Saturday, November 30, 2013


For the Sexes: Gates of Paradise, Plate 10, (E 264) 
"10 Help! Help!" 

 For the Sexes: Gates of Paradise, Plate 19, (E 268) 
"10 In Times Ocean falling drownd In Aged Ignorance profound"
Approximately half of the picture is occupied by the cloudy sky and half by the stormy sea. The man's head and arm protrude from the water into the air. The man looks upward and reaches with his outstretched arm to the heavens above. The fingers of his five senses are spread to grasp whatever help is offered from above. There seems to be a flotation device to the right of the man which he ignores.

The man is in a situation in which help is required. He is in danger of drowning in the sea of time and space, what we usually think of as the material world with its cares and pleasures, its demands and opportunities. He has grown accustomed to the life he endures, but if he notices that his life is barren and bleak he may seek help from above.

Blake sees the divided, fallen man in such a position. He has gotten in over his head and isn't a very good swimmer. But Blake's concept is that man's call for help should be addressed within. Although there are four internal aspects of man, they need not be at war with one another. The God who dwells within each one can make known to us the ways in which our intuition, reason, emotions and sensation are causing us to suffer and to cause suffering.

This plate returns us to the Zoa Tharmas whom Blake identifies with the Western gate of Genesis which was closed when Adam and Eve were expelled from Eden.  Blake conceived that man would reenter Eden when he was able to perceive everything as it is: infinite and holy. 

Marriage of Heaven & Hell, Plate 14, (E 39)
   "The ancient tradition that the world will be consumed in fire
at the  end of six thousand years is true. as I have heard from
   For the cherub with his flaming sword is hereby commanded to 
leave his guard at the tree of life, and when he does, the whole 
creation will be consumed, and appear infinite. and holy whereas
it now  appears finite & corrupt.
   This will come to pass by an improvement of sensual enjoyment.
   But first the notion that man has a body distinct from his
soul, is to  be expunged; this I shall do, by printing in the
infernal method, by corrosives, which in Hell are salutary and
medicinal, melting apparent surfaces away, and displaying the
infinite which was hid.
   If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would
appear  to man as it is: infinite."  

Jerusalem, Plate 38 [43], (E 184) 
"They saw America clos'd out by the Oaks of the western shore;
And Tharmas dash'd on the Rocks of the Altars of Victims in Mexico.
If we are wrathful Albion will destroy Jerusalem with rooty Groves
If we are merciful, ourselves must suffer destruction on his Oaks!
Why should we enter into our Spectres, to behold our own corruptions
O God of Albion descend! deliver Jerusalem from the Oaken Groves!

Then Los grew furious raging: Why stand we here trembling around
Calling on God for help; and not ourselves in whom God dwells
Stretching a hand to save the falling Man: are we not Four
Beholding Albion upon the Precipice ready to fall into Non-Entity:
Seeing these Heavens & Hells conglobing in the Void."    

Jerusalem, Plate 40 [45], (E 187)
"In Selfhood, we are nothing: but fade away in mornings breath,
Our mildness is nothing: the greatest mildness we can use
Is incapable and nothing! none but the Lamb of God can heal   
This dread disease: none but Jesus! O Lord descend and save!
Albions Western Gate is clos'd: his death is coming apace!
Jesus alone can save him; for alas we none can know
How soon his lot may be our own."  

Milton, Plate 15 [17], (E 109)
"First Milton saw Albion upon the Rock of Ages,
Deadly pale outstretchd and snowy cold, storm coverd;
A Giant form of perfect beauty outstretchd on the rock

In solemn death: the Sea of Time & Space thunderd aloud
Against the rock, which was inwrapped with the weeds of death    
Hovering over the cold bosom, in its vortex Milton bent down
To the bosom of death, what was underneath soon seemd above.
A cloudy heaven mingled with stormy seas in loudest ruin;
But as a wintry globe descends precipitant thro' Beulah bursting,
With thunders loud and terrible: so Miltons shadow fell        
Precipitant loud thundring into the Sea of Time & Space."

