Thursday, September 30, 2010


Some have suggested that Blake meant butterfly by fly, and caterpillar by worm.


Little Fly
Thy summers play,
My thoughtless hand
Has brush'd away.

Am not I
A fly like thee?
Or art not thou
A man like me?

For I dance
And drink & sing:
Till some blind hand
Shall brush my wing.

If thought is life
And strength & breath:
And the want
Of thought is death;

Then am I
A happy fly,
If I live,
Or if I die.

Man who knows himself to be a mind and spirit frequently seeks an explanation for his being a material being in a world of matter.

Here are some explanations which have been devised:

*It pleased God to have some companions.
*Man is being punished for some disobedience.
*Life is meant to be a learning experience.
*The material world spontaneously produced life including mind.
*We are placed here to figure out why we were placed here.
*We are paced here to love God and serve him forever.
*Matter is a manifestation and expression of Spirit.

Blake of course had his explanation which he expressed in poetic language. At the Golden Feast these words were spoken:

Four Zoas, Page 133, (E 401)
"This is the Generative world they rememberd the Days of old
And One of the Eternals spoke All was silent at the feast

Man is a Worm wearied with joy he seeks the caves of sleep
Among the Flowers of Beulah in his Selfish cold repose
Forsaking Brotherhood & Universal love in selfish clay
Folding the pure wings of his mind seeking the places dark
Abstracted from the roots of Science then inclosd around
In walls of Gold we cast him like a Seed into the Earth
Till times & spaces have passd over him duly every morn
We visit him covering with a Veil the immortal seed
With windows from the inclement sky we cover him & with walls
And hearths protect the Selfish terror till divided all

In families we see our shadows born. & thence we know | Ephesians
That Man subsists by Brotherhood & Universal Love | iii c.
We fall on one anothers necks more closely we embrace | 10 v

Not for ourselves but for the Eternal family we live
Man liveth not by Self alone but in his brothers face
Each shall behold the Eternal Father & love & joy abound

So spoke the Eternal at the Feast they embracd the New born Man
Calling him Brother image of the Eternal Father."

The Bible verse referenced in the passage in the Four Zoas:
Ephesians 3
[10] To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God,

The above verse in context:
[9] And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ:
[10] To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God,
[11] According to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord:

I think that you can say unequivocally that Blake does not think that life in the physical world is a punishment. Blake affirms that God in his love presents man with life as a mercy, grace and gift. Time and matter are gifts too, to incubate the seed which is to grow into a replica and brother of the Eternal Father.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010


Here's another of Blake's Words (with 254 occurrences) that (at the least) conveys various meanings throughout his works .

Three of them are in The Marriage of Heaven and Hell. In this work Blake primarily used irony throughout: the most (truly) godly characters are given diabolic names:

Plate Five reads

"....The history of this is written in Paradise Lost. & the Governor or Reason is call'd Messiah.
And the original Archangel or possessor of the command of the heavenly host, is calld the Devil or Satan and his children are call'd Sin & Death
But in the Book of Job Miltons Messiah is call'd Satan. For this history has been adopted by both parties"

In The Four Zoas we begin to see another of the special uses Blake made of the word, Satan:

"And first he found the Limit of Opacity & namd it Satan
In Albions bosom for in every human bosom these limits stand
And next he found the Limit of Contraction & namd it Adam" (FZ4-56.19-21; E338)

Which is to say that the higher nature was completely opaque to Satan, just as Shakespeare or Latin or Greek is opaque to most of us.

And now here's a more proper use of Satan, closer to the general common useage, describing the climax of Urizen's futile attempt to order the universe in accordance with his Book of Brass:

"But Urizen his mighty rage let loose in the mid deep
Sparkles of Dire affliction issud round his frozen limbs
Horrible hooks & nets he formd twisting the cords of iron
And brass & molten metals cast in hollow globes & bor'd
Tubes in petrific steel & rammd combustiles & wheels
And chains & pullies fabricated all round the heavens of Los
Communing with the Serpent of Orc in dark dissimulation
And with the Synagogue of Satan in dark Sanhedrim
To undermine the World of Los & tear bright Enitharmon
To the four winds hopeless of future."
(FZ8-100[2nd]26-34; E373)

For Blake the Synagogue of Satan was a pet symbol; he used it 9 times, and a good example is found in plate 52 of Jerusalem:

"Man must & will have Some Religion; if he has not the Religion of Jesus, he will have the Religion of Satan, & will erect the Synagogue of Satan. calling the Prince of this World, God; and destroying all who do not worship Satan under the Name of God. Will any one say: Where are those who worship Satan under the Name of God! Where are they? Listen! Every Religion that Preaches Vengeance for Sins the Religion of the Enemy & Avenger; and not the Forgiver of Sin, and their God is Satan, Named by the Divine Name Your Religion O Deists: Deism, is the Worship of the God of this World by the means of what you call Natural Religion and Natural Philosophy, and of Natural Morality or Self-Righteousness, the Selfish Virtues of the Natural Heart. This was the Religion of the Pharisees who murderd Jesus. Deism is the same & ends in the same."

Tuesday, September 28, 2010


The biblical story of Mary and Martha presents two sisters who view life differently. Martha is the efficient housekeeper whose goal is to provide material comforts for her family and guests. When Jesus visits her and her sister Mary and her brother Lazarus, Martha has many duties in the kitchen and in serving her honored friend. Her sister Mary wishes only to enjoy Jesus' presence. Mary express the spiritual nature which can focus all its attention on things of the spirit neglecting outer interests and circumstances. Jesus accepted each sister for what she was and what she offered him. Martha could not recognize Mary's gifts; she wanted her sister to serve in the same way she herself did.

Luke 10
[38] Now it came to pass, as they went, that he entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house.
[39] And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus' feet, and heard his word.
[40] But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me.
[41] And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things:
[42] But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.

Martha's complaint to Jesus that she was left alone to serve provoked Jesus' reply that, "Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her." Jesus like Blake valued the spiritual nature which often went unexpressed while the material world absorbed the total attention.

Wikipedia Commons

Mary sits at Jesus' feet and meditates on his words while Martha holds a serving tray and questions Jesus' reaction to Mary's behavior. Blake, himself, was inclined to neglect worldly things when he heard the voice of prophetic imagination. I have no evidence that Jesus neglected worldly things but his mother and brothers may have thought he neglected family duties. (Mark 3: 31-34)

People who embark on the journey of psychological development often find themselves in a similar situation. Friends or family may resent the time and effort that is spent by an individual in looking inward to discern the dimensions and dynamics of the psyche.

