Saturday, December 22, 2018


Yale Center for British Art
Plate 76
Matthew 28
[16] Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, into a mountain where Jesus had appointed them. [17] And when they saw him, they worshipped him: but some doubted. 
[18] And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. 
[19] Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: 
[20] Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.  

In Jerusalem, Plate 62 Blake has informed us that we are participating in a visionary experience. It is not the time frame of the natural world but of the Eternal world. Although the incidents and characters exist in the physical world the action is in the Eternal dimension.

The conversation has gone from Mary to Joseph, then back to Mary with a new consciousness. Jerusalem enters to take up the passage through the world of Joy & Woe into which the infant Jesus was thrust. This final segment transfers our attention to the Eternal Jesus who in his Resurrected Body joins Jerusalem in her journey.

The passage is through the world of Luvah and Vala where the turmoil of the emotions is acted out in physical conflict and suffering. Although there is mental and physical pain to be endured, it need not be carried alone. Faith, Trust and Love will sustain those who rely not on 'individual perception' but who 'Die & pass the limits of possibility.'

The panoply which has been spread before us is witnessed by Los - the ability to perceive through Imagination. He has the ability to see beyond the destructive forces of Annihilation to the creative events of renewal.
Jerusalem, Plate 62, (E 213)
"Jesus replied. I am the Resurrection & the Life.
I Die & pass the limits of possibility, as it appears
To individual perception. Luvah must be Created                  
And Vala; for I cannot leave them in the gnawing Grave.
But will prepare a way for my banished-ones to return
Come now with me into the villages. walk thro all the cities.
Tho thou art taken to prison & judgment, starved in the streets
I will command the cloud to give thee food & the hard rock       
To flow with milk & wine, tho thou seest me not a season
Even a long season & a hard journey & a howling wilderness!
Tho Valas cloud hide thee & Luvahs fires follow thee!
Only believe & trust in me, Lo. I am always with thee!

So spoke the Lamb of God while Luvahs Cloud reddening above      
Burst forth in streams of blood upon the heavens & dark night
Involvd Jerusalem. & the Wheels of Albions Sons turnd hoarse
Over the Mountains & the fires blaz'd on Druid Altars
And the Sun set in Tyburns Brook where Victims howl & cry.

But Los beheld the Divine Vision among the flames of the Furnaces
Therefore he lived & breathed in hope. but his tears fell incessant
Because his Children were closd from him apart: & Enitharmon
Dividing in fierce pain: also the Vision of God was closd in clouds
Of Albions Spectres, that Los in despair oft sat, & often ponderd
On Death Eternal in fierce shudders upon the mountains of Albion 
Walking: & in the vales in howlings fierce, then to his Anvils
Turning, anew began his labours, tho in terrible pains!"

Friday, December 21, 2018


Yale Center for British Art
  Plate 26
John 20
[11] But Mary stood without at the sepulchre weeping: and as she wept, she stooped down, and looked into the sepulchre,
[12] And seeth two angels in white sitting, the one at the head, and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain.
[13] And they say unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? She saith unto them, Because they have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid him.
[14] And when she had thus said, she turned herself back, and saw Jesus standing, and knew not that it was Jesus.
[15] Jesus saith unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? whom seekest thou? She, supposing him to be the gardener, saith unto him, Sir, if thou have borne him hence, tell me where thou hast laid him, and I will take him away.
[16] Jesus saith unto her, Mary. She turned herself, and saith unto him, Rabboni; which is to say, Master.
[17] Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God.
[18] Mary Magdalene came and told the disciples that she had seen the Lord, and that he had spoken these things unto her.

Blake shifted his attention from situations around the birth of Jesus to developments around the religion introduced by Jesus. Of concern to Blake was how Christianity in the person of Jerusalem who received the infant from Mary, found that control of the message passed out of her hands. Although the life of Christ was within her, the world was not prepared to receive her. Under the conditions which existed she was an outcast observing the consequences of the material side dominating the spiritual nature implicit in the incarnation.

Instead of seeing spiritualizing of the material she found that the spiritual became materialized.

