Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Blake's Imagination

First posted March 2010.

Carl Jung in his four functions characterized the fourth as intuition. A century earlier William Blake, in the system he created, called it imagination. You may have noticed that some people appear to have a great imagination and some other people less so or none.

At the age of four Blake ran screaming to his mother to report an angry God had stuck his head through his bedroom window. That in itself amply set him apart from the generality of humanity whose imagination is more limited. It also marked him as strange, someone to avoid, as most of his acquaintances seemed to do.

Years later in a letter to Butts he gave a vivid picture of the shape of his mind. Here is a passage:

Letters, To Butts, (E 722)
"When my heart knockd against the root of my tongue
With Angels planted in Hawthorn bowers
And God himself in the passing hours
With Silver Angels across my way
And Golden Demons that none can stay
With my Father hovering upon the wind
And my Brother Robert just behind
And my Brother John the evil one
In a black cloud making his mone[y]
Tho dead they appear upon my path
Notwithstanding my terrible wrath
They beg they intreat they drop their tears
Filld full of hopes filld full of fears
With a thousand Angels upon the Wind
Pouring disconsolate from behind
To drive them off & before my way
A frowning Thistle implores my stay
What to others a trifle appears
Fills me full of smiles or tears
For double the vision my Eyes do see
And a double vision is always with me
With my inward Eye 'tis an old Man grey
With my outward a Thistle across my way
"If thou goest back the thistle said
Thou art to endless woe betrayd""

(Father and brothers of course have returned from the Great Divide to appear in this vision.)

This is a cogent description of what he calls double vision, an attribute of schizophrenics as well as artists; they see what's not there to the sense based person.

The thistle (old man) cautions Blake against retreating from his imaginative creations to the commercial art orientation that Hayley encouraged for three years. One can be a corporeal friend and a spiritual enemy; such was Hayley for Blake (and no doubt we have plenty of corporeal friends).

In a later letter to Butts (Erdman 728) Blake explicates what he had meant: "if a Man is the Enemy of my Spiritual Life while he pretends to be the Friend of my Corporeal. he is a Real Enemy".

Thank God for Butts; without his encouragement Blake might not have been able to break away from Hayley's direction and resume the better course of directing himself.

Blake elevated imagination to a quality of Jesus and of those of us who are aware (in Quaker language) that there is that of God in us. Such people see "that of God" in you, with all the potentialities that the term suggests, including the thump on the head and the healing balm.

Vision of the Last Judgment; (E 565)
"Thinking as I do that the Creator of this World is a very Cruel Being & being a Worshipper of Christ I cannot help saying the Son O how unlike the Father - First God Almighty comes with a Thump on the Head Then Jesus Christ comes
with a balm to heal it."

You may have much imagination or little; but it can be cultivated!

Sunday, July 29, 2018


First posted May 2011.

Dr. David R. Hiles of De Montfort University, Leicester UK, a professor of psychology, a student of Jung and Blake, makes these comments on suffering and the contraries in his paper "Jung, William Blake and our answer to Job":
"Taking this view on board, we can see that Job should not be seen as the archetype of suffering, but instead we should think of Job as the archetype of our relationship to suffering. The story of Job is not just about suffering, or about the human experience of suffering, but about the wisdom that can unfold from our experience of suffering. The Job archetype is something that we all possess, but only with profound difficulty, can we access it in ourselves. Of necessity, each of us must formulate our own answer to Job, from our experience of, and participation in, suffering. The importance of our experience of the Job archetype is that it so clearly portrays the coincidentia oppositorium, the coincidence or conjunction of opposites that are brought into human consciousness (I must stress this is not the marriage of opposites). This is an idea which occupies such an important place in Jung’s psychology. However, what is at stake here is not the recognition of opposites, or the interplay of opposites in our experience, or even the union or marriage of opposites, but the shocking realization of their conjunction in the same object or situation. The reason why the coincidentia oppositorium is so crucial is that it does not simply represent the opposition of fear and love, but represents fear and love of the same object. Fearing one object, and loving another, is hardly a challenging experience. But fearing and loving the same object, now that is a completely different matter!! This is a theme, or psychic truth, that must lie at the core of an existential- transpersonal model of human experience. It is almost certain that the fearful symmetry which William Blake refers to in his poem, The Tyger, is precisely this conjunction of opposites:" (Page 19)
"If we take this seriously, then it does not take much effort to realize that the God archetype could not manifest itself in human consciousness in any other way. It is precisely this realization that lies at the core of Blake’s interpretation of Job, but which Jung strangely fails to make explicit despite his extensive study of alchemy, and the creative tension of opposites. A close examination of the major difference between Jung’s and Blake’s interpretation of Job shows that, whereas Jung sees Job as morally defeating God, there is no suggestion of this in Blake’s engravings at all. This is a crucial point. For Blake the conjunction comes at the midpoint, i.e. at Plate 11. The marriage, or union, of opposites that unfolds in the second half of Blake’s designs would not be possible without this terrifying conjunction being experienced first. The notion of a moral defeat, over God by Job, is really a symptom of being stuck in the coincidentia oppositorium, and not being able to move beyond it.
Blake therefore offers a resolution that Jung falls well short of. Blake is offering a richer and far more subtle view of the human response to suffering than can be found in Jung’s Answer to Job." (Page 21)

