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

Thursday, March 31, 2011


Jesus taught forgiveness not vengeance. Blake rejected the God of vengeance of the Old Testament for the God of forgiveness of the New Testament.

Matthew 5:43-45 - "You have heard that it used to be said, 'You shall love your neighbour', and 'hate your enemy', but I tell you, Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Heavenly Father. For he makes the sun rise upon evil men as well as good, and he sends his rain upon honest and dishonest men alike."

Matthew 7:1-5
Judge not, that ye be not judged.
For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured unto you.
And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?
Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me cast out the mote out of thine eye; and lo, the beam is in thine own eye?
Thou hypocrite, cast out first the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye.

In Jerusalem, Blake explains his attitude toward taking retribution for offense. He realizes that executing vengeful punishment does greater harm to the person who has been offended than it does to the offender. Doing harm - hindering your brother - does harm within yourself and hinders your spiritual development. The person who harms others, harms himself. Forgiving your brother opens your heart to receiving God's love and mending divisions in the unity of the whole body.

Jerusalem, Plate 25, (E 169)
"But Vengeance is the destroyer of Grace & Repentance in the bosom
Of the Injurer: in which the Divine Lamb is cruelly slain:
Descend O Lamb of God & take away the imputation of Sin
By the Creation of States & the deliverance of Individuals
Evermore Amen"

Jerusalem, Plate 47, (E 193)
"What shall I [Los] do! what could I do, if I could find these Criminals
I could not dare to take vengeance; for all things are so constructed
And builded by the Divine hand, that the sinner shall always escape,
And he who takes vengeance alone is the criminal of Providence;
If I should dare to lay my finger on a grain of sand
In way of vengeance; I punish the already punishd: O whom
Should I pity if I pity not the sinner who is gone astray!
O Albion, if thou takest vengeance; if thou revengest thy wrongs
Thou art for ever lost! What can I do to hinder the Sons
Of Albion from taking vengeance? or how shall I them perswade.
These were his [Albion's] 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."

Vala, Hyle, and SkofieldBlake created an image on Plate 51, which illustrates the harm which comes to the individual when he does harm to others. The three in the illustration are Vala, Hyle and Skofield; three whom Blake might consider his worst enemies. Vala is materiality, fallen Nature, the obscuring and distorting principle which hides Eternity and restrictes his imagination. Pictured as dark and frozen she bears no resemblance to the rich and glorious unfallen Nature. Hyle is Blake's representation of Hayley who wanted to prevent Blake from following his Imagination in exercising his artistic and poetic talents; pretending to be a friend he wanted to direct Blake's work to popular media. Hyle is pictured as if he were enclosed in a cube, his 'doors of perception' to this world as well as the other, are closed and locked. Skofield who brought Blake to law by false accusation, is pictured in the chains with which he hoped to manacle Blake. He is burning with the fire of wrath rather then sitting in darkness as is Vala.

But I think Blake presented these three, not as the vengeful but as 'the sinners' who 'always escape' although they have 'gone astray.'

Wednesday, March 30, 2011


In Plate 61 of Jerusalem, Blake recapitulates the truth conveyed in the both Old and New Testament of the Bible. The Old Testament could be summarized as the repeated attempts of God to form a people who would respond to his love. Failures were punished but eventually forgiveness led to renewal. The New Testament provided the new paradigm of internalization of Christ as the means of breaking down the cycle of failure and punishment. Forgiveness through Christ within would lead to the Brotherhood of Man. Blake presents the reconciliation of the parents of Jesus over the issue of the conception of their baby as a paradigm of the relationship which evolved in forging the bonds between God and man in the 'four thousand years' of Old Testament history. Joseph's forgiveness of Mary would be the initial work of the Savior in replacing law with grace.

Matthew 1
[18] Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost.
[19] Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a publick example, was minded to put her away privily.
[20] But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost.

Jerusalem, PLATE 61 (E 211)
"Behold: in the Visions of Elohim Jehovah, behold Joseph & Mary
And be comforted O Jerusalem in the Visions of Jehovah Elohim

She looked & saw Joseph the Carpenter in Nazareth & Mary
His espoused Wife. And Mary said, If thou put me away from thee
Dost thou not murder me? Joseph spoke in anger & fury. Should I
Marry a Harlot & an Adulteress? Mary answerd, Art thou more pure
Than thy Maker who forgiveth Sins & calls again Her that is Lost
Tho She hates. he calls her again in love. I love my dear Joseph
But he driveth me away from his presence. yet I hear the voice of God
In the voice of my Husband. tho he is angry for a moment, he will not
Utterly cast me away. if I were pure, never could I taste the sweets
Of the Forgive[ne]ss of Sins! if I were holy! I never could behold the tears
Of love! of him who loves me in the midst of his anger in furnace of fire.

Ah my Mary: said Joseph: weeping over & embracing her closely in
His arms: Doth he forgive Jerusalem & not exact Purity from her who is
Polluted. I heard his voice in my sleep O his Angel in my dream:

Saying, Doth Jehovah Forgive a Debt only on condition that it shall
Be Payed? Doth he Forgive Pollution only on conditions of Purity
That Debt is not Forgiven! That Pollution is not Forgiven
Such is the Forgiveness of the Gods, the Moral Virtues of the
Heathen, whose tender Mercies are Cruelty. But Jehovahs Salvation
Is without Money & without Price, in the Continual Forgiveness of Sins
In the Perpetual Mutual Sacrifice in Great Eternity! for behold!
There is none that liveth & Sinneth not! And this is the Covenant
Of Jehovah: If you Forgive one-another, so shall Jehovah Forgive You:
That He Himself may Dwell among You. Fear not then to take
To thee Mary thy Wife, for she is with Child by the Holy Ghost

Then Mary burst forth into a Song! she flowed like a River of
Many Streams in the arms of Joseph & gave forth her tears of joy
Like many waters, and Emanating into gardens & palaces upon
Euphrates & to forests & floods & animals wild & tame from
Gihon to Hiddekel, & to corn fields & villages & inhabitants
Upon Pison & Arnon & Jordan. And I heard the voice among
The Reapers Saying, Am I Jerusalem the lost Adulteress? or am I
Babylon come up to Jerusalem? And another voice answerd Saying

Does the voice of my Lord call me again? am I pure thro his Mercy
And Pity. Am I become lovely as a Virgin in his sight who am
Indeed a Harlot drunken with the Sacrifice of Idols does he
Call her pure as he did in the days of her Infancy when She
Was cast out to the loathing of her person. The Chaldean took
Me from my Cradle. The Amalekite stole me away upon his Camels
Before I had ever beheld with love the Face of Jehovah; or known
That there was a God of Mercy: O Mercy O Divine Humanity!
O Forgiveness & Pity & Compassion! If I were Pure I should never
Have known Thee; If I were Unpolluted I should never have
Glorified thy Holiness, or rejoiced in thy great Salvation.

