Saturday, July 01, 2017


Genesis 1
[1] In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.
[2] And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.
[3] And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.
[4] And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness.

Wikimedia Commons
from Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge University
Plate 1, Copy K
When the title 'Ancient of Days' was attached to this image by J T Smith in his Biographical Sketch in 1828 - the year after Blake died - he was seeing it as a representation of God the Creator. He saw that in Blake's image the Creative Being was surrounded by light in the midst of darkness, stirred by the wind, kneeling to reach into the undefined, and carefully using his instrument to define and elucidate his creation. To Blake, God's act of creation was a mercy to give Time and Space to fallen man that he might develop the ability to live in Eden and endure the 'severe contentions of Friendship.'

This image would not have been such a favorite of Blake had it not included the possibility of seeing in it the benevolent God in whose image man was made.        
Vision of  Last Judgment, (E 563)
  "Many suppose that before the
Creation All was Solitude & Chaos This is the most pernicious
Idea that can enter the Mind as it takes away all sublimity from
the Bible & Limits All Existence to Creation & to Chaos To the
Time & Space fixed by the Corporeal Vegetative Eye & leaves the
Man who entertains such an Idea the habitation of Unbelieving
Demons   Eternity Exists and All things in Eternity Independent of
Creation which was an act of Mercy" 

Annotations to Lavater, (E 599) 
 "God is in the lowest effects as well as in the highest
causes for he is become a worm that he may nourish the weak  
     For let it be rememberd that creation is. God descending
according to the weakness of man for our Lord is the word of God
& every thing on earth is the word of God & in its essence is God" 

In Willam Blake's Circle of Destiny, by Milton O Percival he states on Page 88:

"In the created world (the Generative world of the myth) the physical universe loses the chaotic character of Ulro and takes on the 'fixed' aspect we now know. Man can no longer transcend time and space at will. He has been given a 'vegetative body' from the limits of which he cannot escape. His spiritual perceptions have been made organic. This was for Blake a cruel provision; yet he sees the placer of limits the remover of limits. Just as the purpose of systems is the ultimate release from all systems, so is the purpose of limits the release from all limits. Los's definite systems lift man out of a world of intellectual chaos. So, too, do the fixed spacial forms reported by organic senses deliver him from the indefinite of matter. Los's 'vegetated' world stands between man and chaos. It is the earth by which he escapes from the abstract hell of his own devising. When the purpose of Los's generative world has been achieved, when in short, the Generative earth shall have passed through its revolution of time, it too, will come to an end. Meanwhile he who frets at mortal limitations may solace himself with the thought that:

(But whatever is visible to the Generated Man, 
Is a Creation of mercy & love, from the Satanic Void.)" 
Milton, Plate 13, (E 157)

The term 'Ancient of Days' appears only three times in the Bible - all in the seventh chapter of the Book of Daniel. The chapter would have been highly significant to Blake for its presentation of the four great beasts who were overcome by the Ancient of Days. Daniel sees that the everlasting kingdom of the saints of the most High was instituted when the four beasts or kingdoms came to an end. The Zoas were the four great beasts to Blake. Their dominions as competing entities were eliminated to initiate the unified Man who could recognize the God Within who was there from the beginning.
Daniel 7
[1] In the first year of Belshazzar king of Babylon Daniel had a dream and visions of his head upon his bed: then he wrote the dream, and told the sum of the matters.
[2] Daniel spake and said, I saw in my vision by night, and, behold, the four winds of the heaven strove upon the great sea.
[3] And four great beasts came up from the sea, diverse one from another.
[4] The first was like a lion, and had eagle's wings: I beheld till the wings thereof were plucked, and it was lifted up from the earth, and made stand upon the feet as a man, and a man's heart was given to it.
[5] And behold another beast, a second, like to a bear, and it raised up itself on one side, and it had three ribs in the mouth of it between the teeth of it: and they said thus unto it, Arise, devour much flesh.
[6] After this I beheld, and lo another, like a leopard, which had upon the back of it four wings of a fowl; the beast had also four heads; and dominion was given to it.
[7] After this I saw in the night visions, and behold a fourth beast, dreadful and terrible, and strong exceedingly; and it had great iron teeth: it devoured and brake in pieces, and stamped the residue with the feet of it: and it was diverse from all the beasts that were before it; and it had ten horns.
[8] I considered the horns, and, behold, there came up among them another little horn, before whom there were three of the first horns plucked up by the roots: and, behold, in this horn were eyes like the eyes of man, and a mouth speaking great things.
[9] I beheld till the thrones were cast down, and the Ancient of days did sit, whose garment was white as snow, and the hair of his head like the pure wool: his throne was like the fiery flame, and his wheels as burning fire.
[10] A fiery stream issued and came forth from before him: thousand thousands ministered unto him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him: the judgment was set, and the books were opened.
[11] I beheld then because of the voice of the great words which the horn spake: I beheld even till the beast was slain, and his body destroyed, and given to the burning flame.
[12] As concerning the rest of the beasts, they had their dominion taken away: yet their lives were prolonged for a season and time.
[13] I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him.
[14] And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed.
[15] I Daniel was grieved in my spirit in the midst of my body, and the visions of my head troubled me.
[16] I came near unto one of them that stood by, and asked him the truth of all this. So he told me, and made me know the interpretation of the things.
[17] These great beasts, which are four, are four kings, which shall arise out of the earth.
[18] But the saints of the most High shall take the kingdom, and possess the kingdom for ever, even for ever and ever.
[19] Then I would know the truth of the fourth beast, which was diverse from all the others, exceeding dreadful, whose teeth were of iron, and his nails of brass; which devoured, brake in pieces, and stamped the residue with his feet;
[20] And of the ten horns that were in his head, and of the other which came up, and before whom three fell; even of that horn that had eyes, and a mouth that spake very great things, whose look was more stout than his fellows.
[21] I beheld, and the same horn made war with the saints, and prevailed against them;
[22] Until the Ancient of days came, and judgment was given to the saints of the most High; and the time came that the saints possessed the kingdom.
[23] Thus he said, The fourth beast shall be the fourth kingdom upon earth, which shall be diverse from all kingdoms, and shall devour the whole earth, and shall tread it down, and break it in pieces.
[24] And the ten horns out of this kingdom are ten kings that shall arise: and another shall rise after them; and he shall be diverse from the first, and he shall subdue three kings.
[25] And he shall speak great words against the most High, and shall wear out the saints of the most High, and think to change times and laws: and they shall be given into his hand until a time and times and the dividing of time.
[26] But the judgment shall sit, and they shall take away his dominion, to consume and to destroy it unto the end.
[27] And the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people of the saints of the most High, whose kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey him.
[28] Hitherto is the end of the matter. As for me Daniel, my cogitations much troubled me, and my countenance changed in me: but I kept the matter in my heart.

