Tuesday, November 30, 2010


Jerusalem, Plate 75 (color image from Blake Archive)

The consequences of practicing a religion of Moral Virtue are personified in Rahab. The codification of the law elevates the law above the individuals it is meant to serve. The law, elevated to the ultimate status becomes an idol which replaces God. The law which was meant to bring man to God, instead emphasizes obedience which is an external operation. Inspiration which takes place internally from the spirit is the contrary of law. Blake came to believe that the Old Testament revelation was a necessary step in the evolution of spiritual consciousness. However it brought about a State of Error which must be transcended by the incarnation through which man has direct internal connection with spiritual reality.

In A Blake Dictionary, Damon gives us details about the character Rahab:
[she] "symbolizes the false church of this world, the opponent of Jerusalem, and the crucifier of Jesus (FZ viii:406)"..."Rahab is Natural Religion. She is 'Vala drawn down into a Vegetated Body' (FZ,viii:280) "... "She is the system of Moral Virtue (J 39:10). She imputes Sin and Righteousness to individuals (J70:18), although Los tells her to distinguish between States and the Individual in them (FZviii:379)."..."Rahab, as Natural Religion, is the seductive harlot."..."Rahab as the Female Will seeks dominion by means of sex".

In Damon's description Rahab may not seem very appealing but her power lies in her seductive beauty. Both the orderliness of the law and the intricacies of nature offer the same seductive appeal. Blake associates Rahab's attractiveness with the threefold character by which Blake meant the materialized body - Head, Heart, and Loins. The fourth element of man was absent - Urthona, the unifying principle, the intuition or imagination. The Chariot without its driver was less than human which is Fourfold not threefold.

Jerusalem, Plate 70, (E 224)
"Imputing Sin & Righteousness to Individuals; Rahab
Sat deep within him hid: his Feminine Power unreveal'd
Brooding Abstract Philosophy. to destroy Imagination, the Divine-
-Humanity A Three-fold Wonder: feminine: most beautiful: Three-fold
Each within other. On her white marble & even Neck, her Heart
Inorb'd and bonified: with locks of shadowing modesty, shining
Over her beautiful Female features, soft flourishing in beauty
Beams mild, all love and all perfection, that when the lips
Recieve a kiss from Gods or Men, a threefold kiss returns
>From the pressd loveliness: so her whole immortal form three-fold
Three-fold embrace returns: consuming lives of Gods & Men
In fires of beauty melting them as gold & silver in the furnace
Her Brain enlabyrinths the whole heaven of her bosom & loins
To put in act what her Heart wills; O who can withstand her power
Her name is Vala in Eternity: in Time her name is Rahab

The Starry Heavens all were fled from the mighty limbs of Albion
And above Albions Land was seen the Heavenly Canaan
As the Substance is to the Shadow: and above Albions Twelve Sons
Were seen Jerusalems Sons: and all the Twelve Tribes spreading
Over Albion. As the Soul is to the Body, so Jerusalems Sons,
Are to the Sons of Albion: and Jerusalem is Albions Emanation

What is Above is Within, for every-thing in Eternity is translucent:
The Circumference is Within: Without, is formed the Selfish Center
And the Circumference still expands going forward to Eternity.
And the Center has Eternal States! these States we now explore."

Jerusalem, Plate 98, (E 257)
"A Sun of blood red wrath surrounding heaven on all sides around
Glorious incompreh[en]sible by Mortal Man & each Chariot was Sexual Threefold
And every Man stood Fourfold, each Four Faces had. One to the West
One toward the East One to the South One to the North. the Horses Fourfold
And the dim Chaos brightend beneath, above, around! Eyed as the Peacock
According to the Human Nerves of Sensation, the Four Rivers of the Water of Life"

Four Zoas, Page 85, (E 368)
"If we unite in one[,] another better world will be
Opend within your heart & loins & wondrous brain
Threefold as it was in Eternity & this the fourth Universe
Will be Renewd by the three & consummated in Mental fires
But if thou dost refuse Another body will be prepared"

Monday, November 29, 2010

"On Earth as in Heaven"

We may see Heaven and Earth, Heaven and Hell, Male and Female, Sun and Earth, Good and Evil or any number of contraries.

"Without Contraries is no Progression" (MHH). Life begins with these contraries, but ends with a Unity. ("Everything that lives is holy"; end of MHH).

Blake's culture and our culture as well are patriarchal and have been in the Western World for a great many centuries. But go back earlier, and you may find a matriarchal one. That was the contribution of Sukie Colegrave, a Chinese-British woman of the second half of the 20th Century. Her book was entitled Uniting Heaven and Earth. Anthropology suggests that matriarchal cultures generally precede patriarchal ones.

The Perennial Philosphy points to the Sun as God (or Zeus) and the Earth as materiality, and to an Earth Goddess (There's a tremendous variety of Greek ones).

Jesus pointed to our loving Father in Heaven beginning the Lord's Prayer, and prayed that His will might be done on Earth. Charles Williams, a sort of Blakean writer wrote He Came Down from Heaven. (An autodidact like Blake, Williams' writing shows an uncanny relationship to Blake; one might call him a 20th century Blake!)

Blake's life was a continuous endeavor to raise Heaven on Earth. His wife complained about it, although as a faithful wife she supported him whole heartedly. He was called by one writer a Stranger from Paradise.

Sunday, November 28, 2010


Near the beginning of Jerusalem Albion became enthralled with Vala who was fallen and material. Albion fell further and further from his true nature as the embodiment of humanity into his Selfhood.

When Albion was overcome by guilt and projected his self-hatred outward, manifestations appeared which threatened his continued existence. Los assumed the role of Albion's true self, his integrated self or identity and began the work of restoring Albion's psyche. Los knew the cost which would be assessed to him. He also knew that only through the appearance of the Lamb of God within Albion, could he be regenerated.

So Los makes this plea:

Jerusalem, Plate 82, (E 241)
"Los saw & was comforted at his Furnaces uttering thus his voice.

I know I am Urthona keeper of the Gates of Heaven,
And that I can at will expatiate in the Gardens of bliss;
But pangs of love draw me down to my loins which are
Become a fountain of veiny pipes: O Albion! my brother!

Corruptibility appears upon thy limbs, and never more
Can I arise and leave thy side, but labour here incessant
Till thy awaking! yet alas I shall forget Eternity!
Against the Patriarchal pomp and cruelty, labouring incessant
I shall become an Infant horror. Enion! Tharmas! friends
Absorb me not in such dire grief: O Albion, my brother!
Jerusalem hungers in the desart! affection to her children!
The scorn'd and contemnd youthful girl, where shall she fly?
Sussex shuts up her Villages. Hants, Devon & Wilts
Surrounded with masses of stone in orderd forms, determine then
A form for Vala and a form for Luvah, here on the Thames
Where the Victim nightly howls beneath the Druids knife:
A Form of Vegetation, nail them down on the stems of Mystery:
O when shall the Saxon return with the English his redeemed
O when shall the Lamb of God descend among the Reprobate!"

