You might say that how you read the Bible is a key to
how you understand Blake. Blake honored the Bible, but
he considered bibliolatry to be anathema:
A young theologian asked his O.T. professor if he
believed God told the Israelites to exterminate
the Canaanites; "yes" was the reply, "because they
were totally depraved" (Ah!, the babies, too?)
Blake read it differently. Quoting Fearful
Symmetry, p. 109: "Jehovah often urges a ferocious
cruelty extremely repugnant to the civilized mind.
If one gives up the attempt to extract a unified
moral code out of the Bible, this becomes a
profoundly true vision of a false god..."
Plate 11 of The Marriage of Heaven and Hell:
" The ancient Poets animated all sensible objects with Gods or Geniuses calling them by the names and adorning them with the properties of woods, rivers, mountains, lakes, cities, nations, and whatever their enlarged & numerous senses could percieve. And particularly they studied the genius of each city &country. placing it under its mental deity. Till a system was formed, which some took advantage of & enslav'd the vulgar by attempting to realize or abstract the mental deities from their objects: thus began Priesthood. Choosing forms of worship from poetic tales. And at length they pronounced that the Gods had orderd such things. Thus men forgot that All deities reside in the human breast."
And "Everything possible to be believ'd is an image of truth"
(MHH: Proverbs of Hell).
The Bible of course is about God; it portrays a
great many visions of God: those of primitive
savages and those of wise men like Abraham,
Moses, and Isaiah. They are the "Ancient Poets"
Until Jesus! he came into the picture when Blake
got to the N.T. Although Blake may not have
focused on it, the vision of the Loving Heavenly
Father should be more acceptable to the "civilized
Blake of course memorialized the moments when
Jesus "came into the picture"; look again at the
First Vision of God. There are many others.
For years Blake attempted to explicate what Jesus
meant to him. For years he worked on The Everlasting
Gospel. But as we all know Jesus cannot be explicated;
for me and perhaps for Blake that of God in everyone
was about as close as you can get.
Blake's poetic gift was at the service of his Art and
his Religion (both very changeable throughout his
"Prayer is the Study of Art praise is the Practise of Art
Fasting &c. all relate to Art
The outward Ceremony is Antichrist
Without Unceasing Practise nothing can be done
Practise is Art If you leave off you are Lost
A Poet a Painter a Musician an Architect:
the Man Or Woman who is not one of these is not a Christian"
(The Lacoon; Erdman 274)