Friday, April 26, 2019


Four Zoas, Night II
Page 36
Enion's second lament focuses on the consequences of her withdrawal from Tharmas. Life in the external world does not work out like she may have expected it to. Her intentions may have been good but the results are the opposite. She knew that it was the decisions that she made which have led to suffering. Although the spoiled world may have been providing her with the experience she needed to arrive at wisdom, was the price too high if all that she has was required in exchange?

Enion was more than an observer in the world of life, she was the means by which the life inhabiting her world was generated. The multitude of lifeforms were her children. She understood that life lives on death but she couldn't grasp why that must be so. She was not one who found it easy to rejoice in a world where all do not share in the prosperity.

Four Zoas, Night II, Page 34,  (E 324) 
"Thus livd Los driving Enion far into the deathful infinite
That he may also draw Ahania's spirit into her Vortex
Ah happy blindness Enion sees not the terrors of the uncertain 
Thus Enion wails from the dark deep, the golden heavens tremble
I am made to sow the thistle for wheat; the nettle for a nourishing dainty
I have planted a false oath in the earth, it has brought forth a poison tree
I have chosen the serpent for a councellor & the dog
For a schoolmaster to my children
I have blotted out from light & living the dove & nightingale    
And I have caused the earth worm to beg from door to door
I have taught the thief a secret path into the house of the just
I have taught pale artifice to spread his nets upon the morning
My heavens are brass my earth is iron my moon a clod of clay
My sun a pestilence burning at noon & a vapour of death in night 

What is the price of Experience do men buy it for a song
Or wisdom for a dance in the street? No it is bought with the price
Of all that a man hath his house his wife his children
Wisdom is sold in the desolate market where none come to buy
And in the witherd field where the farmer plows for bread in vain

It is an easy thing to triumph in the summers sun
And in the vintage & to sing on the waggon loaded with corn
It is an easy thing to talk of patience to the afflicted
To speak the laws of prudence to the houseless wanderer
PAGE 36 
To listen to the hungry ravens cry in wintry season
When the red blood is filld with wine & with the marrow of lambs

It is an easy thing to laugh at wrathful elements
To hear the dog howl at the wintry door, the ox in the slaughter house moan
To see a god on every wind & a blessing on every blast           
To hear sounds of love in the thunder storm that destroys our enemies house
To rejoice in the blight that covers his field, & the sickness that cuts off his children
While our olive & vine sing & laugh round our door & our children bring fruits & flowers

Then the groan & the dolor are quite forgotten & the slave grinding at the mill
And the captive in chains & the poor in the prison, & the soldier in the field
When the shatterd bone hath laid him groaning among the happier dead

It is an easy thing to rejoice in the tents of prosperity
Thus could I sing & thus rejoice, but it is not so with me!"
What Enion experienced when she was separated from Tharmas was consciousness of mortality in a mortal world. What was within Enion was what she beheld in the void which she inhabited.

Paul of Tarsus, in the seventh chapter of Romans, reported experience of the same agony as portrayed in Enion's lament. He was conscious of being unable to act from the good which he mentally sought to follow. He also was conscious that he did the things that he hated. Blake explicitly stated the choices of Enion whose results were abhorrent to her. Her dilemma was that knowing what she had wrought, and finding it unacceptable; she hadn't the wisdom to find an escape. The best she could do was attempt to ignore the devastation which surrounded her. The easy way to gain experience is to ignore the unpleasant things that are generated by decisions to aggrandize oneself while others bear heavy burdens.
To some extent Enion's solution is one we often choose when confronted with conditions which are too upsetting to for us to allow ourselves to fully comprehend. Larry confessed to finding himself confronted with a level of suffering of which he had no experience when he saw Calcutta. As a young man he had traveled the world as a merchant seaman. He was 19 or 20 in 1946 when his ship reached Calcutta:

"At Calcutta we saw people whose only home was the street, people dying of cholera, etc. A rich man had opened his home to the Allies; it was like a museum, certainly not the kind of place you would want to live, but with European masterworks of art on the walls, big overstuffed sofas, everything associated with western affluence. We heard that he fed 150 beggars every day. We visited a temple with carvings of sexual intercourse in 50 different positions. We visited the burning ghats where the dead were brought. We saw one corpse being burned; the heat caused the tendons to contract and the poor body started to rise up. The attendant grabbed a stick and beat it back down. The sacred river was right there with all sorts of dead things in it and people bathing.

Dozens of children followed us around begging. I bought a leather suitcase from a merchant on the sidewalk. He asked $100 for it, but sold it for $10. I could probably have gotten it for less, but I had gotten tired of dickering with him.

Calcutta made a powerful impression on me. I felt the intense need to help that so many others had felt there. I knew that I had a choice, to dedicate the rest of my life to trying to help them, or to harden my heart. It's obvious which choice I took, since I left a few days later and never went back."

But he didn't forget. He couldn't rejoice in his own prosperity by wiping out consciousness of the suffering world.

Romans 7 (RSV)
[18] For I know that nothing good dwells within me, that is, in my flesh. I can will what is right, but I cannot do it.
[19] For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do.
[20] Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I that do it, but sin which dwells within me.
[21] So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand.
[22] For I delight in the law of God, in my inmost self,
[23] but I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin which dwells in my members.
[24] Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?
[25] Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I of myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.

