Tuesday, August 03, 2010


Each of the Four Zoas is associated with one of the four elements: Urizen with air, Luvah with fire, Urthona with earth, and Tharmas with water. The four elements appear in the Book of Urizen, but in this early work they had different names. Here is a vivid picture of the four as they appear on Plate 24 of the Book of Urizen. Individual images appear in the Gates of Paradise.

For one of the images of the Small Book of Designs, Blake reused Plate 24 of the Book of Urizen, but he redesigned the image to include only Tharmas submerged in a rough sea with only his face above water. The other elements were covered over in the print with the sea, the mountains and red light from a rising or setting sun. The role of Tharmas is given prominence apropos for his importance in Blake's system. Tharmas as the body, is the avenue of sensory perception which in the fallen state, overloads man's mind leading to the exclusion of spiritual perception. Drowning in a watery world is a good image for living by the precepts of 'Bacon, Newton and Locke' which Blake deplored.

Tharmas occurs as the first building block the psyche, but he is the last to be recognized as deserving of a position among the Zoas. He takes a back seat as the dynamics of the struggle for the structuring of the psychic life occurs. In the end he becomes a unifying principle which represents the possibility of further development beyond a simple return to the original status.

At some points in Blake's myth, there is a close association between Urthona and Tharmas. In the final stage of The Four Zoas the two of them recognize their closeness and recall being friends in earlier times. Urthona and Tharmas are the two Zoas that function most unconsciously, just as intuition and sensation are the less conscious functions in Jung's system. Earth is the element from which Adam was formed in the Bible. Water is the element from which life arises in the evolutionary process. Earth and Water; Imagination (or the Spiritual Sense) and the Body (or sensation); Urthona and Tharmas are the foundational materials for building life in both a physical and psychological sense. Blake presents them as forces that held the unified man together before the fall, and as the unifying forces available to man as he enters the new age.

Four Zoas, Page 137, (E 405)
"Then Los who is Urthona rose in all his regenerate power
The Sea that rolld & foamd with darkness & the shadows of death
Vomited out & gave up all the floods lift up their hands
Singing & shouting to the Man they bow their hoary heads
And murmuring in their channels flow & circle round his feet
Page 138
Then Dark Urthona took the Corn out of the Stores of Urizen
He ground it in his rumbling Mills Terrible the distress
Of all the Nations of Earth ground in the Mills of Urthona
In his hand Tharmas takes the Storms. he turns the whirlwind Loose
Upon the wheels the stormy seas howl at his dread command
And Eddying fierce rejoice in the fierce agitation of the wheels
Of Dark Urthona Thunders Earthquakes Fires Water floods
Rejoice to one another loud their voices shake the Abyss
Their dread forms tending the dire mills The grey hoar frost was there
And his pale wife the aged Snow they watch over the fires
They build the Ovens of Urthona Nature in darkness groans
And Men are bound to sullen contemplations in the night
Restless they turn on beds of sorrow. in their inmost brain
Feeling the crushing Wheels they rise they write the bitter words
Of Stern Philosophy & knead the bread of knowledge with tears & groans"

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