When Blake was living at Felpham he was especially aware of the conflict between fulfilling the outer requirements of pleasing others and earning a living, and the inner requirement of living under the direction of his 'Messengers from Heaven'. It was impossible for Blake to reject the demands of the spirit in favor of 'Natural Fears or Natural Desires'. He resolved his conflict by determining to 'go on again with my Task Fearless' and forgo worldly wealth and success.

Letters, 24, Mr Butts, (E 424)
"I find on all hands great objections to my doing any thing but the meer
drudgery of business & intimations that if I do not confine
myself to this I shall not live. this has always pursud me. You
will understand by this the source of all my uneasiness This from
Johnson & Fuseli brought me down here & this from Mr H will
bring me back again for that I cannot live without doing my duty
to lay up treasures in heaven is Certain & Determined & to this I
have long made up my mind & why this should be made an objection
to Me while Drunkenness Lewdness Gluttony & even Idleness itself
does not hurt other men let Satan himself Explain--The Thing I
have most at Heart! more than life or all that seems to make life
comfortable without. Is the Interest of True Religion & Science
& whenever any thing appears to affect that Interest. (Especially
if I myself omit any duty to my [self] as a
Soldier of Christ) It gives me the greatest of torments, I am not
ashamed afraid or averse to tell You what Ought to be Told. That
I am under the direction of Messengers from Heaven Daily &
Nightly but the nature of such things is not as some suppose.
without trouble or care. Temptations are on the right hand &
left behind the sea of time & space roars & follows swiftly he
who keeps not right onward is lost & if our footsteps slide in
clay how can we do otherwise than fear & tremble. but I should
not have troubled You with this account of my spiritual state
unless it had been necessary in explaining the actual cause of my
uneasiness into which you are so kind as to Enquire for I never
obtrude such things on others unless questiond & then I never
disguise the truth--But if we fear to do the dictates of our
Angels & tremble at the Tasks set before us. if we refuse to do
Spiritual Acts. because of Natural Fears or Natural Desires! Who
can describe the dismal torments of such a state!--I too well
remember the Threats I heard!--If you who are organized by Divine
Providence for Spiritual communion. Refuse & bury your Talent in
the Earth even tho you should want Natural Bread. Sorrow &
Desperation pursues you thro life!"

In the wilderness Jesus too was tempted by Satan with success and power in the world and choose the course of following spiritual direction.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Blake's Words

A Friend pointed out that words may confuse more than enlighten us. Look at the thousands of words we hear on TV: are any of them true or enlightening? Just a few! What's true of TV is often true of social intercourse in general.

Among Blake's words let's choose Annihilat..:  he used it 40 times, all but 6 in Milton and Jerusalem. I associate the word with doing away with forever, but Blake's annihilation doesn't stick; it keeps coming back.  The labels for this blog show 14 posts, and I'm still trying to elucidate what it meant to Blake.

Milton, plate 32:

"Judge then of thy Own Self: thy Eternal Lineaments explore 
What is Eternal & what Changeable? & what Annihilable! 
The Imagination is not a State: 
It is the Human Existence itself 

Affection or Love becomes a State, when divided from 
The Memory is a State always, & the Reason is a State 
Created to be Annihilated & a new Ratio Created 
Whatever can be Created can be Annihilated Forms cannot 
The Oak is cut down by the Ax, the Lamb falls by the Knife 
 But their Forms Eternal Exist, For-ever. Amen Halle[l]ujah"   

And Plate 38 (Erdman 139):

"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[.] 

Thy purpose & the purpose of thy Priests & of thy Churches Is to impress on men the fear of death; 
to teach Trembling & fear, terror, constriction; abject selfishness 
Mine is to teach Men to despise death & 
to go on In fearless majesty annihilating Self, 
laughing to scorn Thy Laws & terrors, 
shaking down thy Synagogues as webs 

I come to discover before Heavn & Hell the Self righteousness In all its Hypocritic turpitude, 
opening to every eye These wonders of Satans holiness shewing to the Earth 
The Idol Virtues of the Natural Heart, & 
Satans Seat Explore in all its Selfish Natural Virtue 
& put off In Self annihilation all that is not of God alone: 
To put off Self & all I have ever & ever Amen"   

The point is that as much as we may hate the Spectre it's  
the shape of the world we live in, our mortal life.  So the process of redemption seems to be to continuously "annihilate the  Spectre", which is to say that part of it that is  certainly less than God wants for us.

Sunday, September 26, 2010


The End is the Beginning.

In his chapter, The Aim of Blake's Prophecies, included in Blake's Sublime Allegory, Jerome J McCann, makes this statement:
" in Blake, these poems are precisely designed to foster ambivalent perspectives...Poems like these are silent forms teasing us into and out of our own thoughts...
Thus, the extreme diversity of opinion among critics of Blake about the meaning of particular poems or passages of poems is perhaps the most eloquent testimony we have to the success of his work. Interpretations of the meanings of Blake's poems are necessarily legion, since his poetry was written to break in upon the centers of individual life and call their meanings into the open. Like Jesus, Blake came to send not peace but a sword. His work is a sign of contention."

These are some observations I want to remember from studying the poem:
1) Spirit and matter are complementary
2) One grows young when the other grows old
3) The one growing young feeds on the one growing old
4) Transition points occur where the one growing young becomes a babe
5) Matter and spirit want to supplant (or suppress) one another
6) The system needs both, when they engage in struggle neither prospers

Here are two passages from Blake which may describe what happens after The Mental Traveller ends:

Four Zoas, Book One, Page 5, (E 302)
"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

So saying he sunk down into the sea a pale white corse
In torment he sunk down & flowd among her filmy Woof
His Spectre issuing from his feet in flames of fire
In gnawing pain drawn out by her lovd fingers every nerve
She counted. every vein & lacteal threading them among
Her woof of terror. Terrified & drinking tears of woe
Shuddring she wove--nine days & nights Sleepless her food was tears
Wondring she saw her woof begin to animate. & not
As Garments woven subservient to her hands but having a will
Of its own perverse & wayward Enion lovd & wept

Nine days she labourd at her work. & nine dark sleepless nights
But on the tenth trembling morn the Circle of Destiny Complete
Round rolld the Sea Englobing in a watry Globe self balancd"

Or this better may describe what happens next:

Milton, Plate 32 [35], (E 132)

"but Individual Identities never change nor cease:
You cannot go to Eternal Death in that which can never Die.
Satan & Adam are States Created into Twenty-seven Churches
And thou O Milton art a State about to be Created
Called Eternal Annihilation that none but the Living shall
Dare to enter: & they shall enter triumphant over Death
And Hell & the Grave! States that are not, but ah! Seem to be.

Judge then of thy Own Self: thy Eternal Lineaments explore
What is Eternal & what Changeable? & what Annihilable!"