Jerusalem Plate 19 (color copy is in Blake Archive)

Los knew that becoming the intimate friend and caregiver for Albion he would have to leave the clean, secure protected envelope of his home and be among the dirty, diseased and degenerate. Albion sleeps on his couch upon the rock while Los struggles through the ugly stages of development which precede awakening.

The seamy side of life where one may be rejected, taken advantage of, deceived and plotted against is not pleasant to endure. Those who assume the burden of bearing such alienation for the sake of others are close to the Lord.

At the end of Jerusalem when Albion is repentant, it is Jesus who stands with forgiveness and healing beside Albion, but Los is present too, totally involved in the conversation between God and Man.

Jerusalem, Plate 96, (E 255)
"Then Jesus appeared standing by Albion as the Good Shepherd
By the lost Sheep that he hath found & Albion knew that it
Was the Lord the Universal Humanity, & Albion saw his Form
A Man. & they conversed as Man with Man, in Ages of Eternity
And the Divine Appearance was the likeness & similitude of Los"
"Blake considers the poet to be a crucial agent in the union of humankind with Christ. Indeed, the poet is the prophet who can foresee the apocalypse and salvation and who acts as a guide to lead the universal human to the Divine Vision."

Quote from ENOTES: Jerusalem: The emanation of the Giant Albion, William Blake - Introduction

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Blake's Gospel

This is a reprise of Blake's Everlasting Gospel.
Jerusalem, plates 60 and 61 each contain the word, idol, but together they represent a central tenet of Blake's gospel; it concerns forgiveness:

From Jerusalem, Plate 60:
"Los sat terrified beholding Albions Spectre .....
within the Furnaces the Divine Vision appeard In Albions hills: often walking from the Furnaces in clouds

(Blake was obviously thinking of the critical chapter 3 of Daniel, where 'one like the son of Man' walks with Daniel's three friends in the furnace, and seemingly unhurt.)

And flames among the Druid Temples & the Starry Wheels
the Divine Vision gatherd Jerusalems Children in his arms & bore them like a shepherd in the night of Albion which overspread all the Earth
I gave thee liberty and life O lovely Jerusalem
And thou hast bound me down upon the Stems of Vegetation
.........Why wilt thou rend thyself apart, Jerusalem?
And build this Babylon & sacrifice in secret Groves, .......
(and on and on Blake goes, sounding like nothing so much as Jeremiah or Isaiah calling to account the erring children of Israel, but then comes the promise:)
I will lead thee thro the Wilderness in shadow of my cloud
And in my love I will lead thee, lovely Shadow of Sleeping
Albion .
(Blake refers to Jerusalem as the lovely Shadow of Sleeping Albion.)

This is the Song of the Lamb, sung by Slaves in evening time:
Jerusalem faintly saw him, closd in the Dungeons of Babylon
But the Divine Lamb stood beside Jerusalem. oft she saw
The lineaments Divine & oft the Voice heard, & oft she said:
O Lord & Saviour, have the Gods of the Heathen pierced thee?
Or hast thou been pierced in the House of thy Friends?
Art thou alive! & livest thou for-evermore? or art thou
Not: but a delusive shadow, a thought that liveth not.
Babel mocks saying, there is no God nor Son of God
That thou O Human Imagination, O Divine Body art all
A delusion. but I know thee O Lord when thou arisest upon
My weary eyes even in this dungeon & this iron mill.....
altho I sin & blaspheme thy holy name, thou pitiest me;
Because thou knowest I am deluded by the turning mills.

Thus spake Jerusalem, & thus the Divine Voice replied.
Mild Shade of Man, pitiest thou these Visions of terror & woe!
Give forth thy pity & love. fear not! lo I am with thee always.
Only believe in me that I have power to raise from death
Thy Brother who Sleepeth in Albion: fear not trembling Shade"
(This last paragraph is filled with the words of Jesus:
"I am with thee always", "only believe in me" , Jesus raised their
brother, Lazarus from death; he also told Mary her brother was
sleeping. Blake has broken into the N.T, gospel, but for him the whole thing focused on forgiveness.

So much for Plate 60; now onward to 61:)
Jerusalem, Plate 61:
"Behold : in the Visions of Elohim Jehovah,
behold Joseph & Mary And be comforted O Jerusalem
in the Visions of Jehovah Elohim
She looked & saw Joseph the Carpenter in Nazareth & Mary
His espoused Wife. And Mary said,
if thou put me away from thee
Dost thou not murder me?"
(Mary of course was thought by the
Romans-- and by many, even until today to have been a harlot.)
Joseph spoke in anger & fury.
Should I Marry a Harlot or an Adulteress?
Mary answerd, Art thou more pure
Than thy Maker who forgiveth Sins & calls again Her that is Lost
Tho She hates. he calls her again in love. I love my dear Joseph
But he driveth me away from his presence. yet I hear the voice of God
In the voice of my Husband. tho he is angry for a moment,
he will not Utterly cast me away.
if I were pure, never could I taste the sweets
Of the Forgive[ne]ss of Sins! if I were holy! I never could behold the tears Of love!
of him who loves me in the midst of his anger in furnace of fire.
Ah my Mary: said Joseph: weeping over & embracing her closely in His arms:
Doth he forgive Jerusalem & not exact Purity from her who is
Polluted. I heard his voice in my sleep O his Angel in my dream:
Saying, Doth Jehovah Forgive a Debt only on condition that it shall Be Payed?
Doth he Forgive Pollution only on conditions of Purity
That Debt is not Forgiven! That Pollution is not Forgiven
Such is the Forgiveness of the Gods, the Moral Virtues of the
Heathen, whose tender Mercies are Cruelty. But Jehovahs
Salvation Is without Money & without Price,
the Continual Forgiveness of Sins
In the Perpetual Mutual Sacrifice in Great Eternity! for behold!
There is none that liveth & Sinneth not! And this is the Covenant
Of Jehovah: If you Forgive one-another, so shall Jehovah Forgive You:
That He Himself may Dwell among You.
Fear not then to take To thee Mary thy Wife,
for she is with Child by the Holy Ghost

Then Mary burst forth into a Song! she flowed like a River of
Many Streams in the arms of Joseph & gave forth her tears of joy
Like many waters, and Emanating into gardens & palaces upon
Euphrates & to forests & floods & animals wild & tame from
Gihon to Hiddekel, & to corn fields & villages & inhabitants
Upon Pison & Arnon & Jordan."

In contrast here's what he thought of the establishment gospel:
"Priests in black gowns were walking their rounds,
And binding with briers my joys and desires" (from The Garden
of Love; Erdman 26)

And how like the famous Spectre:
"Seven of my sweet loves
thy knife Has bereaved of their life
Their marble tombs I built with tears
And with cold & shuddering fears
Seven more loves weep night & day
Round the tombs where my loves lay
And seven more loves attend each night
Around my couch with torches bright"

Blake worked with the Everlasting Gospel (Erdman 518-24) for years trying to explain how his gospel differed from the Establishment one; what came forth is (certainly not lucid), ambiguous, tortured English; the Spirit simply doesn't lend itself to our words. Here are the last few lines of The Everlasting Gospel:
"The Vision of Christ that thou dost see
Is my Visions Greatest Enemy
Thine has a great hook nose like thine
Mine has a snub nose like to mine
Thine is the Friend of All Mankind
Mine speaks in parables to the Blind
Thine loves the same world that mine hates
Thy Heaven doors are my Hell Gates
And Caiphas was in his own Mind
A benefactor of Mankind
Both read the Bible day & night
But thou readst black where I read white"

Reading it 'white' is what all true Blakeans strive to do.

