-image of Blake was that of an artist, his life was organized around creating art. But he came to see art as more than the objects created by the artist.

In her web page article, On William Blake, Psychologist Fleur Nelson writes:

"In The Spirit in Man, Art, and Literature (1966), Jung describes the creative process as the unconscious activation of an archetypal image and the shaping of this image into a new symbol. He believed that these enacted new symbols have the potential to increase individual and collective consciousness and transform society by integrating them into the language of the current society."

Quoting Carl Jung she says:
"Art is a kind of innate drive that seizes a human being and makes him its instrument. The artist is not a person endowed with free will who seeks his own ends, but one who allows art to realize its purposes through him. As a human being he may have moods and a will and personal aims, but as an artist he is “man” in a higher sense – he is “collective man,” a vehicle and molder of the unconscious psychic life of mankind
(par. 157, p. 101)."

In John Middleton Murry's book William Blake, on page 198-199, we read:
" Art, for Blake, is the Imaginative Life in its totality, nothing less." and,
"Art , in fact, is a new order of life: the order of life which (Blake believed) Jesus meant by Eternal Life. It is to live in accord with the Divine Vision, as a member of the One Man, through continual Self- annihilation... When every activity of life attains to the condition of the pure and selfless artistic activity, then we are totally regenerated, true members of the Eternal body of Man which is the Imagination." [and Christ]

"Vala produced the Bodies, Jerusalem gave the Souls"
(Vala on the left, facing away from the viewer, produces the female figure; Jerusalem on the right faces us and produces the male. The female and male unite in an embrace.)

William Blake writes in LAOCOON (E273):
" The whole Business of Man is the Arts & things Common
Christianity is Art & not Money.
Jesus and his Apostles & Disciples were all Artists."

Sunday, November 22, 2009


It's doubtful that Blake had much experience as a father, but he had serious misgivings about "the Heavenly Father:

See the picture.

Aged Ignorance! what might that be:

Jehovah, who came with a thump on the head!

Father, who whips (stunts) the growing sprout, for
whatever reason, basically for not obeying a convention,

School! which systematically molds (or tries to mold) the pupil into obedience.

Blake (so far as we know) was never a biological father; perhaps he understood that no (or at least few) adequately raise a son without (at least some) clipping.

The clipped son becomes a father; he may swear he'll
never do to his sons what his father did to him; but he

And so it goes: inadequate fathers, inadequate schools, inadequate conventions, inadequate lives for the multitude--raised without creativity.

The dutiful multitude are the Redeemed; the rulers:
schoolmasters, judges, senators, are the Elect. A few
who escaped the clipping (or at least were clipped less) may hear the call to prophesy. They are the Reprobate:

From Milton: plate 7:
"The Elect from before the foundation of the World:
The second, The Redeem'd. The Third. The Reprobate & Form'd
To destruction from the mothers womb: follow with me my plow.
Of the first class was Satan: with incomparable mildness;
His primitive tyrannical attempts on Los: with most endearing love
He soft intreated Los to give to him......"

Aged Ignorance is really a very searching critique of society. We all could do better. Urizen was terrified of futurity. Thank God for the Saviour who brought to us forgiveness.

Read again the Intro to the chapter in Jerusalem To the Christians: Plate 77 (E231)
"We are told to abstain from fleshly desires that we may lose no
time from the Work of the Lord. Every moment lost, is a moment
that cannot be redeemed every pleasure that intermingles with
the duty of our station is a folly unredeemable & is planted
like the seed of a wild flower among our wheat. All the
tortures of repentance. are tortures of self-reproach on account
of our leaving the Divine Harvest to the Enemy, the struggles of
intanglement with incoherent roots. I know of no other
Christianity and of no other Gospel than the liberty both of
body & mind to exercise the Divine Arts of Imagination.
Imagination the real & eternal World of which this Vegetable
Universe is but a faint shadow & in which we shall live in our
Eternal or Imaginative Bodies, when these Vegetable Mortal
Bodies are no more."

Saturday, November 21, 2009


The body of Blake's work can be thought of as his spiritual autobiography. He is speaking of nothing else than the spiritual path he traveled as he proceeded from Innocence to Experience and back to Innocence (with consciousness.) The poetry is the garment, his spiritual evolution is the body it clothes.

John Middleton Murry, William Blake, Page 378, Note for Page 204 says this:

"... in Night VII [Four Zoas] the change in Blake's attitude is fully conscious to himself: at the same moment he knows what he has been trying to do, and he knows that it has been done. Blake himself was perfectly clear about the process involved. In Milton (p. 19) he makes the distinction between the 'nether regions of the Imagination', where these critical changes come to pass in the unconsciousness, and the pure Imagination, where there is conscious knowledge of the change."

"For man cannot know
What passes in his members till periods of Space & Time
Reveal the secrets of Eternity." Milton, Plate 21, (E114)

Murry is attempting to explain to us what is happening in Blake's psyche as well as what is happening in the poetry that Blake wrote. Murry is following the struggle within Blake that he embodied in Urizen, Luvah, Los and all the others. The writing of the poetry was part and parcel of Blake's coming to terms with his own rational, emotional, and creative selves.

As Blake resolved the internal tensions through exploring their dynamics, Murry saw a resolution first appearing in Blake's unconscious, and then the writing of it in his myth was part of the process of making it conscious. The myth developed as Blake transcended the limitations of his earlier understanding.

Murry states on page 205:
"We must remember that the change has come to pass in Orc, as it has come to pass in Urizen, as yet only in Blake's creative imagination. The poet's work is done, but it remains to be expressed. Urizen and Luvah-Orc, that is to say, are unconscious of the destiny which awaits them."

