Blake seeks to provide the Golden String which can lead us through the labyrinth of our experience or his own poetry.

Monday, February 28, 2011

JOB & WHIRLWIND

The Book of Job was impressed on Blake's mind early in his career. In the 1780's he made wash drawings of Job in his misery. He offered a historical engraving (showing Job, his wife and his three accusers) of Job for sale in his Prospectus of 1793. When he had his rebirth into the light at the Truchsessian Gallery in 1804 he entered a period of producing watercolors from the Bible of an affirmative nature (The Resurrection, The Transfiguration, The Raising of Lazarus). Included among these is Job Confessing his Presumption to God who Answers from the Whirlwind which is a response to Chapters 37-42 of the Book of Job. Blake had moved from the scene of accusation to the scene of awareness and reconciliation.

Job.38
[1] Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind, and said,
[2] Who is this that darkeneth counsel by words without knowledge?
[3] Gird up now thy loins like a man; for I will demand of thee, and answer thou me.
[4] Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? declare, if thou hast understanding.
[5] Who hath laid the measures thereof, if thou knowest? or who hath stretched the line upon it?
[6] Whereupon are the foundations thereof fastened? or who laid the corner stone thereof;
[7] When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?
[8] Or who shut up the sea with doors, when it brake forth, as if it had issued out of the womb?

Job Confessing his Presumption to God who Answers from the Whirlwind, 1803-1805, National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh.

Job.42
[1] Then Job answered the LORD, and said,
[2] I know that thou canst do every thing, and that no thought can be withholden from thee.
[3] Who is he that hideth counsel without knowledge? therefore have I uttered that I understood not; things too wonderful for me, which I knew not.
[4] Hear, I beseech thee, and I will speak: I will demand of thee, and declare thou unto me.
[5] I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth thee.
[6] Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.

Thomas Butts followed up his commission for the biblical series with a request for a series of watercolors on the Book of Job. (1805-06) This set of images was copied by Blake 15 years later for John Linnell (1821). From the paintings a set of engravings, Illustrations to the Book of Job, was conceived by John Linnell as well. Blake began work on them in 1823 and they were printed by a conventional printer in the quantity of 150 sets in 1726. They represented the final project completed by Blake before his death in the next year.

Martin Butlin in the Tate publication William Blake, (page 98) states:
"In the last stage of the evolution of the designs, in some cases literally as they were being engraved, Blake added marginal designs with their texts which stress and add further subtleties to his own personal interpretation. The prints show Blake's engraving techniques at their height with a technical subtlety that that matches the richer and more sophisticated finish of his late paintings in tempera and watercolor."

Milton Klonsky in William Blake: The Seer and His Visions (page 131) writes:
"The quotations from Job and the outline engravings in the margins were added by Blake only after the illustrations themselves were completed. 'This decision,' declares Ruthven Todd, 'turned the series from just an important part of his life's work into a creation of almost unique grandeur.'"

The culmination of Blake's long association with the Book of Job, as he responded to the message of Job and interpreted it in visual images, was fitly climaxed by the publication of these 22 images.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

LINEAMENTS

As a tenet of Blake's theory of art, the idea that the outline or lineament was necessary to produce a good work of art, was the most important. He found fault with artists who did not use the technique of outlining the body in their images of human beings. Those familiar with other great artists may find this dictum strange. But Blake had his reason, as usual, related to his ideas of the spiritual being primary, the material secondary.

>From the definition of lineament in Webster's 1913 volume, we learn that lineament is:
"One of the outlines, exterior features, or distinctive marks, of a body or figure, particularly of the face; feature; form; mark;"

>WordNet suggests that lineament is "a characteristic property that defines the apparent individual nature of something."

>From a current usage of lineament in geology we learn that "A lineament is a linear feature in a landscape which is an expression of an underlying geological structure such as a fault."

Illustrations to Dante's Divine Comedy
Dante, Virgil, the Simoniac Pope
From Blake's usage it seems he was applying all of these understandings of the word. The outline presented the distinctive features of the object, but not just in an exterior sense. The very individual nature of the thing was inherent in the lineaments. The underlying structure became visible through the outline. Now we see why there is a spiritual dimension to portraying faces, insects, trees, serpents or bodies as outlined; to assist us in seeing not 'with but through the eye.'

Blake on outline and lineament:

Annotations to Reynolds, p 178, (E 657)
"What does Precision of Pencil mean? If it does not mean Outline it means Nothing"

A Descriptive Catalogue of Blake's Exhibition, Number XV, (E 549):
"When Mr. B. formerly painted in oil colours his Pictures were shewn to certain painters and connoisseurs, who said that they were very admirable Drawings on canvass; but not Pictures: but they said the same of Rafael's Pictures. [P 63] Mr. B. thought this the greatest of compliments, though it was meant otherwise. If losing and obliterating the outline constitutes a Picture, Mr. B. will never be so foolish as to do one. Such art of losing the outlines is the art of Venice and Flanders; it loses all character, and leaves what some people call, expression: but this is a false notion of expression; expression cannot exist without character as its stamina; and neither character nor expression can exist without firm and determinate outline."

A Descriptive Catalogue of Blake's Exhibition, Number XV, (E 550)
"How do we distinguish the oak from the beech, the horse from the ox, but by the bounding outline? How do we distinguish one face or countenance from another, but by the bounding line and its infinite inflexions and movements? What is it that builds a house and plants a garden, but the definite and determinate? What is it that distinguishes honesty from knavery, but the hard and wirey line of rectitude and certainty [P 65] in the actions and intentions. Leave out this l[i]ne and you leave out life itself; all is chaos again, and the line of the almighty must be drawn out upon it before man or beast can exist."

Jerusalem, Plate 73, (E 229)
"The Sons of Albion are Twelve: the Sons of Jerusalem Sixteen
I tell how Albions Sons by Harmonies of Concords & Discords
Opposed to Melody, and by Lights & Shades, opposed to Outline
And by Abstraction opposed to the Visions of Imagination"

Milton, PLATE 21 [23], (E 115)
"But I knew not that it was Milton, for man cannot know
What passes in his members till periods of Space & Time
Reveal the secrets of Eternity: for more extensive
Than any other earthly things, are Mans earthly lineaments."

