Monday, May 31, 2010

Severe Contentions of Friendship

From Milton (Plate 41 [48],  
"These are the destroyers of Jerusalem, these
are the murderers
Of Jesus, who deny the Faith & mock at Eternal Life:
Who pretend to Poetry that they may destroy Imagination;
By imitation of Natures Images drawn from Remembrance
These are the Sexual Garments, the Abomination of
Hiding the Human lineaments as with an Ark & Curtains
Which Jesus rent: & now shall wholly purge away with Fire
Till Generation is swallowd up in Regeneration.
"Then trembled the Virgin Ololon & replyd in clouds of
Is this our Femin[in]e Portion the Six-fold Miltonic Female
Terribly this Portion trembles before thee O awful Man
Altho' our Human Power can sustain the severe contentions
Of Friendship, our Sexual cannot: but flies into the Ulro." 
(Erdman 142-3)
And from Jerusalem, Plate 91:
"I never made friends but by spiritual gifts;
By severe contentions of friendship & the burning fire of
He who would see the Divinity must see him in his Children
One first, in friendship & love; then a Divine Family, &
in the midst
Jesus will appear;" (Erdman 251)
Alfred Ames, son of a Congregational minister in Kansas, found a better faith (for himself) in a college in Illinois when he became a Quaker. He was a man of principle and a flaming liberal, one of his principles being an abhorrence of violence; in the early forties he was spared 'conscientious objection' by a medical diagnosis of flat feet.

During the war his Quaker Meeting was dominated by a man with contrary principles: his son was a Lt. Col. in the Marine Corps. This dominating 'Quaker' tired of Alfred's youthful fulminations against violence, asked Alfred to cease, and failing that, not to come to the Meeting. But this did not deter Alfred from faithful attendance. At that point the older Friend told the younger one that if he continued he would dissolve the meeting and reassemble in some location unknown to Alfred; however that ploy didn't work.

Alfred was well on his way to becoming a professional controversialist (he called himself that in later years). In due course he got his PhD in English Lit and began to teach. However somehow he found his way onto the editorial staff of the Chicago Tribune, and eventually in charge of the editorial page, something that mystified anyone who came to know him. He served there for 30 years, much to the consternation of his many liberal friends.

Although apparently not well acquainted with Blake, Ames was a true Blakean in this sense: he enjoyed the severe contentions of friendship; as a consequence his friends among the Friends were rare, but hearty.
Like Alfred Ames, Blake's friendships were few, but hearty. He also counted two kinds of friendship: corporeal and spiritual: corporeal friends want you to do well in their thought-world, their tribe. Blake had a fair number of (what we call 'fair-weather') friends who wanted him to go along with the Arts estalishment.
Chief of these was a affluent poetaster named William Hayley: "With genuine good intentions Hayley tried to cure Blake of his unprofitable and unseemly enthusiasms and secured him commissions for safely genteel projects - painting ladies' fans, for example" (from Blake might have said, I can deal with my enemies, but God protect me from my friends; or better he might have quoted scripture as usual; as Jesus said, "And a man's foes shall be they of his own household". Hayley was supporting Blake, but Blake gave up that relationship, and began to write the sublime poetry of his later years.

Spiritual friends were another matter for Blake; he had several, but Captain Butts was the most outstanding. To him we owe the Illustrations to the Book of Job, celebrated by Christians and psychologists alike. A spiritual friend values you for who you are, recognizes your gifts and became an enabler. When the role is called up yonder, they are the ones we find closest to us.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Job's IMAGE of GOD

An excellent resource for studying Blake's Illustrations to the Book of Job is this website:

Jung, William Blake and our answer to Job
David Hiles
De Montfort University, Leicester, UK.

Speaking of Blake's overall structure and emphasis in his presentation of Job, David Hiles says:
"... it is clear that Blake makes a significant departure from the biblical text in terms of both the structure and emphasis of the series of plates. He eschews the cycle of speeches which occupy approximately 34 of the 42 Chapters of The Book of Job. Instead, Blake seems to concentrate on Job’s experience, and process of transformation. Blake also significantly expands the final stage of Job’s transformation, the stage of Return. Blake here seems to be acknowledging both his creative work and his own experience of suffering, i.e. through his work as a poet, artist and engraver, he is able to offer up a creative synthesis as an authentic expression to his readers."

Text and images are provided by Boston College.
Plate 11 When you click on this illustration you will see the watercolor painting which corresponds to it.

The 11th of the 21 pictures is the midpoint and illustrates the lowest psychological point that Job reaches. Job is shown prostrate and vulnerable in the center of the picture; above him is Satan masquerading as God as he points to the stone tablets of the law. The cloven hoof and the encircling serpent reveal his identity as Satan. The background is the chaos of the abyss. Below Job, who lies on a slab as if to be sacrificed, are fearful images taking hold of Job's body. Notice the flames the scaly arm the chains and the distorted faces. The mind and body of Job are assaulted by forces beyond his control, but Blake does not acknowledge those forces represent the work of God.

Blake provides Biblical quotes to describe experience of Job which he is illustrating.

My bones are pierced in me in the night season: and my sinews take no rest (Job xxx: 17).

My skin is black upon me, and my bones are burned with heat (Job xxx: 30).

...the triumphing of the wicked is short, and the joy of the hypocrite but for a moment (Job xx: 5).

...for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light....his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness (Second Corinthians xi: 14-15).

Then thou scarest me with dreams, and terrifiest me through visions (Job vii: 14).

Why do ye persecute me as God, and are not satisfied with my flesh? Oh that my words were now written! oh that they were printed in a book! That they were graven with an iron pen and lead into the rock forever! For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God: Whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another; though my reins be consumed within me ["though consumed be my wrought Image" in above text] (Job xix: 22-27)

Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped (Second Thessalonians ii: 4).

The Biblical quotes (with locations identified in the Boston College website) make it possible for us to understand some of what Blake wishes to convey in this plate.
As portrayed by Blake, Job in his extreme condition, is able to recognize that a vengeful punishing God who would be the source of such pain and suffering, is not the God who is the object of his worship. He recognizes that this image of God which has been distorted by his suffering, does not describe his relationship to God: Satan can't be given the power to define God. The terrifying vision does not negate the redeeming God whom Job knows will preserve the eternal man who sees God with his own eyes. Satan is not to be exalted above God himself.

Blake sees this point in Job's experience as a revelation that Job must revise the whole pattern through which he himself views God: that he must reestablish a relationship with God which is not controlled by the legalistic Satanic paradigm of reward for obedience and punishment for failure. In the next ten plates Blake reveals the process of rebuilding Job's psyche and his experience of the nature of God.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Gates of Paradise Epilogue

"To the Accuser who is
The God of this World."

There are two stanzas:

1. "Truly My Satan thou art but a Dunce
And dost not know the Garment from the Man
Every Harlot was a Virgin once
Nor canst thou ever change Kate into Nan."

Digby, p 52: "The individual, says Blake, is not the same as the state in which he is, in the course of experience, as he puts on or changes his clothes."
We wear many garments, some good, some not so good; in a lifetime of experience you can be sure there are many garments in your life. In a day you may pass through several states: one when you get up in the morning, another one after you're left home for the day, another when you get to your workplace at 8 or so, an entirely different state at 4 o'clock, etc. etc.