Mary leaned her side against Jerusalem, Jerusalem recieved
The Infant into her hands in the Visions of Jehovah. Times passed on
Jerusalem fainted over the Cross & Sepulcher She heard the voice
Wilt thou make Rome thy Patriarch Druid & the Kings of Europe his
Horsemen? Man in the Resurrection changes his Sexual Garments at will
Every Harlot was once a Virgin: every Criminal an Infant Love!"

In Theology Today (1971), in an article titled Blake on Joseph's Dilemma, William E. Phipps states:

"Blake discerned that the basic teaching of the entire Bible was that love should be displayed without ceasing to the undeserving. He thought that this love could most poignantly be tested in a situation of estrangement provoked by an adulterous conception. Blake's Joseph renewed his trust in one who pleaded for forgiveness after she had betrayed his confidence. Far from believing that his betrothed was forever tainted by past indulgence in illicit coitus, he accepted her baby as his own. The couple mutually witness to the indefatigable nature of true love."

Tuesday, March 29, 2011


Damon says of Blake on page 397 of A Blake Dictionary that 'as was his custom, he helped himself to whatever he wished and transformed it into his own.' He is referring here to the influence on Blake of his friend Thomas Taylor, who helped to introduce Blake to Plato and the Neo-Platonists. Blake continued to demonstrate the influence of classical ideas and images even after he turned decidedly toward Christianity.

Homer's tale of the incident that led to the Trojan War is depicted in this painting called Judgment of Paris, which Blake produced for his friend and patron Thomas Butts. To reacquaint yourself with the tale read this file from the web site Living Myths, Greek Myth, or here is an excerpt:

"The contest which Eris initiates sets the three goddesses against each other. In myth, goddesses frequently appear in threes, representing aspects of a single deity. Thus, although Hera, Athene and Aphrodite represent quite different forces, the competition may reflect a time when they were less divided. Paris has a difficult choice. Hera, wife of Zeus, is the goddess of marriage and the home, and as such is always smarting from her husband’s sexual adventures. Athene is a virgin goddess of war and wisdom. Aphrodite is the goddess of sexual love, also associated with physical beauty in all its forms. Yet her affairs with the war god Ares, and her engineering of the Trojan War (as well as lesser conflicts), suggest the close relationship between sexual love and conflict.
The apple thrown by Eris is perhaps related to Eve’s apple, representing a Fall from unity to disunity."

I have been given permission by the British Museum to publish this image to the Blake blog. Link to British Museum

Judgment of Paris, (click on picture to enlarge)Blake has covered the whole scene and added a bit of his own myth perhaps. Discord, Fall, Temptation, Jealousy, Troublesome Females, Dog at the Wintry Door, Shepherd -
these include a lot of Blake's themes. Perhaps Blake thought of Ahania, Vala and Enitharmon, instead of Athena, Aphrodite and Hera as he painted the three lovely ladies. Eris takes the role of Satan. If we look for Blake's fourfold, his Zoas, we might find Urizen in Eris, Tharmas in the shepherd, Los in Hermes, and Luvah in Cupid.

Kathleen Raine in Blake and Antiquity points out that Thomas Taylor "quotes a long passage from On the Gods and the World [by Sallust, a fourth century Latin writer] on the four kinds of meaning found in myth." Raine adds "Sallust uses as an illustration the story of the Judgment of Paris; and it may be more than coincidence that Blake painted the subject, introducing the figure of Eris, whom Sallust describes, but who does not commonly appear in paintings of this theme."

From Sallust:

"The mixed kind of myth may be seen in many instances: for example they say that in a banquet of the Gods Discord threw down a golden apple; the Goddesses contended for it, and were sent by Zeus to Paris to be judged. Paris saw Aphrodite to be beautiful and gave her the apple. Here the banquet signifies the hypercosmic powers of the Gods; that is why they are all together. The golden apple is the world, which being formed out of opposites, is naturally said to be 'thrown by Discord'. The different Gods bestow different gifts upon the world, and are thus said to 'contend for the apple'. And the soul which lives according to sense -- for that is what Paris is -- not seeing the other powers in the world but only beauty, declares that the apple belongs to Aphrodite."

Eclectic is a good word to describe Blake's source material and the way he used it.

Monday, March 28, 2011


Blake never completely resolved his attitude to Homer and to Western Civilization's legacy from the Greek culture. Blake's mind was expanded when he became acquainted with Thomas Taylor and the Neoplatonist movement. The sign of the respect that Blake developed for what he had learned from them is apparent in their influence on the poetry. Blake exercised his critical faculty by adapting the Greek mythology to his own thinking. In spite of all he admired in the Greek literature, the one thing which he most required, consciousness of the relationship between God and Man, he found to be absent.

If you have seen the movie Amadeus you may find a similarity with the issue treated in that movie. Salieri could not reconcile the lavish gifts God had bestowed on Mozart with the young man's lifestyle and behavior. Blake could not reconcile Homer's talents as a mythmaker with his blindness to the spiritual truths found in the Bible. Some of Blake's friends may have had the same problem with Blake whose obvious talents were not spent conveying the conventional messages of Christianity or of the British Empire. Blake would have observed that the abilities which were present in Homer and Mozart and himself were their innate ideas with which they were born.

Annotations to Reynolds, (E 648)
"Knowledge of Ideal Beauty. is Not to be Acquired It is Born
with us Innate Ideas. are in Every Man Born with him. they are
Himself. The Man who says that we have No Innate Ideas
must be a Fool & Knave."