Tuesday, April 23, 2019


Four Zoas, Night I
Page 18

In the Four Zoas the first psychic division which takes place is between Tharmas and Enion. Blake uses these two characters to symbolize a mental division which is basic in the development of the operation of the human mind. I think of it in terms of the infant first being able to recognize that the mother whom he can touch, see, hear, and smell, and, most importantly, from whom he receives sustenance, is outside of himself. If Tharmas is the sensing being who becomes aware, Enion is the external world from whom the the sensations come.

Thinking about Tharmas and Enion in this way explains why Tharmas is constantly in pursuit of Enion who constantly flees. He seeks to return to that bliss of undifferentiated consciousness.She seeks to preserve the ability to step outside of self-reflection. It also indicates something of the underlying unity of the internal world with the external world: the unity to which Albion must return when he is restored to wholeness.

Sukie Colgrave in her book Uniting Heaven & Earth wrote of the process of separation from the totality and the desire to overcome the divisions which ensued:

"As humanity awoke millennia ago from its instinctive at-oneness with the cosmos, so each individual emerges, at some moment, from his or her own pre-conscious identity with the Mother. This initial loss coincides with the birth of human consciousness. It is followed by a struggle between the desire for freedom and knowledge and the longing for wholeness and peace. The tension between these two impulses propels the restless psyche ever onward in search of a kingdom in which freedom and unity belong together, in which understanding and peace are no longer in conflict." (Page 198)

The character Enion is best known for her laments of which there are four in the Four Zoas. In these she explores the implications of existence in matter as the field in which experience is gained. Her first lament in Night I finds her wandering desolate, acutely aware of the suffering and futility of the varied manifestations of life which have been generated in matter as a consequence of the origin of time and space which give matter definition.

Children early learn to use the question 'Why?' They find it a powerful tool with which to explore their world. With it they force their parents to explore their own assumptions and interpretations about how the world works. The question 'Why?' is a challenge to emphathize, to put oneself into the position occupied by another, to see and feel more than what is a part of our individual perception. If we stop asking that question we will never get to the root of the dual nature of humanity - an eternal spirit confined in a mortal body.

Four Zoas, Night I, PAGE 17, (E 310)
"Enion blind & age-bent wept upon the desolate wind  

Why does the Raven cry aloud and no eye pities her?
Why fall the Sparrow & the Robin in the foodless winter?
Faint! shivering they sit on leafless bush, or frozen stone 

Wearied with seeking food across the snowy waste; the little     
Heart, cold; and the little tongue consum'd, that once in thoughtless joy
Gave songs of gratitude to waving corn fields round their nest.

Why howl the Lion & the Wolf? why do they roam abroad?         
Deluded by summers heat they sport in enormous love
And cast their young out to the hungry wilds & sandy desarts     
Why is the Sheep given to the knife? the Lamb plays in the Sun
He starts! he hears the foot of Man! he says, Take thou my wool
But spare my life, but he knows not that winter cometh fast.

The Spider sits in his labourd Web, eager watching for the Fly
Presently comes a famishd Bird & takes away the Spider           
His Web is left all desolate, that his little anxious heart
So careful wove; & spread it out with sighs and weariness.

This was the Lamentation of Enion round the golden Feast
Eternity groand and was troubled at the image of Eternal Death
Without the body of Man an Exudation from his sickning limbs"

Sunday, April 21, 2019


Wikimedia Commons
The Three Maries at the Sepulchre

Matthew 27
[55] And many women were there beholding afar off, which followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering unto him:
[56] Among which was Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James and Joses, and the mother of Zebedee's children.
[57] When the even was come, there came a rich man of Arimathaea, named Joseph, who also himself was Jesus' disciple:
[58] He went to Pilate, and begged the body of Jesus. Then Pilate commanded the body to be delivered.
[59] And when Joseph had taken the body, he wrapped it in a clean linen cloth,
[60] And laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn out in the rock: and he rolled a great stone to the door of the sepulchre, and departed.
[61] And there was Mary Magdalene, and the other Mary, sitting over against the sepulchre.
[62] Now the next day, that followed the day of the preparation, the chief priests and Pharisees came together unto Pilate,
[63] Saying, Sir, we remember that that deceiver said, while he was yet alive, After three days I will rise again.
[64] Command therefore that the sepulchre be made sure until the third day, lest his disciples come by night, and steal him away, and say unto the people, He is risen from the dead: so the last error shall be worse than the first.
[65] Pilate said unto them, Ye have a watch: go your way, make it as sure as ye can.
[66] So they went, and made the sepulchre sure, sealing the stone, and setting a watch.
Matthew 28
[1] In the end of the sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulchre.
[2] And, behold, there was a great earthquake: for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it.
[3] His countenance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow:
[4] And for fear of him the keepers did shake, and became as dead men.
[5] And the angel answered and said unto the women, Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified.
[6] He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay.
[7] And go quickly, and tell his disciples that he is risen from the dead; and, behold, he goeth before you into Galilee; there shall ye see him: lo, I have told you.
[8] And they departed quickly from the sepulchre with fear and great joy; and did run to bring his disciples word.
[9] And as they went to tell his disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, All hail. And they came and held him by the feet, and worshipped him.
[10] Then said Jesus unto them, Be not afraid: go tell my brethren that they go into Galilee, and there shall they see me.

Jerusalem, Plate 62, (E 212) 
"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.

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!"

Sunday, April 07, 2019

Image of God

British Museum

Small Book of Designs

Copy A, Plate 1

 This is an extract (1) from Chapter Five (GOD) of Ram Horn'd With Gold by Larry Clayton.