Milton, Plate 32, (E 132)
"Judge then of thy Own Self: thy Eternal Lineaments explore
What is Eternal & what Changeable? & what Annihilable!"

Modern science tells us that the brain has structures activated very early in life which give us the ability to recognize faces. This ability could be related to the ability to discern lineament as characteristic of underlying identity or spiritual nature.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

PROSPECTUS 1793

By the age of 36, Blake had produced a body of work which he wished to exhibit to the public and offer for sale. He devised this prospectus which reveals much about his circumstances, his methods, and his self evaluation as well as the works he had for sale.

[Prospectus], (E 692)
TO THE PUBLIC October 10, 1793.

"The Labours of the Artist, the Poet, the Musician, have been proverbially attended by poverty and obscurity; this was never the fault of the Public, but was owing to a neglect of means to propagate such works as have wholly absorbed the Man of Genius. Even Milton and Shakespeare could not publish their own works.
This difficulty has been obviated by the Author of the following productions now presented to the Public; who has invented a method of Printing both Letter-press and Engraving in a style more ornamental, uniform, and grand, than any before discovered, while it produces works at less than one fourth of the expense.
If a method of Printing which combines the Painter and the Poet is a phenomenon worthy of public attention, provided that it exceeds in elegance all former methods, the Author is sure of his reward.
Mr. Blake's powers of invention very early engaged the attention of many persons of eminence and fortune; by whose means he has been regularly enabled to bring before the Public works (he is not afraid to say) of equal magnitude and consequence with the productions of any age or country: among which are two large highly finished engravings (and two more are nearly ready) which will commence a Series of subjects from the Bible, and another from the History of England.
The following are the Subjects of the several Works now
published and on Sale at Mr. Blake's, No. 13, Hercules Buildings,
Lambeth.

1. Job, a Historical Engraving. Size 1 ft.7 1/2 in. by 1ft. 2 in.: price 12 s.
2. Edward and Elinor, a Historical Engraving. Size 1 ft. 6 1/2 in. by 1 ft.: price 10s. 6d.
3. America, a Prophecy, in Illuminated Printing. Folio, with 18 designs: price 10s. 6d.
4. Visions of the Daughters of Albion, in Illuminated Printing. Folio, with 8 designs, price 7s. 6d.
5. The Book of Thel, a Poem in Illuminated Printing. Quarto, with 6 designs, price 3s.
6. The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, in Illuminated Printing. Quarto, with 14 designs, price 7s. 6d.
7. Songs of Innocence, in Illuminated Printing. Octavo, with 25 designs, price 5s.
8. Songs of Experience, in Illuminated Printing. Octavo, with 25 designs, price 5s.
9. The History of England, a small book of Engravings. Price 3s.
10. The Gates of Paradise, a small book of Engravings. Price 3s.

The Illuminated Books are Printed in Colours, and on the most beautiful wove paper that could be procured,
No Subscriptions for the numerous great works now in hand are asked, for none are wanted; but the Author will produce his works, and offer them to sale at a fair price."
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Tiriel led by Hela
Not included in list of items for sale are his two initial books All Religions are One and There is No Natural Religion which were his first experiments with illuminated manuscripts, and Tiriel his first prophetic manuscript for which he made illustrations which were never engraved.

Blake was ambitious and energetic in devising a way to combine his text and images, in originating new ways to print the materials he was inventing, and in producing books and paintings to sell to the public. His willingness to produce works with popular appeal was limited. His advertising strategy seems to have been unproductive. Failure to produce enough income to continue his artistic pursuits contributed to his decision to leave Lambeth and move to Felpham under the patronage of Hayley which he did in 1800.

Friday, February 25, 2011

JUSTICE & MERCY

THE MARRIAGE of HEAVEN and HELL, Plate 3, (E 34):
"Without Contraries is no progression. Attraction and
Repulsion, Reason and Energy, Love and Hate, are necessary to Human existence."

In the passage below we see the contraries at work personified in Los and Albion. What I see here is Los being forced into contrary positions by Albion's behavior. 'Albion sat...Brooding on evil'.

Albion was trapped in a self destructive mental state from which he could not extricate himself. Albion accuses Los and makes demands. Los' opposition begins the breaking down of the intractable disease with with Albion was afflicted. Albion begins to reflect on the consequences of his misguided decisions.

Milton, PLATE 42 (E 189)
"Thus Albion sat, studious of others in his pale disease:
Brooding on evil: but when Los opend the Furnaces before him:
He saw that the accursed things were his own affections,
And his own beloveds: then he turn'd sick! his soul died within
him
Also Los sick & terrified beheld the Furnaces of Death
And must have died, but the Divine Saviour descended
Among the infant loves & affections, and the Divine Vision wept
Like evening dew on every herb upon the breathing ground

Albion spoke in his dismal dreams: O thou deceitful friend
Worshipping mercy & beholding thy friend in such affliction:
Los! thou now discoverest thy turpitude to the heavens.
I demand righteousness & justice. O thou ingratitude!
Give me my Emanations back[,] food for my dying soul!
My daughters are harlots! my sons are accursed before me.
Enitharmon is my daughter: accursed with a fathers curse!
O! I have utterly been wasted! I have given my daughters to
devils

So spoke Albion in gloomy majesty, and deepest night
Of Ulro rolld round his skirts from Dover to Cornwall."

Albion in his self righteous desire to be the object of mercy forces Los to direct his mercy to those whom Albion may harm, rejecting Albions pleas. Albion by not showing mercy, forces cruelty on Los. Albion demanded righteousness and justice for himself with no thought for the harm that his failures were causing others. Albion could not be healed of his sickness by being affirmed in the symptoms he was displaying. (Think of the alcoholic and the enabler.) Los provided the contraries so that progress might take place.

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

In this little tableau contrariness was the result as well as the cause of progress. Error has not been removed but progress is being made in recognizing and defining it. The process must continue because 'One Error not remov'd, will destroy a human Soul."

