Monday, May 21, 2018


Illustration to Milton's L'Allegro and Il Penseroso
Night Startled by the Lark
Blake was fascinated by the writings of John Milton. Since he had begun reading Paradise Lost as a child, he has sought to understand Milton's theology and reconcile it with his own. Milton's God, his Messiah and his Satan eventually became unacceptable to Blake. He could not reconcile the God whose ways Milton tried to justify, with Jesus' benevolent God of forgiveness with whom he interacted. So Blake wrote his poem Milton about forgiveness, our need to forgive and be forgiven. Blake knew that he needed to forgive Milton and himself and God before he could be an instrument of forgiveness and healing in a confused and troubled world. It is that old conundrum of being a part of the problem or a part of the solution.

As Blake saw it, the Immortals who lived in Eternity took the initiative of reaching down to him and entering the world of mortality. They sent a messenger in the form of a mighty angel, but on earth the appearance was that of a Lark:

Milton, Plate 31 [34], (E 130)
"The Lark sitting upon his earthy bed: just as the morn
Appears; listens silent; then springing from the waving Corn-field! loud
He leads the Choir of Day! trill, trill, trill, trill,
Mounting upon the wings of light into the Great Expanse:
Reecchoing against the lovely blue & shining heavenly Shell:
His little throat labours with inspiration; every feather
On throat & breast & wings vibrates with the effluence Divine    
All Nature listens silent to him & the awful Sun
Stands still upon the Mountain looking on this little Bird" 
The arrival of Ololon in Blake's cottage garden at Felpham was announced by the voice of the lark. She appeared not in time and space but in a flash of illumination like lightening. Blake was describing a vision in which Ololon assumed the appearance of a prepubescent child. She was innocent - unmarred by the demands or wounds which the world inflicts. She would become a vehicle for reconciliation.

Milton 36 [40], (E 136)
"Thus are the Messengers dispatchd till they reach the Earth again
In the East Gate of Golgonooza, & the Twenty-eighth bright
Lark met the Female Ololon descending into my Garden            
Thus it appears to Mortal eyes & those of the Ulro Heavens
But not thus to Immortals, the Lark is a mighty, Angel.

For Ololon step'd into the Polypus within the Mundane Shell
They could not step into Vegetable Worlds without becoming
The enemies of Humanity except in a Female Form          
And as One Female, Ololon and all its mighty Hosts
Appear'd: a Virgin of twelve years nor time nor space was
To the perception of the Virgin Ololon but as the
Flash of lightning but more  quick the Virgin in my Garden
Before my Cottage stood for the Satanic Space is delusion        

For when Los joind with me he took me in his firy whirlwind
My Vegetated portion was hurried from Lambeths shades
He set me down in Felphams Vale & prepard a beautiful
Cottage for me that in three years I might write all these Visions
To display Natures cruel holiness: the deceits of Natural Religion" 

Friday, May 18, 2018


Wikipedia Commons
Illustrations to Milton's On the Morning of Christ's Nativity
Annunciation to Shepherds

In the second book of Milton Ololon followed Milton out of Eternity into the world of matter. She mistakenly thought that she had forced Milton to descend from Eden into our world of Generation. She elected to enter the lowest level of decay and be exposed to depravity.

In Eternity Blake's Ololon was not an individual but a multitude of spirits. She was striped of her retinue and becomes singular in order to experience the world of mortality. Before entering she looked through the Gates of the Dead and saw the world that mankind had created without the imaginative vision which he had lost in the Fall from Eden. She saw that she must fully participate in the society which had grown out of the failure to love and nurture and forgive, and which lay in stark brutality before her. She could not avoid passing the Polypus - the ugly, grasping manifestations of 'man's inhumanity to man.' But beyond the Polypus lay Golgonooza - the efforts that man makes to live by Eternal principles in spite of what he sees happening around him. 

Milton, Plate 34 [38], (E 134)
"Seeing Miltons Shadow, some Daughters of Beulah trembling
Returnd, but Ololon remaind before the Gates of the Dead

And Ololon looked down into the Heavens of Ulro in fear
They said. How are the Wars of Man which in Great Eternity       
Appear around, in the External Spheres of Visionary Life
Here renderd Deadly within the Life & Interior Vision
How are the Beasts & Birds & Fishes, & Plants & Minerals
Here fixd into a frozen bulk subject to decay & death?
Those Visions of Human Life & Shadows of Wisdom & Knowledge      
Plate 35 [39]
Are here frozen to unexpansive deadly destroying terrors.
And War & Hunting: the Two Fountains of the River of Life
Are become Fountains of bitter Death & of corroding Hell
Till Brotherhood is changd into a Curse & a Flattery
By Differences between Ideas, that Ideas themselves, (which are  
The Divine Members) may be slain in offerings for sin
O dreadful Loom of Death! O piteous Female forms compelld
To weave the Woof of Death, On Camberwell Tirzahs Courts
Malahs on Blackheath, Rahab & Noah. dwell on Windsors heights
Where once the Cherubs of Jerusalem spread to Lambeths Vale      
Milcahs Pillars shine from Harrow to Hampstead where Hoglah
On Highgates heights magnificent Weaves over trembling Thames
To Shooters Hill and thence to Blackheath the dark Woof! Loud
Loud roll the Weights & Spindles over the whole Earth let down
On all sides round to the Four Quarters of the World, eastward on
Europe to Euphrates & Hindu, to Nile & back in Clouds
Of Death across the Atlantic to America North & South

So spake Ololon in reminiscence astonishd, but they
Could not behold Golgonooza without passing the Polypus
A wondrous journey not passable by Immortal feet, & none         
But the Divine Saviour can pass it without annihilation.
For Golgonooza cannot be seen till having passd the Polypus
It is viewed on all sides round by a Four-fold Vision
Or till you become Mortal & Vegetable in Sexuality
Then you behold its mighty Spires & Domes of ivory & gold" 

Tuesday, May 15, 2018


I was delighted to hear this little poem spoken in a movie I recently viewed. The film Leonie is a semi-biographical account of a poet, his editor and their son the sculptor, Isamu Noguchi. When Leonie Gilmore was in Japan teaching English to a poet friend of Yone Noguchi, her student quoted the Blake poem out of respect for the English poet.

