Wednesday, May 16, 2012


British Museum
Book of Urizen
Copy D
It seems that Blake not only spoke through his images but learned through his images. When Blake created the image for Plate 24 of the Book of Urizen he pictured prototypes of the four classical elements: fire, air, earth and water. These elements would grow into  the Four Zoas of whom he would later have much to say. Creating the picture stimulated Blake's thought about each individual element and the relationships among them. We have seen how he singled out water who became associated with Tharmas for an individual picture of the emergence of life from the great flood of water (matter, sensation).

In his mind Blake found that there was more that he could represent by selecting from the original image. By blotting out the two elements fire and earth before he engraved the plate, Blake made a picture of only water and air: Tharmas and Urizen. So now the image can be seen as the emergence of consciousness. From Thamas,  the development of the senses, evolved reason: the ability to process and relate sensory data. The rising sun tells of the arrival of reason which will lift man from the unconscious to the conscious state.    

A visit to the beach is an opportunity to become intimately acquainted with the functioning of the four elements in microcosm. The sand is earth, the waves are water, the heat and light of the sun are fire, and the wind is air. The constant interplay of the elements in their naked forms fascinates the alert viewer. The sand is moved by the water and wind, heat dries the sand and alters its properties, the waves are tossed or soothed by the wind, the light creates ever changing shadows and reflections on the sand and water. What is external is internal; what is internal is external.

Letter to Trusler,(E 702)
"Some See
Nature all Ridicule & Deformity & by these I shall not regulate
my proportions, & Some Scarce see Nature at all But to the Eyes
of the Man of Imagination Nature is Imagination itself.  As a man
is So he Sees.  As the Eye is formed such are its Powers You
certainly Mistake when you say that the Visions of Fancy are not
be found in This World.  To Me This World is all One continued
Vision of Fancy or Imagination & I feel Flatterd when I am told
So.  What is it sets Homer Virgil & Milton in so high a rank of
Art.  Why is the Bible more
Entertaining & Instructive than any other book.  Is it not
because they are addressed to the Imagination which is Spiritual
Sensation & but mediately to the Understanding or Reason Such is
True Painting and such  alone valued by the Greeks & the
best modern Artists.  Consider what Lord Bacon says "Sense sends
over to Imagination before Reason have judged & Reason sends over
to Imagination before the Decree can be acted." 

Gates of Paradise, (E 261)
Thou Waterest him with Tears   
He struggles into Life
On Cloudy Doubts & Reasoning Cares
That end in endless Strife
At length for hatching ripe he breaks the shell

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