"Thinking as I do that the Creator of this world is a cruel being, and being a worshipper of Christ, I have to say: "the Son! oh how unlike the Father": First God Almighty comes with a thump on the head; then J.C. comes with a balm to heal it." (Blake's Comments on A Vision of the Last Judgment, Erdman 565)

       To put it shortly the epigraph says it all. An esoteric alternative Protestantism nurtured Blake as a child. But what he said above aptly expresses the feelings of enormous numbers of people in our society today. "I don't care for the O.T. The N.T. suits me better": there is the understated strong consensus of many today, so extravagantly stated here by William Blake.

       It remains for us only to elaborate on the development of 'God-thought' in the thinker through the years of his spiritual growth. 

      The materialistic psychology dominant in Blake's age as well as our own portrays the real and the imaginative as opposites. But in truth there are only images of reality; all reality is mental, that is, mediated into consciousness by the mind. Our immediate experience is a chaos of sense perception from which we all create our own visions of reality. Like Blake "[we] must create our own system or be enslaved by another man's" (Jerusalem plate 10, line 20). An authentic person consciously creates his own vision of reality. He chooses to be who he is rather than to borrow his identity from a group or from a charismatic figure.

 Each person's ultimate reality is his God. There is no known objective God (the Russian cosmonauts assured us of that many years ago); there are only images of God. Some of the outstanding images of God that have shaped the life of the world came to us from Moses, Isaiah, Buddha, and Mohammed. Finally we have the vision of Jesus, whom Christians consider to be an incarnation of God. But perhaps equally influential upon the course of history have been the visions of Alexander, Napoleon, and Stalin. Their common vision of the dominion of power is near the opposite pole from that of the gentle Galilean.

       Blake was a total and confirmed visionary, and he evisioned all of the images of God listed above and quite a few others as well. He did this by pursuing his imaginative experience wherever it led. The uncanny freedom with which he followed "the wind where it listeth" led him on a strange and fascinating spiritual journey through some remarkable byways and paths, described in his poetry. At the end of his pilgrimage he came to a definite vision of God as Jesus, the Forgiveness. After almost two centuries it remains one of the highest and best visions of God that Christians have for their inspiration.

       Full understanding of Blake's vision of God depends upon a grasp of his concepts of time and eternity. For Blake the eternal is the realm of the real, while time is the dimension of Plato's mortal cave of phantasmal dreams. Although the eternal is immortal, it does not refer simply to the hereafter; that would be just a phantasmal portion of time stretched out indefinitely. The eternal is the Mental, the Imaginative, the world to which a man may awaken as soon as he realizes that the corporeal, temporal, materialistic framework of reality is an illusion.

       The rationalists of Blake's day with their radical materialism had closed themselves off from the eternal. They had imprisoned themselves in what he called the mundane shell (Milton plate 17 line 18ff). They were exclusively this worldly. Blake perceived that they worshiped the God of this World, no matter what they called him. They had most often called him Jehovah or Jesus. As a young man Blake renamed him Urizen . He spent half a lifetime studying this God of the timebound so he could cast him off and replace him with a more authentic image. Eventually he came to realize that this god's truest name is Satan. He also referred to him as the Selfhood (Jerusalem 5:21-23) and the Spectre.

       Blake tells us that radical materialism with its worship of the God of this World is a state of mind from which a man may awaken at any moment into a realization of the infinite and of his kinship with the Divine Man, Jesus. So these two Gods, the Satan of the World and the Jesus of Eternity remain in continuous opposition in men's minds, and they are best understood in contrast to one another.

       Jesus is the Lord of the Eternal realm, which is imaginative, creative, non-violent, gracious, and above all forgiving and uniting into life. Satan is God of this World, of power, might, law, man against man, separation, finally death. One is Lord of Life, the other the Lord of Death. Satan is actually not a person but a state and will eventually go to his own place, which is a way of saying that Jesus will eventually get him off our backs. This happens at the Last Judgment when all Error is burnt up.

The Journey

      We live in a secular age; the reality of God has been largely barred from the consciousness of most people. It is a significant experience for only a minority of the population. Of course many people understand that everyone has a God of some sort--his ultimate concern. But the biblical God, the God of Abraham, Issac, and Jacob, the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, is not a live issue in the minds of very many people today. Our foremost modern psychologist, C.G.Jung, quite properly placed God in our unconscious and encouraged us to seek there for him. Jung understood very well Blake's statement that "all deities reside in the human breast" (end of Plate 11 of The Marriage of Heaven and Hell).

      The secular currents so powerful today were already flowing strongly in the late 18th Century in England. The prevalent deism put God back behind the present scene, a long way behind it. Strictly the Divine Architect, having made the world like a clock, he wound it up and left it to run on its own. He also left the deists to their own devices, and they were happy in this new freedom. They felt that they had learned to control their destinies without divine assistance.

Jerusalem, Plate 52, (E 201) 
"Man must & will have Some Religion; if he has not the Religion
of Jesus, he will have the Religion of Satan, & will erect the
Synagogue of Satan. calling the Prince of this World, God; and
destroying all who do not worship Satan under the Name of God. 
Will any one say: Where are those who worship Satan under the
Name of God! Where are they? Listen! Every Religion that Preaches
Vengeance for Sins the Religion of the Enemy & Avenger; and not
the Forgiver of Sin, and their God is Satan, Named by the Divine
Name   Your Religion O Deists: Deism, is the Worship of the God
of this World by the means of what you call Natural Religion and
Natural Philosophy, and of Natural Morality or
Self-Righteousness, the Selfish Virtues of the Natural Heart. 
This was the Religion of the Pharisees who murderd Jesus.  Deism
is the same & ends in the same."

