Tuesday, January 25, 2011


The book of Ezekiel in the Old Testament begins with Ezekiel's vision which inludes the Four Living Creatures which Blake used as inspiration for the Four Zoas.

Ezekiel, Chapter 1:
1 "In the thirtieth year, in the fourth month, on the fifth day of the month, as I was among the exiles by the river Chebar, the heavens were opened, and I saw visions of God.
2 On the fifth day of the month (it was the fifth year of the exile of King Jehoi'achin),
3 the word of the LORD came to Ezekiel the priest, the son of Buzi, in the land of the Chalde'ans by the river Chebar; and the hand of the LORD was upon him there.
4 As I looked, behold, a stormy wind came out of the north, and a great cloud, with brightness round about it, and fire flashing forth continually, and in the midst of the fire, as it were gleaming bronze.
5 And from the midst of it came the likeness of four living creatures. And this was their appearance: they had the form of men,
6 but each had four faces, and each of them had four wings.
7 Their legs were straight, and the soles of their feet were like the sole of a calf's foot; and they sparkled like burnished bronze.
8 Under their wings on their four sides they had human hands. And the four had their faces and their wings thus:
9 their wings touched one another; they went every one straight forward, without turning as they went.
10 As for the likeness of their faces, each had the face of a man in front; the four had the face of a lion on the right side, the four had the face of an ox on the left side, and the four had the face of an eagle at the back.
11 Such were their faces. And their wings were spread out above; each creature had two wings, each of which touched the wing of another, while two covered their bodies.
12 And each went straight forward; wherever the spirit would go, they went, without turning as they went.
13 In the midst of the living creatures there was something that looked like burning coals of fire, like torches moving to and fro among the living creatures; and the fire was bright, and out of the fire went forth lightning.
14 And the living creatures darted to and fro, like a flash of lightning.
15 Now as I looked at the living creatures, I saw a wheel upon the earth beside the living creatures, one for each of the four of them.
16 As for the appearance of the wheels and their construction: their appearance was like the gleaming of a chrysolite; and the four had the same likeness, their construction being as it were a wheel within a wheel.
17 When they went, they went in any of their four directions without turning as they went.
18 The four wheels had rims and they had spokes; and their rims were full of eyes round about.
19 And when the living creatures went, the wheels went beside them; and when the living creatures rose from the earth, the wheels rose.
20 Wherever the spirit would go, they went, and the wheels rose along with them; for the spirit of the living creatures was in the wheels.
21 When those went, these went; and when those stood, these stood; and when those rose from the earth, the wheels rose along with them; for the spirit of the living creatures was in the wheels.
22 Over the heads of the living creatures there was the likeness of a firmament, shining like crystal, spread out above their heads.
23 And under the firmament their wings were stretched out straight, one toward another; and each creature had two wings covering its body.
24 And when they went, I heard the sound of their wings like the sound of many waters, like the thunder of the Almighty, a sound of tumult like the sound of a host; when they stood still, they let down their wings.
25 And there came a voice from above the firmament over their heads; when they stood still, they let down their wings.
26 And above the firmament over their heads there was the likeness of a throne, in appearance like sapphire; and seated above the likeness of a throne was a likeness as it were of a human form.
27 And upward from what had the appearance of his loins I saw as it were gleaming bronze, like the appearance of fire enclosed round about; and downward from what had the appearance of his loins I saw as it were the appearance of fire, and there was brightness round about him.
28 Like the appearance of the bow that is in the cloud on the day of rain, so was the appearance of the brightness round about. Such was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD. And when I saw it, I fell upon my face, and I heard the voice of one speaking."

Here is Blake's image of Ezekiel's vision in the Book of Ezekiel in the Old Testament.

Wikimedia Commons
Ezekiel's Vision
Notice the four faced living creature, the starry wheels with eyes, the six wings, the four additional faces, the throne on which sits the likeness of God, and between the feet of the creature the tiny man who is Ezekiel observing the vision. Not apparent in this image is the light of the rainbow around the image of God displaying his glory. The image in the Blake Archive better displays the light.

This vision described in the words of the Bible and later illustrated by Blake, has prepared Ezekiel to hear the voice. In Marriage of Heaven and Hell Ezekiel converses with Blake:

Marriage of Heaven and Hell, Plate 12, (E 38)
"The Prophets Isaiah and Ezekiel dined with me, and I asked
them how they dared so roundly to assert. that God spake to them;
and whether they did not think at the time, that they would be
misunderstood, & so be the cause of imposition.
Then Ezekiel said. The philosophy of the east taught the first
principles of human perception some nations held one
principle for the origin & some another, we of Israel taught
that the Poetic Genius (as you now call it) was the first
principle and all the others merely derivative, which was the
cause of our despising the Priests & Philosophers of other
countries, and prophecying that all Gods [PL 13] would at last be
proved. to originate in ours & to be the tributaries of the
Poetic Genius,"

Blake was convinced that the Poetic Genius, the Human Imagination, the voice of the poet and prophet is synonymous with the voice which spoke to Ezekiel, and through Ezekiel, and which continues to speak to those who have 'ears to hear'.

All Religions Are One, (E 1)
"PRINCIPLE. 5. The Religions of all Nations are derived from
each Nations different reception of the Poetic Genius which is
every where call'd the Spirit of Prophecy.
PRINCIPLE 6 The Jewish & Christian Testaments are An original
derivation from the Poetic Genius. this is necessary from the
confined nature of bodily sensation"

1 comment:

ellie said...

Coleridge's "Anacalyptic" Blake: An Exegesis
Michael Ferber
Modern Philology
Vol. 76, No. 2 (Nov., 1978), pp. 189-193
Published by: The University of Chicago Press
Article Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/437536

"But even to this day, when Moses is read [i.e., the old testament], the veil is upon their heart. Nevertheless Christians move from outward observances to inward faith, from tables of stone to fleshy tables of the heart, the Jews, in a kind of parody of this movement, internalize the veil of Moses until it is "upon their heart" whenever they read him. Paul too is passing from the outward, literal sense of the text (Moses) to an inner, spiritual sense; his interpretation is in fact an exemplum of its own doctrine.
When we turn to the Lord, we shall be empowered to read truly, like Paul, but Paul's emphasis shifts from enlightened readership to our transfiguration through the refection of the glory of the Lord; "But we all, with open face [Greek; literally, "with unveiled face"] beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord which, are changed into the same image from glory to glory even as by the Spirit of the Lord". Our faces unveiled, we shall see truly, and see our true selves, as we gaze steadily at the radiance of the Lord which, like a mirror, shows us our image, the Holy Spirit of Christ in us. Or perhaps, for the Greek is doubtful, we shall reflect in our faces the glory of the Lord. The result is the same: "we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is" (1 John 3:2)."