Songs of Innocence and of Experience, Plate 43, (E 25)
"Ah Sun-flower! weary of time,
Who countest the steps of the Sun:
Seeking after that sweet golden clime
Where the travellers journey is done.

Where the Youth pined away with desire,
And the pale Virgin shrouded in snow:
Arise from their graves and aspire,
Where my Sun-flower wishes to go."

Wikipedia Commons
Fitzwilliam Museum
Songs of Innocence and of Experience
Plate 43
The sun-flower who daily follows the path of the sun as it traverses the firmament, longs to complete its travels in time and reach the sweet golden clime of Eternity. The Youth and the Virgin trapped in emotion and the body likewise seek to be released from the prison-house of time to enter their Eternal home.

Saturday, May 12, 2018


Following his objective and exhaustive study of religious experience as a topic for observation, William James concluded The Varieties of Religious Experience with a chapter exploring religion from the subjective point of view. In his final chapter he developed his reasoning concerning his own experience of the practice of religion. He identified himself as one who sensed that religion as a personal experience is the means by which answers to the perennial and ultimate questions can best be explored.

From his earliest writings Blake expressed the idea that the Natural approach to experience of the Divine Presence was closed. The mind which relied on sense data and reasoned processing could not reach what was accessed through a different path. Blake found that his awareness of the numinous which had been present to him since childhood was enhanced after the death of his younger brother Robert. He continued to feel his brother's presence, hear his brother's voice and act from his brother's instruction. He realized that man cut himself off from his full human potential if he did not develop the dimension of himself which was connected to areas which were unconnected to matter and the reasoning mind. He choose 'Inspiration & Vision' as his 'Element' and 'Eternal Dwelling place.'
British Museum
Copy A, Plate 6
Los and his Spectre

Quotes from The Varieties of Religious Experience by William James - from Chapter XX, Conclusions
Page 489: "If religion be a function by which either God's cause or Man's cause is to be really advanced, then he who lives the life of it, however narrowly, is a better servant than he who merely knows about it, however much.

Page 490: "The sciences of nature know nothing of spiritual presences..."
Page 491: "Today, quite as much as in any previous age, the religious individual tells you that the divine meets him on the basis of his personal concerns.
Science, on the other hand, has ended by utterly repudiating the personal point of view."
Page 496: " long as we deal with the cosmic and the general, we deal only with symbols of reality, but as soon as we deal with private and personal phenomena as such, we deal with realities in the completest sense of the term."
Page 499: "The axis of reality runs solely through the egoistic places - they are strung upon it like so many beads."
Page 500: "I think, therefore, that however particular questions with our individual destinies may be answered, it is only by acknowledging them as genuine questions, and living in the sphere of thought which they open up, that we become profound...By being religious we establish ourselves in possession of ultimate reality at the only points at reality is given us to guard. Our responsible concern is with our private destiny, after all."

Page 515: "Confining ourselves to what is common and generic, we have in the fact that the conscious person is continuous with a wider self through which saving experiences come, a positive content of religious experience which, it seems to me, is literally and objectively true as far as it goes." 

Page 519: "The whole drift of my education goes to persuade me that the world of our present consciousness is only one out of many worlds of consciousness that exist, and that those other worlds must contain experiences that have meaning for our life also; and that in the main their experiences and those of this world keep discrete, yet the two become continuous at certain points, and higher energies filter in.
...the total expression of human experience, as I view it objectively, invincibly urges me beyond the narrow 'scientific, bounds.'"

No Natural Religion, (E 2)
"II  Reason or the ratio of all we have already known. is not
the same that it shall be when we know more."  
No Natural Religion, (E 3)
"VII The desire of Man being Infinite the possession is Infinite
& himself Infinite"

Milton, Plate 26 [28], (E 124)
"So they are born on Earth, & every Class is determinate
But not by Natural but by Spiritual power alone, Because         
The Natural power continually seeks & tends to Destruction
Ending in Death: which would of itself be Eternal Death
And all are Class'd by Spiritual, & not by Natural power.

And every Natural Effect has a Spiritual Cause, and Not
A Natural: for a Natural Cause only seems, it is a Delusion      
Of Ulro: & a ratio of the perishing Vegetable Memory."

Jerusalem, Plate 8, (E 151)
"All the infant Loves & Graces were lost, for the mighty Hand
Plate 9
Condens'd his Emanations into hard opake substances;
And his infant thoughts & desires, into cold, dark, cliffs of death.
His hammer of gold he siezd; and his anvil of adamant.
He siez'd the bars of condens'd thoughts, to forge them:
Into the sword of war: into the bow and arrow:                   
Into the thundering cannon and into the murdering gun
I saw the limbs form'd for exercise, contemn'd: & the beauty of
Eternity, look'd upon as deformity & loveliness as a dry tree:
I saw disease forming a Body of Death around the Lamb
Of God, to destroy Jerusalem, & to devour the body of Albion     
By war and stratagem to win the labour of the husbandman:
Awkwardness arm'd in steel: folly in a helmet of gold:
Weakness with horns & talons: ignorance with a rav'ning beak!
Every Emanative joy forbidden as a Crime:
And the Emanations buried alive in the earth with pomp of religion:          
Inspiration deny'd; Genius forbidden by laws of punishment:
I saw terrified; I took the sighs & tears, & bitter groans:
I lifted them into my Furnaces; to form the spiritual sword.
That lays open the hidden heart: I drew forth the pang
Of sorrow red hot: I workd it on my resolute anvil:              
I heated it in the flames of Hand, & Hyle, & Coban
Nine times; Gwendolen & Cambel & Gwineverra
Are melted into the gold, the silver, the liquid ruby,
The crysolite, the topaz, the jacinth, & every precious stone,
Loud roar my Furnaces and loud my hammer is heard:               
I labour day and night, I behold the soft affections
Condense beneath my hammer into forms of cruelty
But still I labour in hope, tho' still my tears flow down.
That he who will not defend Truth, may be compelld to defend
A Lie: that he may be snared and caught and snared and taken     
That Enthusiasm and Life may not cease: arise Spectre arise!

