Tuesday, May 31, 2011


Another short account of the fall is given by Ahania to Urizen.

Ahania the emanation of Urizen, playing the loyal wife, wants to help Urizen avoid the consequences of a bad decision. She attempts to build his ego; she places the blame on Luvah; she makes excuses for Urizen. But her supportiveness is to no avail. When she asks that Urizen listen to her vision he turns against her.

Four Zoas, Night III, PAGE 38, (E 326)
"O Prince the Eternal One hath set thee leader of his hosts
Leave all futurity to him Resume thy fields of Light
Why didst thou listen to the voice of Luvah that dread morn
To give the immortal steeds of light to his deceitful hands
No longer now obedient to thy will thou art compell'd
To forge the curbs of iron & brass to build the iron mangers
To feed them with intoxication from the wine presses of Luvah
Till the Divine Vision & Fruition is quite obliterated
They call thy lions to the fields of blood, they rowze thy tygers
Out of the halls of justice, till these dens thy wisdom framd
Golden & beautiful but O how unlike those sweet fields of bliss
Where liberty was justice & eternal science was mercy
Then O my dear lord listen to Ahania, listen to the vision
The vision of Ahania in the slumbers of Urizen
When Urizen slept in the porch & the Ancient Man was smitten"

Image from proof title page
Europe a Prophecy

Here Ahania presents a long prophetic vision which Urizen finds disturbing. Rather than giving his attention to the scenario presented to him by the part of his mind which allows him to draw back from the relentless pursuit of exercising control, he turns control over to his emotions. Luvah and Vala are ready and willing to become active. In her vision Ahania sees Luvah, Vala and Albion being dragged down into outer manifestations. Nature attains an autonomous existence as Vala becomes distant from Luvah, the spirit whom she should incorporate. Urizen feels compelled to once again exercise control by declaring himself the only god.

Four Zoas, Night III, Page 42 (E 328)
"O Urizen why art thou pale at the visions of Ahania
Listen to her who loves thee lest we also are driven away.

They heard the Voice & fled swift as the winters setting sun
And now the Human Blood foamd high, I saw that Luvah & Vala
Went down the Human Heart where Paradise & its joys abounded
In jealous fears in fury & rage, & flames roll'd round their fervid feet
And the vast form of Nature like a Serpent play'd before them
And as they went in folding fires & thunders of the deep
Vala shrunk in like the dark sea that leaves its slimy banks
And from her bosom Luvah fell far as the east & west
And the vast form of Nature like a Serpent roll'd between.

She ended. for [from] his wrathful throne burst forth the black hail storm

Am I not God said Urizen. Who is Equal to me
Do I not stretch the heavens abroad or fold them up like a garment

He spoke mustering his heavy clouds around him black opake"

By bringing up the subject of the fall to Urizen, Ahania has precipitated a continuation of the process of falling away from inwardness to outwardness, from the active to the subjective, and from the Eternal to the temporal.


Sunday, May 29, 2011


We have looked at two accounts of the fall as told by the Spectre of Urthona. Now Urizen gives his own account of the fall.

Four Zoas, Night V, Page 64, (E 343)
"But now my land is darkend & my wise men are departed

My songs are turned to cries of Lamentation
Heard on my Mountains & deep sighs under my palace roofs
Because the Steeds of Urizen once swifter than the light
Were kept back from my Lord & from his chariot of mercies
O did I keep the horses of the day in silver pastures
O I refusd the Lord of day the horses of his prince
O did I close my treasuries with roofs of solid stone
And darken all my Palace walls with envyings & hate

O Fool to think that I could hide from his all piercing eyes
The gold & silver & costly stones his holy workmanship
O Fool could I forget the light that filled my bright spheres
Was a reflection of his face who calld me from the deep

I well remember for I heard the mild & holy voice
Saying O light spring up & shine & I sprang up from the deep
He gave to me a silver scepter & crownd me with a golden crown
& said Go forth & guide my Son who wanders on the ocean

I went not forth. I hid myself in black clouds of my wrath
I calld the stars around my feet in the night of councils dark
The stars threw down their spears & fled naked away
We fell. I siezd thee dark Urthona In my left hand falling

I siezd thee beauteous Luvah thou art faded like a flower
And like a lilly is thy wife Vala witherd by winds
When thou didst bear the golden cup at the immortal tables
Thy children smote their fiery wings crownd with the gold of heaven
Thy pure feet stepd on the steps divine. too pure for other feet
And thy fair locks shadowd thine eyes from the divine effulgence
Then thou didst keep with Strong Urthona the living gates of heaven
But now thou art bound down with him even to the gates of hell

Because thou gavest Urizen the wine of the Almighty
For steeds of Light that they might run in thy golden chariot of pride
I gave to thee the Steeds I pourd the stolen wine
And drunken with the immortal draught fell from my throne sublime

I will arise Explore these dens & find that deep pulsation
That shakes my caverns with strong shudders. perhaps this is the night
Of Prophecy & Luvah hath burst his way from Enitharmon
When Thought is closd in Caves. Then love shall shew its root in deepest Hell

End of the Fifth Night"
Illustration to Milton's
On the Morning of Christ's Nativity
Butts set

Urizen, the Apollo of Blake's system, was the Prince of Light, the intellectual capacity of the total man. His steeds which were the source of his energy, together with his chariot which was his form, were at the service of his Lord. However, he conceived that he would lose his special place as bearer of the Lord's light to the Lord's Son. Proud of his position, he was disobedient to the Lord's request. He hid from his Lord and became consumed by wrath. As he fell from Eternity, he took with him the Zoas of Imagination and Emotion, Urthona and Luvah.

Perhaps as an afterthought, he accused Luvah of having stolen the wine of the Almighty and gotten him drunk, causing him to fall from his throne.
No Zoa can change without changing the other Zoas. They are linked together and form a pattern within the wholeness. Did Urizen originate the cascading consequences by altering the balance? He looks at his situation in comparison to what it was when he accepted without question what was expected of him. Being the reasoner he constructs a scenario in which he plays the leading role but he spreads blame around.
As the fall continued Urizen continued to change. He explored, he built, he confronted, he constructed a system. The Urizen who was eventually reunited with the other three Zoas was a new Urizen chastened by experience.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Blake's Call

Very (extremely) biblical oriented, Blake must have been aware of a call, like Abraham, Moses, Samuel, Isaiah (and he certainly identified closely with Isaiah 6,) Ezekiel and many others among his biblical heroes. People are generally called according to their gifts; what were Blake's gifts?

He was trained in visual arts. His father thought to give him the very best in that area, but young Blake, mindful of the financial sacrifice involved, chose a more humble preparation-- as an engraver.

