Thursday, January 31, 2013

Chapter Ten 7



In the last Night of The Four Zoas Blake let all of his feelings out in a
magnificent vision of apocalypse that bears comparison with the one John wrote:

Los his vegetable hands Outstretch'd; his right
hand, branching out in fibrous strength, Siez'd
the Sun; His left hand, like dark roots, cover'd
the Moon, And tore them down, cracking the
heavens across from immense to immense. Then
fell the fires of Eternity with loud and shrill
Sound of Loud Trumpet....

And on and on it goes, much too imposing to describe in this short
review. But two things will be said:

First, Blake draws on John's Apocalypse as he already has in Night viii.

The strangest book in the Bible, utterly incomprehensible to the literal
mind, has much to offer to the trained imagination. To read the end of 4Z
with complete attention gives one a purchase on Blake's great source;
Revelation begins to come alive in an exciting new way.

Second, as great as it is, Blake simply wasn't able to 'Christianize' his apocalypse as he had done the two previous Nights. Perhaps it was already too
deeply stamped with his pre-Christian mind. Forgiveness is the soul, virtually
the alpha and omega of Blake's Christ, but Night ix shows little or no evidence
of this new spirit. Only in 'Jerusalem', in its last plates, do we find a
thoroughly Christian apocalypse. Neither Revelation nor Night ix has much of
forgiveness; what they do have is vengeance and retribution. Both writers had
suffered much at the hands of the ungodly, and both looked with anticipation to
the Day of Vengeance. So we must say that Night ix is a modern redoing of John's
Apocalypse, while the end of 'Jerusalem' is a Christian recreation of it.

Blake's epic ends with the eternal man awake, his four Zoas back in
union, each carrying out his appointed function in the harmonious consummation
of the Age. In the last harvest Urizen reaps, Tharmas threshes, Luvah tramples
out the vineyard and Urthona bakes the bread.

Night ix contains much magnificent poetry. A few lines near the end will
provide an appropriate end to this all too inadequate description of Blake's
great poem:

The Sun has left his blackness and has found a
fresher morning, And the mild moon rejoices in the
clear and cloudless night, And Man walks forth from
the midst of the fires: the evil is all consum'd.
... He walks upon the Eternal Mountains, raising
his heavenly voice, Conversing with the Animal
forms of wisdom night and day, ... They raise their
faces from the Earth, conversing with the Man: "How
is it we have walk'd thro' fires and yet are
not consum'd? "How is it that all things are
chang'd, even as in ancient times?"
The Sun arises from his dewey bed, and the fresh
airs Play in his smiling beams giving the seeds of
life to grow, And the fresh Earth beams forth ten
thousand thousand springs of life.

For a more organized description of The Four Zoas
go to Characters.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

FRIENDSHIP

William Blake and George Cumberland maintained a relationship of mutual respect and appreciation over a period of close to 50 years. In their early friendship they shared a revolutionary zeal which waned after the Gordon Riots. Both men wished to promote the appreciation and availability of art to the British public. Cumberland was an early supporter of a National Gallery. He urged the formation of a National Gallery in 1793; thirty years later the collection was begun. One project on which the two men worked together was the publication of Cumberland's book Thoughts on Outline in 1796. Blake made eight of the engravings for the book. As reported in William Blake: The Critical Heritageedited by G.E. Bentley Jnr., Cumberland expressed his appreciation in these words:  

"one thing may be asserted of this work, which can be said of few others that have passed the hands of an engraver, which is, that Mr. Blake has condescended to take upon him the laborious office of making them, I may say fac-similes of my originals: a compliment, from a man of his extraordinary genius and abilities, the highest, I believe, I shall ever receive: - and I am indebted to his generous partiality for the instruction which encouraged me to execute a great part of the plates myself; enabling me thereby to reduce considerably the price of the book."
British Museum
Illustration to Thoughts on Outline
Cupid and Psyche



The value which Cumberland placed on Blake's work is indicated by the fact that he owned copies of seven of Blake's illuminated books: Book of Thel, Gates of Paradise, America, Europe, Song of Los, Visions of the Daughters of Albion, and Songs of Innocence & Experience. (Wiki)
Perhaps it was in conjunction with the production of Thoughts in Outline that Blake offered the following advice to Cumberland on preparing and engraving the copper plate, apparently at his request:  
Letters, (E 699) 
"G Cumberland Esqr, Bishopsgate
near Egham, Surrey

Lambeth, 6 Decembr 1795 
Dear Sir
     I congratulate you not on any atchievement. because I
know. that the Genius that produces. these Designs can execute
them in any manner. notwithstanding the pretended Philosophy
which teaches that Execution is the power of One & Invention of
Another--Locke says it i[s the] same faculty that
Invents Judges, & I say he who can Invent can Execute.

     As to laying on the Wax it is as follows
     Take a cake of Virgins wax <([if it can be found] [if
such be]< I dont know what animal produces it>)> & stroke it
regularly over the surface of a warm Plate. (the Plate must be
warm enough to melt the Wax as it passes over) then immediately
draw a feather over it & you will get all even surface which when
cold will recieve any impression minutely
     Note   The danger is in not covering the Plate All over
     Now You will I hope shew all the family of Antique Borers,
that Peace & Plenty & Domestic Happiness is the Source of Sublime
Art, & prove to the Abstract Philosophers--that Enjoyment & not
Abstinence is the food of Intellect.
Yours sincerely
WILL BLAKE

     Health to Mr Cumberland & Family
     The pressure necessary to roll off the lines is the same
as when you print, or not quite so great.  I have not been able
to send a proof of the bath tho I have done the corrections. my
paper not being in order."


That Blake's final engraving was made at the request of George Cumberland 
in 1827 is testimony to closeness they enjoyed.

Other posts on Cumberland:
Last Supper

Reading Blake

This Foolish Body


Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Chapter Ten 6

       As in B.U. Orc is bound in the Chain of Jealousy, but his tormented cries 
 awaken Urizen, who concludes Night v (of The Four Zoas with the "Woes of 
Urizen". His suffering has brought him to a point of self-recognition; he has 
come to himself in a way reminiscent of the Prodigal Son's moment of truth: 
"I will arise", which Blake took directly from the story in Luke. Urizen thus 
shows himself to be human.Unfortunately it's only a temporary lapse, for in 
Night vi he explores his dens,faces all the brokenness and horror of a ruined 
universe and as his solution comes up with the "Net of Religion ". Since pure 
political tyranny won't work, he turns to a form of religious control.