Friday, November 26, 2010


Blake did not think that Jesus was sent to uphold the law or teach moral virtue. In The Marriage of Heaven and Hell Blake presents Jesus as a law breaker justifying his later statement that the Lamb of God was numbered among the transgressors. (Isaiah 53)

MHH, Plate 21, (E 43)
"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."

The moral principle which Blake subscribed to was Forgiveness which replaced the whole system of law, accusation, judgment and punishment. Blake along with the apostle Paul was convinced that encountering hegemony of the law created a consciousness of sin, which resulted in a bondage to the 'law of sin and death'. Paul stated in the 8th chapter of Romans that 'the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set [us] free from the law of sin and death'. Blake agreed that the hold of the law on the minds of men would be broken by the continual practice of forgiveness exemplified by Jesus. Vengeance, which resulted from enforcement of the law, had no place in Blake's religion or morality.

Everlasting Gospel, (E 876)
"It was when Jesus said to Me
Thy Sins are all forgiven thee
The Christian trumpets loud proclaim
Thro all the World in Jesus name
Mutual forgiveness of each Vice
And oped the Gates of Paradise
The Moral Virtues in Great fear
Formed the Cross & Nails & Spear
And the Accuser standing by
Cried out Crucify Crucify
Our Moral Virtues neer can be
Nor Warlike pomp & Majesty
For Moral Virtues all begin
In the Accusations of Sin"

Image from Milton's Paradise Regained

Thursday, November 25, 2010

A Temperal and Eternal Bible

Speaking of the Bible in The Everlasting Gospel Blake wrote:
"Both read the Bible day & night
But thou readst black where I read white"

Too often people reading 'black' concern themselves with foolish questions such as "Did it really happen? Was Jonah really swallowed by the whale, or rather by the big fish?" But in Blake's vision that isn't the important thing. The important thing is "What does it mean?" The reader of the black book gets himself tied up in knots about the veracity or historicity of Jonah and his aquatic friend.

Blake shows you the Jonah in your psyche and helps you get some grasp of what the turbulent sea means to you personally. It's experiential, exciting! it puts you in touch with reality! Literal or symbolic is black or white, and probably the two minds will never meet. At this point I simply urge you to join Blake and read white:

    "Why is the Bible more Entertaining & Instructive than any other book? Is it not because [it is] addressed to the Imagination which is Spiritual Sensation, and but mediately to the Understanding or Reason?"
    (Letter To Trusler; Erdman 702-3)

Blake ascribes this imaginative faculty to his hero, Los;

    "He could controll the times & seasons & the days & years."
    [And Los says of himself:]
    I am that Shadowy Prophet who Six Thousand Years ago
    Fell from my station in the Eternal bosom. Six Thousand Years
    Are finish'd. I return! both Time & Space obey my will.
    I in Six Thousand Years walk up and down; for not one Moment
    Of Time is lost, nor one Event of Space unpermanent,
    But all remain: every fabric of Six Thousand Years
    Remains permanent, tho' on the Earth where Satan
    Fell and was cut off, all things vanish & are seen no more,
    They vanish not from me & mine, we guard them first & last.
    The generations of men run on in the tide of Time,
    But leave their destin'd lineaments permanent for ever & ever.
    (The Four Zoas [Nt 1], 9.27, and Milton 22:15-25; Erdman 305 and 116)

Like Los Blake walks up and down the biblical scene from Adam to John of Patmos. He takes what best serves his purpose, or rather the biblical symbols rearrange themselves kaleidoscopically into his visions of Eternity. These together add up to a cogent and provocative commentary on the Bible and on its child, the Christian faith.

Out of this intuitive unconscious process arose the great themes of his faith, embodied in his art: the universal man, fallen and fractured, struggling, redeemed and returning in the fullness of time into the blessed Unity from which he came. This is the essential story of the Bible for one who reads it whole and without the constraints and blinders of what I have called the black book.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010


Visions of the Daughters of Albion

Why was Blake so opposed to 'moral virtue'? He was a man of character who had compassion for his fellow man. What he defined as 'moral virtue' was opposite to all that fostered benevolence among men or brought man closer to God. 'Moral virtue' grew from false reasoning which Blake incorporated in Urizen. A proliferation of characters evolve from Urizen's fallen reasoning - Rahab, Babylon, Vala, Tirza, Hyle, Hand and Satan himself. The book of Jerusalem is occupied with Albion's infection with the false ideas of Urizen.

Moral virtue is one law for all.
Moral virtue is putting abstractions above persons.
Moral virtue is attempting to impose one's values on another.
Moral virtue is justifying cruelty to implement obedience.
Moral virtue is destroying the works of others.
Moral virtue is the disguise used to hide the Selfhood.

You will find many of the characteristics of 'moral virtue' among the Pharisees of the New Testament. Blake's anger against 'moral virtue' like Jesus' anger against the Pharisees, fell upon upholders of law rather than upon lawbreakers.

Matt 23:1-5 "Then Jesus spoke to the multitudes and to His disciples, saying: "The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat. Therefore whatever they tell you to observe, that observe and do, but do not do according to their works; for they say, and do not do. For they bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men's shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers. But all their works they do to be seen by men."

Matt 23:13 "But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut up the kingdom of heaven against men; for you neither go in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in."

This is Blake's explanation of why he is so opposed to the false religion deriving from the false reason:

Four Zoas, PAGE 121, (E 390)
"My anger against thee is greater than against this Luvah
For war is energy Enslavd but thy religion
The first author of this war & the distracting of honest minds
Into confused perturbation & strife & honour & pride
Is a deceit so detestable that I will cast thee out
If thou repentest not & leave thee as a rotten branch to be burnd
With Mystery the Harlot & with Satan for Ever & Ever
Error can never be redeemd in all Eternity
But Sin Even Rahab is redeemd in blood & fury & jealousy
That line of blood that stretchd across the windows of the morning
Redeemd from Errors power. Wake thou dragon of the Deeps
Urizen wept in the dark deep anxious his Scaly form
To reassume the human & he wept in the dark deep"

These passages epitomize the exercise the 'moral virtue' which Blake so opposed:

Jerusalem, Plate 28, (E 174)
"And Albion spoke from his secret seat and said

All these ornaments are crimes, they are made by the labours
Of loves: of unnatural consanguinities and friendships
Horrid to think of when enquired deeply into; and all
These hills & valleys are accursed witnesses of Sin
I therefore condense them into solid rocks, stedfast!
A foundation and certainty and demonstrative truth:
That Man be separate from Man, & here I plant my seat.