The picture called the Sea of Time and Space or the Arlington Tempera (dated 1821) evidences the connection between Homer and Blake. Scenes from the tale of Ulysses are portrayed in the picture intimating familiar aspects of Blake own mythology. In Blake and Antiquity, Kathleen Raine states: "As Blake Grew older he moved towards a more explicit Christianity; but this picture, painted with such evident love, such wealth of symbolic detail, makes it plain that he never disowned the philosophy that had given him the basis of his own symbolism."

More on Blake's use of Greek mythology can be found in the Larry Clayton's Ram Horn'd With Gold or his Blake Primer.

As Blake became more wedded to biblical imagery his attitude toward Homer had become ambivalent. In this plate from c 1820 he seems to conclude by linking the troubled European conflicts with Homer's epics.

On Homer's Poetry, (E 269)
"Every Poem must necessarily be a perfect Unity, but why Homers is
peculiarly so, I cannot tell: he has told the story of
Bellerophon & omitted the judgment of Paris which is not only a
part, but a principal part of Homers subject
But when a Work has Unity it is as much in a Part as in the
Whole. the Torso is as much a Unity as the Laocoon
As Unity is the cloke of folly so Goodness is the cloke of
knavery Those who will have Unity exclusively in Homer come out
with a Moral like a sting in the tail: Aristotle says Characters
are either Good or Bad: now Goodness or Badness has nothing to do
with Character. an Apple tree a Pear tree a Horse a Lion, are
Characters but a Good Apple tree or a Bad, is an Apple tree
still: a Horse is not more a Lion for being a Bad Horse. that is
its Character; its Goodness or Badness is another consideration.
It is the same with the Moral of a whole Poem as with the Moral Goodness
of its parts Unity & Morality, are secondary considerations &
belong to Philosophy & not to Poetry, to Exception & not to Rule,
to Accident & not to Substance. the Ancients calld it eating of
the tree of good & evil.
The Classics, it is the Classics! & not Goths nor Monks, that
Desolate Europe with Wars."

Three issues stand out in Blake's objections to Homer in this plate:
1) for Blake but not for Homer 'Unity and morality are secondary considerations',
2) Blake's interest was in substance not accident, poetry not philosophy,
3) Homer glorified war which desolated humanity.

Annotations to Berkley, (E 664)
"This is my Opinion but Forms must be apprehended by Sense or
the Eye of Imagination
Man is All Imagination God is Man & exists in us & we in him
... What Jesus came to Remove was the Heathen or Platonic
Philosophy which blinds the Eye of Imagination The Real Man

Sunday, March 27, 2011


Milton, Plate 32

Plate 32 does not appear in the first two copies (A&B) of Milton. It was added later to explain the important concept of 'states'. Blake had clarified his thinking and so gave Milton and the readers the benefit of his understanding. The idea of states is essential to understanding Blake's ideas about 'good and evil', imputing sin, annihilation, and forgiveness. The concept of a merciful and benevolent God, which is incompatible with a God of cruelty and vengeance, requires the idea of states to deal with the problem of handling evil. The understanding of 'states' allows us to 'turn our backs on Heavens builded on cruelty'.

Milton, Plate 32 [35], (E130)
"And Milton oft sat up on the Couch of Death & oft conversed
In vision & dream beatific with the Seven Angels of the Presence

I have turned my back upon these Heavens builded on cruelty
My Spectre still wandering thro' them follows my Emanation
He hunts her footsteps thro' the snow & the wintry hail & rain
The idiot Reasoner laughs at the Man of Imagination
And from laughter proceeds to murder by undervaluing calumny

Then Hillel who is Lucifer replied over the Couch of Death
And thus the Seven Angels instructed him & thus they converse.

We are not Individuals but States: Combinations of Individuals
We were Angels of the Divine Presence: & were Druids in Annandale
Compelld to combine into Form by Satan, the Spectre of Albion,
Who made himself a God &, destroyed the Human Form Divine.
But the Divine Humanity & Mercy gave us a Human Form
Because we were combind in Freedom & holy Brotherhood
While those combind by Satans Tyranny first in the blood of War
And Sacrifice &, next, in Chains of imprisonment: are Shapeless Rocks

Retaining only Satans Mathematic Holiness, Length: Bredth & Highth
Calling the Human Imagination: which is the Divine Vision & Fruition
In which Man liveth eternally: madness & blasphemy, against Its own Qualities,
which are Servants of Humanity, not Gods or Lords[.]

Distinguish therefore States from Individuals in those States.
States Change: but Individual Identities never change nor cease:
You cannot go to Eternal Death in that which can never Die.
Satan & Adam are States Created into Twenty-seven Churches
And thou O Milton art a State about to be Created
Called Eternal Annihilation
that none but the Living shall
Dare to enter: & they shall enter triumphant over Death
And Hell & the Grave! States that are not, but ah! Seem to be.

Judge then of thy Own Self: thy Eternal Lineaments explore
What is Eternal & what Changeable? & what Annihilable!

The Imagination is not a State: it is the Human Existence itself
Affection or Love becomes a State, when divided from Imagination
The Memory is a State always, & the Reason is a State
Created to be Annihilated
& a new Ratio Created
Whatever can be Created can be Annihilated Forms cannot
The Oak is cut down by the Ax, the Lamb falls by the Knife
But their Forms Eternal Exist, For-ever. Amen Halle[l]ujah

Thus they converse with the Dead watching round the Couch of Death.
For God himself enters Death's Door always with those that enter
And lays down in the Grave with them, in Visions of Eternity
Till they awake & see Jesus & the Linen Clothes lying
That the Females had Woven for them, & the Gates of their Fathers House"

Illustrations to Blair's The Grave
'The Soul Hovering over the Body'
The Eternal dimension which seems shadowy to the unawakened, is seen to be substantial and vividly real by those who have been given a 'perception of the infinite.' They have entered the door of death and prepared themselves for transformation. In awakening, they see their physical bodies as garments that can be discarded as they enter the true world of unencumbered Spirit.