A book called Our Many Selves (that you can buy for $1.37) shows clearly how our states change as our environment changes. For example you were a very different man at twenty than you are at forty, perhaps sadder and wiser.

"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"
(A portion of Enion's Lament in Night two of The Four Zoas - Erdman 325)

We have many selves, some of us of course more than others, or less than others.But Christ's aim, and Blake's, is that we might become One. That doesn't mean
identical like lemmings; no! something very different.

Stanza 2. "Tho' thou art Worship'd by the Names Divine
of Jesus and Jehovah thou art still
The Son of Morn in weary Night's decline
The lost Traveller's Dream under the Hill."

Paul wrote, " Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light." (II Corinthians 11:14). Within two centuries of the crucifixion of Jesus Christianity became a worldly establishment, under the control of worldly rulers, the primary agents of the God of this world. Blake lived with that insight from a very early age (like the child Jung, who showed the same insight with his dream of the monstrous turd falling on the cathedral.)

Blake knew like Paul that "the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles [pagans] because of you". (Romans 2) It's always one or the other who gets our worship: God or Satan.

We project our own image and call it God. But it isn't God (who is indescribable); it's our Spectre. What we think to be the primary good proves to be the bat-like figure Blake made for the last picture.

There you see the "
The lost Traveller's Dream under the Hill." As for the Son of Morn, that comes from Isaiah 13: "How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning!"

In Symbol and Image in William Blake by George Wingfield Digby, he concludes his survey of The Gates of Paradise (page 53) with this pungent comment:

"The person who can attain an insight into this image of himself will know the source of his greatest illusion and bondage." -- and lo, the mind-forg'd manacles will fall away, and we will walk out of Plato's Cave and live at peace with God and Man.

Friday, May 28, 2010


None of Blake's characters is more complex or contradictory than is Orc. You may remember him as the first son of Los and Enitharmon who so aroused his father's jealousy that he was taken to a mountainside and chained to a rock. Los as prophecy was jealous of Orc as revolution. However Rintrah (just wrath), Palamabron (pity), Theomorton (frustrate desire), and Bromion (logic) are also identified as Los's first four sons which Damon explains as representing an analysis of Orc. (A Blake Dictionary, Page 309)

Orc's body became so enrooted to the rock that when his parents later tried to release him, they were unable to do so. As this passage notes he was the embodiment of the 'fires of Eternal Youth'.

Milton, Plate 29 [31], (E 127)
"But Rintrah & Palamabron govern over Day & Night
In Allamanda & Entuthon Benython where Souls wail:
Where Orc incessant howls burning in fires of Eternal Youth,
Within the vegetated mortal Nerves; for every Man born is joined
Within into One mighty Polypus, and this Polypus is Orc."

In this picture Orc is both the chained youth in the cruciform position and the figure enclosed underground in a fetal position. Orc has taken on his function as revolution which must be controlled. The potential for revolution which has erupted in the colonies and threatened Europe was expresed by Orc in the book America. Revolution which had been attractive to Blake in theory became repulsive to him when he saw it in actual practice in France.

America, PLATE 8, (E 54)
"The terror answerd: I am Orc, wreath'd round the accursed tree:
The times are ended; shadows pass the morning gins to break;
The fiery joy, that Urizen perverted to ten commands,
What night he led the starry hosts thro' the wide wilderness:
That stony law I stamp to dust: and scatter religion abroad
To the four winds as a torn book, & none shall gather the leaves;
But they shall rot on desart sands, & consume in bottomless
To make the desarts blossom, & the deeps shrink to their
And to renew the fiery joy, and burst the stony roof.
That pale religious letchery, seeking Virginity,
May find it in a harlot, and in coarse-clad honesty
The undefil'd tho' ravish'd in her cradle night and morn:
For every thing that lives is holy, life delights in life;
Because the soul of sweet delight can never be defil'd.
Fires inwrap the earthly globe, yet man is not consumd;
Amidst the lustful fires he walks: his feet become like brass,
His knees and thighs like silver, & his breast and head like
And Satan is the Spectre of Orc & Orc is the generate Luvah"

As the generate form of Luvah (emotion) which came into being as a result of the fall, Orc came under the dominion of Urizen the great lawgiver. As the dragon form, 'red Orc' is supressed energy seeking release. Suffering under the restraints of Urizen's system Orc explodes into revolution.

Milton Percival in William Blake's Circle of Destiny gives us this insight: "But, though the rational mind fears the fiery form of Orc, the imaginative mind knows that it is not evil, but rather an indictment of evil, a revelation of the mistaken character of the authority which has brought it into being. Orc is the personification of a deathless phenomenon, the spirit of revolution that arises when energy is repressed."

Urizen diverts Orc's energy into false religion, the Tree of Mystery, whereon Orc becomes the serpent and subsequently enters the state of Satan.

Four Zoas, Night viii, (E 380)
"The State namd Satan never can be redeemd in all Eternity
But when Luvah in Orc became a Serpent he des[c]ended into
That State calld Satan"

In the apocalypse Orc reverts to his eternal form Luvah and joins Jesus in ushering in the new age.

As always we can see the psyche of Blake being dealt with in his characters. Forces within seek expression in Blake's life; prophecy or imagination cannot let revolution take over dominance. The energy or revolution is a valuable asset but unfortunately cannot be released at will. Reason the conventional, conservative force may be able to control revolution, but to do so revolution's energy must be diverted in another direction since it can't be eliminated. This may lead to deeper degrees of error, since error given the freedom to act, will go to the extreme. Revolution is not permanent; it either subsides or or leads to a breaking up of the cycle and the initiation of a new paradigm.

Posted By ellie to William Blake: Religion and Psychology at 5/28/2010 06:41:00 AM

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Gates of Paradise Picture 16

We're approaching the end of Gates of Paradise. After the end of a life there's a beginning. Here we have generation; birth and death are simultaneous. We see Mother Earth with the worm, symbol of mortality (and of many other things as well).

Here are the couplets for the (almost) last image:
"16. Thou'rt my Mother, from the womb;
Wife, Sister, Daughter, to the tomb;
Weaving to dreams the Sexual strife,
And weeping over the Web of Life."

To understand this picture we need some familiarity with Blake's use of sex in his myths. It goes back to the earliest literature of our culture, when the sky God was dominant and active while the Earth (Mother) God is passive, receptive, the yin to God's yang.

Digby, page 50: "The realm of the female goddess, the dark, conditioned, Yin side of life, is by itself a place of weeping, of strife, of illusion. It has to be redeemed by its opposite, the contrary state, the light, formative, Apollonian, or Yang side. The ignorant man [the sinner] wanders away into the realm of the Mother, and the farther he goes the more hopeless his lot becomes."