Jerusalem was the emanation of Albion and as an emanation was incomplete without her counterpart. Until there was an awakening of Albion (representing Humanity) who had turned away from consciousness of the Divine, Jerusalem was condemned to being treated as an outcast. This was the status which Blake saw in his lifetime: England had turned away from traditional Christianity toward Deism with its concept of a distant God who is unconcerned with the affairs of man.
Jerusalem, Plate 61, (E 212)
"Mary leaned her side against Jerusalem, Jerusalem received
The Infant into her hands in the Visions of Jehovah. Times passed on
Jerusalem fainted over the Cross & Sepulcher She heard the voice
Wilt thou make Rome thy Patriarch Druid & the Kings of Europe his
Horsemen? Man in the Resurrection changes his Sexual Garments at will
Every Harlot was once a Virgin: every Criminal an Infant Love!
Plate 62
Repose on me till the morning of the Grave. I am thy life.

Jerusalem replied. I am an outcast: Albion is dead!
I am left to the trampling foot & the spurning heel!
A Harlot I am calld. I am sold from street to street!
I am defaced with blows & with the dirt of the Prison!
And wilt thou become my Husband O my Lord & Saviour?
Shall Vala bring thee forth! shall the Chaste be ashamed also?
I see the Maternal Line, I behold the Seed of the Woman!
Cainah, & Ada & Zillah & Naamah Wife of Noah.
Shuahs daughter & Tamar & Rahab the Canaanites:                  
Ruth the Moabite & Bathsheba of the daughters of Heth
Naamah the Ammonite, Zibeah the Philistine, & Mary
These are the Daughters of Vala, Mother of the Body of death
But I thy Magdalen behold thy Spiritual Risen Body
Shall Albion arise? I know he shall arise at the Last Day!
I know that in my flesh I shall see God: but Emanations
Are weak. they know not whence they are, nor whither tend."


Thursday, December 20, 2018


Philadelphia Museum of Art
Tempera on Copper
Luke 1 
[46] And Mary said, My soul doth magnify the Lord, 
[47] And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour. 
[48] For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed. 
[49] For he that is mighty hath done to me great things; and holy is his name. 
[50] And his mercy is on them that fear him from generation to generation. 
[51] He hath shewed strength with his arm; he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.
[52] He hath put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of low degree. 
[53] He hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich he hath sent empty away. 
[54] He hath holpen his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy; 
[55] As he spake to our fathers, to Abraham, and to his seed for ever.  

Jerusalem, Plate 61, (E 212)
"Then Mary burst forth into a Song! she flowed like a River of
Many Streams in the arms of Joseph & gave forth her tears of joy
Like many waters, and Emanating into gardens & palaces upon
Euphrates & to forests & floods & animals wild & tame from
Gihon to Hiddekel, & to corn fields & villages & inhabitants
Upon Pison & Arnon & Jordan. And I heard the voice among
The Reapers Saying, Am I Jerusalem the lost Adulteress? or am I
Babylon come up to Jerusalem? And another voice answerd Saying   

Does the voice of my Lord call me again? am I pure thro his Mercy
And Pity. Am I become lovely as a Virgin in his sight who am
Indeed a Harlot drunken with the Sacrifice of Idols does he
Call her pure as he did in the days of her Infancy when She
Was cast out to the loathing of her person. The Chaldean took
Me from my Cradle. The Amalekite stole me away upon his Camels
Before I had ever beheld with love the Face of Jehovah; or known 
That there was a God of Mercy: O Mercy O Divine Humanity!
O Forgiveness & Pity & Compassion! If I were Pure I should never
Have known Thee; If I were Unpolluted I should never have        
Glorified thy Holiness, or rejoiced in thy great Salvation."
A burden was lifted from Mary when she knew that she and Joseph were both recipients of God's grace of forgiveness as were God's people Israel. Mary's response was one of awareness and gratitude. She knew that God's mercy becomes recognizable to those who are most desperate. It was because she was polluted that she knew in her total being the God offered 'Forgiveness & Pity & Compassion.'

The individual Mary has assumed the role of archetype. She becomes Blake's character Jerusalem. She becomes the Savior. She becomes all who follow the path of suffering to arrive at a glorious treasure to share with humanity.


Wednesday, December 19, 2018


Museum of Fine Arts Boston
Woman Taken in Adultrey
Blake turns from Mary's understanding of her situation to Joseph's perception. His initial reaction was anger, but what followed was sadness and a desire to comfort Mary. His thoughts then turned to the training which he he had received from studying the prophetic insights of his religion. He become conscious in a dream of the Angel of the Presence speaking to him.

