Tuesday, August 31, 2010


I've been thinking of energy as unseen forces. We see the results, but the activity is produced by invisible forces. There was a Foucault Pendulum in the Smithsonian which demonstrated unseen forces - the initial push which started the motion, the momentum which kept it going, the gravity which changed the direction of the swing, and (most mystifying) the rotation of the earth which controlled the path in a 24 hour period. These were the most obvious forces moving the pendulum. How many more could a specialist innumerate?

Like Blake, I see natural phenomena as reflections of the world of spirit and ideas. Knowing that the effects we see are from unseen (and unknown) forces in the world of nature, works as a reminder of spiritual forces which are stronger, more pervasive, more varied and more important than electricity, gravity, chemical energy and such.

Blake's poem The Mental Traveller seems to be talking about these spiritual forces. Blake wanted to help us understand how they develop and mature and interact. He wanted us to see how the growth or decline of one precipitates a reaction in another. He wrote 26 verses because he wanted to show us more than a simple pattern which could be delineated in a few lines. In future posts, there will be more about The Mental Traveller.

In Milton Blake speaks of the power which is working behind the scene of the Natural world.

PLATE 26 [28], (E 123)
"For the various Classes of Men are all markd out determinate
In Bowlahoola; & as the Spectres choose their affinities
So they are born on Earth, & every Class is determinate
But not by Natural but by Spiritual power alone, Because
The Natural power continually seeks & tends to Destruction
Ending in Death: which would of itself be Eternal Death
And all are Class'd by Spiritual, & not by Natural power.

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

Monday, August 30, 2010

Around me Night and Day

A preacher in a pulpit said that every time he spoke Christ was looking over his right shoulder and the devil over his left shoulder. The left shoulder-! what Blake called the Spectre.

There have been many posts to this poem, which is so close to the words of Jesus' statement of the broad and narrow ways. He gave his full attention to the Spectre for 40 days (a full measure of time After 40 days the Spectre departed from him for a season. How long might that be??

The aforementioned preacher was conscious of the Spectre through the many years that he preached. Blake found it "around him night and day". He was a pretty good preacher himself, preaching to the church universal (VLJ N8I Erdman 559).

With 243 occurrences the Spectre dominated Blake's adult life for the first 20 years. That's evidenced by the pages and pages of accusations, denunciations and excoriations in his poetry. He stopped doing it like Los stopped fighting Urizen; once Urizen was in his power his hatred evaporated and he found he loved Urizen:

"Startled was Los he found his Enemy Urizen now
In his hands. he wonderd that he felt love & not
hate His whole soul loved him he beheld him an
infant" (4Z at the end of the seventh night)

In the same way he reconciled with the Spectre:
"But then the Spectre enterd Los's bosom Every
sigh & groan Of Enitharmon bore Urthonas Spectre
on its wings Obdurate Los felt Pity Enitharmon
told the tale Of Urthona. Los embracd the
Spectre first as a brother Then as another Self;
astonishd humanizing & in tears In Self
abasement Giving up his Domineering lust"
(4Z Erdman 367).
It all boiled down to the admonition of Jesus to love our enemies. Who can do it? Only those who are "not of this world".
Los (Blake) stopped doing it when he saw himself loved (and called the 'ramhornd with gold'. The 'world' had lost its deathly grip on him.

Sunday, August 29, 2010


Yale Center for British Art
Parable of the Wise and Foolish Virgins

c 1822-25
In Defending Ancient Springs, (page 73), Kathleen Raine comments on the essay William Butler Yeats wrote an 'On the Necessity of Symbolism'. In this section, using quotes from Yeasts, Raine explains some of the basis for understanding Blake as a 'mystic'.

" He begins by asking what a symbol can communicate which the dialectics of modern philosophy cannot? The answer lies, he says, in the Swedenborgian doctrine of 'correspondence', the 'as above, so below' of the Smaragdine Table, to which doctrine Blake had also made his appeal before him. 'Sense impressions may indeed be used in poetry and prophecy as a key to unlock religious truths, but "correspondence", as Swedengborg called the symbolic relationship of outer and inner, is itself no product of nature or natural reason, beginning as it does with a perception of something different from natural things with which they are to be compared.' Since this very ground of all symbolic art is denied by the positivist philosophy which has created the climate of thought which most academic critics write at the present time, it is not surprising that most commentators, both of Blake and Yeats, seem more exercised in explaining away than in explaining the meaning of symbols which imply, one might say by definition, a spiritual world.
This 'absolute difference may be described as the first postulate of all mystics', Yeats continues: and already in this essay he has realized that 'the chief difference between the metaphors of poetry and the symbols of mysticism is that the latter are woven together into a complete system.'"

Below is Blake's single mention of the Smaragdine Table. Here the Spectre uses it to draw Los down into the 'reasoning abstract.' The Smaragdine Table uses symbols from alchemy which enacts physical processes to demonstrate spiritual activity. This reference in Jerusalem indicates that Blake was acquainted with the ideas presented on the tablet.

Jerusalem, Plate 91, (E 251)
"The Spectre builded stupendous Works, taking the Starry Heavens
Like to a curtain & folding them according to his will
Repeating the Smaragdine Table of Hermes to draw Los down
Into the Indefinite, refusing to believe without demonstration"

Going to Blake's Milton we find him talking about 'spiritual causes' as being the origin of what happens on Earth.

Milton, Plate 26, (E 123)
"For the various Classes of Men are all markd out determinate
In Bowlahoola; & as the Spectres choose their affinities
So they are born on Earth, & every Class is determinate
But not by Natural but by Spiritual power alone, Because
The Natural power continually seeks & tends to Destruction
Ending in Death: which would of itself be Eternal Death
And all are Class'd by Spiritual, & not by Natural power.

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

And in Vision of the Last Judgment Blake speaks directly about the patterns in the Eternal world which are reflected in the natural world. From the Smaragdine Table this is the section Blake refers to in Vision of the Last Judgment:
"that which is above is as that which is below, and that which is below is as that which is above, for performing the miracle of the One Thing;"

Vision of Last Judgment, Page 69,(E 555)
"This world of Imagination is the World of
Eternity it is the Divine bosom into which we shall all go after
the death of the Vegetated body This World is
Infinite & Eternal whereas the world of Generation or Vegetation
is Finite & [for a small moment] Temporal There Exist
in that Eternal World the Permanent Realities of Every Thing
which we see are reflected in this Vegetable Glass of Nature
All Things are comprehended in their Eternal Forms in the
Divine body of the Saviour the True Vine of Eternity
The Human Imagination who appeard to Me as Coming to Judgment."

Throughout Blake's work it is the Eternal, unseen, Divine reality underlying the physical world and providing merciful structures to lead man back to Eternity which he strives to reveal to his reader. This is the pursuit of a mystic.