In the Bible such a man was Achan, described in Josahua 7. He had stolen plunder from a battle of Joshua's army for Canaan, the spoils of war, supposed to be belong to God; as a consequence Achan suffered a terrible fate. Blake created a terrible image for this state in Jerusalem plate 25 (Erdman 170-1)

The Valley of Achor became a symbol of failure, of sin, suffering, like a nest of robbers, expressed by the "terrible image" of Plate 25. But we learn from Hosea that there was redemption. Chapter Two portrays the reality of the valley of Achor, but shows a redemptive outlook (beginning with verse 13). Blake was very familiar with the Valley of Achor as it's described in Joshua and in Hosea. In it the ignorant man, the fallen woman suffers, but receives forgiveness and becomes a "door of hope".

This little picture, created by Blake in 1794, was elaborated in the next 20 years into thousands of lines of poetry about female love and eventual redemption.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010


Songs of Innocence (E 16)
Infant Joy

"Sweet Joy Befall Thee"

Besides his well know (to Blake students), A Blake Dictionary, S. Foster Damon wrote William Blake: His Philosophy and Symbols which also has much to teach about Blake's poetry and how it can be understood. This quote about various levels of meaning which the symbol can represent is found on page 65.

"Practically the whole existence of poetry consists of imposing of human values on natural objects...
Symbolism is the recognition and fixation of these values. It is the highest form of that process usually performed by the weaker metaphor and the still weaker simile. The simile states a resemblance, the metaphor states an identity, and the symbol assumes the identity without direct statement. In the first case love would be likened to a rose; in the second case, Love would be called a rose; in the third, the Rose would appear unexplained. There is a still higher rung in this Jacob's Ladder: the rung popularly known as Prophecy. Here the Rose would indicate some particular act in the past, present, or future. A specific temporal significance is thus imposed upon the Symbol, which hitherto dealt with Eternities...
Let us return , then, to the symbol. Blake, of course, knew perfectly well what he was doing. He deliberately interpreted objects to show their relation to, and their expression of, mankind. Everything he saw revealed to him its inner essence, which was in turn the revelation of a truth. Only through this method could Truth be approached. Isis cannot be seen unveiled, for the mortal eye itself is her vesture. The great secrets cannot be told; the very syllables are their mask....
And thus we learn a strange fact: that the clearer, the more precise, Blake's writings become, the more obscure they seem. The trouble is not with Blake, it lies in our own inability to understand. The fires of Hell still seem like torment and insanity to us, the Angles. Therefore Blake cried so fiercely: 'Go! put off Holiness, and put on Intellect!' "

It is not difficult to find passages in Blake to illustrate the use of the symbol to reveal multiple layers of psychological, poetic and spiritual meanings. How does this speak to you?

Four Zoas, Night VIII, Page 113-114, (E 384) [Enion speaking:]
"Listen: I will tell you what is done in the caverns of the grave
the lamb of God has rent the veil of mystery
When the mortal disappears in improved knowledge cast away
The former things so shall the Mortal gently fade away
And so become invisible to those who still remain
Listen I will tell thee what is done in the caverns of the grave

The Lamb of God has rent the Veil of Mystery soon to return
In Clouds & Fires around the rock & the Mysterious tree
As the seed waits Eagerly watching for its flower & fruit
Anxious its little soul looks out into the clear expanse
To see if hungry winds are abroad with their invisible army
So Man looks out in tree & herb & fish & bird & beast
Collecting up the scatterd portions of his immortal body
Into the Elemental forms of every thing that grows
He tries the sullen north wind riding on its angry furrows
The sultry south when the sun rises & the angry east
When the sun sets when the clods harden & the cattle stand
Drooping & the birds hide in their silent nests. he stores his
As in a store house in his memory he regulates the forms
Of all beneath & all above & in the gentle West
Reposes where the Suns heat dwells he rises to the Sun
And to the Planets of the Night & to the stars that gild
The Zodiac & the stars that sullen stand to north & south
He touches the remotest pole & in the Center weeps
That Man should Labour & sorrow & learn & forget & return
To the dark valley whence he came to begin his labours anew
In pain he sighs in pain he labours in his universe
Screaming in birds over the deep & howling in the Wolf
Over the slain & moaning in the cattle & in the winds
And weeping over Orc & Urizen in clouds & flaming fires
And in the cries of birth & in the groans of death his voice
Is heard throughout the Universe whereever a grass grows
Or a leaf buds The Eternal Man is seen is heard is felt
And all his Sorrows till he reassumes his ancient bliss"

This is symbolic language at its finest; not allegory, simile or metaphor but living symbols which may enter the Soul of Man: an opportunity to collect the 'scattered portions of [our] immortal bodies.'

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The Bible and Blake

He wasn't socialized; he didn't go to school, never birched, he was no donkey! Instead he poured over Milton, the Bible, Shakespeare. By 1800 he had been exposed to Paracelsus and Behmen (Boehme). You might say his socialization came through those wise men. They were also the agencies that educated him.

When you've been studying Blake for a while, if you also have some acquaintance with the Bible, it may suddenly dawn on you that almost every word of his poetry has a close relationship wi

something in the Bible.
Look at Plate2 of The Marriage....:
"Rintrah roars & shakes his fires in the burdend air;
Hungry clouds swag on the deep

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

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

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

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

Rintrah roars & shakes his fires in the burdend air;
Hungry clouds swag on the deep."
     page 33 of Erdman

The perilous path (at the beginning of The Marriage of Heaven and Hell) was a mystery until it suddenly became clear:
why he was talking about the 'straight and narrow', the Way that the Lord advised.  Then the entire passage became clear:

The just man is on the straight and narrow-- not very glamorous, just good (or as Blake would say, right). The meek and just man planted roses and kept bees, etc.  Maybe he bought or built a nice house.  The whole place prospered.

Until the villain saw what had happened and drove him (the meek and just man) out into the wilderness. You can read about that in your newspaper any day.

Well such is MHH. Stay with it, and you'll learn more about the Bible.

Monday, May 24, 2010


Some time between 1660 and 1675 when John Bunyan was twice imprisoned for holding religious services out of the auspice of the established church, he began work on Pilgrim's Progress his allegory of Christian's progress from 'this world to that which is to come'. He describes a stop on Christian's journey at the House of the Interpreter who was to instruct him on the right way to live the Christian life. In 1822, William Blake made an illustration for one of the lessons taught in the House of the Interpreter. Pilgrim was led into a parlor filled with dust; a man was called to sweep but he only stirred up the dust. A damsel was called to sprinkle the room with water with the result that the room was easily swept clean.

The Interpreter explained to Pilgrim: "This parlor is the heart of a man that was never sanctified by the sweet grace of the gospel: the dust is his original sin, and inward corruptions that have defiled the whole man. He that began to sweep at first, is the Law; but she that brought water, and did sprinkle it, is the Gospel. Now, whereas thou sawest that so soon as the first began to sweep, the dust did so fly about that the room by him could not be cleansed, but that thou wast almost choked therewith; this is to show thee, that the Law, instead of cleansing the heart (by its working) from sin, doth revive, put strength into, and increase it in the soul, even as it doth discover and forbid it, but doth not give power to subdue."
Blake's understanding of the roles of the law and the gospel is set forth in these passages in Jerusalem. In this first section Blake is saying that the forgiveness of God does not require 'Moral Virtue' but that we mutually sacrifice for, and continually forgive one another.