     Blake lived in the midst of these currents, but he opposed them emphatically. Unlike the deists he experienced the immediate presence and pervasive reality of God in his life. He completely filled his poetry and pictures alike with metaphysical images because his mind dwelt almost exclusively upon spiritual themes. The material realm interested him only as a shadow of the eternal. He abhorred the materialism by which the deists lived. He might have been happier and more at home in the Middle Ages.

      But he was also a very modern man. He understood better than Jung that an external objective God is an unknown quantity, a projection of unsophisticated minds:

      "Mental things are alone Real....Where is the Existence Out of Mind or Thought? Where is it but in the mind of a Fool?" (Vision of the Last Judgment, page 565)

       The only God anyone can know is the image of God projected upon his mind or enclosed in his consciousness. Since time began, men have shared their visions of God with one another. All religions began in this way. The Bible makes most sense as an infinitely fascinating compendium of the visions of God shared by Moses, Isaiah, Paul and the other writers. This unfolding and composite vision has shaped western culture down to the present moment.

      Blake thoroughly surveyed this passing scene, not just the Bible, but every other religious document he could get his hands on, and related them all to his own direct and immediate visions. Over his lifetime he may have taken more liberties with God than any other systematic thinker ever did. He could do this because he so fully realized that all of these visions of God had come forth from human breasts like his own. Moses, Isaiah, and the others were his eternal brothers, and he joyously engaged with them in the eternal war, the intellectual war, which he called the "severe contentions of friendship" (Jerusalem 91:17).


Saturday, April 06, 2019

Blake's Search

Wikipedia Commons
Illustrations to Young's Night Thoughts
 Page 75

This is an extract (2) from Chapter Five (GOD) of Ram Horn'd With Gold by Larry Clayton.


A Political God 

        "The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you" (Romans 2:24)
         From the beginning Blake realized the close and intimate relationship between a person's image of God and his political views. The authoritarian image in some form finds favor with establishment types, authority figures and all others who perceive their welfare as dependent upon the status quo. These people feel threatened by unrest in the social levels below their own; they look to God, their primary symbol of authority, to control it. They impose this vision of God upon society, and they use their power to control and discourage alternative visions.

       Liberal types in contrast more likely entertain an image of a benevolent God, a God of mercy whose basic activity is not to control the lower classes but to lift them up, nurture the needy, provide for the poor, and protect them from the rapacious powerful.

        Blake found both types of men among the authors of the Bible; they project the two basic images of God side by side. His simplified schema of interpretation assigned to the two types the designations of priest and prophet. The priest upholds the authority of the past, the authority of tradition. The prophet sees a burning bush and hears a new word which judges the authority and tradition of the priest and invokes a new scene, new ideas, new forms, new life.

        Rather obviously Jesus belonged to the prophetic type. He had as a fundamental aim raising our consciousness of the benevolence of God. He incarnated God, and he was supremely benevolent to all but the priestly party. They suppressed him in the flesh, and in his resurrected body they have always attempted to remake him in their image. As he warned, they have used his name to control, suppress, and even exterminate large numbers of people who would not do as they were told. Blake's real mission in life, both before and after his Moment of Grace , was to rescue the world's image of God from the preemption of the priestly party.

        The conventional understanding of God is that he will get you and put you in a dark hot place forever if you don't do exactly as you are told, by his priest of course. In 1741, sixteen years before Blake's birth, a New England divine named Jonathan Edwards wrote and delivered a sermon which he named, "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God"; historians tell us that it scared literally thousands of people into the Christian church. A similar vision of God has haunted multitudes before and after Blake even down to the present day. Besides the superstitious fear it has aroused, this understanding of God has contributed to oceans of blood shed by well meaning Christians through the ages.

        Relating this conventional understanding to one of Blake's earliest experiences, his brief career in school yields a distinctive image of God as a Transcendental Schoolmaster. As soon as Blake reached the age of reason, he rejected such a God as radically and uniquivocally as he had rejected the flesh and blood schoolmaster . He saw such an image of God standing at the apex of a pyramid of human unhappiness, of exploitation, oppression, misery and hatred. He saw the divine right of kings and all those who derive their authority from the Crown. He saw their lackey priests extorting tithes from the people, collected by the 18th century equivalent of the IRS, and often giving little in return.

Four Zoas, Night II, Page 36, (E 325)
"It is an easy thing to laugh at wrathful elements 

To hear the dog howl at the wintry door, the ox in the slaughter house moan 
To see a god on every wind & a blessing on every blast 
To hear sounds of love in the thunder storm that destroys our enemies house 
To rejoice in the blight that covers his field, & the sickness that cuts off his children 
While our olive & vine sing & laugh round our door & our children bring fruits & flowers 
Then the groan & the dolor are quite forgotten & the slave grinding at the mill 
And the captive in chains & the poor in the prison, & the soldier in the field 
When the shatterd bone hath laid him groaning among the happier dead 
It is an easy thing to rejoice in the tents of prosperity 
Thus could I sing & thus rejoice, but it is not so with me!"