Jerusalem, Plate 49, (E 199)
"The Lord
Jehovah is before, behind, above, beneath, around
He has builded the arches of Albions Tomb binding the Stars
In merciful Order, bending the Laws of Cruelty to Peace.
He hath placed Og & Anak, the Giants of Albion for their Guards:
Building the Body of Moses in the Valley of Peor: the Body
Of Divine Analogy;"

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Not of This World

"you are not of this world" (John 15:19)

The committed Christian may eventually come to realize that; secular people may be oblivious to it. . Most of us jump back and forth between the Kingdom of this World, (which Blake called the Sea of Time and Space) and the Kingdom of God;
a handful of spiritual geniuses may see in it their own nature. Such a person was our poet.

Blake has often been called the First Romantic. In Blake's day the word romantic denoted a train of thought outside of what the materialists of the Enlightenment allowed themselves for general discourse; religion was supposed to be private and in positivistic terms

But Blake was different: religion (in the fullest sense) was all that mattered to him-- yes, we have to live in the world, but the less we do it the better we are (in Blake that meant in order to put bread on the table).

Here's a morsel from the Vision of the Last Judgment:
"I assert for My self that I do not behold the Outward Creation & that to me it is hindrance &
not Action it is as the Dirt upon my feet No part of Me. What it will be Questiond When the Sun rises do you not see a round disk of fire somewhat like a Guinea O no no I see an Innumerable company of the Heavenly host crying Holy Holy Holy is the Lord God Almighty" (Erdman 565)

The Hound of Heaven powerfully portrayed the two kingdoms. The early Blake portrayed the same thing in a contrary way: his (negative) Spectre was just as persistent as Thompson's (positive) hound. Most people carefully hide those ideas from consciousness; for Blake they were a conscious and continuous reality-- "round me night and day".

In Blake's poetry The two kingdom's were first expressed in The Marriage of Heaven and Hell. In his contrary way Blake considered angels to be those most conformed to the world, and devils to be those free from it. (Read it again in that light!)

Announcing that position Blake found himself to a very great degree persona non grata; only a handful of people had any sympathy for his point of view. He proposed a new Way, and his life in many ways resembled that of Paul , uniformly ignored by the intellectual public whom he tried to reach.

For half of Blake's life he had focused on the Spectre, but the true 'hound' came with his meeting with Jesus at the Moment of Truth.

In the Sea of Time and Space various Blake interpreters identify the man on the shore with Apollo or Odysseus; Damon identified him as the red robed Luvah. (
The Four Zoas [Nt 1], 13.9; E308. All of these are meaningful.)

What do you make of "one like the Son of God" in the furnace? How about the red robed Luvah in the furnace? Blake had a lot to say about furnaces, but it wasn't until he reached spiritual maturity that he understood who was in the furnace.

"he came into the world", and the world did to him what it would. In Jerusalem Blake identified the redeemed Luvah as Jesus- in contrast to the satanic Urizen.

Friday, August 27, 2010


Urizen's Bible was not Blake's Bible
The First Book of Urizen copy F
1794 Houghton Library Object 4

We have often spoken of the distinctive way in which Blake read, studied and interpreted the Bible. Northrup Frye who was an ordained minister of the United Church of Canada before he was a literary critic, shows in this passage from Fearful Symmetry (page 370) how he and Blake were able to read the Bible according to the light which was given to them:

"The career of Jesus is visualized in the gospels as a recreation or epitome of the story of Israel. He comes of the seed of "David" that is, he is the new Orc or Luvah. A "father" who did not begat him, named Joseph, leads him to "Egypt," Herod's slaughter of the innocents being in counterpoint to the earlier Passover story. Returning from Egypt,he grows up and is baptized in the Jordon, corresponding to the crossing of the Red Sea; then he wanders forty days in the wilderness as the Israelites wandered forty years, resisting all the temptations the Israelites fell prey to, including at least one not presented as such in the earlier vision, the miraculous provision of bread. He emerges from the wilderness, gathers twelve followers, appears on a mountain with Moses and Elijah, enters and cleanses the Temple, and is finally lifted up like the brazen serpent in the harlot Jerusalem he came to redeem. In the mean time he raised up a new civilization through the power of the unlearned and oppressed people who were most receptive to his teaching.The new historical cycle is symbolized in Blake by Lazarus of Bethany and the Lazarus of the parable, and who is, like Samson, a vision of Orc suggesting the larger contours of Albion, whose resurrection may not be far off. Thus the "life" of Jesus presented in the Gospels is really a visionary drama based on the earlier vision of Jehovah, worked out not, in terms of historical accuracy or evidence but purely as a clarification of the prophetic visions of the Messiah."

Milton, Plate 24 [26], (E 120)
"When Jesus raisd Lazarus from the Grave I stood & saw
Lazarus who is the Vehicular Body of Albion the Redeemd
Arise into the Covering Cherub who is the Spectre of Albion
By martyrdoms to suffer: to watch over the Sleeping Body.
Upon his Rock beneath his Tomb. I saw the Covering Cherub
Divide Four-fold into Four Churches when Lazarus arose
Paul, Constantine, Charlemaine, Luther;"

Here is an earlier post on Albion and Lazarus.

Blake created his own 'visionary dramas' to present his prophetic visions of the Messiah which he was convinced could reveal the contours of a New Age.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Blake's Sources

Two links tell this whole story: my Blake's Sources and an address by Kathleen Raine. She tells of being at Cambridge in 1927; Keynes had just published, making Blake's Works more readily available, and everyone was reading Blake. In Raine's address she explicated how Blake (heretofore considered a rustic genius) was fully cognizant of the the 'perennial philosophy', while the materialistic culture of his days (and ours!) were completely ignorant of it.

Blake felt that the Enlightenment was not what it was cracked up to be: The Industrial Revolution had meant disaster for millions of Brits who had lost their right to use public grazing lands; they had flooded into London and other cities in search of employment (incidentally a similar migration is going on today throughout the world). They got starvation jobs or nothing and slowly starved. The upper classes rejoiced at finding such cheap labor (just as ours do today!)

Bacon, Newton, and Locke had set the tone of intellectual culture in Blake's day-- a tone of pure materialism, an absence of spiritual values (the same tone we live in today!) (
In 1990 I told a casual acquaintance that the only hope for America was a spiritual revolution; he said No! a mental revolution; both statements were and are equally true.) The absence of spiritual values was attested by the corruption and depravity of the religious establishment (then and now!); this led the youthful Blake to make his disparaging remark about priesthood in Plate 11 of MHH.

Blake confessed his intellectual interests and the sources that fed his spirit in the letter he wrote to Flaxman in 1800:
Now my lot in the Heavens is this; Milton lovd me in childhood & shewd me his face Ezra came with Isaiah the Prophet, but Shakespeare in riper years gave me his hand Paracelsus & Behmen appeard to me. terrors appeard in the Heavens above"

These authorities were not often used by Bacon,

Newton, or Locke. Neither are they used by the

intellectual paragons of our day. Did you ever hear of


Wednesday, August 25, 2010


One of Blake's very early poems which appeared in Poetical Sketches, soars to the height of affirmation and plunges to the depths of depression. Although this is one of the group of poems which were actually published in conventional book form by some of Blake's friends in his youth, Blake was not pleased enough with them to want them circulated. The value to us in reading them, is in noticing the intimations of the themes and symbolism which he would develop with greater depth and complexity in his later work. Contemplation also can be enjoyed for its imagery which is reminiscent of other romantics. The poem ends abruptly as if the author had not reached a point in his life where he could find any reconciliation between the joys and sorrows of life.