Europe, Plate 2, (E 61)
"I bring forth from my teeming bosom myriads of flames.
And thou dost stamp them with a signet, then they roam abroad    
And leave me void as death:
Ah! I am drown'd in shady woe, and visionary joy.

And who shall bind the infinite with an eternal band?
To compass it with swaddling bands? and who shall cherish it
With milk and honey?                                             
I see it smile & I roll inward & my voice is past." 
Book of Urizen, Plate 20, (E 80)  
"7. He form'd a line & a plummet
To divide the Abyss beneath.
He form'd a dividing rule:

8. He formed scales to weigh;
He formed massy weights;
He formed a brazen quadrant;
He formed golden compasses
And began to explore the Abyss
And he planted a garden of fruits

9. But Los encircled Enitharmon
With fires of Prophecy
From the sight of Urizen & Orc.

10. And she bore an enormous race"

Auguries of Innocence, (E 492)
"Every Night & every Morn
Some to Misery are Born 
Every Morn & every Night
Some are Born to sweet delight
Some are Born to sweet delight
Some are Born to Endless Night
We are led to Believe a Lie 
When we see not Thro the Eye                                    t
Which was Born in a Night to perish in a Night
When the Soul Slept in Beams of Light
God Appears & God is Light
To those poor Souls who dwell in Night 
But does a Human Form Display
To those who Dwell in Realms of day"
Jerusalem, Plate 42, (E 189)
"There is a limit of Opakeness, and a limit of Contraction;
In every Individual Man, and the limit of Opakeness,             
Is named Satan: and the limit of Contraction is named Adam.
But when Man sleeps in Beulah, the Saviour in mercy takes
Contractions Limit, and of the Limit he forms Woman: That
Himself may in process of time be born Man to redeem
But there is no Limit of Expansion! there is no Limit of Translucence."  

Entrance to GE Building in New York City


Susan J. said...

wow! Ellie! what an inspiring post... deep... I almost missed the GE building link at the bottom... makes me want to visit NYC just to see it face to face...

Just curious: Did the Isaiah 33:6 quote from the GE building appear in the original context of Blake's image (which I gather he himself did not call "Ancient of Days")?

Does everybody call this image Ancient of Days?

I'm mulling over the idea of creation being a divine act of mercy for humanity... "God's act of creation was a mercy to give Time and Space to fallen man"... so man was fallen prior to creation??

fascinating. I've had no time to get online at least the past 2 weeks - this is the perfect Sunday morning meditation for me today.

ellie Clayton said...

It is hard to pin Blake down. His myth does postulate two creations, perhaps the second to remedy the expulsion from Eden. So you can think that first God created Eden, then a Earthly habitation or 'generation' to which Adam and Eve retreated.

One on Larry's favorite expressions was, "The Bible is all poetry, and poetry is the highest form of truth." Like the Bible, Blake's writing (even the prose) is poetry. It is not to be taken literally but metaphorically. It points to truth which is beyond expression. Blake's God availed himself of the opportunity to begin again repeatedly.

I didn't recognize the Isaiah quote on the GE building. It is not something that Blake used. It sounds more like Urizen than Los.

I haven't seen evidence that Blake referred to the image as Ancient of Days. The individual prints are less available to view than are images of the frontispiece of Europe.

Thanks as Always, ellie