From The Grave

Philippians 2:5-8
"Let Christ himself be your example as to what your attitude should be. For he, who had always been God by nature, did not cling to his prerogatives as God's equal, but stripped himself of all privilege by consenting to be a slave by nature and being born as mortal man. And, having become man, he humbled himself by living a life of utter obedience, even to the extent of dying, and the death he died was the death of a common criminal."

Saturday, March 26, 2011


Letter to Butts, Nov 22, 1902, (E 722)
"This Earth breeds not our happiness"
"Another Sun feeds our lifes streams"
"We are not warmed with thy beams"
"Thou measurest not the Time to me"
"Nor yet the Space that I do see"
"My Mind is not with thy light arrayd"
"Thy terrors shall not make me afraid"

Our world is the world of time and space. It is a pale shadow of Eternity which is not limited by time and space which resulted from the fall. The fall of the Zoas into division separated them from the Divine Vision. Time and space were provided to them to arrest their fall into the abyss of non-entity.

Book of Urizen
, Plate 15

"But the space undivided by existence
Struck horror into his soul"
Blake seems to have conceived of space and time as being objects of creation having come into existence to go out of existence. He sees space having been given to time as a mercy to give it form. He sees space as limited by Eternity. He considers time to be perceived as passing at different rates. The passing of time to him can be controlled. His time is the swiftest of all things and the alternative to Eternity. His time is not lost in Eternity. Time he sees varies according to the means of perception.

The work of the poet, the prophet or artist is the work of vision; it does not require an extension in time because it is contact with Eternity.

Man is placed in the tent of space and within it his mind creates his reality which is limited by his own ability to perceive the infinite. Man's limitations present him with a false picture. Man's limited senses even with the aid of the microscope or telescope do not see as the visionary sees. The possibilities are present to behold visions or to enter Eternity because man is given guidance in this world: he is not left alone.

Milton, PLATE 29 [31], (E 127)
"For in this Period the Poets Work is Done: and all the Great
Events of Time start forth & are concievd in such a Period
Within a Moment: a Pulsation of the Artery.

The Sky is an immortal tent built by the Sons of Los
And every Space that a Man views around his dwelling-place:
Standing on his own roof, or in his garden on a mount
Of twenty-five cubits in height, such space is his Universe;
And on its verge the Sun rises & sets. the Clouds bow
To meet the flat Earth & the Sea in such an orderd Space:
The Starry heavens reach no further but here bend and set
On all sides & the two Poles turn on their valves of gold:
And if he move his dwelling-place, his heavens also move.
Wher'eer he goes & all his neighbourhood bewail his loss:
Such are the Spaces called Earth & such its dimension:
As to that false appearance which appears to the reasoner,
As of a Globe rolling thro Voidness, it is a delusion of Ulro
The Microscope knows not of this nor the Telescope. they alter
The ratio of the Spectators Organs but leave Objects untouchd
For every Space larger than a red Globule of Mans blood.
Is visionary: and is created by the Hammer of Los
And every Space smaller than a Globule of Mans blood. opens
Into Eternity of which this vegetable Earth is but a shadow:
The red Globule is the unwearied Sun by Los created"

The time/space continuum will come to an end (as all contraries will) when they are seen for what they are. Here Los explains to Enitharmon the resolution of the drama. Albion awakens, the manifestations of Albions disease come to an end. The contraries of spirit and matter, time and space, Los and Enitharmon 'vanish and cease'. Remaining are 'Visionary Space and Time'; the terrors of 'Creation & Redemption & Judgement' are foreseen and avoided. Nothing has been lost or wasted.

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.
To measure Time and Space to mortal Men. every morning.
Bowlahoola & Allamanda are placed on each side
Of that Pulsation & that Globule, terrible their power."
Clues to previous quotes:

Pulsation = energy = time
Globule = form = space

Bowlahoola is the functioning of internal organs; Alamanda is the functioning of nervous system.

Vision of Last Judgment, (E 555)
"There Exist
in that Eternal World the Permanent Realities of Every Thing
which we see are reflected in this Vegetable Glass of Nature
All Things are comprehended in their Eternal Forms in the
Divine body of the Saviour the True Vine of Eternity
The Human Imagination who appeard to Me as Coming to Judgment.
among his Saints & throwing off the Temporal that the Eternal
might be Establishd.

Friday, March 25, 2011


This statement from an interview with Blake scholars was made by Morris Eaves the editor of The Cambridge Companion to William Blake.
"But my own experience jibes with Hazard Adams's: 'It is always interesting to observe,' he wrote in 1982, 'what is simply skipped over in commentaries on the prophecies' (400). And, as for the 'hope of a language being developed that will deal more successfully with Blake,' he concludes, 'I am not sure most of us know how to formulate the problem or even what it is' (401). Then, curiously but I would contend symptomatically, a page later he is saying that 'In the end, though, there is a message or there are messages in Blake, and Blake scholarship and criticism ought to be involved in making these messages available to a needy world' (402). Similarly, Blake himself issues lots of promises to readers to the effect that what he's saying is crucial and that if only they'll follow his illuminated golden string through the darkness they'll end up in heaven's gate built in Jerusalem's wall. But if anyone has been able to follow that string I don't know it.
"Two caveats: I don't mean to say that Blake is unreadable. He's eminently readable—just impossible to understand past a certain point. And I don't mean to say that scholarship and criticism have been ineffective in revealing the outlines or in filling in countless helpful details. I mean that the level of meaning that Blake allows, as far as I can tell, cannot be expected to support those important messages that Hazard mentioned, and that Blake certainly seems to claim he's delivering. But, as Hazard's comment shows, trying to make sense of Blake's work, stressful as it is, doesn't necessarily lead to despair. What Blake is, is thrilling to read. And the intensely participatory reading experience that Bob describes is what keeps the thrill alive. Together, that experience of reading on a high wire combined with the promise of rescuing a major artist from obscurity and oblivion have provided the impetus to keep readers reading and lookers looking ever since that group of Victorians showed how to make Blake audible and visible.

"Finally, I would never deny the possibility that the impossible dream may someday become possible after all."

