Thursday, November 30, 2017

Church 5

Blake and Methodists

Historians agree that the most vital spiritual movement in 18th Century England came with the Methodist Revival. John Wesley, born and nurtured in the bosom of the Church, reacted against the peurility of the established way. At the age of 35, after much struggle with various forms of religious unreality, he found a new level of truth; at Aldersgate "his heart was strangely warmed".

Soon he followed his fellow evangelist, George Whitefield, to Bristol where he began field preaching. (This happened some two decades before Blake's birth.) For the next fifty years Wesley delivered two sermons a day and led thousands, primarily from the underclass, into a heartfelt experience of grace.

Wesley remained until his death an Anglican priest, but after his heart warming experience he rapidly lost standing in conventional religious circles, and one by one the doors of England's churches closed against his enthusiasm. In response he claimed the world as his parish and proceeded to organize his converts in Methodist Societies. They became after his death the second largest English denomination. Many historians believe that the Methodist Revival prevented a social and  political revolution in England. The Methodists filled the vacuum of spiritual authority manifested by the dead formalism of the established Church and the
lukewarmness of the ageing dissenting groups.

Blake and Wesley had a great deal in common. Each combined high intelligence and spiritual vision with an uncompromising temperament. These qualities led both men to a spiritual struggle continuing into middle life and reaching its climax in what I have called a Moment of Grace.

Wesley described his as a heart warming experience. Afterward his preaching led to a similar experience in the lives of thousands. It became in fact the normative religious experience of the spiritually vital segment of the English population, both in and out of the established Church. The resemblance to the experience of George Fox is both obvious and remarkable. (The same could be said of Paul and Augustine.)

The poem which Blake wrote in October of 1800 to his friend, Butts, certainly describes what we may call a heartwarming experience. Always an individualist Blake had too critical a mind to identify himself consciously with the Methodists (who founded a new denomination),but without question his Moment of Grace owed much to the Methodist movement

Wikimedia Commons
Songs of Experience
Letters, (E 712) 
"To my Friend Butts I write
     My first Vision of Light
     On the yellow sands sitting
     The Sun was Emitting
     His Glorious beams
     From Heavens high Streams
     Over Sea over Land
     My Eyes did Expand
     Into regions of air
     Away from all Care
     Into regions of fire
     Remote from Desire
     The Light of the Morning
     Heavens Mountains adorning
     In particles bright
     The jewels of Light
     Distinct shone & clear--
     Amazd & in fear
     I each particle gazed
     Astonishd Amazed
     For each was a Man
     Human formd.  Swift I ran
     For they beckond to me
     Remote by the Sea
     Saying.  Each grain of Sand
     Every Stone on the Land
     Each rock & each hill
     Each fountain & rill
     Each herb & each tree
     Mountain hill Earth & Sea
     Cloud Meteor & Star
     Are Men Seen Afar
     I stood in the Streams
     Of Heavens bright beams
     And Saw Felpham sweet
     Beneath my bright feet
     In soft Female charms
     And in her fair arms
     My Shadow I knew
     And my wifes shadow too
     And My Sister & Friend.
     We like Infants descend
     In our Shadows on Earth
     Like a weak mortal birth
     My Eyes more & more
     Like a Sea without shore
     Continue Expanding
     The Heavens commanding
     Till the jewels of Light
     Heavenly Men beaming bright
     Appeard as One Man
     Who Complacent began
     My limbs to infold
     In his beams of bright gold
     Like dross purgd away
     All my mire & my clay
     Soft consumd in delight
     In his bosom sun bright
     I remaind.  Soft he smild
     And I heard his voice Mild
     Saying This is My Fold
     O thou Ram hornd with gold
     Who awakest from sleep
     On the sides of the Deep
     On the Mountains around
     The roarings resound
     Of the lion & wolf
     The loud sea & deep gulf
     These are guards of My Fold
     O thou Ram hornd with gold
     And the voice faded mild
     I remaind as a Child
     All I ever had known
     Before me bright Shone
     I saw you & your wife
     By the fountains of Life
     Such the Vision to me
     Appeard on the Sea"

In the most fundamental spiritual progression of their lives Wesley and Blake were twins. Uncompromising individuals they both refused the easy spiritual path of the majority of their fellows and struggled alone until the light came. Each achieved a breakthrough to an outstanding level of spiritual creativity.

Quite close in background and basic values, the two men were miles apart in the style of their response. Both of Wesley's grandfathers had been non-Conforming ministers. His father had returned to the established Church and served the Anglican parish of Epworth; John helped him with it for several years. Wesley knew the Church as an insider; he believed in the established procedures, and remained a part of them. But with his heart warming experience he won the freedom to break the rules when the Spirit so directed.