Poetical Sketches, (E 442)

"Who is this, that with unerring step dares tempt the wilds, where
only Nature's foot hath trod? 'Tis Contemplation, daughter of the
grey Morning! Majestical she steppeth, and with her pure quill on
every flower writeth Wisdom's name. Now lowly bending, whispers
in mine ear, "O man, how great, how little thou! O man, slave of
each moment, lord of eternity! seest thou where Mirth sits on the
painted cheek? doth it not seem ashamed of such a place, and grow
immoderate to brave it out? O what an humble garb true joy puts
on! Those who want Happiness must stoop to find it; it is a
flower that grows in every vale. Vain foolish man, that roams on
lofty rocks! where, 'cause his garments are swoln with wind, he
fancies he is grown into a giant! Lo then, Humility, take it, and
wear it in thine heart; lord of thyself, thou then art lord of
all. Clamour brawls along the streets, and destruction hovers in
the city's smoak; but on these plains, and in these silent woods,
true joys descend: here build thy nest; here fix thy staff;
delights blossom around; numberless beauties blow; the green
grass springs in joy, and the nimble air kisses the leaves; the
brook stretches its arms along the velvet meadow, its silver
inhabitants sport and play; the youthful sun joys like a hunter
rouzed to the chace: he rushes up the sky, and lays hold on the
immortal coursers of day; the sky glitters with the jingling
trappings! Like a triumph, season follows season, while the airy
music fills the world with joyful sounds." I answered, "Heavenly
goddess! I am wrapped in mortality, my flesh is a prison, my
bones the bars of death, Misery builds over our cottage roofs,
and Discontent runs like a brook. Even in childhood, Sorrow
slept with me in my cradle; he followed me up and down in the
house when I grew up; he was my school-fellow: thus he was in my
steps and in my play, till he became to me as my brother. I
walked through dreary places with him, and in church-yards; and I
oft found myself sitting by Sorrow on a tomb-stone!"

Monday, August 23, 2010


For Blake, the gifts of the imagination are music as well as art and poetry. Through these avenues man maintains contact with Eternity. Man's inner life needs to be fed by activities which draw him away from consciousness of the material world into spiritual consciousness.

Blake portrayed these gifts of the imagination in the only lithograph he is known to have made. The technique of lithography was originated in the early nineteenth century. Somehow Blake gained the knowledge and opportunity to experiment with this new technique. He chose for his subject the various skills of imaginative expression, surrounding a central figure who holds in his hand a book bearing the word Enoch in Hebrew. Inscribed on
a plaque being read by two figures on the upper right is a verse (in Hebrew) from the book of Genesis (2:24): "Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him".

The central figure resembles the Job, Urizen, or Jehovah from other images, but he has the face of a visionary, holds no tablets of law, and in his lap is a book whose inscription is the name of a patriarch who was uniquely close to God. The grape vines surrounding the figures remind us of the wine of transformation. The artist, the poet and the musician on the earthly plane focus their attention on creating. Between the portrayals of working artists and the references to the Bible, Blake primary source of inspiration, we have as complete a picture of the life of Blake's imagination as we will find.

Plate four of the Illustration to the Book of Job, 'Satan Before the Throne of God' , provides an interesting comparison to this picture.

Here is some of what Blake said in his poetry to supplement what he said in graphic art:

Milton, Plate 27 [29],(E 125)
"But in Eternity the Four Arts: Poetry, Painting, Music,
And Architecture which is Science: are the Four Faces of Man.
Not so in Time & Space: there Three are shut out, and only
Science remains thro Mercy: & by means of Science, the Three
Become apparent in time & space, in the Three Professions
Poetry in Religion: Music, Law: Painting, in Physic & Surgery:
That Man may live upon Earth till the time of his awaking,
And from these Three, Science derives every Occupation of Men."

Jerusalem, Plate 3, (E 146)
"Every word and every letter is studied and put into its fit
place: the terrific numbers are reserved for the terrific
parts--the mild & gentle, for the mild & gentle parts, and the
prosaic, for inferior parts: all are necessary to each other.
Poetry Fetter'd, Fetters the Human Race! Nations are Destroy'd,
or Flourish, in proportion as Their Poetry Painting and Music,
are Destroy'd or Flourish! The Primeval State of Man, was Wisdom,
Art, and Science."

The Laocoon (E 273)
"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
You must leave Fathers & Mothers & Houses & Lands
if they stand in the way of ART

The unproductive Man is not a Christian much less the Destroyer"

EUROPE a PROPHECY, Plate 3,(E 60)
"Five windows light the cavern'd Man; thro' one he breathes the
Thro' one, hears music of the spheres; thro' one, the eternal
Flourishes, that he may recieve the grapes; thro' one can look.
And see small portions of the eternal world that ever groweth;
Thro' one, himself pass out what time he please, but he will not;
For stolen joys are sweet, & bread eaten in secret pleasant."

Saturday, August 21, 2010


I think that Blake makes a distinction between the traveler and the wanderer. The traveler goes with a purpose, he enters experience with a goal - that of finding a better understanding of himself and the cosmos. The wanderer finds herself/himself is a world not of his choosing. Having no goal nor purpose he is easily enticed by the most glittery items and opportunities. There is a feeling of lostness and confusion that characterizes the wanderer. The wanderer causes trouble for himself as well as being a disruptive force wherever he goes.

Thel, Page 6, (E 6)
"She wanderd in the land of clouds thro' valleys dark, listning
Dolours & lamentations: waiting oft beside a dewy grave
She stood in silence. listning to the voices of the ground,"

Blake in London
Songs of Experience, SONG 46, (E 26)
"I wander thro' each charter'd street,
Near where the charter'd Thames does flow.
And mark in every face I meet
Marks of weakness, marks of woe."

Visions of the Daughters of Albion, Plate 1, (E 45)
"For the soft soul of America, Oothoon wanderd in woe,
Along the vales of Leutha seeking flowers to comfort her;
And thus she spoke to the bright Marygold of Leutha's vale"

Book of Urizen, Plate 25, (E 82)
"6. Cold he wander'd on high, over their cities
In weeping & pain & woe!
And where-ever he wanderd in sorrows
Upon the aged heavens
A cold shadow follow'd behind him"

Book of Ahania, Plate 2, (E 85)
"8: She fell down a faint shadow wandring
In chaos and circling dark Urizen,
As the moon anguishd circles the earth;
Hopeless! abhorrd! a death-shadow,
Unseen, unbodied, unknown,
The mother of Pestilence."

Milton, Plate 15, (E 109)
"But to himself he seemd a wanderer lost in dreary night.
Onwards his Shadow kept its course among the Spectres; call'd
Satan, but swift as lightning passing them, startled the shades
Of Hell beheld him in a trail of light as of a comet
That travels into Chaos: so Milton went guarded within."