You have been a mental traveller if you have followed the phases of development in The Mental Traveller. You have seen growth and decline, cyclical patterns, increase and decrease. You may have felt hope and futility. Blake put these things in his poem for you to find. You have been given a chance to think about what is permanent and what is transitory. You may have asked if we have the power to interrupt patterns which are fed by invisible forces. The poem is yours to claim as your own and respond to out of your own identity.

Letters, Revd Dr Trusler, (E 702)
"The wisest of the Ancients considerd what is not too Explicit as the fittest for Instruction because it rouzes the faculties to act."

From Blake and the Bible:
Biblical Exegesis in the Work of William Blake, by Christopher Rowland:
"Blake wishes to do all he can to resist the idea that there is an authoritative interpretation offered by authoritative interpreters. His texts are there for all to use and for the stimulation of the imagination."

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Blake and Antiquity

Someone asked me what I would recommend reading beyond the Works of Blake. After considerable thought I suggested Kathleen Raines, Blake and Antiquity; it's actually a very condensed version of a much larger and more famous book entitled Blake and Tradition which one is hard to get and expensive. On page four of Blake and Antiquity Raine recapitulated the discovery of Blake's symbology with these recommendations:

Turning back to the 18th and early 19 centuries, Blake sent a letter to his friend and patron, Flaxman; he named what he perceived as his primary sources:

"Now my lot in the Heavens is this: Milton lov'd me in childhood and
show'd me his face;
Ezra came with Isaiah the Prophet, but Shakespeare in riper years gave
me his hand;
Paracelsus and Behmen appear'd to me; terrors appear'd in the
Heavens above"

Both of Raine's books are primarily about Blake's mythological sources. Raine was steeped in Greek Mythology, and she discovered the Blake was, too. She also knew that Blake was acquainted with Thomas Taylor, named by his contemporaries as The English Pagan; he was one year younger than Blake. In an early lampooning work entitled An Island in the Moon Blake mentioned "Sipsop the Pythagorean"; Damon identified him as Taylor.

Taylor introduced Platonic thought to the 'Enlightened' 18th century, and received much derision; but Blake wasn't wedded to the Enlightenment, and he received Taylor's work gladly (at least for a time; he had a habit of turning his critical faculty on any new discoveries sooner or later). Taylor called upon "the young men of the new age", a term that Blake used in his Preface to Milton; he asked them to 'rouze up" and shortly thereafter broke into the famous hymn that has been called Jerusalem and came to be adopted by the English Labor Party as their theme song.

Of course early in his life Blake had been tuned to Swedenborg, who proclaimed the New Age, the New Church, and the New Jerusalem. (The only Church Blake would ever proclaim was the Church Universal).

Blake and Antiquity gives a lot of coverage of Blake's last great picture. (Keep this in another window so you may confer back to it from what follows:) She pointed out that he had brought together two moments in the Odyssey.

In Book Five you may read this:

"A goddess, Leucothea, appears to him in the form of a bird. She counsels him to swim for it. "Take my veil, tie it around your waist as a charm against drowning. When you reach shore, be sure to throw it back into the sea." (In the picture you can see Odysseus with his eyes averted throwing something out to see.)

In Book Six you may read:
"Odysseus had washed up in the land of the Phaeacians. Athena now intervened to make these people foster his journey home". (In the Picture you see Athena behind Odysseus point to the southern gate to his (and our) Heavenly Home.)

Friday, September 24, 2010


The Mental Traveller
"For who dare touch the frowning form
His arm is withered to its root,
Lions, boars, wolves, all howling flee
And every tree does shed its fruit;"

Perhaps Blake had touched the frowning form often enough to know the suffering it brought him. All the evidence from the Old Testament indicates that a respectful distance should be maintained from divine manifestations. Even looking upon the pagan gods and goddesses often had dire consequences. The woman with the issue of blood didn't touch Jesus; she touched the hem of his garment. Some things are too hot to handle.

Four Zoas, PAGE 113 [109], (E 384)
"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"

Raine refers us of "King Jeroboam, whose arm was paralyzed when he attempted to seize a man of God who prophesied the birth of a new king who would pull down the old alters." She also says: "for Blake suggested that event [the last Judgment] in an image from the Book of Revelations which tells how at the end the stars will fall from heaven 'even as a fig tree casteth her untimely figs.'"

Revelations 6:12,13
"And I beheld when he had opened the sixth seal, and, lo, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood;
And the stars of heaven fell unto the earth, even as a fig tree casteth her untimely figs, when she is shaken of a mighty wind."

Back in verse 21 we read:
"With labyrinths of wayward love,
Where roams the lion, wolf and boar,"
When these wild creatures flee, the world of generation is ending.

"And none can touch that frowning form,
Except it be a woman old;
She nails him down upon the rock,
And all is done as I have told."

The babe, the energy from outside of the system, too unknown and unpredictable to be readily tamed, falls into the hands of the aged, decadent materialism which knows the techniques for defusing explosive situations. But her technique, repression, is a temporary measure and only begins the cycle again.

This passage from Percival explains why nailing the babe down on the rock initiates the repetition of the cycle.

Percival, William Blake's Circle of Destiny:
"Under the ethics of freedom and forgiveness, such as Blake believed had once obtained, the emotions corrected their excesses and mistakes in a natural and healthy way. But with the failure of love and forgiveness, and the consequent emergence of good and evil, the emotional life is divided against itself. The portion considered evil undergoes repression, but reappears as the demon Orc, the anarchist, the antichrist. The creative principle also shares in the general degradation. For the fires of the imagination require the fuel of experience - sense experience, emotional experience, and intellectual experience. When a portion of this sustenance is denied, the imagination to that extent is impoverished. The fourth principle, the body, also suffers from Urizen's condemnation of desire. For the struggle of good and evil within the mind results in warfare of body and soul. In this warfare the body suffers under metaphysical contempt and physical asceticism. Thus the attempt to suppress desire breeds more evil than it cures. It is, in fact, a phase of the original sin itself." (page 284)

Blake didn't believe that the cycle must endlessly repeat. He wanted to break the cycle by altering the parameters. His vision is an echo of Jesus' vision in its pristine, unadulterated form.