Jerusalem, Plate 13, (E 156)
"The Western Gate fourfold, is closd: having four Cherubim
Its guards, living, the work of elemental hands, laborious task!"

Genesis 3
[22] Then the LORD God said, "Behold, the man has become like one of us, knowing good and evil; and now, lest he put forth his hand and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever" -- 

[23] therefore the LORD God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from which he was taken.
[24] He drove out the man; and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to guard the way to the tree of life.

Friday, November 29, 2013

bible3 Daughters

In the fifth chapter of Genesis we read:

  1. [4] And the days of Adam after he had begotten Seth were eight hundred years: and he begat sons and daughters:
  2. [7] And Seth lived after he begat Enos eight hundred and seven years, and begat sons and daughters:
  3. [10] And Enos lived after he begat Cainan eight hundred and fifteen years, and begat sons and daughters:
  4. [13] And Cainan lived after he begat Mahalaleel eight hundred and forty years, and begat sons and daughters:
  5. [16] And Mahalaleel lived after he begat Jared eight hundred and thirty years, and begat sons and daughters:
  6. [19] And Jared lived after he begat Enoch eight hundred years, and begat sons and daughters:
  7. [22] And Enoch walked with God after he begat Methuselah three hundred years, and begat sons and daughters:
  8. [26] And Methuselah lived after he begat Lamech seven hundred eighty and two years, and begat sons and daughters:
  9. [30] And Lamech lived after he begat Noah five hundred ninety and five years, and begat sons and daughters:
  1. [3] And I will make thee swear by the LORD, the God of heaven, and the God of the earth, that thou shalt not take a wife unto my son of the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I dwell:
  2. [13] Behold, I stand here by the well of water; and the daughters of the men of the city come out to draw water:
  3. [23] And said, Whose daughter art thou? tell me, I pray thee: is there room in thy father's house for us to lodge in?
  4. [24] And she said unto him, I am the daughter of Bethuel the son of Milcah, which she bare unto Nahor.
  5. [37] And my master made me swear, saying, Thou shalt not take a wife to my son of the daughters of the Canaanites, in whose land I dwell:
  6. [47] And I asked her, and said, Whose daughter art thou? And she said, The daughter of Bethuel, Nahor's son, whom Milcah bare unto him: and I put the earring upon her face, and the bracelets upon her hands.
  7. [48] And I bowed down my head, and worshipped the LORD, and blessed the LORD God of my master Abraham, which had led me in the right way to take my master's brother's daughter unto his son.

Blake used 'daughters of ...'  freely, strictly comparable to 'sons of...'
It occurs often in his poetry, but several of them are of special significance.

  VISIONS of the Daughters of Albion!

PLATE 1 [i] Preface.
The Stolen and Perverted Writings of Homer & Ovid: of
Plato &
Cicero. which all Men ought to contemn: are set up by
against the Sublime of the Bible. but when the New Age is at
leisure to Pronounce; all will be set right: & those
Grand Works
of the more ancient & consciously & professedly Inspired Men,
will hold their proper rank, & the Daughters of Memory shall become the Daughters of Inspiration.

Daughters of Beulah! Muses who inspired the Poets Song
Record the journey of immortal Milton thro' your Realms
Of terror & mild moony lustre, in soft sexual delusions
Of varied beauty, to delight the wanderer...

PLATE 5 (of Milton)
And this is the manner of the Daughters of Albion in 
their beauty:
To the beautiful Daughters of Albion! they sport before the Kings
Clothed in the skin Of the Victim! blood! human blood! is the life
And delightful food of the Warrior: the well fed 
Warriors flesh
Of him who is slain in War: fills the Valleys of 
Ephraim with    
Breeding Women walking in pride & bringing forth under green trees 

Plate 14
What do I here before the Judgment? without my Emanation?
With the daughters of memory, & not with the daughters of
I in my Selfhood am that Satan: I am that Evil One! He is 
my Spectre! in my obedience to loose him from my Hells
To claim the Hells, my Furnaces, I go to Eternal Death

PLATE 10 of Jerusalem:                                                       
Into the Furnaces & into the valleys of the Anvils of Death
And into the mountains of the Anvils & of the heavy Hammers
Till he should bring the Sons & Daughters of Jerusalem to be
The Sons & Daughters of Los that he might protect 
Albions dread Spectres; storming, loud, thunderous & mighty 
The Bellows & the Hammers move compell'd by Los's hand.