Joseph realized that forgiveness was not received in exchange for payment of a debt. He did not need to extract from Mary a confession or a promise to mend her ways. Jehovah forgave Jerusalem although she was disobedient. The nature of God is to forgive. The response of man to God's forgiving him is not to try and pay God back but to practice forgiving his neighbor and enemy and anyone who has disappointed or wounded him.

This forgiving results from overcoming one's fear that good will not come from seeking reconciliation. Faith too is necessary: faith that there is a larger picture than is visible to one's limited consciousness.

Jerusalem, Plate 61, (E 211)
"Ah my Mary: said Joseph: weeping over & embracing her closely in

His arms: Doth he forgive Jerusalem & not exact Purity from her who is
Polluted. I heard his voice in my sleep O his Angel in my dream:

Saying, Doth Jehovah Forgive a Debt only on condition that it shall
Be Payed? Doth he Forgive Pollution only on conditions of Purity
That Debt is not Forgiven! That Pollution is not Forgiven
Such is the Forgiveness of the Gods, the Moral Virtues of the    
Heathen, whose tender Mercies are Cruelty. But Jehovahs Salvation
Is without Money & without Price, in the Continual Forgiveness of Sins
In the Perpetual Mutual Sacrifice in Great Eternity! for behold!
There is none that liveth & Sinneth not! And this is the Covenant 
Of Jehovah: If you Forgive one-another, so shall Jehovah Forgive You:    
That He Himself may Dwell among You. Fear not then to take
To thee Mary thy Wife, for she is with Child by the Holy Ghost"

The Old Testament book of Hosea symbolizes the relationship between Jehovah and Israel with the command of the Lord that Hosea marry a whore. The children which Gomer bears to Hosea have the potential of becoming God's people through the mercy which is offered to them.   

Hosea 1
[2] The beginning of the word of the LORD by Hosea. And the LORD said to Hosea, Go, take unto thee a wife of whoredoms and children of whoredoms: for the land hath committed great whoredom, departing from the LORD.
[3] So he went and took Gomer the daughter of Diblaim; which conceived, and bare him a son.

Hosea 2
[23] And I will sow her unto me in the earth; and I will have mercy upon her that had not obtained mercy; and I will say to them which were not my people, Thou art my people; and they shall say, Thou art my God.

Hosea 6
[1] Come, and let us return unto the LORD: for he hath torn, and he will heal us; he hath smitten, and he will bind us up.
[2] After two days will he revive us: in the third day he will raise us up, and we shall live in his sight.
[3] Then shall we know, if we follow on to know the LORD: his going forth is prepared as the morning; and he shall come unto us as the rain, as the latter and former rain unto the earth.


Tuesday, December 18, 2018


British Museum
Sketch for Frontispiece of Book of Ahania
Plates 61 and 62 of Jerusalem present a long passage relating incidents found in the Bible with the myth which Blake developed based on his own experience of seeking to live in a world fraught with a struggle to resolve contraries. He begins with the story of incidents around the birth of Jesus as told in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke.
Luke 1
[30] And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God.
[31] And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS.
[34] Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?
[35] And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.

Matthew 1
[18] Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost.
[19] Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a publick example, was minded to put her away privily.
[20] But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost.
[21] And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins.

Blake invites us to enter the Visionary state and behold with him the dynamics through which salvation is enacted. He begins by viewing from Mary's perspective. If Joseph would not marry her, she would be seen as a 'Harlot & an Adulteress' when her pregnancy was publicly known. Mary did not claim purity but plead for love and forgiveness. She likens herself to the people Israel who were forgiven by Jehovah when they fell away. Mary was able to call upon Joseph to recall the behavior of Jehovah: although the anger of Elohim Jehovah was aroused by the disobedience of his people, he did not cast them out. Mary appeals to Joseph, not trying to justify herself, but recognizing that love is stronger than anger. She sees that passing through the fiery furnace forges stronger ties than those based on the semblance of righteousness.
Jerusalem, Plate 61, (E 211)
"Behold: in the Visions of Elohim Jehovah, behold Joseph & Mary   
And be comforted O Jerusalem in the Visions of Jehovah Elohim