And might Blake's readers also be unconscious of their destiny when the poet's work is expressed in them.

Embarking on the Journey

Friday, November 20, 2009


This passage from The King and the Corpse, written by the renowned mythologist, Heinrich Zimmer who was Joseph Campbell's mentor, describes some of the same dilemmas faced by the readers of Blake. In spite of our desire to understand Blake, it is more important to assimilate. His ideas can take root and permeate our thought if we open our minds to him.

"Hence the scientist, the scientific psychologist, feels himself on
very dangerous, very uncertain and ambiguous ground when he
ventures into the field of folklore interpretation. The discoverable
contents of the widely distributed images keep changing before
his eyes in unceasing permutations, as the cultural settings
change throughout the world and in the course of history. The
meanings have to be constantly reread, understood afresh. And
it is anything but an orderly work - this affair of interpreting the
always unpredictable and astonishing metaphors. ...
"The moment we abandon this dilettante attitude toward the
images of folklore and myth and begin to feel certain about
their proper interpretation (as professional comprehenders,
handling the tool of an infallible method), we deprive ourselves
of the quickening contact, the demonic and inspiring assault
that is the effect of their intrinsic virtue. We forfeit our proper
humility and open-mindedness before the unknown, and
refuse to be instructed - refuse to be shown what has never
yet quite been told either to us or to anybody else."

Heinrich Zimmer, The King and the Corpse

On Homers Poetry (E268)
"Aristotle says Characters
are either Good or Bad: now Goodness or Badness has nothing
to do

with Character. an Apple tree a Pear tree a Horse a Lion, are
Characters but a Good Apple tree or a Bad, is an Apple tree
still: a Horse is not more a Lion for being a Bad Horse. that is
its Character; its Goodness or Badness is another consideration.
It is the same with the Moral of a whole Poem as with the Moral
of its parts Unity & Morality, are secondary considerations &
belong to Philosophy & not to Poetry,"

To Poetry

Thursday, November 19, 2009


When Blake talks about annihilation he is talking about annihilation of the Selfhood. It is an internal activity. It is not accomplished by force or violence but by forgiveness and receiving the Selfhood as a brother. As Blake portrays it, annihilation is not a single event but a way of life. Since the Selfhood continually asserts itself, the process of forgiveness must continually be active.

Blake sees the processes which takes place in the individual as also taking place in the One Man, Albion, who is the body of which we all are part. As the Book of Milton reaches its climax, Milton annihilates his Selfhood as seen in Plate 45. The struggle has been completed, but not in victory of one over the other. The Selfhood has lost its power but is embraced tenderly.

Milton, Plate 39 [44] (E141)
"He [Albion] 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

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"
Milton, Plate 45, Blake's Image

Blake left it indefinite exactly who is being portrayed in this picture. Since this whole book is about Milton, the standing man with his feet near the water of the brook is said to be Milton; but it could be Los or Jesus or Blake himself, whose tale is told through Milton. The leaning figure could be identified as Ololon, Milton's emanation; or Urizen; or Satan; or the text suggests Albion as the Fourfold Man. The process portrayed is annihilation, forgiveness, being joined to the Selfhood through recognition or self awareness. Perhaps it is best thought of as breaking out of the limiting walls of the self into the unlimited existence in Eternity through imagination. The forgiveness is mutual, the annihilation is mutual, the release is mutual, the regeneration too is mutual.

Milton, Plate 38[43] (E138)
"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"

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Heaven's Gate

Among other things this abiding image provides a
link between Blake and Dylan.

Once again:
I give you the end of a golden string
Only wind it into a ball:
It will lead you in at Heaven's gate
Built in Jerusalem's wall.
Jeusalem (E 231)

What about the gate? Can you go in? go out?
The Arlington Tempera offers visual instruction
in the matter. From the beginning of time
there have been two passages: to and from
Heaven. The northern passage leads down into
the Sea of Time and Space; the southern passage
leads back up to Eternity. This is the crux of
Blake's myth, and of the Judeo-Chistian one as

If you apply 'gate' to the concordance, you
will find 262 of them. Quite a few gates of
Hell! Two noteworthy gates are (1) at the little
poem, To Morning (E410):

"O holy virgin! clad in purest white,
Unlock heav's' golden gates, and issue forth;
Awake the dawn that sleeps in heaven; let light..."

And then Thel notably traversed the gate in
both directions. From the Vales of Thar (a
region in Heaven) Thel considered the subject
of mortal life, and decided to give it a whirl:
" The eternal gates' terrific porter lifted the
northern bar. Thel enter'd in & saw the
secrets of the land unknown."

But seeing the horrors of 'this vale of tears'
Thel screamed and "Fled back unhinder'd till
she came into the vales of Har."

From the Arlington Tempera you may notice a
maiden holding her bucket and making her way
upward against the stream. Like Thel she had
seen enough and refused mortality.


"O Christ who holds the open gate,
O Christ who drives the furrow straight,
O Christ, the plough, 0 Christ, the laughter
Of holy white birds flying after,
Lo, all my heart’s field red and torn,
And Thou wilt bring the young green corn,
The young green corn divinely springing,
The young green corn forever singing;
And when the field is fresh and fair
Thy blessed feet shall glitter there,
And we will walk the weeded field,
And tell the golden harvest’s yield,
The corn that makes the holy bread
By which the soul of man is fed,
The holy bread, the food unpriced,
Thy everlasting mercy, Christ."