Here are some daughters of Jerusalem:

Rosenwald LOC
Jerusalem plate 32

Notice that on the right hand bottom is something like the Westminster Cathedral (a symbol of creativity), while the bottom left has St. Paul's Church a symbol of conventionality or conformance. The naked woman is Jerusalem of course with three 'daughters', and the veiled woman is Vala, her shadow or contrary.

Thursday, November 28, 2013


British Museum For the Sexes: Gates of Paradise
Plate 3

For the Sexes: Gates of Paradise, Plate 9, (E 263) 
"9 I want! I want!" 

For the Sexes: Gates of Paradise, Plate 19, (E 268) 
"9 On the shadows of the Moon Climbing thro Nights highest noon"


The picture shows a man beginning to ascend a ladder which reaches from the earth to a crescent moon. His path will lead him through the stars and away from an embracing couple. He is impelled by a desire strong enough to cause him to undertake such a task. 

The caption on the image issued when Blake republished For the Children as For the Sexes remained the same: simply "I want! I want!". The object of the desire is not specified. He could be pursuing material goods, power, success or any facet of achievement in the natural world. But he is leaving the earth and going to the moon which is a feminine symbol associated with love.

The Key to this gate alerts us to the dangers for the man of coming under the influence of the state of repose which the feminine represents. There is the back side of the moon which never shows its face to earth. And there is the Night of unconsciousness through which man must climb to reach a zenith. But perhaps he will return with a treasure from the feminine which he can integrate rather than either rejecting it or succumbing to it.

Four Zoas, Night I, Page 5, (E 303)
"There is from Great Eternity a mild & pleasant rest
Namd Beulah a Soft Moony Universe feminine lovely 
Pure mild & Gentle given in Mercy to those who sleep
Eternally. Created by the Lamb of God around
On all sides within & without the Universal Man
The Daughters of Beulah follow sleepers in all their Dreams
Creating Spaces lest they fall into Eternal Death                

The Circle of Destiny complete they gave to it a Space
And namd the Space Ulro & brooded over it in care & love
They said The Spectre is in every man insane & most
Deformd     Thro the three heavens descending in fury & fire
We meet it with our Songs & loving blandishments & give          
To it a form of vegetation But this Spectre of Tharmas
Is Eternal Death What shall we do O God pity & help   
So spoke they & closd the Gate of the Tongue in trembling fear" 

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

bible3 Son

Son is used generically throughout the Bible, but the  particular use is for the Son of God.
First case:


  1. [3] And Adam lived an hundred and thirty years, and begat a son in his own likeness, after his image; and called his name Seth:”

Second case:


  1. [33] Then they that were in the ship came and worshipped him, saying, Of a truth thou art the Son of God.

The first is commonplace; every man born is the son of a father.

The second is unique, at least in theology, in the Bible and with Blake.

In the Bible you may find many occasions:

Daniel 3
[19] Then was Nebuchadnezzar full of fury, and the form of his visage was changed against Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego: therefore he spake, and commanded that they should heat the furnace one seven times more than it was wont to be heated.
[20] And he commanded the most mighty men that were in his army to bind Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, and to cast them into the burning fiery furnace.
[21] Then these men were bound in their coats, their hosen, and their hats, and their other garments, and were cast into the midst of the burning fiery furnace.
[22] Therefore because the king's commandment was urgent, and the furnace exceeding hot, the flame of the fire slew those men that took up Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego.
[23] And these three men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, fell down bound into the midst of the burning fiery furnace.
[24] Then Nebuchadnezzar the king was astonied, and rose up in haste, and spake, and said unto his counsellers, Did not we cast three men bound into the midst of the fire? They answered and said unto the king, True, O king.
[25] He answered and said, Lo, I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire, and they have no hurt; and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God.