She looked & saw Joseph the Carpenter in Nazareth & Mary
His espoused Wife. And Mary said, If thou put me away from thee
Dost thou not murder me? Joseph spoke in anger & fury. Should I  
Marry a Harlot & an Adulteress? Mary answerd, Art thou more pure
Than thy Maker who forgiveth Sins & calls again Her that is Lost
Tho She hates. he calls her again in love. I love my dear Joseph
But he driveth me away from his presence. yet I hear the voice of God
In the voice of my Husband. tho he is angry for a moment, he will not      
Utterly cast me away. if I were pure, never could I taste the sweets
Of the Forgive[ne]ss of Sins! if I were holy! I never could behold the tears
Of love! of him who loves me in the midst of his anger in furnace of fire." 
In the Biblical account Joseph, finding his espoused wife pregnant, intended to break off their relationship quietly. It took the reassurance by an angel to reconcile him to Mary. In his Book of Ahania, Blake describes a couple who were unable to resolve their differences over another issue. Ahania was thrown out by Urizen for her honest attempt to make him aware of the consequences of his behavior. Urizen was unable to forgive and so lost his emanation, an essential aspect of his whole self.
Book of Ahania, Plate 4, (E 88)
2: And the voice cried: Ah Urizen! Love!
Flower of morning! I weep on the verge
Of Non-entity; how wide the Abyss
Between Ahania and thee!                      

3: I lie on the verge of the deep.
I see thy dark clouds ascend,
I see thy black forests and floods,
A horrible waste to my eyes!

4: Weeping I walk over rocks                 
Over dens & thro' valleys of death
Why didst thou despise Ahania
To cast me from thy bright presence
Into the World of Loneness
Plate 5
14: But now alone over rocks, mountains
Cast out from thy lovely bosom:                          
Cruel jealousy! selfish fear!
Self-destroying: how can delight,
Renew in these chains of darkness


Friday, November 30, 2018


In the early eighties Larry began studying William Blake's writings. He wrote Ram Horn'd with Gold which he subtitled The Spiritual Autobiography of William Blake edited by Larry Clayton. Because he was unsuccessful in finding a publisher he made it available through the internet. The beauty of publishing on the internet is that constant revision is possible. Creating hyperlinks became Larry's primary interest in his book and it proved to be an unending process. Today's post is the Foreword from what we usually called the Primer.

 "I give you the end of a golden string, Only wind it into a ball,It will lead you in at Heaven's gate Built in Jerusalem's wall." (Plate 77 of Jerusalem)

 Late 18th Century Europe existed in a state of rapid transition from Medievalism to Modernity. The old arrangement of society, a divinely ordained king, a landowning aristocracy, and a marriage of Church and State came increasingly under the attacks of political, economic, and religious progressives. The American Revolution pointed toward the outcome of the struggle. In Europe the decisive event came with the French Revolution and its aftermath.

William Blake lived through those stirring times. His work has great significance as political commentary. Now two centuries later its spiritual dimension has assumed even greater moment. Blake participated passionately in the social and political debates of the day, although few contemporaries heard his voice. It is his place in the spiritual dialogue that exercises the greatest fascination and will probably endure when the other dimensions of his thought have passed into the dust of time. Blake radically redefined the Christian faith and offered to his own and later generations a religious perspective that takes fully into account the corruptions of the past and the psychological sophistication of the future.

 It was during Blake's age that religious faith in Europe began to lose its grip upon the minds of men. His generation saw the final breakdown of the Medieval Synthesis and the triumphant emergence of the Age of Reason. He participated in a decisive battle of the eternal war between conservative religionists and liberal rationalists. Though without the bloodshed of earlier days, it was a conflict in which quarter was neither given nor expected. The battle pitted the community of faith, which in the 18th Century suffered an eclipse, against the rationalists, critical men of great brilliance. But none of the rationalists surpassed the brilliance of William Blake, a critical man of faith; their contribution to modern thought had its day; we are still far from catching up with his.

In the battle between faith and reason Blake occupied a unique middle ground. On one hand he constantly attacked an oppressive politico-religious establishment; on the other he just as steadfastly defended a spiritual orientation against the rationalists. This meant for Blake a lifetime engagement on two fronts. This survey describes and explores the various dimensions of Blake's vision of Christianity. One overriding consideration determined that vision: Blake saw freedom as the primary and ultimate value. The attitudes he expressed toward all institutions, his evaluation of them, the comments he made about them with his poetry and pictures, all these things were determined by the institution's relationship to that supreme value of freedom.

He believed from the depths of his being that coercion in any form is the primary evil. It outweighs and in fact negates any benefit that an established religion may afford. Blake believed that regardless of his professed faith, the leader who uses coercion thereby shows himself to be a follower of the God of this World, the Tempter with whom Jesus dealt in the wilderness.