Jerusalem, Plate 20, (E 165)
"Vala replied weeping & trembling, hiding in her veil.
When winter rends the hungry family and the snow falls:
Upon the ways of men hiding the paths of man and beast,
Then mourns the wanderer: then he repents his wanderings & eyes
The distant forest; then the slave groans in the dungeon of
stone. "

Milton, Plate 2
"Daughters of Beulah! Muses who inspire the Poets Song
Record the journey of immortal Milton thro' your Realms
Of terror & mild moony lustre, in soft sexual delusions
Of varied beauty, to delight the wanderer and repose
His burning thirst & freezing hunger!"

The Pickering Manuscript, The Mental Traveller, (E484)
"I traveld thro' a Land of Men
A Land of Men & Women too
And heard & saw such dreadful things
As cold Earth wanderers never knew"

Jerusalem, Plate 43 [29], (E 192)
"Then frownd the fallen Man, and put forth Luvah from his presence
Saying. Go and Die the Death of Man, for Vala the sweet wanderer."

Jerusalem, Plate 86, (E 245)
"Thus Los sings upon his Watch walking from Furnace to Furnace.
He siezes his Hammer every hour, flames surround him as
He beats: seas roll beneath his feet, tempests muster
Arou[n]d his head. the thick hail stones stand ready to obey
His voice in the black cloud, his Sons labour in thunders
At his Furnaces; his Daughters at their Looms sing woes
His Emanation separates in milky fibres agonizing
Among the golden Looms of Cathedron sending fibres of love
From Golgonooza with sweet visions for Jerusalem, wanderer."

Four Zoas, Page 5,(E 302)
"Enion said Farewell I die I hide. from thy searching eyes
So saying--From her bosom weaving soft in Sinewy threads
A tabernacle for Jerusalem she sat among the Rocks
Singing her lamentation. Tharmas groand among his Clouds
Weeping, then bending from his Clouds he stoopd his innocent head
And stretching out his holy hand in the vast Deep sublime
Turnd round the circle of Destiny with tears & bitter sighs
And said. Return O Wanderer when the Day of Clouds is oer"

Noteworthy is that the wanderers tend to be female. Three of the emanations of the four Zoas are wanderers. When they become separated from their male counterparts they are without guidance or direction. Wandering with Urizen is an exploration but unproductive. When the active male principle is absent, the receptive female tends to wander without direction. The wanderer is not headed for a destination but slated to return to the point of origin. Oothoon is the exception, she starts out as a wanderer but develops a strong ego and in the end independent of male support.

Friday, August 20, 2010


Quoting from Larry Clayton's online Blake book, RAM HORN'D WITH GOLD concerning the role that the male/ female dichotomy plays in Blake's system, we read:

"Man in Eternity is androgynous. In Beulah, which means Married, the sexes are divided into loving and restful contraries. With the Fall the Female Will becomes dominant; the Human Form deteriorates to the sexual in which male and female, spirit and matter, exist in a state of constant warfare. Man has fallen into the fourth world of Ulro. But whatever falls may rise again."

Larry quoted the following passage from Milton Percival who quoted it from Franz Hartman; it is worth passing on again: "Woman as such represents the will (including love and desire), and man as such represents intellect (including the imagination).Woman represents substance; man represents spirit. Man imagines; woman executes. Man creates images; woman renders them substantial.
"The divine man (the angel) is male and female in one; such Adam was before the woman became separated from him. He is like the sun; the woman as such resembles the moon, receiving her light from the sun, and man without woman (in him) is a consuming fire in want of fuel."

Larry Clayton says: " This means that Blake (and Paracelsus) in their use of sex have a primarily metaphysical rather than a physical connotation."

Read more in RAM HORN'D WITH GOLD.

Thursday, August 19, 2010


A close friend of William Blake and an associate of his in publishing through the radical publisher Joseph Johnson, Henry Fuselli was instrumental in the publication of Aphorisms on Man. Johann Caspar Lavater, Fusilli's friend, with whom he had been a theology student in Zurich, wrote the manuscript and Fuselli translated it into English and facilitated its publication in London. Blake engraved five illustrations for the work based on preliminary drawings by Fuselli.

Blake's annotation to his copy of Aphorisms on Man are included in his complete works, and are the chief reason Lavater's book is read today. The comment I focus on is an unequivocal statement of Blake's belief about the relationship of man to God which he wrote in annotating Lavater's book. That Blake felt that God related intimately with man as a companion and brother is made clear in this passage. Blake supports his belief by quoting John 6:56, "He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him." Blake replaces the phrase "eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood" with "dwelleth in love."

Blake continues by saying that it is this relationship with God that removes the need and ability of a man to judge another except in love.

The God Blake affirms bridges divisions because he who is the cause of all, humbles himself in order to nourish the weak. Blake then defines creation in terms of God descending to become the word which is in everything and which makes everything into God in it's essence.

Annotations to Lavater, (E 599)

"It is the God in all that is our companion & friend, for our God himself says, you are my brother my sister & my mother; & St John. Whoso dwelleth in love dwelleth in God & God in him. & such an one cannot judge of any but in love. & his feelings will be attractions or repulses
God is in the lowest effects as well as in the highest causes for he is become a worm that he may nourish the weak
For let it be rememberd that creation is. God descending according to the weakness of man for our Lord is the word of God & every thing on earth is the word of God & in its essence is God"

Blake's statement bears a close resemblance to Paul's statement in Philippians 2:6–8:
"Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross."

The Morgan Museum's exhibition of work of Blake and his associates is available online: A New Heaven Is Begun.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010


Philosophers give a lot of thought and study to the question of external existence and and the access we have to it. We tend to think of the images we have in our minds as having external referents, and we take sense data as being the evidence of that. But we 'know' that sense data is highly processed by the mind before it enters our consciousness. The mind has created a symbol which we can read as an object.

So we postulate one of the first levels of 'symbol'; the processed data as opposed to the raw data with which we were originally bombarded. If the external world is the source of raw data, the question becomes what is the organization inherent in the external world or is there any. Does the organization (form) have an independent existence or was it created by us, through us, for us? We tend to think of the latest concept of perceiving as being the true representation of the outer world. But we can recognize that any representation is a symbol and not the object symbolized.

The contrast between Jesus and the Christ demonstrates some of how symbols work. We take Jesus as less a symbol than Christ, because a historical person named Jesus had accounts written of his activities in the world we recognize as our exterior world. Christ is altogether symbol because it is an idea, a force, a constellation of characteristics, an archetype, a non-sensory entity.

We can clarify our thinking by understanding our symbols: where we are coming from, how many layers of processing they have been through, what purpose they are serving, what meaning they convey to others and how they may be expressed in less symbolic language. But this is understanding symbols from the outside. Many think that Blake lived in a symbolic world to which few have access. Those learning a new language using words, undergo a transition to mastering the new language without translating from the original language. Those learning to process information in the symbolic language must learn to think in the language of symbols before they have a mastery of it. We translate ideas to and from symbols as an exterior exercise, Blake understood them through the very structure and organization of his mind.
Many students of Blake tell us the same thing in different ways: the crux of reading Blake is in a transformation of one's thinking - not what you think but how you think. As I have said before Blake doesn't want us to go out the same door we came in.