       We come to the climax of this epic in Night vii when Urizen has
approached Orc's prison and induced him to climb the "Tree of Mystery ", turning
into a serpent. This sets the stage for the Genesis account of the Fall, which
Blake sees as the beginning of the Return. Enitharmon, attracted by the cries of
her son, Orc, comes down to the "Tree of Mystery", where she meets the Spectre
of Urthona (FZ7a-82.23; E358). The Spectre closely corresponds to Jung's
'shadow', and like a skilled analyst Blake brings about the reconciliation of
shadow and anima on the way to wholeness).

       From the union of Spectre and Enitharmon two things ensue. The good news
is that Los begins to get himself together with his Spectre and his Emanation.
From this integration comes forth Jerusalem and from Jerusalem will proceed the
Lamb. The bad news is the immediate birth of Rahab, the most sinister female of
Blake's pantheon. She personifies all the evils of deceit, treachery, and
hateful female  pride that most appalled Blake about life. Blake's Rahab is the
same character whom John of Patmos called "Mystery, the Whore of Babylon"; Blake
eventually gives her these names--and several others as well.

       The Spectre of Urthona, a new idea on Blake's imaginative horizon,
foreshadowed the Moment of Grace which was to revolutionize his spiritual world;

these dynamics are dealt with elsewhere . Suffice it here to say that the
appearance of the Spectre marks Man's (and Blake's) dawning awareness that the
evils of the world, which he had so deplored, exist in his own psyche. It marks
what Jung referred to as the withdrawal of the projections, which Jung
considered vital to the survival of the world. Blake agreed about the
seriousness of the process; he stated it with great poetic intensity in the
reversed writing found in the illustration to 'Jerusalem', plate 41:

 Each man is in his Spectre's power 

Until the arrival of that hour 
When his humanity awake 
And cast his Spectre into the Lake

       But in Night vii Los doesn't cast his Spectre into the lake; he embraces
it, which in a manner of speaking is the same thing. Los doesn't (yet) cast his
Spectre into the lake because his humanity is not yet fully awake, but only
beginning to awaken. As Blake aptly put, it complete redemption "was not to  be
effected without Cares & Sorrows & Troubles of six thousand years of self denial
and of bitter Contrition". That beautiful line points to the redemptive
dimension of all the fallenness and horror we have been reading about. It was
Blake's way of saying what Paul said in Romans: "All things work together for
good to them that love God...." Blake and Jung and probably Paul would agree
that we begin to love God (and stop trying to be God!) when we recognize and
accept our own involvement in the horror around us. That's the moment when the
six thousand years of change begins.

       The birth of Rahab and the integration of Los lead to an intensification
of a drama that has already stretched out for seven nights of excruciating
intensity. In Night viii the drama has not only intensified, but it has
clarified so that we can no longer fail to understand that the forces of life
and of death are in bitter conflict. It has become the old, old story, and Blake
leaves no doubt about who represents light and who darkness. Urizen resumes his
war for control and out of his ranks of War comes Satan. Rahab conspires to put
to death the Saviour who has come down from Heaven and emerged from Jerusalem.
The Christian knows that this death is foreordained for final victory, but
neither Rahab nor Jerusalem has that awareness, and near the end of Night viii
we read these richly evocative words:

    Jerusalem wept over the Sepulcher two thousand years.
    Rahab trimphs over all; she took Jerusalem
    Captive, a Willing Captive, by delusive arts impell'd
    To worship Urizen's Dragon form, to offer her own Children
    Upon the bloody Altar. John saw these things Revealed....

       Blake never forgot the involvement of the Christian Church in two
thousand years of bloodshed, but here, under the influence of grace, he has a
more understanding view of it than he has expressed elsewhere.

Monday, January 28, 2013

EYE OF THE ARTIST


Yale Center for British Art
Jerusalem, Plate 73
Blake's eye was acutely attuned to the production and criticism of art as well as being an instrument used to access the world of vision. Of course it was the ability to portray the inner life of man in the light of visionary realities which interested him. But this required a sensitivity to the image as it was produced by the artist. Michelangelo had been an influence on Blake since his childhood when he first began scrutinizing and collecting prints. Blake saw in the Florentine the qualities he admired and wanted to emulate. He saw that the ability of the artist to accurately draw a figure using a sure and definite line was the foundation of the work of art.    

Blake was less forthcoming in expressing his opinions about the subject matter of other artists but, judging from his tastes, he did not admire frivolous or superficial artwork, whatever the reputation of the artist. Michelangelo met all his criteria for great art: ability to portray the body with subtlety and accuracy, command of his media to apply color convincingly, and awareness of the spiritual dimension which made the supreme effort of the artist worthwhile.   
  
Slideshare: Michelangelo and Titian



Descriptive Catalogue, PREFACE, (E 529)                        
 "THE eye that can prefer the Colouring of Titian and Rubens to
that of Michael Angelo and Rafael, ought to be modest and to
doubt its own powers.  Connoisseurs talk as if Rafael and Michael
Angelo had never seen the colouring of Titian or Correggio: They
ought to know that Correggio was born two years before Michael
Angelo, and Titian but four years after.  Both Rafael and Michael
Angelo knew the Venetian, and contemned and rejected all he did
with the utmost disdain, as that which is fabricated for the
purpose to destroy art.
  Mr. B. appeals to the Public, from the judgment of those
narrow blinking eyes, that have too long governed art in a dark
corner.  The eyes of stupid cunning never will be pleased
with the work any more than with the look of self-devoting
genius.  The quarrel of the Florentine with the Venetian is not
because he does not understand Drawing, but because he does not
understand Colouring.  How should he? he who does not know how to
draw a hand or a foot, know how to colour it.
  Colouring does not depend on where the Colours are put, but
on where the lights and darks are put, and all depends on Form or
Out-line.  On where that is put; where that is wrong, the Colouring
never can be right; and it is always wrong in Titian and
Correggio, Rubens and Rembrandt.  Till we get rid of Titian and
Correggio, Rubens and Rembrandt, We never shall equal Rafael and
Albert Durer, Michael Angelo, and Julio Romano."