His primary calling however was in verbal art. For that there's no conventional training as such, but he was gifted as a voracious, rapid and insiteful reader. In general what you choose to read determines the kind of writing you do. Blake chose the very best literature:

"Now my lot in the Heavens is this; Milton lovd me in childhood & shewd me his faceEzra came with Isaiah the Prophet, but Shakespeare in riper years gave me his handParacelsus & Behmen appeard to me. terrors appeard in the Heavens above And in Hell beneath"(Letter 11, to Flaxman (Erdman 707-08)

Blake used the word, call, often, but where do we find an account of his calling? For what it's worth, in the Preludium of The Book of Urizen (perhaps the first Prophetic Work) he wrote:
"Eternals I hear your call gladly,
Dictate swift winged words, & fear not
To unfold your dark visions of torment."
(Erdman 70)

And on page 83 "Who shall I call? who shall I send (re Isaiah 6).

That was the beginning of the Bible of Hell.
(Plate 24 of The Marriage of Heaven and Hell; Erdman 33ff)

On page 205 (Jerusalem Plate 55 - bottom of the page):
"And the Great Voice of Eternity rolled above terrible in clouds
Saying Who will go forth for us! & Who shall we send before our face? (shades of Isaiah 6 again).

Continuing at the top of 206:
PLATE 56"Then Los heaved his thund'ring Bellows on the Valley of Middlesex
And thus he chaunted his Song
" (of course Blake's poetry was Los' song).

In Blake's life, like yours and mine, there's the call of God and the other call: of Satan; for Blake the most significant call of the world was what he referred to as the Main Chance: write, draw, paint in accordance with the public taste. (the Bible referred to such people as false prophets:
II Timothy 4:3: "For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears;"

If he had written all his poetry in the same vein as the Songs of Innocence, he would have become rich and famous. Likewise if he had painted like Sir Joshua Reynolds (See Annotations to the Works of Sir Joshua Reynolds; Erdman 635ff). But he was too much of his own person; he chose the Visions of Heaven rather than the teaching of Joshua Reynolds. And all true Blakeans rejoice at that final decision that he made.

Friday, May 27, 2011


In an account of the fall told by the Spectre of Urthona to Enitharmon, the narrator recalls the state of bliss which existed in Eternity before the fall. Enitharmon appears as a result of the event which is narrated. The Spectre of Urthona describes the fall as an internal event wherein the 'gentle passions' were divided from the 'manhood.' This may indicate that the aspect which became Luvah (and Vala) was divided from the total man producing the principle of the autonomous female (or the vehicle for matter) as a separate being. The 'masculine spirit' resists becoming embodied (materialized.) The infant terror (Los) and the infant woe (Enitharmon) divide and separate leaving the Zoa Urthona as a spectre subject to the creation he himself created.

The Spectre of Urthona is a poor imitation of the Zoa he once was. He is, however, a Spectre or shade of the living: of the Eternal who is immortal. He expects to reenter the Gates of Eternity when the impediments which resulted from the Fall are removed.

Even in the fallen state the three fallen aspects of Urthona - Los, Enitharmon and the Spectre - are instruments for ending the divisions which prevent the return to life in Eternity.

Image from
America a Prophecy
Plate 1

Spectre of Urthona speaks to Shade of Enitharmon:

Four Zoas, Night VII, Page 84, (E 359)
"This thou well rememberest listen I will tell
What thou forgettest. They in us & we in them alternate Livd
Drinking the joys of Universal Manhood. One dread morn
Listen O vision of Delight One dread morn of goary blood
The manhood was divided for the gentle passions making way
Thro the infinite labyrinths of the heart & thro the nostrils issuing
In odorous stupefaction stood before the Eyes of Man
A female bright. I stood beside my anvil dark a mass
Of iron glowd bright prepard for spades & plowshares. sudden down
I sunk with cries of blood issuing downward in the veins
Which now my rivers were become rolling in tubelike forms
Shut up within themselves descending down I sunk along,
The goary tide even to the place of seed & there dividing
I was divided in darkness & oblivion thou an infant woe
And I an infant terror in the womb of Enion
My masculine spirit scorning the frail body issud forth
From Enions brain In this deformed form leaving thee there
Till times passd over thee but still my spirit returning hoverd
And formd a Male to be a counterpart to thee O Love
Darkend & Lost In due time issuing forth from Enions womb
Thou & that demon Los wert born Ah jealousy & woe
Ah poor divided dark Urthona now a Spectre wandering
The deeps of Los the Slave of that Creation I created
I labour night & day for Los but listen thou my vision
I view futurity in thee I will bring down soft Vala
To the embraces of this terror & I will destroy
That body I created then shall we unite again in bliss

Thou knowest that the Spectre is in Every Man insane brutish
Deformd that I am thus a ravening devouring lust continually
Craving & devouring but my Eyes are always upon thee O lovely
Delusion & I cannot crave for any thing but thee not so
The spectres of the Dead for I am as the Spectre of the Living
For till these terrors planted round the Gates of Eternal life
Are driven away & annihilated we never can repass the Gates
Astonishd filld with tears the spirit of Enitharmon beheld
And heard the Spectre bitterly she wept Embracing fervent
Her once lovd Lord now but a Shade herself also a shade
Conferring times on times among the branches of that Tree"

Thursday, May 26, 2011


What did Blake think of Paul? that's a very difficult question to answer.

The name was very common in Blake's day:
1. St Paul's Church was the cathedral church in London. It was always visible (physically and mentally) to Blake.

There are several occurrences of St. Paul's church in Blake's writings:


Holy Thursday(Songs of Innocence)
'Twas on a Holy Thursday, their innocent faces clean,
The children walking two & two, in red & blue & green,
Grey-headed beadles walk'd before, with wands as white as snow,
Till into the high dome of Paul's they like Thames' waters flow.
O what a multitude they seem'd, these flowers of London town!
Seated in companies they sit with radiance all their own.
The hum of multitudes was there, but multitudes of lambs,
Thousands of little boys & girls raising their innocent hands.
Now like a mighty wind they raise to heaven the voice of song,
Or like harmonious thunderings the seats of heaven among.
Beneath them sit the aged men, wise guardians of the poor;
Then cherish pity, lest you drive an angel from your door.


In a letter to his friend and patron Capt Butts (L27.5Butts7'03; E730) he mentioned St. Paul re a project:

"I understand that the Subscription goes on briskly. This work isto be a very Elegant one & to consist of All Miltons Poems withCowpers Notes and translations by Cowper from Miltons Latin &Italian Poems. These works will be ornamented with Engravingsfrom Designs from Romney. Flaxman & Yr hble Servt & to beEngravd also by the last mentiond. The Profits of the work areintended to be appropriated to Erect a Monument to the Memory ofCowper in St Pauls or Westminster Abbey."