Here is more from Percival:
"To an age in which the older conceptions of God are becoming increasingly difficult to entertain, but in which the need for God is as great as ever, Blake offers a conception which is beyond the reach of science to destroy. This God is simply the Christ within the human breast. He is not a God afar off, remote and inaccessible; nor is he a pale abstraction offering little help or solace to human needs. He is alive and human within the breast, intimately and convincingly there. He is the vision, the imagination, the capacity to think nobly of oneself and one's fellow men, the capacity to forgive their mistakes and weaknesses, the determination, in spite of all, to build the New Jerusalem." (page 285)

As he ends this poem Blake makes again the plea that we, his readers, continue where he left off. In the last verse he takes us back to the beginning of the poem where we can start again with the same script or we can rewrite the script. But it is not the poem we are writing, it is the next chapter in the history of mankind. I wondered why he wrote 26 verses to Mental Traveller when 27 is the magic number. Then I realized that we are the Twenty-seventh Church. We are to decide if we start again with Adam or take a different path.

Jerusalem, Plate 76, (E 231)
"Thus are the Heavens formd by Los within the Mundane Shell
And where Luther ends Adam begins again in Eternal Circle
To awake the Prisoners of Death; to bring Albion again
With Luvah into light eternal, in his eternal day.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

A Dream

Catherine Blake said her only problem with her husband was that he spent too much time in Heaven. In our dreams we may be closer to Blake's Heaven than is possible in our waking hours. Some day we may realize that where we live now is largely vaporous.

The other day I had dinner with Blake
, and I asked him if he had said all he had to say by 1828. He said "'pretty much', 'pretty much', especially if you've experienced all the words and pictures that I left behind."

I asked him if there was anything more he would like to tell us now from his present life. He said, "Oh yes, a great deal; but I've experienced nothing that your corporeal mind would find meaningful." he went on to say that where he now lived and what he now knew was separated from me by a great chasm, much like the one between Lazarus in Abraham's bosom and Dives.

He reminded me of Paul's experience in the Third Heaven where "He heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter".

I asked Blake if he had recently come in contact with Isaiah or Ezekiel. He said that Ezekiel and he had become bosom buddies, "we laughed together over the peculiar directive that Ezekiel had received from God". He also told Ezekiel that that affair had meant a lot to him and given him a vivid awareness of the "perception of the infinite" (MHH13, E39)

Blake went on to say that in due course, at the acceptable time, he would be glad to introduce me to Ezekiel or to anyone else I desired to meet. He also arranged a tennis match for me with Kenny Rosewall.

I asked Blake how his Spectre had been most hurtful to him. He promptly replied as follows: in my Revolutionary zeal for Liberty I bad mouthed a fair number of people who seemed to be against it. I've now met these people one by one and come with them to good accord, I include Bacon, Newton, Locke, and a host of others" (It was too many for me to remember, even in that rapturous state.)

I was just about to make further requests when the alarm clock sounded, and I was aroused from my Heavenly Vision or pehaps I went back to the corporeal sleep.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010


The Mental Traveller

In the last Mental Traveller post, we left our masculine and feminine figures as a couple caught in dissension, but in verse 22 we find her aged into an old woman and him 'reverse aged' into a babe. This is the fourth influx of energy into the poem - the male babe (born in joy), the youth released from manacles, the female babe (who sprang from the fire), and now the 'wayward babe'. Unexpected bursts of energy from new paradigms of thought appear when old organizations are spent and have reached their limits of usefulness. In the furnaces of Los, thought forms which have been shown to be in error are subjected to the cleansing fire to become part of the purified whole. This releases the energy, which changes the direction of the action.

"Till he becomes a wayward babe
And she a weeping woman old.
Then many a lover wanders here,
The sun and stars are nearer rolled,"

The pendulums have swung to the extremes, and movements are reversed.

This is a period of calm, the babe (potential for burst of energy), though wayward is not strong enough (or ready) to wreck havoc. The 'weeping woman old' is still his companion but reminds us of the hopeless, lamenting Enion. Imagination exists here but in a disorganized, aimless fashion. The movement, however, is toward the Eternal rather than away from it.

The strength of the new system is exposing the weakness (error) of the old. Jesus, by allowing the religious and political systems to perform their functions is revealing their powerlessness in the spiritual realm. He is exposing their error that it may be annihilated.

Milton Percival in William Blake's Circle of Destiny gives us this insight: "But, though the rational mind fears the fiery form of Orc, the imaginative mind knows that it is not evil, but rather an indictment of evil, a revelation of the mistaken character of the authority which has brought it into being. Orc is the personification of a deathless phenomenon, the spirit of revolution that arises when energy is repressed."

Milton, PLATE 29 [31],(E 127)
"And Satan is the Spectre of Orc & Orc is the generate Luvah"

"The trees bring forth sweet ecstasy
To all who in the desert roam,
Till many a city there is built,
And many a pleasant shepherd’s home."

This verse is presented from the viewpoint of Eternity. Progress is being made, eternal values (human) are returning. Golgonooza is taking form with its sweet and pleasant delights of love and brotherhood and imagination and productivity.

Jesus has made progress in fulfilling his earthly role. He has drawn together a brotherhood which has an inkling of what has been going on. He has woken sleepers to an alternative consciousness. He has exposed the barrenness of the desert landscape. He has planted the seeds of hope in the hearts and minds of common folk.

"But when they find the frowning babe
Terror strikes through the region wide;
They cry, ‘The Babe! the Babe is born!’
And flee away on every side."

If the last verse was from the perspective of Eternity, this one is from the perspective of Ulro. The changes which are appearing are to be feared not embraced. Why should the babe strike terror? Because he announces the sweeping away of the society which has benefited those in power, and been accepted as the 'best we can expect' by the hoi polloi.

Matthew 3:12
"Whose fan is in his hand, and he will throughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire."

Marriage of Heaven and Hell, Plate 25,26,27 (E 45)
A Song of Liberty
"7. In her trembling hands she took the new, born terror howling;
8. On those infinite mountains of light now barr'd out by the
atlantic sea, the new born fire stood before the starry king!
9. Flag'd with grey brow'd snows and thunderous visages the
jealous wings wav'd over the deep.
10. The speary hand burned aloft, unbuckled was the shield,
forth went the hand of jealousy among the flaming hair, and
hurl'd the new born wonder thro' the starry night".

The fear of change - especially the reordering of the status quo - is present at every level of experience: psychological, political, social, personal status, economic, spiritual or even geographic location. Not to say that fear is the only reaction to change, but to the wanderer who is roaming without the protection of a home of his own, the sudden appearance of a packet of energy like a whirlwind, volcano or earthquake is likely to provoke terror.

The terror is followed by the spreading of alarm to inflame the mob into an irrational fleeing from what may be opportunity and not threat.

Birth is symbolic of the most traumatic of changes. In birth the new has been introduced and separated from the milieu which produced it. Furthermore birth is only a beginning, the babe will grow as it unfolds a life of its own. Should Herod have feared the babe in the manger? He knew he should and he reacted in the way the world reacts to that which could destroy it. Our own culture is constantly finding babes and reacting in alarm to what they represent.