Two instances deserve special attention: First, his irregular preaching was in defiance of the Church's rules; like Luther he 'could do no other'. Second, when the American Revolution caused a shortage of Anglican priests in America, Wesley decided that he, as a presbyter, had authority to ordain ministers for his American societies. This more than anything else led to the creation of the Methodist Church.

In spite of these infractions Wesley believed in and belonged to the Anglican Church. He had made free with some of its rules, but he was rigid about the rules which he imposed upon his converts. And right there of course he and Blake parted company. Blake just didn't believe in rules; he thought they all came from the devil. He admired Wesley's spirit and held his rules in contempt.

Blake and Wesley each had an an acute social conscience; they were both friends of the common man, but in different ways. Wesley wanted to improve men's lot using religious means. Blake felt that men were victimized by tyranny, and he wanted it stopped. Neither of them shared the conventional genteel attitude that the lower classes, ordained by God to their station, should be encouraged to remain docile and expect their reward in the hereafter. They believed rather that men have the freedom to rise to whatever level their gifts  and character may allow.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Church 6

Blake suffered intensely from the subtle forms of economic oppression and railed against them. His anger sparked the most searching critique of the restrictive structures of society and of the psychic attributes associated with those structures.

Wesley lacked Blake's prophetic mind, but he had a concern for souls that led his converts first to an elevation of character and soon to an elevation of economic station. In the simplest natural terms Wesley's converts replaced drinking and gambling with praying and singing hymns--and became prosperous, just as the Quakers had done in earlier generations.

Wesley held extremely conservative political views, but unlike most Tories he loved the poor. He devoted his life to helping them raise their circumstances, all of course a byproduct of his concern for their souls! While Blake denounced and railed against the social evils of the day, Wesley picked up one by one the fallen members of the underclass and instilled in them a means of lifting themselves up into the middle class.

He taught them for example to "gain all you can, save all you can, give all you can". The admonition won sufficient adherents to make a tremendous contribution to the humanitarian movement. Blake wrote about the prisons of the mind; Wesley systematically visited real prisons his entire life and organized helping institutions to address the needs of prisoners and to ameliorate their distress.

Wesley had a life changing message and organizational genius as well. Through his religious message and his Methodist societies he contributed significantly to the relief of economic distress and oppression. In contrast Blake's message was irtually incomprehensible to the kinds of people most responsive to Wesley's. In fact it is incomprehensible to most people today because it requires a level of  consciousness impossible for the materially minded.

Wesley and Blake may have been the two greatest men produced by England in the 18th Century. The work of Wesley and his fellow evangelists had immediate and far reaching consequences in the life of the world. For example his preachers exercised a great civilizing influence on the American frontier. The Methodist Church today represents the best of the American way, theologically and socially enlightened beyond the generality of the population.

Blake's work in contrast was far ahead of his time. It had no immediate visible influence, yet it offers the best hope of the future for the English speaking world to break out of the strait jacket of dead materialism. The present age needs a spiritual revival as desperately as did Wesley's.

But the Wesleyan style of revival has less to offer the modern mind than it did to the 18th Century underclass. The Blakean vision has a great deal to offer to the best minds of this century, the relatively few minds capable of an individual form of spiritual creativity. The mind of Blake offers the strongest possible protection against the mindless conformity that threatens the human race.

Although Blake did have a copy of a Wesleyan hymnbook, we lack evidence of direct first hand experience with a Methodist group. Most certainly he would have found the discipline distasteful. But Methodism was one of the rare forms of English religious life that Blake had good words for.

In the prose introduction to Chapter Three of 'Jerusalem' he defended Methodists and Monks against what he deemed to be the hypocritical attacks of Voltaire and the other philosophies. He named Wesley and Whitefield as the two witnesses of Revelation 11.3, the archetypal image of the rejected and despised prophet of God (cf Milton 22:61; Erdman 118). He grouped Whitefield with St. Teresa and other gentle souls "who guide the great Wine press of Love".