C....and many others

A. "Paul Constantine Charlemaine Luther Milton"
This phrase occurs in The Four Zoas, in Milton, and in Jerusalem.
It's the last five of the 27 churches.
(Church was not a good or happy word for Blake; in common parlance it referred to the Established Church, while other religious institutions were designated as sects. Blake had little use in general for the Established Church (although he was baptized there, and his death was registered in Church records, probably more of a legal than religious matter).

In Night Eight of The Four Zoas they are the last five of the sons of Los and Enitharmon, right after the 12 tribes, David and Solomon:
"And these are the Sons of Los & Enitharmon. Rintrah Palamabron
Theotormon Bromion Antamon Ananton Ozoth Ohana
Sotha Mydon Ellayol Natho Gon Harhath Satan
Har Ochim Ijim Adam Reuben Simeon Levi Judah Dan Naphtali
Gad Asher Issachar Zebulun Joseph Benjamin David Solomon
Paul Constantine Charlemaine Luther Milton"

In Plate 24 of Milton we hear the voice of Los:

"When Jesus raisd Lazarus from the Grave I stood & saw
Lazarus who is the Vehicular Body of Albion the Redeemd
Arise into the Covering Cherub who is the Spectre of Albion
By martyrdoms to suffer: to watch over the Sleeping Body.
Upon his Rock beneath his Tomb. I saw the Covering Cherub
Divide Four-fold into Four Churches when Lazarus arose
Paul, Constantine, Charlemaine, Luther; behold they stand before us
Stretchd over Europe & Asia. come O Sons, come, come away
Arise O Sons give all your strength against Eternal Death
Lest we are vegetated........",

In general the 27 Churches are not about sects, but Blake's view of biblical history:
"And these the names of the Twenty-seven Heavens & their Churches
Adam, Seth, Enos, Cainan, Mahalaleel, Jared, Enoch,
Methuselah, Lamech: these are Giants mighty Hermaphroditic
Noah, Shem, Arphaxad, Cainan the second, Salah, Heber,
Peleg, Reu, Serug, Nahor, Terah, these are the Female-Males
A Male within a Female hid as in an Ark & Curtains,
Abraham, Moses, Solomon, Paul, Constantine, Charlemaine
Luther, these seven are the Male-Females, the Dragon Forms
Religion hid in War, a Dragon red & hidden Harlot....."
(Milton, 24.32; E120)

Going on to Jerusalem look at Plate 56 (Erdman 206):
"We Women tremble at the light therefore: hiding fearful
The Divine Vision with Curtain & Veil & fleshly Tabernacle
Los utter'd: swift as the rattling thunder upon the mountains[:]
Look back into the Church Paul! Look! Three Women around
The Cross! O Albion why didst thou a Female Will Create?"

And at Jerusalem, 75.16; E231 :
" And these the names of the Twenty-seven Heavens & their Churches
Adam, Seth, Enos, Cainan, Mahalaleel, Jared, Enoch, Methuselah, Lamech; these are the Giants mighty, HermaphroditicNoah, Shem, Arphaxad, Cainan the Second, Salah, Heber,Peleg, Reu, Serug, Nahor, Terah: these are the Female Males:
A Male within a Female hid as in an Ark & Curtains.
Abraham, Moses, Solomon, Paul, Constantine, Charlemaine,
Luther. these Seven are the Male Females: the Dragon Forms
The Female hid within a Male: thus Rahab is reveald
Mystery Babylon the Great: the Abomination of Desolation
Religion hid in War: a Dragon red, & hidden Harlot
But Jesus breaking thro' the Central Zones of Death & Hell
Opens Eternity in Time & Space; triumphant in Mercy....."

Summarizing Blake associated the historical names with the sons of Los and with the 27 churches. He considered that the true Church had left the gospel at least as early as Constantine; his attitude toward Paul was somewhat ambiguous! He may have used Pauline biblical material but hinted that Paul was part of the fallen Church. Of course he was capable of using any material that suited his purpose.

What did Blake think of Paul? maybe we'll never know. We know only that he used Paul's name to designate one of the Church epocs, along with Luther and Milton (at one point). We might infer (speculatively) that he thus expressed the worldly bent of Paul's apostleship, away from the message of Jesus.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011


Book of Urizen

Plate 17

The event of the Fall made a big impression on all involved as do major traumatic events in every life. Blake allows several of his characters to present their own accounts of their involvement in the Fall. Each views from his own perspective.

The Spectre of Urthona sees the Fall in terms of the initial separation from the female.

Four Zoas, Night IV, Page 49, (E 333)
"The Spectre of Urthona seeing Enitharmon writhd
His cloudy form in jealous fear & muttering thunders hoarse
And casting round thick glooms. thus utterd his fierce pangs of heart

Tharmas I know thee. how are we alterd our beauty decayd
But still I know thee tho in this horrible ruin whelmd
Thou once the mildest son of heaven art now become a Rage
A terror to all living things. think not that I am ignorant
That thou art risen from the dead or that my power forgot
I slumber here in weak repose. I well remember the Day
The day of terror & abhorrence
When fleeing from the battle thou fleeting like the raven
Of dawn outstretching an expanse where neer expanse had been
Drewst all the Sons of Beulah into thy dread vortex following
Thy Eddying spirit down the hills of Beulah. All my sons
Stood round me at the anvil where new heated the wedge
Of iron glowd furious prepard for spades & mattocks
Hearing the symphonies of war loud sounding All my sons
Fled from my side then pangs smote me unknown before. I saw
My loins begin to break forth into veiny pipes & writhe
Before me in the wind englobing trembling with strong vibrations
The bloody mass began to animate. I bending over
Wept bitter tears incessant. Still beholding how the piteous form
Dividing & dividing from my loins a weak & piteous
Soft cloud of snow a female pale & weak I soft embracd
My counter part & calld it Love I named her Enitharmon
But found myself & her together issuing down the tide
Which now our rivers were become delving thro caverns huge
Of goary blood strugg[l]ing to be deliverd from our bonds
She strove in vain not so Urthona strove for breaking forth,
A shadow blue obscure & dismal from the breathing Nostrils

Of Enion I issued into the air divided from Enitharmon
I howld in sorrow I beheld thee rotting upon the Rocks
I pitying hoverd over thee I protected thy ghastly corse
From Vultures of the deep then wherefore shouldst thou rage
Against me who thee guarded in the night of death from harm"

The division from Enitharmon and guarding Tharmas from harm during the 'night of death' were the most memorable aspects of the fall to the Spectre of Urthona. An account of the division of Enitharmon from Los, the vehicular form of Urthona is reported in the Book of Urizen.
Book of Urizen, Plate 15, (E 78)
"Thus the Eternal Prophet was divided
Before the death-image of Urizen
For in changeable clouds and darkness
In a winterly night beneath,
The Abyss of Los stretch'd immense:
And now seen, now obscur'd, to the eyes
Of Eternals, the visions remote
Of the dark seperation appear'd.
As glasses discover Worlds
In the endless Abyss of space,
So the expanding eyes of Immortals
Beheld the dark visions of Los,
And the globe of life blood trembling
8. The globe of life blood trembled
Branching out into roots;
Fib'rous, writhing upon the winds;
Fibres of blood, milk and tears;
In pangs, eternity on eternity.
At length in tears & cries imbodied
A female form trembling and pale
Waves before his deathy face

9. All Eternity shudderd at sight
Of the first female now separate
Pale as a cloud of snow
Waving before the face of Los"

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

A Symbolic Poet

        Blake was a highly symbolic poet (and painter); to understand much of his thought requires acquaintance with a body of symbols that go back to the dawn of civilization, and up to the 19th century. In an age when only the material seemed to matter Blake was (and continues to be) highly opaque to the pure materialist. Such a person will find most of Blake's ideas meaningless.        

