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
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
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)