Jerusalem, Plate 72, (E 227)
"And the Four Gates of Los surround the Universe Within and
Without; & whatever is visible in the Vegetable Earth, the same
Is visible in the Mundane Shell; reversd in mountain & vale
And a Son of Eden was set over each Daughter of Beulah to guard
In Albions Tomb the wondrous Creation: & the Four-fold Gate
Towards Beulah is to the South[.] Fenelon, Guion, Teresa,
Whitefield & Hervey, guard that Gate; with all the gentle Souls
Who guide the great Wine-press of Love; Four precious stones that Gate:"

To  the best of our knowledge Blake belonged to no organized church. We do know of two groups which might generically qualify as churches, using the word its broadest possible sense. The first gathered around the radical publisher, Joseph Johnson, Blake's primary employer and the friend of Mary Wollstonecraft, Joseph Priestly, Richard Price, Thomas Paine and other radical intellectuals. While the conventional church exists as a primary bulwark of the status quo, Joseph Johnson's group by and large conceived of Christ as a revolutionary. Dissenters of a variety of persuasions, they were united by their awareness of the need for social and political change. They considered this the primary agenda of any truly spiritual communion.

Wikimedia Commons
Illustrations to Blair's The Grave
Blake was in accord with these ideas. The Johnson group nurtured him and provided the communal support which we generally associate with church groups. The second group gathered around Blake in his last decade. It was made up of young artists, some of them devout. They looked to Blake for aesthetic and spiritual guidance and provided him the communal support that lent grace to his last years.

       After Blake's Moment of Grace around 1800 he might have joined a church could have found one whose primary doctrine was the forgiveness of sins. But like Milton before him and Lincoln after him he never discovered a church that met his qualifications.

       Anyone who loves Blake and has had a happier experience of the church could wish for him more in the way of community. Alienated from the worshiping community by its partial theology and partial practice, he was confined to his own visions and the nurture he could find at the outer fringes of the church. In addition he learned from the Christian classics of the ages, particularly the off beat ones. St. Teresa was a favorite.   We know little or nothing of how the Ranter tradition came down to him.

All of these are elements of the Universal Church upon which Blake drew and to which he belonged. Blessed with a worshiping fellowship beyond that of his wife, his lot might have been happier and his witness plainer to others.

      Even so the church is fortunate to have his contribution. Isaiah and Jeremiah, not to mention Jesus, also suffered alienation from their communities. At the deepest level none of the four men rejected the church, but rather the church rejected them. Blake was too deeply attached to the priesthood of the believer to be able to  submit to any spiritual authority politically assigned: Let every man be "King and Priest in his own house". In the words of Foster Damon "The Church Universal was the only church that Blake recognized. Its doctrine is the Everlasting Gospel, its congregation the Brotherhood of Man, its symbol the Woman in the Wilderness, its architecture Gothic."

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Church 7

       Deism, a form of Natural Religion denying the intervntion of God in the affairs of men, pervaded the intellectual life of Blake's age. The deists were the true spiritual descendants of Bacon, Newton, and Locke as Blake understood them. Early in the 18th Century Voltaire, much taken with the English deists, had spread their peculiar faith around the intellectual circles of Europe. Deism became the fashionable faith of the upper classes in England and on the continent as well. Many Anglican clergy of that day had strong deistical leanings. Most historians believe that Washington and his associates were deists as well as vestrymen, much as recent Mexican presidents have been Masons as well as Roman Catholics.

       Throughout the early and middle 18th Century deism largely belonged to the gentry. During Blake's lifetime it filtered down to the masses. In America the deist patricians, our forefathers, used the deist staymaker, Thomas Paine, as an inflammatory propagandist for their cause. This identification of deists with political reform explains the ambiguity Blake felt and expressed toward them. He despised their Natural Religion, but admired their enlightened political views.

He counted Thomas Paine a friend and found his religion relatively non-threatening and his political views refreshing. It was natural for him to react defensively against the attack on Paine of Bishop Watson, whom Blake considered a lackey of the State.

       Nevertheless Blake refuted the deist doctrine. One of his earliest theological statements was his Tractate, "There is No Natural Religion" . He dedicated the third chapter of 'Jerusalem' to the deists, and in the prose introduction addressed them very straightforwardly: the deist, he said, is "in the State named Rahab".

      Blake went on to make two primary charges. First, the deist "teaches that Man is Righteous in his Vegetated Spectre: an Opinion of fatal & accursed conequence to Man". Blake in contrast maintained that "Man is born a Spectre or Satan, & is altogether an Evil". Blake's second charge stems from the first: these "originally righteous" deists promote War and blame it on the spiritually religious.

       Blake deplored the hypocrisy of the philosophers, who did indeed "charge the poor Monks & religious with being the causes of War, while you acquit and flatter the Alexanders & Caesars, the Lewises & Fredericks, who alone are its causes and its actors" (Portion of Jerusalem, Plate 52)

       Blake himself had blamed war on the religious, not the poor monk, but the bishop and archbishop. At a deeper level Blake knew that the man righteous in his own eyes is the man who kills, while "the Glory of Christianity is to Conquer by Forgiveness".