Hymn by John Masefield. How Blakean can you get!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009


Blake's best known short poem is from Songs of Innocence and Experience (E24): The Tyger

"Tyger Tyger, burning bright,
In the forests of the night;
What immortal hand or eye,
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

In what distant deeps or skies.
Burnt the fire of thine eyes?
On what wings dare he aspire?
What the hand, dare sieze the fire?

And what shoulder, & what art,
Could twist the sinews of thy heart?
And when thy heart began to beat,
What dread hand? & what dread feet?

What the hammer? what the chain,
In what furnace was thy brain?
What the anvil? what dread grasp,
Dare its deadly terrors clasp!

When the stars threw down their spears
And water'd heaven with their tears:
Did he smile his work to see?
Did he who made the Lamb make thee?

Tyger Tyger burning bright,
In the forests of the night:
What immortal hand or eye,
Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?"

A second occurrence of the line from Tyger, ' the stars threw down their spears,' appears in the Four Zoas, Night Five, Plate 64 (E344). Urizen is speaking.

"O Fool could I forget the light that filled my bright spheres
Was a reflection of his face who calld me from the deep

I well remember for I heard the mild & holy voice
Saying O light spring up & shine & I sprang up from the deep
He gave to me a silver scepter & crownd me with a golden crown
& said Go forth & guide my Son who wanders on the ocean

I went not forth. I hid myself in black clouds of my wrath
I calld the stars around my feet in the night of councils dark
The stars threw down their spears & fled naked away
We fell. I siezd thee dark Urthona In my left hand falling

I siezd thee beauteous Luvah"

Judging from the amount of interest there is in Blake's Tyger, it hooks into an archetypal reality which is easily activated. There is much agreement that Tyger is saying something important, but little agreement on what it is saying. Here is another stab.

One mystifying line in the poem, "when the stars threw down their spears," appears also in the Four Zoas at a critical moment when Urizen/Satan refuses obedience to the Almighty. At that point a chain reaction begins - with the stars. So the line in Tyger reminds us of the cataclysmic event when Urizen fell and took with him Urthona and Luvah.

Three Zoas Falling

It is easy for me to see Tyger as autobiographical. The conflict within Blake of his reason and imagination, is expressed in the dynamic battle between Urizen and Los thoughout Blake's myth. The tyger himself can represent the battlefield Blake sees within. Forces of beauty, restraint, explosive activity and expanded consciousness compete for dominance. Blake's struggle is to achieve that balance which will allow his imagination a free reign of expression, without becoming an uncontrolled destructive force.

Look at the words in Tyger that make one think
of Los: fire, hammer, anvil, furnace, chain;
of Urizen: bright, aspire, seize, stars;
of Luvah: heart, began to beat;
of Jesus: tears, smile, work, Lamb.

The multiple parts within the human mind make possible an internal state of competition. But the use of the word 'symmetry' signifies to me the balanced pattern in which Blake saw the Four Zoas as aspects of the psyche. The symmetry becomes fearful when the delicate alignment is disturbed. We have seen how every aspect of the Divine Humanity is affected by any refusal of a Zoa to accept his appointed role. (See blog post Fallen Zoas) All are 'members of one another'. (Paul - Ephesians 4:25)

The Tyger's fascination may come from the unresolved tension which it portrays - a state we each frequently experience.

Monday, November 16, 2009

The Golden String

Here are the famous lines again:
"I give you the end of a golden string
Only wind it into a ball.
It will let you in at Heaven's gate
Built in Jerusalem's wall."
(Beginning Chapter 4 of Jerusalem (Erdman 231)

You may find many interpretations of this provocative poem. Roger Easson on page 313 ff of Blake's Sublime Allegory provided the one that inspired this post.

Blake gave us the end of the string; Ariadne got a thread that enabled her friend to negotiate the labyrinth. Blake's string was already laid out (sort of). With it we are able to find our way out (of the maze of life) and in (to the Eternal). In the vernacular out of the insidious consumer culture materialism into a life guided by Spirit, through Heaven's gate.

Blake offers us escape -- and salvation. Escape from single vision, from Ulro, from confining our life to the same old thing. The salvation is freedom-- to be creative and know we're alive.

The Minotaur is your Selfhood. To get free of it is life.

Easson pointed out Plate 37 or 43 of Jerusalem where at the bottom of the text we see poor old defeated Urizen with his head down and his book open with words you need a mirror to read, but they say:

"Each man is in his Spectre's power
Until the arrival of that hour
When his humanity awake,
And cast his Spectre into the Lake."

The Spectre is the Selfhood, and with his golden string Blake gave us the means to annihilate it.

Saturday, November 14, 2009


Blake tells us about the Divine Family and some of its members in Milton, Plate 21 (E116).

"But all the Family Divine collected as Four Suns
In the Four Points of heaven East, West & North & South
Enlarging and enlarging till their Disks approachd each other;
And when they touch'd closed together Southward in One Sun
Over Ololon: and as One Man, who weeps over his brother,
In a dark tomb, so all the Family Divine. wept over Ololon.

Saying, Milton goes to Eternal Death! so saying, they groan'd in spirit
And were troubled! and again the Divine Family groaned in spirit!

And Ololon said, Let us descend also, and let us give
Ourselves to death in Ulro among the Transgressors.
Is Virtue a Punisher? O no! how is this wondrous thing?
This World beneath, unseen before: this refuge from the wars
Of Great Eternity! unnatural refuge! unknown by us till now!
Or are these the pangs of repentance? let us enter into them

Then the Divine Family said. Six Thousand Years are now
Accomplish'd in this World of Sorrow; Miltons Angel knew
The Universal Dictate; and you also feel this Dictate.
And now you know this World of Sorrow, and feel Pity. Obey
The Dictate! Watch over this World, and with your brooding wings,
Renew it to Eternal Life: Lo! I am with you alway
But you cannot renew Milton he goes to Eternal Death

So spake the Family Divine as One Man even Jesus
Uniting in One with Ololon & the appearance of One Man
Jesus the Saviour appeard coming in the Clouds of Ololon!