 But at the deepest level his ideas are the veritable stuff of life: love and hate, good and evil, life and death, and many ideas with urgent meaning. A high proportion of people prefer to turn aside from these questions, but you can be sure that their unconscious is full of them.
Above all Blake is about matter and spirit, at the great dividing line: do you see yourself primarily as a body or as spirit?  Begin with the conclusion, to be supported by an overwhelming body of evidence stretching from Heraclitus  in the 6th century BC to the present:

       Our mortal life is a vale of tears to which we have lapsed from Eternity and from which we will (may?) eventually escape back into the Higher Realm. This myth conforms very closely to the Gnostics, the Platonists, and of course most of Eastern Religion. In the Christian tradition one can find vestiges of it in many of the mystics, notably Meister Eckhart, in Mexican folk culture and in fact universally.

The Western mind revolts from this "never-never land" at least on the conscious level, but Freud, Jung, and many other psychologists find strong evidence for it in the unconscious. At this point many readers may dismiss Blake's myth as not worth their attention.
 The select few who remain may rightfully expect an entirely new world of grace and enchantment to open before their minds. The biblically oriented may perceive that all Blake's poetic and artistic work fits into a scheme of cosmic/psychic meaning; closely following the Bible it describes the pattern of Paradise, the Fall, a gradual redemption, and the final Rapture.

Monday, May 23, 2011


The element of Tharmas is water. He is pictured here raising his head above the angry waters of the ocean. As the body of man, Tharmas provides the sea of time and space in which man functions. Damon (A Blake Dictionary) tells us: "All forms of water signify Matter, the Flood was the overwhelming of mankind with Matter, which separated them from Eternity." (Page 300)

Small Book of Designs

From Page 24, Book of Urizen
Four Elements

So man enters the Body, the great flood of sensation, the world of matter, the Circle of Destiny. Time and Space become the milieu which confine and separate man from Eternity.

Enion separated from Tharmas weaves from the outer and inner ability to perceive, a material instrument of perception; the physical body enclosing the spirit. Tharmas is consumed with rage and repentance over the loss of Enion.

Four Zoas, Night I,
Page 5, (E 302)
"Singing her lamentation. 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
A Frowning Continent appeard Where Enion in the Desart
Terrified in her own Creation viewing her woven shadow
Sat in a dread intoxication of Repentance & Contrition"

Reading from Milton O Percival's William Blake's Circle of Destiny we find that:
"He [Tharmas] will be what he can, but she [Enion] must remain in the deeps of matter, where her misguided efforts led her. A dual physical world has been achieved. It is the complement to the duality already achieved in the moral world."
"Still, Tharmas is not satisfied. Though as the principle of life within the physical universe he scorns matter, he cannot live without it. Separated from Enion, he finds himself little more than a formless and meaningless will to be. What is more he can find no release from his suffering; he is now 'immortal in immortal torment.' Deathless in his despair, he wanders seeking oblivion. Enion alone can provide it. It is to satisfy this hunger of one contrary for the other that the mortal world is made. It is built at Tharmas' command in forms of 'death and decay,' in the hope that 'some little semblance' of Enion may return. In short, a mortal world is the logical answer to a dualism of spirit and matter. It is the only conceivable world that will take account of both the physical contraries, one of which has been driven into matter."
(Page 184)

Four Zoas, Night I, Page 11, (E 306)
"Tho in the Brain of Man we live, & in his circling Nerves.
Tho' this bright world of all our joy is in the Human Brain.
Where Urizen & all his Hosts hang their immortal lamps
Thou neer shalt leave this cold expanse where watry Tharmas mourns

So spoke Los. Scorn & Indignation rose upon Enitharmon
Then Enitharmon reddning fierce stretchd her immortal hands

Descend O Urizen descend with horse & chariots
Threaten not me O visionary thine the punishment
The Human Nature shall no more remain nor Human acts
Form the rebellious Spirits of Heaven. but War & Princedom & Victory & Blood"

Four Zoas, Night IV, PAGE 47, (E 331)
"Ah Enion Ah Enion Ah lovely l vely Enion
How is this All my hope is gone for ever fled
Like a famishd Eagle Eyeless raging in the vast expanse
Incessant tears are now my food. incessant rage & tears
Deathless for ever now I wander seeking oblivion
In torrents of despair in vain. for if I plunge beneath
Stifling I live. If dashd in pieces from a rocky height
I reunite in endless torment. would I had never risen
From deaths cold sleep beneath the bottom of the raging Ocean
And cannot those who once have lovd. ever forget their Love?
Are love & rage the same passion? they are the same in me
Are those who love. like those who died. risen again from death
Immortal. in immortal torment. never to be deliverd
Is it not possible that one risen again from Death
Can die! When dark despair comes over [me] can I not
Flow down into the sea & slumber in oblivion. Ah Enion
Deformd I see these lineaments of ungratified Desire
The all powerful curse of an honest man be upon Urizen & Luvah
But thou My Son Glorious in brightness comforter of Tharmas
Go forth Rebuild this Universe beneath my indignant power
A Universe of Death & Decay. Let Enitharmons hands
Weave soft delusive forms of Man above my watry world
Renew these ruind souls of Men thro Earth Sea Air & Fire
To waste in endless corruption. renew thou I will destroy
Perhaps Enion may resume some little semblance
To ease my pangs of heart & to restore some peace to Tharmas"

Blake is working out his complicated process for explaining the fall of man and his eventual return to Eternity.

Sunday, May 22, 2011


"There is a Moment in each Day that Satan cannot find
Nor can his Watch Fiends find it, but the Industrious find
This Moment & it multiply. & when it once is found
It renovates every Moment of the Day if rightly placed."
(Milton, 35.43; E136; E136).
"I rest not from my great task!
To open the Eternal Worlds, to open the immortal EyesOf Man inwards into the Worlds of Thought: into EternityEver expanding in the Bosom of God. the
Human Imagination O Saviour pour upon me thy Spirit of meekness & love:
Annihilate the Selfhood in me, be thou all my life!"
(Jerusalem 5:15ff; Erdman 147)

Within each of us there is 'that of God', and there is 'that of the Selfhood'.