'Why should Punishment Weave the Veil with Iron Wheels of War When Forgiveness might it Weave with Wings of Cherubim' Jerusalem, Plate 22
,

Thursday, February 24, 2011

CONTRARIES & NEGATIONS

As a subtitle to Songs of Innocence and Of Experience, Blake used these words: Shewing the Two Contrary States of the Human Soul. Among the contraries with which Blake was concerned were innocence/experience, pity/wrath, reason/energy, justice/mercy, male/female, active/passive and joy/woe. These pairs of qualities which appear to be in opposition to each other are not mutual enemies but are contraries set against each other by faulty reasoning. They are meant to cooperate with and complement each other; they form pairs in tension to create movement.

Image from Jerusalem, Plate 26,
Hand as the Reasoning Spectre and Jerusalem as Liberty

Marriage of Heaven and Hell, Plate 3, (E 34)
"Without Contraries is no progression. Attraction and
Repulsion, Reason and Energy, Love and Hate, are necessary to
Human existence.
From these contraries spring what the religious call Good &
Evil. Good is the passive that obeys Reason[.] Evil is the active
springing from Energy.
Good is Heaven. Evil is Hell."

Carl Jung focused attention on reconciling opposites within the process of individuation. He is quoted here in Claire Dunne's book Carl Jung: Wounded Healer of the Soul. (Page 89)

"By bearing the opposites we can expose ourselves to life in our humanity... We have to realize the evil is in us; we have to risk life to get into life, then it takes on color, otherwise we might as well read a book....
The opus consists of three parts; insight, endurance and action. It is conflicts of duty that make endurance and action so difficult. The one must exist and so must the other. There is no resolution, only patient endurance of the opposites, which ultimately spring from your own nature. You yourself are a conflict that rages in and against itself in order to melt its incompatible substances, the male and female, in the fire of suffering and thus create that fixed and unalterable form which is the goal of life.... We are crucified between the opposites and delivered up to the torture until the reconciling third takes shape." (from letter to Olga Forbe-Kapteyn)
Dunne comments:
The 'reconciling third' that appears in the innermost nucleus of the psyche, the organizing center that includes the ego but is not defined by it, a transpersonal, transcendent reality that Jung called the Self. The encounter with the Self is a centering which brings about a completion of the individuation process.
... Whatever the symbol, its meaning is wholeness, totality."

To Blake this 'reconciling third' was the realization that 'Contraries mutually exist'; that neither side of the coin could be negated or eliminated. 'Negations' (like hindering) had no life of their own but sucked life from what the attempted to suppress. Blake name several 'negations' in this passage; he could have lumped them together into the Spectre. To give the Spectre an external existence gives it power. To recognize it as part of oneself sets one free from its dominion and frees the contraries to be part of a totality.

Jerusalem, Plate 17, (E 161)
"Negations are not Contraries: Contraries mutually Exist:
But Negations Exist Not: Exceptions & Objections & Unbeliefs
Exist not: nor shall they ever be Organized for ever & ever:
If thou separate from me, thou art a Negation: a meer
Reasoning & Derogation from Me, an Objecting & cruel Spite
And Malice & Envy: but my Emanation, Alas! will become
My Contrary: O thou Negation, I will continually compell
Thee to be invisible to any but whom I please, & when
And where & how I please, and never! never! shalt thou be
Organized
But as a distorted & reversed Reflexion in the Darkness
And in the Non Entity: nor shall that which is above

Ever descend into thee: but thou shalt be a Non Entity for ever "

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

BREAD & WINE

Matthew 6:28
"Consider the lilies, how they grow: they toil not, neither do they spin; yet I say unto you, Even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God doth so clothe the grass in the field, which to-day is, and to-morrow is cast into the oven; how much more shall he clothe you, O ye of little faith? And seek not ye what ye shall eat, and what ye shall drink, neither be ye of doubtful mind. For all these things do the nations of the world seek after: but your Father knoweth that ye have need of these things. Yet seek ye his kingdom, and these things shall be added unto you. Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom."

When I read this passage prosaically, it is hard to accept because I know rationally that everything is not provided for in the natural world. There are those who go hungry and who suffer needs of all sorts. When I first heard these words sung I recognized them as poetry. Then they spoke to me at a different level. I knew they spoke of a deeper aspect of God's provision. I knew that God's love is all encompassing, and that we need to look from a God's eye view to see that God provides for out every need.


A view of necessities: The Piper
Songs of Innocence, Frontispiece


In this letter to his friend Anna Flaxman, Blake who often suffered need because there was little market for his art, indicates that God provides the true necessities - 'The Bread of sweet Thought' and the 'Wine of Delight.' His mind and his spirit were adequately provided for even in times when his body suffered from deprivation.


Letters, "To my dear Friend Mrs Anna Flaxman" (E 709)
"The Bread of sweet Thought & the Wine of Delight
Feeds the Village of Felpham by day & by night
And at his own door the blessd Hermit does stand
Dispensing Unceasing to all the whole Land
W. BLAKE"

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

BLAKE'S EVE

Much of what goes on in Blake's myth can be seen as chain reactions. Each change which occurs results in more changes which eventually create an explosive situation.

We see in this passage that Orc and the Shadowy Female had drawn Urizen down into Generation where he entered the state Satan, the state which is opaque to the vision of the infinite. Enitharmon, her heart touched by the situation, visited the material world which was developing but returned to Los and Eternity at will.

The Female Space if it becomes created, rather than remaining a possibility, withers the perceptive abilities exercised in Eternity to the five limited senses through which only a fraction of Eternity is perceptible. The Female (material) Space appears infinite to itself although it is less than a speck compared to Eternity.

Satan brings the space into being and it becomes Canaan (an image of the ideal) the training ground for the return to Eternity.

Milton, PLATE 10 [11], (E 104)
"Then Los & Enitharmon knew that Satan is Urizen

Drawn down by Orc & the Shadowy Female into Generation
Oft Enitharmon enterd weeping into the Space, there appearing
An aged Woman raving along the Streets (the Space is named
Canaan) then she returnd to Los weary frighted as from dreams

The nature of a Female Space is this: it shrinks the Organs
Of Life till they become Finite & Itself seems Infinite.