Oothoon in The Visions of the Daughters of Albion seems to have reached the resolution of holding both the joy and the sorrow of experience in the one vision of everything as holy.
Wikipedia Commons
Visions of the Daughters of Albion
Plate 11

Visions of Daughters of Albion, Plate 7-8, (E 50)
"Does the sun walk in glorious raiment. on the secret floor
Where the cold miser spreads his gold? or does the bright cloud drop
On his stone threshold? does his eye behold the beam that brings
Expansion to the eye of pity? or will he bind himself
Beside the ox to thy hard furrow? does not that mild beam blot
The bat, the owl, the glowing tyger, and the king of night.
The sea fowl takes the wintry blast. for a cov'ring to her limbs:
And the wild snake, the pestilence to adorn him with gems & gold.
And trees. & birds. & beasts. & men. behold their eternal joy.
Arise you little glancing wings, and sing your infant joy!
Arise and drink your bliss, for every thing that lives is holy!

Thus every morning wails Oothoon. but Theotormon sits
Upon the margind ocean conversing with shadows dire.

The Daughters of Albion hear her woes, & eccho back her sighs." 


Saturday, July 28, 2018


First posted Feb 2011.

Blake seems to have unusual access to the unconscious world. Like a spring of living water it welled up into his consciousness in the form of images which he translated for us into words and pictures. Like the description Blake gives of Eternity as an ever active interchange of a multitude of super-sensory movements, the unconscious is a reservoir for the imagination.
Four Zoas, Page 21, (E 310)
Then those in Great Eternity met in the Council of God
As one Man for contracting their Exalted Sense

They behold Multitude or Expanding they behold as one
As One Man all the Universal family & that one Man
They call Jesus the Christ & they in him & he in them
Live in Perfect harmony in Eden the land of life
Consulting as One Man above the Mountain of Snowdon Sublime

Jerusalem, Plate 88, (E 246)
"When in Eternity Man converses with Man they enter
Into each others Bosom (which are Universes of delight)
In mutual interchange. and first their Emanations meet
Surrounded by their Children. if they embrace & comingle
The Human Four-fold Forms mingle also in thunders of Intellect
But if the Emanations mingle not; with storms & agitations
Of earthquakes & consuming fires they roll apart in fear
For Man cannot unite with Man but by their Emanations
Which stand both Male & Female at the Gates of each Humanity"

In her book of essays on the basis of poetic expression, Defending Ancient Springs, Kathleen Raine looks for the common sources which illumine the poets. In this passage Raine in speaking of the collective unconscious which can speak to us in dreams and visions connecting our minds through the image world which we all share. (Page 114)

"Jung came nearer than did Freud to the traditional doctrine, as taught by those alchemists, Gnostics, and neo-Platonists whom he himself took for masters; for he realized that dreams do not so much conceal as embody meaning, and that this comes from their source within the psyche - or beyond it - normally inaccessible to the waking mind. Not all dreams come from the same level; and besides the personal elements recognized by Freud, Jung, was led to believe in what he calls a 'collective unconscious' because it is so as a rule, though at times accessible to consciousness. This is the ancient anima mundi, the soul of the world, whose images at times, waking or in dreams, we behold with amazement, so beautiful and so fraught with meaning do these appear. Because this world is not personal but common to all, its symbols are intrinsically intelligible as Freud's symbols from the personal unconscious are not.
The symbolic images come, of necessity, from the perceptible world; for this world is, in the nature of things, and unalterably, the 'given', inseparable from our human nature as incarnate beings; all the knowledge of the soul must come to it in terms of this world of embodiment - that is to say in symbolic form. Truly understood the entire world is one great symbol, imparting, in a sacramental manner, by outward and visible signature, an inward and spiritual essence."

This passage may intimate a way Blake reacted to placing his interior visions into outward forms:

Europe, Plate 1, (E 61)
"Ah mother Enitharmon!
Stamp not with solid form this vig'rous progeny of fires.

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."

Blake seemed to have paid a price for transforming vision to poetry and images.

British Museum
Illustrations to Young's Night Thoughts


Here is the link to Kathleen Raine's video speaking about Blake and imagination.

Friday, July 27, 2018

Gates of Paradise Picture 15

British Museum
Gates of Paradise
Plate 15
British Museum
Gates of Paradise
Plate 14

First posted May 2010.

"The Door of Death I open found
And the Worm Weaving in the Ground"

Why must this gloomy picture succeed the last one?

As Blake wrote in Jerusalem, Plate 3, (E 145):

"Reader! [lover] of books! [lover] of heaven,

And of that God from whom [all books are given,]
Who in mysterious Sinais awful cave
To Man the wond'rous art of writing gave,
Again he speaks in thunder and in fire!
Thunder of Thought, & flames of fierce desire:
Even from the depths of Hell his voice I hear,
Within the unfathomd caverns of my Ear.
Therefore I print; nor vain my types shall be:
Heaven, Earth & Hell, henceforth shall live in

In Eternity the contraries unite. In Symbol and Image in William Blake, by George Wingfield Digby, he p. 49 suggests on page 49, that these two pictures (14 and 15), so different in aspect, are the two contraries married in Eternity. In 1st Peter 3:18-19 we're told that "Christ also once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God...by which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison."