Blake scholars never run out of something to study but it often seems that scholarly studies get further and further from the actual meaning that Blake was trying to convey. Perhaps this is a necessary consequence of the nature of Blake's content. He wasn't only interested in making significant poetry and impressive pictures. He was trying to 'open the minds of men to a perception of the infinite'. If he succeeds in that task, the questions of his technical skills and means through which he achieved his goal fades into insignificance. Blake's religion was that of personal inner mystical experience; not natural religion but revealed religion. Understanding the content of his message likewise is not the result of natural pursuits, but the result of a breakthrough to another level of experience.

Scholarship is helpful in learning Blake if it leads students into Blake's works so that they may take root and be assimilated. Scholarship that leads outward to innumerable influences and entanglements may only divert students from what Blake sought to do.

The Emanation of The Giant Albion
1804 Printed by W. Blake Sth Molton St.
PLATE 1 [Above the archway deleted text]

"There is a Void, outside of Existence, which if enterd into
Englobes itself & becomes a Womb, such was Albions Couch
A pleasant Shadow of Repose calld Albions lovely Land

His Sublime & Pathos become Two Rocks fixd in the Earth
His Reason his Spectrous Power, covers them above
Jerusalem his Emanation is a Stone laying beneath
O [Albion behold Pitying] behold the Vision of Albion"

Thursday, March 24, 2011


Newton's laws of motion epitomized the thought forms to which Blake so strongly objected. Blake believed the world to be a product of man's own intellect and imagination. His world was infinite - but expanding and contracting according to circumstances. Newtonian physics fixed and limited the possibilities of viewing the world and of receiving input from outside the five senses. Blake felt that Newton by describing the planetary system as bodies in fixed orbits controlled by defined forces destroyed the possibility of perceiving symbolic meaning in them communicated from beyond the physical world. Blake refused to think of the sun and moon and stars as material objects which demonstrated laws of motion when he could think of them as messages from God or remnants of the fall of Man.

The world in which Blake dwelt was closer to the world as conceived by Einstein and quantum physicists: a world in which time and space are flexible, in which multiple descriptions may apply to the same phenomena, in which measuring itself is an intervention which alters the object measured.

Sir Isaac Newton, c.1795
As always Blake was concerned with the use to which ideas were put. It wasn't the validity of Newton's observations that bothered him but the fact that they were stated as laws. This validated their use to describe a clockwork universe which operated as a machine whereas Blake's universe operated as a living body. Blake has a totally different way of describing the universe in terms of beings, kingdoms, the Mundane Shell and caverns blocked by the fires of Los. Newton measures the the stars by material dimensions; Blake measures matter by the stars between which are Newton's voids.

Milton , PLATE 37 [41], (E 138)
"All these are seen in Miltons Shadow who is the Covering Cherub
The Spectre of Albion in which the Spectre of Luvah inhabits
In the Newtonian Voids between the Substances of Creation

For the Chaotic Voids outside of the Stars are measured by
The Stars, which are the boundaries of Kingdoms, Provinces
And Empires of Chaos invisible to the Vegetable Man
The Kingdom of Og. is in Orion: Sihon is in Ophiucus
Og has Twenty-seven Districts; Sihons Districts Twenty-one
From Star to Star, Mountains & Valleys, terrible dimension
Stretchd out, compose the Mundane Shell, a mighty Incrustation
Of Forty-eight deformed Human Wonders of the Almighty
With Caverns whose remotest bottoms meet again beyond
The Mundane Shell in Golgonooza, but the Fires of Los, rage
In the remotest bottoms of the Caves, that none can pass
Into Eternity that way, but all descend to Los
To Bowlahoola & Allamanda & to Entuthon Benython

The Heavens are the Cherub, the Twelve Gods are Satan"


Wednesday, March 23, 2011


Blake's ability to handle multiple aspects of reality at multiple levels of existence leaves most of us mystified. In this little passage we have the Eternals who, though multiple, speak with one voice; we have four forms of Milton in different locations and performing different acts; we have Urizen being molded from the clay by Milton; we have Blake negotiating with God as did Moses when he got his assignment; we have the Seven Angels of the Presence and all they imply; and we have Orc in chains.

Blake's mind operates in this fragmented, multiple way but so does every mind and every complex system. To provide order - to make connections - is the task of finding the meaning in the chaos. Meaninglessness is an affliction of the mind which has not reached the level where there is a cohesive wholeness which can assemble the pieces into a picture. Collect the pieces, look at them in the light of your own experience, follow the threads to their origins, associate the pieces which fit together: gradually out of the indistinct haze clear 'lineaments' may come into focus.

Milton, Plate 20 [22],(E 114)
"So spoke they as in one voice! Silent Milton stood before
The darkend Urizen; as the sculptor silent stands before
His forming image; he walks round it patient labouring.
Thus Milton stood forming bright Urizen, while his Mortal part
Sat frozen in the rock of Horeb:
and his Redeemed portion,
Thus form'd the Clay of Urizen
; but within that portion
His real Human walkd above in power and majesty

Tho darkend; and the Seven Angels of the Presence attended him.
O how can I with my gross tongue that cleaveth to the dust,
Tell of the Four-fold Man, in starry numbers fitly orderd
Or how can I with my cold hand of clay! But thou O Lord
Do with me as thou wilt! for I am nothing, and vanity.
If thou chuse to elect a worm, it shall remove the mountains.
For that portion namd the Elect: the Spectrous body of Milton:
Redounding from my left foot into Los's Mundane space,
Brooded over his Body in Horeb against the Resurrection
Preparing it for the Great Consummation; red the Cherub on Sinai
Glow'd; but in terrors folded round his clouds of blood.
At last when desperation almost tore his heart in twain
He recollected an old Prophecy in Eden recorded,
And often sung to the loud harp at the immortal feasts
That Milton of the Land of Albion should up ascend
Forwards from Ulro from the Vale of Felpham; and set free
Orc from his Chain of Jealousy, he started at the thought"

To add another wrinkle to this complex scenario Erdman brings our attention to Felpham's Vale and Blake's subsequent return to London. In commenting on Plate 20 [22] of Milton, Erdman states in The Illuminated Blake (Page 238):
"The cheering thought is that Milton, whose descent to Felpham's vale is rehearsed from many angles in this poem, will then ascend 'up' and 'Forwards' (59-60). (The personal parallel is Blake's retreat from Lambeth to Felpham - a journey for which he borrows the sandals of Los in Lambeth [24: 9-11] - seen as preparation for his return to mental war in London. The two moves are the pulsations between which the whole poem lives.)"