Jerusalem, Plate 61, (E 212)
"Saying, Doth Jehovah Forgive a Debt only on condition that it shall
Be Payed? Doth he Forgive Pollution only on conditions of Purity
That Debt is not Forgiven! That Pollution is not Forgiven
Such is the Forgiveness of the Gods, the Moral Virtues of the
Heathen, whose tender Mercies are Cruelty. But Jehovahs Salvation
Is without Money & without Price, in the Continual Forgiveness of Sins
In the Perpetual Mutual Sacrifice in Great Eternity! for behold!
There is none that liveth & Sinneth not! And this is the Covenant
Of Jehovah: If you Forgive one-another, so shall Jehovah Forgive You:
That He Himself may Dwell among You."

Here Blake tells us that 'accusation of sin & judgment' is the root of our quarrels and violence leading to Eternal Death.

Jerusalem, Plate 64, (E215)
"All Quarrels arise from Reasoning. the secret Murder, and
The violent Man-slaughter. these are the Spectres double Cave
The Sexual Death living on accusation of Sin & judgment
To freeze Love & Innocence into the gold & silver of the Merchant
Without Forgiveness of Sin Love is Itself Eternal Death"

Now Blake contrasts the message of Jesus: self-denial, forgiveness of sin, casting out devils, healing, pity, and setting prisoners free with that of the Pharisees (the chief proponents of the law): smiting with terror and punishment, crucifying, and proselyting to tyranny and wrath.

Jerusalem, Plate 77, (E 232)
"But Jesus is the bright Preacher of Life
Creating Nature from this fiery Law,
By self-denial & forgiveness of Sin.

Go therefore, cast out devils in Christs name
Heal thou the sick of spiritual disease
Pity the evil, for thou art not sent
To smite with terror & with punishments
Those that are sick, like the Pharisees
Crucifying &,encompassing sea & land
For proselytes to tyranny & wrath,
But to the Publicans & Harlots go!
Teach them True Happiness, but let no curse
Go forth out of thy mouth to blight their peace
For Hell is opend to heaven; thine eyes beheld
The dungeons burst & the Prisoners set free."

Blake and Bunyan were both teaching the message of Paul in the second chapter of Galatians: "
a man is justified not by performing what the Law commands but by faith in Jesus Christ. We ourselves are justified by our faith and not by our obedience to the Law, for we have recognised that no one can achieve justification by doing the 'works of the Law'. Bunyan continues; "when the gospel comes in the sweet and precious influences thereof to the is sin vanquished and subdued, and the soul made clean."

The little circle of younger artists who gathered around Blake in his later years referred to his humble home as the House of the Interpreter.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Gates of Paradise Picture 15

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

Why must this gloomy picture succeed the last one?

As Blake wrote in Jerusalem, Plate 3:

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

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

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

Digby shows us how Blake expressed this union of opposites in his poem, Milton: John Milton is in Heaven, but he has left "unresolved problems exemplified in three quarrelsome wives and daughters" (page 49), (his Selfhood was not entirely annihilated).
"He took off the robe of the promise and the girdle of
the oath of God
and Milton said, I go to Eternal Death! The Nations still
Follow after the detestable Gods of Priam; in pomp
Of warlike selfhood, contradicting and blaspheming.
When will the Resurrection come; to deliver the sleeping body From corruptibility: O when Lord Jesus wilt thou come? Tarry no longer; for my soul lies at the gates of death.
I will arise and look forth for the morning of the grave.
I will go down to the sepulcher to see if morning breaks!
I will go down to self annihilation and eternal death,
Lest the Last Judgment come & find me unannihilate
And I be siez'd & giv'n into the hands of my own

Selfhood" (Milton, plate 15, Erdman p. 108)

Long, long ago Isaiah was written (or edited); looking at the book as a whole you may perceive something like these two pictures in Gates of Paradise. Isaiah is written with a rapid alternation between wrath (judgment) and grace (The Promise).
So we find Isaiah, Blake, "Milton", Jung, alchemy: all
agree in the Eternal union of the temporal opposites. Our
Poet tried to express this fundamental truth of life("joy and 
woe are woven fine....the babe is more than swadling bands".
When you've  met the immortal man, you're armed with light,
like the man in picture 14, to deal with the cross we all bear.
You've experienced the Marriage.

Saturday, May 22, 2010


During 1795 and 1796 William Blake spent a large part of his time preparing illustrations for a new edition of Edward Young's Night Thoughts a popular book which had been issued first in 1742. There were to be 4 new volumes published for which over 500 illustrations were needed. With impressive energy Blake produced watercolor designs at a fast pace.

In the book William Blake, by Hamlyn, Phillips, Ackroyd and Butler, we read that: "[Blake] gave emphasis to the poem as a Christian narrative by including numerous images of Jesus Christ; for example, at the beginning of the collected watercolor designs Blake added images of the Resurrection of Christ, a subject of minor interest in the poem."

An example of image of Christ: arm'd them with fierce flames. Click on Image to zoom.

The first volume with Blake's images was published in 1797 with 43 engravings which Blake made from his designs. These were to be the only images to be published since the publisher went out of business before additional volumes were issued. The 43 engraved plates of the published volume can be viewed in the Blake Archive.The watercolors which represented the bulk of the work and the labor of 2 years of Blake's life are in the British Museum and can be viewed online but it takes some patience.

For his work in producing 537 watercolor designs and 43 engravings Blake earned 20 guineas!

A recent publication values his work more highly:
The only full, colour facsimile ever published. Your chance to own this magnificent Limited Edition facsimile with 537 illustrations by William Blake. Last few copies remaining. Published price: US$ 1,975.00
The Folio Society Night Thoughts

Where I can find appropriate designs to accompany my posts, I will provide links to images in the British Museum.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Gates of Paradise Picture 14

The couplets of this picture and the last one go so closely together that I've posted them here:

"13. But when once I did descry
The Immortal Man that cannot die,

14. Thro' evening shades I haste away
To close the labours of my day."

You have met Christ; you are saved; but there is still much to do. What is the chief labor of our day? to annihilate the Selhood? yes, that goes on ceaselessly; at least it has for me. The groves, the shadows, the "mind forg'd manacles" have to be cleared away one by one. Paul said "work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure" (Philippians 2:12-13). All this is "the labors of my day".
(And what God is this that Paul speaks of? Why the God within of course, that of God in you. That was Blake's God.)

That's the work of Los, the Imagination, the 'Zoa' with whom Blake was most closely identified. Like Jeremiah he was called to build up and tear down. How many things did Edison have to try before he got the incandescent light? He learned to work continually and snatch a moment of sleep while one of his experiments was cooking. Such was Los; such was Blake.

Digby page 48: The Traveler "hastens to conclude the labors of his day; that is, the concerns that were so important for appear to him as delusions to which he had been quite wrongly subservient. He has a new sense of direction and a new sense of his rightful task as a man."

If we look at Homer's myth, we see that it took many years for Odysseus to return from the escapades of the Trojan adventures. But finally having experienced about everything that could happen to a man, he escaped from the sea of time and space (with the help of the sea goddess, Eno), and was directed upward into the Eternal realm.