Jung spoke of the
Mysterium Coniunctionis ("mysterious conjunction"): the final alchemical synthesis (for Jung, of ego and unconscious, matter and spirit, male and female) that brings forth the Philosopher's Stone (the Self). Its highest aspect, as for alchemist Gerhard Dorn, was the unus mundus, a unification of the Stone with body, soul, and spirit" (the marriage if you will).

Digby shows us how Blake expressed this union of opposites in his poem, Milton: John Milton is in Heaven, but he has left "unresolved problems exemplified in three quarrelsome wives and daughters" (page 49), (his Selfhood was not entirely annihilated).

Milton, Plate 15, (E 108)
"He took off the robe of the promise and the girdle of
the oath of God
and Milton said, I go to Eternal Death! The Nations still
Follow after the detestable Gods of Priam; in pomp
Of warlike selfhood, contradicting and blaspheming.
When will the Resurrection come; to deliver the sleeping body From corruptibility: O when Lord Jesus wilt thou come? Tarry no longer; for my soul lies at the gates of death.
I will arise and look forth for the morning of the grave.
I will go down to the sepulcher to see if morning breaks!
I will go down to self annihilation and eternal death,
Lest the Last Judgment come & find me unannihilate
And I be siez'd & giv'n into the hands of my own

Selfhood" .

Long, long ago Isaiah was written (or edited); looking at the book as a whole you may perceive something like these two pictures in Gates of Paradise. Isaiah is written with a rapid alternation between wrath (Judgment) and grace (The Promise).

So we find Isaiah, Blake, "Milton", Jung, alchemy: all
agreeing in the Eternal union of the temporal opposites. Our
Poet tried to express this fundamental truth of life("joy and 
woe are woven fine....the babe is more than swadling bands". 

When you've  met the immortal man, you're armed with light,
like the man in picture 14, to deal with the cross we all bear.
You've experienced the Marriage.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018


First posted Aug 2009.

After returning from a long, near fatal illness C G Jung experienced a state where visions absorbed his nightly pursuits. Here is his description from Memories, Dream, Reflections:

"We shy away from the word "eternal," but I can describe
experience only as the ecstasy of a non-temporal state
in which
present, past, and future are one. Everything
that happens in
time had been brought together into a
concrete whole. Nothing
was distributed over time,
nothing could be measured by temporal
concepts. The
experience might best be defined as a state
of feeling, but
one which cannot be produced by imagination.
can I imagine that I exist simultaneously the day before

yesterday, today, and the day after tomorrow? There would
be things which would not yet have begun, other things
would be indubitably present, and others again
which would
already be finished and yet all this would be
one. The only
thing that feeling could grasp would be
a sum, an iridescent
whole, containing all at once
expectation of a beginning,
surprise at what is now
happening, and satisfaction or
disappointment with the
result of what has happened. One is interwoven
into an
indescribable whole and yet observes it with complete
(Page 295)
Wikipedia Commons
Plate 32
Erdman, in The Illuminated Blake, says of this image "Knowing it will be impossible to receive the full inspiration of Milton by the mind alone, Blake has to go and catch a falling star."

Blake's experience of visions, which must have been similar to Jung's, are conveyed to us in a totally different way. Jung used an intellectual, objective way to describe an emotional, subjective experience. Blake involves us in his experience by evoking suggestive images to allow us a perception of the non-temporal, simultaneous, interwoven wholeness.

Milton, Plate 39, (E 140)
"Suddenly around Milton on my Path, the Starry Seven
Burnd terrible! my Path became a solid fire, as bright
As the clear Sun & Milton silent came down on my Path.
And there went forth from the Starry limbs of the Seven: Forms
Human; with Trumpets innumerable, sounding articulate
As the Seven spake; and they stood in a mighty Column of Fire
Surrounding Felphams Vale, reaching to the Mundane Shell, Saying
Awake Albion awake! reclaim thy Reasoning Spectre. Subdue

Him to the Divine Mercy, Cast him down into the Lake
Of Los, that ever burneth with fire, ever & ever Amen!
Let the Four Zoa's awake from Slumbers of Six Thousand Years"

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Creative Event / Created Good

First posted Feb 2010

This is from a post in Reflections of a Happy Old Man June 12, 2006.

"He who binds to himself a joy
Doth the winged life destroy
But he who kisses the joy as it flies
Lives in Eternity's sun rise."
(Songs and Balads, Eternity, (E 470))

Only the creative event is to be worshiped.

The Bible is the created good.
All tribes are created good.
Religious organizations are created good.
Theologies, ideologies are created good.

These things are all manmade artifacts.

What is to be worshiped?

The Creative Event!!

Not the Bible: George Fox: "we have heard what Jesus and the Apostles say, but what doth thou say?"