The man's reverse aging (growing younger) resulted in the fourth outbreak of energy. This time we see a broader reaction to it. Eternity rejoices in renewed productive imagination. The system which is in power reacts in fear and retrenchment.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Female Love

What does it mean? Understanding what Blake meant by Female Love is a vital key to the meaning of Blake's poetry and pictures; the same thing is true for the more general case, love (he only used the word 782 times!). What did he mean??

It helps when you realize that unlike the great majority of members of the Enlightenment Age, Blake's vocabulary was informed by millennia of intellectual tradition, dating back to the pre Socratic age and earlier ones from Egyptian and Asian cultures. These ideas were subjects of contempt and ignorance to his neighbors--as are ours for that matter. But not for Blake; for him they were his bread and butter, the stuff of life. Once you understand that about Blake you're in a position to query 'female love' without outraged feministic feelings.

So what did he mean? In the ancient traditions (the perennial philosophy) masculine is active, feminine passive, with a masculine sky God and a feminine Earth Goddess. In another pair masculine and feminine relate to thinking and feeling; this came down in Blake to Urizen and Luvah, and more like 'common English' in Jung's two similar functions.

In Blake's system we find the two in their fallen state. In the beginning of his myth we meet among others Urizen (who presumes to be God and is actually the Prince of Light), and Luvah who gets possession of the Sun (symbol of Light) so that he acts as Prince of Light.

If this sufficiently confuses you go on. (As Blake said, 'if the fool would persist in his folly he would become wise'.) MHH, Plate 7, (E 36)

Many of Blake's poems need to be translated into 'common English' in order to grasp what love meant for Blake. However Blake's love meant different things at different times as he went through life. Near the end of his career he got around to using 'common English' with "
I've a Wife I love & that loves me" (Notebook; Erdman 481). But in earlier days the word meant several things very different from his mutual love to and from his wife.

Love, like all things, has contrary senses, in fact many senses--for example an ironic sense: speaking of something very repulsive: "Oh I just love that". Blake's love was generally not quite ironic; it was more like 'sick love', The Clod and the Pebble give us a basic introduction into two contrary uses of 'love'.

He used love in a more innocent way with The Little Black Boy which ends with: "
And be like him [the white boy], and he will then love me" (Songs of Innocence; Erdman 9).

The Torments of Love and Jealousy, the subtitle of The Four Zoas, is an entirely different matter: selfish love, Love as Power, control, and much such unpleasant reality appears over and over in The Four Zoas.

Wisely or not Blake called that 'female love'.It was embodied in some unsavory women like:

Rahab, (taken from the Bible), the biblical Rahab had more character than the Blakean one. Blake used Rahab as a symbol for a fallen Jerusalem.
Tirzah, ('what have I to do with thee"); this of course is a direct quote from John 2:4; traditionally the mother concerns physical well being while the father represents spirit.

(The fallen) Vala: In Erdman's plate 32 of Jerusalem you will see a shadowed Vala on the left side of the picture. She represents all of the sick kinds of love, such as the Net of Religion (Urizen, plate 25.22 Erdman 82).

Taken together all of these symbols are exemplars of female love:

"Till I turn from Female Love
And root up the Infernal Grove
I shall never worthy be
To Step into Eternity
Let us agree to give up Love
And root up the infernal grove
Then shall we return & see
the worlds of happy Eternity"

All in all love was a bad word for Blake,
although occasionally as we've seen he slipped back into the language of Zion. But 'female love' represents those kinds of 'bad love' that we've mentioned.

Monday, September 20, 2010


The Mental Traveller

"For as he eats and drinks he grows
Younger and younger every day;

And on the desert wild they both
Wander in terror and dismay."

This a state of equilibrium when the contraries are equally powerful. Neither party can gain control, so they contend in a fruitless struggle that produces nothing but fear and failure and apprehension. But it is he who has the potential for gaining the upper hand because he eats and drinks and grows as he progresses from age to youth.

If we want to follow the life of Jesus through this period in the poem, we go from his struggle in the Garden of Gethsemane to the events of the passion. The system in which Jesus lived would furnish the dynamics through which he must pass to be reborn as the resurrected Christ.

Matthew, 17th Chapter

Four Zoas, Page 34, (E 324)
"Now my left hand I stretch to earth beneath
And strike the terrible string
I wake sweet joy in dens of sorrow & I plant a smile
In forests of affliction
And wake the bubbling springs of life in regions of dark death"

"Like the wild stag she flees away;
Her fear plants many a thicket wild,
While he pursues her night and day,
By various arts of love beguiled."

Materiality is on the decline and so feels threatened by the younger, stronger spirituality. She uses her powers of deceit, jealousy, pretense, shifting appearances and false promises to keep him in pursuit of the very thing which can destroy him.

It is not in these lines alone that Blake reveals the man's dilemma, but in the tales of Enitharmon, Enion, Ahania, and Vala.

Even in the time of Jesus the institutions of religion were permeated by material interests. Perhaps Jesus would have preferred to reform the institutions instead of replacing them; he certainly attempted other methods before he resorted to direct confrontation.

Four Zoas, Page 34, (E 324)
"The joy of woman is the Death of her most best beloved
Who dies for Love of her
In torments of fierce jealousy & pangs of adoration.
The Lovers night bears on my song
And the nine Spheres rejoice beneath my powerful controll"

"By various arts of love and hate,
Till the wide desert planted o’er

With labyrinths of wayward love,
Where roams the lion, wolf and boar,"

A principle theme in Blake's poetry is that of 'female love'. This is a sick expression of love in which the female seeks to dominate the male. Blake uses this syndrome to talk about the unhealthy relationship between reason and emotion, between spirit and matter and between the inner and the outer. If there were not a conflict between men and women, their relationship would not work as a metaphor for other conflict. By exposing the manipulation, jealousy, vengeance, and alienation in sexual relationships, Blake symbolizes a range of dysfunctional pairings. This section of The Mental Traveller is central to the poem because this issue is central to Blake's system of thought.

Milton O. Percival speaks of Blake's sexual symbolism in this way: "In its widest sense, then, Blake's sexual symbolism sets forth the whole problem of duality. Like the Spectre and the Emanation, whose relationship it portrays, it applies to a duality in both the physical and ethical worlds. The struggle of spirit and matter, of good and evil, of mind and emotion, are all set forth in sexual terms. In a narrower range the symbolism stresses the ethical struggle, because without a fall, the spirit would never have warred with the flesh, the inner and outer worlds would have remained at peace." (William Blake's Circle of Destiny, page 109)

There is great economy of words in these four line but Blake implies much more.