And at Matthew 4, the words of Satan:


  1. [3] And when the tempter came to him, he said, If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread.
  2. [6] And saith unto him, If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down: for it is written, He shall give his angels charge concerning thee: and in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone.

And at  Matt.27:
  1. [40] And saying, Thou that destroyest the temple, and buildest it in three days, save thyself. If thou be the Son of God, come down from the cross.
  2. [43] He trusted in God; let him deliver him now, if he will have him: for he said, I am the Son of God.
  3. [54] Now when the centurion, and they that were with him, watching Jesus, saw the earthquake, and those things that were done, they feared greatly, saying, Truly this was the Son of God
And many others.

In Blake I’ve chosen only two:
1. Such is our state nor will the Son of God redeem us but destroy
                                                                The Four Zoas [Nt 7a], 87.59; E370:
"Enitharmon answerd I behold the Lamb of God descending
To Meet these Spectres of the Dead I therefore fear that he
Will give us to Eternal Death fit punishment for such
Hideous offenders Uttermost extinction in eternal pain    
An ever dying life of stifling & obstruction shut out
Of existence to be a sign & terror to all who behold
Lest any should in futurity do as we have done in heaven
Such is our state nor will the Son of God redeem us but destroy"
Erdman 369-70)

2. Babel mocks saying, there is no God nor Son of God
                                                                Jerusalem, 60.56; E211

"O Lord & Saviour, have the Gods of the Heathen pierced thee?
Or hast thou been pierced in the House of thy Friends?
Art thou alive! & livest thou for-evermore? or art thou
Not: but a delusive shadow, a thought that liveth not.          t
Babel mocks saying, there is no God nor Son of God
That thou O Human Imagination, O Divine Body art all
A delusion."

Here is Blake's Vision of the Son of God in Jerusalem, Plate 76:

Rosenwald LOC
Jerusalem plate 76

Tuesday, November 26, 2013


British Museum
For the Sexes: Gates of Paradise
Plate 8

For the Sexes: Gates of Paradise, Plate 8, (E 263) 
"8 My Son! my Son!  

For the Sexes: Gates of Paradise, Plate 19, (E 268) 
"8 In Vain-glory hatcht & nurst 
By double Spectres Self Accurst 
My Son! my Son! thou treatest me 
But as I have instructed thee"

A young man lifts an arrow above his head pointing it toward a seated pensive man resting on a stone seat. The long haired bearded man resembles Jehovah, Job or Urizen. In the man's right hand is an object shaped something like a cane, cross, sword or stake. In spite of the arrow the boy does not appear threatening or the man fearful.

The words of the Caption and of the Key are addressed to the adolescent by the  mature man:

"My Son! my Son! thou treatest me
 But as I have instructed thee"

The boy in the image is announcing his emancipation from the father. The young man has been brought up in the conventional way to have a strong superego and a strong ego. He can now use these as weapons against the family and society in which he has been raised. But the strength of his psychic development in two areas is unbalanced. It is turned against his identity which is his true self and against his body which desires sexual expression. 

Externally the boy wants to free himself from his father, his school and his cultural milieu (including the mores which restrict sexual activity.) Internally he wants to be released from the demands of the unexamined superego and the self-righteous ego. Establishing his own identity through gaining self-knowledge and internal balance will allow him to proceed on his journey. 

Visions of Daughters of Albion, Plate 7, (E 50)
"In happy copulation; if in evening mild. wearied with work;
Sit on a bank and draw the pleasures of this free born joy.

The moment of desire! the moment of desire! The virgin
That pines for man; shall awaken her womb to enormous joys
In the secret shadows of her chamber; the youth shut up from     
The lustful joy. shall forget to generate. & create an amorous image
In the shadows of his curtains and in the folds of his silent pillow.
Are not these the places of religion? the rewards of continence?
The self enjoyings of self denial? Why dost thou seek religion?
Is it because acts are not lovely, that thou seekest solitude,   
Where the horrible darkness is impressed with reflections of desire.