We're all born with God within us, but the vicissitudes of life (which Blake called Experience) lead to a diminution of 'that of God' within and a development of Selfhood, i.e. Satan.

Innocence, Experience; Selfhood, Forgiveness: these were the Categories (the 'Contraries') that Blake used to express the age-old program of life, the four stages of life:
Thomas Cole: Childhood:

Cole Manhood (doesn't appear): The man is riding the rapids and feverishly trying to keep afloat in the Vale of Tears.

Cole Old Age:

Whichever stage we are at the moment, in due course we'll reach the time and place of the fourth stage. The materialistic phantasies (the Sea of Time and Space) have faded away to be replaced by the Images of Wonder that were so real to William Blake.

     "If the Spectator could Enter into these Images in his
Imagination approaching them on the Fiery Chariot of his
Contemplative Thought if he could Enter into Noahs Rainbow or
into his bosom or could make a Friend & Companion of one of these
Images of wonder which always intreats him to leave mortal things
as he must know then would he arise from his Grave then would he
meet the Lord in the Air & then he would be happy
(Descriptions of The Last Judgment; Erdman 560) 

Saturday, May 21, 2011


Blake uses the Zoas as a means of presenting the aspects of the psyche which he sees internally and recognizes as the structure of the human mind. Early in Blake's life he recognized that there were internal divisions within himself. Reason, desire, imagination and sensation each tried to claim the uppermost position in the allocation of his time and resources. Blake personified these abstractions as the 'Four Mighty Ones in Every Man.'

The beginning of the Four Zoas brings to our attention the four mighty ones who do battle:

Four Zoas, Night I, Page 3, (E 300)
"The Song of the Aged Mother which shook the heavens with wrath
Hearing the march of long resounding strong heroic Verse
Marshalld in order for the day of Intellectual Battle

Four Mighty Ones are in every Man;"

Later Blake identifies the Four Zoas and their positions in the Eternal World.

Four Zoas, Night VII, Page 74, (E 351)
"But in Eternal times the Seat of Urizen is in the South
Urthona in the North Luvah in East Tharmas in West"

Laurens van der Post, in Jung and the Story of Our Time, speaking of Jung's observation that the conflict between the conscious and unconscious forces in the mind led to mental illness notes that :

"The trouble started only when the part of the human personality which was conscious behaved as if it were the whole of the man. There was nothing this unconscious world abhorred more than one-sidedness. When one extreme of spirit attempted a monopoly for itself another extreme sooner of later rose titanic in the unconscious to overthrow it. That is why the history of man was so much a swing from one opposite of spirit into another as Heraclitus had observed millenniums before." (Page 209)

The trouble starts in Blake's myth when the positions of the Zoas are altered by the deal between Urizen and Luvah. The harmonious balance is ruined.

Milton, PLATE 19 [21], (E 112)
"Four Universes round the Mundane Egg remain Chaotic
One to the North, named Urthona: One to the South, named Urizen:
One to the East, named Luvah: One to the West, named Tharmas
They are the Four Zoa's that stood around the Throne Divine!
But when Luvah assum'd the World of Urizen to the South:
And Albion was slain upon his mountains, & in his tent;
All fell towards the Center in dire ruin, sinking down.
And in the South remains a burning fire; in the East a void.
In the West, a world of raging waters; in the North a solid,
Unfathomable! without end. But in the midst of these,
Is built eternally the Universe of Los and Enitharmon:
Towards which Milton went, but Urizen oppos'd his path."

Van der Post writes of the collective unconscious and archetypes of Jung as the patterns of the mind which organize its form and put to use the psyche's energy.

"He [Jung] revealed how in this collective unconscious of the individual man were infinite resources of energy, organized in definite patterns. Each of these patterns had at its disposal its own form of energy and somewhere located, as it were, in the center, between the unconscious and the conscious, there was a master pattern to which all the others subscribed and all their other energies could be joined in one transcendental orbit. He called these patterns, first of all, 'primordial images,' ... but later changed to 'archetypes,' an idea rediscovered from Saint Augustine, and before him from Hermes Trimegistus, who proclaimed in the Poimandres, 'You have seen in your mind the archetypal image!'" (Page 209)

In Jerusalem we learn the Zoas have lost their original abilities and exemplify the opposite characteristics:

Jerusalem, Plate 38, (E184)
"They [the Four Zoas] saw their Wheels rising up poisonous against Albion
Urizen, cold & scientific: Luvah, pitying & weeping
Tharmas, indolent & sullen: Urthona, doubting & despairing
Victims to one another & dreadfully plotting against each other
To prevent Albion walking about in the Four Complexions."

Jerusalem, Plate 49, (E 199)
"Because the Evil is Created into a State. that Men
May be deliverd time after time evermore. Amen.
Learn therefore O Sisters to distinguish the Eternal Human
That walks about among the stones of fire in bliss & woe
Alternate! from those States or Worlds in which the Spirit travels:
This is the only means to Forgiveness of Enemies"

Blake and Jung both sought consciousness of the internal dynamics of the psyche, awareness of the forces seeking expression or dominance, and recognition of 'the Eternal Human That walks about among the stones of fire in bliss & woe.'

Frontispiece to B├╝rger's "Leonora" (London, 1796)
Designed by Blake, Engraved by Perry

Van der Post explains Jung's concept of wholeness:
"Wholeness was the ultimate of man's conscious and unconscious seeking; indeed consciousness was so important because it was the chosen instrument of the unconscious seeking the abolition of partialities in a harmony of differences that is wholeness." (Page 219)