Thursday, May 20, 2010


Auguries of Innocence (E491)
"It is right it should be so
Man was made for Joy & Woe
And when this we rightly know
Thro the World we safely go
Joy & Woe are woven fine
A Clothing for the soul divine
Under every grief & pine
Runs a joy with silken twine
The Babe is more than swadling Bands
Throughout all these Human Lands"

In these few line Blake tells us a lot about his system: his means of organizing or giving meaning to life as it has come to him. He recognizes that our minds operate through dualistic processing. It is right that we experience and understand things by splitting them into opposites. But here is a danger in identifying an aspect of the divided world as 'the good' and another as the 'not good'. The opposites should be woven together and recognized as not the reality itself, but as the garment that clothes the Identity which is Eternal. In this world we are inclined to see the outer woes and miss the inner joys which are hidden beneath them. Within each us of is a 'Babe' prepared to develop its spiritual nature which allows one to live Eternally even when bound in the clothes of time and matter.

Joy________ Woe
Imagination__ Reason and Emotion
Eternity_____ This World
Innocence___ Experience

The 'Babe' is neither joy nor woe, but 'that of God in everyone' (Quaker), 'Christ in you' (Paul), the 'Divine Humanity' (Blake) or the 'Divine Child' (Jung).

God Becomes as We Are

There is No Natural Religion (E 3)

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Gates of Paradise Picture 13

(It's actuallly 15.) The inscription is Fear and Hope are--Vision. Digby (p 47) speaks of the relativity of everything, especially mental values. "Without Contraries is no progression. Attraction and Repulsion, Reason and Energy, Love and Hate, are necessary to Human existence" (Marriage of Heaven and Hell, Plate 3. Erdman 34). But before he wrote that here is this verse (a complete mystification to the novice!) "Now is the dominion of Edom, & the return of Adam into Paradise; see Isaiah XXXIV & XXXV Chap"; (It would certainly help to read Isaiah 34 and 35).

You could call 34 "the day of the Lord's vengeance" and 35 "the new Jerusalem" (Blake called it "the return of Adam (us) into Paradise"). In the picture Blake has called them Hope and Fear.

"Vision, or imagination gives insight into the positive and negative aspects of life... it sees the limits of things, and therefore it is the great unifier." Digby then refers us to Blake's Illustrations of the Book of Job (Plate 15) "Behold now Behemoth which I made with thee": Blake is quoting here Job 40:15, which goes on to say "he eateth grass as an ox."

This picture (15 of Gates of Paradise) kind of sums up all that has gone before. When we resort to (or achieve) Vision (which I identify as the intuitive faculty exemplified by Blake's Los), then Good and Evil, Love and Hate, Beautiful and Ghastly, White and Black, Heaven and Hell take on a New Light. The course of life, or the journey through life begin to hold greater meaning for us.

It also gives new insight into the meaning of what Blake was trying to say in The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, which ends with the magnificent aphorism "Everything that lives is holy";
in The Four Zoas (Night the Second) he amplified it like this
"for the source of life Descends to be a weeping babe" (Oh Wow!)

Tuesday, May 18, 2010


In 1904 two scholars at the Victoria and Albert Museum published the text for Blake's Jerusalem together with their introduction. Eric Maclagen and Archibald Russell had a gift for a profound understanding of Blake symbolic system. They were able to see in the poem at the beginning of the second chapter of Jerusalem a precis of the entire contents of of the book Jerusalem . I hope you will find this section as enlightening in developing an ability to read Blake with understanding as I do.

Jerusalem, Plate 27, (E 171)

"The fields from Islington to Marybone,
To Primrose Hill and Saint Johns Wood:
Were builded over with pillars of gold,
And there Jerusalems pillars stood.

Her Little-ones ran on the fields
The Lamb of God among them seen
And fair Jerusalem his Bride:
Among the little meadows green.

Pancrass & Kentish-town repose
Among her golden pillars high:
Among her golden arches which
Shine upon the starry sky.

The Jews-harp-house & the Green Man;
The Ponds where Boys to bathe delight:
The fields of Cows by Willans farm:
Shine in Jerusalems pleasant sight.

She walks upon our meadows green:
The Lamb of God walks by her side:
And every English Child is seen,
Children of Jesus & his Bride,

Forgiving trespasses and sins
Lest Babylon with cruel Og,
With Moral & Self-righteous Law
Should Crucify in Satans Synagogue!

What are those golden Builders doing
Near mournful ever-weeping Paddington
Standing above that mighty Ruin
Where Satan the first victory won.

Where Albion slept beneath the Fatal Tree
And the Druids golden Knife,
Rioted in human gore,
In Offerings of Human Life

They groan'd aloud on London Stone
They groand aloud on Tyburns Brook
Albion gave his deadly groan,
And all the Atlantic Mountains shook

Albions Spectre from his Loins
Tore forth in all the pomp of War!
Satan his name: in flames of fire
He stretch'd his Druid Pillars far.

Jerusalem fell from Lambeth's Vale,
Down thro Poplar & Old Bow;
Thro Malden & acros the Sea,
In War & howling death & woe.

The Rhine was red with human blood:
The Danube rolld a purple tide:
On the Euphrates Satan stood:
And over Asia stretch'd his pride.

He witherd up sweet Zions Hill,
From every Nation of the Earth:
He witherd up Jerusalems Gates,
And in a dark Land gave her birth.

He witherd up the Human Form,
By laws of sacrifice for sin:
Till it became a Mortal Worm:
But O! translucent all within.

The Divine Vision still was seen
Still was the Human Form, Divine
Weeping in weak & mortal clay
O Jesus still the Form was thine.

And thine the Human Face & thine
The Human Hands & Feet & Breath
Entering thro' the Gates of Birth
And passing thro' the Gates of Death

And O thou Lamb of God, whom I
Slew in my dark self-righteous pride:
Art thou return'd to Albions Land!
And is Jerusalem thy Bride?

Come to my arms & never more
Depart; but dwell for ever here:
Create my Spirit to thy Love:
Subdue my Spectre to thy Fear,

Spectre of Albion! warlike Fiend!
In clouds of blood & ruin roll'd:
I here reclaim thee as my own
My Selfhood! Satan! armd in gold.

Is this thy soft Family-Love
Thy cruel Patriarchal pride
Planting thy Family alone
Destroying all the World beside.

A mans worst enemies are those
Of his own house & family;
And he who makes his law a curse,
By his own law shall surely die.

In my Exchanges every Land
Shall walk, & mine in every Land,
Mutual shall build Jerusalem:
Both heart in heart & hand in hand."