Tho driven away with the Seven Starry Ones into the Ulro
Yet the Divine Vision remains Every-where For-ever. Amen.
And Ololon lamented for Milton with a great lamentation."

John Middleton Murry in his work William Blake, on Page 242 makes this comment:

"It is the central verity of Blake's gospel of Christianity that all men are Jesus, and that they become Jesus by knowing that they are. By the knowledge of the reality of 'the One Man, even Jesus', we pass into the reality and become part of it. No man, nor creature, nor thing can inherit a part of Eternity: we inherit the whole, or none at all."

Gospel of John, 17:21
"Just as you, Father, live in me and I live in you, I am asking that they may live in us, that the world may believe that you did send me. I have given them the honour that you gave me, that they may be one, as we are one - I in them and you in me, that they may grow complete into one, so that the world may realise that you sent me and have loved them as you loved me."

One Man, even Jesus

I am reminded that holograms exhibit that characteristic of containing data to reproduce the whole image in each part. It is exciting to me that a fairly recent scientific, technological development demonstrates an esoteric truth that the whole is contained in each individual part. The indivisibility of the whole into unrelated parts was a truth that Blake well knew. He realized that each is contained in the One, and that the One is contained in each. The All Encompassing cannot be divided.

"Since each point in the hologram contains light from the whole of the original scene, the whole scene can, in principle, be reconstructed from an arbitrarily small part of the hologram. To demonstrate this concept, the hologram can be broken into small pieces and the entire object can still be seen from each small piece." Wikipedia

Friday, November 13, 2009


Albion in His Fallen State

Before Los initiates the process of restoring Albion to the
Divine, each of the four Zoas has fallen to the
point that his outlook is totally opposite to his role in eternity.

Jerusalem, Plate 38, (E184)

"They [the Four Zoas] saw their Wheels rising up poisonous against Albion
Urizen, cold & scientific: Luvah, pitying & weeping
Tharmas, indolent & sullen: Urthona, doubting & despairing
Victims to one another & dreadfully plotting against each other
To prevent Albion walking about in the Four Complexions."

Urizen, meant to be the active intellect involving itself in interfacing with information and developing understanding of relationships, has become cold and detached. He has reduced interactions to measurements, and objective descriptions from his frozen mind.

Luvah, meant to be the source of empathy and delight through the expression of emotional attachments, has been reduced to regret and depression. The spontaneous outpouring of approval or disapproval no longer flows from his detached heart.

Tharmas, meant to be energetic and active, involved in giving outer expression to inner dynamics, is passive and lifeless. The energy which should be generated through sensory perception and the impetus to create life is not flowing in his lethargic body.

Urthona, meant to be faith and vision, the connective function which holds together disparate parts, has lost the 'blessed assurance' and fallen into a dark pit of isolation. The connection of the body with the wholeness of purposeful living finds no expression without imagination.

One's greatest gifts can turn into one's worst liabilities if not recognized as gifts and put to work in the service of the giver. The Zoas will recover their gifts as Albion is restored to Eternity through the work of Jesus and Los.

Thursday, November 12, 2009


At the end of the First Book of Milton, Blake sums up the
work of Los by explaining how spirits are vegetated. It is
a clear explanation except much of the terminology is
peculiar to Blake. So I have consulted Damon's A Blake
Dictionary for definitions.

Milton Plate 29, (E127):

"Then Los conducts the Spirits to be Vegetated, into
Great Golgonooza, free from the four iron pillars of Satans
(Temperance, Prudence, justice, Fortitude, the four pillars
of tyranny)
That Satans Watch-Fiends touch them not before they

But Enitharmon and her Daughters take the pleasant charge.
To give them to their lovely heavens till the Great
Judgment Day
Such is their lovely charge. But Rahab & Tirzah pervert
Their mild influences, therefore the Seven Eyes of God walk
The Three Heavens of Ulro, where Tirzah & her Sisters
Weave the black Woof of Death upon Entuthon Benython
In the Vale of Surrey where Horeb terminates in Rephaim
The stamping feet of Zelophehads Daughters are coverd with
Human gore
Upon the treddles of the Loom, they sing to the winged
The River rises above his banks to wash the Woof:    
He takes it in his arms: be passes it in strength thro his
The veil of human miseries is woven over the Ocean
From the Atlantic to the Great South Sea, the Erythrean.

Such is the World of Los the labour of six thousand years.
Thus Nature is a Vision of the Science of the Elohim."