And Satan vibrated in the immensity of the Space! Limited
To those without but Infinite to those within: it fell down and
Became Canaan: closing Los from Eternity in Albions Cliffs
A mighty Fiend against the Divine Humanity mustring to War"

The world of generation has been set in motion and humanity has been granted free will to fall or rise according to his limited perceptions of his light of truth.

Jerusalem, Plate 13, ( E 156)
(But whatever is visible to the Generated Man,
Is a Creation of mercy & love, from the Satanic Void.)

Jerusalem, Plate 42, (E 189)
"There is a limit of Opakeness, and a limit of Contraction;
In every Individual Man, and the limit of Opakeness,
Is named Satan: and the limit of Contraction is named Adam.
But when Man sleeps in Beulah, the Saviour in mercy takes
Contractions Limit, and of the Limit he forms Woman: That
Himself may in process of time be born Man to redeem"

Included in the merciful agenda to return man to Eternity, Eve is formed from Adam, the one becomes two. Duality becomes manifest in the flesh as man and woman. But the world of generation initiated by Adam and Eve would lead to the birth of Jesus the incarnation, spirit and flesh reunited.

Jerusalem, Plate 31 [35]
Blake's view is that with the appearance of Jesus, a man had been found to sacrifice himself for Satan and so redemption had been accomplished. However the message of forgiveness, self-sacrifice and Christ within, was subverted by the Female Will - materiality. So the world of generation came under the influence of the church of this world, and eighteen hundred years of Enitharmon's perverted joy ensued. Now the eighteen hundred years have become two thousand years and man has not yet claimed the gift that Jesus offers - oneness with God and brotherhood among men. 
.

Monday, February 21, 2011

ENITHARMON & LOS

Each of the Four Zoas seems to have constant problems with his Emanation/wife/Anima. Tharmas endlessly follows his wife Enion who has withdrawn from him and continually flees. Urizen expels his wife Ahania because she confronts him with unpleasant truth. Luvah's wife Vala thwarts and obscures all he tries to do. Los the regent for Urthona, has a mixed relationship with Enitharmon, his sister/wife who is the only Emanation to take on mortal, vegetated form (Damon, page 124.)

A reason for the Emanations causing trouble for their males may be that they see themselves as having been 'dealt weak hands.' They compensate by attempting to dominate by underhanded techniques, such as jealousy, withholding affection, withdrawing, secrecy, allying with the enemy and other devious methods.

The weakness of the positions of the Emanations results from their being associated with materiality. For Blake spirituality is the ideal state, the goal toward which all activity should lead. Unfortunately the route to the spiritual must go through the material. So the Emanations represent aspects of materiality through which man must pass as he recovers from the fall which divided him and separated him from Eternity. As aspects of a struggle, the Emanations are the means of gaining experience.

Enitharmon and Los
On Plate 85 of Jerusalem, Blake incorporates a picture of Los and Enitharman working together, a pleasant enough scene until we look more closely. Notice the sun, a male symbol, on Enitharmon's side of the picture; the moon a female symbol on Los's side. The two characters look in opposite directions (division), and Enitharmon has her back turned to us (secrecy.) The vines which Enitharmon holds are attached to Los in the area of heart and loins. Los's star is traveling away from him rather than toward him. Their knees are touching so there is still communication. Los, time, and Enitharmon, space, are intended to work together but they are at cross purposes. She wants to extend in space expanding materiality; he to foster spirituality as a function of time or prophecy.

Percival, in Circle of Destiny has this to say about the masculine and feminine relationship: "'Mental things alone are real' - this is the basic Blakean philosophy. Nature must be explained by man, body by soul. Form is the gift of inspiration. Moral good emanates spontaneously from brotherhood. The spiritual life, however you look at it, is rooted firmly in the energetic masculine. The unspiritual life is built upon the passive feminine."

The differences between Los and Enitharmon are overcome. From Percival again: "Deliverance will come only when the feminine emotions forego their separate identity as Good, and become the spontaneous expression of the imaginative mind."

Near the end of the Four Zoas we find Los and Enitharmon, not at odds but together pursuing the work of Eternity:

The Four Zoas, Eighth Night, Page 114, (E385):

"And Los & Enitharmon took the Body of the Lamb Down from the Cross & placd it in a Sepulcher which Los had hewn For himself in the Rock of Eternity trembling & in despair Jerusalem wept over the Sepulcher two thousand Years"
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Sunday, February 20, 2011

COLLECTIVE UNCONSCIOUS

Blake seems to have unusual access to the unconscious world. Like a spring of living water it welled up into his consciousness in the form of images which he translated for us into words and pictures. Like the description Blake gives of Eternity as an ever active interchange of a multitude of super-sensory movements, the unconscious is a reservoir for the imagination.
Four Zoas, Page 21, (E 310)
Then those in Great Eternity met in the Council of God
As one Man for contracting their Exalted Sense

They behold Multitude or Expanding they behold as one
As One Man all the Universal family & that one Man
They call Jesus the Christ & they in him & he in them
Live in Perfect harmony in Eden the land of life
Consulting as One Man above the Mountain of Snowdon Sublime

Jerusalem, Plate 88, (E 246)
"When in Eternity Man converses with Man they enter
Into each others Bosom (which are Universes of delight)
In mutual interchange. and first their Emanations meet
Surrounded by their Children. if they embrace & comingle
The Human Four-fold Forms mingle also in thunders of Intellect
But if the Emanations mingle not; with storms & agitations
Of earthquakes & consuming fires they roll apart in fear
For Man cannot unite with Man but by their Emanations
Which stand both Male & Female at the Gates of each Humanity"

In her book of essays on the basis of poetic expression, Defending Ancient Springs, Kathleen Raine looks for the common sources which illumine the poets. In this passage Raine in speaking of the collective unconscious which can speak to us in dreams and visions connecting our minds through the image world which we all share. (Page 114)