Father of jealousy. be thou accursed from the earth!
Why hast thou taught my Theotormon this accursed thing?"

Jerusalem, Plate 28, (E 174)
"And Albion spoke from his secret seat and said                   

All these ornaments are crimes, they are made by the labours
Of loves: of unnatural consanguinities and friendships
Horrid to think of when enquired deeply into; and all
These hills & valleys are accursed witnesses of Sin
I therefore condense them into solid rocks, stedfast!         
A foundation and certainty and demonstrative truth:
That Man be separate from Man, & here I plant my seat."

Milton, Plate 14 [15], (E 108) 
"I in my Selfhood am that Satan: I am that Evil One!              
He is my Spectre! in my obedience to loose him from my Hells
To claim the Hells, my Furnaces, I go to Eternal Death."

Milton, Plate 38 [43], (E 139)
"Satan! my Spectre! I know my power thee to annihilate
And be a greater in thy place, & be thy Tabernacle               
A covering for thee to do thy will, till one greater comes
And smites me as I smote thee & becomes my covering.
Such are the Laws of thy false Heavns! but Laws of Eternity
Are not such: know thou: I come to Self Annihilation
Such are the Laws of Eternity that each shall mutually     
Annihilate himself for others good, as I for thee[.]"

Notebook, My Spectre, (E 477)
"Let us agree to give up Love
And root up the infernal grove                                 
Then shall we return & see
The worlds of happy Eternity

& Throughout all Eternity  
I forgive you you forgive me
As our dear Redeemer said                                   
This the Wine & this the Bread"

Genesis 4
[3] In the course of time Cain brought to the LORD an offering of the fruit of the ground,
[4] and Abel brought of the firstlings of his flock and of their fat portions. And the LORD had regard for Abel and his offering,
[5] but for Cain and his offering he had no regard. So Cain was very angry, and his countenance fell.
[6] The LORD said to Cain, "Why are you angry, and why has your countenance fallen?
[7] If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is couching at the door; its desire is for you, but you must master it." 

Matthew 12
[46] While he was still speaking to the people, behold, his mother and his brothers stood outside, asking to speak to him.
[48] But he replied to the man who told him, "Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?"
[49] And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, "Here are my mother and my brothers!
[50] For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother, and sister, and mother."

Monday, November 25, 2013

bible3 Moses

At the burning bush
William Blake had much to say about Moses:

(Erdman 67; Song of Los, Plate 3):
Adam stood in the garden of Eden:
And Noah on the mountains of Ararat;
They saw Urizen give his Laws to the Nations
By the hands of the children of Los.

Adam shudderd! Noah faded! black grew the sunny African
When Rintrah gave Abstract Philosophy to Brama in the East:
(Night spoke to the Cloud!
Lo these Human form'd spirits in smiling hipocrisy. War
Against one another; so let them War on; slaves to the eternal Elements)
Noah shrunk, beneath the waters;
Abram fled in fires from Chaldea;
Moses beheld upon Mount Sinai forms of dark delusion:

In this opaque section Moses is listed along with Adam, Noah, and Abram 
(Abraham) Each of the three is a key to three periods of Hebrew history: 
For Christians Moses, found with Elijah and Jesus on the Mount of 
Transfiguration is foremost.

Mount Sinai was the LAW, The 'dark delusion' was the Ten Commandments.

In a letter to Dr. Trusler (Erdman 702):
"The wisest of the Ancients considerd what is not too Explicit as the fittest for
Instruction because it rouzes the faculties to act. I name Moses Solomon Esop
Homer Plato"

Trusler was a 'divine' with strong opinions that Blake found
erroneous. Here Blake assumes that the name Moses refers to the Pentateuch.

"Eternal Identity is one thing & Corporeal Vegetation is another
thing Changing Water into Wine by Jesus & into Blood by Moses
relates to Vegetable Nature also..."