Thus they contended among the Furnaces with groans & tears;
Groaning the Spectre heavd the bellows, obeying Los's frowns;
Till the Spaces of Erin were perfected in the furnaces
Of affliction, and Los drew them forth, compelling the harsh Spectre."

Annotations to Reynolds, (E 660) 
mock Inspiration & Vision   Inspiration & Vision was then & now
is & I hope will
always Remain my Element my Eternal Dwelling place. how can I
then hear it Contemnd without returning Scorn for Scorn"   

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Type and Antitype

Reposted from 2014

The Great Code: The Bible and Literature, Chapter Four is entitled typology. This was a great discovery for me; in large part it unlocked the secret of Blake's use of the Bible (and of every other poet's use of it for that matter). Once you outgrow the naive notion of 'Biblical inerrancy' and the idea that every word of it is historically true, you are to some degree on your own. I long ago settled on the awareness that:
1. 'every word of the Bible is poetry' (you may certainly debate that if you wish)
2 'poetry is the highest form of truth."

Truth is in the mind of the believer. Our belief is a function of our psyche, and everyone's psyche is unique (unless you believe that we're all lemmings). So what does the Bible mean? Not history! History is subjective; everyone chooses his own history. Poetry is subjective in a more creative way; to a large degree it's a function of your experience (and mine - very different). What it boils down to is that one man's truth may (appear to) be another man's lie.

Marriage of Heaven and Hell, Plate 8, (E 37)
"Every thing possible to be believ'd is an image of truth."

Poetry doesn't claim to be the whole complete exclusive truth; it's not rigid; it's allusive. One of the most important truths about the Bible (and all subsequent literature) is that it uses typology.

In a few words the type is the earliest occurrence (of an idea); psychologists may call it an archetype. Subsequent occurrences Frye calls antitypes:

Type: Moses delivered the Israelites from bondage in Egypt.
Antitype: Jesus delivered human beings from slavery to sin.
Antitype: Lincoln delivered black people from slaves of their southern 'owners'.
Antitype: Pope John delivered Catholics from outmoded legalities like the Latin Mass.

The type and all subsequent antitypes are incomplete. Hence there must and will be more.

Type: Elijah used a stony altar, flooded with water, and then fire to finish off the 450 prophets of Baal (1st Kings, 18:19).
Antitype: Jesus used stone jars, full of water, which became wine to bring Spirit to a wedding party (John 2).
British Museum 
llustrations to Young's Night Thoughts

Many events in the Bible have multiple occurrences. Many Old Testament events recur in the New Testament; some of them reoccur in later parts of the Old Testament.

The New Testament writers found O.T. types for many events in the O.T.: Psalm 22 practically describes the Crucifixion. N.T. writers often quoted O.T. sources. What happened in the N.T. a was a realized form of something foreshadowed in the O.T. For instance Christian baptism became the antitype of the saving of mankind from the flood of Noah.
In Romans 1:17 Paul wrote "the just shall live by faith", making Habbakuk 2:4 the type of his antitype.

Blake adopted this kind of typology for his own verbal creations; he frequently quoted Holy Scripture, and more often used it allusively. All this boils down to the simple fact that his poetry found its main source in the Bible. As for Blake, so for Milton, so for Shakespeare and for the other handful of sources that he mentioned in his letter to Flaxman. 
Letters, to Flaxman, (E 707) "Now my lot in the Heavens is this; Milton lovd me in childhood & shewd me his face Ezra came with Isaiah the Prophet, but Shakespeare in riper years gave me his hand Paracelsus & Behmen appeard to me. terrors appeard in the Heavens above"
Here's an assignment for a Blake student:
You need these two resources: Complete Works and a Complete Bible.
Now read Blake (wherever you're interested, pick out a key word, go to your Bible, select Search and put your 'Blake word' in the search window. You may find 'a Blake type' and a 'Bible antitype.' You may also find types and antitypes by searching the Complete Works with a word from the Bible.

Frye devoted two chapters of The Great Code to typology. An advanced Blake student might do well to absorb them as well as he can.

This may be hard to believe, but someone said that in Western culture all discourse, religious, secular, atheist, or a foul-mouthed sailor are using antitypes to the King James Bible. That's worth thinking about.

Welcome to Blake Studies.

Friday, May 04, 2018


New York Public Library
Plate 30
Only once in his illuminated books did Blake use the word simplicity. In mirror writing as an epigraph for the Second Book of Milton he wrote these words:

"How wide the Gulf & Unpassable! between Simplicity & Insipidity
Contraries are Positives A Negation is not a Contrary"

The gulf between simplicity and insipidity is not that of contraries which in Beulah may be equally true. Insipidity is a negation of simplicity. Blake's intends his poetry to be clear and unadorned, not encumbered by superfluous ornamentation. Neither does he choose to direct his poetry to those who concentrate their attention on triviality and frivolity. Simple truth and simple beauty are expressions of inner verities to which he gave his attention.

If complexity is the contrary of simplicity, the two are not mutually exclusive. Discovering the order of a complex pattern elucidates the simplicity which underlies it. What appears to be simple on the surface may depend on intricate, complex execution to produce the final product. But if either the complex or the simple is misunderstood as being reducible to the superficial it becomes insipid, providing false reasoning about its true nature. Often Blake's simplicity hides deep hidden meaning; and his complexity becomes simple truth when it is understood.