"By various arts of love and hate"
SONGS 32, The CLOD & the PEBBLE, (E 19)
"Love seeketh only Self to please,
To bind another to Its delight:
Joys in anothers loss of ease,
And builds a Hell in Heavens despite."

"Till the wide desert planted o’er"
Four Zoas, Page 35, (E 325)
"I have planted a false oath in the earth, it has brought forth a
poison tree
I have chosen the serpent for a councellor & the dog
For a schoolmaster to my children
I have blotted out from light & living the dove & nightingale"

"With labyrinths of wayward love,"
Four Zoas, Page 4, (E 301)
"Lost! Lost! Lost! are my Emanations Enion O Enion
We are become a Victim to the Living We hide in secret
I have hidden Jerusalem in Silent Contrition O Pity Me
I will build thee a Labyrinth also O pity me O Enion"

"Where roams the lion, wolf and boar,"
"Till the villain left the paths of ease,
To walk in perilous paths, and drive
The just man into barren climes.

Now the sneaking serpent walks
In mild humility.
And the just man rages in the wilds
Where lions roam."

These verses 19-21, find the masculine and the feminine in an unproductive struggle in which they tear one another down rather than building one another up. In creating a breach between themselves, they drive both toward the brink of mutual destruction in the abyss of non-entity.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

How to Forgive God

That's the primary job in life-- for all of us. Blake was no exception. Jacob wrestled with God all night. Blake accused God, denounced Him, despised Him, annihilated Him, but God always returned as He always does sooner or later. This is the way he finally learned to deal with God; he addressed God as follows:
"And throughout Eternity
I forgive you I forgive you You forgive me
As the dear Redeemer said
This the wine and this the bread"

How did Blake deal with God before he learned that. I've posted and posted on that subject, and there's still much to say:

Consider the 'four year old' angry God at the window; many or most of us have had this experience in some form: there was
something out there that you didn't know, didn't trust, not like Mom (sad are you if Mom was like that; unfortunately there are too many such people). For many this experience of an unfriendly Reality deeply covers their lives.

But note the 'tree full of angels'; that's archetypal, too. "
Somebody up there likes me". Good things happen to people, and they have no idea how or why or by whom. Blake was surrounded by angels all his life (not the angels of MHH, but there was that, too).

So Blake's earliest days witnessed the essential otherness and ambiguity of Divinity, a quandary that he spent his life resolving. Blake was a mortal, but his true life was in Eternity, as was that of Jesus, and perhaps us all.

As a projection Blake was able to 'wrestle with God', and he did that for many years; he projected a multitude of (frequently unpleasant) experiences on God:

His matrimonial endeavors suffered a setback and then a glad recovery when Catherine offered herself (she pitied him!) For forty years she proved to be his greatest friend.

Blake was disappointment at the Royal Academy in the person of Joshua Reynolds. This led to comparative artistic obscurity the rest of his life.
However to say that he lived as an isolate would not be quite true:

He had a chance to associate with some creative people: James Basire, the kindly engraver who gave Blake many opportunities at creative work;
the kindly publisher, Joseph Johnson, who not only published some of his work, but invited him into the inner circle where other intellectuals gathered; John Flaxman introduced him to Mrs Henry Matthew who invited him into her drawing room where he met many artists and musicians; she and Flaxman also arranged for the publication of Poetical Sketches (1783); Robert Blake, William's brother was a kindred spirit who meant a great deal to him (even after death Blake often met Robert and got advice from); the Swiss Painter, Fuseli, was another kindred spirit:
("The only man that ever I knew

Who did not make me almost spew

Was Fuseli: he was both Turk and Jew -

And so, dear Christian Friends, how do you do?")

(Erdman 507)

And of course in his last years Blake enjoyed the friendship and encouragement of the Shoreham Ancients, who sat at his feet and gladly took in much of his wisdom.

Each of these friends, and all of them together showed Blake that 'somebody up there liked him'. The fully mature Blake was happy in his acquaintance with and love of the God who had emerged after all the struggles of his youth.
"I rose up at the dawn of day
Get thee away get thee away
Prayst thou for Riches away away
This is the Throne of Mammon grey

Said I this sure is very odd
I took it to be the Throne of God
For every Thing besides I have
It is only for Riches that I can crave

I have Mental Joy & Mental Health
And Mental Friends & Mental wealth
I've a Wife I love & that loves me
I've all But Riches Bodily

I am in Gods presence night & day
And he never turns his face away
The accuser of sins by my side does stand
And he holds my money bag in his hand"
(Erdman 481)

At this point in his life Blake was keenly aware of the
loving God--and his accuser (Satan, the Spectre, the Selfhood.

Saturday, September 18, 2010


The Mental Traveller

"The guests are scattered through the land
(For the eye altering, alters all);
The senses roll themselves in fear,
And the flat earth becomes a ball,"

The materialistic perspective which took over the psyche in the last verse, changes the appearance of everything. Eternity is forgotten. The surroundings become unfamiliar. The diminished senses are contracted, diminishing faith and the sense of security in a known world.

His dwelling place has moved, the world is less friendly.

Milton, PLATE 29 [31], (E 127)
"The Sky is an immortal tent built by the Sons of Los
And every Space that a Man views around his dwelling-place:
Standing on his own roof, or in his garden on a mount
Of twenty-five cubits in height, such space is his Universe;
And on its verge the Sun rises & sets. the Clouds bow
To meet the flat Earth & the Sea in such an orderd Space:
The Starry heavens reach no further but here bend and set
On all sides & the two Poles turn on their valves of gold:
And if he move his dwelling-place, his heavens also move.
Wher'eer he goes & all his neighbourhood bewail his loss:
Such are the Spaces called Earth & such its dimension:
As to that false appearance which appears to the reasoner,
As of a Globe rolling thro Voidness, it is a delusion of Ulro"

"The stars, sun, moon, all shrink away—
A desert vast without a bound,
And nothing left to eat or drink
And a dark desert all around."

This sounds something like sinking into psychosis where all reference points are lost and the psyche becomes disconnected from any meaningful exterior activity or reality. This sounds like Urlo.

stars = reason
sun = intuition, imagination
moon = emotion, love
desert = vacant, infertile
dark = enclosed, isolated
nothing to eat or drink = hunger and thirst, famine

Jerusalem, Plate 15 (E 159)

If this verse were talking about Jesus, he would be in the Garden of Gethsemane. (Verse 36 and following.)

Jerusalem, Plate 69, (E 223)
"Then all the Males combined into One Male & every one
Became a ravening eating Cancer growing in the Female
A Polypus of Roots of Reasoning Doubt Despair & Death.
Going forth & returning from Albions Rocks to Canaan:
Devouring Jerusalem from every Nation of the Earth."