Jesus reaching down

This is the section from the introduction to Jerusalem By William Blake, Eric Robert Dalrymple Maclagan, Archibald George Blomefield Russell:

"In this unfallen state the " fields " in the north, from east to west, the regions, that is, of instinctive life both on the side of emotion and on that of sensual perception, were the supports of the holy Imagination, through the pillars of intellect (gold being the metal of Urizen). The Imagination was the Bride of the Lamb of God, happy in many lovely and innocent ways, and every idea of man was the " child of Jesus and his Bride " in the religion of forgiveness, refusing to impute sin. But the peace is broken: the intellectual powers are busied with the western region of bodily things (and in particular the sense of the Tongue, through which came the first sin): and man falls into the sleep that we call the life of the body, shadowed by the tree of mystery, and passing from inspired religion to that false faith which demands bodily instead of mental sacrifice. He enters into mortal sorrow, and his hard rational power, called by Blake "Satan," separates itself from his loins (the place of judgment), and furiously enforces its legal morality. By this separation the imagination also is forced to depart, and passing eastward through mere emotionalism it is lost in grief. Further and further the reason asserts its dominion over the emotional life, and the happinesses of man (rivers) become stained with sensuality: in every phase of mental life the place of the imagination is restricted, and the power itself is forced into the dark land of corporeal life. By such a system of religion man is convinced of his own mortality, equaling himself with the worms: but nothing can wholly obscure the glory of the divine within him, even in the weakness and transience of the life between birth and death. This state is common to all mankind; and the poet identifies himself with the man whose fall he has narrated, and calls on the Lamb of God, the Divine Image whom he crucified, but who still makes his perpetual appeal to the heart of man: he implores him to mould the spiritual and to repress the merely rational life with the love and fear of God. For the reason is to be mastered, not to be abandoned; in all its selfish cruelty and pride of intellectual war it is still a true part of man, even when it tries to claim that its own children (the logical ideas) have alone the right to exist, though such a system is bound at last to be its own destruction. The true life knows no compulsion, but consists in mutual acceptance and forgiveness: for so can man be joined with man to build up Christianity, the religion of the Imagination."
The poem leads us through sights and locations familiar to Blake, changes which he has observed, and the possibilities for further changes in a positive direction. Recognizing this as being written in symbolic language, the authors restate it in prosaic language. The restatement functions as a summation of the book Jerusalem itself. The poem makes more sense to our ordinary way of thinking when its symbols are revealed. Through the paraphrase of the poem we can see that it represents an outline of the whole book.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Gates of Paradise Picture 12

The couplet reads:
"And in the depts of my Dungeons
Closed the Fathers and the Sons."

Picture 12 inspires considerable thought: who are these people? we might suppose the old man is the inevitable Urizen or perhaps the God of Genesis 3. They seem to be in some enclosure like a prison cell. You might imagine that the two figures in the foreground could represent Adam and Eve, and perhaps the shape they were in right after the 'apple eating' incident.

Following that theme the remarkable thing is that God is in the same place as his two subjects. How could that be? It could never be that for a transcendent God, but Blake gave little or no thought to such a thing; In Marriage of Heaven and Hell, adapting the sobriquet of a devil he had this to say:
"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. "And in Jerusalem he wrote, "There is no other God than that God who is the intellectual fountain of Humanity". Many Quakers speak of "that of God" in you and me (called an immanent God), and that is pretty much Blake's God as well.

The theme and a very similar picture are found in Plate 16 of MHH where Blake states that "God only Acts & Is, in existing beings or Men."

These pictures describe the fate of those "caught in the toils of the world [who, poor men] fail to to develop or allow the expression of the divine spark within" (Digby 46).

Beneath the picture you might be able to read:
"Does thy God O Priest take such vengeance as this?"

Thy God O Priest! You might hark back to what Blake said about priests in MHH (Plate 11):
"Till a system was formed, which some took advantage of & enslav'd the vulgar by attempting to realize or abstract the mental deities from their objects: thus began Priesthood. Choosing forms of worship from poetic tales. And at length they pronounced that the Gods had orderd such things. Thus men forgot that All deities reside in the human breast"
,which happened to those trusting (in priests) souls seen in this picture.

Sunday, May 16, 2010


Jerusalem, PLATE 54 (E 203)
"In Great Eternity, every particular Form gives
forth or Emanates

Its own peculiar Light, & the Form is the Divine

And the Light is his Garment This is Jerusalem
in every Man"

In his poem Jerusalem, Blake uses his character Jerusalem as the carrier of the Light Within. I read the following words as Jerusalem's testimony of faith.

Jerusalem, Plate 60, (E 211)
"But the Divine Lamb stood beside Jerusalem. oft she saw
The lineaments Divine & oft the Voice heard, & oft she said:

O Lord & Saviour, have the Gods of the Heathen pierced thee?
Or hast thou been pierced in the House of thy Friends?
Art thou alive! & livest thou for-evermore? or art thou
Not: but a delusive shadow, a thought that liveth not.
Babel mocks saying, there is no God nor Son of God
That thou O Human Imagination, O Divine Body art all
A delusion. but I know thee O Lord when thou arisest upon
My weary eyes even in this dungeon & this iron mill.
The Stars of Albion cruel rise; thou bindest to sweet influences:
For thou also sufferest with me altho I behold thee not;
And altho I sin & blaspheme thy holy name, thou pitiest me;
Because thou knowest I am deluded by the turning mills.
And by these visions of pity & love because of Albions death.

Thus spake Jerusalem, & thus the Divine Voice replied.

Mild Shade of Man, pitiest thou these Visions of terror & woe!
Give forth thy pity & love. fear not! lo I am with thee always.
Only believe in me that I have power to raise from death
Thy Brother who Sleepeth in Albion: fear not trembling Shade"
Here is my paraphrase of the above passage:
Jerusalem can feel and see and hear the presence of Christ. She asks if those who have confessed loyalty to Christ are not the ones who are hurting him. She see that those within the church don't acknowledge the living Christ and the nature of Eternity. Eternal things are being called shadow and delusion and lifeless. God and Christ are denied as unreal. Jerusalem has an inner knowledge of Christ even when outer circumstances are harsh and deadening. She knows that Christ is with her in her suffering even if she fails to recognize him. Jerusalem knows that the illusory world deceives her and obscures her vision because of its brokenness from Eternity.

Jerusalem hears the reply of Christ affirming the love and pity she has for the broken shadowy inhabitants of her world. Christ assures Jerusalem that he will not depart from her. She should continue to affirm his presence and the true spiritual nature of Eternity which is being restored to its unity.

In making this paraphrase I came to realize that this passage can be seen as a critique of deism which had become the respected form of Christianity in Blake's day. Blake often referred to it as natural religion in contrast to revealed religion. There was no place for vision or mystical experience in deism. Blake's religious experience was that of a God who is present to man as an internal reality. Blake's God is not accessed through reason or external proofs; his God is manifest in lives of faith, love, forgiveness and brotherhood.
Gospel of Matthew
28:8 - Then the women went away quickly from the tomb, their hearts filled with awe and great joy, and ran to give the news to his disciples.
28:9-10 - But quite suddenly , Jesus stood before them in their path, and said, "Peace be with you!" And they went forward to meet him and, clasping his feet, worshipped him. Then Jesus said to them, "Do not be afraid. Go now and tell my brothers to go into Galilee and they shall see me there"

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Gates of Paradise Picture 11 Again

Creative and welcome criticism of the first "Picture 11" led to much further thought of the image, especially of its import in Blake's development.

1. The young Blake was actually a flaming liberal (like most such he was eventually mugged). At 23 he was present in the crowd at the Newgate riots, like quite a few liberal minded Englishmen who could be called "American patriots".