In his drawings, paintings and engravings Blake aimed to achieve clarity and simplicity by making his lines firm and definite. The bounding line separated the definite from amorphous undefined exterior. Blots and blurs confused the distinction between truth and falsehood. The certainty which was Blake's aim came from the knowledge of the Presence guiding the hand and eye that shapes the fearful symmetry.
Milton, Plate 30, (E 129)
[mirror writing)
"How wide the Gulf &
Unpassable! between Simplicity & Insipidity 

Contraries are Positives
A Negation is not a Contrary"

Descriptive Catalogue, Page 21, (E 536)
  "The Plowman is simplicity itself, with wisdom and strength
for its stamina.  Chaucer has divided the ancient character of
Hercules between his Miller and his Plowman.  Benevolence is the
plowman's great characteristic, he is thin with excessive labour,
and not with old age, as some have supposed."             

Letters, To Flaxman, (E 710)
"Dear Sculptor of Eternity
     We are safe arrived at our Cottage which is more beautiful
than I thought it. & more convenient.  It is a perfect Model for
Cottages & I think for Palaces of Magnificence only Enlarging not
altering its proportions & adding ornaments & not principals.
Nothing can be more Grand than its Simplicity & Usefulness.
Simple without Intricacy it seems to be the Spontaneous Effusion
of Humanity congenial to the wants of Man.  No other formed House
can ever please me so well nor shall I ever be perswaded I
believe that it can be improved either in Beauty or Use"

Letters, To Butts, (E 733)
 "Dear Sir This perhaps was sufferd to Clear up some doubts &
to give opportunity to those whom I doubted to clear themselves
of all imputation.  If a Man offends me ignorantly & not
designedly surely I ought to consider him with favour &
affection.  Perhaps the simplicity of myself is the origin of all
offences committed against me.  If I have found this I shall have
learned a most valuable thing well worth three years
perseverance.  I have found it!  It is certain! that a too
passive manner. inconsistent with my active physiognomy had done
me much mischief I must now express to you my conviction that all
is come from the spiritual World for Good & not for Evil."

Letters, To Trusler, (E 702)
you ought to know that What is Grand is necessarily obscure to
Weak men.  That which can be made Explicit to the Idiot is not
worth my care.  The wisest of the Ancients considerd what is not
too Explicit as the fittest for Instruction because it rouzes the
faculties to act.  I name Moses Solomon Esop Homer Plato"

Letters, To Cumberland, (E 703)
     "I ought long ago to have written to you to thank you for
your kind recommendation to Dr Trusler which tho it has faild of
success is not the less to be rememberd by me with Gratitude--
     I have made him a Drawing in my best manner he has sent it
back with a Letter full of Criticisms in which he says it accords
not with his Intentions which are to Reject all Fancy from his
Work.  How far he Expects to please I cannot tell.  But as I
cannot paint Dirty rags & old Shoes where I ought to place Naked
Beauty or simple ornament.  I despair of Ever pleasing one Class
of Men--Unfortunately our authors of books are among this Class
how soon we Shall have a change for the better I cannot Prophecy."

Jerusalem, Plate 55, (E 205)
"They Plow'd in tears, the trumpets sounded before the golden Plow
And the voices of the Living Creatures were heard in the clouds of heaven
Crying: Compell the Reasoner to Demonstrate with unhewn Demonstrations
Let the Indefinite be explored. and let every Man be judged
By his own Works, Let all Indefinites be thrown into Demonstrations
To be pounded to dust & melted in the Furnaces of Affliction:
He who would do good to another, must do it in Minute Particulars 
General Good is the plea of the scoundrel hypocrite & flatterer:
For Art & Science cannot exist but in minutely organized Particulars
And not in generalizing Demonstrations of the Rational Power.
The Infinite alone resides in Definite & Determinate Identity
Establishment of Truth depends on destruction of Falshood continually    
On Circumcision: not on Virginity, O Reasoners of Albion

So cried they at the Plow. Albions Rock frowned above
And the Great Voice of Eternity rolled above terrible in clouds
Saying Who will go forth for us! & Who shall we send before our face?"

Jerusalem, Plate 80, (E 237)
"And Rahab like a dismal and indefinite hovering Cloud
Refusd to take a definite form. she hoverd over all the Earth
Calling the definite, sin: defacing every definite form;
Invisible, or Visible, stretch'd out in length or spread in breadth:
Over the Temples drinking groans of victims weeping in pity,   
And joying in the pity, howling over Jerusalems walls."

Public Address, (E 576)
     "I have heard many People say Give me the Ideas.  It is no
matter what Words you put them into & others say Give me the
Design it is no matter for the Execution.  These People know
Nothing Of Art.  Ideas cannot be Given
but in their minutely Appropriate Words nor Can a Design be made
without its minutely Appropriate Execution. The unorganized
Blots & Blurs of Rubens & Titian are not Art nor can their Method
ever express Ideas or Imaginations any more than Popes
Metaphysical jargon of Rhyming. Unappropriate Execution is the
Most nauseous affectation & foppery He who copies does
not Execute he only Imitates what is already Executed   Execution
is only the result of Invention"

 Annotations to Reynolds, (E 646)
  "The Man who asserts that there is no Such Thing as Softness
in Art & that every thing in Art is Definite & Determinate has
not been told this by Practise but by Inspiration & Vision
because Vision is Determinate & Perfect & he Copies That without
Fatigue Every thing being Definite & determinate   Softness is
Produced Alone by Comparative Strength & Weakness in the Marking
out of the Forms
     I say These Principles could never be found out by the Study
of Nature without Con or Innate Science"