Jerusalem, Plate 100
Urizen, Los and Enitharmon

Pierre Berger,
William Blake: poet and mystic, (Page 107) gives us an idea of how Blake developed the characters, Urizen and Los, as a symbols carried by a particular personalities.
"By the same process, the Eternal Man has become a definite personality. The birth of Urizen is not merely a mystical representation of the world's creation : it symbolizes also the creation of man as a distinct being. Like Urizen, the Spirit of Man broke away from that of the Eternals, and found itself closed up in Time and Space. But, in this second interpretation, Los is no longer only symbolical of Time : he is also the Prophet of Eternity, the prophetic Spirit in humanity, sent by the Eternals to watch over man, even while he separates him from them. And as he fulfills this task, he cannot help retaining a remembrance of the Eternals, and a clear consciousness of their existence. His mission of separation reminds him perpetually of his former union with them. Consequently, he keeps alive in man's spirit the recollection of his first state, and a vague longing to return to it. He is the spirit of the Seers, the spirit that will later on inspire the poets and the artists, and speak by the mouth of the prophets. By him comes all that constitutes the Ideal, all that reaches us from the unseen world. He is at the root of all the arts and of all true religion ; for religion and art are nought but visions of Eternity. He it was who spoke through Milton. He it is who will enter into Blake, and dictate his words."

Blake built his symbols by reaching into archetypal experience and incorporating mythopoeic images into poetic form.

Monday, August 16, 2010


I haven't been able to track down digital images of Blake's illustrations to Pilgrim's Progress, but I have seen one image in an Online Exhibit from UNCG's library. Last week I wrote to the Head of Special Collections at University of North Carolina Greensboro inquiring about the possibility of seeing online pictures of William Blake's Illustrations to John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress. Mr Finley was kind enough to make this reply:
"Thank you for your inquiry about the William Blake exhibit. This exhibit actually was mounted about nine years ago as a physical exhibit, to highlight the acquisition by Jackson Library at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro of a first edition of Blake's Illustrations of the Book of Job, the library's one-millionth volume.
Since this exhibit is far in the past, I do not have much recollection of the particular items included other than what is mentioned in the exhibit captions. I am afraid I do not have any other illustrations from Pilgrim's Progress, since this particular work is not among my department's holdings. (The illustration in the exhibit is from the Heritage Press edition of Bunyan's famous work.) Most of the illustrations for Blake's own works came from my library's collection of Trianon Press editions of Blake.
I am sorry not to be able to provide you with further illustrations from Pilgrim's Progress. Of course, not every edition of this title carries Blake's illustrations, but a number do. If you are interested in acquiring a copy with the Blake illustrations, I would suggest searching ABE (the Antiquarian Book Exchange) (www.abe.com) under their "Advanced Search," which will allow you to indicate copies with Blake's illustrations as a keyword.
The originals of the other images in the exhibit are located in a wide variety of places, some in the U. S. and many in England. The exhibit generally did not indicate the location of the originals, although I know that the Huntington Library in California is a major repository for Blake titles and images. The Huntington also had a much larger Blake exhibit some six years ago, I believe, and it may have an exhibit catalog for that exhibit.
Thank you again for your inquiry and your kind words about the exhibit.
William K. Finley
Head, Special Collections & University Archives
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro

You may enjoy visiting this website to see samples of Blake's images and the introductions to a variety of his works. See the Online Exhibit from 2001, titled William Blake Dreamer of Dreams.

Take special notice of two illustrations from UNCG's copy of the first printing of Blake's Illustrations to the Book of Job.


I later found the copy of Pilgrim's Progress given to us by a friend has a few of the watercolor illustrations by William Blake.

Click on picture for clear enlargement. Click again for more lovely detail.

Sunday, August 15, 2010


The symbolism of alchemy runs through Blake's writings and will be apparent to those who seek it out. The basic symbolism of alchemy is of transformation. Although the original object was to produce gold from base metals, the discipline was later spiritualized to that of becoming transformed oneself by the processes which were developed in the laboratory for transmuting elements.

Click on this picture from MHH Plate 14 to enlarge an image of transformation by fire.

There is a chapter on Alchemical Symbolism in Milton O Percival's book, William Blake's Circle of Destiny. William Blake's acquaintance with alchemy was primarily through Paracelsus and Boehme whom he acknowledges as influential in his thinking. Among the prominent patterns of thought in alchemy which are noticed in Blake are:
>The four elements - air, water, fire and earth,
>The original state is unified,
>The centrality of reunifying male and female,
>Fire as the liberating and regenerating agent,
>That all things are alive and sentient,
>Achieving life through death,
>Transformation of body into soul.

In my post on Angel & Devil, in the passage I quoted, the Angel at the point of transformation undergoes mutations of color which are the primary indication that the crisis has been reached. Color changes were outward manifestations that hidden change were taking place in the alchemical processes.
MHH plate 22
"The Angel hearing this became almost blue but mastering
himself he grew yellow, & at last white pink & smiling, and then

Los' work at his furnaces is the work of the alchemist. Here is a quote from page 212 of Circle of Destiny:
"Los handles the purification of the contraries in the furnaces in accordance with alchemical tradition. As in alchemy the imperfect triple body (salt, sulphur, and mercury) has to be broken, and the masculine sulphur and the feminine mercury freed for purification in the fire, that they may be united in the one only essence, so must sinful man, his doubting head and cruel heart selfishly combined into a mortal body, be subjected to trial by fire, that his divided selves may be reunited in the one man Christ. But, though man himself is metaphorically the sum of all that is in the furnaces, the forms (or bodies) which Los continually breaks down should be thought of as forms of government, of religion, of what you will - forms constructed by a crafty head or a cruel heart. The intellectual life (the theory, the dogma) of these forms must be broken down in order that the chastened emotions may be set free for a new fixation under the guidance of a liberated intelligence. In alchemical parlance, two must be drawn out of the three and separately purged before the transforming union can take place."

Blake writes of a world in need of renewal and regeneration. He uses the symbols of alchemy in presenting his complex myth of breaking down the destructive systems and opening the way to transformation to the new age.

Jerusalem, Plate 78, (E 233)
"Los with his mace of iron
Walks round: loud his threats, loud his blows fall
On the rocky Spectres, as the Potter breaks the potsherds;
Dashing in pieces Self-righteousnesses: driving them from Albions
Cliffs: dividing them into Male & Female forms in his Furnaces
And on his Anvils: lest they destroy the Feminine Affections
They are broken. Loud howl the Spectres in his iron Furnace

While Los laments at his dire labours, viewing Jerusalem,
Sitting before his Furnaces clothed in sackcloth of hair;"

Saturday, August 14, 2010

The Happy Child

Before the loss of innocence the average child has an inner vision absent to most adults; it's generally stripped away by the age of six. Under the influence of early public education a socialization or social conditioning process takes place, and conventional thought forms take the place of the child's inner thoughts.

Most Blake students remember the vision of the angry God that Blake found in his window at the age of four. You can be sure that such a fancy is likely to be trained out of a small child-- in most cases but not in Blake's. We know very little about his parents other than a generally dissenting faith (Swedenborgians, Moravians, etc.).