     End of the First Book.
Golgoonza - Los's city of "art and manufacture." (M24:50)
Enitharmon's looms are in the golden hall of Cathedron. Its gates
open into Eden, Beulah, Generation, and Ulro.
(Damon, Page 162-5)
Enitharmon - with her daughters, she weaves beautiful, spiritual
bodies (the web of life) for the Spectres about to be born.
(Damon, Page 124-5)
Entuthon Benython - a land of Urizen east of Galgonooza: "a dark
and unknown night, indefinite, unmeasurable, without end. Abstract
Philosophy warring in enmity against Imagination" (J5:56)
(Damon, Page 126)
Horeb - where Moses saw the burning bush, Blake associates with
rock. (Damon, Page 189)
Rephaim - "Miltonic limbo of amorphous decaying superstitions"
(Damon, Page 346)
Rahab - harlot of Babylon, symbolizes false church of this world, the
opponent of Jerusalem. She imputes sin and righteousness to
individuals. (Damon, Page 338-9)
Tirzah - daughter of Rahab; Tirzah weaves natural, physical bodies;
she represents sex; she is the mother of death; she is a temptress of
men. (Damon, Page 407)
Ulro - the material world, the world of death, the world of spectres who
are dead to Eternity. (Damon, Page 416)
Zelophehads - five independent Female Wills who restrict the senses
of man, Tirzah is the fifth. (Damon, Page 457)
Seven Eyes of God - "the path of Experience fixed for the Individual
by the Divine Mercy, so that proceeding through his errors he may
eventually reach the true God." (Damon, Page 134)
Science - "True Science is eternal and essential, but it turns bad
when it cuts loose from Humanity". "Science can assimilate its
material and communicate it, but cannot create."
(Damon, Page 359-60)
Los has provided a way that the Spectres not fall into non-existence, but it requires that they take on a physical body in a world of illusionary material existence under the dominance of mistaken morality and religion. Los parallels John the Baptist, he can prepare the way, but he cannot initiate the coming of the Kingdom.

The Arlington Tempera, which has been mentioned in other posts, can be viewed in the light of this passage.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

William Blake and his Reader

Inspired primarily by Blake's Sublime Allegory (Roger
Easson, p. 313) :

In 1800, when he was 33, Blake went to Felpham (on the
sea) under the sponsorship of a wealthy man who pretended
an interest in his welfare (Blake was well nigh starving
about that time).

In his Preface to Jerusalem he spoke of returning from the
sea. He was disillusioned because he had hoped for a
spiritual friend, but found a corporeal one.

"Corporeal Friends are Spiritual Enemies" (in Milton,
4.26; E98 and again in Jerusalem, 44.10; E193)

Blake was disillusioned with the public; they had failed
to show him any interest or respect.

Easson tells us that in Jerusalem the disillusioned poet
attempted to promote a dialogue with his readers (that's
us). With a typical prophetic attitude he expected a
response-- . Prophets don't say things to please their
listeners but to arouse them, provoke them, above all
awaken them. Like Ezekiel Blake had "the desire of
raising other men to a perception of the Infinite"
(MHH13; Erdman 39).

In Jerusalem Blake is deliberately illusive (every Plate
might be thought of as a detective story or a crossword
puzzle). He means us to read it-- and consider! Like his
Vision of Christ in The Everlasting Gospel "he spoke in
parables to the blind".

Blake had been well received by a (very!) few from whom
their "love and friendship" was the highest reward. In
the preface he asks for our love and friendship; it can
only be reached through "the severe contentions of [true!]

Blake took the freedom to contend with us, and whether or
to what degree we can respond creatively depends upon us.

Has anyone ever fully understood Blake? Ah! that's the

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Divine Image

It's good to find other bloggers sharing WB's
jewels.  The Divine Image is presented here as
well if not better than one of us might have done.

Letter to Truxler

The tree!  Blake had much to say about trees.
In this letter to Truxler we find Blake trying to
reason with an extreme materialist, something
he rarely tried to do.

"The tree which moves some to tears of joy is in
the eyes of others only a green thing that stands
in the way."

Years ago Ellie and I were visiting Linville
Gorge in Western NC with some magnificent
trees, one of North Carolina's primary beauty
spots, visited by hundreds of sightseers.  As
we approached it, accompanied by a large
crowd, we passed a virgin tulip poplar.  One
member of the group said,  "What a waste! It
would have brought a good price."  Like so
many of our fellowmen he didn't see the beauty
of the tree, he only saw dollars.

Thank God for William Blake!

Monday, November 09, 2009

Blake's Gospel

               The Everlasting Gospel (A portion)

          The Vision of Christ that thou dost see
          Is my vision's greatest enemy.
          Thine has a great hook nose like thine,
          Mine has a snub nose like to mine.
          Thine is the Friend of all Mankind;
          Mine speaks in parables to the blind.
          Thine loves the same world that mine hates;
          Thy heaven doors are my hell gates.
          Socrates taught what Meletus
          Loath'd as a nation's bitterest curse,
          And Caiaphas was in his own mind
          A benefactor to mankind.
          Both read the Bible day and night,
      But thou read'st black where I read white.

The rest of this poem is difficult for the new reader.
After about a dozen readings it may begin to yield more
and more meaning. In this respect Blake is much like the
Bible, and in fact Northrup Frye referred to him as a
'Bible soaked protestant'. His approach to the Bible is
arcane, but it will yield meanings that you never dreamed
of before.

 Taken from chapter 3 of the website


Enion, the Emanation of Tharmas, ages rapidly after the birth of her two children, Los and Enitharmon, Time and Space. She flees from Tharmas who represents the body and the energy supply of generation. Although Damon associates her with the Earth Mother, it is not she who populates the world but Los and Enitharman.

She does have the heart of a mother for she, more than any other character, feels the suffering of the natural world which lives on death. Feeling responsible for the suffering which manifests in Nature she wanders bent and blind and assumes the pain all around her. Her blindness may represent her inability to see beyond the natural world to the purpose it serves. Enion is given some of the most beautiful of Blake's poetry as she laments both the misfortunes of the created world, and the expected loss of the outer existence.

Enion seems to represent the world as appearances, as would be appropriate as the mother of Time and Space, (who create the conditions necessary for the production of matter.) In her final lament, she recognizes that appearance (the material world) is fading and she rejoices in being the 'dark consumer.' The Immortal Body which has been expressed through these visible forms will be gathered once again into the Eternal visage. Seeing that the Mortal is to be absorbed back into Immortality, she rejoices in hope.