Descriptive Catalogue, (E 550)
  "The great and golden rule of art, as well as of life, is
this: That the more distinct, sharp, and wirey the
bounding line, the more perfect the work of art; and the less
keen and sharp, the greater is the evidence of weak imitation,
plagiarism, and bungling.  Great inventors, in all ages, knew
this: Protogenes and Apelles knew each other by this line.
Rafael and Michael Angelo, and Albert Durer, are known by this
and this alone.  The want of this determinate and bounding form
evidences the want of idea in the artist's mind, and the       t
pretence of the plagiary in all its branches.  How do we 
distinguish the oak from the beech, the horse from the ox, but 
by the bounding outline? How do we distinguish one face or 
countenance from another, but by the bounding line and its 
infinite inflexions and movements? What is it that builds a house 
and plants a garden, but the definite and determinate? What is it 
that distinguishes honesty from knavery, but the hard and wirey 
line of rectitude and certainty in the actions and 
intentions.  Leave out this line and you leave out life itself; 
all is chaos again, and the line of the almighty must be drawn 
out upon it before man or beast can exist.  Talk no more then of 
Correggio, or Rembrandt, or any other of those plagiaries of 
Venice or Flanders.  They were but the lame imitators of lines 
drawn by their predecessors, and their works prove themselves 
contemptible dis-arranged imitations and blundering misapplied 

Tuesday, May 01, 2018

How Blake Read the Gospel

First posted by Larry Nov 2010.

All his life Blake read the Bible, loved it, and engaged in dialogue with its immortal authors. Virtually every line of his poetry and every picture he painted had direct reference to some biblical idea that Blake had meditated upon.

In vivid contrast many of the orthodox don't read the Bible at all; they just wave it! Little wonder they dislike Blake. His early ironic description of his work as the Bible of Hell certainly helped to confirm their prejudice.

"Thou read'st black where I read white."
Everlasting Gospel (E 524)

There are essentially two ways to read the Bible; Blake referred to them as black and white. What did he mean? We might look at Urizen's Book of Brass as the black book. It's a book of rules, a book of law. It tells people what to do, and more poignantly, what not to do.

Even today ordinary people see the Bible in this way, which helps to explain why hardly anyone reads it today. The few who do read it dutifully and dully. Such a reading constrains consciousness; it makes the reader obedient and unimaginative. The faithful few who feel that they should read their Bible often approach it in a child like way bordering on the childish. Reading the black book inhibits the imagination, deadens the mind and prevents spiritual development. At its worst it has led to many instances of religious persecution and mass murder.

Wikimedia Commons
There Is No Natural Religion
But Blake read it white. The white book is not a book of rules, but a book of visions, a book of wonders. It provokes thought, causes the imagination to soar. Blake must have learned to read at about the age of four, when he had his first vision-- the frightful face at the window. Perhaps we've all been frightened by the Bible in one way or another; most people have had a sufficiently negative experience to leave it strictly alone. But little William overcame his fright and kept reading, and the next vision we hear of was more positive--a tree full of angels.

All the evidence suggests that for the next sixty five years Blake's Bible reading and his visions went hand in hand; his art is the record of it all. Whoever becomes really interested in Blake's visions will find himself reading the Bible because that's where most of them begin. In spite of this his secular critics have looked all over the world for his sources.

One of the greatest things that Blake has to offer the reader is that he makes you see and read the Bible in a new and better way. Not for nothing did the youthful circle of admirers of Blake's last years refer to him as the Interpreter.

The black book has most often been read as law, as history, in a restricted, literal interpretation. If the priest can get people to see it this way, and only this way, then he has secure control over his flock of sheep. In contrast Blake suggests that it's symbolic. Although written in categories of time and space, the temporal dimension is only instrumental; it points to the Beyond, the Eternal, the Real.

Too often people reading 'black' concern themselves with foolish questions such as "Did it really happen? Was Jonah really swallowed by the whale, or rather by the big fish?" But in Blake's vision that isn't the important thing. The important thing is "What does it mean?" The reader of the black book gets himself tied up in knots about the veracity or historicity of Jonah and his aquatic friend.

Blake shows you the Jonah in your psyche and helps you get some grasp of what the turbulent sea means to you personally. It's experiential, exciting! it puts you in touch with reality!, which is not material at all but spiritual. Literal or symbolic is black or white, and probably the two minds will never meet. At this point I simply urge you to join Blake and read white:
    "Why is the Bible more Entertaining & Instructive than any other book? Is it not because [it is] addressed to the Imagination which is Spiritual Sensation, and but mediately to the Understanding or Reason?"
    (Letter To Trusler; Erdman 702-3)

Monday, April 30, 2018


British Museum
Plate 3
At the beginning of Jerusalem, Blake's last long poem, he made a clear statement in prose of his situation, his intention and what he desired from his reader. First he referred to the three years he spent away from London at the village of Felpham on the English Channel about 50 miles south of London. His Giant Forms referred to his Zoas and the other entities which occupied his mind and peopled his poems. Fairies were forces, not in the mind but in the world, which seemed to influence circumstances. On the next line are words in brackets which were inserted by scholars to replace words which were gouged from the engraved plate before it was printed. The conjecture is that Blake experienced a rejection from a supporter which was so painful to him that he removed references to 'love' and 'friendship' from the work he had created. The violence to the engraving would remain as evidence of his reaction to the loss of love and friendship from another, and the anger and failure to forgive which was stirred up in own heart.

Here Blake inserted lines of conventional poetry with rhyme and predictable rhythm. Notable in this section is the reference to Sinai where Moses received the tablets of law. Blake intended to hear that voice which spoke to Moses and record it in the book he wrote. He recognized that it is not men who are in charge of events but Spirits.

Next Blake, by including Greek words which were

British Museum
Plate 4
translated as being a quote from Matthew 5, declared his intention of separating the sheep from the goats as does a shepherd:
Matthew 5 
[32] And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: 
[33] And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left.

The passage which follows explained Blake's choice of a poetic form. He would exercise the freedom not to be bound by rhyme or meter. His criteria for writing his poetry was carefully choosing the fit letter, word, cadence, or number of syllables. In accordance with his philosophy of Liberty as expression of Spirit he would write poetry unfettered by traditional rules. 

Continuing onto the next plate he made another reference to the New Testament by inserting the Greek words for 'Jesus only'. One location of these words is Mark 9:8,  "And suddenly, when they had looked round about, they saw no man any more, save Jesus only with themselves."