Friday, May 20, 2011


      We live in a secular age; the reality of God has been largely barred from the consciousness of most people. It is a significant experience for only a minority of the population. Of course many people understand that everyone has a God of some sort--his ultimate concern. But the biblical God, the God of Abraham, Issac, and Jacob, the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, is not a live issue in the minds of very many people today. Our foremost modern psychologist, C.G.Jung, quite properly placed God in our unconscious and encouraged us to seek there for him. Jung understood very well Blake's statement that "all deities reside in the human breast" (end of Plate 11 of The Marriage of Heaven and Hell).
       The secular currents so powerful today were already flowing strongly in the late 18th Century in England. The prevalent deism put God back behind the present scene, a long way behind it. Strictly the Divine Architect, having made the world like a clock, wound it up and left it to run on its own. He also left the deists to their own devices, and they were happy in this new freedom. They felt that they had learned to control their destinies without divine assistance.
       Blake lived in the midst of these currents, but he opposed them emphatically. Unlike the deists he experienced the immediate presence and pervasive reality of God in his life. He completely filled his poetry and pictures alike with metaphysical images because his mind dwelt almost exclusively upon spiritual themes. The material realm interested him only as a shadow of the eternal. He abhorred the materialism by which the deists lived. He might have been happier and more at home in the Middle Ages.
       But he was also a very modern man. He understood better than Jung that an external objective God is an unknown quantity, a projection of unsophisticated minds:
       "Mental things are alone Real....Where is the Existence Out of Mind or Thought? Where is it but in the mind of a Fool?" (Vision of the Last Judgment, page 565)
       The only God anyone can know is the image of God projected upon his mind or enclosed in his consciousness. Since time began, men have shared their visions of God with one another. All religions began in this way. The Bible makes most sense as an infinitely fascinating compendium of the visions of God shared by Moses, Isaiah, Paul and the other writers. This unfolding and composite vision has shaped western culture down to the present moment.
       Blake thoroughly surveyed this passing scene, not just the Bible, but every other religious document he could get his hands on, and related them all to his own direct and immediate visions. Over his lifetime he may have taken more liberties with God than any  systematic thinker ever did. He could do this because he so fully realized that all of these visions of God had come forth from human breasts like his own. Moses, Isaiah, and the others were his eternal brothers, and he joyously engaged with them in the eternal war, the intellectual war, which he called the "severe contentions of friendship" (J. 91:18)

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

God II

Blake was a total and confirmed visionary, and he evisioned all of the images of God that you might imagine. He did this by pursuing his imaginative experience wherever it led. The uncanny freedom with which he followed "the wind where it listeth" led him on a strange and fascinating spiritual journey through some remarkable byways and paths, described in his poetry. At the end of his pilgrimage he came to a definite vision of God as Jesus, the Forgiveness. After almost two centuries it remains one of the highest and best visions of God that Christians have for their inspiration.

Full understanding of Blake's vision of God depends upon a grasp of his concepts of time and eternity. For Blake the eternal is the realm of the real, while time is the dimension in Plato's mortal cave of phantasmal dreams. Although the eternal is immortal, it does not refer simply to the hereafter; that would be just a phantasmal portion of time stretched out indefinitely. The eternal is the Mental, the Imaginative, the world to which a man may awaken as soon as he realizes that the corporeal, temporal, materialistic framework of reality is an illusion.

The rationalists of Blake's day with their radical materialism had closed themselves off from the eternal. They had imprisoned themselves in what he called the mundane egg.(Milton plate 17 line 16ff). They were exclusively 'this worldly'. Blake perceived that they worshipped the God of this World, no matter what they called him. They had most often called him Jehovah or Jesus. As a young man Blake renamed him Urizen.

He spent half a lifetime studying this God of the timebound so he could cast him off and replace him with a more authentic image. Eventually he came to realize that this god's truest name is Satan. He also referred to him as the Selfhood (Jerusalem 5:21-23) and the Spectre.

Blake tells us that radical materialism with its worship of the God of this World is a state of mind from which a man may awaken at any moment into a realization of the infinite and of his kinship with the Divine Man, Jesus. So these two Gods, the Satan of the World and the Jesus of Eternity remain in continuous opposition in men's minds, and they are best understood in contrast to one another.

Jesus is the Lord of the Eternal realm, which is imaginative, creative, non-violent, gracious, and above all forgiving and uniting into life. Satan is God of this World, of power, might, law, man against man, separation, finally death. One is Lord of Life, the other the Lord of Death. Satan is actually not a person but a state and will eventually go to his own place, which is a way of saying that Jesus will eventually get him off our backs. This happens at the Last Judgment when all Error is burnt up.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011


Blake first invented the image which became known as the 'Good and Evil Angels Struggling for Possession of a Child' as an illustration on Plate 4 of The Marriage of Heaven and Hell. The text presents two sets of contraries.

Marriage of Heaven & Hell, Plate, (E 34)
"The voice of the Devil

All Bibles or sacred codes. have been the causes of the
following Errors.
1. That Man has two real existing principles Viz: a Body & a
2. That Energy. calld Evil. is alone from the Body. & that
Reason. calld Good. is alone from the Soul.
3. That God will torment Man in Eternity for following his
But the following Contraries to these are True
1 Man has no Body distinct from his Soul for that calld Body is
a portion of Soul discernd by the five Senses. the chief inlets
of Soul in this age
2. Energy is the only life and is from the Body and Reason is
the bound or outward circumference of Energy.
3 Energy is Eternal Delight"


Blake used the same picture later as the basis for a watercolor painting and for an engraving reversing the positions of the figures. Here is the image from the Large Book of Designs.

If you are of the Devil's party the angel on the left is the good angel, if you favor conventional religion the angel on the right is the good angel. If you listen to Blake good and evil are contraries which can be resolved when they are seen in the light of Forgiveness and Brotherhood. Neither contrary is meant to claim possession of the child who represents their reconciliation. Each time Blake reproduced this image he modified it. In some the angel in flames is chained, in some he is blind. In some the angel in the light clings to the child, in some he releases it. In some the angels are both male, in some the sex is ambiguous. Blake found no way to present the tension between the contraries which encompassed all their dimensions. He gives us a variety of presentations so that we can resolve the tensions ourselves (and resolve the tensions within ourselves.)

Here are samples of comments on the picture.

Comment from the Tate Museum's Display Caption:
"In his annotations to a text by Lavater, Blake claimed that ‘Active Evil is better than Passive Good’, rendering the figures in this picture somewhat ambiguous. Perhaps the chain attached to the ‘evil’ angel’s ankle suggests the curtailing of energy by misguided rational thought?

In constructing his figures, Blake evokes conventional eighteenth century stereotypes. The heavy build and darker skin of the ‘evil’ angel suggest a non-European character, described by Lavater as ‘strong, muscular, agile; but dirty, indolent and trifling’, while the fair hair and light skin of the ‘good’ angel are consonant with ideas of physical – and intellectual – perfection."

From Inspiration of William Blake By Jah Wobble
"This painting conveys a strong sense of unreality, a form of artificiality reminiscent of simplistic childlike drama. William Blake informs me that there is a stage in the development of the human soul where we are handed over to the forces of darkness, often represented in his poetry by the state, church and family. This aspect can also be seen from the viewpoint of purely inner experience, dark primal instinct versus reason, the conscious versus the unconscious."

Terry Eagleton in The Guardian:
"Political states keep power by convincing us of our limitations.
They do so, too, by persuading us to be "moderate"; Blake, however, was not enamoured of the third way. The New Testament that Gordon Brown reads in his Presbyterian fashion as a model of prudence, conscience and sobriety, Blake read as a hymn to creative recklessness. He sees that Jesus's ethics are extravagant, hostile to the calculative spirit of the utilitarians. If they ask for your coat, give them your cloak; if they ask you to walk one mile, walk two. The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom, and those who restrain their desires do so because their desires are feeble enough to be restrained."