Descriptions of Last Judgment, (E 560)
"Both in Art & in Life General Masses
are as Much Art as a Pasteboard Man is Human Every Man has Eyes
Nose & Mouth this Every Idiot knows but he who enters into &
discriminates most minutely the Manners & Intentions the
[Expression] Characters in all their branches is the
alone Wise or Sensible Man & on this discrimination All Art is
founded.  I intreat then that the Spectator will attend to the
Hands & Feet to the Lineaments of the Countenances they are all
descriptive of Character & not a line is drawn without intention
& that most discriminate & particular  much less an
Insignificant Blur or Mark>" 
 
On his website Robert Genn quotes from the biographer Giorgio Vasari: 
"When Michelangelo was introduced to Titian, he said... that Titian's 
colouring and his style much pleased him, but that it was a pity that in 
Venice men did not learn to draw well from the beginning, and that 
those painters did not pursue a better method in their studies."

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Chapter Ten 5


  And on the plate following Chapter Ten 4:

Then Jesus appeared.... And the Divine Appearance was the
likeness and similitude of Los. the poet states his theme:
Four Mighty Ones are in every Man; a Perfect Unity Cannot Exist
but   from the Universal Brotherhood of Eden, The Universal
Man, to Whom be Glory Evermore. Amen. .... Los was the fourth
immortal starry one, and in the Earth Of a bright niverse,Empery
attended day and night, Days and  nights of revolving joy.
Urthona was his name In Eden.... Daughters of Beulah, Sing His
fall into Division and his Resurrection to Unity: His fall into the
Generation of decay and death, and his Regeneration by the
Resurrection from the dead. (FZ1-3.9; E30

Here Blake has made the antecedent of 'his' deliberately  ambiguous:


Albion, the Ancient Man of course, but also Los.  It is Los's career that
we follow most intently.  Blake identified with Los, and so do we if we
read the poem with imagination.

     But "Begin with Tharmas, Parent power dark'ning in the West".
Tharmas represents the body, or in the psychic realm the instinct, and
in Eternity he's a glorious shepherd. But "darkening in the West"
beneath the jealous attack of his emanation, Enion, he sets in motion
the Circle of Destiny (The Four Zoas [Nt 1], 5.) and sinks into the sea
where he becomes an insane old man. From his "corse" arises the 

ravening spectre, a most gruesome embodiment of pure egocentricity.
A loveless embrace of Enion leads to the birth of Los and Enitharmon, 
the divided earthly form of Urthona.

 (Note that all this happens after the 'central event', although in the
poem we read about it first.)     

This first earthly family displays the ubiquitous dialectic of Blake (and
of universal experience): the angelic and demonic processes go on side by
side. Enion's intense mother love turns her daughter, Enitharmon, into a
teasing and heartless bitch and drives Enion to the abyss where she
becomes a disembodied voice of pure consciousness. We hear her voice at
the end of Nights i, ii, and viii sounding the purest prophetic judgment
on what has transpired. in a real sense Enion is Blake.



       When Enitharmon signs her Song of Death (quoted a few pages back),
Los strkes her down and then gives his own, more prophetic account of the
Fall. Enitharmon retaliates by calling down Urizen.

This precipitates the first encounter between these two adversaries in
one of the relationships that dominates the poem--and Blake's life as
well. In this initial confrontation Los weakens through his pity or
remorse over Enitharmon and joins the Nuptial Feast of fallenness
( FZ1-12.44; ff E307| .

In the New Testament the marriage of the Lamb inaugurates the Kingdom of Heaven;
this demonic parody of it announces the Kingdom of Satan. Enion responds with her 

first stirring prophetic utterance, concluding the first night in the earlier draft.

       At this point Blake, in a later revision of 4Z, made his first obvious attempt 

to Christianize his myth. The Daughters of Beulah in their "Wars of Eternal Death" give
what is probably the most straightforward, impartial account of the Fall.

       As Night ii begins, the Fallen Man, on the point of falling asleep, commissions
Urizen as his regent. Urizen soars with pride but immediately falls into the fearful
fantasies of the future which dominate all of his attempts at creation. He casts Luvah
into the furnaces of affliction and proceeds to build the Mundane Shell, giving Blake
a chance to expatiate at great length on how wrongly the world is made.

       Tharmas and Luvah are now thoroughly fallen and estranged from their
emanations, and Urizen's turn comes in Night iii. Ahania, Urizen's emanation,
reacts to his fearful aggressions with her own vision of the Fall, and the
infuriated Urizen casts her out and promptly falls himself like Humpty Dumpty,
an eloquent comment on the fate of all the 'strong' who in fear cast out the
'weak'. With the fall of Reason Tharmas rises to power from the depths of the
sea, although he is mentally incompetent in the extreme. He commissions Los to
create endlessly and futilly: "Renew these ruin'd souls of Men thro' Earth, Sea,
Air & Fire,/To waste in endless corruption, renew thou, I will destroy."

       Los proceeds to bind Urizen with the chains of time and space in the
parody of Creation which we have already studied from B.U ., but "terrified at
the shapes enslav'd humanity put on, he became what he beheld". ( The second
extended Christian interpolation occurs in the midst of this story.)

       Los begins Night v with a sort of St. Vitus Dance to "put on the shape of
enslaved humanity", a convulsion which Enitharmon shares, leading to the birth
of Orc, a manifestation of Luvah, who at this point represents fallen human
feeling. Immediately, "The Enormous Demons woke and howl'd around the new born
King,/Crying 'Luvah, King of Love, thou art the King of rage & death'".

Saturday, January 26, 2013

THRU THE EYE

Blake makes a distinction between the eye as we experience it in the natural world and the visionary eye. In the Book of Urizen we see how the senses became limited when man entered the material world as a created being. What appeared to the shrunken eye was not clear nor did it provide a wide range of information. Science tells us that the eye can process only a small band of wave lengths in the electromagnetic spectrum. The rest of radiated energy is unknown and useless to the eye. Perhaps Blake was able to imagine that humans could be capable of receiving and assimilating far more sensory data than seemed to be available to them. But Blake was less interested in sensory capability than with spiritual acuity.

He came to associate the expanded quantity of data with communications from the Spiritual or Eternal World. The natural eye became a metaphor for the visionary eye. If the eye had been modified to be less able to discern eternal truth as it became part of the material creation, it could again be modified to be an instrument for seeing the unseen world of infinity and eternity. When Blake talks of seeing through the eye he is proposing that the eye be used to see through the layers of obfuscating, distorting filters which are created by our minds and our preconceived structures of reasoning.  