       He saw the emerging divine right of industrialists to work seven year old children fourteen hours a day at hard labor and reward them with a pittance. This image of God was most horrendously embodied in the judges and executioners who disposed of the child criminals. He saw the press gangs with royal authority to capture and drug anyone lacking upper class credentials; their poor victims woke up aboard ship in a state of virtual slavery, and following the brave Roman tradition they learned to fear their officers more than the enemy. Blake felt an intense mystic union with the suffering masses and even the suffering masters: he knew that a prison officer has to be just as sick as the men he guards.

       All these social programs were devised to teach poor devils to do what they were told, and behind them all stood the grim Transcendental Schoolmaster with the god sized birch rod. How could a self respecting person with any human sensitivity be other than an atheist! But Blake was never an atheist. Somehow he had to come to terms with God. If the above were a true representation of God, then he would rebel against God with his last breath. The young Blake identified with Milton's Satan in Paradise Lost: such a God is a sneaking serpent, and Blake would spend his life as the just man raging in the wilds. Schizophrenia might be the normal reaction to certain social conditions. 

         The August Schoolmaster exists to enforce good and to prohibit or punish evil. The trouble with good and evil is that in this fallen world they are always defined by the man with the biggest stick. He of course sees himself as the likeness of God, God's earthly representative. So the most oppressive tyrant, the most colossal mass murderer, the most authentic Caesar becomes the Son of Heaven. The list is long and gruesome, and Blake knew his history.

Visions of Daughters of Albion, Plate 4, (E 48)
"Then Oothoon waited silent all the day. and all the night,
Plate 5
But when the morn arose, her lamentation renewd,
The Daughters of Albion hear her woes, & eccho back her sighs. 
O Urizen! Creator of men! Mistaken Demon of heaven:
Thy joys are tears! thy labour vain, to form men to thine image.
How can one joy absorb another? are not different joys  
Holy, eternal, infinite! and each joy is a Love.  
Does not the great mouth laugh at a gift? & the narrow eyelids mock
At the labour that is above payment, and wilt thou take the ape
For thy councellor? or the dog, for a schoolmaster to thy children?
Does he who contemns poverty, and he who turns with abhorrence  
From usury: feel the same passion or are they moved alike?
How can the giver of gifts experience the delights of the merchant?
How the industrious citizen the pains of the husbandman.
How different far the fat fed hireling with hollow drum;
Who buys whole corn fields into wastes, and sings upon the heath:
How different their eye and ear! how different the world to them!"
        Although he wouldn't dream of worshiping such a deity, Blake had no hesitancy about calling him God; he simply refused to call him a good God. Wide reading in Oriental, Greek, and Norse mythology had led him to an acquaintance with any number of malevolent gods. In his poetry he used these pagan images to flesh out the God of Wrath whom he found in the Old Testament. For perhaps fifteen years Blake's creative energies were largely expended in a conscious and deliberate overt rebellion against the conventional image of the Old Testament God. During those years he subjected that image to a searching and unique psychological analysis; it fills the pages of the Blake reader.

Friday, April 05, 2019

Beyond Innocence

Book of Thel
Image from Final Page

This is an extract (3) from Chapter Five (GOD) of Ram Horn'd With Gold by Larry Clayton.

Early Images of God

'Songs of Innocence' and 'The Book of Thel' both composed shortly before
'The Marriage of Heaven and Hell', contain perhaps the most exquisite images of a
benevolent God to be found in modern literature. Written by a man of 34, they vividly
evoke the faith of a child like mind unsullied by the world. Writing them Blake performed
the imaginative feat of a supreme artist able in vision to project his psyche back to the
days before the Fall. Actually at this stage of his life Blake already had a
keen awareness of the Fall, a mind deeply shadowed by it; but no trace
of the shadows appears in these exquisite sacrifices of praise. It's as
if with prescience that his art will shortly be submerged in visions of
fallen man and a fallen God, he paused for one preliminary glimpse of
the Golden Age.

Book of Thel, Plate 1, (E 3)
"The daughters of Mne Seraphim led round their sunny flocks.
All but the youngest; she in paleness sought the secret air.
To fade away like morning beauty from her mortal day:
Down by the river of Adona her soft voice is heard:
And thus her gentle lamentation falls like morning dew.
O life of this our spring! why fades the lotus of the water?
Why fade these children of the spring? born but to smile & fall.
Ah! Thel is like a watry bow. and like a parting cloud.
Like a reflection in a glass. like shadows in the water.
Like dreams of infants. like a smile upon an infants face,
Like the doves voice, like transient day, like music in the air;
Ah! gentle may I lay me down, and gentle rest my head.
And gentle sleep the sleep of death. and gentle hear the voice
Of him that walketh in the garden in the evening time."

That pause brought a precious gift to mankind. The faith of the Clod can hardly be improved upon. The God in "The Little Black Boy" not so much in the imagined father as in the spirit of the child, has been a candle in the life of many a hard pressed pilgrim tempted to curse the darkness.

After 'Songs of Innocence' begin the curses. It may be worthwhile to curse the darkness if thereby we make someone aware of it. This was Blake's aim, like that of most social prophets. Dickens rubs our noses in the darkness over and over, and we're better men for having read him. Like Dickens' novels Blake's poems are full of darkness. From 1790 to 1800 he directed our thoughts to the fallen God whom we worship, who promotes the darkness and calls it light.

