Saturday, April 23, 2011


Following the pattern Blake uses to set forth the Zoas and the emanations as they become divided as a result of the fall, Vala is the counterpart of Luvah the emotions of man. Taking on the emotional life as a facet of the outer material world she is a veil of appearances or illusions.

In this passage we see Vala's positive view of nature which contrasts emphatically with the view of the natural world perceived by Enion or Ahania. She bends the material world to her pleasure and covers it with her soft and gentle emotions.

Four Zoas, PAGE 94, (E 367)
"And she went forth & saw the forms of Life & of delight
Walking on Mountains or flying in the open expanse of heaven
She heard sweet voices in the winds & in the voices of birds
That rose from waters for the waters were as the voice of Luvah
Not seen to her like waters or like this dark world of death
Tho all those fair perfections which men know only by name
In beautiful substantial forms appeard & served her
As food or drink or ornament or in delightful works
To build her bowers for the Elements brought forth abundantly
The living soul in glorious forms & every One came forth
Walking before her Shadowy face & bowing at her feet
But in vain delights were poured forth on the howling melancholy
For her delight the horse his proud neck bowd & his white mane
And the Strong Lion deignd in his mouth to wear the golden bit
While the far beaming Peacock waited on the fragrant wind
To bring her fruits of sweet delight from trees of richest wonders
And the strong piniond Eagle bore the fire of heaven in the night season
Wood & subdud into Eternal Death the Demon Lay
In rage against the dark despair. the howling Melancholy "

But her delights result from the imposition of her will all around her. Her own material beauty, the illusion of the materialized world is used to lure Albion from the Divine Image.

Jerusalem, PLATE 29 [33], (E 175)
"Know me now, Albion : look upon me. I alone am Beauty.
The Imaginative Human Form is but a breathing of Vala.
I breathe him forth into the Heaven from my secret Cave,
Born of the Woman to obey the Woman, O Albion the mighty.
For the Divine appearance is Brotherhood, but I am Love".

In William Blake: Poet and Mystic, Pierre Berger sheds light on Vala and her downfall:

"The beauty that has ceased to be desired and loved is no longer beauty in the eyes of the human spirit. And this brings upon Vala a new fall, and death.
Death means complete materialisation. Urizen takes her ashes and mingles them with the Mundane Shell. She is no longer even the soul of material beauty : she has become a part of the physical world, perceived only by the senses, and not by the spirit. She can no longer be seen apart from the world of matter. Every time that Luvah thinks he has seized her, and tries to possess her, " the vast form of Nature, like a serpent, rolled between."

"Love will be henceforth a material thing, an act of the senses, the desire for generation, leading to the production of physical beings, creating and loving the creatures of nature that are born of it, forming ever-repeated circles, like the coils of the serpent, in an endless series of conceptions and births. Vala is the object of this passion, the beauty which attracts sensual desire, the mother of our bodies of death. " Vala produced the Bodies : Jerusalem gave the Souls." Lastly, when man contracted and subdivided into distinct individuals, each with a body of his own, Vala became Woman, the goddess and the temptress, manifold and eternal." (Page 148)

"Albion recognises her. Though he knows well that in Eternity there is neither love of woman, nor natural beauty, nor sensual passion he yet feels himself enveloped and dominated by her. All his masculine strength goes from him. The throne of God, which is in every man, has been claimed and usurped by woman. Man, as man, no longer exists. He has become the Tabernacle of Vala and her Temple, And not the Tabernacle and Temple of the Most High." (Page 149)

In irony the Spectre Sons of Albion address Vala:

Jerusalem, PLATE 65, (E 216)
"Now now the Battle rages round thy tender limbs O Vala
Now smile among thy bitter tears now put on all thy beauty
Is not the wound of the sword Sweet & the broken bone delightful
Wilt thou now smile among the slain when the wounded groan in the field"

The depth of Vala's fallen state is the religion called by Blake - Mystery - a religion of the passive, outward, feminine emotions designed through deceit and hypocrisy to dominate the active, inward, masculine energies. Percival (William Blake's Circle of Destiny) sees that: "everything that Mystery offers is unreal. It pretends to love, but practices hate. It pretends to forgiveness, but practices envy, revenge, and cruelty. Nevertheless, the rational mind, weary of the long and futile struggle to subdue energy which cannot be subdued turns eagerly to the new Mystery religions..." (Page 34)

Vala is the veil that hides and disguises, that deceives and distorts, that redirects the energies of man from the perception of the infinite to the pursuit of materialism.

Image from Blake's Water-Colours for the Poems of Thomas Gray

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