(Erdman 230-31; Plate 77 of Jerusalem):
"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"

(Erdman 138; The Book of Milton)
"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, 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 
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"

In Visions of the Last Judgment (Erdman 556):
"& beneath the falling figure of Cain is Moses casting his tables of stone 
into the Deeps. it ought to be understood that the Persons Moses & 
Abraham are not here meant but the States Signified by those Names the 
Individuals being representatives or Visions of those States as they were reveald 
to Mortal Man in the Series of Divine Revelations. as they are written in the Bible 
these various States I have seen in my Imagination when distant they appear as One Man"

'Visions of the Last Judgment:

This last mention of Moses places him as the first of the modern churches.

Sunday, November 24, 2013


A young man with his hat in his hand stands before dense vegetation as if he intends to capture the flying human figure who is fleeing from him. At his feet lies another small figure appearing lifeless. If we see the two small figures as female we could interpret the image as an adolescent who has freed himself from a devouring mother and is in pursuit of his anima who would lead him into the next stage of his development. But the caption and the Key to the plate indicate Blake may have been saying something more complex.

British Museum
For the Sexes: Gates of Paradise
Plate 7

For the Sexes: Gates of Paradise, Plate 9, (E 263)
"7 What are these? Alas! the Female Martyr 
     Is She also the Divine Image"  

For the Sexes: Gates of Paradise, Plate 19, (E 268) 
"7 One Dies! Alas! the Living & Dead 
     One is slain & One is fled"

The role of the female in Blake is ambivalent because of the differences between life in Eternity and life in the natural world. The image which represents man's Soul or his 'perception of the infinite' in Eternity becomes in the Generative world the force which struggles to prevent him from returning to Eternity. Jerusalem is the most constructive force in man; Jerusalem's shadow Vala is the most destructive.

Vala must die that Jerusalem might live. By doing so she may become the Female Martyr who is the Divine Image. But if Vala were slain, Jerusalem would flee. The two are contraries and complete one another. One of Blake's great insights was the enemy could only be annihilated by accepting it as a brother/sister.

This Plate is early in the journey toward wholeness. The young man is only now learning that by slaying one contrary he will cause the other to flee.

Four Zoas, Night VIII, PAGE 104 (SECOND PORTION), (E 377)
"The war roard round Jerusalems Gates it took a hideous form
Seen in the aggregate a Vast Hermaphroditic form 
Heavd like an Earthquake labring with convulsive groans
Intolerable at length an awful wonder burst
From the Hermaphroditic bosom Satan he was namd
Son of Perdition terrible his form dishumanizd monstrous 
A male without a female counterpart a howling fiend 
Fo[r]lorn of Eden & repugnant to the forms of life
Yet hiding the shadowy female Vala as in an ark & Curtains
Abhorrd accursed ever dying an Eternal death

Being multitudes of tyrant Men in union blasphemous
Against the divine image. Congregated Assemblies of wicked men 

Los said to Enitbarmon Pitying I saw
Pitying the Lamb of God Descended thro Jerusalems gates
To put off Mystery time after time & as a Man
Is born on Earth so was he born of Fair Jerusalem
In mysterys woven mantle & in the Robes of Luvah 

He stood in fair Jerusalem to awake up into Eden
The fallen Man but first to Give his vegetated body  
To be cut off & separated that the Spiritual body may be Reveald"

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Blake's Myth Again

Kathleen Raines' book Blake and Tradition gives a
good source for interpretation of the Cave of the Nymphs
A condensation of Raines' great work may be found at 
Blake and Antiquity, which contains considerable stuff on The 
Sea of Time and Space:

Three things stand out prominently in this wonderful picture:
On the right is the cave of the nymphs who conduct innocent souls 
by the northern gate down into mortal life.
Below the cave spread across the bottom is the Sea of Time and Space.
On the upper left you see a representation of the Heavenly Realm.