Cold snows drifted around him: ice coverd his loins around
He sat by Tyburns brook, and underneath his heel, shot up!
A deadly Tree, he nam'd it Moral Virtue, and the Law
Of God who dwells in Chaos hidden from the human sight.

The Tree spread over him its cold shadows, (Albion groand)
They bent down, they felt the earth and again enrooting
Shot into many a Tree! an endless labyrinth of woe!"

Jerusalem, PLATE 45 [31],(E 194)
"every minute particular, the jewels of Albion, running down
The kennels of the streets & lanes as if they were abhorrd.
Every Universal Form, was become barren mountains of Moral
Virtue: and every Minute Particular hardend into grains of sand:
And all the tendernesses of the soul cast forth as filth & mire,
Among the winding places of deep contemplation intricate"

Tuesday, November 23, 2010


Happily through life we went: from idol to idol; in due
course each became relativized.

Finally we came to Blake: absolutely the best. But in
due course he, too, may be relativized.

Universal, informed, beautiful!
Study his life, uniquely transparent in his literary
and artistic works. Study until you find the Moment of
Truth, incapsulated in a letter to his friend and
benefactor, Thomas Butts; in the letter he wrote a poem
which he call My First Vision of Light:

"the Light of the Morning
Heavens Mountains adorning
I stood in the streams
of Heavens bright beams
And Saw Felpham sweet
Beneath my bright feet
Like a Sea without shore
Till the jewels of Light
Heavenly Men beaming bright
Appeard as One Man
Who Complacent began
My limbs to unfold
In his beams of bright gold
Like dross purgd away
All my mire and my clay
In his bosom sun bright
I remaind. Soft he smild
And I heard his voice Mild
Saying This is my Fold
O thou Ram hornd with gold
Who awakest from sleep...
And the voice faded mild
I remaind as a Child
All I had ever known
Before me bright Shone
Such the Vision to me
Appeard on the Sea...
(from Letter 16; Erdman 712-13)

Blake knew that he had gold. His Visions, so beautifully
and extensively described in 900 pages of text and unnumbered illustrations.

But did he ever accept the Father? This may be
splitting hairs, but in 1810, years after "His First
Vision of Light", he wrote: "Thinking as I do that the
Creator of this World is a very Cruel Being and being a
Worshipper of Christ I cannot help saying:
The Son O how unlike the Father
First God Almighty comes with a Thump on the Head
Then Jesus Christ comes with a balm to heal it."
(From A Vision of the Last Judgment; Erdman 565)

In contrast my first Vision of Light came when I experienced the Loving Heavenly Father; it was some time later before I could see Jesus, basically as the One who told us about the Heavenly Father.

On this basis I have to relativize my latest idol (or should I say one of them?)

Monday, November 22, 2010


Blake's ability to handle multiple aspects of reality at multiple levels of existence leaves most of us mystified. In this little passage we have the Eternals who, though multiple, speak with one voice; we have four forms of Milton in different locations and performing different acts; we have Urizen being molded from the clay by Milton; we have Blake negotiating with God as did Moses when he got his assignment; we have the Seven Angels of the Presence and all they imply; and we have Orc in chains.

Blake's mind operates in this fragmented, multiple way but so does every mind and every complex system. To provide order - to make connections - is the task of finding the meaning in the chaos. Meaninglessness is an affliction of the mind which has not reached the level where there is a cohesive wholeness which can assemble the pieces into a picture. Collect the pieces, look at them in the light of your own experience, follow the threads to their origins, associate the pieces which fit together: gradually out of the indistinct haze clear 'lineaments' may come into focus.

Milton, Plate 20 [22],(E 114)
"So spoke they as in one voice! Silent Milton stood before
The darkend Urizen; as the sculptor silent stands before
His forming image; he walks round it patient labouring.
Thus Milton stood forming bright Urizen, while his Mortal part
Sat frozen in the rock of Horeb:
and his Redeemed portion,
Thus form'd the Clay of Urizen
; but within that portion
His real Human walkd above in power and majesty

Tho darkend; and the Seven Angels of the Presence attended him.
O how can I with my gross tongue that cleaveth to the dust,
Tell of the Four-fold Man, in starry numbers fitly orderd
Or how can I with my cold hand of clay! But thou O Lord
Do with me as thou wilt! for I am nothing, and vanity.
If thou chuse to elect a worm, it shall remove the mountains.
For that portion namd the Elect: the Spectrous body of Milton:
Redounding from my left foot into Los's Mundane space,
Brooded over his Body in Horeb against the Resurrection
Preparing it for the Great Consummation; red the Cherub on Sinai
Glow'd; but in terrors folded round his clouds of blood.
At last when desperation almost tore his heart in twain
He recollected an old Prophecy in Eden recorded,
And often sung to the loud harp at the immortal feasts
That Milton of the Land of Albion should up ascend
Forwards from Ulro from the Vale of Felpham; and set free
Orc from his Chain of Jealousy, he started at the thought"

To add another wrinkle to this complex scenario Erdman brings our attention to Felpham's Vale and Blake's subsequent return to London. In commenting on Plate 20 [22] of Milton, Erdman states in The Illuminated Blake (Page 238):
"The cheering thought is that Milton, whose descent to Felpham's vale is rehearsed from many angles in this poem, will then ascend 'up' and 'Forwards' (59-60). (The personal parallel is Blake's retreat from Lambeth to Felpham - a journey for which he borrows the sandals of Los in Lambeth [24: 9-11] - seen as preparation for his return to mental war in London. The two moves are the pulsations between which the whole poem lives.)"

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Blake's Humanism

With idols no longer possible what's left to worship? The answer depends upon your experience. With all the idols gone the true God remains, for those who can meet him (her, it). For others the highest possible may be the Human Form, and here Blake settled before he came to see Jesus as God. He began by worshiping the Human Form, the Highest and Best Imaginable, and in 1800 he recognized this Highest and Best in Jesus. In terms of conventional theology Blake was a humanist before he became a committed Christian. In The Marriage of Heaven and Hell he loudly proclaimed his humanism: "God only Acts and Is, in existing beings or Men". And a few pages later:

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."

According to Kathleen Raine it was "the central doctrine of the Swedenborgian New Church that God can only be known in human form". Blake illustrated this with his quatrain at the end of "Auguries of Innocence":

"God Appears and God is Light
To those poor Souls who dwell in Night,
But does a Human Form Display
To those who Dwell in Realms of day."

Finally in his "Annotations to Berkeley's Siris", which he read about 1820, he wrote "God is Man and exists in us and we in him" (E664). He was still a humanist, but his humanism had gained a strong Christian dimension. Blake's argument against the conventional images of God, from beginning to end, hinged upon their sub-human nature. The biblical writers frequently ascribed to their God attitudes and behaviour beneath the moral level of any self respecting human. God cannot be less than man; therefore the appropriate response to such an image is derision, especially in the face of the common credulous awe.