But they must have had liberal ideas about child rearing because a few years later when he reported seeing a tree filled with angels, his mother talked his father out of a disciplinary response. Another liberal idea was their permission for him to leave school after the first day (when the schoolmaster flogged a boy).

All this leads to the conclusion that Blake never lost the faculty of inner vision, which has been conditioned out of most of us. With no hindrance to his childhood visions and freedom from organized schooling Blake became an autodidact; in all likelihood regarding pre-Enlightenment thought he became the most learned man of his generation.

Jesus is reported to have said, "Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein" in Mark 10:15. That's often thought to mean that the child trusts his father, but might it not also mean he has a child's imagination?

One might say Blake remained like a child his entire life. The four year old who had seen the angry God in his window, who a bit later had seen the tree full of angels continued to see those sorts of things as the years went by.

In the course of time the 'angry God' became Nobodaddy and a large variety of other 'god-like' figures. And the 'tree full of angels'? who knows.

How could that be? Unlike you and me Blake (after the first day) never went to school, the place where most of the 'child' has been drilled out of us. For Blake? no! "I must Create a System or be enslav'd by another Mans". He didn't heed what the priests told him about God; he already knew the God within (the Quaker Way). He spent twenty years wrestling with the God he knew.

In Songs of Innocence he gave delightful portraits of the child within himself, and in Songs of Experience he showed us what this cruel vale in tears where we live had done to those lovely children. Look at Version 1 and Version 2 of Holy Thursday and at Version 1 and 2 of the Chimney Sweeper.

The Little Black Boy showed a child put upon by a cruel society, but not embittered thereby. Blake's poetry is often bitter, ironic, satiric, condemnatory! "Blake's poetry has the unpleasantness of great poetry" (T.S.Eliot). So much like Isaiah and Jeremiah: pages and pages of bitter excoriation.

But in the midst of the cries, just like Isaiah, you suddenly find passages of ethereal beauty and joy. Like a child: either delighted or miserable!

Finally the child is creative! I haven't found any poet who matches Blake's creativity; his System is like discovering another planet.

Friday, August 13, 2010


Marriage of Heaven and Hell, Plate 22-24, (E 43)
"A Memorable Fancy

Once I saw a Devil in a flame of fire. who arose before an
Angel that sat on a cloud. and the Devil utterd these words.
The worship of God is. Honouring his gifts in other men
each according to his genius. and loving the greatest men
best, those who envy or calumniate great men hate God, for there
is no other God.
The Angel hearing this became almost blue but mastering
himself he grew yellow, & at last white pink & smiling, and then
Thou Idolater, is not God One? & is not he visible in Jesus
Christ? and has not Jesus Christ given his sanction to the law of
ten commandments and are not all other men fools, sinners, &
The Devil answer'd; bray a fool in a morter with wheat. yet
shall not his folly be beaten out of him: if Jesus Christ is the
greatest man, you ought to love him in the greatest degree; now
hear how he has given his sanction to the law of ten
commandments: did he not mock at the sabbath, and so mock the
sabbaths God? murder those who were murderd because of him? turn
away the law from the woman taken in adultery? steal the labor of
others to support him? bear false witness when he omitted making
a defence before Pilate? covet when he pray'd for his disciples,
and when he bid them shake off the dust of their feet against
such as refused to lodge them? I tell you, no virtue can exist
without breaking these ten commandments: Jesus was all virtue,
and acted from impulse: not from rules.
When he had so spoken: I beheld the Angel who stretched out
his arms embracing the flame of fire & he was consumed and arose
as Elijah.

Note. This Angel, who is now become a Devil, is my
particular friend: we often read the Bible together in its
infernal or diabolical sense which the world shall have if they
behave well
I have also: The Bible of Hell: which the world shall have
whether they will or no.

One Law for the Lion & Ox is Oppression"

June Singer, in The Unholy Bible, has worked out some of the meanings in The Marriage of Heaven Hell. Singer has followed and scrutinized the struggle between the Angel and the Devil to reach the point where the contraries of reason and energy can accommodate one another allowing the most complete expression of the creative forces. I hope these quotes from her will help you to understand the reasoning she presents in explaining plates 22-24.

The dialog between the angel and the devil is drawing to its conclusion. The resolution of the conflict between the contraries of reason and energy will come to a climax on these plate. The resolution hinges on the idea that, "Except as man experiences God in his own life, God is incomprehensible to him."..."The angel is shocked and angered by the blasphemous words of the Devil. But in its very emotional reaction, the beginning of a transformation takes place."... " The Angel takes into himself some of that fierce, energetic force which must affect the status of his conventional belief. The Angel becomes "volatile," active and participating, and when he speaks out for the traditional morality supposedly sanctioned by Jesus, it is the last proud rallying cry in defense of a citadel which is already falling."..."In Jesus Christ as the fulfiller of the law and Jesus Christ the lawbreaker, a bridge is formed upon which two contraries, represented by Angel an Devil can approach one another. Out of their intimate confrontation arise the imagination and the vision which make it possible to relate reason and restraint to energy and desire.
The Angel accepts the fire and embraces it, and vision tells us the he is consumed and arises as Elijah." ..."Blake proposes that the two aspects of man, Devil and Angel, be joined together and that they participate in coming to new and revolutionary understandings. The Bible formerly the Angel's book, is not discarded; rather it is read in the diabolic - that is, the original poetic sense."...

"The Protestant passion for the Bible as the possession of the individual, to be read finally by the inner light of each believers spirit, is Blake's most direct heritage from the radical elements in English religious tradition. Blake's "Bible of Hell," the sequence of his engraved poems, is the first of the great Romantic displacements of the Biblical revelation into the poetic world of the individual creator." (Quotes from pages 163-171)

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Two Kinds of Seeing

The prophet Ezekiel reported (in 4:4-8) that God told him to lay on his right side for three months, then on his left side for three months, as a warning to the Hebrews. In a vision Blake asked him why he did it and got this reply: "the desire of raising other men into a perception of the infinite" (Blake reported this to us in MHH Plate 13 (line 21ff).

"The desire of raising other men into a perception of the infinite": by and large that was Blake's main purpose in his creative endeavors.

There are many kinds of seeing and many levels of consciousness, but, resorting to the natural proclivity for the dialectic, we might say there are two:

1. The sense-based, natural, materialistic time and space consciousness, with no spiritual awareness. Blake called this Ulro; Jesus called it Hell.

2. Vision, coming forth from the inner man, the Light, the Now. It's a different kind of consciousness, a perception of the infinite (Blake called it Eden; Jesus called it the Kingdom of Heaven or the Kingdom of God).

Jesus showed us with his life how to live eternally; and he told us we could do it. Blake did it, periodically at least, and like Jesus he wanted us to share that heavenly gift.

He called it Vision; that's what he lived for; those eternal moments when he perceived the infinite were all that mattered. If you can't do it continuously, then you can talk about it, write about it, draw it, paint it. He did (and you can) show us how to see.

(This material was largely taken from the Blake Primer, near the beginning.)