Tuesday, March 22, 2011


Taking his inspiration from the illuminated manuscripts of the middle ages, Blake invented the process of creating Illuminated Books (for video hit Click to Watch!). Between 1788 and early 1795 Blake published a series of fifteen Illuminated Books. He returned to creating Illuminated Books in 1804 when he began work on Milton (finished in 1808 or later) and Jerusalem. Blake committed himself in the minute particulars of producing his Illuminated Books. The process included creating a mental image, drawing, composing the design and poetry of the plate, engraving, printing, painting, compiling and selling. From inception to final production the color copy of Jerusalem was labored over for sixteen years.
Blake was making a variety of statements through his method of publication. One was a political statement of his opposition to the advent of the machine age which meant the loss of individual production of hand crafted goods. He chose the tedious labor of hand production as a means of entering into the crafting of each item as an expression of his own imagination. If Golgoonoza, Blake's city of imagination existed in London, its headquarters were in the home workshop of William and Catherine Blake - be it ever so humble.

Michael Bedard's biography, William Blake The Gates of Paradise, includes this statement about Blake's choosing his nonconformist way of working.

"In rejecting the ways of the world of commerce and the spread of machine methods into the world of art, Blake embraced the Illuminated Book with renewed passion. While industrial production prided itself on the ability to make an endless stream of identical copies, in Illuminated Printing each copy was unique. While industry prided itself on speed and efficiency, Blake's mode of production was deliberately slow and inefficient. While industrial production was grounded on the division of labor and the distinction of those who worked with their heads and those who worked with their hands, Blake's was an artisan's spirit. He took pride in the work of his head and hands and relentlessly pursued the unity of head and hands in the work of art. With the Illuminated Book, Blake strove to restore writing to the 'wondrous art' it was." (Page 140)

Jerusalem , Plate 65, (E 216)
"And all the Arts of Life. they changd into the Arts of Death in Albion.
The hour-glass contemnd because its simple workmanship.
Was like the workmanship of the plowman, & the water wheel,
That raises water into cisterns: broken & burnd with fire:
Because its workmanship. was like the workmanship of the shepherd.
And in their stead, intricate wheels invented, wheel without wheel:
To perplex youth in their outgoings, & to bind to labours in Albion
Of day & night the myriads of eternity that they may grind
And polish brass & iron hour after hour laborious task!
Kept ignorant of its use, that they might spend the days of wisdom
In sorrowful drudgery, to obtain a scanty pittance of bread:
In ignorance to view a small portion & think that All,
And call it Demonstration: blind to all the simple rules of life."

One who chooses the building of Jerusalem as one's lifework is outside of the mainstream of culture in any age.


Monday, March 21, 2011


The biblical story of Mary and Martha presents two sisters who view life differently. Martha is the efficient housekeeper whose goal is to provide material comforts for her family and guests. When Jesus visits her and her sister Mary and her brother Lazarus, Martha has many duties in the kitchen and in serving her honored friend. Her sister Mary wishes only to enjoy Jesus' presence. Mary express the spiritual nature which can focus all its attention on things of the spirit neglecting outer interests and circumstances. Jesus accepted each sister for what she was and what she offered him. Martha could not recognize Mary's gifts; she wanted her sister to serve in the same way she herself did.

Luke 10
[38] Now it came to pass, as they went, that he entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house.
[39] And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus' feet, and heard his word.
[40] But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me.
[41] And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things:
[42] But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.

Martha's complaint to Jesus that she was left alone to serve provoked Jesus' reply that, "Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her." Jesus like Blake valued the spiritual nature which often went unexpressed while the material world absorbed the total attention.

Mary sits at Jesus' feet and meditates on his words while Martha holds a serving tray and questions Jesus' reaction to Mary's behavior. Blake, himself, was inclined to neglect worldly things when he heard the voice of prophetic imagination. I have no evidence that Jesus neglected worldly things but his mother and brothers may have thought he neglected family duties. (Mark 3: 31-34)

People who embark on the journey of psychological development often find themselves in a similar situation. Friends or family may resent the time and effort that is spent by an individual in looking inward to discern the dimensions and dynamics of the psyche.

When Blake was living at Felpham he was especially aware of the conflict between fulfilling the outer requirements of pleasing others and earning a living, and the inner requirement of living under the direction of his 'Messengers from Heaven'. It was impossible for Blake to reject the demands of the spirit in favor of 'Natural Fears or Natural Desires'. He resolved his conflict by determining to 'go on again with my Task Fearless' and forgo worldly wealth and success.

Letters, 24, Mr Butts, (E 424)
"I find on all hands great objections to my doing any thing but the meer
drudgery of business & intimations that if I do not confine
myself to this I shall not live. this has always pursud me. You
will understand by this the source of all my uneasiness This from
Johnson & Fuseli brought me down here & this from Mr H will
bring me back again for that I cannot live without doing my duty
to lay up treasures in heaven is Certain & Determined & to this I
have long made up my mind & why this should be made an objection
to Me while Drunkenness Lewdness Gluttony & even Idleness itself
does not hurt other men let Satan himself Explain--The Thing I
have most at Heart! more than life or all that seems to make life
comfortable without. Is the Interest of True Religion & Science
& whenever any thing appears to affect that Interest. (Especially
if I myself omit any duty to my [self] as a
Soldier of Christ) It gives me the greatest of torments, I am not
ashamed afraid or averse to tell You what Ought to be Told. That
I am under the direction of Messengers from Heaven Daily &
Nightly but the nature of such things is not as some suppose.
without trouble or care. Temptations are on the right hand &
left behind the sea of time & space roars & follows swiftly he
who keeps not right onward is lost & if our footsteps slide in
clay how can we do otherwise than fear & tremble. but I should
not have troubled You with this account of my spiritual state
unless it had been necessary in explaining the actual cause of my
uneasiness into which you are so kind as to Enquire for I never
obtrude such things on others unless questiond & then I never
disguise the truth--But if we fear to do the dictates of our
Angels & tremble at the Tasks set before us. if we refuse to do
Spiritual Acts. because of Natural Fears or Natural Desires! Who
can describe the dismal torments of such a state!--I too well
remember the Threats I heard!--If you who are organized by Divine
Providence for Spiritual communion. Refuse & bury your Talent in
the Earth even tho you should want Natural Bread. Sorrow &
Desperation pursues you thro life!"

