Monday, February 10, 2014


Genesis 2
[4]These are the generations of the heavens and the earth when they were created.In the day that the LORD God made the earth and the heavens,
[5] when no plant of the field was yet in the earth and no herb of the field had yet sprung up -- for the LORD God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and there was no man to till the ground;
[6] but a mist went up from the earth and watered the whole face of the ground --
[7] then the LORD God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.
[8] And the LORD God planted a garden in Eden, in the east; and there he put the man whom he had formed.
[9] And out of the ground the LORD God made to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food, the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

Wikimedia Commons
Elohim Creating Adam
The Life of William Blake  by Alexander Gilchrist provides comments on the series of images known as The Large Color Printed Paintings and on the first image 'Elohim creating Adam':
"No two proofs were identical, as the variations of the stamped colour ever led the artist's brush into fresh inventions.
As these curious works, half printed, half painted, represent Blake's highest achievement in technique, so are they also among the mightiest of his designs.
In the grand composition, " Elohim creating Adam," he enters the lists with his life-long idol, Michael Angelo, yet avoids comparison by the complete originality of his conception.
In the "Creation" of Michael Angelo—perhaps the noblest picture the world possesses—God sweeps past upborne by Cherubim and, with a touch of His extended finger, kindles life in man.
Blake, on entirely different lines, sets before us an almost equally haunting vision.
A weary God, spent with ages of labour, broods over Adam on flagging wings. Virtue is gone out of Him and, as the great sun of the Sixth Day sinks below the newmade world, for the drawing of a breath He pauses before the final effort is made.
Michael Angelo represents the Creation of Man by the Deity. Blake shows the mystery of all Creations; the birth of anything or of everything, born of the Maker's Agony and leaving Him weary—for God rested the Seventh Day.
Beneath His hands the first man takes shape and is resolved out of the elements; a piteous, helpless creature, marl-stained and almost without form, his weak limbs wrapped about by a monstrous worm.
Beyond the two figures the golden disk of the setting sun shoots forth dark purple rays across blue tracts of sky, lighting the overhanging cloud-canopies with a dim radiance. The great wings of God are golden, tinged here and there with crimson, the colour throughout the picture is somberly magnificent."

It might be said that Blake looked at creation from the perspective of Adam and Michelangelo viewed from God's perspective. Events for Blake took place within the mind. Creation was the rending of the unity which the mind experienced before it was torn from infinity. 

Blake's first imaging of Genesis was rendered in the Book of Urizen. The overall impression of the account is of violence and pain which leads to man's isolation in a dualistic material world.

Book of Urizen, Plate 15, (E 77)
"I. In terrors Los shrunk from his task:          
His great hammer fell from his hand:
His fires beheld, and sickening,
Hid their strong limbs in smoke.
For with noises ruinous loud;
With hurtlings & clashings & groans             
The Immortal endur'd his chains,
Tho' bound in a deadly sleep.

2. All the myriads of Eternity:
All the wisdom & joy of life:
Roll like a sea around him,                   
Except what his little orbs
Of sight by degrees unfold.

3. And now his eternal life
Like a dream was obliterated

4. Shudd'ring, the Eternal Prophet smote         
With a stroke, from his north to south region
The bellows & hammer are silent now
A nerveless silence, his prophetic voice
Siez'd; a cold solitude & dark void
The Eternal Prophet & Urizen clos'd"            

Northrop Frye provides further understanding of the nature of creation and its relationship to mankind as portrayed by Blake:

Fearful Symmetry, Page 41
"In Blake there are certain modifications in the orthodox account of the Fall. One is that as all reality is  mental, the fall of man's mind involved a corresponding fall of the physical world. Another is, that as God is Man, Blake follows some of the Gnostics and Boehme in believing that the fall of man involved a falling of part of the divine nature. Not all, for then there would there would be no imagination left to this one; but part, because it is impossible to derive a bad world from a good God, without a great deal of unconvincing special pleading and an implicit denial of the central fact of Christianity, the  identity of God and Man. The conclusion for Blake and the key to much of his symbolism, is that the fall of  man and the creation of the physical world is the same event."
Page 44
"The particular 'Giant form' or 'Eternal' to which we belong, the aggregate of spirits we call mankind or humanity and Blake calls Albion (Adam in Blake has his regular place as the symbol of the physical body or the natural man). When Albion or mankind fell, the unity of man fell too, and although our imagination tells us we belong to some larger organism even if we cannot see it as God, in the meantime we are locked up in separated opaque scattered bodies. If the whole of mankind were once more integrated in a single spiritual body the universe as we see it would burst." 

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