 As a religious thinker Blake customarily receives the designation of radical Protestant. The seeds of his protest go back far beyond Luther. In his day a more common term was dissenter. Blake protested against and dissented from the authority of the orthodox Christian tradition. We can best understand Blake as a thinker, as a Christian, and as a man in terms of this dissent from orthodoxy. His intellectual life in many ways summarized the history of Christian dissent. His art evoked and drew upon the earlier occurrences of dissent through the centuries.

Blake defined God in terms of vision. Every man has his own vision of God, and no two are exactly alike. Blake spent much of his time and energy describing the superstitious images of God embraced by men in his day as in our own. With his usual extravagant language he was capable of saying something like "their God is a devil". He's referring to their vision, their image of God. Think for a moment about the vision of God of the Inquisitors, or for that matter of Bin Laden. Their God gloried in blood, but not my God, Blake's or yours!

 Jesus was an obvious dissenter from the orthodox tradition into which he was born. He blithely ignored many of the requirements of respectable Judaism. He repeatedly violated the Sabbath. He felt perfectly free to initiate conversation with unfamiliar women, a gigantic taboo; in fact he spent hours with disreputable characters of both sexes. He ate without washing his hands. All these acts seriously violated the laws of his religious tradition.

 In The Marriage of Heaven and Hell Blake claimed that Jesus broke all of the ten commandments and "was all virtue, and acted from impulse, not from rules" (See Chapter Five.) Going beyond mere dissent Jesus attacked the established religious leaders. He called them "whited sepulchers", poked fun at them, and encouraged all sorts of insubordination among their followers. Worst of all he set himself up as an alternative authority. In all these ways he directly challenged the religious leaders and provoked them to bring about his execution as a revolutionist.

 Jesus perceived death as the ultimate authority or power of the world. On behalf of his ideals and with spiritual power he challenged death, and according to the Christian faith he defeated it; he conquered death. In the words of Paul he "abolished death". Blake understood this in a more existential way than do most Christians. One of his primary themes, running from the very beginning of his poetry until the last day of his life, was the redefinition of death in accordance with the Christian gospel.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Myth in Blake

I found this in the hardcopy of Larry's Ram Horn'd with Gold. It seems to have been left out of the digital copy which is found in the Primer.
Many people have called William Blake unique among English poets as the creator of a complete mythology. A dictionary gives "without foundation in fact" as the 5th meaning of mythical, but this is probably what the term conveys in common parlance. Therefore we must begin our study of Blake's myth by raising our consciousness of the word. 'Logos', myth', 'epic'--these three words have a common root. In literary and theological language myths are statements about the nonmaterial ultimate. Some people of course avoid the nonmaterial considering it without foundation in fact; it's doubtful that any such reader has endured to this point of our study.
Blake considered the nonmaterial to be the real; his art centered around the endeavour to express the reality of the nonmaterial. The meaning of his entire artistic enterprise we may call his myth. His object was to fit all of experience into a total framework of meaning that will inform life. Out object is to grasp that total framework; once we do that, we have a myth of meaning.
The diagram below schematically represents the shape of Blake's . myth. All his poetic and artistic work fits into this scheme of cosmic/psychic meaning. I have listed only four of an infinite number of possible examples. The first is a general statement of Blake's scheme. With his story of the Prodigal Son Jesus gave us a personal paradigm of the history of the Chosen People and of the Human Race. The career of alcoholism: progressive deterioration until the sufferer hits bottom, followed by recovery, provides a striking modern analogy, although not Blakean per se. Blake did use as a recurring motif the story of Lazarus found in the Gospel of John. But the primary paradigm of this myth is the Incarnation, Crucifixion, Resurrection and Ascension of Jesus Christ. However Blake did not express this, probably did not fully realize it, until 1800.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Myth in Blake 2

Wikipedia Commons
Small Book of Designs
from Book of Urizen
Plate 1
The following is an excerpt from Larry's book, Ram Horn'd with Gold

The Book of Urizen

We find the earliest organized statement of Blake's myth in a medium sized poem written in 1794. The Book of Urizen served as a prototype for The Four Zoas, which was to follow. It contains among other things a parody of Genesis. Blake found the orthodox doctrine of creation unsatisfying, as many people have to this day, so he set out to present an alternative. He followed Paradise Lost and the Gnostics in placing the Fall before Creation.