"The honey of her infant lips,
The bread and wine of her sweet smile,
The wild game of her roving eye
Does him to infancy beguile."

We 'bottomed out' in the last passage. Now the direction will change. The male begins to feed on what the female has to offer. Honey, bread, wine and wild game provide a varied diet. He is still the old man so the direction of his growth is toward youth. When the female (material)
was old, she fed on the male (spiritual), now the situation is reversed and she feeds him.

It makes me think of 'Teach Your Children Well'.

A tricky aspect of this poem is the reversal process. If the woman or man is old she/he is growing younger. We saw this in Verse 6 where the babe had become a youth and the old woman had become a virgin. We see it again in this verse; the old man is led into becoming young by the 'her infant lips.' This imagery works best if it is applied to civilizations as having material and spiritual dimensions which are pendulums swinging in opposite directions. Each goes to the extreme of youth (minimum) and age (maximum) and returns to the midpoint where material and spiritual are equal.

These three verses are the bottom of the cycle for the male (spiritual); he has gone to the extreme of age and the pendulum has reversed its swing. In Verse 16 things are still falling apart; in Verse 17 nothing is left; in Verse 18 movement begins in the opposite direction.

Here are two movies which deal with the repetition or reversal of time:
Groundhog Day, and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.

Friday, September 17, 2010

My Spectre (n)

'Night and day...he follows my way'
How many posts have already been written on the Spectre? And why again? Well it's ever with me; that's why?

I may annihilate it, but it comes back--every time I leave my bed. Actually it's a necessity for life, tantamount to living in the world, swimming in the sea of time and space. Is that why newborn babies cry (immediately)?

There's a way out; Odysseus found one; but he didn't do it by himself; it came to him, courtesy of
Leucothea. With her help he reached dry land where Athena directed him to the southern gate of the Cave of the Nymphs.

All of these myths have inner meanings completely other than the obvious literal meaning. In this instance they have analogs in the Bible as well. Here Leucothea represents the Savior who rescues us from the spectral Sea of Time and Space. (This is called the
mythopoeic meaning.)
The story of Odysseus is a story of everyman: we all go through the same type of adventures that he did. We all at least are thrown out into the Sea of Time and Space, generally at birth or shortly thereafter. It happened to Jesus, too. You may recall him walking in the water once; Peter (representing you and me) aspired to do the same, but for him it was a hard matter).

Once on dry land Odysseus got further direction (from Athena perhaps) to "the southern gate of 'return' where worthy mortals ascend into the higher realm of immortality".
Christians call that heaven (and I think Blake did, too).

Sin and Salvation that's the Bible's story and Blake's story: the Spectre, Experience, the Sea of Time and Space, the Selfhood: Blake's names for sin; our universal experience; what comes next? it's up to you.

It came naturally to Blake in childhood and youth; then came The Fall.

My spectre around me night and day
Like a wild beast guards my way.
My emanation far within
Weeps incessantly for my sin.

A fathomless and boundless deep,
There we wander, there we weep;
On the hungry craving wind
My spectre follows thee behind.

He scents thy footsteps in the snow,
Wheresoever thou dost go
Through the wintry hail and rain.
When wilt thou return again?

Dost thou not in pride and scorn
Fill with tempests all my morn,
And with jealousies and fears
Fill my pleasant nights with tears?

Seven of my sweet loves thy knife
Has bereaved of their life.
Their marble tombs I built with tears
And with cold and shuddering fears.

Seven more loves weep night and day
Round the tombs where my loves lay,
And seven more loves attend each night
Around my couch with torches bright.

And seven more loves in my bed
Crown with wine my mournful head,
Pitying and forgiving all
Thy transgressions, great and small.

When wilt thou return & view
My loves & them to life renew
When wilt thou return & live
When wilt thou pity as I forgive

Never Never I return
Still for Victory I burn
And when dead l'll be thy Grave
Thro the Heavn & Earth & Hell
Thou shalt never never quell
I will fly & thou pursue
Night & Morn the flight renew

Till I turn from Female Love

And root up the Infernal Grove

I shall never worthy be

To Step into Eternity

And to end thy cruel mocks
Annihilate thee on the rocks
And another form create
To be subservient to my Fate
Let us agree to give up Love
And root up the infernal grove
Then shall we return & see
he worlds of happy Eternity
& Throughout all Eternity
I forgive you you forgive me
As our dear Redeemer said
This the Wine & this the Bread 

(E 475)

Thursday, September 16, 2010


The Mental Traveller

"But she comes to the man she loves,
If young or old, or rich or poor;
They soon drive out the aged host,
A beggar at another’s door."

This young lady will not remain on her own; neither will she put her fate in someone else's hands. The fiery life which is within her will be bestowed upon the male of her choice. The host who made possible her explosion into life must go elsewhere to seek a companion.

A gift of great importance from the feminine to the masculine is providing matter so that the intellect may be materialized in creative endeavor. The female reserves the right of refusal in bestowing the body through which mind may be expressed. Love determines the choice, not outer characteristics such as wealth or age.

Time and space (the measure of matter) are the father and mother of change. Change replaces the old with the new; they cannot coexist. Although the man who fed the beggar becomes a beggar himself, he can seek sustenance elsewhere.

"He wanders weeping far away
Until some other take him in;
Oft blind and age-bent, sore distressed,
Until he can a maiden win."

We return to the wandering metaphor which was introduced in the first verse with, " As cold earth wanderers never knew."

The wandering, weeping and distance are part of the aging syndrome - loss of purpose, sadness and disconnection. If this aged entity is a civilization (as Raine indicates he may be) he may hope to be incorporated into a newborn or a younger civilization which may find the remnants of the depleted civilization of value. How many times has the mature Greek culture been 'taken in' by a culture in its formative stage?

If he is a mature psyche, the products of his experience may be passed on the innocents who are beginning the process of development.

Oedipus, with his daughter Antigone, wandered in his aged blindness seeking to pass on the lessons of his bitter experience. Edward Edinger has this to say about the aged Oedipus, "After his long wanderings, Oedipus came at last to a sacred spot close to Athens. He was now a sage and holy man, a precious sacred entity....The life of Oedipus, as it is revealed in these two plays, parallels the alchemical process. Like the prima materia with which the alchemists began their work. Oedipus is subjected to fiery ordeals and sufferings until he is transformed into a holy object that benefits all who touch him. Here is the theophany which redeems the suffering of the first play."

Oedipus at Colonus (written when Sophocles was 90)
Translated by C. John Holcombe, page 41

"And to allay his freezing age
The poor man takes her in his arms:
The cottage fades before his sight,
The garden and its lovely charms;"

The depleted spirituality has reached the point at which it is solidified into ritualistic, formalistic and legalistic behavior. Blake uses rigidity in relationship to Urizen's mind, which is also ritualistic and legalistic. The man resorts to embracing materialism. He had maintained his own separate identity until he 'embraced' the maiden whom Blake uses to symbolize materiality. This is the cause of his losing sight of eternity.

