Tuesday, March 19, 2019


The Fall of Man
This picture is obviously one of those in which Blake was trying to bring together his message in one single statement. We can either focus on the minute particulars and let them lead us in multiple directions or we can let ourselves be absorbed in a total, inclusive portrayal of the dynamics of life. The title FALL OF MAN falls short of the action which can be discerned in the image.

If you have been carefully observing the images which are posted in this blog you will be reminded of figures which Blake used elsewhere: in his Illuminated Books, in his illustrations to books by other authors, in his illustrations to the Bible, and in the individual drawing which came spontaneously from his pen, pencil, graver or brush. Each figure becomes a word which identifies a symbol which becomes part of a vocabulary. Using the vocabulary he makes statements which define relationships which tell the story of humanity.

When Blake wrote this passage commenting on his illustration to Chaucer's Canterbury Pilgrims, he was recognizing that the archetypal states are expressed in individuals and reveal to us stages along the journey of life.

Descriptive Catalogue, (E 536)
"Every age is a Canterbury Pilgrimage; we all pass on, each sustaining one or other
of these characters; nor can a child be born, who is not one of
these characters of Chaucer, The Doctor of Physic is described as
the first of his profession; perfect, learned, completely Master
and Doctor in his art. Thus the reader will observe, that
Chaucer makes every one of his characters perfect in his kind,
every one is an Antique Statue; the image of a class, and not of
an imperfect individual."

But Blake may also have been suggesting an alternative way to view this image. What is going on in the outer experience of humanity is also going on in the inner experience of the individual's mind. Blake is showing the divisions which the psyche experiences internally just as as he was showing it in his four zoas, in his emanations and in Albion and his sons and daughters. So you can look in the image for the major divisions which psychology recognizes as the way the mind is organized, and for particular expressions which may be part of your own psyche.

It is easy to see various compartments in the picture and figures outside of the compartments. When we see the picture as the FALL OF MAN, the figures are in a process of descent on the right side of the picture and assent on the left side. Even the figures trapped in the lowermost darkest levels or compartments are being invited to begin the journey upward. And most notable is that the figure on the throne at the top of the picture is looking with compassion at those who are falling, and is in the process of stepping down instead of remaining distant.

Learn more from the post Day of Judgment.

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