       Probably the prevalent opinion of the well to do churchly of deistical
inclinations held that religion is a good thing to keep the masses content; they supported the Church as a primary bulwark of social stability. This attitude more than anything else motivated Blake's radical anti-churchly stance. He knew it as a perversion of everything Jesus stood for. In the great "Wheel of Religion" poem opening the fourth chapter of 'Jerusalem' he gave his final and considered opinion of the deists' Natural Religion.

British Museum
Illustrations to Young's Night thoughts
Jerusalem, Plate 77, (E 232) 
I stood among my valleys of the south
And saw a flame of fire, even as a Wheel
Of fire surrounding all the heavens: it went
From west to cast against the current of
Creation and devourd all things in its loud                      
Fury & thundering course round heaven & earth
By it the Sun was rolld into an orb:
By it the Moon faded into a globe,
Travelling thro the night: for from its dire
And restless fury, Man himself shrunk up           
Into a little root a fathom long.
And I asked a Watcher & a Holy-One
Its Name? he answerd. It is the Wheel of Religion
I wept & said. Is this the law of Jesus
This terrible devouring sword turning every way    
He answerd; Jesus died because he strove
Against the current of this Wheel: its Name
Is Caiaphas, the dark Preacher of Death
Of sin, of sorrow, & of punishment;
Opposing Nature! It is Natural Religion            
But Jesus is the bright Preacher of Life
Creating Nature from this fiery Law,
By self-denial & forgiveness of Sin.

Go therefore, cast out devils in Christs name
Heal thou the sick of spiritual disease           
Pity the evil, for thou art not sent
To smite with terror & with punishments
Those that are sick, like the Pharisees
Crucifying &,encompassing sea & land
For proselytes to tyranny & wrath,                
But to the Publicans & Harlots go!
Teach them True Happiness, but let no curse
Go forth out of thy mouth to blight their peace
For Hell is opend to heaven; thine eyes beheld
The dungeons burst & the Prisoners set free."     

Monday, November 27, 2017

Church 8

What Blake Said

In "Songs of Innocence and of Experience" Blake expressed some biting truths about the place of the church in the lives of ordinary people:

Songs of Experience, Song  37, (E 22)
"A little black thing among the snow,
Crying "'weep! 'weep!" in notes of woe!
"Where are thy father & mother? Say?" 
They are both gone up to the church to
pray. Because I was happy upon the heath,
And smil'd among the winter's snow,
They clothed me in the clothes of death,
And taught me to sing the notes of woe. 
And because I am happy & dance & sing,
They think they have done me no injury,
And are gone to praise God & his Priest & King,
Who make up a heaven of our misery."
       (The Chimney Sweeper from Songs of Experience)

       Surely the church has become more human since Blake's day, when it could
condone the employment of five year olds as chimney sweepers and in fact their
legal sale by their parents for such a purpose. Even more bald in its
ecclesiastical implications is "The Little Vagabond", which sounds very much like
 a Ranter's song:

Songs of Experience, Song 45, (E 46)

 Dear Mother, dear Mother, the Church is cold, 
 But the Ale-house is healthy & pleasant & warm; 
 Besides I can tell where I am used well, 
Such usage in heaven will never do well.
 But if at the Church they would give us some Ale, 
And a pleasant fire our souls to regale, 
We'd sing and we'd pray all the live-long day, 
Nor ever once wish from the Church to stray. 
Then the Parson might preach, & drink, & sing, 
And we'd be as happy as birds in the spring; 
And modest dame Lurch, who is always at Church, 
Would not have bandy children, nor fasting, nor birch. 
And God, like a father rejoicing to see 
His children as pleasant and happy as he, 
Would have no more quarrel with the Devil or the Barrel, 
But kiss him, & give him both drink and apparel."
      (The Little Vagabond)

       In 'Europe' , written about the same time, Blake recounts the degradation of
the church with the cult of chivalry and the Queen of Heaven:

Europe, Plate 5, (E 62)
"Now comes the night of Enitharmon's joy! 
Who shall I call? Who shall I send, 
That Woman, lovely Woman, may have dominion? 
Arise, O Rintrah, thee I call! & Palambron, thee! 
Go! tell the Human race that Woman's love is Sin; 
That an Eternal life awaits the worms of sixty winters 
In an allegorical abode where existence hath never come. 
Forbid all Joy, & from her childhood shall the little female 
Spread nets in every secret path. 
      (Europe 5:1ff, Erdman 62)

