Thursday, September 19, 2013


Republished from December 28, 2009

Labor of Los

Quoting from A BLAKE DICTIONARY, S. Foster Damon, Introduction, Page XI:

"Every sect is self-limited, whereas Truth is Universal. Instead of any religion, Blake wanted the truth - the whole truth including all errors, life including death, the soul including the body, the world of mind including the world of matter, the profound discoveries of the mystics reconciled with the scoffing of the skeptics, heaven and hell married and working together, and in the ultimate heart, Man eternally in the arms of God."

The puzzle of the shift in relationship between Luvah and Urizen deserves careful consideration. Neither Urizen nor Luvah had an indisputable claim to the horses of light or the dominant position they represented; that should should have fallen to Urthona whose 'Vehicular Form' is Los. (Percival refers to Urthona as the 'essential' man.)

The struggle among Urizen, Luvah and Los occupies Blake's imagination. The conflict may be interpreted internally. In Blake's myth either reason or emotion is frequently firmly in control of the psyche. The balance between them shifts as they negotiate and seize power. Sometimes reason is recognized as the higher function and emotion is at the service of reason (or visa versa). Disasters ensue as each function tries to eliminate the other. The higher function, inspiration or Los, eventually succeeds in wresting power and reconstructing the psyche.

Often it is easier to observe the operation of the functions externally before we can recognize them internally. Blake's portrayal of the 4Zs may show us aspects of ourselves we do not already recognize. Likewise, we are more likely to identify another person under the domination of one aspect of the psyche (suppressing the expression of the others), before we can see the same thing in ourselves. But to have it brought to our attention either by reading Blake, or by observing associates consistently and unconsciously coming under the dominion of reason or emotion, may encourage us to deal with unconscious forces which are controlling us. (So too, these imbalances are visible in societal behaviors.)

In The Four Zoas, Night Four, Blake portrays a violent confrontation between Urizen and Los. Urizen is subdued but the cost to Los is high. Los has come under the dominion of his lower nature, expressing revenge, wrath and cruelty, and having taken on the characteristics of the entity whom he was trying to eliminate .

FZ4-53.11; (E335)
"The lovely female howld & Urizen beneath deep groand
Deadly between the hammers beating grateful to the Ears
Of Los. absorbd in dire revenge he drank with joy the cries
Of Enitharmon & the groans of Urizen fuel for his wrath
And for his pity secret feeding on thoughts of cruelty

The Spectre wept at his dire labours"

FZ4-53.21; E336
"And thus began the binding of Urizen day & night in fear
Circling round the dark Demon with howlings dismay & sharp
The Prophet of Eternity beat on his iron links & links of brass
And as he beat round the hurtling Demon. terrified at the Shapes
Enslavd humanity put on he became what he beheld"

Some scholars have suggested that the portrayal of this type of situation in The Four Zoas led to Blake's abandonment of the writing of the book. In Blake's later poetry, the solution to the problems between Los and Urizen comes through recognition of error, forgiveness, anniliation of the Selfhood, and restoration of Brotherhood.

The unity of the psyche - allowing each function to play its ordained role is the goal toward which Blake directed his readers.

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