Few or no specimens of humanity would stoop so low as to consign a fellow man to everlasting torment; any Being imagined to do such a thing must be at best subhuman. The worship of such a being is devil worship. In a poem on the French Revolution Blake descended to the crudest vulgarity in trying to put such a theological notion in its rightful place:

Satiric Verses, From Blake's Notebook, (E 500)
"The King awoke on his couch of gold
 As soon as he heard these tidings told ...
Then he swore a great and solemn Oath:
"To kill the people I am loth,
"But if they rebel, they must go to hell:
"They shall have a Priest and a passing bell."
Then old Nobodaddy aloft Farted and belch'd and cough'd,
And said, "I love hanging and drawing and quartering
 "Every bit as well as war and slaughtering.
 "Damn praying and singing "Unless they will bring in
 "The blood of ten thousand by fighting or swinging."


Thursday, April 04, 2019

Battle With Urizen

Yale Center for British Art
Plate 10

This is an extract (4) from Chapter Five (GOD) of Ram Horn'd With Gold by Larry Clayton.


With the conception of Urizen Blake began the most serious stage of his war with the conventional God. In fact his battle with God provided the creative energy for the development of his entire mythology, particularly the series of poems known as the Lambeth books and the first major attempt at an epic, 'The Four Zoas'. 'Milton' and 'Jerusalem' were written after the battle was won.

The 'Book of Urizen' is at one level a brutal burlesque of the Creation story found in Genesis. More properly it offers an alternative to the biblical story, based upon Neo-platonic metaphysics. Blake took the Gnostic demiurge, something much less than the Supreme Being, and merged it with the Old Testament God into a diabolic parody.

Tremendous meaning may doubtless be found in this book, the Genesis of Blake's Bible of Hell. Some knowledgeable interpreters see in it a superwise man offering supersubtle insight to the devotees and adepts who have pursued his truth. But a plain man's view suggests that 'Book of Urizen' comes from the pen of an angry young man. Most of us have shut out youthful anger. We pass our days having closed off our consciousness from the horror of life that surrounds us. In that way we can sleep at night and forget that we live in a filthy world, a place where ten year old children hang for trivial crimes and five year olds learn to climb the insides of tall back chimneys. Comparable things are happening in our town today, but we simply don't dwell on those sorts of things; we learn to be positive thinkers.

But men like Blake and Vincent van Gogh couldn't shut those images out. Van Gogh died in an insane asylum. Blake had a more creative solution; he wrote the 'Book of Urizen'. Someone is finally and ultimately responsible for the horror of the world. He blamed God or rather the image of God projected by his fellow men. Anyone gifted with a real relationship with God has had similar feelings.

At the deepest level 'Book of Urizen' comes through as a cry of pain: the God who made this black world in which we live in chains has to be a monster. And Blake offers some very imaginative ideas as to how he got that way. He fell from Eternity; he fell before Creation; and then he created an awful mess. Then he gave us laws to live by that shrink us up more and more from what we might be. William Blake is noted for the Divine Vision. But 'Book of Urizen' is the diabolic vision, the Bible of Hell. Before ecstasy there is agony. In 'Book of Urizen' Blake poignantly articulates the darkness before the dawn.

The really exciting thing about 'The Four Zoas' is the long incubation and eventual birth of Blake's new, positive image of God concurrent with the thorough and definite laying to rest of the old one. These realities become vivid once the reader gains sufficient familiarity with the material to see the underlying currents of spiritual movement. If you like poetry, 4Z contains many beautiful lines interspersed throughout the nine Nights amidst long, bleak desert passages describing fallenness. The beautiful passages mark stirrings of the Spirit. (It has great similarity in fact to the style of Isaiah, who wrote the most beautiful parts of the O.T. surrounded by unrelieved darkness.)

Follow the speeches of Enion , the primeval mother of Los and Enitharmon. In Night i her children's increasing depravity and her maternal love lead her down into the abyss of Non-entity, in her case an abyss of consciousness. She becomes a disembodied voice sounding a note of reality over the general fallenness as it progressively develops. Her comments throughout the action preserve the feeling of human oneness that will break forth at the darkest hour. In Enion Blake found a new voice expressing a passionate love that laments but doesn't excoriate, and a faith, evolved through suffering, that the Divine Image will come to redeem. These of course are the most creative themes of the Old Testament, slowly evolving out of its generally primitive theology. Enion's speeches at the conclusion of Nights i, ii, and viii are too long to quote here, but they contain some of the most sublime poetry Blake wrote and portend the emergence of the new God of compassion.

In 4Z Blake elaborated and analyzed the God, Urizen, in the fullest detail; this version contains less heat and more light than we found in 'Book of Urizen.' Urizen symbolizes man's thinking faculty; in the primary myth of the Fall he became estranged from his feelings. This story is told at least six times in 4Z. Blake devoted Night ii to Urizen's creation of a rocky, hard, opaque world of mathematical certainty and calculation. Anyone who has spent time on a college campus has met people highly developed intellectually and infantile emotionally. They lack the capacity to express any value more intense than "very interesting". Many of course have denied that value has any meaning. Imagine what kind of world they create, what spiritual climate they live in; there you have Urizen.

He is a God devoid of true feeling; he has feelings, but they're all false. He continually weeps, like the Old Testament God who wept as he punished people. He builds a world of law, devoid of feeling, devoid of compassion, devoid of humanity. His world is based upon fear of the future, and he attempts to secure himself against it at all costs. Fear defines his character and his actions until the very end of the fallen world. In Night viii Urizen is still fighting life and light. He sets out:

Four Zoas, Night VIII, Page 102, E 375
"to pervert all the faculties of sense
Into their own destruction, if perhaps he might avert
His own despair even at the cost of everything that breathes."