In the wilderness Jesus too was tempted by Satan with success and power in the world and choose the course of following spiritual direction.

Sunday, March 20, 2011


At times Blake gave the impression that he was opposed to science because of his criticism of Newton as the prime exponent of the scientific method in his day. However there was much that he admired about science. Blake was an experimenter and inventor himself devising methods and materials for engraving and painting, and for poetic expression. He objected to forming rigid systems of thought that limited the use of the imagination. And he objected to eliminating non sensory input from the equation of science. He felt that reasoning based only on material data led to sterile, repressive systems which restricted consciousness rather than expanding it.
Blake often placed art and science in the same category. He considered that when practiced as endeavors of the imagination they both contribute to the building Jerusalem. Science as practiced by reductionists and empiricists he considered destructive to humanity and the kingdom of heaven. Mental activity expressed in art and science was not to be confused with generalized, mechanical, deterministic, materialistic philosophies which Blake associated with Bacon, Newton and Locke.

Jerusalem, Plate 77,(E 232)
"What is the joy of Heaven but Improvement in the
things of the Spirit? What are the Pains of Hell but Ignorance,
Bodily Lust, Idleness & devastation of the things of the Spirit[?]
Answer this to yourselves, & expel from among you those who
pretend to despise the labours of Art & Science, which alone are
the labours of the Gospel: Is not this plain & manifest to the
thought? Can you think at all & not pronounce heartily! That to
Labour in Knowledge. is to Build up Jerusalem: and to Despise
Knowledge, is to Despise Jerusalem & her Builders.
And remember: He who despises & mocks a Mental Gift in another;
calling it pride & selfishness & sin; mocks Jesus the giver of
every Mental Gift, which always appear to the ignorance-loving
Hypocrite, as Sins. but that which is a Sin in the sight of cruel
Man, is not so in the sight of our kind God.
Let every Christian as much as in him lies engage himself
openly & publicly before all the World in some Mental pursuit for
the Building up of Jerusalem"

Descriptive Catalogue , (E 542)
All these things are written in Eden.
The artist is an inhabitant of that happy country, and if
every thing goes on as it has begun, the world of vegetation
and generation may expect to be opened again to Heaven,
through Eden, as it was in the beginning.

Jerusalem, Plate 6
Los the Blacksmith

Vision of the Last Judgment , (E 565)
The Last Judgment is an Overwhelming of Bad Art & Science.
Mental Things are alone Real what is Calld Corporeal Nobody Knows
of its Dwelling Place is in Fallacy & its Existence an
Imposture Where is the Existence Out of Mind or Thought Where is
it but in the Mind of a Fool.

Jerusalem, Plate 55, (E205)
"Let the Indefinite be explored. and let every Man be judged
By his own Works, Let all Indefinites be thrown into Demonstrations
To be pounded to dust & melted in the Furnaces of Affliction:
He who would do good to another, must do it in Minute Particulars
General Good is the plea of the scoundrel hypocrite & flatterer:
For Art & Science cannot exist but in minutely organized Particulars
And not in generalizing Demonstrations of the Rational Power.
The Infinite alone resides in Definite & Determinate Identity
Establishment of Truth depends on destruction of Falshood

The pursuit of Art & Science under the guidance of Imagination is life itself leading to the 'Establishment of Truth.'

Saturday, March 19, 2011


Four Zoas, Page 103, (E 376)
"Enitharmon wove in tears Singing Songs of Lamentations
In Golgonoozas Furnaces among the Anvils of time & space
Thus forming a Vast family wondrous in beauty & love
And they appeard a Universal female form created
From those who were dead in Ulro from the Spectres of the dead
And Enitharmon namd the Female Jerusa[le]m the holy
Wondring she saw the Lamb of God within Jerusalems Veil
The divine Vision seen within the inmost deep recess
Of fair Jerusalems bosom in a gently beaming fire"

Jerusalem, Plate 20, (E 165)
"Wherefore hast thou shut me into the winter of human life
And clos'd up the sweet regions of youth and virgin innocence:
Where we live, forgetting error, not pondering on evil:
Among my lambs & brooks of water, among my warbling birds:
Where we delight in innocence before the face of the Lamb:
Going in and out before him in his love and sweet affection.

Vala replied weeping & trembling, hiding in her veil.

When winter rends the hungry family and the snow falls:
Upon the ways of men hiding the paths of man and beast,
Then mourns the wanderer: then he repents his wanderings & eyes
The distant forest; then the slave groans in the dungeon of stone.
The captive in the mill of the stranger, sold for scanty hire.
They view their former life: they number moments over and over;
Stringing them on their remembrance as on a thread of sorrow.
Thou art my sister and my daughter! thy shame is mine also!
Ask me not of my griefs! thou knowest all my griefs.

Jerusalem answer'd with soft tears over the valleys.

O Vala what is Sin? that thou shudderest and weepest
At sight of thy once lov'd Jerusalem! What is Sin but a little
Error & fault that is soon forgiven; but mercy is not a Sin
Nor pity nor love nor kind forgiveness! O! if I have Sinned
Forgive & pity me! O! unfold thy Veil in mercy & love!
Slay not my little ones, beloved Virgin daughter of Babylon
Slay not my infant loves & graces, beautiful daughter of Moab
I cannot put off the human form I strive but strive in vain
When Albion rent thy beautiful net of gold and silver twine;
Thou hadst woven it with art, thou hadst caught me in the bands
Of love; thou refusedst to let me go: Albion beheld thy beauty
Beautiful thro' our Love's comeliness, beautiful thro' pity.
The Veil shone with thy brightness in the eyes of Albion,
Because it inclosd pity & love; because we lov'd one-another!
Albion lov'd thee! he rent thy Veil! he embrac'd thee! he lov'd thee!
Astonish'd at his beauty & perfection, thou forgavest his furious love:
I redounded from Albions bosom in my virgin loveliness.
The Lamb of God reciev'd me in his arms he smil'd upon us:
He made me his Bride & Wife: he gave thee to Albion.
Then was a time of love: O why is it passed away!