Annunciation to the Shepherds

Four of her Laments can be found in The Four Zoas:
Page 17-18 (E 310) Night the First, Line1

Page 35-36 (E 324) Night the Second, Line 1

Page 45 (E 329) Night the Third, Line 2 ff

Page 113-4 (E 383) Night the Eighth, Line 13

Percival sums up her role in Circle of Destiny, page 44:

"In the grave Enion learns that the 'time of love' returns, and sees man gathering up the scattered portions of his immortal body. She is here the mouthpiece for Blake's belief that the function of the mortal body is the return of the immortal. Having borne the burden or corporeality, Enion learns its purpose. Life cannot be quenched; it springs eternal. But error must be destroyed, and as death, the 'dark consumer,' Enion is happy in her function."

Four Zoas Night 8 (E385)

"Behold the time approaches fast that thou shalt be as a thing
Forgotten when one speaks of thee he will not be believd
When the man gently fades away in his immortality
When the mortal disappears in improved knowledge cast away
The former things so shall the Mortal gently fade away
And so become invisible to those who still remain
Listen I will tell thee what is done in the caverns of the grave"

Saturday, November 07, 2009


  Although we hear of the birth of these characters,
some from others, they are actually manifestations
of the four functions  (later celebrated by Carl Jung). 

Blake called The Four Zoas Vala in the beginning.
The emanation of Luvah, she has a checkered
career. In Eternity she is Jerusalem; fallen she became
Vala, somewhat comparable to Eve in the garden.  She
carries all creation, all love, but in Ulro love is
totally bad (not so in regeneration and in Eternity).      
Vala was the contrary (opposite) of Jerusalem (the
bride of Christ).  She represents all the negativity of
the feminine character.  She also goes by the names of
Rahab and Tirzah.

 "Among the Flowers of Beulah walkd the Eternal Man & Saw
Vala the lilly of the desart. Melting in high noon
 Upon her bosom in sweet bliss he fainted. Wonder siezd
 All heaven, they saw him dark. They built a golden wall
 Round Beulah. There he reveld in delight among the Flowers.
Vala was pregnant & brought forth Urizen, Prince of Light,
First born of Generation. Then behold: a wonder to the Eyes
 Of the now fallen Man a double form Vala appeard. A Male
 And female; shuddring pale the Fallen Man recoild
 From the Enormity & calld them Luvah & Vala. Turning down
 The vales to find his way back into Heaven, but found none
 For his frail eyes were faded & his ears heavy & dull."
(Four Zoas 7a:83:8-18;   [E358])
So we can see that in Blake's myth Vala occupied the
same symbolic role that Eve did in the Garden.


Blake's Illuminated Books weren't created like most other books; they were created one plate at a time. Blake himself didn't always bind the plates in the same order and he sometimes added, or deleted plates from particular copies. It was poetry he was writing, and pictures he was engraving. Many plates can 'stand alone' as poetry or as pictures without the rest of the book.

This makes it possible, and perhaps beneficial to study Blake in increments. In a recent post I made, it was the picture that led me to study the context. In times past the words were available, but the pictures were usually inaccessible. The online resources have made possible viewing Blake's work as it was meant to be seen and read. With the plates we have the words and pictures together to complement one another. But don't expect the illumination to illustrate the text in the conventional way. His pictures may add to the text, may refer you to previous text, or lead to subsequent text, or may recall images on other plates and the context of the tale they tell.

Preludium to Book of Urizen

Here is a good example of a stand alone plate, a lovely image and a short poem to introduce the poem and the poet. But the words and visual images aren't meant to give us a static experience. Just as the woman and babe must stay in motion to remain suspended, we are meant to keep moving too. The air-borne babe takes us back to early plates in Songs of Innocence, and Songs of Experience; and will be seen again in plate 20 of The Book of Urizen. Another baby suspended in the air can be found in the Good and Evil Angels. The flames and the words, 'dark visions of torment', warn of what we can expect. We are left with questions, 'Who are the lady and babe?', 'Who are Urizen and the primeval Priest?' The answers will develop over time as Blake unfolds his complex myth of fall and return, disintegration and integration, death and rebirth. But first we can be satisfied with a graceful lady, her soaring child and the prospect of the 'swift winged words' to be dictated.

The irony of the of way Blake presented his material is that each individual piece was a 'minute particular,' complete in itself, but was essential to the organic body of the whole. How like each individual human being as a part of the Body of Christ.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Blake in Felpham

In 1800 the dinner table at the Blake's house was quite
lean;  William had written magnificent poems, but with
little financial recompense.  His artistic creations were
virtually unknown.

In spite of that Blake was no recluse and had quite a
number of friends.  Among them was a man named Hayley,
known as a poetaster, who lived on the sea in Felpham.
Hayley befriended Blake and deigned to sponsor him; his
sponsorship consisted among other things in providing him
a cottage in Felpham.  He also attempted to  steer Blake in
the direction of artistic success and profit.

On first arrival at the cottage Blake was delighted.  He wrote
to a true friend, Thomas Butts as follows:

      " Work will go on here with God speed--. A roller & two
harrows lie before my window. I met  a  plow on my first going
out at my gate the first morning after my  arrival & the Plowboy
said to the Plowman. "Father The Gate is  Open" (Letter to Butts
Erdman 711) (Is this where he got the idea for the plow and harrow
in Milton?)
Every artist has the dilemma of becoming 'commercial' or
starving to death. Blake had been dealing with this all
his life.  Hayley meant to show him how to succeed and put
him to work painting miniatures.  But Blake came to realize
that it betrayed his true (and higher) calling.