In his myth the Fall of Man involved a fall in part of the divine nature and led to the creation of a fallen world. Such a Creation Story represents a sophistication of the elemental biblical one. Paradise Lost is an obvious recreation of the Bible story, and The Book of Urizen is a recreation of Paradise Lost, beginning as a simple inversion.

The doctrine of contraries, which we found in Marriage of Heaven and Hell, appears in The Book of Urizen in the form of two Eternals, Urizen and Los. The poem develops their careers in nine chapters. Following closely some of the Gnostic texts Urizen separates from the other Eternals, writes the Book of Brass, and declares himself God, whereupon he is shut out of Eternity and Los appointed his watchman (Chapters 1-3). Los confines Urizen with the limits of time and space and in "seven ages of dismal woe" binds him down into the five shriveled senses of the human body (Chapter 4).

This frightful condition leads Los to pity, which divides his soul and results in the separation of his emanation, Enitharmon. Eternity shudders at this further breakup of Man into the sexual contraries. Even more shocking to the Eternals, Los begets his likeness on his own divided image. The Eternals shut out this fallenness from Eden, and Los becomes blind to Eternity (Chapter 6 - Section 10.) Los binds his son, Orc, with the Chain of Jealousy. Urizen explores his dens, discovers that no one can obey or keep his iron laws for one minute and that life lives upon death.

There in barest outline is The Book of Urizen. Volumes have been written to interpret it. At this point we note that Urizen, Orc (also called Luvah in later works), and Los emerge as the three principles of the psyche. In Jungian terms we would call them Reason, Feeling, and Intuition. With the addition of Tharmas, the body or Instinct, they make up the four Zoas of the complete myth. The Book of Urizen is the earliest sketch of their relationships, which form the primary subject matter of Blake's evolving myth until the critical moment when Jesus became All and Jerusalem his Bride.

Keep in mind that here, as in later writings, Blake's poetry has many levels. We are especially interested in the cosmic and psychological levels, and the most compelling dimension of the psychological is the autobiographical. In The Book of Urizen as in all the prophecies Blake tells us a great deal about himself. He lived intensely in the spiritual realm; this means that visions, motifs, attitudes come and go with great rapidity. The poetry reveals to us the course of his life. At the same time sober reflection on his biography casts light on the dynamic evolution of the myth. The student might spend time with The Book of Urizen before tackling The Four Zoas, for it gives in outline form much of the action of the larger poem. However Urizen is hard to understand, written before the complete vision o Blake's myth had crystallized in his mind; one might question the value to spending much time on this early work.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Myth in Blake 3

When Larry wrote his unpublished book, Ram Horn'd with Gold, he gave the title Myth to Chapter 3. This summary of The Four Zoas (Blake's first attempt at epic poetry) was included in the hardcopy of Chapter 3 but didn't make it into the digital version which is on line as the Primer.

The Four Zoas

Many a musical masterwork on its initial performance has met a cold reception. In the same way the taste for many foods grows with experience; young children often reject what their parents keenly enjoy; in due course they may develop a taste for what they at first found exotic and repulsive.

4Z is a very exotic masterpiece and most definitely an acquired taste. The reader initially encounters an appalling mass of strange ideas and much that appears to be sheer gibberish. But with perseverance the strange ideas become familiar bit by bit, and the gibberish clarifies into some of the most exalted thought forms of the human mind. To the seasoned reader 42 is a treasure house of imaginative delights. Or call it a mine that releases its gold to the pertinacious. The same could be said of the Bible!

Vala or The Four Zoas
Page 3
Blake wrote the poem over a period of years while his mind and spirit were rapidly developing and changing. It began as the story of Vala, the incarnation of the Female Will. Later it became an account of cosmic and psychic history written in terms of the four Giant Forms--their breakup and struggle for dominion. At Blake's spiritual crisis this seedbed gave birth to Jesus and Jerusalem, his bride. Blake then made an attempt to rewrite 4Z to reflect his new spiritual orientation but after a while he gave up. 4Z was aborted because Blake's world had fundamentally changed, and he was ready to start over. After many years of looking for the New Age he had become a New Man. The New Man wrote 'Milton' and 'Jerusalem' using 4Z as a quarry. 4Z is fascinating in its own right, although unfinished, but most significant as a platform from which to rise to the ethereal glory of the mature poems.


Monday, November 26, 2018

Myth in Blake 4

Continuing the description of the The Four Zoas from Larry's Ram Horn'd with Gold we learn of the Zoas - Tharmas, Urthona, Urizon and Luvah. When in the Book of Urizen Blake pictured the elements - water, earth, air and fire - he gave us images to associate with the Zoas. 