Not a tribe: Joseph Campbell: their chief attribute is the limit of positive affect to members and of negative affect to non-members.

Not a religious organization: Gandhi: "if I ever found a truly Christian church, I'd join it."

So what should you worship: "the Vision of God that thou dost see...." (from Everlasting Gospel, Erdman 524)

Posted by ellie Feb 2010 

Wikipedia Commons
Gates of Paradise
Plate 3
Larry recently published a post concerning the Created Good and the Creative Event. This is a follow-up on the concept of the Created Good presented in Wieman's book.

Quotes from The Source of Human Good, by Henry Nelson Wieman:

"The mere passing through the mind of innumerable meanings is not the creative event. These newly communicated meanings must be integrated with meanings previously acquired or natively developed if the creative event is to occur. This integrating is largely subconscious, unplanned and uncontrolled by the individual, save only as he may provide conditions favorable to its occurrence." Page 59

"The creative event is one that brings forth in the human mind, in society and history, and in the appreciable world a new structure of interrelatedness, whereby events are discriminated and related in a manner not before possible. It is a structure whereby some events derive from other events, through meaningful connection with them, an abundance of quality that events could not have had without this new creation." Page 65

Milton, Plate 28 [30], (E 125)
"But others of the Sons of Los build Moments & Minutes & Hours
And Days & Months & Years & Ages & Periods; wondrous buildings
And every Moment has a Couch of gold for soft repose,
(A Moment equals a pulsation of the artery) ,
And between every two Moments stands a Daughter of Beulah
To feed the Sleepers on their Couches with maternal care.
And every Minute has an azure Tent with silken Veils.
And every Hour has a bright golden Gate carved with skill.
And every Day & Night, has Walls of brass & Gates of adamant,
Shining like precious stones & ornamented with appropriate signs:
And every Month, a silver paved Terrace builded high:
And every Year, invulnerable Barriers with high Towers.
And every Age is Moated deep with Bridges of silver & gold.
And every Seven Ages is Incircled with a Flaming Fire.
Now Seven Ages is amounting to Two Hundred Years
Each has its Guard. each Moment Minute Hour Day Month & Year.
All are the work of Fairy hands of the Four Elements
The Guard are Angels of Providence on duty evermore
Every Time less than a pulsation of the artery
Is equal in its period & value to Six Thousand Years.
Plate 29 [31]
For in this Period the Poets Work is Done: and all the Great
Events of Time start forth & are concievd in such a Period
Within a Moment: a Pulsation of the Artery."

This is the creative event, Eternity exploding into time's framework.

James Rieger in Sublime Allegory, Page 272, in trying to explain Los' work, has this to say:
"Narrative time is a mere device in Milton and Jerusalem, a sequential representation of two eternal moments that by definition lack extension. Nevertheless, Frye correctly regards one as Resurrection and the other as the Last Judgment, corresponding to the first and second coming of Jesus. Each is its own split-second but one follows the other."

Not the created good but the creative event! Recurring whenever Eternity breaks into time!


Sunday, July 22, 2018

Blake's Good and Evil

First posted Feb 2011.

Blake was very conversant with what the Bible has to say about Good and Evil:

Gen 1:31 "God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the sixth day." It seems that everything was very good; there's no polarity here.;

But in Gen 2:8-9 we come to a complication:
And the LORD God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there he put the man whom he had formed.
And out of the ground made the LORD God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil."

This seems to infer that Good and Evil came into existence as a consequence of the (biblical) Fall. In the pristine Garden before Adam and Eve's fatal mistake Evil had not entered the picture. (Some Bible scholars have concluded that the 'fatal mistake' was a culpa felix (Augustine, Aquinas, Ambrose). However it's generally understood as the cause of all unhappiness in our poor World. Imagine how it would be if the 'fatal mistake' had not occurred. Would we be more like the animals? or the angels?

With The Marriage of Heaven and Hell Blake put an entirely new slant on the subject. (The cavalier way Blake used the biblical Fall here illustrates the use Blake put to the Bible in general: like any other document everything was grist for his mill.) Speaking ironically he described Good as being sheeplike, and Evil as being active and creative. He described conventional people as the Elect, and active, creative people as Reprobate (btw he included Jesus among the Reprobates- following Isaiah 53:12).

The Elect were the angels in MHH; the Reprobates were the devils.

But Blake didn't stick to these definitions; MHH was the work of an angry young man. The mature Blake returned to more conventional meanings for 'angel' and 'devil'.

Returning to the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil we may read in Blake's Songs of Innocence and of Experience:

British Museum
Illustrations to Young's Night Thoughts
The Human Abstract.

Pity would be no more,
If we did not make somebody Poor:
And Mercy no more could be,
If all were as happy as we;
And mutual fear brings peace;
Till the selfish loves increase.
Then Cruelty knits a snare,
And spreads his baits with care.

He sits down with holy fears,
And waters the ground with tears:
Then Humility takes its root
Underneath his foot.
Soon spreads the dismal shade
Of Mystery over his head;
And the Catterpiller and Fly,
Feed on the Mystery.
And it bears the fruit of Deceit,
Ruddy and sweet to eat;
And the Raven his nest has made
In its thickest shade.