There you find a preview of the God of the superpowers. Their fear has become the guiding principle leading them toward the destruction of "everything that breathes".

Urizen's initial downfall comes in Night iii. His emanation (in this case wife), Ahania, has followed Enion, the Earth Mother, into the abyss of consciousness. She tries to share with Urizen a level of truth that he finds so unpleasant that he casts her out, and promptly falls himself like Humpty Dumpty. In Ahania's vision we have a psychologically acute and penetrating description of the incipience of a false God. It ranks with the Bible's eloquent pre-psychological denunciations of idolatry, as found for example in Isaiah 40. Blake re-used this passage in 'Jerusalem', attesting its authenticity even on the illumined side of the Divine Vision:
Four Zoas, Night III, Page 40, (E 327)
"Then Man ascended mourning into the splendors of his palace,
Above him rose a Shadow from his wearied intellect
Of living gold, pure, perfect, holy; in white linen he hover'd,
A sweet entrancing self delusion, a wat'ry vision of Man
Soft exulting in existence, all the Man absorbing.
Man fell upon his face prostrate before the wat'ry shadow,
Saying, "O Lord, whence is this change? thou knowest I am nothing."
... Idolatrous to his own Shadow, words of Eternity uttering:
"O I am nothing when I enter in judgment with thee.
"If thou withdraw thy breath I die and vanish into Hades;
"If thou dost lay thine hand upon me, behold I am silent;
"If thou withhold thine hand I perish like a fallen leaf.
"O I am nothing, and to nothing must return again.
"If thou withdraw thy breath, behold I am oblivion."

In this parody of the Psalmist Blake shows us a fundamental truth about man's image of the transcendental God. He doesn't deny the reality of a transcendental God as some of his interpreters have concluded. He denies the truth of man's image of the transcendental God, an entirely different matter.

He opposes the ascribing of qualities to the Wholly Other. According to Blake when that is done the result is something less than man. Worshiping this sub-human God the worshiper becomes something less than man himself. He represses a portion of his humanity, which Blake here calls Luvah, and that repressed portion falls upon him and afflicts him with boils from head to toe. The penalty for idolatry is brokenness and suffering, consciousness of sin, guilt, division, finitude, envy, the torments of love and jealousy, the whole bit of man's unfortunate fallen circumstances. It's all caused by the false God that man has chosen. Isaiah understood a part of this; he recognized some of the idols of others but not his own. Thomas Altizer, in his book on Blake, rightly took this passage as a critical revelation of the "death of God".

Man worships a shadow of his wearied intellect. No higher God is possible without the wholeness that Christ brings. Worship of a shadow of our wearied intellect leads to all the false and fatal evils that we visit upon one another from simple vanity to war.


Wednesday, April 03, 2019


Wikipedia Commons
For the Sexes: The Gates of Paradise
Plate 21, Epilogue

This is an extract (5) from Chapter Five (GOD) of Ram Horn'd With Gold by Larry Clayton.


With idols no longer possible what's left to worship? The answer depends upon your experience. With all the idols gone the true God remains, for those who can meet him. For others the highest possible is the Human Form, and here Blake settled before he came to see Jesus as God. He began by worshiping the Human Form, the Highest and Best Imaginable, and in 1800 he recognized this Highest and Best in Jesus. In terms of conventional theology Blake was a humanist before he became a committed Christian. In "The Marriage of Heaven and Hell' he loudly proclaimed his humanism: "God only Acts and Is, in existing beings or Men". And a few pages later:

The worship of God is: "Honouring his gifts in other men, each according to his genius, and loving the greatest men best: those who envy or calumniate great men hate God; for there is no other God."

According to Kathleen Raine it was "the central doctrine of the Swedenborgian New Church that God can only be known in human form". Blake illustrated this with his quatrain at the end of "Auguries of Innocence":
"God Appears and God is Light
To those poor Souls who dwell in Night,
But does a Human Form Display
To those who Dwell in Realms of day."

Finally in his "Annotations to Berkeley's Siris", which he read about 1820, he wrote "God is Man and exists in us and we in him". He was still a humanist, but his humanism had gained a strong Christian dimension. Blake's argument against the conventional images of God, from beginning to end, hinged upon their sub-human nature. The biblical writers frequently ascribed to their God attitudes and behaviour beneath the moral level of any self respecting human. God cannot be less than man; therefore the appropriate response to such an image is derision, especially in the face of the common credulous awe.

The spiritually open person, free of the common credulous awe and capable of a clear eyed gaze at the Bible, no longer finds it possible to view all the biblical images as portraying a God worthy of worship. Furthermore when one looks freely at the actions of political and religious leaders of Christendom of the past 2000 years, it becomes clear that they were often worshipping something other than the true God. Finally the actions and attitudes of our contemporaries and even our own point to domination by a vision that is something less than the Highest and Best. In his poetry Blake documents these three observations with voluminous detail. They led to his ultimate evaluation of the universal false God. The name he settled upon is refreshingly biblical and authentic:

For the Sexes: The Gates of Paradise, Plate 21, (E 269)
"To the Accuser, who is
The God of this World
Tho' thou art Worship'd by the Names Divine
Of Jesus and Jehovah, thou art still
The Son of Morn1 in weary Night's decline,
The Lost Traveller's1 Dream under the Hill."