Marriage of Heaven & Hell, Plate 9, (E 37)
The eyes of fire, the nostrils of air, the mouth of water, the
     beard of earth.

Visions of the Daughters of Albion, Title Page, (E 45)   
  "The Eye sees more than the Heart knows."

Book of Urizen, Plate 25, (E 82)
"The Senses inward rush'd shrinking,
Beneath the dark net of infection.                           
           
2. Till the shrunken eyes clouded over
Discernd not the woven hipocrisy
But the streaky slime in their heavens
Brought together by narrowing perceptions
Appeard transparent air; for their eyes                
Grew small like the eyes of a man"

Milton, Plate 12, (E 156) 
And the Eyes are the South [reason], and the Nostrils are the East [emotion].
And the Tongue is the West [sensation], and the Ear is the North [imagination].            

Mental Traveller, (E 485)
"The Guests are scatterd thro' the land
For the Eye altering alters all
The Senses roll themselves in fear
And the flat Earth becomes a Ball"

Songs and Ballads, Auguries of Innocence, (E 492)
British Museum
Night Thoughts, Edward Young


"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"

There is a birth to night in which the Soul is asleep without realizing it. The sleeping, dreaming state deceives the dreamer by hiding reality thereby creating a lie. Awaking to the light of day allows man to look through his eye to see the Eternal Great Humanity Divine of which he partakes.

Everlasting Gospel, (E 520)
"In Doubt which is Self Contradiction
Humility is only Doubt
And does the Sun & Moon blot out
Rooting over with thorns & stems     
The buried Soul & all its Gems
This Lifes dim Windows of the Soul
Distorts the Heavens from Pole to Pole
And leads you to Believe a Lie
When you see with not thro the Eye   
That was born in a night to perish in a night
When the Soul slept in the beams of Light."

Friday, January 25, 2013

Chapter Ten 4

                                                   
                                         The Four Zoas

       The first four nights of this aborted masterpiece recount the fall of each of the four Zoas: 
Tharmas, the body; Luvah, the feelings; Urizen, the mind; and finally Urthona (Los), the imagination or spirit.

These four steps in the fall of Man contain a wealth of rich detail, but one central event Blake 
described repeatedly in the words of various characters: Urizen and Luvah (Mind and Feeling)
struggle for dominion over the sleeping man, Albion. Luvah seizes Urizen's steeds of light and
mounts into the sky. Urizen retreats into the north, the rightful place of Urthona, the imagination.
These mistakes lead to a long series of cataclysmic disasters that condemn mankind to his fallen
condition. For six nights we read an almost unrelieved account of the Fall; we read about falling,
about fallenness, described in voluminous detail in a hundred ways. Blake felt intensely that we
have come a long, long way from the Garden, and he explored with exceeding minuteness every
step of the dismal journey, down and out. (You might notice that as extensive as this negative mood
is, it closely resembles the Old Testament, a great deal of which consists of flagellations of Israel by
the prophets.)

       To begin our orientation to the poem look closely at the central event of the Fall. Blake put it in 
the mouths of several characters and each one has his or her own particular slant. The reader has
to decide for himself whose account to believe. This may depend upon the reader as much as it does.

       The earliest description of the central event comes in the words of Enitharmon, a notoriously 
untrustworthy character at this point; we may call her the queen of fallen space. In a conversation
with  her consort, Los, the prophetic boy, she gives her interpretation of the Fall:

Hear! I will sing a Song of Death! it is a Song of Vala!
The Fallen Man takes his repose, Urizen sleeps in the porch,
Luvah and Vala wake and fly up from the Human Heart
Into the brain from thence; upon the pillow Vala slumber'd,
And Luvah siez'd the Horses of Light and rose into the
Chariot of Day. Sweet laughter siez'd me in my sleep....

 Always fiercely eclectic, Blake has gathered his symbols here from a number of sources into a 
new creation: sleeping man equals fallen man living in darkness; this most general symbol fills the New Testament. For example, "Awake thou that sleepest, and Christ shall give thee light". We live by the  light of reason (not always Christ's light!). Urizen, the Sun God, must be asleep to allow Luvah, like the Greek adolescent, Phaethon, to seize his Horses of Light and rise into the Chariot of Day. Zeus struck Phaethon down with a thunderbolt. In Night ii we find Urizen casting Luvah into the furnaces of affliction, where there is much heat but no light. What was once eternal delight has become unmitigated hell.

       Luvah and Vala personify the masculine and feminine dimensions of feeling, and separated 
from Luvah Vala becomes the goddess of fallen nature. Luvah's seizure of the sun and Vala's
dalliance on the pillow express in different ways the same event. The Prince of Love is bound to get
his wings scorched, and the sleeping Albion is rather foolish to allow this to happen; he has lost his
head over a part of himself.

       Blake used this double event to say many things to us at many levels. Fundamentally Blake is 
saying that Man has lost his heavenly wholeness (which he calls the Divine Image) and begun to 
worship the material, a relatively insignificant part of himself. In his dream of Vala he turns his back 
upon the Divine Vision. The former is Eternal Death and the latter Eternal Life. The dalliance of 
Albion with Vala leads to the Eternal Death (fallenness) that we read about in the first six nights. Blake described it symbolically in many ways, for example, "to converse in the wilds of Newton and Locke".   We find here Blake's primary dialectic, between eternal vision and fallen materialism.

       Other accounts of this decisive event occur at various places throughout the poem. The most 
definitive is that of Ahania. Her dream relates the central event, the primary fall, to an idolatrous 
worship; just so Blake evaluated organized religion (See CHAPTER SEVEN). Albion's worship of 
his shadow has two immediate consequences: he breaks out with the boils of Job, a biblical symbol
of the Fall of Mankind, and he exiles Luvah and Vala from their rightful place in the psychic
economy.