Homer wrote about the Cave of the Nymphs in the 13th book of the Odyssey:
"At the head of this harbour there is a large olive tree, and at no great distance
a fine overarching cavern sacred to the nymphs who are called Naiads. There
are mixing bowls within it and wine-jars of stone, and the bees hive there.
Moreover, there are great looms of stone on which the nymphs weave their robes
of sea purple--very curious to see--and at all times there is water within it. It has
two entrances, one facing North by which mortals can go down into the cave,
while the other comes from the South and is more mysterious; mortals cannot
possibly get in by it, it is the way taken by the gods."

The Arlington Tempera contains virtually all of the items in Homer's description. 
Blake faithfully followed Homer in furnishing his cave. The Naiads use the mixing bowls 
and stone jars to prepare provisions for the descending souls. On the looms the nymphs 
weave bodies for them; the purple indicates these bodies contain blood.
Blake loved the looms and used them repeatedly in his prophecies; in his larger prophecies 

he described the "nymphs" as vicious wicked women; in fact there are pages of these 
wicked women. (The feminine of course connotes the earthly (under the moon), and the 
masculine heavenly (under the sun) (As offensive as this may be to many readers, 
I don't know any help for it. It might be considered the guideline that men used in their 
subjugation of women. Blake wasn't responsible; he adopted all the ancient symbols, 
including this one.)

Blake's picture portrays the two realms, connected by two passsages, sometimes called 
gates or bars or stairs. The picture shows them as stairs. The prominent gate on the right, 
called the northern bar, is especially rich in symbols that Blake used over and over as he wrote, 
etched, drew and painted.

Immediately to the left of the northern gate is the southern gate of 'return' where worthy mortals 
ascend into the higher realm of Eternity.

In the upper part of the picture the nymphs prepare souls for the descent into the "sea of time 
and space". The northern gate is filled with a stream, the current moving downward into the sea.
Blake shows two souls scheduled for mortal life; each possesses a tub or pail which the nymphs 
prepared for them containing spiritual truth and power for the hazardous journey into the world.
At the bottom of the cave one of these 'women' lies in the water blissfully asleep; her tub is turned 
on its side, all the spiritual things spilled and replaced by the water of mortal life.
The other woman has carefully protected her pail and against the opposition of the nymphs 
turned decisively back toward the higher realm; following Heraclitus she may be said to be a dry soul. 

(This scene evokes Jesus' story of the wise and foolish virgins.)
The dry soul also suggests Thel, who crossed the northern bar, but drew back in horror at the 
miry clay ahead. The two imaginary humans represent the choices that each of us make every 
moment: to go the heavenly way or the worldly way, the two ways that Jesus spoke of ).

In the symbolic language water denotes matter, the inferior, the worldly. Souls in the higher realm 
are attracted by the moisture. 'Time and space' is a sea where mortal creatures suffer adventures 
that may be creative or destructive.

Similar and closely related to dry and moist souls are those awake and those sleeping (this runs 
like a current throughout the Bible and through Blake as well.)

The River of Adonis in the cave issues into the Sea of Time and Space (one of the common 
titles of Blake's tempera). There is (relatively) little to report about the sea; it's just about life, about 
my life and your life and every brother or sister's life.

But emerging from the sea we find Odysseus, the hero of Homer's Odyssey on the near shore; 
with his back to the shore he is putting something in the water: in accordance with Leucothea's 
instructions he is returning her (magic) girdle which she had lent him so he could swim ashore. 
In the distance Leucothea appears getting her girdle and dissolving "in a spiral of radiant cloud" 
(Blake and Antiquity page 6).

Behind Odysseus stands his protector goddess, Athena (or Luvah or Jesus) pointing him to the 
courts above. (The return of Odysseus to his home closely parallels Elijah's ascent on the fiery 
chariot into Heaven, and of course the Ascension of Our Lord. The thing to remember is that 
rather than material events these are metaphors. Our metaphors are spacious and temporal; 
not so in Eternity.)