University of Adalaide Book of Urizen Plate 24

The first four nights of this aborted masterpiece recount the fall of each of the four zoas: Tharmas, the body; Luvah, the feelings; Urizen, the mind; and finally Urthona (Los), the imagination or spirit.. These four steps in the fall of Man contain a wealth of rich detail, but one central event Blake described repeatedly in the words of various characters: Urizen and Luvah (Mind and Feeling) struggle for dominion over the sleeping man, Albion. Luvah seizes Urizen's steeds of light and mounts into the sky. Urizen retreats into the north, the rightful place of Urthona, the imagination. These mistakes lead to a long sequence of cataclysmic disasters that condemn mankind to his fallen condition. For six nights we read an almost unrelieved account of the Fall; we read about falling, about fallenness, described in voluminous detail in a hundred ways. Blake felt intensely that we have come a long, long way from the Garden, and he explored with exceeding minuteness every step of the dismal journey, down and out.

We can begin our orientation to the poem by looking closely at what I have called the central event of the Fall. Blake put it in the mouths of several characters and each one has his or her own particular slant. The reader has to decide for himself whose account to believe. This may depend upon the reader as much as it does upon Blake.

The earliest description of the central event comes in the words of Enitharmon, a notoriously untrustworthy character at this point; we may call her the Queen of fallen space. In a conversation with her consort, Los, the prophetic boy, she gives her interpretation of the Fall:

Four Zoas, Night I, Page 1, (E 305)

“Hear! I will sing a Song of Death! it is a Song of Vala!

The Fallen Man takes his repose, Urizen sleeps in the porch,

Luvah & Vala wake & fly up from the Human Heart

Into the brain from thence; upon the pillow Vala slumber'd,

And Luvah seized the Horses of Light & rose into the Chariot of Day

Sweet laughter seized me in my sleep...”

The Fallen Man takes his repose, Urizen sleeps in the porch,

Luvah & Vala wake & fly up from the Human Heart

Into the brain from thence; upon the pillow Vala slumber'd,

And Luvah seized the Horses of Light & rose into the Chariot of Day

Sweet laughter seized me in my sleep...”

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Myth in Blake 5

Yale Center for British Art
Plate 19
Always fiercely eclectic, Blake has gathered his symbols here from a number of sources into a new creation: sleeping man equals fallen man living in darkness; this most general symbol fills the New Testament. For example, "Awake thou that sleepest, and Christ shall give thee light". We live by the light of reason (not always Christ's light!). Urizen, the Sun God, must be asleep to allow Luvah, like the Greek adolescent, Phaethon, to seize his Horses of Light and rise into the Chariot of Day. Zeus struck Phaethon down with a thunderbolt in the story in Ovid’s Metamorphoses. Blake used Ovid as a primary source for his borrowings from Greek mythology.

In Night ii we will find Urizen casting Luvah into the furnaces of affliction, where there is much heat but no light. What was once eternal delight has become unmitigated hell.

Luvah and Vala personify the masculine and feminine dimensions of feeling, and s├ęparated from Luvah, Vala becomes the goddess of fallen nature. Luvah's seizure of the sun and Vala's dalliance on the pillow express in different ways the same event. The Prince of Love is bound to get his wings scorched, and the sleeping Albion is rather foolish to allow this to happen; he has lost his head over a part of himself.

Blake used this double event to say many things to us at many levels. Fundamentally Blake is saying that Man has lost his heavenly wholeness (which he calls the Divine Image) and begun to worship the material, a relatively insignificant part of himself. He turns his back upon the Divine Vision in his dream of Vala. The former is Eternal Life and the latter Eternal Death. The dalliance of Albion with Vala leads to the Eternal Death (fallenness) that we read about in the first six nights. Blake described it symbolically, in many ways, for example, "to converse in the wilds of Newton and Locke". We find here Blake's primary dialectic, between eternal vision and fallen materialism.