       Enitharmon's grammar in the second line indicates her essential falsity,
assuming the place of the true God (See Isaiah 6 ). But after 1800 Blake
rehabilitates Enitharmon, and Rahab becomes his symbol of the false church;
she continually afflicts Jerusalem and finally crucifies Jesus (See 4Z and J). 
Blake used the word 'church' in some rather unconventional ways. In Milton,
Plate 37 and later in 'Jerusalem' Plate 76 he divided human history into 27
Churches, made up of three groups. The first corresponds to the nine
antediluvian patriarchs (Adam to Lamech) taken from Genesis 5. The second
group includes the patriarchs from Noah to Terah, the father of Abraham. For
the third series Blake chose seven famous religious leaders from Abraham to
Luther; each of these represents for Blake a certain type or phase of religious

       The first two groups were druidic (devoted to cultic murder), but Abraham
began to curtail human sacrifice when he chose a ram instead of Issac (See 
Genesis 22 ). Moses brought the Law; Solomon represents Wisdom. Paul
represents the early Christian Church. Constantine marks its embrace by the
highest satanic power. Charlemagne founded the Holy Roman Empire, and
Luther brings us to the modern age. All of these except Paul resorted to war;
therefore Blake referred to these Churches as "Religion hid in war". 

       Blake felt that he had described a natural progression going nowhere for
"where Luther ends, Adam begins again in Eternal Circle", but this "Eternal
Circle" is interrupted by Jesus, who, "breaking thro' the Central zones of Death &
Hell,/ Opens Eternity in Time & Space, triumphant in Mercy". There in its most
concentrated form is Blake's 6000 year history of the church.

       Bear in mind that 27 is a super sinister number; Frye described it as "the
cube of thee, the supreme aggravation of three". A happier constellation of 28 (a
composite of the complete numbers four and seven) occurs in 'Jerusalem' where
England's cathedral cities are called the Friends of Albion. With this image Blake
 recognized that in spite of all its sins the church had exercised a beneficent
influence upon the course of history. Blake habitually picked one of these cities
to represent an important historical personage.

       For example Ely, the cathedral city of Cambridgeshire, stands for Milton, the
greatest man produced by Cambridge. Verulam, an ancient name for
Canterbury, represents Francis Bacon , one of Blake's chief devils. Professor
Erdman informed us that Bath represents Rev. Richard Warner, a courageous
minister who preached against war in 1804, when to do such a thing bordered
on sedition. Blake's admiration for Warner led to the prominence which he gave
Bath in the second chapter of 'Jerusalem'.

       Aside from these prophetic and poetic excursions the Blakean doctrine of
the church found in the myth is roughly as follows: The Church is Beulah. The
majority of the population exist beneath it, spiritually asleep, living what Blake
called Eternal Death without even a murmur of discontent. Their eyes are closed
to the spirit. They are seeds that do not generate. The hungry generally take
refuge in a church and surrender their spiritual destiny into the keeping of a
priest or a priestly community.

       A few still suffer hunger and eventually may come out into the sunlight.
That chosen few are, like Blake, compelled to live in a state of tension with the
church that belongs to the world. The best of them continually court martyrdom
and may be honored posthumously if at all. But of such is the kingdom of
heaven, where like Blake they cast off the enslavement of other men's systems
and create their own.

       (Nels Ferre, who may or may not have known Blake, wrote a short parable
that describes the Blakean doctrine of the church as well or better than Frye did.
 It appears in the beginning of a small book entitled The Sun and the Umbrella.
The image of the church as an umbrella keeping us from the full force of the Sun
is compelling and quite Blakean.) 

Tuesday, November 21, 2017


Northrup Frye makes reference to Freud on page 301 of Fearful Symmetry:
"In the human body, the imagination, Los, struggles to control the three fallen Zoas, Urizen, Thramas, and Livah, whom Blake identifies with the 'head' 'Heart' and 'Loins' respectively. These words are not very satisfactory: the modern reader familiar with Freud may substitute those of the newer myth of much the same shape, and read 'libido' for Luvah, 'id' for the stormy Tharmas, and 'superego' for the fanatical Urizen."
British Museum
Illustrations to Young's Night Thoughts

Frye points out that Blake's Zoas are analogous to Freud's divisions of the psyche. Since Freud's terminology is so familiar now that it is part of our everyday vocabulary, it can be helpful to think of Luvah as 'libido', Tharmas as 'id', and Urizen as 'Superego.' Blake, of course, adds a female component to each of his Zoas. The 'libido' must include Vala, the 'id' must include Enion and the 'superego' must include Ahania.     
If we apply Freud's divisions as being in a dynamic system that controls the thought and behavior of the individual, we better understand the interactions among the Zoas and their Emanations. Blake however adds dimensions drawn from history, philosophy, religion, geography and contemporary situations to augment the psychological portrait he paints. It is the layers of insight that makes Blake's challenging and engrossing.