("Mark well my words! Corporeal Friends are Spiritual
Enemies)" (M4.26; E98|

"O God protect me from my friends, that they have not
power over me Thou hast giv'n me power to protect myself
from my bitterest enemies." (M9.5-6;   E102) 

Blake eventually chose poverty in London  over Hayley's form
of 'success'--lucky for us if not for his dinner.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Fourfold Vision

At the end of his letter To Thomas Butts, 22 November 1802
(Erdman #22 pages 720-22) we read:

"Now I a fourfold vision see
And a fourfold vision is given to me
Tis fourfold in my supreme delight
And three fold in soft Beulahs night
And twofold Always. May God us keep
From Single vision & Newtons sleep"

There he explains as best one can what he meant by the
four kinds of vision:

By single vision he meant a purely materialistic outlook,
without any comprehension of any non material things such
as love, intellect, etc. A great many people live on this
level; as Paul would say, 'their God is their belly'.

With a minimal inkling of the non material one might be
said to have twofold vision, an awareness that there's
something beyond dollars and things-what Ellie would call
a reasoning mind.

But Blake in an earlier passage of the same letter has
this to say,

"For double the vision my Eyes do see
And a double vision is always with me
With my inward Eye 'tis an old Man grey
With my outward a Thistle across my way"

(You might say that Blake started the poem with a duality
and ended it with a quaternity.)

By threefold vision Blake has referred to those at the
doorstep of Eternity, moving toward it or coming from it;
Beulah is a pleasant place for Eternals, but a dangerous place.
The danger is lapsing into the mortal sleep that robs one
of the eternal consciousness and drives him back to single

So there's a parallel between the four kinds of vision and
the four levels of being:

Single vision is associated with Ulro (Blake called it hell).
Double vision is associated with Generation.
Threefold vision is associated with Beulah.
Fourfold vision is associated with Eternity (or heaven).

(Generation is one of Blake's most difficult concepts.
Damon (150-51) gives us many occurrences of it. One clue
is found in Plate 7 of Jerusalem:

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

Generation enables incarnation. We are all incarnated
and potential lambs of His flock, even the Tyger.

All of Blake's works might be considered in the form of an
admonition "AWAKE! AWAKE!", the same one that was
constantly on the lips of Jesus.


In reading Blake we may be reminded of the popular phrase 'deja vu, all over again.' Blake is trying to involve us in a process of relinquishing errors, of being melted down and remolded by Los into forms which can live the Imaginative life. Blake recognizes that becoming the selves we are meant to be, is not a one or two step process but involves multi-steps. The process he describes involves putting off errors by allowing them to take form and be recognized as error. When the error is shown to be unproductive, to be a determent to living as we want to live, we are better able to deal with it. We find that some errors repeatedly return, requiring us to expose them to the light more than once. In Blake's myth, Los is patient, casting forms into the furnace through 'six thousand years,' so that the the material can be hammered into the Human or Divine shape.

Los at His Furnace

In Vision of the Last Judgment (E562), Blake states:
"All Life consists of these Two Throwing off Error <& Knaves
from our company> continually
& recieving Truth
Continually. he who is out of the Church &
opposes it is

no less an Agent of Religion than he who is in it. to be an Error
& to be Cast out is a part of Gods Design No man can Embrace
True Art till he has Explord & Cast out False Art or he will be
himself Cast out by those

who have Already Embraced True Art Thus My Picture is a
History of Art & Science [& its] Which is Humanity itself. What
are all the Gifts of the

Spirit but Mental Gifts whenever any Individual Rejects Error &
Embraces Truth a Last Judgment passes upon that Individual"
Here is a quote from a Jungian psychologist, Rodney Ravenswood, which reflects Blakean themes of undergoing the changes necessary for transformation.

"To the extent that the persona is founded upon processes of denial it must eventually be shed/shattered in order to make way for any real growth in the personality. This is as true of the collective persona of national identity as it is of the individual self image. If the persona is to realise its potential to be that through which one's more authentic nature sounds (persona = to sound through), it must be grounded in an embrace and dialogue with the shadow as inner other."

Link to Ravenswood

Tuesday, November 03, 2009


Each of the Four Zoas seems to have constant problems with his Emanation/wife/Anima. Tharmas endlessly follows his wife Enion who has withdrawn from him and continually flees. Urizen expels his wife Ahania because she confronts him with unpleasant truth. Luvah's wife Vala thwarts and obscures all he tries to do. Los the regent for Urthona, has a mixed relationship with Enitharmon, his sister/wife who is the only Emanation to take on mortal, vegetated form (Damon page 124.)

A reason for the Emanations causing trouble for their males may be that they see themselves as having been 'dealt weak hands.' They compensate by attempting to dominate by underhanded techniques, such as jealousy, withholding affection, withdrawing, secrecy, allying with the enemy and other devious methods.

The weakness of the positions of the Emanations results from their being associated with materiality. For Blake spirituality is the ideal state, the goal toward which all activity should lead. Unfortunately the route to the spiritual must go through the material. So the Emanations represent aspects of materiality through which man must pass as he recovers from the fall which divided him and separated him from Eternity. As aspects of a struggle, the Emanations are the means of gaining experience.

Enitharmon and Los
Yale Center for British Arts

On Plate 85 of Jerusalem, Blake incorporates a picture of Los and Enitharman working together, a pleasant enough scene until we look more closely. Notice the sun, a male symbol, on Enitharmon's side of the picture; the moon a female symbol on Los's side. The two characters look in opposite directions (division), and Enitharmon has her back turned to us (secrecy.) The vines which Enitharmon holds are attached to Los in the area of heart and loins. Los's star is traveling away from him rather than toward him. Their knees are touching so there is still communication. Los, time, and Enitharmon, space, are intended to work together but they are at cross purposes. She wants to extend in space expanding materiality; he to foster spirituality as a function of time or prophecy.