"Jung came nearer than did Freud to the traditional doctrine, as taught by those alchemists, Gnostics, and neo-Platonists whom he himself took for masters; for he realized that dreams do not so much conceal as embody meaning, and that this comes from their source within the psyche - or beyond it - normally inaccessible to the waking mind. Not all dreams come from the same level; and besides the personal elements recognized by Freud, Jung, was led to believe in what he calls a 'collective unconscious' because it is so as a rule, though at times accessible to consciousness. This is the ancient anima mundi, the soul of the world, whose images at times, waking or in dreams, we behold with amazement, so beautiful and so fraught with meaning do these appear. Because this world is not personal but common to all, its symbols are intrinsically intelligible as Freud's symbols from the personal unconscious are not.
...
The symbolic images come, of necessity, from the perceptible world; for this world is, in the nature of things, and unalterably, the 'given', inseparable from our human nature as incarnate beings; all the knowledge of the soul must come to it in terms of this world of embodiment - that is to say in symbolic form. Truly understood the entire world is one great symbol, imparting, in a sacramental manner, by outward and visible signature, an inward and spiritual essence."

This passage may intimate a way Blake reacted to placing his interior visions into outward forms:

Europe, Plate 1, (E 61)
"Ah mother Enitharmon!
Stamp not with solid form this vig'rous progeny of fires.

I bring forth from my teeming bosom myriads of flames.
And thou dost stamp them with a signet, then they roam abroad
And leave me void as death:
Ah! I am drown'd in shady woe, and visionary joy."

Blake seemed to have paid a price for transforming vision to poetry and images.


Illustration to Edward Young's Night Thoughts
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Here is the link to Kathleen Raine's video speaking about Blake and imagination.
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Friday, February 18, 2011

WOUNDED HEALER

Blake began producing a set of illustrations to Dante's Divine Comedy for Linnell in 1824. Work continued until Blake's death in 1827. Blake left a total of 102 designs in various stages of completion, including only 7 which had been engraved and made ready for printing. Blake had no great sympathy for Dante's religion or theology and made known his disagreements in various ways in the pictures and in notes which accompanied them.

One picture from the series provides a fitting illustration for an idea which I introduced in my last post - that of the wounded healer. At one point Dante is provided some guidance through Hell by someone other than Virgil. The Centaur Chiron in canto xii is given charge of Dante and turns him over to another Centaur, Nessus, to pass through a battlefield like the one on which Dante himself had once fought and to cross the river of boiling blood in which the violent were punished

You can learn more about Chiron at this website.
"Chiron symbolizes our experience of pain, alienation and woundedness, and is therefore connected to suffering in one form or another. In mythology, the centaur Chiron sustained a wound that never healed and he was said to have suffered unceasingly from it. And yet, it was this suffering that drove him to search for relief, and that search brought him the knowledge, wisdom and experience that expanded his knowledge about healing. This enabled him to counsel, teach and heal others, earning himself the label of the Wounded Healer. And it was through an act of compassionate negotiation that he was finally relieved of his suffering, by trading his life for Prometheus' freedom from torturous punishment."

We may expect Blake to picture Chiron wholly sympathetically but we see he has drawn a Chiron with horns on his head. The Centaurs were the punishers of those who have engaged in violence toward their neighbors. Blake presented the image to express his own opposition to violence in which Chiron was heavily involved. The old task of reconciling contraries forever raises its head: Chiron both was wounded and a healer, both was a warrior and reconciler. Contraries were expressed within Blake himself by his illustrating the Inferno which has no existence in his own system of thought. The inferno in Blake was not Hell but the furnace of Los into which ideas where thrown to be consumed as dross or refined as gold.

Blake's agile mind constantly sought ways to interact with the intellects of others; the wars he fought were intellectual wars. Dante was a worthy opponent.

Jerusalem, PLATE 34 [38],(E 180)
"Our wars are wars of life, & wounds of love,
With intellectual spears, & long winged arrows of thought:"
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Thursday, February 17, 2011

FURNACES OF LOS


The furnaces of Los seem to represent the difficulties of gaining experience as psychological processes are undergone to transform divided minds into unified minds. Entering the furnaces is not done willingly because it is expected to be painful.

One of the processes of creating Blake's engravings is metaphoric of the smelting process in the furnace. On the copper plates Blake drew his text and images with a varnish which was resistant to acid. The prepared plates were dipped in acid to remove the uncoated surfaces which would not be holding ink. The furnaces are the acid bath which remove from the psyche the accumulated prejudices, misapprehensions, unfounded fears, unresolved projections, and other unfinished business that can be dissolved to reveal the outlines of identity. Los undertakes the operation of the furnaces as Blake undertakes the production of his engraving, to provide a process of construction through destruction.

In reading from Plate 9 of Jerusalem, (E 152)I was struck by these words:
"I lifted them into my Furnaces; to form the spiritual sword.
That lays open the hidden heart:"

A passage from the book of Hebrews seems to echo the import of these phrases:

Phillips NT, Hebrews 4:12
"For the Word that God speaks is alive and active; it cuts more keenly than any two-edged sword: it strikes through to the place where soul and spirit meet, to the innermost intimacies of a man's being: it exposes the very thoughts and motives of a man's heart. No creature has any cover from the sight of God; everything lies naked and exposed before the eyes of him with whom we have to do."

Blake of course is not explicit in referring to Hebrews or in identifying the purpose of the furnaces with the activities of the Holy Spirit. But reading in Hebrews of the sword which strikes to the inmost heart, I associate the passage with Blake's words. It becomes clear that the process in the furnaces may be for the purpose of stripping one naked as one is in the sight of God who sees everything as it is. Then we will see as we are seen. (I Corinthians 13:12)

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

OEDIPUS & ALBION

Margaret J Downes has written a very informative article comparing the characters Albion in Blake's Jerusalem, and Oedipus in Sophocles' Oedipus at Colones. She has delineated many parallels in the experience of the two and finalizes her article with a statement of the roles which each attempted to express for the benefit of their societies:

"That is, both protagonists gladly sacrifice the visible, empirical entity of self for the higher, invisible, metaphorical, and bonded entity of self-and-other. Albion's and Oedipus' pilgrimages toward selfless love and their faith in their ability to transmit this renewing, cleansing, and protective love to society through a blessing are the focal points of the two dramas."