June Singer in The Unholy Bible:
"The young child seen here is the newborn infant of Plate 3. He is Imagination, the treasured possession of the feminine spirit of energy. The anima, mistress of the soul, holds fast to her love-child, and keeps him out of reach of the masculine figure who represents Reason."

So, what does it mean to you?

Monday, May 16, 2011


Thinking as I do that the Creator
of this world is a cruel being, and
being a worshipper of Christ, I have to
say: "the Son! oh how unlike the Father":
First God Almighty comes with a thump on
the head; then J.C. comes with a balm
to heal it.
(Comments on A Vision of the Last Judgment [Erdman 565])
       To put it shortly the epigraph says it all. An esoteric alternative Protestantism nurtured Blake as a child. But what he said above aptly expresses the feelings of enormous numbers of people in our society today. "I don't care for the O.T. The N.T. suits me better": there is the understated strong consensus of many today, so extravagantly stated here by William Blake.
       We might trace the development of 'God-thought' in the Thinker through the years of his spiritual growth.


       The materialistic psychology dominant in Blake's age as well as our own portrays the real and the imaginative as opposites. But in truth there are only images of reality; "Mental Things are alone Real" (from A Vision of the Last Judgment, that is, mediated into consciousness by the mind. Our immediate experience is a chaos of sense perception from which we all create our own visions of reality. Like Blake "[we] must create our own system or be enslaved by another man's" Jerusalem plate 10, line 21). An authentic person consciously creates his own vision of reality. He chooses to be who he is rather than to borrow his identity from a group or from a charismatic figure.      

Each person's ultimate reality is his God. There is no known objective God (the Russian cosmonauts assured us of that many years ago); there are only images of God. Some of the outstanding images of God that have shaped the life of the world came to us from Moses, Isaiah, Buddha, and Mohammed. Finally we have the vision of Jesus, whom Christians consider to be an incarnation of God. But perhaps equally influential upon the course of history have been the visions of Alexander, Napoleon, and Stalin. Their common vision of the dominion of power is near the opposite pole from that of the gentle Galilean. 

(Taken from the Blake Primer)


Sunday, May 15, 2011


A phrase of Blake's which occurs in several contexts seems to carry more importance than is first apparent. 'Grain of sand' first appears in Milton in conjunction with the tiny fly with a brain open to 'heaven & hell'. Second Satan's search of 'every grain of sand' each night does not yield the Gate of Los which might allow entry into Eternity. Next it is the 'grain of sand' itself which Satan's Watch Fiends cannot find. We are warned against laying a finger in vengeance against any 'grain of sand'. In Auguries of Innocence we are introduced to the idea of seeing the world in a 'grain of sand'. Next we read that in Painting no 'grain of sand' is insignificant. In Blake's letter to Thomas Butts the 'grain of sand' is revealed as an instance of 'men seen afar'.

Milton, PLATE 20 [22], (E 114)
"Seest thou the little winged fly, smaller than a grain of sand?
It has a heart like thee; a brain open to heaven & hell,"

Jerusalem, PLATE 35 [39], (E 181)
"By Satans Watch-fiends tho' they search numbering every grain
Of sand on Earth every night, they never find this Gate.
It is the Gate of Los. Withoutside is the Mill, intricate, dreadful"

Jerusalem, PLATE 37 [41],(E 183)
"There is a Grain of Sand in Lambeth that Satan cannot find
Nor can his Watch Fiends find it: tis translucent & has many Angles
But he who finds it will find Oothoons palace, for within
Opening into Beulah every angle is a lovely heaven
But should the Watch Fiends find it, they would call it Sin"

Jerusalem, PLATE 45 [31], (E 194)
"And he who takes vengeance alone is the criminal of Providence;
If I should dare to lay my finger on a grain of sand
In way of vengeance; I punish the already punishd: O whom
Should I pity if I pity not the sinner who is gone astray! "

Songs and Ballads, (E 490)
Auguries of Innocence

"To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour"

Last Judgment, (E 560)
"Poetry admits not a
Letter that is Insignificant so Painting admits not a Grain of
Sand or a Blade of Grass much less an
Insignificant Blur or Mark"

(E 712)
[To] Mr [Thomas] Butts, Great Marlborough Street
Felpham Octr 2d 1800
"For they beckond to me
Remote by the Sea
Saying. Each grain of Sand
Every Stone on the Land
Each rock & each hill
Each fountain & rill
Each herb & each tree
Mountain hill Earth & Sea
Cloud Meteor & Star
Are Men Seen Afar"

Christ on the Pinnacle of the Temple

There is a sense in which God allows himself to be distributed in man as Christ. Blake seems to be using 'grain of sand' as an image of the internalized Christ who exists within the soul of each individual. Through the 'grain of sand' man sees his own true nature as a child of God and enters Eternity.

'Grain of sand' is apropos as an image of a distributed or scattered form of existence as is the bread of communion which is offered as the broken body which is to be eaten.

[24] And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me

[16] The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?

[27] Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular.

In Greek mythology we learn of a similar usage of a spark of existence which was distributed through the breaking of a body. Edward F. Edinger writes in The Eternal Drama: The Inner Meaning of Greek Mythology about the myth of Dionysus:

"I am of your blessed race" refers to the myth of the dismemberment of the infant Dionysus by the Titans. It will be recalled that the Titans ate Dionysus except for his heart, and Zeus then destroyed them with a thunderbolt, but of the ashes man was made, and man thus contains a remnant of the divine spark of Dionysis. The soul declares that he has the Dionysian spark in him because he is made of Titan dust." (Page 166)

Blake's phrase 'grain of sand' symbolizes the individual's internal opening for the entry of the spirit which we all share but which we each experience as uniquely our own.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Blake's Furnaces II

You might want to look at Furnaces of Los. There's also a lot of data about Blake's furnaces in Damon pp 146ff.

Look now at the Blake Concordance. In Blake's Works it shows 168 occurrences:

8 of them are in America, Songs of Experience, Songs of Urizen, and
of Los. 20 are in The Four Zoas
14 are in Milton
115 of them are in Jerusalem

Looking at the early ones gives an idea of how the symbol was forming in young Blake's mind. Here's an extract from America showing the dragon form of Revolution:

A dragon form clashing his scales at midnight he arose, And flam'd red meteors round the land of Albion beneath[.]
His voice, his locks, his awful shoulders, and his glowing eyes,
PLATE 4 Appear to the Americans upon the cloudy night.Solemn heave the Atlantic waves between the gloomy nations,Swelling, belching from its deeps red clouds & raging Fires!
Albion is sick. America faints! enrag'd the Zenith grew.
As human blood shooting its veins all round the orbed heaven Red rose the clouds from the Atlantic in vast wheels of blood'And in the red clouds rose a Wonder o'er the Atlantic sea;
Intense! naked! a Human fire fierce glowing, as the wedge Of iron heated in the furnace; his terrible limbs were fire With myriads of cloudy terrors banners dark & towers Surrounded; heat but not light went thro' the murky atmosphere
The King of England looking westward trembles at the vision
" (America; Erdman 52-3)
In this entry the furnace looked like the Day of Judgement for the king. Or look at Daniel 3.