       This central event of the Fall gives the key to the meaning of 'The Four Zoas'. Before we 
proceed with the outline of the poem, we need to look at one other central fact: the identity of Los, the fourth Zoa (in Eternity called Urthona). Whereas the central event gives the key to six thousand years of fallenness, the identity of Los gives the key to redemption. This becomes clear in the end when we read about Jesus, the Imagination, but from the beginning we should be aware that Los is the fourth who makes Man whole. Blake derived the first three Zoas in part from Daniel's three friends who were cast into the fiery furnace by Nebuchadnezzar. Los was the fourth, whom the king  walking in the furnace "like the Son of God". Like the other Zoas Los has a chequered career, but he is always moving toward this ultimately revealed identity. Near the end of 'Jerusalem' Blake put
the finishing touches on Los's Eternal identity with these words:

Therefore the Sons of Eden praise Urthona's Spectre in songs, Because he kept the Divine Vision
in time of trouble. (Jerusalem, 95.19; E255)
      

Thursday, January 24, 2013

MUTUAL FORGIVENESS

Discord & injustice were recognized by Blake not only as external conditions which could not be altered by more discord and greater injustice; he saw them too as internal conditions which became visible in society when projected outwardly. Internal strife, the explosive conflicts of the demands by aspects of the psyche with one another, requires constant surveillance. The Id, the Superego and the Ego often do not mildly accept the roles assigned to them. There is a man in our neighborhood who spews out his bitter condemnation of anyone who is unlike him or gets in his way, considering himself to have a corner on righteousness. There is a war within him between his Id (Luvah) and Superego (Urizen) which defies control by his Ego (Los). He creates external conflict because of his inner war.  

Blake offered an alternative to killing the tyrant who perpetuated war and oppression. His way is to look within to find the indigent who suffers, and the master who judges, accuses and punishes. In Plate 11 of his series of Illustration of the Book of Job, Blake shows a man who becomes aware of the tyranny which his own image of God had exercised in his psyche. Job was able to alter his God image from that of an accuser to that of a merciful God who is not the source of vengeful arbitrary punishment. He was brought into the family of God where 'mutual forgiveness' opens the Gates of Paradise.   

Courtesy of Wikimedia
Illustrations of the Book of Job
Plate 11
Words from David Bindman, William Blake: His Art and Times:
"The turning point in the series is Job's recognition of the true origin of his suffering. Lying on his bed tormented by visions, he perceives for the first time the cloven hoof of Jehovah, who is wrapped around by a serpent and points to the Decalogue, the  Moral Law of the Old Testament. He realizes that it is Satan, who 'is transformed into an Angel of Light & His Ministers into Ministers of Righteousness', and that he has worshiped one who exalted himself above the true God." (
Page 175)

Jerusalem, Plate 8, (E 150)
"And the Religion of Generation which was meant for the destruction
Of Jerusalem, become her covering, till the time of the End.
O holy Generation! [Image] of regeneration!  
O point of mutual forgiveness between Enemies!
Birthplace of the Lamb of God incomprehensible!
The Dead despise & scorn thee, & cast thee out as accursed:
Seeing the Lamb of God in thy gardens & thy palaces:
Where they desire to place the Abomination of Desolation.   

Jerusalem, Plate 49 ,(E 198)
"In one night the Atlantic Continent was caught up with the Moon,
And became an Opake Globe far distant clad with moony beams.     
The Visions of Eternity, by reason of narrowed perceptions,
Are become weak Visions of Time & Space, fix'd into furrows of death;
Till deep dissimulation is the only defence an honest man has left
O Polypus of Death O Spectre over Europe and Asia
Withering the Human Form by Laws of Sacrifice for Sin            
By Laws of Chastity & Abhorrence I am witherd up.
Striving to Create a Heaven in which all shall be pure & holy
In their Own Selfhoods, in Natural Selfish Chastity to banish Pity
And dear Mutual Forgiveness; & to become One Great Satan
Inslavd to the most powerful Selfhood: to murder the Divine Humanity   
Jerusalem, Plate 54, (E 203)
"In Great Eternity, every particular Form gives forth or Emanates
Its own peculiar Light, & the Form is the Divine Vision
And the Light is his Garment This is Jerusalem in every Man
A Tent & Tabernacle of Mutual Forgiveness Male & Female Clothings.
And Jerusalem is called Liberty among the Children of Albion"  
Gates of Paradise, For the Sexes, Prologue, (E 259)                 
"Mutual Forgiveness of each Vice
Such are the Gates of Paradise
Against the Accusers chief desire
Who walkd among the Stones of Fire
Jehovahs Finger Wrote the Law   
Then Wept! then rose in Zeal & Awe
And the Dead Corpse from Sinais heat 
Buried beneath his Mercy Seat        
O Christians Christians! tell me Why
You rear it on your Altars high"    
Job 19
[23] Oh that my words were now written! oh that they were printed in a book!
[24] That they were graven with an iron pen and lead in the rock for ever!
[25] For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth:
[26] And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God:
[27] Whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another;

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Chapter Ten 3


The Four Zoas


    Four Mighty Ones are in every Man;
           a Perfect Unity
    Cannot exist but from the Universal
           Brotherhood of Eden
    The Universal Man: To Whom be
           Glory Evermore Amen.
(For the simplest description of the four zoas together with some other elementary definitions go to 
the Wikipedia.)

      Blake writes about himself, about us, about the world- all of one piece.

 The Four Zoas is a sort of notebook or rough draft of the large finished works that Blake produced in his mature years: Milton and Jerusalem. 

       If you ever read the Book of Isaiah, you find pages and pages of indictments, excoriations, 
judgments on Israel as default in every moral virtue and almost surely headed for dire punishment.
But interspersed in the midst of all this gloom you will discover a page here and there of the most
ethereal beauty, warmth, love and promise. (This is most apt to appear in the midst of one of God's dire punishments, as comfort for a downtrodden and suffering people. (comfort ye, comfort ye my people for example.)

       Such is The Four Zoas of William Blake, the prophet, interminably cataloging the misteps, the 
failures, the fallenness of Albion (the universal man) and his various separated parts, but always with the golden chain of progress.

    I give you the end of a golden string,
    Only wind it into a ball,
    It will lead you in at Heaven's gate
    Built in Jerusalem's wall.  (Introduction to Chapter Four of Jerusalem; E231)
    Lest the state calld Luvah should cease, the Divine Vision
    Walked in robes of blood till he who slept should awake.
    Thus were the stars of heaven created like a golden chain. 
    (The Four Zoas [Nt 2], 33.14; E321

Many a musical masterwork on its initial performance has met a cold reception. In the same way the
taste for many foods grows with experience; young children often reject what their parents keenly
enjoy; in due course they may develop a taste for what they at first found exotic and repulsive.
4Z is a very exotic masterpiece and most definitely an acquired taste. The reader initially encounters an appalling mass of strange ideas and much that appears to be sheer gibberish. But with perseverance the strange ideas become familiar bit by bit, and the gibberish clarifies into some of the most exalted thought forms of the human mind. To the seasoned reader 4Z is a treasure house of imaginative delights. Or call it a mine that releases its gold to the pertinacious. The same could be said of the Bible.