The Gods of the earth and sea,
Sought thro' Nature to find this Tree
But their search was all in vain:
There grows one in the Human Brain"
(Erdman p. 27)

We may see here the origin of the Tree of Mystery, which in Blake corresponds to the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil; Blake has tried to explain the meaning of the Tree he had read about in Genesis.

Four Zoas, Night VII ,Page 81, (E 365) 
"Of all his wandering Experiments in the horrible Abyss
He knew that weakness stretches out in breadth & length he knew
That wisdom reaches high & deep & therefore he made Orc
In Serpent form compelld stretch out & up the mysterious tree
He sufferd him to Climb that he might draw all human forms    
Into submission to his will nor knew the dread result

Los sat in showers of Urizen watching cold Enitharmon   
His broodings rush down to his feet producing Eggs that hatching
Burst forth upon the winds above the tree of Mystery
Enitharmon lay on his knees. Urizen tracd his Verses   
In the dark deep the dark tree grew. her shadow was drawn down
Down to the roots it wept over Orc. the Shadow of Enitharmon

Los saw her stretchd the image of death upon his witherd valleys
Her Shadow went forth & returnd Now she was pale as Snow
When the mountains & hills are coverd over & the paths of Men shut up  
But when her spirit returnd as ruddy as a morning when
The ripe fruit blushes into joy in heavens eternal halls  
Sorrow shot thro him from his feet it shot up to his head
Like a cold night that nips the root & shatters off the leaves 
Silent he stood oer Enitharmon watching her pale face   
He spoke not he was Silent till he felt the cold disease
Then Los mournd on the dismal wind in his jealous lamentation"

Good and Evil are a polarity, and a contrary of the pristine oneness of the original Garden. We may see it as the first contrary, from which all others sprang. We live in a dualistic world, and people in general can only see things in black and white (like infants do). To perceive things as a spectrum, such as 'Good, less good, still less good,' etc. is a step away from the fatal tree, but still a long way from the primeval oneness from which we came and to which we are destined to return.

Saturday, July 21, 2018

The Eternal and the Created

Taken from my post at 8-10-2009 to the William Blake yahoo group

The Eternal is within, the Created without.

Time and Space are creatures.
The Sea of Time and Space is a creation; our
image of 'reality' is largely the creation that keeps
us from Eternity; we are asleep!

According to Blake we (Albion) come from Eternity
(being made in the image of God). But falling in love
with the material and dividing into "many selves",
we drop down into Ulro.

British Museum
Look at the 'Creator'!
[Urizen-creator, frontspiece of Europe):

"not a picture of God creating the Universe..but the image of the mind creating or projecting its own Maya
.....The person who can attain insight into this image for himself will know the source of his greatest illusion and bondage." (cf Symbol and Image in William Blake by George Wingfield Digby, p. 53)

This is the secret of reintegration and regeneration, a moment aptly described in The Prodigal Son, when the  man 'came to himself'. Then he returned to his father, described by Blake as realizing Eternity. 

Note added by ellie Jul 20, 2018:

In Blake's lexicon Creation is synonymous with Generation, the world between Beulah and Ulro, where there is the possibility recovering the ability to live in Eden or Eternity. The fall occurred when man lost his perception of the Infinite, Eternal Vision. It continued as he fell in love with the external world which prevented him from discerning the Truth which resulted from having been made with the image of God within him.
Through living in the material world of time & space, man is given the opportunity to 'experience the consequences of his unbelief.'  He can 'turn the experience of error into the apprehension of truth.' The contribution which time & space make to this exercise lies in providing a body to be cast aside when error is discerned. The temporal, material continues in order to 'give to error a created and transitory form, to be experienced and cast off time after time, until the experience of temporal error reveals the lineaments of eternal truth.'

Quotations from William Blake's Circle of Destiny by Milton O Percival, Page 220.
Jerusalem, Plate 56, (E 206)
"What may Man be? who can tell! But what may Woman be?
To have power over Man from Cradle to corruptible Grave.
He who is an Infant, and whose Cradle is a Manger                
Knoweth the Infant sorrow: whence it came, and where it goeth:
And who weave it a Cradle of the grass that withereth away.
This World is all a Cradle for the erred wandering Phantom:
Rock'd by Year, Month, Day & Hour; and every two Moments
Between, dwells a Daughter of Beulah, to feed the Human Vegetable
Entune: Daughters of Albion. your hymning Chorus mildly!
Cord of affection thrilling extatic on the iron Reel:
To the golden Loom of Love! to the moth-labourd Woof
A Garment and Cradle weaving for the infantine Terror:"

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Fox and Blake

First posted Oct 2009.

George Fox of course lived in the 17th century; Blake in the late 18th and early 19th century. But what did they have in common?