The spiritually open person, free of the common credulous awe and capable of a clear eyed gaze at the Bible, no longer finds it possible to view all the biblical images as portraying a God worthy of worship. Furthermore when one looks freely at the actions of political and religious leaders of Christendom of the past 2000 years, it becomes clear that they were often worshipping something other than the true God. Finally the actions and attitudes of our contemporaries and even our own point to domination by a vision that is something less than the Highest and Best. In his poetry Blake documents these three observations with voluminous detail. They led to his ultimate evaluation of the universal false God. The name he settled upon is refreshingly biblical and authentic:

"To the Accuser, who is
The God of this World
Tho' thou art Worship'd by the Names Divine
Of Jesus and Jehovah, thou art still
The Son of Morn in weary Night's decline,
The Lost Traveller's Dream under the Hill."

(Gates of Paradise)

See also the chapter on God

Saturday, November 20, 2010


Writing of the work of individuation, David L. Hart, (The Cambridge Companion to Jung, edited by Polly Young-Eisendrath and Terence Dawson ) points out the spiritual nature of the process:

" Many younger people, myself included, have found new meaning and purpose in life through the direct inspiration and guidance of Jung. What it does emphasize is that individuation is a spiritual undertaking. It is the conscious response to an instinct not recognized in biological thought, an innate and powerful drive toward spiritual realization and ultimate meaning. As such, it involves the whole person, who, in the process of emerging into wholeness, is progressively transformed - not into something different, but into the true Self: out of its potential and into its reality. Whoever, in any age or condition, is prepared to heed and respond to this spiritual and fundamentally human drive, is prepared for the process of individuation." (PAGE 99)

The spiritual undertaking which Jung acknowledged and supported is affirmed extravagantly in Blake's writing. The Self which Jung defines as the 'God image' within the psyche is the realization achieved by the process of individuation. What was referred to as Self by Jung might traditionally have been called soul, the image of God in which Genesis states that man was created.

The thrust of Blake's writing is directed to the same realization of the presence of God within man. A beauty of Blake's poetry is that it provides images and symbols in which the experience of touching the Divine may be expressed and communicated. Jung's and Blake's gifts are complementary, one provides the analysis the other the synthesis.

Jerusalem, PLATE 38 [43], (E 185)
"Swelld & bloated General Forms, repugnant to the Divine-
Humanity, who is the Only General and Universal Form
To which all Lineaments tend & seek with love & sympathy
All broad & general principles belong to benevolence
Who protects minute particulars, every one in their own identity.
But here the affectionate touch of the tongue is closd in by
deadly teeth
And the soft smile of friendship & the open dawn of benevolence
Become a net & a trap, & every energy renderd cruel,
Till the existence of friendship & benevolence is denied:
The wine of the Spirit & the vineyards of the Holy-One."

Visions of the Daughters of Albion, Plate 8, (E 54)
"For every thing that lives is holy, life delights in life;
Because the soul of sweet delight can never be defil'd.
Fires inwrap the earthly globe, yet man is not consumd;
Amidst the lustful fires he walks: his feet become like brass,
His knees and thighs like silver, & his breast and head like gold."

Jerusalem, Plate 5, (E147)
"To open the Eternal Worlds, to open the immortal Eyes
Of Man inwards into the Worlds of Thought: into Eternity
Ever expanding in the Bosom of God. the Human Imagination"

Friday, November 19, 2010

Blake's Forgiveness

At a certain point Jesus came into Blake's consciousness as a new experience. It came from Beyond. That is to say it was not an inward expression of Blake's psyche; it came like the Son of God who had joined the three friends in Nebuchadnezzar's furnace. It wasn't something he thought of; it was something that happened to him.

Blake, like all of us was in the Furnace when the experience of forgiveness and self-annihilation came; they are two sides of the same coin. No one forgives until he has found the grace to annihilate at least momentarily the law bound accusing spectre which is his Selfhood (J33 (29)18-19) And this is only possible as an act of the Imagination, which is eternal, which is Christ. Whenever you successfully annihilate your old self to the point of truly forgiving another, the eternal Christ is alive and at work in your soul. In fact it is he who does it. He is in you, and you are in him; that's eternal life.

Reduced to its barest essential that's what Jesus finally came to mean for Blake. The only unique thing about the man of Nazareth was that he taught forgiveness of one's enemies. In this sense he incarnated God. God is love, is forgiveness. "If Morality was Christianity, Socrates was the Saviour." Unlike Socrates Jesus was a man in whom God dwelt through his vision and his acts of forgiveness.

The significance of the resurrection lies in the coming to life of Forgiveness, Jesus, in you and me. In this way we defeat death.

"There is not one Moral Virtue that Jesus Inculcated but Plato
and Cicero did Inculcate before him; what then did Christ
Inculcate? Forgiveness of Sins. This alone is the Gospel,
and this is the Life and Immortality brought to light by Jesus,
Even the Covenant of Jehovah, which is This: If you forgive
one another your Trespasses, so shall Jehovah forgive you,
That he himself may dwell among you; but if you Avenge, you
Murder the Divine Image, and he cannot dwell among you; because
you Murder him he arises again, and you deny that he is Arisen,
and are blind to Spirit."
(Textual note for EG; E875)

It's quite a trick (or gift) to go from Time to Eternity. Blake showed how in several ways. (See also the Chapter on God.)

Thursday, November 18, 2010


The parallels are so apparent in the thinking of Jung and Blake that we must recognize that they were under many of the same influences. I have been looking for ways in which Jung's insights are apparent in Blake's writing and have found what I was looking for. Each of the men had immersed himself in the perennial philosophy. Each was introverted and intuitive. Each had experienced a mid-life crisis which involved new self-awareness and new prioritization. The internal and external experiences of the two men led them to understand their own mental landscape and to extrapolate it to humanity. Coming from different perspectives and using different disciplines, they were each led to awareness of congruent interpretations of the nature of man and God.

I have found it a worthwhile enterprise is to read Blake looking for Jungian ideas, and to read Jung looking for Blakean ideas. The minds of two giants give insight into the messages of the other.

David L. Hart writing in The Cambridge Compannion to Jung, edited by Polly Young-Eisendrathand Terence Dawson gives an overview of the process of psychological development as seen by Jung on page 100:

"In a general way the whole development of an individual's life is seen by Jung as a gradual emergence out of the ego's control and into the realm of the Self - out of merely personal values and into those of more impersonal and collective meaning. The first half of life normally devoted to establishing a secure place in the world; education, profession, family, a personal identity. But at mid-life that crisis threatens whose ubiquity and importance Jung helped to clarify in the public mind. It is at bottom a spiritual crisis, the challenge to seek and discover the meaning of life. To meet this challenge, none of the tools of the first half of life are adequate. It is not a question of further conquests or acquisitions; it is more a question of exploration of the soul, for its own sake, letting go of the familiar demands of the ego to be fed and gratified. Therefore it is often felt as a loss, and is often powerfully resisted; and yet the psyche, with its own powerful demand to be realized, will persist in confronting consciousness with new and unheard-of views of life's meanings and possibilities. It is here that Jung sees the real work of individuation beginning, for from this point on, everything depends on the broadening of consciousness. Without a real sense that this change carries the true meaning of one's life, and a willingness to take on the inner voyage of discovery, one can fall into despair and a repetitive existence, which in effect only marks time until the end. The challenge of the second half of life is to prepare for death in a questioning, seeking, and conscious way accepting both the pain of disillusionment and the wonder of growth into ever new views of spiritual and psychological reality."