Jerusalem, Plate 76



I find it interesting that in this interpretation Oedipus and Albion both assume the role of the 'wounded healer' with which many associate Jesus through the passage in Isaiah 53. You may be familiar with the words through hearing or singing Handle's Messiah.




Isaiah 53

[5] But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.

[8] He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken.

[12] Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he hath poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.

Mark 15

[28] And the scripture was fulfilled, which saith, And he was numbered with the transgressors.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

EDEN & GENERATION

Saturated as was Blake's mind with the thought of Milton, his writings and paintings are permeated with Milton's ideas. Blake painted three sets of illustrations to Milton's Paradise Lost - one each for his supporters Butts, Thomas and Linnell. In Book 5 the Archangel Raphael is sent by God to warn Adam and Eve of the threat that Satan poses. Book 7 of Paradise Lost recounts the Biblical story of creation as told to Adam by Raphael. The Genesis account is embellished with the fall of Lucifer which is not included in the Bible. In Book 8 Adam narrates to Raphael the aspects of creation which took place after his own creation.

Book 5 - Raphael warns Adam and
Eve about Satan



This illustration for Book 5 represents the warning. The idyllic world as pictured has not been disturbed, but symbols of division (or contraries) are manifest: the lion and the lamb, the horse and the peacock. The tree bears its tempting fruit and the Serpent has made his appearance.

The scene is set for the fall which leads to Blake's world of Generation: Los' world, our world.


The world in which we live is meant to be the path through experience by which fallen man can return to consciousness of the Eternal. Blake's world of Generation affords fallen man the opportunity to realize the incarnation and return to Eden as a new being. The path through generation is not easy but this is where man finds himself. The outcome should be regeneration. Blake's progression is from innocence through experience to Eternity. He offers many levels, many gates and many paths. Only the destination is single - the return to Eternity. This can be reached any time (because it is not in time) by its realization - which he calls the Last Judgment:

Vision of the Last Judgment, (E 562)
"Thus My Picture is a
History of Art & Science [& /its/] Which is Humanity itself. What are all the Gifts of the
Spirit but Mental Gifts whenever any Individual Rejects Error &
Embraces Truth a Last Judgment passes upon that Individual"

Many people understand the Biblical Garden of Eden as an idealized material world with a creator God who is outside of creation; with man being given 'dominion' over the animals; and with man walking with an external God in the cool of the evening. Blake's Eden was the state of mind in which the vision of God was not obscured. William Blake's personal goal was to spend as much time in Eden as possible. To transcend to fourfold vision - the ability to perceive the Infinite - was his supreme delight. But to him Eden meant more than vision it also meant creative energy, forgiveness, brotherhood and the oneness of wholeness. Eden to Blake was an internal not an external experience.

MILTON: BOOK THE SECOND, PLATE 30 [33], (E 129)
"Beulah is evermore Created around Eternity; appearing
To the Inhabitants of Eden, around them on all sides.
But Beulah to its Inhabitants appears within each district
As the beloved infant in his mothers bosom round incircled
With arms of love & pity & sweet compassion. But to
The Sons of Eden the moony habitations of Beulah,
Are from Great Eternity a mild & pleasant Rest."

Jerusalem, Plate 12, (E 156)
"fourfold,
The great City of Golgonooza: fourfold toward the north
And toward the south fourfold, & fourfold toward the east & west
Each within other toward the four points: that toward
Eden, and that toward the World of Generation,
And that toward Beulah, and that toward Ulro:
Ulro is the space of the terrible starry wheels of Albions sons:
But that toward Eden is walled up, till time of renovation:
Yet it is perfect in its building, ornaments & perfection.

Jerusalem, PLATE 34 [38],(E 179)
"Turning from Universal Love petrific as he [Albion] went,
His cold against the warmth of Eden rag'd with loud
Thunders of deadly war (the fever of the human soul)
Fires and clouds of rolling smoke! but mild the Saviour follow'd
him,"

Monday, February 14, 2011

BIBLE IN MILTON

Few people are as familiar with the Bible as was Blake. He included Biblical references innumerable times throughout his work as a way of packing symbols together for the reader to unpack as he journeys through the dense imagery.

The extent of biblical knowledge which went into producing the following section of Milton is demonstrated by Harold Bloom in this introduction (page xii) to Bloom's Classic Critical Views: William Blake. Bloom's attention is focused on the confrontation between Urizen and Milton beside the brook Arnon.

Milton, Plate 19 [21], (E 112)
"Urizen emerged from his Rocky Form & from his Snows,

And he also darkend his brows: freezing dark rocks between
The footsteps. and infixing deep the feet in marble beds:
That Milton labourd with his journey, & his feet bled sore
Upon the clay now chang'd to marble; also Urizen rose,
And met him on the shores of Arnon; & by the streams of the
brooks

Silent they met, and silent strove among the streams, of Arnon
Even to Mahanaim, when with cold hand Urizen stoop'd down
And took up water from the river Jordan: pouring on
To Miltons brain the icy fluid from his broad cold palm.
But Milton took of the red clay of Succoth, moulding it with care
Between his palms: and filling up the furrows of many years
Beginning at the feet of Urizen, and on the bones
Creating new flesh on the Demon cold, and building him,
As with new clay a Human form in the Valley of Beth Peor."

Bloom who wrote the commentary for The Complete Poetry & Prose of William Blake edited by David V. Erdman makes this statement:

"This magnificent passage does assume the reader's knowledge of some crucial biblical references. The Arnon is a river flowing westward into the Dead Sea and dividing off the Trans-Jordan lands of the Israelites from Moab. Numbers 21:14 associates the Arnon and the Red Sea, by which the Israelites escaped the deadly bondage of Egypt. The Arnon in Blake has the same significance, as Milton Percival observes, for through it one passes from the body of death into the generative body, from Urizenic law to the sacrifice of Luvah for man. Mahanaim (Genesis 32:2) is where Jacob wrestled with God until he had secured a blessing and the name of Israel. Succoth is where Jacob went afterwards, to build a house and booths (Genesis 33:17), the booths giving the place its name, and associating the story with the harvest festival, where four plants represent four classes of men united as one man in worship. Beth Peor is the burial place of Moses in the land of Moab. Drawing all this together and applying it to Blake's passage, we suddenly behold the audacity and clarity with which Blake had molded his sources.