Blake wrote America celebrating the independence of the colonies. (Some of his finest poetry can be seen at Plate 8 of this poem.) When the French Revolution broke out in the nineties, he wore a red cap (of Liberty) (he was "mugged" by the outbreak of the Reign of Terror); at that point "Red Orc" had lost some of its attraction for the poet. He wrote a little poem called The Grey Monk describing a new attitude:
"The hand of Vengeance found the bed
To which the Purple Tyrant fled;
The iron hand crush'd the Tyrant's head
And became a Tyrant in his stead."

Back in 1779, when he was 22 Blake had become part of the Royal Academy, but he expressed great distaste for the 'head knocker' there, Sir Joshua Reynolds. He wrote numerous expressions of depreciation in his Annotations to Reynold's Discourses , (Erdman 635-62)

You may recall that in the Four Zoas Blake defined these functions of the psyche:
Tharmas -- the physical or (as in Jung) sensation
Urizen -- obviously related to reason
Luvah -- feeling, emotion
Los (Urthona in Eternity) -- Imagination (Intuition)

It appears to me that the old man in Aged Ignorance was a prototype of Urizen while the youth in the picture is the prototype of Orc/Luvah. Urizen is generally pictured as an old man surrounded by his books - the lawgiver, the demiruge who created this mess - while Orc is a symbol of bloody revolution.

Unfallen Urizen was the Prince of Light, but on Night 9 of the Four Zoas, page 119-20 (Erdman 388-9) the Eternal Man (Albion) lifts "his Eyes (from slumber) and cries (to Urizen) with heavenly voice.......O Prince of Light.....
"Come forth from slumbers of thy cold abstraction come forth
Arise to Eternal births shake off thy cold repose
Schoolmaster of souls great opposer of change......
Arise O stony form of death O dragon of the Deeps", etc.
The paragon of conservatism! (Blake had no truck with schoolmasters!)

Before the next function (feeling) was Luvah, he was Red Orc , the flame of violent revolution. As Blake's mind progressed he became Luvah ("clothed in robes of blood"). Ultimately he became Jesus, the crown and climax of Blake's system; no one ever had such an odyssey finding his way to the Lord.

Friday, May 14, 2010


Because Urizen (who is associated with reason) plays the villain in so much of Blake's poetry, some may have drawn the conclusion that Blake is anti-intellectual. In fact Blake values the intellect highly. The problem with Urizen was that he abstracted reason from human values. Urizen (reason) attempting to dominate Los (imagination) and Luvah (emotion) is cut off from the possibility of creative activity. Urizen's ideas become fixed in books of laws which limit and regulate the freedoms which are meant to be expressed and enjoyed. Blake's Urizen is unable himself to create and unwilling for others to create through their imaginative and emotional lives.

On the contrary intellectual activities are meant to be the primary activities of humanity as they are in Eternity. Blake spoke frequently about the value he placed on intellect as is demonstrated by the following quotes:

Jerusalem, Plate 91, (E 251)
"I never made friends but by spiritual gifts;
By severe contentions of friendship & the burning fire of

Jerusalem, Plate 34, (E 180)
"Albion! Our wars are wars of life, & wounds of love,
With intellectual spears, & long winged arrows of thought:"

Jerusalem, Plate 68, (E 222)
"Once Man was occupied in intellectual pleasures & energies
But now my soul is harrowd with grief & fear & love & desire
And now I hate & now I love & Intellect is no more:
There is no time for any thing but the torments of love & desire"

Jerusalem, Plate 77, (E 231)
"What were
all their spiritual gifts? What is the Divine Spirit? is the Holy
Ghost any other than an Intellectual Fountain? What is the
Harvest of the Gospel & its Labours? What is that Talent which it
is a curse to hide? What are the Treasures of Heaven which we are
to lay up for ourselves, are they any other than Mental Studies &
Performances? What are all the Gifts. of the Gospel, are they not
all Mental Gifts?
O ye Religious discountenance every one among
you who shall pretend to despise Art & Science! I call upon you
in the Name of Jesus! What is the Life of Man but Art & Science?"

Jerusalem, Plate 91, (E 251)
"Go, tell them that the Worship of God, is honouring his gifts
In other men: & loving the greatest men best, each according
To his Genius: which is the Holy Ghost in Man; there is no other
God, than that God who is the intellectual fountain of Humanity;"

Four Zoas, Page 21, (E 313)
"Terrific ragd the Eternal Wheels of intellect terrific ragd
The living creatures of the wheels in the Wars of Eternal life"

Four Zoas, Page 139, (E 407)
"Where is the Spectre of Prophecy where the delusive Phantom
Departed & Urthona rises from the ruinous walls
In all his ancient strength to form the golden armour of science
For intellectual War The war of swords departed now
The dark Religions are departed & sweet Science reigns"

Vision of Last Judgment, Page 70, (E 554)
" Imaginative Art &
Science & all Intellectual Gifts all the Gifts of the Holy Ghost
are [despisd] lookd upon as of no use & only Contention
remains to Man then the Last Judgment begins & its Vision is seen
by the [Imaginative Eye] of Every one according to the
situation he holds"

Vision of Last Judgment, Page 87, (E 564)
"The Treasures of
Heaven are not Negations of Passion but Realities of Intellect
from which All the Passions Emanate in their Eternal
Glory The Fool shall not enter into Heaven let him be ever so
Holy. Holiness is not The Price of Enterance into Heaven Those
who are cast out Are All Those who having no Passions of their
own because No Intellect."

Jerusalem, Page 91, (E 252)
"I care not whether a Man is Good or Evil; all that I care
Is whether he is a Wise Man or a Fool. Go! put off Holiness
And put on Intellect:"

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Quit Your Meanness

Sam Jones was the South's most famous preacher in the late nineteenth century. Jones preached one sermon that Dad really liked and put in his sermon notebook; it was called "Quit your Meanness".

St. Paul used more elegant language: "work out your own salvation with fear and trembling for it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure" (Philippians 2:12-13). That verse, prominent in my memory for many years, acquired new poignancy the other day as I was contemplating Blake's Selfhood: annihilate it!

The Selfhood goes in the circular file, but neither Blake nor you and I could do that overnight; oh no! We had to work it out with fear and trembling. The Spectre is the Selfhood, and Blake wrote:
"My spectre around me night and day
Like a wild beast guards my way;"
from the poem that has been discussed so often in this blog.

Blake had to discover his preconceived notions, his pet peeves, his resentments of everyone from Bacon, Newton, and Locke to Hayley. Once he discovered them and confessed his error, that aspect of his Selfhood was annihilated, and the Last Judgment fell upon him. In Plate 98, near the end of Jerusalem and of his poetry he joined Bacon and Newton and Locke with those he had always loved, Shakespeare, Milton, and Chaucer. It was the testimony of a happy man.

C.S.Lewis, near the end of his greatest story, Till We Have Faces, shared his Vision of that Eternal 'Moment'. Lewis had issues with Blake because of his own orthodoxy but my vision of him is that Blake's poetry and George MacDonalds's spirit had done their work in the end, enabling Lewis to envision the graduation to Eternity of "turk and jew":
"And all must love the human form,
In heathen, turk or jew.
Where Mercy, Love & Pity dwell,
There God is dwelling too"
Blake has said that "every death is an improvement in the state of the departed."