The following passage can be seen as describing Los's mid-life crisis. It focuses on Los' recognition of the contribution he made to his alienation from Enitharmon, the benefits he becomes aware of in cooperation, and the positive outcome that results from working together. Blake uses this incident as a turning point in his myth leading to the climactic restructuring of regeneration.

Four Zoas
, Page 98 [90], (E 369)
"O Enitharmon
Couldst thou but cease from terror & trembling & affright
When I appear before thee in forgiveness of ancient injuries
Why shouldst thou remember & be afraid. I surely have died in pain
Often enough to convince thy jealousy & fear & terror
Come hither be patient let us converse together because
I also tremble at myself & at all my former life

Enitharmon spread her beaming locks upon the wind & said
O Lovely terrible Los wonder of Eternity O Los my defence & guide
Thy works are all my joy. & in thy fires my soul delights
If mild they burn in just proportion & in secret night
And silence build their day in shadow of soft clouds & dews
Then I can sigh forth on the winds of Golgonooza piteous forms
That vanish again into my bosom but if thou my Los
Wilt in sweet moderated fury. fabricate forms sublime
Such as the piteous spectres may assimilate themselves into
They shall be ransoms for our Souls that we may live...
But Los loved them & refusd to Sacrifice their infant limbs
And Enitharmons smiles & tears prevaild over self protection
They rather chose to meet Eternal death than to destroy
The offspring of their Care & Pity Urthonas spectre was comforted
But Tharmas most rejoicd in hope of Enions return
For he beheld new Female forms born forth upon the air
Who wove soft silken veils of covering in sweet rapturd trance
Mortal & not as Enitharmon without a covering veil

First his immortal spirit drew Urizen[s] Shadow away
From out the ranks of war separating him in sunder
Leaving his Spectrous form which could not be drawn away
Then he divided Thiriel the Eldest of Urizens sons
Urizen became Rintrah Thiriel became Palamabron
Thus dividing the powers of Every Warrior
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
Lovely breathd from Enitharmon he trembled within himself

End of The Seventh Night "

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

As We Forgive

Blake's annotations to Thornton's translation of the Lord's Prayer (Erdman 667-70) indicates his contempt for the forms of conventional religion. But he lived with it all his life.

If we don't forgive, we're not forgiven. A fundamental, ubiquitous (virtually universal) sin is to project our failings on to another. The biblical term was the scapegoat. We have many, including our many prejudices, and Blake was no exception.

Start with the schoolmaster when he was six; move on to Sir Joshua Reynolds, the first and perhaps greatest artistic disaffirmation. Move on again to Bacon, Newton, and Locke, Blake's fundamental philosophical enemies. Finally there was Hayley, his corporeal friend.

These were lifelong attitudes. Plate 98, (line 10) of Jerusalem shows how, when and where he forgave all these people; it represented the universal forgiveness, "when once [he] did descry, the immortal man who cannot die".

Blake was ready to move on (decisively!).

So much for Blake, but what about me (and maybe you). Reading Blake & Persona led me to understanding that I have some more forgiveness to seek. In my youth I presented a formidable persona like don't touch me; don't try to get close to me; there's no way!. As a Christian (and then Blakean Christian) I thought I had given that up, but reflecting on recent exchanges I see it's still there. God forgive us for hiding from everyone.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010


Another of Jung's aspects of the psyche is the persona. This is the means through which the individual presents himself to the outer world. The persona is thought of as a mask behind which is hidden one's less presentable characteristics. The interaction with the outer world is transacted by the persona. This is exhibited in an artificial and superficial level of relationship which prevents individuals from making deep or real connections with others.

Here is a quote from C G Jung in
"The Relations between the Ego and the Unconscious" (1928), in CW 7: Two Essays on Analytical Psychology. (Page 305): "The persona is a complicated system of relations between individual consciousness and society, fittingly enough a kind of mask, designed on the one hand to make a definite impression upon others, and, on the other, to conceal the true nature of the individual." More quotes are available at this website.

Carl Rogers developed person-centered therapy as a means of connecting with the real person hidden beneath the superficial persona. By not hiding behind his own persona or being distracted by the client's persona, he subverted defense mechanisms which hinder therapy.

Quoting from the Wiki site:
"Rogers suggested that the incongruent individual, who is always on the defensive and cannot be open to all experiences, is not functioning ideally and may even be malfunctioning. They work hard at maintaining/protecting their self concept. Because their lives are not authentic this is a difficult task and they are under constant threat. They deploy defense mechanisms to achieve this. He describes two mechanisms: distortion and denial. Distortion occurs when the individual perceives a threat to their self concept. They distort the perception until it fits their self concept."

There are several ways in which Blake uses psychological constructs similar to the persona to delineate the multiplicity of psychic phenomena. One is his use of 'states' as passing stages through which man proceeds along his journey. The states must be discarded if the Identity is to be achieved.

Milton, PLATE 32 [35], (E 132)
"Distinguish therefore States from Individuals in those States.
States Change: 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."

Blake also creates a scenario in which man is prevented from connection from his inner self in the same way that he is when the persona acts a mask behind which a person hides. Blake uses the Emanation as a connective force between individuals. If a man is not in contact with his Emanation he becomes unable to sympathize with other people (According to Damon).

Jerusalem, Plate 39, (E 187)
"Man is adjoind to Man by his Emanative portion:
Who is Jerusalem in every individual Man"

Jerusalem, Plate 53, (E 203)
Man divided from his Emanation is a dark Spectre
His Emanation is an ever-weeping melancholy Shadow"

Jerusalem, Plate 54, (E 203)
"In Great Eternity, every particular Form gives forth or Emanates
Its own peculiar Light, & the Form is the Divine Vision
And the Light is his Garment This is Jerusalem in every Man
A Tent & Tabernacle of Mutual Forgiveness Male & Female Clothings."

An additional form of seeing characteristics of the persona in Blake is apparent on Plate 16 of Milton. We have Milton removing his garment as he prepares to undertake his mission of reconciling with his false or mistaken dimensions. We can see the clothing which he wore as an obstruction to his development. Later he says:

"To bathe in the Waters of Life; to wash off the Not Human
I come in Self-annihilation & the grandeur of Inspiration
To cast off Rational Demonstration by Faith in the Saviour
To cast off the rotten rags of Memory by Inspiration
To cast off Bacon, Locke & Newton from Albions covering
To take off his filthy garments, & clothe him with Imagination
To cast aside from Poetry, all that is not Inspiration"
Milton, PLATE 41 [48], (Erdman 142)

So removing garments can represent breaking through the unreal facade so that the Eternal can be expressed and can connect humanity in brotherhood. 