Blake postulates a Fourfold humanity as man exists in Eden but when man descends to Beulah and his perception of Eternity becomes limited, his experience becomes 'sexual' or Threefold. Blake describes this in therms of the heart, head and loins. So it is Blake's fallen man to which we can apply the terminology and dynamics which were developed by Freud. 

A Glossary of Freudian Terms
Coagulated by Craig Chalquist, PhD,
Id (Es): the permanently unconscious motivational cauldron of the mind. From the id (the "it") originate all the drives that impel psychic life. A "residue of countless egos" inherited from prior generations, the id is the amoral beast within us that seeks only its own gratification through tension discharge. It is powered by the bodily instincts and is wholly irrational. Analogous to the job of the imperialist and the industrialist, the job of the ego is to dominate it. (The term id comes from Groddeck, who got it from Nietzsche.)
Libido: the psychosexual energy originating in the id. Libido is the electric current of the mechanism of personality. It powers all psychological operations, invests desires, and undergoes ready displacement. It is the basic fuel of the self. Because it is of a relatively fixed quantity, like gasoline in a tank, it obeys laws of psychical "economy" in that a surplus in one system means a loss somewhere else. It can be either free or bound (Breuer's term).
Superego (Uber-Ich): formed out of but less conscious than the ego, an agency that safeguards society from uncontrolled acting out by giving the person an internalization of all environmental inhibitions, particularly those of the parents. Developed as a result of millennia of monotheistic moralizing the resolution of the Oedipal complex, it fills you with guilt when you deviate from your internal standards. It's a kind of parent-within formed of reaction formations to unconscious sexual wishes; obeying it results in the secondary narcissism of pride, an expectation of being loved by a parent figure, and disobeying it creates guilt. One of the therapeutic tasks is to lower its demands, which emanate less from the parents than from the parents' superego.

The basic philosophical difference between Freud and Jung can be seen in terms of Jung's recognition of the world of spirit which has influences which are unpredictable and imperceptible to the five senses. Freud's system did not allow for a numinous milieu acting in the world and in human minds. Blake like Jung perceived of the psyche as including the intuitive faculty through which the imagination connected humanity with the unseen spiritual dimension.

Milton, Plate 4, (E 97)                                            
"Beneath the Plow of Rintrah & the harrow of the Almighty
In the hands of Palamabron. Where the Starry Mills of Satan
Are built beneath the Earth & Waters of the Mundane Shell
Here the Three Classes of Men take their Sexual texture Woven
The Sexual is Threefold: the Human is Fourfold"              

Milton, Plate 5, (E 98)
"And this is the manner of the Daughters of Albion in their beauty
Every one is threefold in Head & Heart & Reins, & every one
Has three Gates into the Three Heavens of Beulah which shine
Translucent in their Foreheads & their Bosoms & their Loins
Surrounded with fires unapproachable: but whom they please
They take up into their Heavens in  intoxicating  delight" 

Jerusalem, Plate 98, (E 257)
"The Druid Spectre was Annihilate loud thundring rejoicing terrific vanishing

Fourfold Annihilation & at the clangor of the Arrows of Intellect
The innumerable Chariots of the Almighty appeard in Heaven
And Bacon & Newton & Locke, & Milton & Shakspear & Chaucer
A Sun of blood red wrath surrounding heaven on all sides around 
Glorious incomprehensible by Mortal Man & each Chariot was Sexual Threefold  

And every Man stood Fourfold, each Four Faces had." 

Four Zoas, Night VII, Page 87, (E 368)
"They Builded Golgonooza Los labouring builded pillars high 
And Domes terrific in the nether heavens for beneath
Was opend new heavens & a new Earth beneath & within
Threefold within the brain within the heart within the loins
A Threefold Atmosphere Sublime continuous from Urthonas world  
But yet having a Limit Twofold named Satan & Adam"

Crystal Cabinet, (E 488)
"Another Maiden like herself
Translucent lovely shining clear
Threefold each in the other closd 
O what a pleasant trembling fear

O what a smile a threefold Smile
Filld me that like a flame I burnd
I bent to Kiss the lovely Maid
And found a Threefold Kiss returnd 