Urizen fears that Milton is coming to overthrow his laws, for Milton began by taking off the robe and ungriding himself from the oath of Urizen-Jehovah's covenant with Moses. So Urizen goes forth to battle, turning the warm clay Milton walks on to freezing and purgatorial marble. They meet and wrestle, two silent and mighty champions, on the shores of Arnon, the body of law striving with the human form divine. Their struggle is like the wrestling of Jehovah and Jacob, except that Milton will not repeat Jacob's mistake, he wants to reform God, and not just extract a blessing for himself.
As the battle continues, Urizen attempts an icy intellectual baptism of Milton with Jordan water, but Milton fights back by taking the Adamic red clay of Succothe, emblem of a human harvest from the same valley where the body of Moses or Urizenic law is forever buried. Milton's activity is artistic and gives the sculptor's gift of life, of red flesh to cold marble, making God into a Man, Urizen into Adam.

This extraordinary struggle attains an apotheosis in one on Blake's superb condensations on intellectual strife transmuted into saving metaphor."

IMAGE: Jerusalem, Plate 45

Milton, Plate 21 [23], (E 115)
"But Milton entering my Foot; I saw in the nether
Regions of the Imagination; also all men on Earth,
And all in Heaven, saw in the nether regions of the Imagination
In Ulro beneath Beulah, the vast breach of Miltons descent.
But I knew not that it was Milton, for man cannot know
What passes in his members till periods of Space & Time
Reveal the secrets of Eternity: for more extensive
Than any other earthly things, are Mans earthly lineaments.

And all this Vegetable World appeard on my left Foot,
As a bright sandal formd immortal of precious stones & gold:
I stooped down & bound it on to walk forward thro' Eternity."

Bloom : "I offer this as an epitome of Blake's unique greatness. Few passages in Western poetry equal this in originality and soul-arousing eloquence."

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Sunday, February 13, 2011

GIVE BODY TO IDEAS

I ended an earlier post by saying: "The picture I get is that Jesus, Newton, Blake, the Creator and Urizen shared the same instrument (the compass) as well as some of the same activity. That activity was giving body to ideas."
Here is the passage from Northrup Frye' s Fearful Symmetry (Page 267) about giving body to ideas.

"The artist does not use natural images to clothe his ideas so much as to give body to them. An abstract idea is a spectre, a collapsing skeleton; a concrete image has flesh and blood. Hence the rather violent image of woven bodies which Blake employs in this context: from the skeleton's point of view it is rather difficult to say whether the flesh is body or clothing.
In making the familiar intelligible, in imposing a permanent vision on the flux of time, the artist creates a body out of nature which has a mental form. He thereby teaches us to see, in the small part of mystery which he has made coherent, the image, that is, the form of reality, of a universal coherence; he suggests, in other words, that if his natural body is a mental form, then the entire body of nature, from atoms to stars, may also be form of the human mind, if the imagination could get hold of it. Our fallen senses hollow out a tiny grotto in a boundless stretch of mystery, and this grotto is our home. But the center of the real universe is wherever we happen to be, and its circumference the limit of the radius of our experience. In the perspective of the awakened mind, the radius of of our experience is the universe, and art reveals to the senses of distant contact, eyesight and hearing, a universal home or Paradise which is ready for us to inhabit."
Jerusalem, Plate 92, (E 252)
"Los answerd swift as the shuttle of gold. Sexes must vanish & cease
To be, when Albion arises from his dread repose O lovely Enitharmon:
When all their Crimes, their Punishments their Accusations of Sin:
All their Jealousies Revenges. Murders. hidings of Cruelty in Deceit
Appear only in the Outward Spheres of Visionary Space and Time.
In the shadows of Possibility by Mutual Forgiveness forevermore
And in the Vision & in the Prophecy, that we may Foresee & Avoid
The terrors of Creation & Redemption & Judgment. Beholding them
Displayd in the Emanative Visions of Canaan in Jerusalem & in Shiloh
And in the Shadows of Remembrance, & in the Chaos of the Spectre
Amalek, Edom, Egypt, Moab, Ammon, Ashur, Philistea, around
Jerusalem"



This is the world turned upside down.
What we have called reality is seen
to be illusion; what we have called
illusion is seen to be reality. The
powers which have controlled us
have become powerless. Albion
arises and a new day dawns.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

ALBION SLEEPS

No images more epitomize the ideas that Blake is trying to convey in Jerusalem than those on Plate 37 of Jerusalem. As was said in the post Blake & His Reader Blake is attempting to change our means of perception. Paul of Tarsus was also trying to change our way of thinking about how we perceive ourselves and the One Body in the Twelfth chapter of Corinthians.

1 Cor. 12
[4] Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit.
[5] And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord.
[6] And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all.
[7] But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal.
[8] For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit;
[9] To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit;
[10] To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues:
[11] But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will.
[12] For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ.
[13] For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.
[14] For the body is not one member, but many.
...
[25] That there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another.
[26] And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it.
[27] Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular.
In Plate 27 Blake incorporates Jesus, the incarnate God, cradling the unconscious Albion between the palm of suffering and the oak of sacrifice, supported by the moon of generation on the wings of regeneration. The text is surrounded by the stars of redemption. The lower section portrays the fractured aspects of the divided Albion: his Spectre and his Emanation.
The sickness of Albion originates from his loss of the image of the Divine Body within and without. He perceives his Emanation and Spectre to be autonomous forces which tear apart the fabric of his psyche and the world. The process of recovering the vision of being the 'body of Christ', essential members one of another, is enacted in Jerusalem.
 
