Friday, January 09, 2015


British Museum
Plate 6, Copy A
The battle between Los and his Spectre, which is played out in Blake's poetry, is displayed in Plate 10 of Jerusalem. Los is the form of Urthona who is active in our world, but his work is resisted by another aspect of Urthona, the Spectre. Although Urthona is one of the Four Zoas or divisions of the complete man, he is divided again into his Humanity (Los), his Emanation (Enitharmon), his Spectre, and a less well-defined Shadow. An inner struggle on which Blake focuses great attention is the contention between Los as Imagination and the Spectre as Reason. As a part of Urthona, the Spectre is analogous to Urizen as one of the divisions of the total man. The Spectre represents the doubting, explaining, despairing mind.

This dichotomy is a central theme in Blake's thought because the Imagination must be fully developed and reach maximum expression for man to enter the fullness of his Human Form.

Notice in this passage that the Spectre intends to restrict Los in his relating to Enitharmon. Further the Spectre would deny the worth of Los's children. For Blake man's emanation and his children are the outer forms which result from the internal activity of man's spirit. Los will do everything he can to prevent the Spectre from achieving his goal but his options are limited. Los engages the Spectre in the work he has undertaken himself -  building Golgonooza. The Spectre will serve the negative function of tearing down and clearing away the discarded material which needs to be left behind as the Imagination constantly expands.

The Spectre defines himself in negative terms - grief, dispair, distress, dead. His concept of God is negative also - requiring sacrifice, without pity or compassion.

Jerusalem, Plate 10, (E 153)
"Los cries, Obey my voice & never deviate from my will
And I will be merciful to thee: be thou invisible to all          
To whom I make thee invisible, but chief to my own Children
O Spectre of Urthona: Reason not against their dear approach
Nor them obstruct with thy temptations of doubt & despair
O Shame O strong & mighty Shame I break thy brazen fetters
If thou refuse, thy present torments will seem southern breezes  
To what thou shalt endure if thou obey not my great will.

The Spectre answer'd. Art thou not ashamd of those thy Sins
That thou callest thy Children? lo the Law of God commands
That they be offered upon his Altar: O cruelty & torment
For thine are also mine! I have kept silent hitherto,            
Concerning my chief delight: but thou hast broken silence
Now I will speak my mind! Where is my lovely Enitharmon
O thou my enemy, where is my Great Sin?  She is also thine
I said: Now is my grief at worst: incapable of being
Surpassed: but every moment it accumulates more & more           
It continues accumulating to eternity! the joys of God advance
For he is Righteous: he is not a Being of Pity & Compassion
He cannot feel Distress: he feeds on Sacrifice & Offering:
Delighting in cries & tears & clothed in Holiness & solitude
But my griefs advance also, for ever & ever without end          
O that I could cease to be! Despair! I am Despair
Created to be the great example of horror & agony: also my
Prayer is vain I called for compassion: compassion mockd
Mercy & pity threw the grave stone over me & with lead
And iron, bound it over me for ever: Life lives on my
Consuming: & the Almighty hath made me his Contrary
To be all evil, all reversed & for ever dead: knowing
And seeing life, yet living not; how can I then behold
And not tremble; how can I be beheld & not abhorrd

So spoke the Spectre shuddring, & dark tears ran down his shadowy face
Which Los wiped off, but comfort none could give! or beam of hope
Yet ceasd he not from labouring at the roarings of his Forge
With iron & brass Building Golgonooza in great contendings
Till his Sons & Daughters came forth from the Furnaces
At the sublime Labours for Los. compelld the invisible Spectre   
Plate 11
To labours mighty, with vast strength, with his mighty chains,
In pulsations of time, & extensions of space, like Urns of Beulah
With great labour upon his anvils, & in his ladles the Ore
He lifted, pouring it into the clay ground prepar'd with art;
Striving with Systems to deliver Individuals from those Systems; 
That whenever any Spectre began to devour the Dead,
He might feel the pain as if a man gnawd his own tender nerves."

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