I strove to sieze the inmost Form
With ardor fierce & hands of flame
But burst the Crystal Cabinet
And like a Weeping Babe became"
Milton, Plate 20 [22], (E 114)
"Seest thou the little winged fly, smaller than a grain of sand?
It has a heart like thee; a brain open to heaven & hell,
Withinside wondrous & expansive; its gates are not clos'd,
I hope thine are not: hence it clothes itself in rich array;     
Hence thou art cloth'd with human beauty O thou mortal man.
Seek not thy heavenly father then beyond the skies:
There Chaos dwells & ancient Night & Og & Anak old:
For every human heart has gates of brass & bars of adamant,
Which few dare unbar because dread Og & Anak guard the gates     
Terrific! and each mortal brain is walld and moated round
Within: and Og & Anak watch here; here is the Seat
Of Satan in its Webs; for in brain and heart and loins
Gates open behind Satans Seat to the City of Golgonooza
Which is the spiritual fourfold London, in the loins of Albion   

Thus Milton fell thro Albions heart, travelling outside of Humanity
Beyond the Stars in Chaos in Caverns of the Mundane Shell."

Milton, Plate 14, (E 148)
"And Los beheld his Sons, and he beheld his Daughters:
Every one a translucent Wonder: a Universe within,
Increasing inwards, into length and breadth, and heighth:
Starry & glorious: and they every one in their bright loins:
Have a beautiful golden gate which opens into the vegetative world:  
And every one a gate of rubies & all sorts of precious stones
In their translucent hearts, which opens into the vegetative world:
And every one a gate of iron dreadful and wonderful,
In their translucent heads, which opens into the vegetative world
And every one has the three regions Childhood: Manhood: & Age:   
But the gate of the tongue: the western gate in them is clos'd,
Having a wall builded against it: and thereby the gates
Eastward & Southward & Northward, are incircled with flaming fires.
And the North is Breadth, the South is Heighth & Depth:
The East is Inwards: & the West is Outwards every way."             

Thursday, November 16, 2017


National Gallery  Los and His Spectre  c. 1804/1807
 Browsing through the online collection of Blake images in the National Gallery, I came across this sketch of Los and his Spectre which is familiar as the illustration on Plate 6 of Jerusalem. Viewing the sketch we can discern how the visual image was developing in Blake' mind and how he was coming to understand the dynamics between his Humanity and his Spectre.

Los served as the alter-ego of Blake. He tried to accomplish what Blake aspired to do and suffered the struggles Blake endured. The challenge which Blake faced in reconciling the demands of his body, mind and emotions in conjunction with his spiritual aspirations can be discerned in Los. The spirit was revealed to Blake in Vision from the time he was a young child. His desire was to serve with all his abilities the vision of God which he received. But he found that there were impediments which stood in the way of complete devotion to the Truth as he knew it. Foremost was the facet of the psyche which he called his Spectre.

Los became the battleground upon which a struggle between Blake and his Spectre was fought for the sake of reuniting divided Albion.

Jerusalem, Plate 5, (E 148)
"Los heard her lamentations in the deeps afar! his tears fall
Incessant before the Furnaces, and his Emanation divided in pain,
Eastward toward the Starry Wheels. But Westward, a black Horror,  
Plate 6
His spectre driv'n by the Starry Wheels of Albions sons, black and
Opake divided from his back; he labours and he mourns!

For as his Emanation divided, his Spectre also divided
In terror of those starry wheels: and the Spectre stood over Los
Howling in pain: a blackning Shadow, blackning dark & opake      
Cursing the terrible Los: bitterly cursing him for his friendship
To Albion, suggesting murderous thoughts against Albion.

Los rag'd and stamp'd the earth in his might & terrible wrath!
He stood and stampd the earth! then he threw down his hammer in rage &
In fury: then he sat down and wept, terrified! Then arose        
And chaunted his song, labouring with the tongs and hammer:
But still the Spectre divided, and still his pain increas'd!

In pain the Spectre divided: in pain of hunger and thirst:
To devour Los's Human Perfection, but when he saw that Los