With this his intellect (cottage) and emotion (garden) lose their vitality and are withdrawn from his sight (perception.) The cottage in which we all tend to dwell is the intellect - our minds; sensation provides us with raw unprocessed data. Sense based, literalistic thinking is the residue with which the man is now left.

Contemplation, (E 442)
"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.'"

We soon leave the young lady who arrived with such fanfare as we go back to following the man who had grown old and been pushed out of his home. Spirituality which had aged and become depleted has been pushed from its position of respect and value. A new movement focused on mastering the workings of matter has entered.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

A Golden String

Perfect Peace

"Thou wilt keep him in perfect Peace, whose mind is stayed on thee" (Isaiah 26:3)
How do you "stay your mind" on God? That's a hard matter; I try and try and sometimes succeed for a moment, but then 'things' intrude; I leave the air (spirit) and return to the sea (matter). It seems impossible although some Quakers I know seem to have done it to a considerable degree. One wonders.

What about Blake; he was Bible soaked; did he focus on -- 'Nobodaddy'? My gosh, no! the Eternal, Heaven! (Mrs. Blake said he spent too much time like that.) William Blake was one of a small handful of human beings who had ready access to "thee".

By 'thee' Isaiah obviously meant the Hebrew God. But is that what God meant??? (One of the attributes of poetry is that the writer frequently doesn't understand the meaning of his words, and rarely or never the full meaning. Something may mean a particular thing to the poet and something entirely different years or centuries later.

Isaiah meant Jehovah, but Christians mean Jesus. Our poet, Blake, knew Isaiah all too well; in fact he had dinner with him once (MHH plate 12); but he also knew that Jehovah was not worth 'staying his mind' on. He spent many years trying to dispose of that mental construct; at times it was Nobodaddy; then it became Urizen ("Schoolmaster of souls great
opposer of change" {
The Four Zoas [Nt 9], 120.21; E389}). He had many other ways to describing his enemy.

Actually he thought about Jehovah for many years, denounced him, defied him, particularly Jehovah in the shape of King George; that led to a meeting with a judge that might well have ended in the gallows (near the end of his three years at Felpham).

As a young man Blake had ready access to 'thee' (thee being the Eternal and Heaven). But as a married man the world took him in thrall and shut out his access to his 'thee' (the Eternal)--for twenty years. Then, like Jesus, 'he overcame the world'. He told about that in Letter 51 to Hayley:
"I was a slave bound in a mill among beasts and
devils; these beasts and these devils are now,
together with myself, become children of light and
liberty, and my feet and my wife's feet are free from
fetters. O lovely Felpham, parent of Immortal
Friendship, to thee I am eternally indebted for my
three years' rest from perturbation and the strength
I now enjoy. 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."
Heaven came back; he was a new man; now he stayed his mind, not on Isaiah's 'thee', but on Jesus. Blake's 'Jesus' was no thing; he was the door to Heaven.

"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."

Tuesday, September 14, 2010


The Mental Traveller

This poem is from the Pickering Manuscript and probably dates from 1801-1804.

There are four previous posts on The Mental Traveller.

"They are his meat, they are his drink:
He feeds the beggar and the poor
And the wayfaring traveller;
For ever open is his door."

Letter 12, (E 709)
"To my dear Friend Mrs Anna Flaxman
...The Bread of sweet Thought & the Wine of Delight
Feeds the Village of Felpham by day & by night
And at his own door the blessd Hermit does stand
Dispensing Unceasing to all the whole Land"

It is better to give than to receive. Even in old age the gathered riches can feed those who are less rich. But notice that the 'traveller' comes to the open door also. Who is this traveller? He is the man who is pursuing his own spiritual development, who has started out on the journey with the intention of seeking truth or wisdom or virtue, or vision, or consciousness. He is anxious to find the wisdom of the sage whose own life is fading.

Because the old man is giving, his strength is not depleted but renewed.

"His grief is their eternal joy,
They make the roofs and walls to ring—
Till from the fire on the hearth
A little female babe does spring!"

We started with the woman old but we didn't follow her beyond the point where the boy reached maturity. Now we have the reappearance of the female in the form of a babe. Her arrival is in the midst of joy in Eternity and joy within. She explodes like a phoenix from the fire.

The male babe was born in joy; this female child springs onto the scene unconnected to any parents. In Blake's mythology the emanations are not born but separate from their male counterparts. Like many Greek gods and goddesses the female babe arrives on the scene in an unorthodox way. This is a reminder that what the poem speaks of are mental events (not of this world) whether on the psychological, spiritual or historical level. The meaning has to be uncovered; it will not be found on the surface.

The appearance of the female babe is a point of crisis: threat or opportunity. Will she become Vala or Jerusalem?

A way to put a positive spin on this verse is as follows:
His grief is suffering he willingly endures for the sake of others. Their eternal joy is what they experience as they apply his teaching and benefit eternally. The enclosing structure is filled with music and laughter. Conditions are met for a further stage of development. The babe that is produced from the fire (the way forward), is unlike the man in whose home she is produced.

"And she is all of solid fire
And gems and gold, that none his hand
Dares stretch to touch her baby form,
Or wrap her in his swaddling-band."

The image of the solid fire brings to my mind the hot coals in a fire or a furnace. Within the coals is stored heat of combustion which will be radiated as cooling takes place. George McDonald (The Princess and Curdie and The Princess and the Goblin ) had a character who was asked to place his hands in such a bed of glowing embers and who received gifts by doing so.

But none will dare to reach out and touch this child or wrap her as the Christ child was wrapped. This development in the psyche will not be easy to assimilate. In Gates of Paradise, the process of spiritual development is begun by the infant who is wrapped in the swaddling-bands of a chrysalis.

There are at least two words in this verse which suggest the material nature of this babe: 'solid' and 'form'. This verse could represent either the separation into spirit and substance, or the possibility of the integration of the two into one.

Milton Percival in his Circle of Destiny quoted Franz Hartman as follows (p. 91): "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 rational processing of man (Urizen) and the body (Tharmas) which is the vehicle for expression, are in constant tension. Tharmas may be something of a gatekeeper for allowing ideas to become materialized.

A period of calm, of integration, of assimilation has been interrupted by the unexpected appearance of new entity rising from the flames of energy, desire and illumination. There was a release of energy in the birth of the babe; another in the unbinding of the youth; and a third here in the springing forth of this glowing golden feminine form.