Chapter 1 proper began with his stated theme: "the passage through Eternal Death! and of the awaking to Eternal Life." He asserted that the words were his to write, but were dictated to him by the Savior.  


Jerusalem, Plate 3, (E 145)

                       "To the Public

     After my three years slumber on the banks of the Ocean, I
again display my Giant forms to the Public: My former Giants &
Fairies having reciev'd the highest reward possible: the
[love] and [friendship] of those with whom to
be connected, is to be [blessed]: I cannot doubt that
this more consolidated & extended Work, will be as kindly
     The Enthusiasm of the following Poem, the Author hopes
[no Reader will think presumptuousness or arroganc[e] when he
is reminded that the Ancients acknowledge their love to their
Deities, to the full as Enthusiastically as I have who
Acknowledge mine for my Saviour and Lord, for they were wholly
absorb'd in their Gods.] I also hope the Reader will
be with me, wholly One in Jesus our Lord, who is the God [of
Fire] and Lord [of Love] to whom the Ancients
look'd and saw his day afar off, with trembling & amazement.
     The Spirit of Jesus is continual forgiveness of Sin: he who
waits to be righteous before he enters into the Saviours kingdom,
the Divine Body; will never enter there.  I am perhaps the most
sinful of men! I pretend not to holiness! yet I pretend to love,
to see, to converse with daily, as man with man, & the more to
have an interest in the Friend of Sinners.  Therefore
[Dear] Reader, [forgive] what you do not
approve, & [love] me for this energetic exertion of my

    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 harmony 

            Of the Measure, in which
              the following Poem is written

     We who dwell on Earth can do nothing of ourselves, every
thing is conducted by Spirits, no less than Digestion or Sleep.

 <Greek>E*do*O*n *mo*i
*p*a*s*a *e*zo*u*s*i*a *e*n o*u*r*a*n*o k*a*i *e*p*i *g*e*s

[Matthew 5:32-33
[32] And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall 
separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from 
the goats:
[33] And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left.]

 When this Verse was first dictated to me I consider'd a 
Monotonous Cadence like that used by Milton & Shakspeare & all
writers of English Blank Verse, derived from the modern bondage
of Rhyming; to be a necessary and indispensible part of Verse. 
But I soon found that
in the mouth of a true Orator such monotony was not only awkward,
but as much a bondage as rhyme itself.  I therefore have produced
a variety in every line, both of cadences & number of syllables. 
Every word and every letter is studied and put into its fit
place: the terrific numbers are reserved for the terrific
parts--the mild & gentle, for the mild & gentle parts, and the
prosaic, for inferior parts: all are necessary to each ot her. 
Poetry Fetter'd, Fetters the Human Race! Nations are Destroy'd,
or Flourish, in proportion as Their Poetry Painting and Music,
are Destroy'd or Flourish! The Primeval State of Man, was Wisdom,
Art, and Science.                                               t

<Greek>Mo*no*s *o I*e*so*u*s </Greek>
[Jesus only - example - Mark 9:8 And suddenly, when they had looked round about, 
they saw no man any more, save Jesus only with themselves.]


            Chap: I

Of the Sleep of Ulro! and of the passage through
Eternal Death! and of the awaking to Eternal Life.

This theme calls me in sleep night after night, & ev'ry morn
Awakes me at sun-rise, then I see the Saviour over me
Spreading his beams of love, & dictating the words of this mild song." 


Wikimedia Commons
Songs of Innocence and of Experience
Copy Z, Plate 45
The Little Vagabond
Larry and I have written very little about Blake's Tyger although it is Blake's best known and perhaps most provocative poem. It may also be his most influential thought and message. In Robert Persig's Lila we find an instance of the content of The Tyger not being referenced directly, but by association entering the consciousness of a larger dimension.   

Like Blake, Persig in his book was attempting to provide an opening to a consciousness beyond the habitual frame in which we ordinarily operate. Pirsig's reference to Blake's Tyger in association with perceptions of exterior light in unexpected situations is a portent of receiving the inner transforming light.

If we reflect on the methods by which we receive light we may focus first on the light from distant objects which we receive through our physical eyes. Second might be the enlightenment which we experience in our minds when we break into new insight about a person, object, situation or idea. Third is consciousness of the light itself when it spreads its illumination in some unusual or intense fashion. Pirsig wrote of experiencing the light as it radiated from an object or person or event of peculiar significance. Blake's experience in the Truchsessian Gallery enhanced his ability to see more clearly in the external world because his inner light was intensified. Pirsig used the the internal generation of light by Blake's Tyger as symbolic of transformation taking place in the psyche.    

Lila by Robert Pirsig, Page 339:

"During Phaedrus' time of insanity when he wandered freely outside the limits of cultural reality, this light had been a valued companion, pointing out things to him that he would otherwise have missed, appearing at an event his rational thought had indicated was unimportant, but which he later discovered had been more important than he had known. Often it had occurred at events he could not figure out the importance of, but had left him wondering.

He saw it once on a small kitten. After that for a long time the kitten followed him wherever he went and he wondered if the kitten saw it too.

He had seen it once around a tiger at the zoo. The tiger had suddenly looked at him with what seemed like surprise and had come over to the bars for a closer look. The the illumination began to appear around the tiger's face. That was all. Afterward, that experience associated itself with William Blake's 'Tiger! Tiger! burning bright.'

The eyes had blazed with what seemed to be inner light."

Letters, To Hayley, (E 756)
on the day after visiting the Truchsessian Gallery of pictures, I
was again enlightened with the light I enjoyed in my youth, and
which has for exactly twenty years been closed from me as by a
door and by window-shutters."

Milton, Plate 1, (E 95)
  "And did the Countenance Divine,             
     Shine forth upon our clouded hills?"

