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 , (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)
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 ,(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