Anyone familiar with the Pendle Hill pamphlets should look at No 177: Woolman and Blake
Jerusalem, Plate 52, (E 201) 
"Those who Martyr others or who cause War are Deists, but never
can be Forgivers of Sin.  The Glory of Christianity is, To
Conquer by Forgiveness.  All the Destruction therefore, in
Christian Europe has arisen from Deism, which is Natural
 I saw a Monk of Charlemaine 
Arise before my sight 
  I talkd with the Grey Monk as we stood
In beams of infernal light

  Gibbon arose with a lash of steel         
And Voltaire with a wracking wheel
  The Schools in clouds of learning rolld 
Arose with War in iron & gold.

  Thou lazy Monk they sound afar          
In vain condemning glorious War           
  And in your Cell you shall ever dwell    
Rise War & bind him in his Cell.

  The blood. red ran from the Grey Monks side
His hands & feet were wounded wide
  His body bent, his arms & knees          
Like to the roots of ancient trees

  When Satan first the black bow bent
And the Moral Law from the Gospel rent
  He forgd the Law into a Sword
And spilld the blood of mercys Lord.
  Titus! Constantine!  Charlemaine!       
O Voltaire! Rousseau! Gibbon! Vain
  Your Grecian Mocks & Roman Sword      
Against this image of his Lord!

  For a Tear is an Intellectual thing;           
And a Sigh is the Sword of an Angel King
  And the bitter groan of a Martyrs woe     
Is an Arrow from the Almighties Bow!"
Titus! Constantine! Charlemagne Luther: what did all these men have in common? Blake cited them as names of churches (heavens), but what else did they have in common? They were all involved in war!

Many Christians consider Constantine a great hero because he legalized Christianity in the Roman Empire. Less well known is the fact that he ordained (and required) uniformity of belief among Christians. Thereafter it was the non-orthodox who were illegal, a long line of them going all the way down to Quakers and beyond. What they all had in common was insisting on a direct relationship with God, not through a priest. Blake was one of them!

Why Luther? well he supported the Protestant Princes' war against the Pope (it was called the Thirty Years War). On occasion he incited people to violence.

Blake virtually equated the state church with war; he wrote:

Songs of Experience, Songs 46, (E 26)
"How the Chimney-sweeper's cry
Every black'ning Church appalls;
And the hapless Soldier's sigh
Runs in blood down Palace walls".

People don't allow themselves to be oppressed en mass without resisting, to be ruled by foreigners. Oh no! In the New Age Blake looked forward to the end of war:
"Empire is no more! and now the
lion and wolf shall cease."

British Museum 
Watercolor Illustration for
Young's Night Thoughts 
Marriage of Heaven and Hell, Plate 25, (E 44)
"A Song of Liberty 
Empire is no more! and now the lion & wolf shall cease.                         
Let the Priests of the Raven of dawn, no longer in deadly black, with hoarse note curse the sons of joy.
Nor his accepted brethren whom, tyrant, he calls free; lay the bound or build the roof.
Nor pale religious letchery call that virginity, that wishes but acts not!
For every thing that lives is Holy"

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Aphorisms on Man by Lavater

First posted May 2011.

We're told that Blake found impressive this book by Johann Kaspar Lavater. From Blake's annotations we observe that he a had a strong positive opinion of it. Blake's Annotations on this Lavater's Aphorisms on Man are available in Erdman's The Complete Poetry and Prose of William Blake in the section called Marginalia beginning on page 583. For the Blake student it's well worth reading.

You may find evidence of many of these aphorisms as sources for Blake's writings from beginning to end; here are three of them.

Look at aphorism 3: As in looking upward each beholder thinks himself the centre of the sky; so Nature formed her individuals, that each must see himself the centre of being.

Blake said,
(Milton Plate 29; Erdman 127)
 "The Sky is an immortal tent built by the Sons of Los
And every Space that a Man views around his dwelling-place:

Standing on his own roof, or in his garden on a mount
Of twenty-five cubits in height, such space is his Universe;

And on its verge the Sun rises & sets. the Clouds bow
To meet the flat Earth & the Sea in such an orderd Space:

The Starry heavens reach no further but here bend and set On all sides & the two Poles turn on their valves of gold:
And if he move his dwelling-place, his heavens also move."

Aphorism 13. joy and grief decide character. What exalts prosperity? what imbitters grief? what leaves us indifferent? what interests us? As the interest of man, so his God--as his God, so he.

Blake's comment - ALL GOLD

Blake said, 
Songs and Ballads, Auguries of Innocence, (E 491)

"Man was made for Joy & Woe
And when this we rightly know
Thro the World we safely go
Joy & Woe are woven fineA Clothing for the soul divine
Under every grief & pine
Runs a joy with silken twine"

Aphorism 40. Who, under pressing temptations to lie, adheres to truth, nor to the profane betrays aught of a sacred trust, is near the summit of wisdom and virtue.

Blake's comment - Excellent!

Larry - Under the temptation of the Main Chance Blake, at the critical moment, acted exactly as Lavater suggests here.

Although some of these aphorisms appear to serve as source material for Blake's poetic thought, the true worth of 'Lavater' to Blake was more in the moral values that the two men shared. Very negative in his feelings about clergymen in general, Blake obviously had much admiration for Lavater.