Monday, November 15, 2010

Natural Religion

After the Biblical Fall the Old Testament drama unfolds as a protracted struggle between two Gods. In every age the majority of Mankind have worshipped Mother Earth, Matter or the recurring cycle of vegetative life. She has many names; in the Bible one of the most common is Astarte. In our day "Astarte" exacts an acceptance of things as they are, an attempt to flow with the stream of Nature. The Bible called this "whoring after other gods".
Blake called it Natural Religion or Druidism. He meant by Natural Religion the worship of the principle of fallen life; those most conformed and faithful to it become the rulers of this world. Natural Religion involves choosing to remain at the level of the material, which Blake called vegetative life.
The believer in Natural Religion closes his mind to the reality of spiritual development; he turns his back upon the Spirit. Unable to endure the tension of struggling and waiting for spiritual evolution he erects a golden calf. He either acquiesces in or actively contributes to the brutishness and horror of a life that "lives upon death".
The Bible and Blake's poetry alike are filled with gory images of this ultimate horror, which comes from identifying life with the merely natural. T.S.Eliot said in The Sacred Wood that Blake's poetry is unpleasant, as all great poetry is unpleasant. It is "unpleasant" basically because Blake, like the Bible, insists on calling a spade a spade. Nowhere is Blake closer to the Bible than in his constant reiteration of the ultimate horror of unredeemed life, celebrated in page after page of minute particulars.
Blake and the Bible both insistently remind us that Nature is fallen , and that one flows with this fallen Nature to one's destruction. Abraham and Moses knew a higher God: he was above Nature; he was Spirit. He called men to rise above the natural and to become sons of a God opposed to everything Astarte stood for, to live by the laws, not of earth, but of heaven.
The children of Abraham tried to put this God first, but rarely with notable success. Instead at every opportunity they turned away from Jehovah "under every green tree", back to Nature. This inevitably led back to Captivity in the iron furnaces of Egypt/Babylon/Rome, etc. The biblical cycle discussed above thus relates to the alternating dominance of Jehovah and Astarte. Blake's myth recreates this biblical story, but with one vital difference.
Vala and her fellow females--Tirzah, Rahab, the Daughters of Albion--represent the various forms of Astarte, the Earth Goddess. Urizen represents Jehovah, the Sky God. But in 'The Four Zoas' both are fallen. Blake claims that the Hebrew consciousness of God is flawed at best. Secular materialists had reached this conclusion long before, but it was a startling and revolutionary idea for a man like Blake, embedded in the biblical faith and firmly attached to the life of the Spirit.
Blake had made as serious a commitment to the Eternal as anyone could, and now at the mid point of his life he saw an Eternal without a God worthy of worship. It was a dark night of the soul indeed!
This honest and painful confrontation with what was for Blake an existential reality has made him into the pariah of the orthodox. The black book has no place for any criticism of the Hebrew consciousness of God; he is perfect from first to last, and everything the Bible says about him is perfect (inerrant!) as well. The superstitious awe which has been called bibliolatry forbids any questions of Abraham's God or Moses' God.
Although when we read without blinders, we can see their consciousness of God changing before our eyes. Note Abraham bargaining with God for the survival of his nephew in Sodom and Moses simply defying God if he refuses to forgive the worshipers of the golden calf. In the spirit of these two revealing passages Blake in his own recreation of the biblical story dramatically portrayed an evolving God consciousness, which the black book simply cannot permit. It was Blake's willingness to let the old die that made him notably ready for the new birth. The dark night of the soul had intensified until it became the Sickness unto Death."
(The above taken from Chapter Six of the Blake Primer.)

Sunday, November 14, 2010


Quote from the New York Association of Analytic Psychology web page:
"The SHADOW contains the unconscious aspects of our personality that have been lost, rejected or never integrated. If we can identify and acknowledge these unconscious, unrecognized or disowned parts of ourselves we are less likely to blame others for our problems. In addition, the conscious integration of the energy inherent in shadow material can enrich and enliven us. Thus Jung viewed shadow integration as a moral as well as a psychological process which, he believed, holds the most hope for us as individuals and for society as a whole."

On page 5 of Meeting the Shadow, The Hidden Power of the Dark Side of Human Nature, edited by Connie Zweig and Jeremiah Abrams we read that:
"Many forces play a role in forming our shadow selves, ultimately determining what is permitted expression and what is not. Parents, siblings, teachers, clergy, and friends create a complex environment in which we learn what is kind, proper, moral behavior, and what is mean-spirited, shameful, and sinful...
We cannot look directly into this hidden domain. The shadow by nature is difficult to apprehend. It is dangerous, disorderly, and forever in hiding, as if the light of consciousness would steal its very life."

We cannot look directly into Blake's shadow nor did he write directly about what Jung called the shadow. Blake did understand that the psyche may be governed by aspects of the unconscious which take over the functions of other portions.

Marriage of Heaven and Hell, PLATE 5, (E 34)
"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."

John Middleton Murry's book William Blake, speaks of Blake's dealing with the Selfhood which, though not the shadow, is a psychic force which shares characteristics with it. According to Murry, the Selfhood in Blake's unconscious had grown because of his recognition of the world's opacity of Urizen; "But when Los was in the condition of forgiveness, visited by the Eternal Vision, he loved Urizen; and Urizen being loved, became other."

Murry's description of Blake's experience with his Selfhood resembles accounts of experiences of shadow encounters in Jungian therapy. "Blake's experience of the Selfhood was very deep. He had seen it face to face; known it, so to speak, in essence. For the Selfhhood had grown to power in him in pondering the mystery of that finite creation which he knew to be infinite. Out of the effort to exorcise the Selfhood in men, his Selfhood had grown. Once he could accept that mystery, in all humanity, and know himself forgiven; once he could see that this was the inevitable destiny of the pilgrim towards Eternity, and that the process of Life itself, at its very acme of spiritual intensity and candor, created the Selfhood as a means by which it grew - the heart of the 'mystery of iniquity' lay open to him. He knew the origin, in himself. Providence had begun indeed."

Four Zoas, Night 7, Page 95, (E 367)
"Los embracd the Spectre first as a brother
Then as another Self; astonishd humanizing & in tears
In Self abasement Giving up his Domineering lust

Thou never canst embrace sweet Enitharmon terrible Demon. Till
Thou art united with thy Spectre Consummating by pains &
That mortal body & by Self annihilation back returning
To Life Eternal be assurd I am thy real Self
Tho thus divided from thee & the Slave of Every passion
Of thy fierce Soul Unbar the Gates of Memory look upon me
Not as another but as thy real Self I am thy Spectre"

Blake acknowledged that our dark side, the unaccepted and unacceptable, will play havoc with our intentions until it is brought into the light and seen as a vital part of our make-up.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Two Kinds of Love

"Let us agree to give up (female) love;
then shall we be happy in Eternity." (From My Spectre)

Like everything else love has its contraries ("without contraries is no progression").

The little poem, The Clod and the Pebble, shows the two kinds of love succinctly:

"Love seeketh not itself to please,
Nor for itself hath any care,
But for another gives its ease,
And builds a heaven in hell's despair."

So sung a little Clod of Clay,
Trodden with the cattle's feet,
But a Pebble of the brook
Warbled out these metres meet:

"Love seeketh only Self to please,
To bind another to its delight,
Joys in another's loss of ease,
And builds a hell in heaven's despite."