He must have substantially completed the long drawn procedure of confessing his sins and experiencing forgiveness during mortal life because he died a very happy man.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010


If you have an interest in reading the early books about William Blake as well as what is being written about him in our own day, you will find a tremendous resource in Google books. Many of the out of copyright Blake books have been digitized by Google. Unlike the copyright books which Google makes available, these books are published in their entirety without deletions. Furthermore they are available as text files as well as image files so that passages can be copied and saved for your own individual use or to share with others.

You may find that early works about Blake's writing offers critical information and analysis which you are less likely to find in current books. The early writers were closer to Blake's times. They were frequently giving their full attention to understanding the content of his work. Current works sometimes assume the basic mastery of Blake's content and focus on 'minute details' of literary criticism. So have a look at these out of print, out of copyright volumes which are at your fingertips.

Here is a sample passage from the introduction to The prophetic books of William Blake: Milton by William Blake, Eric Robert Dalrymple Maclagan, Archibald G Russell:

"The substance of the poem [Milton] is almost entirely autobiographical. Blake himself tells us, in one of his letters, that it is descriptive of ' the spiritual acts ' of his ' three years' slumber on the banks of ocean.' Both the characters and the action have their counterparts in the drama which had been enacted at Felpham. The disguise is often a close one: but we are told that it is a ' sublime allegory,' and ' allegory addressed to the intellectual powers, while it is altogether hidden from the corporeal understanding,' is Blake's 'definition of the most sublime poetry.' The writing was 'from immediate dictation, twelve or sometimes twenty or thirty lines at a time, without premeditation, and even against' his ' will.' ' Thus,' he writes, ' the time it has taken in writing was rendered non-existent, and an immense poem exists ... all produced without labour or study.' The purpose of the book is clearly stated on p[late]. 36, 11. 21-25 [E 137]:
'. . When Los join'd with me he took me in his fiery whirlwind:
My vegetated portion was hurried from Lambeth's shades:
He set me down in Felpham's vale and prepar'd a beautiful
Cottage for me, that in three years I might write all these visions,
To display Nature's cruel holiness: the deceits of natural religion.'"

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Gates of Paradise Picture 11

The title here is Aged Ignorance and what Digby called the couplet(?) was " In Aged Ignorance profound,
Holy and cold, I clipp'd the wings
Of all sublunary things,":
Aged Ignorance! What a piquant and meaningful name for so many things; it immediately calls to mind a white haired old codger sitting on a bench outside the country store spitting tobacco juice and pooh-pooh-ing anything new that anyone has been foolish enough to mention. (Not that country stores have a corner on aged ignorance; actually it's endemic; let everyone survey his own mind critically.)

Digby says on page 43): "This refers to the tendency to try to explain everything in life by the known." How about the man in the middle of the 19th century who lamented because he felt that everything possible had already been invented.

Wieman referred to it as the created good, at the expense of the creative event. There are many ways to express this fundamental truth of the human psyche; one of them is conservative vs liberal (generic, not necessarily political).

With those three lines and small image Blake can make us aware of this fundamental truth of the human psyche. We live in Plato's Cave, with "chains of the mind locked up", unable to move away from our prejudices, and only when we become aware of our deplorable condition do we have a chance to turn and look for the light. As AA can tell you, you have to hit bottom first.

In an earlier post (called Clipped) the matter was discussed in terms of the generation gap; some kids leave home at the earliest opportunity, and there may be good reasons for that decision.

Monday, May 10, 2010


Earthbound Imagination, From the British Museum's Night Thoughts

The word imagination occupies a special place in Blake's vocabulary. He uses the word to speak of existence in the spiritual world which is the only true existence. Our awareness of this reality is through imagination. Jesus himself, as the Divine Body, is the Human Imagination. The world of mortality which appears without, is but a shadow of the inner world of imagination.

We will live in the world of imagination, Eternity, when we leave these vegetated bodies. However we have access to this world now if we will open ourselves to vision through contemplation, poetry, painting and music.
Milton, Plate 32, (E 132)

"Calling the Human Imagination: which is the Divine Vision &
In which Man liveth eternally: madness & blasphemy, against
Its own Qualities, which are Servants of Humanity, not Gods"
Jerusalem, Plate 5, (E 147)

"To open the Eternal Worlds, to open the immortal Eyes
Of Man inwards into the Worlds of Thought: into Eternity
Ever expanding in the Bosom of God. the Human Imagination"
Jerusalem, Plate 5, (E 148)

"Abstract Philosophy warring in enmity against Imagination
(Which is the Divine Body of the Lord Jesus. blessed for ever)."
Jerusalem, Plate 71, (E 225)

"For all are Men in Eternity. Rivers Mountains Cities Villages,
All are Human & when you enter into their Bosoms you walk
In Heavens & Earths; as in your own Bosom you bear your Heaven
And Earth, & all you behold, tho it appears Without it is Within
In your Imagination of which this World of Mortality is but a
Jerusalem, Plate 77, (E 231)

"I know of no other
Christianity and of no other Gospel than the liberty both of body
& mind to exercise the Divine Arts of Imagination.
Imagination the real & eternal World of which this Vegetable
Universe is but a faint shadow & in which we shall live in our
Eternal or Imaginative Bodies, when these Vegetable Mortal Bodies
are no more."
Vision of the Last Judgment, (E 555)

"This world of Imagination is the World of Eternity it is the
Divine bosom into which we shall all go after the death of
the Vegetated body This World is Infinite & Eternal
whereas the world of Generation or Vegetation is Finite
& [for a small moment] Temporal There Exist in that Eternal
World the Permanent Realities of Every Thing which we
see are reflected in this Vegetable Glass of Nature All
Things are comprehended in their Eternal Forms in the
Divine body of the Saviour the True Vine of Eternity
The Human Imagination who appeard to Me as Coming to
Judgment. among his Saints & throwing off the Temporal
that the Eternal might be Establishd."
Vision of the Last Judgment, (E 560)

"If the Spectator could Enter into these Images in his
Imagination approaching them on the Fiery Chariot of his
Contemplative Thought if he could Enter into Noahs Rainbow
or into his bosom or could make a Friend & Companion of
one of these Images of wonder which always intreats him to
leave mortal things as he must know then would he arise
from his Grave then would he meet the Lord in the Air & then
he would be happy"
Percival, in William Blake's Circle of Destiny, (page 8) explains how we experience imagination inwardly and outwardly:
"At the center is imagination, "the human existence itself," the one reality. It is divine - not ourselves; and it is of course eternal. It may be thought of as inner, active and masculine. As it manifests itself outwardly, in the world of self and phenomena, it is temporal, passive, rational and feminine. But since the outward is only a manifestation of the inward , the antinomy is not truly a duality; the two are one. To use a traditional figure they constitute a tree of life, firmly rooted in the inward, active masculine, bearing its fruits in the outward, passive feminine."

Blake says of himself: "Inspiration & Vision was then & now is & I hope will always Remain my Element my Eternal Dwelling place." Annotations to Reynolds, (E 660)
Heavenly imagination From the British Museum's Night Thoughts