At the end of his Annotations Blake gave his honest evaluation of Lavater:

Annotations to Lavater, (E 600)
"I hope no one will call what I have written cavilling because he may think my remarks of small consequence For I write from the warmth of my heart. & cannot resist the impulse I feel to rectify what I think false in a book I love so much. & approve so generally:
Man is bad or good. as he unites himself with bad or good spirits. tell me with whom you go & Ill tell you what you do
As we cannot experience pleasure but by means of others who experience either pleasure or pain thro us. And as all of us on earth are united in thought, for it is impossible to think without images of somewhat on earth--So it is impossible to know God or heavenly things without conjunction with those who know God & heavenly things. therefore, all who converse in the spirit, converse with spirits. [& these are either Good or Evil]
For these reasons I say that this Book is written by consultation with Good Spirits because it is Good. & that the name Lavater. is the amulet of those who purify the heart of man.
There is a strong objection to Lavaters principles (as I understand them) & that is He makes every thing originate in its accident he makes the
vicious propensity a leading feature of the man but the Stamina on which all his virtues grow. But as I understand Vice it is a Negative--It does not signify what the laws of Kings & Priests have calld Vice we who are philosophers ought not to call the Staminal Virtues of Humanity by the same name that we call the omissions of intellect springing from poverty
Every mans propensity ought to be calld his leading Virtue & his good Angel But the Philosophy of Causes & Consequences misled Lavater as it has all his cotemporaries. Each thing is its own cause & its own effect Accident is the omission of act in self & the hindering of act in another, This is Vice but all Act [from Individual propensity] is Virtue. To hinder another is not an act it is the contrary it is a restraint on action both in ourselves & in the person hinderd. for he who hinders another omits his own duty. at the time
Murder is Hindering Another
Theft is Hindering Another
Backbiting. Undermining Circumventing & whatever is Negative is Vice
But the or[i]gin of this mistake in Lavater & his cotemporaries, is, They suppose that Womans Love is Sin. in consequence all the Loves & Graces with them are Sin" 

Blake makes a sharp distinction between Womans Love and Female Love; they are two entirely different things.

British Museum
Engraving by Blake
  "Blake sculpt./Rev. John Caspar Lavater of Zurich. Born 1741. Died 1801."

A Drawing for Blake to Engrave

Blake was connected to Lavater through his friend Henry Fuseli who had been influenced by Lavater in his youth.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Isaiah in Blake

First posted May 2010.

In 1905 a man named John Sampson published The Poetical Works of William Blake, said to be the first complete edition. Blake commentary and criticism took off at that point.

In ca 1920 S. Foster Damon came forth with William Blake: His Philosophy and Symbols, a rare book nowadays. On Page 316 he stated that Plate 2 of The Marriage of Heaven and Hell was written in light of Isaiah 35. It echoes the 35th chapter of Isaiah. The "way of holiness" is what Blake called the perilous path. 

Here's Plate 2 of MHH. 
  " THE MARRIAGE of HEAVEN and HELL                   


             The Argument.

Rintrah roars & shakes his fires in the burdend air;
Hungry clouds swag on the deep

Once meek, and in a perilous path,
The just man kept his course along 
The vale of death.
Roses are planted where thorns grow.
And on the barren heath
Sing the honey bees.

Then the perilous path was planted:
And a river, and a spring
On every cliff and tomb;
And on the bleached bones
Red clay brought forth.

Till the villain left the paths of ease,
To walk in perilous paths, and drive
The just man into barren climes.

Now the sneaking serpent walks
In mild humility.
And the just man rages in the wilds
Where lions roam.

Rintrah roars & shakes his fires in the burdend air;
Hungry clouds swag on the deep."
(E 33)  

This gave me a sudden enlightenment when I realized that Blake here was giving a critique of Isaiah 35 and following chapters. Immediately after the "way of holiness" Isaiah gives the ominous warning of Sennacherib, leading to King Hezekiah's famous verse: "not in my time, Lord." 

Isaiah 35
[1] The wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad for them; and the desert shall rejoice, and blossom as the rose.
[2] It shall blossom abundantly, and rejoice even with joy and singing: the glory of Lebanon shall be given unto it, the excellency of Carmel and Sharon, they shall see the glory of the LORD, and the excellency of our God.
[3] Strengthen ye the weak hands, and confirm the feeble knees.
[4] Say to them that are of a fearful heart, Be strong, fear not: behold, your God will come with vengeance, even God with a recompence; he will come and save you.
[5] Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped.
[6] Then shall the lame man leap as an hart, and the tongue of the dumb sing: for in the wilderness shall waters break out, and streams in the desert.
[7] And the parched ground shall become a pool, and the thirsty land springs of water: in the habitation of dragons, where each lay, shall be grass with reeds and rushes.
[8] And an highway shall be there, and a way, and it shall be called The way of holiness; the unclean shall not pass over it; but it shall be for those: the wayfaring men, though fools, shall not err therein.
[9] No lion shall be there, nor any ravenous beast shall go up thereon, it shall not be found there; but the redeemed shall walk there:
[10] And the ransomed of the LORD shall return, and come to Zion with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads: they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.