Jerusalem, PLATE 47-48, (E 196)
"Therefore I write Albions last words. Hope is banish'd from me.
These were his last words, and the merciful Saviour in his arms
Reciev'd him, in the arms of tender mercy and repos'd
The pale limbs of his Eternal Individuality
Upon the Rock of Ages. Then, surrounded with a Cloud:
In silence the Divine Lord builded with immortal labour,
Of gold & jewels a sublime Ornament, a Couch of repose,"
 
Jerusalem , Plate 93, (E 253)
"Then Los again took up his speech as Enitharmon ceast
Fear not my Sons this Waking Death. he is become One with me
Behold him here! We shall not Die! we shall be united in Jesus.
Will you suffer this Satan this Body of Doubt that Seems but Is Not
To occupy the very threshold of Eternal Life."
 
Jerusalem, Plate 95, (E 255)
"into the Heavens he [Albion] walked clothed in flames
Loud thundring, with broad flashes of flaming lightning & pillars
Of fire, speaking the Words of Eternity in Human Forms, in direful
Revolutions of Action & Passion, thro the Four Elements on all sides
Surrounding his awful Members."
 
Jerusalem, PLATE 96, (E 255)
 "As the Sun & Moon lead forward the Visions of Heaven & Earth
England who is Brittannia entered Albions bosom rejoicing

Then Jesus appeared standing by Albion as the Good Shepherd
By the lost Sheep that he hath found & Albion knew that it
Was the Lord the Universal Humanity, & Albion saw his Form
A Man. & they conversed as Man with Man, in Ages of Eternity"

Jerusalem, PLATE 97, (E 256)
"Awake! Awake Jerusalem! O lovely Emanation of Albion
Awake and overspread all Nations as in Ancient Time
For lo! the Night of Death is past and the Eternal Day
Appears upon our Hills: Awake Jerusalem, and come away

And the Divine Appearance was the likeness & similitude of Los"

Jerusalem, PLATE 99, (E 258)
"All Human Forms identified even Tree Metal Earth & Stone. all
Human Forms identified, living going forth & returning wearied
Into the Planetary lives of Years Months Days & Hours reposing
And then Awaking into his Bosom in the Life of Immortality.

And I heard the Name of their Emanations they are named Jerusalem"

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Friday, February 11, 2011

JERUSALEM'S SORROW


Illustration of Robert Blair's The Grave (1808), painted by William Blake and engraved by Luigi Schiavonetti.


I've tried to discern what Blake is saying psychologically in this passage about Jerusalem. It seems he is describing the awakening of an archetype from the unconscious. The idea of Jerusalem existed in a mind which was unified, in which there was no duality, in which the contraries were equally true. Blake is describing his vision of Eternity or of the unconscious when he talks of 'sports of intellect', 'Thunder in the midst of kindness', 'love that kills', death 'for a period.'


Jerusalem, Plate 48, (E 196)
"Beneath the bottoms of the Graves, which is Earths central joint,
There is a place where Contrarieties are equally true:
(To protect from the Giant blows in the sports of intellect,
Thunder in the midst of kindness, & love that kills its beloved:
Because Death is for a period, and they renew tenfold.)
From this sweet Place Maternal Love awoke Jerusalem
With pangs she forsook Beulah's pleasant lovely shadowy Universe
Where no dispute can come; created for those who Sleep.

Weeping was in all Beulah, and all the Daughters of Beulah
Wept for their Sister the Daughter of Albion, Jerusalem:
When out of Beulah the Emanation of the Sleeper descended
With solemn mourning out of Beulahs moony shades and hills:
Within the Human Heart, whose Gates closed with solemn sound.

And this the manner of the terrible Separation
The Emanations of the grievously afflicted Friends of Albion
Concenter in one Female form an Aged pensive Woman.
Astonish'd! lovely! embracing the sublime shade: the Daughters of Beulah
Beheld her with wonder! With awful hands she took
A Moment of Time, drawing it out with many tears & afflictions
And many sorrows: oblique across the Atlantic Vale
Which is the Vale of Rephaim dreadful from East to West,
Where the Human Harvest waves abundant in the beams of Eden
Into a Rainbow of jewels and gold, a mild Reflection from
Albions dread Tomb. Eight thousand and five hundred years
In its extension. Every two hundred years has a door to Eden
She also took an Atom of Space, with dire pain opening it a Center
Into Beulah: trembling the Daughters of Beulah dried
Her tears. she ardent embrac'd her sorrows. occupied in labours
Of sublime mercy in Rephaims Vale. Perusing Albions Tomb
She sat: she walk'd among the ornaments solemn mourning.
The Daughters attended her shudderings, wiping the death sweat
Los also saw her in his seventh Furnace, he also terrified
Saw the finger of God go forth upon his seventh Furnace:
Away from the Starry Wheels to prepare Jerusalem a place.
When with a dreadful groan the Emanation mild of Albion.
Burst from his bosom in the Tomb like a pale snowy cloud,
Female and lovely, struggling to put off the Human form
Writhing in pain. The Daughters of Beulah in kind arms reciev'd
Jerusalem: weeping over her among the Spaces of Erin,
In the Ends of Beulah, where the Dead wail night & day."

The awakening of Jerusalem is a way to express the differentiation of her archetype from the undifferentiated, fluid, malleable, expandable unconscious. The pangs she suffered as the 'forsook' the 'shadow Universe' are indicative of the struggle to bring content from the unconscious to the conscious mind. The gates of the unconscious closed behind her; passage between the two is restricted. Entering the conscious mind exposes the archetype to time and space which were unknown in the unconscious. Jerusalem whose character is developed as Unified Man's spiritual awareness is being given form: the Human Form. The conscious mind can now begin to understand the meaning of the archetype, how it functions, what it brings to the totality.

Los has a fond appreciation for Jerusalem which he expresses on Plate 86:

Jerusalem, PLATE 86, (E 244)
"I see thy Form O lovely mild Jerusalem, Wingd with Six Wings
In the opacous Bosom of the Sleeper, lovely Three-fold
In Head & Heart & Reins, three Universes of love & beauty
Thy forehead bright: Holiness to the Lord, with Gates of pearl
Reflects Eternity beneath thy azure wings of feathery down
Ribbd delicate & clothd with featherd gold & azure & purple
From thy white shoulders shadowing, purity in holiness!"

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