Re double vision: "This is a cogent description of what he calls double vision, an attribute of schizophrenics as well as artists; they see what's not there to the sense based person." (Double vision appears to be closely related to intuition.)

Look also at twofold.

Write me if you need further information, or just comment and ask a question.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010


In The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, Blake was exploring the nature of the contraries and the relationship between contraries. June Singer ( The Unholy Bible) explains Blake's writing of The Marriage of Heaven and Hell in terms of his desire to tap into the energy which he recognized in the Satan which Milton wrote about. The restraint which conventional rational thinking could place on the liberty with which Blake wanted to live, and the expressiveness with which he desired to write, was what he wanted to explore. By adopting the position of the Angel's contrary, the unrestrained, uninhibited outlaw - the Devil - he sought to access the source of energy which was unavailable to reason.

On Page 71 Singer states:
"Blake now proposes to follow Milton's Devil, that is, to pay attention to his own desire and permit the impersonal voice of that Devil to speak through him. With this commitment he enters upon the hero's quest, the night sea journey, the dark night of the soul, the voyage that has been called by many names but which all must travel if they are driven toward the goal of realizing their creative potentialities. It is the way of travail and hardship, where the traveler is exposed to the attacks and seductions of worldly and spiritual pleasures because he is open to everything he may perceive, to sights and voices and all the impressions of the senses, and even to extrasensory impressions...

"This section of the Marriage is a crucial one, for it comments upon the change of attitude which marks the creative man's departure from tradition and from the limiting bounds of Reason. To walk with Satan and his children, called Sin and Death, takes courage and an overwhelming necessity of desire. Those whose desire is weak enough to be restrained will never experience either the tortures or beatific visions which alternatively appear to the traveler on the way to individuation."

Marriage of Heaven and Hell, PLATE 4, (E 34)

"The voice of the Devil
All Bibles or sacred codes. have been the causes of the
following Errors.
1. That Man has two real existing principles Viz: a Body & a
2. That Energy. calld Evil. is alone from the Body. & that
Reason. calld Good. is alone from the Soul.
3. That God will torment Man in Eternity for following his
But the following Contraries to these are True
1 Man has no Body distinct from his Soul for that calld Body is
a portion of Soul discernd by the five Senses. the chief inlets
of Soul in this age
2. Energy is the only life and is from the Body and Reason is
the bound or outward circumference of Energy.
3 Energy is Eternal Delight

Those who restrain desire, do so because theirs is weak enough
to be restrained; and the restrainer or reason usurps its place &
governs the unwilling.
And being restraind it by degrees becomes passive till it is
only the shadow of desire."

Other Posts based on Singer's work.

Complete Marriage of Heaven and Hell as online book on Wikisource.

Marriage of Heaven and Hell as a video on youtube by Ulver.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Two Kinds of Love

Blake used many words and phrases as metaphors for complex ideas that may appear opaque to the common intellect. Such a phrase is 'female love'. You can find many occurrences in this blog.

For example:
Till I turn from Female love
And root up the Infernal Grove,
I shall never worthy be
To step into Eternity."
This fraction of the poem, Broken Love is also called My Spectre Around Me Night and Day.

The metaphor (female love) is calculated today to antagonize and estrange many women who may come upon it; in Blake's day it may have been less unacceptable.

In any generation the term may mean little to the ordinary intellect. The more incisive and knowledgeable mind may know that age old mythology posits the Sun God as masculine and the Moon Goddess feminine. Following that traditional teaching might lead the reader to a realization that Blake's female love is not a slam to the gender, but a metaphor for a reality as vibrant today as it was in the early 19 century.

For Blake love like everything else contained contraries; descriptions current in our generation as in Blake's might be 'romantic love and mercenary love', or 'selfless love and selfish love'.

Female love becomes clear with The Clod and the Pebble. You may easily determine which is female love.

There are many examples of this dichotomy in Blake, in other English literature, and in our current scene:

Pride and Prejudice analyses the two forms of love in depth.
If female love is an archetype, then Charlotte is the antitype.
Lizzie of course comes down for romantic love. I expect Shakespeare also had a lot to say on this subject.

Ardent women's libbers are likely to despise Blake's metaphor, 'female love'; truly liberated women understand and appreciate it.

Throughout the world American men are noted and admired for their respect for womankind, a trait emphatically shared by William Blake.

In love with a Brasilera once in 1946 I asked her how her friends seemed to be so taken with American men; her answer was eloquent, "because they are not malicioso".
Indeed there are many men in America who still love by the Playboy model and see women only as objects of enjoyment, but much less IMO than in other parts of the world.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Man and State

Look first at what Blake meant by state: at Milton plate 32.

For Blake everything was a man (Look at Letter 16; verse 26-32); Things are material objects, but in Heaven, where Blake generally lived when he created, matter is absent; "everything is a man".

In his ordinary experience as well as his heavenly ones Blake customarily referred to objects as people, much like Jesus referred to the demons in Matthew...

Look at Letter 23 verse 24ff:
"With my inward Eye 'tis an old Man grey
With my outward a Thistle across my way";
Blake proceeds to have a conversation with the thistle, or if you prefer, the 'old Man grey'.

Recall that in the Book of Thel Thel converses with the clod of clay, the lilly, the worm, the cloud; these were all men in Blake's imaginative world.

Some apparent men we immediately see are not:
Satan is a state; the Spectre is a state; however at times they are treated as men:
"Truly My Satan thou art but a Dunce."

Are the four zoas men or states? In Eternity Albion is a Unity; fallen into the Sea of Time and Space he is divided into four elements, treated like people in Blake's myth. But we can call them states:

So we might speak of a man dominated by Urizen, or Luvah, or Los. Tharmas presents more of a problem. Carrying this idea a bit further we might say that a man may have much of Urizen and a little of Luvah, etc.

In this way Blake's four zoas (and Jung's four functions) may provide a valuable instrument for understanding ourselves as well as our friends and other associates.

Blake went through life talking to non-human entities and describing them in human terms; he had a great disinterest in things as such; he always personalized; in that way he included everything in Eternity. "Not one Milton 22; line 19-26.
In this of course he was not alone. Jesus said something about the stones crying out and talked with devils (Matt 8:31-32) and was himself described as the cornerstone.

You, too may pick up this habit.

Saturday, August 07, 2010


Wikipedia Commons
Marriage of Heaven & Hell
Plate 3
Updated from August 2010.

June Singer, a Jungian psychologist, wrote several books on psychology but only one book on Blake. Her first book which developed from her thesis for her analysts diploma from the C. G. Jung Institute in Zurich, is titled The Unholy Bible: Blake, Jung and the Collective Unconscious. Although most of the book is a psychological analysis of The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, she provides insight into the later prophetic writings as well. In this passage she explains The Four Zoas in terms of individuation. The quote from Blake represents the reassembling of the pieces after 'all things are changd'.