Other accounts of this decisive event occur at various places throughout the poem. The most definitive is that of Ahania. Her dream relates the central event, the primary fall, to an idolatrous worship; just so Blake evaluated organized religion. Albion's worship of his shadow has two immediate consequences: he breaks out with the boils of Job, a biblical symbol of the Fall of Mankind, and he exiles Luvah and Vala from their rightful place in the psychic economy.
There are at least six occurrences of the story which I call the central event of the Fall:
K=Keynes, E=Erdman

Enitharmon's Song of Death     Night i. 261-80 K 271-2 --- (E 305)
Ambassadors from Beulah                    i. 484-559 K277-9 --- (E 311)
Ahania's vision                                      iii. 42-102 K 292-4 --- (E 326)
The Spectre of Urthona (first)              iv. 84-110 K 299-300 --- (E 334)
The Shadow of Enitharmon                vii. 239-64 K 326 --- (E 358)
The Spectre of Urthona (second)       vii. 277-98 K 327 --- (E 359)

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Myth in Blake 6

Wikipedia Commons
Song of Los 
Copy E, Plate 4

This central event of the Fall gives the key to the meaning of The Four Zoas. Before we proceed with the outline of the poem, we need to look at one other central fact: the identity of Los, the fourth zoa (in Eternity called Urthona). Whereas the 'central event' gives the key to six thousand years of fallenness, so the identity of Los gives the key to redemption. This becomes clear in the end when we read about Jesus, the Imagination, but from the beginning we should be aware that Los is the fourth who makes Man whole. Blake derived the first three in part from Daniel's three friends who were cast into the fiery furnace by Nebuchadnezzar. Los was the fourth, whom the king saw walking in the furnace "like the Son of God". Like the other zoas Los has a chequered career, but he is always moving toward this ultimately revealed identity. 

Near the end of 'Jerusalem' Blake put the finishing touches on Los's identity with these words:

Jerusalem, Plate 95, (E 255)
"Therefore the Sons of Eden praise Urthona's Spectre [Los] in songs 
Because he kept the Divine Vision in time of trouble"
And in the following plate:

Jerusalem, Plate 96, (E 255)
"Then Jesus appeared....
And the Divine Appearance was the likeness and similitude of Los"
The clue to this identity appears at the very beginning of The Four Zoas where the poet states his theme:

Four Zoas, Night I, Page 3, (E 301)
"Four Mighty Ones are in every Man; 
a Perfect Unity 
Cannot Exist but from the Universal 
Brotherhood of Eden, 
The Universal Man, to Whom be 
Glory Evermore. Amen.
Los was the fourth immortal starry one, & in the Earth 
Of a bright Universe, Empery attended day & night, 
Days & nights of revolving joy. Urthona was his name
In Eden....... Daughters of Beulah, Sing, 
His fall into Division & his Resurrection to Unity: 
His fall into the Generation of decay & death, & his Regeneration by the Resurrection from the dead."

Here Blake has made the antecedent of 'his' deliberately ambiguous: Albion, the Ancient Man, of course, but also los. It is Los's career that we follow most intently. Blake deeply identified with Los, and so do we if we read the poem with imagination.
But "Begin with Tharmas, Parent power dark'ning in the West". Tharmas represents the Body, or in the psychic realm the instinct, and in Eternity he's a glorious shepherd. But "dark'ning in the West" beneath the jealous attack of his emanation, Enion, he sets in motion the Circle of Destiny and sinks into the sea where he becomes an insane old man. From his 'corse' arises the ravening spectre, a most gruesome embodiment of pure egocentricity. A loveless embrace of Enion leads to the birth of Los and Enitharmon, the divided earthly form of Urthona. (Note that all this happens after the 'central event', although in the poem we read about it first.)
This first earthly family displays the ubiquitous dialectic of Blake (and of universal experience); the angelic and demonic processes go on side by side. Enion's intense mother love turns her daughter, Enitharmon, into a teasing and heartless bitch and drives Enion to the abyss where she becomes a disembodied voice of pure consciousness. We hear her voice at the end of Nights i, ii, and viii sounding the purest prophetic judgment on what has transpired. In a real sense Enion is Blake. (For more on Enion see Pages 75 and 88).
When Enitharmon sings her Song of Death (quoted a few pages back), Los strikes her down and then gives his own, more prophetic account of the Fall. Enitharmon retaliates by calling down Urizen. This precipitates the first encounter between these two adversaries in one of the relationships that dominates the poem--and Blake's life as well (See Chapter One). In this initial confrontation Los weakens through his pity or remorse over Enitharmon and joins the Nuptial Feast of Fallenness. In the New Testament the marriage of the Lamb inaugurates the Kingdom of Heaven; this demonic parody of it announces the Kingdom of Satan. Enion responds with her first stirring prophetic utterance, concluding the first night in the earlier draft.