Jesus had said it a long time before: "Why call ye me Lord, Lord...." 

God of this World

Who is the God of this World? He is the God of those whose life is based upon the physical senses and centered in material existence, in this world. They provide for themselves now because there is no Other. They use law and power for their own advantage at the expense of others and consider that to be the nature of reality. These are the worshippers of the God of this World. In the end nothing could be more authentically biblical.

Once he began to focus upon the God of this World, Blake found in the Bible much positive information: he masquerades as an angel of light; he tempts; he accuses. "We do not find anywhere that Satan is accused of sin. He is only accused of Unbelief and thereby drawing man into sin that he may accuse him." Satan is particularly attached to the rulers of the world--economic, political, and ecclesiastical--and they to him. He is "Worshiped as God by the Mighty Ones of the Earth" (Jerusalem 29:18). They naturally regard him as God because their faithfulness to his values and methods has led them to great prosperity.

But in Satan's kingdom more basic than oppressive power is fear and timidity. Northrup Frye explains: "The morally good man tries to obey an external God instead of bringing out the God in himself. The external God [is] only the shadow of Caesar." Tyranny is only possible because men are willing victims. That's why the flaming rebel has such an important place in the renewal of life .

Interpreters have greatly misunderstood the role of Satan in Blake's structure of thought because he used the image of the devil to represent two different things. The Satan of 'Paradise Lost' was a flaming rebel against a ridiculous God, and in MHH Blake ironically identified himself with this devil and even claimed that Milton belonged to the devil's party without knowing it.

But the God of this World is an altogether sinister image. The devils of MHH represent fiery creativity. The God of this World opposes creativity of every sort in favor of rigid obedience to the powers that be. They are his powers. A lineal descendant of Urizen, he claims everything he can touch for Eternal Death.

Blake's reversal of symbols is admittedly confusing. But then everyone has or should take the freedom to change his values and symbols as he goes through life. Actually in the course of his development as a poet and thinker Blake used 'Satan' with a variety of meanings. The God of this World is a less ambiguous term. It connotes Deceiver, Tempter, Perverter, Accuser, Killer. The God of this World is the God of Eternal Death.

The third temptation of Jesus in the wilderness was to fall down and worship the God of this World. Had he succumbed, the Jews would have had their political messiah, and the spiritual history of the world would have been different. The story of this temptation is a critical element in Blake's system of thought. He doesn't apply it to the historical Jesus so much; he applies it to the members of Christ.

When a pilgrim sets out to pursue the narrow path, his primary problem remains the temptation to worship the God of this World. With great interest Blake watched the careers of his fellow men as they met and responded to that moment. 'The Four Zoas', as its biblical superscription suggests, is largely devoted to wrestling against the rulers of the darkness of this world. In CHAPTER ONE we saw how Blake's life may be interpreted in terms of this fundamental psychic and spiritual event.

The Felpham Moment represented the ultimate level of the problem posed to him. Blake knew that Hayley was his friend and wished him well. But at Felpham he came to realize that life offers us two kinds of friends. "Corporeal friends are spiritual enemies." A corporeal friend may offer you the world and take your soul. Hayley was Blake's corporeal friend; he wanted for him the best that he knew; he wanted to help him make his way in the world!

Hayley was a worldling; he knew nothing of the Realms of day. His corporeal friendship was eternally dangerous to his protege. As a matter of fact he had sponsored Godwin, before that spiritually oriented poet went crazy. It took Blake a while to work all this out, but when he did, the whole problem of God became clear. The God of this World was clarified, named, cast into the lake, and soon thereafter the Divine Vision came to him with power. We have already quoted Blake's eloquent poetic description of the event:

Jerusalem, Plate 37 [41], (E 184)
"Each man is in his Spectre's power
Until the arrival of that Hour
When his Humanity awake
And cast his Spectre into the lake."

In the circumstances of the Felpham visit Hayley incarnated to Blake the Spectre, the God of this World--not Hayley the man, but Hayley the spiritual principle who had acted upon Blake at his point of weakness to take his soul. Hayley the man was simply a fellow sufferer whom Blake continued to encourage through the years ahead, but what he had represented in Blake's mind, the smiling worldling, no longer had influence upon Blake's life. The Spectre was cast into the lake.

The Spectre is the individual internal form of Satan or the God of this World. Another name for him is the Selfhood. He is the internal egocentric principle that causes a man to see himself over against the rest of humanity. In his poem, 'Milton', Blake makes this identity clear with the words of Milton at the conclusion of the "Bard's Song", which has been devoted to an elaborate description of how Satan arises and acts in human life: "I in my Selfhood am that Satan: I am that Evil One!/ He is my Spectre!"

The Job series shows more eloquently than any words could how the conventional idea of God, a part of a man's psyche, eventually proves to be satanic. Job, a ruler of the world, comes to recognize that his God is satanic, passes through a spiritual death, and is reborn with a clarified vision. That's Job's story and Blake's story and everyman's story.

The gospel truth reveals that the satanic God of this World, our Spectre, our Selfhood, will die, and the Divine Image in us will rise to meet the true God in the Realms of day. The theology here is a composite of Job and Revelation. Blake's life and work both attest that the way in which the satanic God dies is through our becoming aware of him. Blake strove to do this consciously as an artist through what he called "building Golgonooza", but the Moment of Grace for him as always was not something that he did, but something that happened to him when he had made himself ready.