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

Milton, Plate 10, (E 104)
"Every thing in Eternity shines by its own Internal light: but thou
Darkenest every Internal light with the arrows of thy quiver
Bound up in the borns of jealousy to a deadly fading Moon
And Ocalythron binds the Sun into a Jealous Globe
That every thing is fixd Opake without Internal light"  

Jerusalem, Plate 19, (E 164)
"Where once he sat he weary walks in misery and pain:
His Giant beauty and perfection fallen into dust:
Till from within his witherd breast grown narrow with his woes:
The corn is turn'd to thistles & the apples into poison:         
The birds of song to murderous crows, his joys to bitter groans!
The voices of children in his tents, to cries of helpless infants!
And self-exiled from the face of light & shine of morning,
In the dark world a narrow house! he wanders up and down,
Seeking for rest and finding none! and hidden far within,        
His Eon weeping in the cold and desolated Earth.

All his Affections now appear withoutside:   

So Los lamented over Satan, who triumphant divided the Nations"

Four Zoas, Night VII, Page 81, (E 357)
"Thy roses that expanded in the face of glowing morn
Page 82 
Hid in a little silken veil scarce breathe & faintly shine
Thy lilies that gave light what time the morning looked forth
Hid in the Vales faintly lament & no one hears their voice"

Songs and Ballads, (E 477)
"Mock on Mock on Voltaire Rousseau
Mock on Mock on! tis all in vain!
You throw the sand against the wind
And the wind blows it back again

And every sand becomes a Gem                          
Reflected in the beams divine
Blown back they blind the mocking Eye 
But still in Israels paths they shine

The Atoms of Democritus
And Newtons Particles of light          
Are sands upon the Red sea shore
Where Israels tents do shine so bright"

Songs and Ballads, From Notebook, (E 480)
"My Designs unchangd remain      
Time may rage but rage in vain
For above Times troubled Fountains
On the Great Atlantic Mountains
In my Golden House on high
There they Shine Eternally"     

Auguries of Innocence, (E 492)
"Every Night & every Morn
Some to Misery are Born 
Every Morn & every Night
Some are Born to sweet delight
Some are Born to sweet delight
Some are Born to Endless Night
We are led to Believe a Lie 
When we see not Thro the Eye 
Which was Born in a Night to perish in a Night
When the Soul Slept in Beams of Light
God Appears & 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"

Songs of Innocence and of Experience, Plate 42, (E 24)
"The Tyger.                         

Tyger Tyger, burning bright,
In the forests of the night;
What immortal hand or eye,
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

In what distant deeps or skies.       
Burnt the fire of thine eyes?           
On what wings dare he aspire?     
What the hand, dare sieze the fire?

And what shoulder, & what art,
Could twist the sinews of thy heart?
And when thy heart began to beat,
What dread hand? & what dread feet?
What the hammer? what the chain, 
In what furnace was thy brain?
What the anvil? what dread grasp,       
Dare its deadly terrors clasp!               

When the stars threw down their spears   
And water'd heaven with their tears:
Did he smile his work to see?          
Did he who made the Lamb make thee? 

Tyger Tyger burning bright,
In the forests of the night:                        
What immortal hand or eye,                     
Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?"  

Matthew 17
[1] And after six days Jesus taketh Peter, James, and John his brother, and bringeth them up into an high mountain apart,
[2] And was transfigured before them: and his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light.
[3] And, behold, there appeared unto them Moses and Elias talking with him.
[4] Then answered Peter, and said unto Jesus, Lord, it is good for us to be here: if thou wilt, let us make here three tabernacles; one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias.
[5] While he yet spake, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them: and behold a voice out of the cloud, which said, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him.
[6] And when the disciples heard it, they fell on their face, and were sore afraid.
[7] And Jesus came and touched them, and said, Arise, and be not afraid.
[8] And when they had lifted up their eyes, they saw no man, save Jesus only.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018


Think about the world in terms of three different ways of perceiving space and time. First the sense-based world measured by rulers and clocks. Second the theoretical world of molecules and universes described by formulas and mathematics. Access to the third world is through vision which transcends the limits of space/time crossing the barrier into the infinite and eternal.
Milton, Plate 29 [31], (E 127)
"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.

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.
Wher'eer he goes & all his neighbourhood bewail his loss:
Such are the Spaces called Earth & such its dimension:
As to that false appearance which appears to the reasoner,       
As of a Globe rolling thro Voidness, it is a delusion of Ulro
The Microscope knows not of this nor the Telescope. they alter
The ratio of the Spectators Organs but leave Objects untouchd
For every Space larger than a red Globule of Mans blood.
Is visionary: and is created by the Hammer of Los                
And every Space smaller than a Globule of Mans blood. opens
Into Eternity of which this vegetable Earth is but a shadow:
The red Globule is the unwearied Sun by Los created
To measure Time and Space to mortal Men. every morning.
Bowlahoola & Allamanda are placed on each side                   
Of that Pulsation & that Globule, terrible their power."
Space/time as we perceive it with our five senses is flat and linear. Blake was aware that science in his day had postulated an alternative space/time in which Earth was a 'Globe rolling thro Voidness.' Time was stretched to include geological time and astronomical time. The movement of heavenly bodies was dictated by laws formulated through scientific studies. This picture contradicted the experience of man which was the flat earth, circumscribed by his orbit of his experience. Blake picked as the 'reasoners' who portrayed this view of the world Newton, Bacon, and Locke

To Blake both the limited view of the world conveyed by the senses, and the Newtonian view represented a 'delusion of Ulro' in consequence of man having lost the 'visionary' perspective. The imagination, Los, is the vehicle through man enters the visionary world. It is a world in which the exterior world is but a shadow of what lies within man's ability to create images.

Blake exercised his ability to create images by looking within his own psyche and making a diagram of his interior world and projecting it onto what he experienced outwardly. Blake's diagram is found on Plate 32 of Milton. The forces which shaped the inner world each had a separate space of their own but overlapped as they were affected by one another and influenced another. For the fields opposite each other there was no overlapping. The active area of interaction was within an egg-shaped area containing Adam and Satan. Adam falls within the circle of Urthona, Satan within the circle of Urizen. Satan's fires functioned inside the egg-shaped area almost entirely within the areas of Tharmas, Urizen and Luvah, not Urthona

British Museum
Plate 32, copy A
Jerusalem, Plate 42, (E 189)
"So spoke Albion in gloomy majesty, and deepest night
Of Ulro rolld round his skirts from Dover to Cornwall.