Blake, and many other Englishmen sympathized with America in this conflagration.

In the Book of Los we find the beginnings of a creative furnace:
4. Forgetfulness, dumbness, necessity!
In chains of the mind locked up,
Like fetters of ice shrinking together
Disorganiz'd, rent from Eternity,
Los beat on his fetters of iron;
And heated his furnaces & pour'd
Iron sodor and sodor of bras
(Erdman 75)

Moving on to the Four Zoas we find the furnaces of affliction to which Luvah was condemned (Reflect that the Savior appears in Blake's system as Luvah.). Erdman 317 shows furnaces 5 times:
"Luvah was cast into the Furnaces of affliction & sealed And Vala fed in cruel delight, the furnaces with fire
Stern Urizen beheld urg'd by necessity to keep The evil day afar, & if perchance with iron power
He might avert his own despair; in woe & fear he saw
Vala incircle round the furnaces where Luvah was clos'd
In joy she heard his howlings, & forgot he was her Luvah
With whom she walkd in bliss, in times of innocence & youth

In Night 4 we see Blake's evolving distinction between the furnaces of the fallen world (to wit Urizen's) and the creative furnaces of Los:

Four Zoas, Night IV, Page 52, (E 335)
Terrified Los beheld the ruins of Urizen beneath
A horrible Chaos to his eyes. a formless unmeasurable Death
Whirling up broken rocks on high into the dismal air
And fluctuating all beneath in Eddies of molten fluid

Then Los with terrible hands siezd on the Ruind Furnaces Of Urizen

Enormous work: he builded them anew
Labour of Ages in the Darkness & the war of Tharmas
And Los formd Anvils of Iron petrific. for his blows
Petrify with incessant beating many a rock. many a planet

Blake decided here, to a large degree, what meaning this awesome symbol would have in the two larger prophecies. There are furnaces of Destruction and furnaces of Creation.

Friday, May 13, 2011


Kathleen Raine devotes a chapter in Volume II of Blake and Tradition to considering the source of evil in the world we inhabit.

"It would be foolish to pretend that in or about 1793 Blake as a man on thirty-six, living an active, practical life as a London craftsman, noticed for the first time that there are evils - or is evil - in the world. He had written robustly about such things in Poetical Sketches, and his Songs of Innocence imply a full awareness of evils of many kinds: The Chimney Sweeper can scarcely be said to show an unawareness of evil; rather it expresses a vision of innocence which can make the worst evils tolerable. What is new in Songs of Experience is not the knowledge that evil exists, or some personal struggle with it (the poems on the theme of evil are all strikingly impersonal), but the intellectual excitement of a new imaginative realization of its place in the order of things." (Page 12)

This opening to a new understanding of evil, Raine believes developed through Blake's acquaintance with Gnostic thought.

"...whatever Blake may have known of Gnostic thought came to him at third hand, from the writings of ecclesiastical historians drawing solely upon the fragments of Gnostic thought preserved, of attributed, by their enemies the Church Fathers. ... Blake must have been aware that the Gnostic systems all held that the creator of the temporal world was not the supreme god." (Page 12-13)

"According to the Jewish Gnostics, the god of the Old Testament is this lesser divinity. Those Gnostics who adopted Christianity believed that Christ, son of the supreme God, came to end the power of the inferior deity [the demiurge]." (Page 14)

The characterization of the demiurge as the combination of sterling characteristics and extreme arrogance "may well be a source for the 'Prince of Light', Urizen who 'descends' from his place in eternity to create the temporal world, his 'horrible chaos of futurity'". (Page 14)

"The theft of fire is one of the oldest and most universal of all myths; for that theft Prometheus was punished by Zeus. Fire is the divine essence, and whoever would become a creator must possess it of himself. This is the cosmic crime, to create by perversion of a principle that in itself remains incorruptible and divine, a world apart from God." (Page 10)

Songs of Experience, Song 52, (E 30)
To Tirzah
"Thou Mother of my Mortal part.
With cruelty didst mould my Heart.
And with false self-decieving tears,
Didst bind my Nostrils Eyes & Ears.

Didst close my Tongue in senseless clay
And me to Mortal Life betray:"

Image from Book of Urizen
Plate 14

In the created world Los becomes the counterbalancing force to Urizen, the movement to undo the work of the demiurge:
"this potter and blacksmith becomes, in the Prophetic Books, expanded into the figure of Los with his 'Furnaces', hammer, and anvil which binds Urizen and Orc with the chain of time that he hammers out in heartbeats on his anvil." (Page 18)

"...Yet in making Los lord of the furnaces, Blake felt the necessity of overcoming some confusion of function between Los and Urizen, which he does in characteristically perfunctory fashion by stating that Los's furnaces were 'given over to him' by Urizen. This clue is not to be overlooked; for it does unmistakably indicate that for Blake, Urizen, ruler of destiny and of the stars, was pre-eminetly the demiurge, as responsible for the fallen world, whereas Los's task, as the time-spirit, is its recovery:" (Page 23)

Four Zoas, Night IV, Page 52, (E 335)
"Terrified Los beheld the ruins of Urizen beneath
A horrible Chaos to his eyes. a formless unmeasurable Death
Whirling up broken rocks on high into the dismal air
And fluctuating all beneath in Eddies of molten fluid

Then Los with terrible hands siezd on the Ruind Furnaces
Of Urizen. Enormous work: he builded them anew
Labour of Ages in the Darkness & the war of Tharmas
And Los formd Anvils of Iron petrific. for his blows
Petrify with incessant beating many a rock. many a planet"

"Blake's delight [was] not in the solution but in the presentation of the problem of evil as he found it in the Hermetic and Gnostic tradition. Instead of the uncompromising, unimaginative, and closed dualism of the conventional picture of heaven and hell, Blake had discovered a world of profounder perspectives, a tradition that makes possible the simultaneous contemplation of the perfection of an eternal world and imperfection of the temporal as modes of being simultaneously possible within one harmonious whole." (Page 31)

Songs of Experience, Song 42, (E 24)
The Tyger
"What the hammer? what the chain,
In what furnace was thy brain?
What the anvil? what dread grasp,
Dare its deadly terrors clasp!"