"The long poem , The Four Zoas, describes the many aspects of man as they are differentiated from one another.The symbolism amazingly parallels the analytic process of differentiating the many unconscious contents from the other, and then gradually reintegrating them into a new and productive unity. The parallel is even more impressive when we consider that Blake uses the schema of nine nights of dreams, since dreams in analytical psychology provide the key to understanding the unconscious processes. It is with this key that Blake has unlocked 'the doors of perception' as he promised he would in The Marriage of Heaven and Hell. At the end of the ninth night man beholds the infinite vision, and he sings the Ode to Joy (we recall the first two lines, first uttered by the enslaved wives and children of America): [Four Zoas, Page 138, (E 406)]

'The Sun has left his blackness & has found a fresher morning
And the mild moon rejoices in the clear & cloudless night
And Man walks forth from midst of the fires the evil is all
His eyes behold the Angelic spheres arising night & day
The stars consumd like a lamp blown out & in their stead behold
The Expanding Eyes of Man behold the depths of wondrous worlds
One Earth one sea beneath nor Erring Globes wander but Stars
Of fire rise up nightly from the Ocean & one Sun
Each morning like a New born Man issues with songs & Joy
Calling the Plowman to his Labour & the Shepherd to his rest
He walks upon the Eternal Mountains raising his heavenly voice
Conversing with the Animal forms of wisdom night & day
That risen from the Sea of fire renewd walk oer the Earth

For Tharmas brought his flocks upon the hills & in the Vales
Around the Eternal Mans bright tent the little Children play
Among the wooly flocks The hammer of Urthona sounds
In the deep caves beneath his limbs renewd his Lions roar
Around the Furnaces & in Evening sport upon the plains
They raise their faces from the Earth conversing with the Man

How is it we have walkd thro fires & yet are not consumd
How is it that all things are changd even as in ancient times' " 

More from Singer (Page 214):
"It is as if though the writing of this book were a very private experience, like a dream that belonged to Blake alone. It was the working through of  the difficult union foretold in The Marriage of Heaven and Hell. An inner marriage was taking place in the psyche which was more real than his conventional with Catherine. As masculine creative force, his energy spurted forth abundantly. As feminine receptive vessel, his anima aspect functioned in his work to contain and shape that stream. 
'The cistern contains: the fountain overflows.' It was a secret happening, a pregnancy, which could not be shown prematurely to the public. This is why, I believe,  Blake never engraved this book. Murry [John Middleton] stated it well when he says , 'It is the travail of Blake' final rebirth. 

Friday, August 06, 2010

Origin of the Four Functions

Jung postulated four functions: two rational ones (thinking and feeling) and two irrational ones (intuition and sensation). On the surface an unlearned layman might wonder if he got them from Blake, whom he tells us that he had read extensively and admired. The Four Zoas bear a close resemblance to Jung's Four Functions. But the problem of the origin or source is more complex.

Both had access to much earlier sources and gathered them into their own understanding: Jung's psychology and Blake's poetic myth.

You may find much information about the functions in the Cube of Space.

Cornerstones of the Psyche treat fourness in a more comprehensive way.

Classical Elements shows this figure going back to the 18th century B.C.

The Bible spoke of the four living creatures: Ezekiel 1 and Revelation 4 and 5. I found 50 uses of four in Ezekiel, 13 in the first chapter.

Earth, Water, Air and Fire had various understanding during the past 38 centuries. These four elements are closely associated with Blake's four zoas: Urthona (Los in mortality) to Earth, Tharmas to Water, Urizen to Air, and Luvah to Fire.

You will find more discussion of the four Zoas in my Blake Primer. (In the Provisional Table of Contents click on Characters.)

The Four Zoas of course are central to Blake's myth and psychology. They apply equally to human beings and to the world, but much less so to the cosmos, which for Blake was unitary.

Thursday, August 05, 2010


Yale Center for British ArtJerusalem

The frontispiece of Blake's Jerusalem pictures a man clothed as a night watchman entering a dark doorway. He carries the watchman's light to illuminate the 'perilous path' whose entry he steps into wearing his sandals (which he strapped on in the poem Milton). The figure is Los beginning his journey through the underworld which Persephone entered before him. Blake describes it as 'the passage through Eternal Death! and of the awaking to Eternal Life.' (Jerusalem, Plate 4, E 146)

Among the many roles that Los is assigned is that of watchman for which he was first chosen in the Book of Urizen. When the Eternals see the vast world of Urizen appear, Los is called upon to confine Urizen's world.

Urizen, Plate 5,(E 73)
"8. And Los round the dark globe of Urizen,
Kept watch for Eternals to confine,
The obscure separation alone;
For Eternity stood wide apart,"

In Milton Los is singled out to be the watchman and to keep the peace until Milton's redemptive act is completed. The full weight falls on Los and his sons because the other Zoas have left their stations.

Milton, Plate 23 [25], (E 119)
"We were plac'd here by the Universal Brotherhood & Mercy
With powers fitted to circumscribe this dark Satanic death
And that the Seven Eyes of God may have space for Redemption.
But how this is as yet we know not, and we cannot know;
Till Albion is arisen; then patient wait a little while,
Six Thousand years are passd away the end approaches fast;
This mighty one is come from Eden, he is of the Elect,
Who died from Earth & he is returnd before the Judgment. This thing
Was never known that one of the holy dead should willing return
Then patient wait a little while till the Last Vintage is over:"

Milton, Plate 24 (E 119)
"Because of Satan: & the Seven Eyes of God continually
Guard round them, but I the Fourth Zoa am also set
The Watchman of Eternity, the Three are not! & I am preserved
Still my four mighty ones are left to me in Golgonooza
Still Rintrah fierce, and Palamabron mild & piteous
Theotormon filld with care, Bromion loving Science
You O my Sons still guard round Los."

Jerusalem, the role of watchman again falls to Los as he watches at his furnaces until Albion awakes.

Jerusalem, Plate 83, (E 242)
"It must lie in confusion till Albions time of awaking.
Place the Tribes of Llewellyn in America for a hiding place!
Till sweet Jerusalem emanates again into Eternity
The night falls thick: I go upon my watch: be attentive:
The Sons of Albion go forth; I follow from my Furnaces:
That they return no more: that a place be prepard on Euphrates
Listen to your Watchmans voice: sleep not before the Furnaces
Eternal Death stands at the door. O God pity our labours.

So Los spoke. to the Daughters of Beulah while his Emanation
Like a faint rainbow waved before him in the awful gloom
Of London City on the Thames from Surrey Hills to Highgate
While Los arose upon his Watch, and down from Golgonooza
Putting on his golden sandals to walk from mountain to mountain,
He takes his way, girding himself with gold & in his hand
Holding his iron mace: The Spectre remains attentive
Alternate they watch in night: alternate labour in day
Before the Furnaces labouring, while Los all night watches
The stars rising & setting, & the meteors & terrors of night!"

We can go back to the book America to get an intimation of the rejoicing which will take place when the watchman's duty is over.

America, PLATE 6, (E 52)
"The morning comes, the night decays, the watchmen leave their stations;
The grave is burst, the spices shed, the linen wrapped up;
The bones of death, the cov'ring clay, the sinews shrunk & dry'd.
Reviving shake, inspiring move, breathing! awakening!
Spring like redeemed captives when their bonds & bars are burst;"