Isaiah 37
[31] And the remnant that is escaped of the house of Judah shall again take root downward, and bear fruit upward:
[32] For out of Jerusalem shall go forth a remnant, and they that escape out of mount Zion: the zeal of the LORD of hosts shall do this.
[33] Therefore thus saith the LORD concerning the king of Assyria, He shall not come into this city, nor shoot an arrow there nor come before it with shields, nor cast a bank against it.
[34] By the way that he came, by the same shall he return, and shall not come into this city, saith the LORD.
[35] For I will defend this city to save it for mine own sake, and for my servant David's sake.
[36] Then the angel of the LORD went forth, and smote in the camp of the Assyrians a hundred and fourscore and five thousand: and when they arose early in the morning, behold, they were all dead corpses.
[37] So Sennacherib king of Assyria departed, and went and returned, and dwelt at Nineveh.
[38] And it came to pass, as he was worshipping in the house of Nisroch his god, that Adrammelech and Sharezer his sons smote him with the sword; and they escaped into the land of Armenia: and Esar-haddon his son reigned in his stead.

In MHH Blake is commenting on not just chapter 35, but Sennacherib, Hezekiah, etc. The perilous path, beautified by the just man, has been corrupted by the greedy, driving the just man back into the wilderness. That was Blake's take of this part of Isaiah, and a pretty good take on Blake's day and our day as well.

Of course if you've read The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, you recall that Blake reported a vision in which he dined with and interviewed Isaiah and Ezekiel. Go to plates 12 and 13.

Sunday, July 15, 2018


First posted Aug 2011.

I came across this review of Fearful Symmetry which had been written in 1947 the year the book was published. My surprise was in learning that the review had been written by a man who was our friend from 1988 to 2007. Larry has written of Alfred in the post titled Severe Contentions of Friendship. It does my heart good to make a connection among Blake, Frye and Friend Alfred Ames.

Fearful Symmetry: A Study of William Blake
Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1947
Review by Alfred C. Ames

“The whole purpose of this book . . . is to establish Blake as a typical poet and his thinking as typically poetic thinking” [426], says Professor Frye at the end of Fearful Symmetry.

In the past twenty years, there have been many other expositions of Blake’s visions, succeeding Foster Damon’s pioneering specific commentary and annotation. . . . None of these other books should be permitted to jostle Fearful Symmetry aside. Frye, as no other before him, develops Blake as a “typical poet”; he intends his book to be not only a vade mecum for the students of Blake, but for the larger body of the students of poetry.

Frye conducts his ambitious study with unflagging energy, great enthusiasm, and immense
erudition. Random dipping into the volume would be frightening, and passages quoted out of context might well appear cabalistic. Read straight through in sequence, however, Fearful Symmetry is a lucid if exacting book.

The typical poet, Frye believes, as he becomes wiser becomes less lyrical and more didactic, progressively rejecting the “cloven fictions” that delight and instruction are separable objectives and that subject and object of experience are discrete entities. The poet becomes a visionary, perceiving and pointing out an archetypal vision of creation, fall, redemption, and apocalypse. The business of the visionary is “to proclaim the Word of God to society under the domination of Satan” [336]. What the Word of God is according to Blake, Frye asserts, is what the Word of God is according to Job, the Hebrew prophets, the framers of Greek or Icelandic myth, Spenser, Milton, Keats, or other great authentic poets. In escaping selfhood and attaining vision, we readers of poetry will “become what we behold, for the image of God is the form of human life, and the reality of ourselves” [401].

Blake differs from Shakespeare, for example, not in the profundities, which are common in
both, but on the surface. “Homer and Shakespeare are not superficial, but they do possess a surface, and reward superficial reading more than it deserves” [421]. The lack of “surface” in Blake’s prophetic books prohibits superficial reading. Blake created his own system, as precise utterance of his vision required. He despised empirical logic rooted in sense perceptions, but his own system has the rigor and generality prized by logicians. The difficulty is in the fact that his allegorical symbols are unfamiliar. Either they have a meaning defined largely by their places in the system, or they are meaningless. Thus Blake compels his reader to learn the grammar of his visions.

Frye in this book achieves substantial stature as student and teacher of the grammar of large-scale poetic vision. The vision, embracing the pre-Adamic fall (in which the whole natural universe is involved) and an apocalypse beyond history, is not to be had within the cave of shadows, but is vouchsafed only to “the man with an opened center” [349]. The careful and sympathetic reader of Fearful Symmetry will have great openings."
Wikimedia Commons
Watercolor Illustrations to Young's
Night Thoughts 

Milton, PLATE 28 [30], (E 126)
"The Sons of Ozoth within the Optic Nerve stand fiery glowing
And the number of his Sons is eight millions & eight.
They give delights to the man unknown; artificial riches
They give to scorn, & their posessors to trouble & sorrow & care,
Shutting the sun. & moon. & stars. & trees. & clouds. & waters.
And hills. out from the Optic Nerve & hardening it into a bone
Opake. and like the black pebble on the enraged beach.
While the poor indigent is like the diamond which tho cloth'd
In rugged covering in the mine, is open all within
And in his hallowd center holds the heavens of bright eternity