       Blake wrote the poem over a period of years while his mind and spirit were rapidly developing and changing. It began as the story of Vala, the incarnation of the Female Will. Later it became an account of cosmic and psychic history written in terms of the four Giant Forms--their breakup and struggle for dominion. At Blake's spiritual crisis this seed bed gave birth to Jesus and Jerusalem, his bride. Blake then made an attempt to rewrite 4Z to reflect his new spiritual orientation, but after a while he gave up.

4Z was aborted because Blake's world had fundamentally changed, and he was ready to start over. 
After many years of looking for the New Age he had become a New Man. The new man wrote Milton and Jerusalem using 4Z as a quarry. 4Z is fascinating in its own right, although unfinished, but most significant as a platform from which to rise to the ethereal glory of the mature poems.

       Focusing on The Four Zoas Milton Percival, who wrote William Blake's Circle of Destiny, tells us that ten characters make up his myth: Two Albions (man), the Eternal One and the One who fell asleep down here in this vale of tears; Four Zoas (Urizen, Luvah, Los, and Tharmas) and their feminine parts (Ahania, Vala, Enitharman, and Enion)

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

PEACE & JUSTICE

Songs and Ballads, (E 489)
          The Grey Monk                    
"I die I die the Mother said
My Children die for lack of Bread          
What more has the merciless Tyrant said
The Monk sat down on the Stony Bed         

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

His eye was dry no tear could flow
A hollow groan first spoke his woe 
He trembled & shudderd upon the Bed        
At length with a feeble cry he said

When God commanded this hand to write
In the studious hours of deep midnight
He told me the writing I wrote should prove
The Bane of all that on Earth I lovd       

My Brother starvd between two Walls
His Childrens Cry my Soul appalls
I mockd at the wrack & griding chain    
My bent body mocks their torturing pain 

Thy Father drew his sword in the North
With his thousands strong he marched forth
Thy Brother has armd himself in Steel     
To avenge the wrongs thy Children feel    

But vain the Sword & vain the Bow 
They never can work Wars overthrow
The Hermits Prayer & the Widows tear
Alone can free the World from fear

For a Tear is an Intellectual Thing        
And a Sigh is the Sword of an Angel King 
And the bitter groan of the Martyrs woe    
Is an Arrow from the Almighties Bow

The hand of Vengeance found the Bed 
To which the Purple Tyrant fled
The iron hand crushd the Tyrants head 
And became a Tyrant in his stead" 
 
Courtesy of william-blake.org

Mercy and Truth are met together, 
Righteousness and Peace have kissed each other
Original in Victoria & Albert Museum
Illustration of Psalm 85
If Peace & Justice prevailed the world would be transformed. Blake found that war and injustice were linked; they had their origins in the 'merciless Tyrant' who was as insensible to the pain of the starving child as to the victims of war. But we are in error if we oppose war with the use of force or oppose oppression with oppressive measures. The use of force leaves in its wake broken lives in whom the seeds of war have been planted. Peaceful means can heal the wounds and produce a crop that nourishes.


Psalms 85
[9] Surely his salvation is nigh them that fear him; that glory may dwell in our land.
[10] Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other.
[11] Truth shall spring out of the earth; and righteousness shall look down from heaven.
[12] Yea, the LORD shall give that which is good; and our land shall yield her increase.



Matthew 5
[11] Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.
[37] But let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil.
[39] But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.
[45] That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.
 
 
Romans 12
[14] Bless them which persecute you: bless, and curse not.
[17] Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men.
[18] If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.
[21] Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Chapter Ten 2

                             The Book of Urizen
 
       We find the earliest organized statement of Blake's myth in a medium sized 
poem written in 1794. The Book of Urizen served as a prototype for 'The Four 
Zoas', which was to follow. It contains among other things a parody of Genesis. 
Blake found the orthodox doctrine of creation unsatisfying, as many people
have to this day, so he set out to present an alternative. He followed 'Paradise 

Lost' and the Gnostics in placing the Fall before Creation.
 
       In his myth the Fall of Man involved a fall in part of the divine nature and 
led to the creation of a fallen world. Such a Creation Story represents a 
sophistication of the elemental biblical one. P.L. is an obvious recreation of the 
Bible story, and B.U. is a recreation of P.L., beginning as a simple inversion.
 
       The doctrine of contraries, which we found in MHH, appears in B.U. in 
the form of two Eternals, Urizen and Los. The poem develops their careers in 
nine chapters. Following closely some of the Gnostic texts Urizen separates 
from the other Eternals, writes the Book of Brass, and declares himself God, 
whereupon he is shut out of Eternity and Los appointed his watchman 
(Chapters 1-3). Los confines Urizen with the limits of time and space and in 
"seven ages of dismal woe" binds him down into the five shriveled senses of 
the human body (Chapter 4).
 
       This frightful condition leads Los to pity, which divides his soul and 
results in the separation of his emanation, Enitharmon. Eternity shudders at 
this further breakup of Man into the sexual contraries. Even more shocking to 
the Eternals, Los begets his likeness on his own divided image. The Eternals 
shut out this fallenness from Eden, and Los becomes blind to Eternity  
(Chapter 6) Section 10. Los binds his son, Orc, with the Chain of Jealousy. 
Urizen explores his dens, discovers that no one can obey or keep his iron laws 
for one minute and that life lives upon death.
 
       There in barest outline is 'The Book of Urizen'. Volumes have been written 
to interpret it. At this point we note that Urizen, Orc (also called Luvah in 
later works), and Los emerge as the three principles of the psyche. In Jungian 
terms we would call them Reason, Feeling, and Intuition. With the addition of 
Tharmas, the body or Instinct, they make up the four Zoas of the complete 
myth. B.U. is the earliest sketch of their relationships, which form the primary 
subject matter of Blake's evolving myth until the critical moment when Jesus 
became All and Jerusalem his Bride.
 