Blake did have a happy faculty of being pointed succinctly.

Friday, November 12, 2010


Jerusalem, PLATE 63, (E 213)
"Jehovah stood among the Druids in the Valley of Annandale
When the Four Zoas of Albion, the Four Living Creatures, the Cherubim
Of Albion tremble before the Spectre, in the starry likeness of the Plow
Of Nations. And their Names are Urizen & Luvah & Tharmas & Urthona"

Milton Percival, author of William Blake's Circle of Destiny, was capable of revealing psychological meaning in Blake's poetry and pictures. He understood that Blake was depicting internal dynamics as he presented his Four Mighty ones in the one giant body of Albion.

On page 20 we read:
"It is in his presentation of the Zoas that much of the power of Blake's myth lies. They are not the bloodless abstractions common to allegory. Blake believed in them. They are in consequence realities of the imagination, with power to terrify us as they terrified their creator. No other poet has given us so profound a sense of the helplessness of man before the primal forces of life; and no other poet, so passionate a denial of that helplessness. He fears these forces, because he sees them as demonic, with power over him; but he takes hope from the fact that these forces are in him - that they are himself. When man shall have brought them again into harmony, they will become his willing servants."

Jung touches on several of the same paradigms of psychic development as does Percival in this passage from his Psychological Commentary in Tibetan Book of the Dead, Edited by W. Y. Evans-Wentz:

"Fear of self-sacrifice lurks deep in every ego, and this fear is often only [of] the precariously controlled demand of the unconscious forces to burst out in full strength. No one who strives for selfhood (individuation) is spared this dangerous passage, for that which is feared also belongs to the wholeness of the self -- the sub-human, or supra-human world of psychic ‘dominants’ (archetypes) from which the ego originally emancipated itself with enormous effort, and then only partially, for the sake of a more or less illusory freedom. This liberation is certainly a very necessary and very heroic undertaking, but it represents nothing final: it is merely the creation of a subject, who, in order to find fulfillment, has still to be confronted by an object. This [object], at first sight, would appear to be the world, which is swelled out with projections for that very purpose. Here we seek and find our difficulties, here we seek and find our enemy, here we seek and find what is dear and precious to us; and it is comforting to know that all evil and all good is to be found out there, in the visible object, where it can be conquered, punished, destroyed, or enjoyed. But nature herself does not allow this paradisal state of innocence to continue for ever. There are, and always have been, those who cannot help but see that the world and its experiences are in the nature of a symbol, and that it really reflects something that lies hidden in the subject himself, in his own trans-subjective reality."

In the beginning of the Book of Urizen Blake expresses a recognition of the disturbance in the psyche which has given power to a force which is 'Obscure, shadowy, void, solitary.' He gladly hears the call to have the 'dark visions of torment' revealed to him.

Urizen, PLATE 2, (E 74)

Of the primeval Priests assum'd power,
When Eternals spurn'd back his religion;
And gave him a place in the north,
Obscure, shadowy, void, solitary.

Eternals I hear your call gladly,
Dictate swift winged words, & fear not
To unfold your dark visions of torment."

Entering in the dark, unknown aspects of the psyche changes the occupation of the mind to the experience of emotional states which are both pleasant and painful and which appear to be outside of the mind.

Jerusalem, Plate 68, (E 222)
"Sometimes I curse & sometimes bless thy fascinating beauty
Once Man was occupied in intellectual pleasures & energies
But now my soul is harrowd with grief & fear & love & desire
And now I hate & now I love & Intellect is no more:
There is no time for any thing but the torments of love & desire
The Feminine & Masculine Shadows soft, mild & ever varying
In beauty: are Shadows now no more, but Rocks in Horeb"

To be torn asunder, to be under the control of your own wrath, to experience fury, anguish and terror - these are the 'far worse' things of which Los and Blake know. But they know too that Albion will be made whole.

Jerusalem, Plate 7, (E 150)
"Los answer'd. Altho' I know not this! I know far worse than this:
I know that Albion hath divided me, and that thou O my Spectre,
Hast just cause to be irritated: but look stedfastly upon me:
Comfort thyself in my strength the time will arrive,
When all Albions injuries shall cease, and when we shall
Embrace him tenfold bright, rising from his tomb in immortality.
They have divided themselves by Wrath. they must be united by
Pity: let us therefore take example & warning O my Spectre,
O that I could abstain from wrath! O that the Lamb
Of God would look upon me and pity me in my fury.
In anguish of regeneration! in terrors of self annihilation:
Pity must join together those whom wrath has torn in sunder,
And the Religion of Generation which was meant for the destruction
Of Jerusalem, become her covering, till the time of the End."

The reunification of Albion, the archetype of the complete (individuated) individual and of the undivided mankind, restores the connection between humanity and the 'Universal Father' in 'Infinitude.'

Jerusalem, PLATE 97, (E 256)
"Awake! Awake Jerusalem! O lovely Emanation of Albion
Awake and overspread all Nations as in Ancient Time
For lo! the Night of Death is past and the Eternal Day
Appears upon our Hills: Awake Jerusalem, and come away

So spake the Vision of Albion & in him so spake in my hearing
The Universal Father. Then Albion stretchd his hand into Infinitude."

Image from Jerusalem, Plate 99

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Blake's War III

What can be said in addition to what we already have in Blake's War and in More on Blake's War? What is War about anyway? Is it about a country that fancies itself stronger than another country and presumes to attempt to work its will on the (thought to be) weaker country? Is that the way the British Empire (yet abuilding in Blake's day) developed? the intention of King George on America? The first seemed to succeed, until World War II in fact; the second? not quite! Blake memorialized that Failure in War.

Blake knew that War is doomed to failure by any measure; he was well acquainted with what Jesus had said: they that take up the sword shall perish by the sword. He expressed this most aptly with The Grey Monk.

Blake wrote twice about the Grey Monk (in E201-2 and in 489-90).
The first one is found in Jerusalem Plate 52; Erdman 201-2); it concludes with
"For a Tear is an Intellectual thing;
And a Sigh is the Sword of an Angel King
And the bitter groan of a Martyrs woe
Is an Arrow from the Almighties Bow!"

as does the Grey Monk from (the Pickering Manuscript) with an additional quatrain:
"But vain the Sword & vain the Bow
They never can work Wars overthrow
The Hermits Prayer & the Widows tear
Alone can free the World from fear

For a Tear is an Intellectual Thing
And a Sigh is the Sword of an Angel King
And the bitter groan of the Martyrs woe
Is an Arrow from the Almighties Bow

The hand of Vengeance found the Bed
To which the Purple Tyrant fled
The iron hand crushd the Tyrants head
And became a Tyrant in his stead"

One might say that Washington lost (almost) every battle-- and won the war. Mao lost every battle-- and won the war; Ho Chi Minh lost every battle-- and won the war. America has won every battle in Afghanistan-- and what?

Perhaps the most dominant theme is Blake's Complete Works was the plaintive, 'why do we take up the sword?'