Monday, January 21, 2013

Chapter Ten 2

                             The Book of Urizen
       We find the earliest organized statement of Blake's myth in a medium sized 
poem written in 1794. The Book of Urizen served as a prototype for 'The Four 
Zoas', which was to follow. It contains among other things a parody of Genesis. 
Blake found the orthodox doctrine of creation unsatisfying, as many people
have to this day, so he set out to present an alternative. He followed 'Paradise 

Lost' and the Gnostics in placing the Fall before Creation.
       In his myth the Fall of Man involved a fall in part of the divine nature and 
led to the creation of a fallen world. Such a Creation Story represents a 
sophistication of the elemental biblical one. P.L. is an obvious recreation of the 
Bible story, and B.U. is a recreation of P.L., beginning as a simple inversion.
       The doctrine of contraries, which we found in MHH, appears in B.U. in 
the form of two Eternals, Urizen and Los. The poem develops their careers in 
nine chapters. Following closely some of the Gnostic texts Urizen separates 
from the other Eternals, writes the Book of Brass, and declares himself God, 
whereupon he is shut out of Eternity and Los appointed his watchman 
(Chapters 1-3). Los confines Urizen with the limits of time and space and in 
"seven ages of dismal woe" binds him down into the five shriveled senses of 
the human body (Chapter 4).
       This frightful condition leads Los to pity, which divides his soul and 
results in the separation of his emanation, Enitharmon. Eternity shudders at 
this further breakup of Man into the sexual contraries. Even more shocking to 
the Eternals, Los begets his likeness on his own divided image. The Eternals 
shut out this fallenness from Eden, and Los becomes blind to Eternity  
(Chapter 6) Section 10. Los binds his son, Orc, with the Chain of Jealousy. 
Urizen explores his dens, discovers that no one can obey or keep his iron laws 
for one minute and that life lives upon death.
       There in barest outline is 'The Book of Urizen'. Volumes have been written 
to interpret it. At this point we note that Urizen, Orc (also called Luvah in 
later works), and Los emerge as the three principles of the psyche. In Jungian 
terms we would call them Reason, Feeling, and Intuition. With the addition of 
Tharmas, the body or Instinct, they make up the four Zoas of the complete 
myth. B.U. is the earliest sketch of their relationships, which form the primary 
subject matter of Blake's evolving myth until the critical moment when Jesus 
became All and Jerusalem his Bride.
       Keep in mind that here, as in later writings, Blake's poetry has many 
levels. We are especially interested in the cosmic and psychological levels, 
and the most compelling dimension of the psychological is the 
autobiographical. In B.U. as in all the prophecies Blake tells us a great deal 
about himself. He lived intensely in the spiritual realm; this means that 
visions, motifs, attitudes come and go with great rapidity. The poetry reveals 
to us the course of his life. At the same time sober reflection on his biography 
casts light on the dynamic evolution of the myth. The student might spend 
time with B.U. before tackling 4Z, for it gives in outline form much of the 
action of the larger poem. However Urizen is hard to understand, written 
before the complete vision of Blake's myth had crystallized in his mind;

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