       Keep in mind that here, as in later writings, Blake's poetry has many 
levels. We are especially interested in the cosmic and psychological levels, 
and the most compelling dimension of the psychological is the 
autobiographical. In B.U. as in all the prophecies Blake tells us a great deal 
about himself. He lived intensely in the spiritual realm; this means that 
visions, motifs, attitudes come and go with great rapidity. The poetry reveals 
to us the course of his life. At the same time sober reflection on his biography 
casts light on the dynamic evolution of the myth. The student might spend 
time with B.U. before tackling 4Z, for it gives in outline form much of the 
action of the larger poem. However Urizen is hard to understand, written 
before the complete vision of Blake's myth had crystallized in his mind;


Sunday, January 20, 2013

ASCENT OF THE SPIRIT

Metropolitan Museum
The Death of the Good Old Man
from The Grave, a Poem by Robert Blair
From Flicker
The Death of the Good Old Man
Watercolor original
 
When Blake created his image of the Resurrection of Christ he had to have been recalling his own experience of the ascent of his brother Robert's spirit as it left his body when he died. Blake was attuned to the spiritual world whose outlines were not obscured to his spiritual eye. The image of his beloved brother leaving his body and beginning his journey to the Father would have been indelibly imprinted on William's imagination. Having seen his brother's ascent he could picture the ascent of Jesus in a most convincing and inspiring way.







Peter Ackroyd comments in Blake: A Biography on Blake's continued ability to see visions into his adulthood:

"One early biographer has explained how 'the Scripture  overawed his imagination' - to such an extent that he saw it materialising around him. It is not an uncommon gift and one friend, George Richmond, commented in the margin of Gilchrist's Life, 'He said to me that all children saw "Visions" and that the substance of what he added is that all men might see them but for worldliness or unbelief, which blinds the spiritual eye.' " (Page  35)

Blake's first biographer Alexander Gilchrist in The Life of William Blake (1863), writes of the relationship of William and Robert Blake until they were physically but not spiritually parted by Robert's death: 

"With Blake and with his wife, at the print shop in Broad Street, Robert for two happy years and a half lived in seldom disturbed accord. Such domestications, however, always bring their own trials, their own demands for mutual self-sacrifice. Of which the following anecdote will supply a hint, as well as testify to much amiable magnanimity on the part of both the younger members of the household. One day, a dispute arose between Robert and Mrs. Blake. She, in the heat of discussion, used words to him, his brother (though a husband too) thought unwarrantable. A silent witness thus far, he could now bear it no longer, but with characteristic impetuosity— when stirred—rose and said to her: "Kneel down and beg Robert's pardon directly, or you never see my face again!" A heavy threat, uttered in tones which, from Blake, unmistakably showed it was meant. She, poor thing! "thought it very hard," as she would afterwards tell, to beg her brother-in-law's pardon when she was not in fault! But being a duteous, devoted wife, though by nature nowise tame or dull of spirit, she did kneel down and meekly murmur, "Robert, I beg your pardon, I am in the wrong." "Young woman, you lie !" abruptly retorted he : "/ am in the wrong!"



At the commencement of 1787, the artist's peaceful happiness was gravely disturbed by the premature death, in his twenty-fifth year, of this beloved brother: buried in Bunhill Fields the nth of February. Blake affectionately tended him in his illness, and during the last fortnight of it watched continuously day and night by his bedside, without sleep. When all claim had ceased with that brother's last breath, his own exhaustion showed itself in an unbroken sleep of three days' and nights' duration. The mean room of sickness had been to the spiritual man, as to him most scenes were, a place of vision and of revelation ; for Heaven lay about him still, in manhood, as In Infancy it "lies about us" all. At the last solemn moment, the visionary eyes beheld the released spirit ascend heavenward through the matter-of-fact ceiling, "clapping its hands for joy"—a truly Blake-like detail.
No wonder he could paint such scenes! With him they were work'y-day experiences."
(
Page 60)

Letters, to Hayley, May 6 1800, (E 705)   
"I know that  our
deceased friends are more really with us than when they were
apparent  to our mortal part.  Thirteen years ago.  I lost a
brother & with his spirit I  converse daily & hourly in the
Spirit.  & See him in my remembrance in the  regions of my
Imagination.  I hear his advice & even now write from his
Dictate--Forgive me for expressing to you my Enthusiasm which I
wish all to  partake of Since it is to me a Source of Immortal
Joy even in this world by it  I am the companion of Angels.  May
you continue to be so more & more & to  be more & more perswaded. 
that every Mortal loss is an Immortal Gain.  The  Ruins of Time
builds Mansions in Eternity"

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Chapter Ten


(From Chapter Ten of the Blake Primer)

       Blake was a highly symbolic poet (and painter); to understand much of his thought requires acquaintance with a body of symbols that go back to the dawn of civilization, and up to the 19th century. In an age when only the material seemed to matter Blake was (and continues to be) highly opaque to the pure materialist. Such a person will find most of Blake's ideas meaningless.
       But at the deepest level his ideas are the veritable stuff of life: love and hate, good and evil, life and death, and many ideas with urgent meaning. A high proportion of people prefer to turn aside from these questions, but you can be sure that their unconscious is full of them.
       Above all Blake is about matter and spirit, at the great dividing line: do you see yourself primarily as a body or as spirit?
       Begin with the conclusion, to be supported by an overwhelming body of evidence stretching from Heraclitus in the 6th century BC to the present:
       Our mortal life is a vale of tears to which we have lapsed from Eternity and from which we will (may?) eventually escape back into the Higher Realm. This myth conforms very closely to the Gnostics, the Platonists, and of course most of Eastern Religion. In the Christian tradition one can find vestiges of it in many of the mystics, notably Meister Eckhart, in Mexican folk culture and in fact universally.
       The western mind revolts from this "never-never land" at least on the conscious level, but Freud, Jung, and many other psychologists find strong evidence for it in the unconscious. At this point many readers may dismiss Blake's myth as not worth their attention.
       The select few who remain may rightfully expect an entirely new world of grace and enchantment to open before their minds. The biblically oriented may perceive that all Blake's poetic and artistic work fits into a scheme of cosmic/psychic meaning; closely following the Bible it describes the pattern of Paradise, the Fall, a gradual redemption, and the final Rapture.
       Understanding Blake's myth can be expedited by the study of Blake's women.