Plate 7
Was living: panting like a frighted wolf, and howling
He stood over the Immortal, in the solitude and darkness:
Upon the darkning Thames, across the whole Island westward.
A horrible Shadow of Death, among the Furnaces: beneath
The pillar of folding smoke; and he sought by other means,       
To lure Los: by tears, by arguments of science & by terrors:
Terrors in every Nerve, by spasms & extended pains:
While Los answer'd unterrified to the opake blackening Fiend
Los answer'd. Altho' I know not this! I know far worse than this:
I know that Albion hath divided me, and that thou O my Spectre,
Hast just cause to be irritated: but look stedfastly upon me:
Comfort thyself in my strength the time will arrive,
When all Albions injuries shall cease, and when we shall         
Embrace him tenfold bright, rising from his tomb in immortality.
They have divided themselves by Wrath. they must be united by
Pity: let us therefore take example & warning O my Spectre,
O that I could abstain from wrath! O that the Lamb
Of God would look upon me and pity me in my fury.                
In anguish of regeneration! in terrors of self annihilation:
Pity must join together those whom wrath has torn in sunder,
And the Religion of Generation which was meant for the destruction
Of Jerusalem, become her covering, till the time of the End.
O holy Generation! [Image] of regeneration!    
O point of mutual forgiveness between Enemies!
Birthplace of the Lamb of God incomprehensible!
The Dead despise & scorn thee, & cast thee out as accursed:
Seeing the Lamb of God in thy gardens & thy palaces:
Where they desire to place the Abomination of Desolation.        
Hand sits before his furnace: scorn of others & furious pride:
Freeze round him to bars of steel & to iron rocks beneath
His feet: indignant self-righteousness like whirlwinds of the north: 
Plate 8
Rose up against me thundering from the Brook of Albions River
From Ranelagh & Strumbolo, from Cromwells gardens & Chelsea
The place of wounded Soldiers. but when he saw my Mace
Whirld round from heaven to earth, trembling he sat: his cold
Poisons rose up: & his sweet deceits coverd them all over        
With a tender cloud. As thou art now; such was he O Spectre
I know thy deceit & thy revenges, and unless thou desist
I will certainly create an eternal Hell for thee. Listen!
Be attentive! be obedient! Lo the Furnaces are ready to recieve thee.
I will break thee into shivers! & melt thee in the furnaces of death;       
I will cast thee into forms of abhorrence & torment if thou
Desist not from thine own will, & obey  not my stern command!
I am closd up from my children: my Emanation is dividing
And thou my Spectre art divided against me. But mark
I will compell thee to assist me in my terrible labours. To beat 
These hypocritic Selfhoods on the Anvils of bitter Death
I am inspired: I act not for myself: for Albions sake
I now am what I am: a horror and an astonishment
Shuddring the heavens to look upon me: Behold what cruelties
Are practised in Babel & Shinar, & have approachd to Zions Hill" 

The Spectre Again

Orginally posted by Larry in Oct 2011

This subject has come up over and over in our blog. You might like to look at some of the earlier ones, such as this one. I owe this material to John Middleton Murry's book, William Blake, with extensive quotations from the book, where he quotes from Night VII of The Four Zoas:

Page 196-7:
"Soon after the moment when, in Night VII, Los is united with the Spectre, 'by Divine Mercy inspired', gives him 'tasks enormous' to fulfill. The two and a half lines which tell of them are a later addition. Originally the lines ran:
[added lines inserted in bold]

Four Zoas , Night VII, Page 87 (E 368)
"But mingling together with his Spectre the Spectre of Urthona
Wondering beheld the Center opend by Divine Mercy inspired
They Builded Golgonooza"
He in his turn Gave Tasks to Los Enormous to destroy
That body he created but in vain for Los performd
Wonders of labour

"The discarding of the previous version of Night VII, and the substitution for it of the Night which this union of Spectres is the culmination, marks the point of change in Blake's total conception of the work. This point of change is marked, psychologically and spiritually, by the union of the Spectre through Los's Self-annihilation; it is marked artistically and creatively, by the building of Golgonnoza. At some time not long afterwards Blake looked back, in the light of new experience and added two lines and a half [as shown above]."

Page 164
"..the psychological meaning is, that by being reconciled to the Spectre within himself, by recognizing and receiving Urizen as a part of his own Self, Los/Blake attains a new understanding, a new synthesis (as we might call it today). Not, of course, an intellectual synthesis; but a real and decisive act of a new spiritual understanding, involving a revolution of the total man - an act of the Self-annihilation which is Imagination. Blake understands now that Urizen is not a separate, demonic power, from whose dominion Blake alone is free; he is in Blake himself, a necessary element of Blake's being."

This image is from Blake's poem, For The Sexes Gates of Paradise. The poem begins at Erdman 259; the Epilogue is pictured here:
"To The Accuser Who is
The God of This World
Truly My Satan thou art but a Dunce
And dost not know the Garment from the Man
Every Harlot was a Virgin once
Nor canst thou ever change Kate into Nan
Tho thou art Worshipd by the Names Divine
Of Jesus & Jehovah thou art still
The Son of Morn in weary Nights decline
The lost Travellers Dream under the Hill"

(The Spectre is not named,
but Blake is obviously pointing
to the Devil, Satan, and in this
case the personal Spectre.)