Percival, in Circle of Destiny has this to say about the masculine and feminine relationship: "'Mental things alone are real' - this is the basic Blakean philosophy. Nature must be explained by man, body by soul. Form is the gift of inspiration. Moral good emanates spontaneously from brotherhood. The spiritual life, however you look at it, is rooted firmly in the energetic masculine. The unspiritual life is built upon the passive feminine."

The differences between Los and Enitharmon are overcome. From Percival again: "Deliverance will come only when the feminine emotions forego their separate identity as Good, and become the spontaneous expression of the imaginative mind."

Near the end of the Four Zoas we find Los and Enitharmon, not at odds but together pursuing the work of Eternity, (The Four Zoas, Eighth Night, 114.30, E385):

"And Los & Enitharmon took the Body of the Lamb Down from the Cross & placd it in a Sepulcher which Los had hewn For himself in the Rock of Eternity trembling & in despair Jerusalem wept over the Sepulcher two thousand Years"

Monday, November 02, 2009

Early Influences on Blake

There's an uncanny similarity between the culture Blake
was born into and the present: The majority culture was
radically materialistic, while an alternative (New Age) one
thrived, especially in religious circles.

Blake's parents may have been Swedenborgians; his mother had been a
Moravian during her first marriage; these two radically dissenting sects 
had their due influence on the young Blake's religious outlook.

Wikipedia Commons
Songs of Innocence
Plate 40
Wikipedia Commons
Songs of Innocence
Plate 40

Blake enjoyed a happy childhood, with remarkably liberal
and permissive parents; he started school at the appropriate
age, but his academic career was a short one: when the
schoolmaster birched a fellow pupil, little William made a
quick exit and never returned.

Like many such 'dropouts' Blake became an autodidact; he
probably knew more than any person alive of the "perennial
philosophy", the wisdom of the ages. It was a wisdom that
the materialistic culture had turned its back on with the
excessive secularism of the Enlightenment.

In late 18th century England School was for the middle
class, a station to which Blake always aspired. But outside
the middle class boys were generally apprenticed; Blake
became an apprentice to a well regarded engraver.
Thereafter he made his primary income as an engraver;
a great many of his poems were engraved as illuminated
poetry, which Blake practically invented.

Husbands in general tend to be deeply influenced by
their wives, and Blake was no exception. He married an
illiterate woman, but she soon became literate; for 40
years Catherine Blake helped William with his creations and
gave him unlimited encouragement and emotional support.

Re intellectual influences the Bible was first and foremost;
it's hard to find a page of Blake's poetry without a
quotation or at least allusion to some biblical idea.

Second to the Bible is what I called above the 'perennial
philosophy', what Kathleen Raine called the 'canon of the
western esoteric tradition.' It includes an enormous variety
of written material. In a letter he wrote to John Flaxman
when he was 33 Blake only touched the surface:

"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 [Boehme] appeard to me. terrors
appeard in the Heavens above."

One might add Spencer, Dante, and a host of others. Blake
was an inveterate and omnivorous reader; you have to
wonder how he could have accessed all the stuff to which
he had obviously been exposed.

We all encounter influences, both positive and negative. The
primary negative influence Blake felt was the prevailing
materialism; he referred to it as Bacon, Newton and Locke.

There's an uncanny similarity between the culture Blake
was born into and the present: The majority culture was
radically materialistic, while an alternative (New Age) one
thrived, especially in religious circles.

Blake's parents may have been Swedenborgians; his mother had been a
Moravian during her first marriage; these two radically dissenting sects
had their due influence on the young Blake's religious outlook.

Wikipedia Commons

Songs of Innocence
Plate 40
Wikipedia Commons

Songs of Innocence
Plate 40

Blake enjoyed a happy childhood, with remarkably liberal
and permissive parents; he started school at the appropriate
age, but his academic career was a short one: when the
schoolmaster birched a fellow pupil, little William made a
quick exit and never returned.

Like many such 'dropouts' Blake became an autodidact; he
probably knew more than any person alive of the "perennial
philosophy", the wisdom of the ages. It was a wisdom that
the materialistic culture had turned its back on with the
excessive secularism of the Enlightenment.

In late 18th century England School was for the middle
class, a station to which Blake always aspired. But outside
the middle class boys were generally apprenticed; Blake
became an apprentice to a well regarded engraver.
Thereafter he made his primary income as an engraver;
a great many of his poems were engraved as illuminated
poetry, which Blake practically invented.

Husbands in general tend to be deeply influenced by
their wives, and Blake was no exception. He married an
illiterate woman, but she soon became literate; for 40
years Catherine Blake helped William with his creations and
gave him unlimited encouragement and emotional support.

Re intellectual influences the Bible was first and foremost;
it's hard to find a page of Blake's poetry without a
quotation or at least allusion to some biblical idea.

Second to the Bible is what I called above the 'perennial
philosophy', what Kathleen Raine called the 'canon of the
western esoteric tradition.' It includes an enormous variety
of written material. In a letter he wrote to John Flaxman
when he was 33 Blake only touched the surface:

"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 [Boehme] appeard to me. terrors
appeard in the Heavens above."

One might add Spencer, Dante, and a host of others. Blake
was an inveterate and omnivorous reader; you have to
wonder how he could have accessed all the stuff to which
he had obviously been exposed.

We all encounter influences, both positive and negative. The
primary negative influence Blake felt was the prevailing
materialism; he referred to it as Bacon, Newton and Locke.