Los answerd. Righteousness & justice I give thee in return
For thy righteousness! but I add mercy also, and bind            
Thee from destroying these little ones: am I to be only
Merciful to thee and cruel to all that thou hatest[?]
Thou wast the Image of God surrounded by the Four Zoa's
Three thou hast slain! I am the Fourth: thou canst not destroy me.
Thou art in Error; trouble me not with thy righteousness.      
I have innocence to defend and ignorance to instruct:
I have no time for seeming; and little arts of compliment,
In morality and virtue: in self-glorying and pride." 

Four Zoas, Night IX, Page 126, (E 395)
"Luvah & Vala henceforth you are Servants obey & live
You shall forget your former state return O Love in peace 
Into your place the place of seed not in the brain or heart
If Gods combine against Man Setting their Dominion above
The Human form Divine. Thrown down from their high Station       
In the Eternal heavens of Human Imagination: buried beneath 
In dark Oblivion with incessant pangs ages on ages
In Enmity & war first weakend then in stern repentance
They must renew their brightness & their disorganizd functions
Again reorganize till they resume the image of the human    
Cooperating in the bliss of Man obeying his Will
Servants to the infinite & Eternal of the Human form"


Saturday, April 14, 2018

Myths 4

First Posted in April 2013
                             Persephone in Visions of the Daughters of Albion 
Visions of the Daughters of Albion, Plate 1, (E 46)
"Over the waves she went in wing'd exulting swift delight;
And over Theotormons reign, took her impetuous course.
Bromion rent her with his thunders. on his stormy bed
Lay the faint maid, and soon her woes appalld his thunders hoarse

Bromion spoke. behold this harlot here on Bromions bed,
And let the jealous dolphins sport around the lovely maid;
Thy soft American plains are mine, and mine thy north & south:   
Stampt with my signet are the swarthy children of the sun:
They are obedient, they resist not, they obey the scourge:
Their daughters worship terrors and obey the violent:
Plate 2
Now thou maist marry Bromions harlot, and protect the child
Of Bromions rage, that Oothoon shall put forth in nine moons time"
Wikimedia Commons
British Museum
Visions of the Daughters of Albion

Copy O, Plate 3
On page 166 of Blake and Tradition Kathleen Raine states: "The myth of Oothoon in The Visions of the Daughters of Albion makes a third with those of Thel and Lyca; for here, too, Blake told the story of the soul's descent into generation. Oothoon if the noblest of the three: Thel fears to descend; Lyca falls asleep; but Oothoon brings into the cave the memories and values of eternity. Because she possesses this knowledge she knows that physical forms are embodiments of spiritual essences , and a great part of the poem takes the form of an eloquent debate between the materialistic and idealistic views of the nature of life."
In Oothoon's myth Blake looks at more complex implications of the soul's relationship to the body. By plucking the flower Oothoon enters the world of generation or sexual division. She is assaulted by Bromion who is said to be both Reason and the Law. The attack is perhaps implies that she has acknowledged her sexuality and has chosen as her mate Theotormon who represents Desire. The two males both reject Oothoon, now considering her to have been defiled by sexual experience. Oothoon however knows herself to be the Soul which cannot be contaminated by outer events. The males are bound by appearances which prevent them from seeing the situation from a spiritual or eternal perspective. Oothoon knowing her own purity urges that they change their perspective:
Visions of Daughters of Albion, Plate 8, (E 51)
"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."
Here's a Blakean twist on the ubiquitous eternal triangle of all the love stories.
Although Blake is making a statement about the descent of the soul into materality he is also addressing the moral situation of the treatment of women. Here we see clearly the moral approach. Blake used Visions of the Daughters of Albion to express his emphatic displeasure at the notion that a raped girl is 'damaged goods' and no longer worthy of the love of her erswhile lover. He considered that to be a high degree of immorality, another expression of the Jealousy that was for Blake the primary sin. To perceive a woman as property, all too prevalent in Blake's day and still quite common in ours, is repugnant to Blake.
Visions of the Daughters of Albion, Plate 7, (E 50)
 "The moment of desire! the moment of desire! The virgin
That pines for man; shall awaken her womb to enormous joys
In the secret shadows of her chamber; the youth shut up from     
The lustful joy. shall forget to generate. & create an amorous image
In the shadows of his curtains and in the folds of his silent pillow.
Are not these the places of religion? the rewards of continence?
The self enjoyings of self denial? Why dost thou seek religion?
Is it because acts are not lovely, that thou seekest solitude,   
Where the horrible darkness is impressed with reflections of desire.
Father of jealousy. be thou accursed from the earth!
Why hast thou taught my Theotormon this accursed thing?"
"Are not these the places of religion, the rewards of continence?" - A poke at conventional religion in which women are considered the property of men!
In contrast the metaphysical (or mythological) 'approach' presents an early (1793) version of the myth of the Kore. Oothoon is of course Persephone who likewise plucked a flower and was forced into a relationship not of her own choosing:
"The Golden nymph replied; pluck thou my flower Oothoon the mild." Oothoon, like Persephone was trapped in "Pluto's realm", the material world without escape, but she never joined it. Hurrah!
   Although most of us who are religious types may struggle our whole lives for those precious moments of God consciousness, William Blake had a direct pipeline to the Beyond. Heavenly visions dominated his mind in an overwhelming way. His wife had only one fault to find, "Mr. Blake spends too much time in Heaven."
   Those 'heavenly' moments he could best (or only) describe in the symbolic terms of the ages, a language that has been largely forgotten since the Enlightenment by our materialistic culture, which despises anything other than the 'hard reality' of dollars and cents.