The upper left of the picture shows God upon a chariot, driven by the four zoas and surrounded by 
the immortals. God appears to be a right sleepy god; the import is that it's the inner God who goes 
to sleep when the soul finds the couch of death and awakens to mortal life (Blake and Antiquity 
page 15). Raine quotes fromThe Gates of Paradise:
"My Eternal Man set in Repose
The Female from his darkness rose"

Once you've grasped the whole of this story you may notice how closely it parallels the primary 
Bible myth of Creation, Fall and eventual Redemption. It's the old, old story, and in the end 
there's only one story. (Jesus gave us an abbreviated version of it with The Prodigal Son.)

You may  find a lot more information about the Arlington Tempera in these posts.

Friday, November 22, 2013


British Museum
For the Sexes: Gates of Paradise
Plate 6

For the Sexes: Gates of Paradise, Plate 6, (E 262)  
"6 At length for hatching ripe he breaks the shell" 

For the Sexes: Gates of Paradise, Plate 19, (E 268) 

"6 I rent the Veil where the Dead dwell 
When weary Man enters his Cave 
He meets his Saviour in the Grave 
Some find a Female Garment there 
And some a Male, woven with care 
Lest the Sexual Garments sweet 
Should grow a devouring Winding sheet"

If William Blake created a system he did not mean for it to have universal application. He did not want to be bounded by someone else's system nor to limit anyone by his own system. His enigmatic images and aphorisms in Gates of Paradise are meant to to provide openings, not to close the mind into a pattern that must be followed. Whatever meanings can be attached to the series of plates he created will serve its purpose if the reader/viewer looks into himself and his experience as he puzzles over the images. 

The image of a winged infant emerging from a cracked egg awakens in our minds memories of periods of transition. Exiting from the egg is a second birth following the first in which the infant was uprooted from the earth in Plate 1. Between the two events the child has become acquainted with the functioning of his mind in four spheres - body, mind, imagination and emotions. According to Erik Erikson the child transitions though four periods each with its own tasks which should lead to trust, autonomy, love and competence. If the transition is not made smoothly the child may not develop a sense of identity, may experience shame and doubt, may find guilt in himself, or may view himself as inferior.

However the child navigates the four aspects of himself and his outer world, he will arrive at puberty facing greater change internally and externally than he has faced to that point.

Every birth is a death to the previous state. The life inside the egg of childhood is dead when the adolescent emerges into the sexual potentialities which have developed in his body. Simultaneously his mind has arrived at a point when his ability to think abstractly and analytically and inclusively has increased exponentially.

The new world which the mind and body encounter is not without assistance because the spiritual sense has been activated as well. The garments which one may put on are the active and receptive modes which complement each other. Not recognizing the states as garments will result in over-identification and illusion. Either position when confused with the identity may lead to another death with a repetition of the cycle.  
Milton, PLATE 41 [48], (E 142)
"These are the Sexual Garments, the Abomination of Desolation
Hiding the Human lineaments as with an Ark & Curtains
Which Jesus rent: & now shall wholly purge away with Fire
Till Generation is swallowd up in Regeneration.

Then trembled the Virgin Ololon & replyd in clouds of despair

Is this our Femin[in]e Portion the Six-fold Miltonic Female
Terribly this Portion trembles before thee O awful Man
Altho' our Human Power can sustain the severe contentions
Of Friendship, our Sexual cannot: but flies into the Ulro.
Hence arose all our terrors in Eternity! & now remembrance
Returns upon us! are we Contraries O Milton, Thou & I
O Immortal! how were we led to War the Wars of Death
Is this the Void Outside of Existence, which if enterd into
PLATE 42 [49]
Becomes a Womb? & is this the Death Couch of Albion
Thou goest to Eternal Death & all must go with thee

So saying, the Virgin divided Six-fold & with a shriek
Dolorous that ran thro all Creation a Double Six-fold Wonder!
Away from Ololon she divided & fled into the depths
Of Miltons Shadow as a Dove upon the stormy Sea."

John 3
[1] There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews:
[2] The same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him.
[3] Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.
[4] Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother's womb, and be born?
[5] Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.
[6] That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.
[7] Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.