       A most significant key to Blake's symbolism came to light only in 1947 when Arlington Court was bequeathed to the British National Trust. Among the furnishings there was a large tempera by Blake, called alternatively The Sea of Time and Space or The Cave of the Nymphs. This treasure had been hidden from public eyes for a century.
       (Most of us are unlikely to see the original, but Blake and Antiquity by Kathleen Raine offers several glimpses of the picture with a detailed account of the symbols it contains. There is no better way to begin an understanding of Blake at the deeper level than to read carefully and study this small and accessible book.)
       The picture contains the essential symbolism of Blake's myth; the theme goes back to Homer, then to Plato and Porphyry. (To understand Blake's myth one would be well advised to study this link with care--at least the first part of Taylor's article.)
       Blake and Taylor were approximately the same age and as young men close friends. Many people think that Taylor introduced Blake to the Platonic and Neoplatonic traditions. It seems certain that Taylor's On the Homeric Cave of the Nymphs deeply influenced the painting of the Arlington Tempera. It also introduced a great number of the most common symbols used in Blake's myth; they were used over and over throughout Blake's work.

       Another good introduction to Blake's myth is The Marriage of Heaven and Hell. It comes from an angry young man pouring his scorn on the conventions that cripple us; the language is pungent, the words are pointed, provocative, and outrageous.
       A conventional person will find this whole work offensive and repulsive, but the young person at the stage of life where he's ready to kick over the traces, is quickly attracted-- if he has enough wit to understand irony and not take everything at face value.
       We might call it an ironic satire. In 1789 Blake was 32, at the height of his physical (though perhaps not mental) powers. He had experienced the Divine Vision.
       He knew it was meant for mankind, but so far limited to Jesus and a few others. But with the advent of the French Revolution he foresaw its spread throughout the world. (Of course in that he was soon doomed to disappointment-- with the appearance of Madame Guillotine.) Nevertheless with a peak of spiritual exuberance he proceeded to announce the coming New Age:
    The ancient tradition that the world will be consumed in fire at the end of six thousand years is true, as I have heard from Hell. For the cherub with his flaming sword is hereby commanded to leave his guard at the tree of life, and when he does, the whole creation will be consumed and appear infinite and holy whereas it now appears finite & corrupt.... If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is, infinite. For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things thro' narrow chinks of his cavern. (Plate 14)
       For this gem Blake drew upon Genesis and Plato.        Blake knew that the Divine Vision depended upon your ability to avert your eyes and attention from the material and to focus upon the Spiritual, the Eternal, which can only dwell in the Imagination (for Blake the Imagination was everything!). The society of Blake's day uniformly failed to do that, as does ours! Blake desperately, emphatically, and continuously endeavoured to awaken us to a spiritual consciousness, to break the 'mind forg'd manacles.
       Pursuant to this aim:
    How do you know but every bird that cuts the air Is an immense world of delight, clos'd by your senses five? (Plate 7; E35)
And look at Plate 13:
    I then asked Ezekiel. why he eat dung, & lay so long on his right & left side? he answered. the desire of raising other men into a perception of the Infinite. (E39|
       Back in 1788 with There is No Natural Religion he had disposed of a sense-based consciousness as any kind of arbiter of the meaning of life:
    Man's perceptions are not bounded by organs of perception. He percieves more than sense (tho' ever so acute) can discover.
       Look at Section VII of NNR. Reason or the ratio are his terms for comfining one's mental activity to the senses. And he thought less and less of it as he grew older. In notes on Vision of the Last Judgment he wrote:
       "I assert for myself that I do not behold the Outward Creation and that to me it is hindrance and not Action it is as the Dirt upon my feet No part of Me.
       "What it will be Question'd When the Sun rises do you not see a round Disk of fire somewhat like a Guinea? O no, no, I see an Innumerable company of the Heavenly host crying Holy Holy Holy is the Lord God Almighty."        On MHH (Plate 16 Blake tells us about the prolific (prophetic types, creative people who grasp the Eternal) and the devouring (those who worship the created good). Of course he counted himself among the prolific. Middleton Murry has pointed out that in this moment of the everlasting 'good-and-evil' in which we live Blake may have projected the 'evil' upon the public who had uniformly ignored him. Murry suggested that it was a necessary "moment in his life".
       If that be true, we have the record of the moment when Blake "came to himself" to the point where he confessed that his Selfhood continued to dominate him. He eventually came to realize that one cannot operate in the Sea of Time and Space without the Selfhood; thus he faced the necessity to continually annihilate and regenerate it with his alternation between Heaven and this vale of tears in which we live. (As Christians understand, the selfhood is brought into subjection and becomes the servant of the Self (Christ)).
       In Plate 24 he promised to the world the Bible of Hell. John Middleton Murry described it as follows:
The first book of these, The Book of Urizen , is to a large degree a parody of Genesis. The Book of Ahania corresponds precisely to Exodus. The third book is The Book of Los (1795).
       MHH was prior to Blake's myth proper, like a preamble or preface. It defines ideas and terms that are to be understood as the myth evolves, a special language you have to learn to get into the major works (The Four Zoas, Milton and Jerusalem. (A detailed treatment of Jerusalem concludes Chapter Eight.)
**************************************************
       Many people have called William Blake unique among English poets as the creator of a complete mythology. In a standard dictionary "without foundation in fact" appears as the fifth meaning of 'mythical', but this is probably what the term conveys in common parlance. Therefore we must begin our study of Blake's myth by raising our consciousness of the word. 'Logos', 'myth', 'epic'--these three words have a common root. In literary and theological language myths are statements about the non-material ultimate. Some people of course avoid the non-material, considering it to be "without foundation in fact"; it's doubtful that any such reader has endured to this point of our study.
       Blake considered the non-material to be the real; his art centered around the endeavour to express the reality of the non-material. The meaning of his entire artistic enterprise we may call his myth. His object was to fit all of experience into a total framework of meaning that will inform life and "to raise other people to a perception of the Infinite". Our object is to grasp that total framework; once we do that, we have a myth of meaning.
       With his story of the Prodigal Son Jesus gave us a personal paradigm of the history of the Chosen People and of the Human Race. A striking modern analogy, although not Blakean per se, is provided by the career of alcoholism: progressive deterioration until the sufferer hits bottom, followed by recovery. Blake did use as a recurring motif the story of Lazarus found in the Gospel of John. But the primary paradigm of this myth is the Incarnation, Crucifixion, Resurrection, and Ascension of Christ. However Blake did not express this, probably did not fully realize it, until 1800.
      The application of this fundamental myth is illustrated in Blake's major poetic works. The development of his epic can be traced through the various stages of his spiritual journey. In essence it's the same journey we all take; you could call it the history of Man. Blake called it the Circle of Destiny in Night 1 of The Four Zoas.