Jerusalem asks the question, 'Why?' Why am I who lived in Eden or Eternity now locked in this body in the world of generation? Why are the ordinary pleasures of innocence and continual forgiveness in association with the Saviour shut off from me? Vala seems to know what has happened: the Eternal family has been torn apart, Jerusalem is not in her accustomed home and the way of return is unknown. Vala explains the the usual behavior of wandering and return will instead now lead to confusion, limitations and the reasoning abstract. Man is trapped in the pattern of remembering instead of imagining. Jerusalem knows these restrictions to be 'mind forged manacles'.

Vala reminds Jerusalem that she is aware of conditions in which they now live. But Jerusalem tells Vala that what she calls sin was but error in Eternity and quickly forgiven. Jerusalem knows that her desire to love and pity and forgive is not sin. Jerusalem seeks forgiveness herself but pleads that her creative output not be destroyed. Jerusalem's involvement in the material world was not sought by her but came about through love and pity as did Vala's and Albion's. Now a new arrangement has been made (another mercy to lead to regeneration). Vala has been given to Albion: involvement in the natural to the Eternal/Fallen Man. Jerusalem has been given to Jesus: the spiritual consciousness to the Divine Body.

As one of the illustrations which Blake created for potential publication in Night Thoughts, this picture is not explicitly of Vala and Jerusalem. But as an image in which we can see the implicit as well as the explicit, they are present. The reclining woman is Vala as so portrayed in other pictures. She wears a crown and gazes into a mirror: the vegetable glass, a symbol for the material world. Cupid is her companion from the world of generation or the sexes. Sitting on the chair and playing the flute, as a symbol of imagination, is a figure not tuned to Vala's world. Her crown is not of gold but of laurel leaves. Unfortunately she cannot flee to the world which is her home because she is chained to the chair.

Friday, March 18, 2011


Karl Kroeber's chapter in Blake's Sublime Allegory, Essays on The Four Zoas, Milton, & Jerusalem, Edited by Stuart Curran & Joseph Anthony Wittreich, Jr. is titled Delivering Jerusalem. As have many before and after him, he is conveying his understanding of Jerusalem in order to make it more accessible to the reader. His idea is that Blake attempts to lead us on a journey inward to recover our 'identity' which is hidden from us by the fall into multiplicity.

Quotes from Kroeber on Blake's Jerusalem:

"It's 'plot' is the commonplace act of falling into sleep and awakening. Sleep is our chief means of natural regeneration. Falling asleep is a process of detaching oneself from one's ordinary 'identity,' what Blake calls 'selfhood,' what today we call one's sense of one's role. In this respect, at least, sleep is a temporary 'death' containing within it the potentiality of new life." (Page 354)

"From the opening of the prophecy, Albion's death is presented as part of a process of potential regeneration, because his salvation lies within himself:..." (Page 354)

"Jerusalem records a journey, a passage from disintegration to integration. But it is a journey inward...
"The first and most important 'figure' to be separated after the original division of Albion and Jesus is Los, the artificer, the impulse of divine energy toward Regeneration which prevents Albion from slipping into annihilation, nonentity. But Los exists as a separate entity only because of Albion's fall; and all that Los does, in one sense, is the reverse of true nobility and divinity. ...what he creates is the consolidation of error. Los is creative spirit struggling in a fallen cosmos, therefore admirable; but his creativity - 'Striving with Systems to deliver Individuals from those Systems' - is almost a parody of Christ's creativity, which makes reality out of 'nothing,' truth out of delusion." (Page 355)

So the difficulty of living in this world is first the illusion that this world (which we construct) is the true world and not a mask of the Eternal world which underlies, encloses, supersedes, and permeates it. Next is the illusion that what we know as 'ourselves' is our true identity and is able to perceive what we are, what the world is and what reality is. Further we work under the illusion that we can 'fix' things by continuing to do the same things that have contributed to creating the illusions.

" Blake's limits are not impassable boundaries...but critical points, equivalent to thirty-two degrees Fahrenheit for water. Contracted to Adam, mankind attains the possibility of the redeeming Christ. Reaching the limit of 'Opakeness' which is Satan, man attains the possibility of total luminescence, Lucifer, complete emanative power, the power of giving forth light instead of casting shadows, making spectres...Only then are we freed from the inhibiting pressure of those 'systems' external to us which contract and darken individuality into Selfhood." (Page 358)

"To fall is to enslave oneself to seemings, to have one' individual identity devoured by a multiplex, illusory Selfhood." (Page 359)

"...imagination, the awakened intellect, passes beyond the limits of seeming to what truly is." (Page 363)
"The total movement of Jerusalem from division through death and sexuality to civil integration is the process of 'identifying' Albion's Emanation, Jerusalem. What the process confirms is that we CAN re-establish our true identity, attain true livingness. 'Identity' means primarily, being oneself and not another." (Page 365)

Although Kroeber never mentions psychological processes or Jungian Analysis, one may see strong parallels to the process of Indivuation (which results in the formation of the Self) in the process described by Kroeber. The liberation of the identity as in Blake, or of the Self as in Jung may be seen as the life work of each individual striving for entry into Eternity.

Jerusalem, Plate 60, (E 209)
"within the Furnaces the Divine Vision appeard

On Albions hills: often walking from the Furnaces in clouds
And flames among the Druid Temples & the Starry Wheels
Gatherd Jerusalems Children in his arms & bore them like
A Shepherd in the night of Albion which overspread all the Earth

I gave thee liberty and life O lovely Jerusalem
And thou hast bound me down upon the Stems of Vegetation"

Pictured on the final plate of Milton with the words 'To go forth to the Great Harvest & Vintage of Nations', is the image of the liberated female shedding the dark garment of Selfhood (Erdman). The 'Stems of Vegetation' on either side draw us to a culminating point in Jerusalem where the Divine Vision has appeared in the Furnace of Los, gathered Jerusalem's children, and announced that he has given 'liberty and life' which have been bound down on 'stems of vegetation.' But the 'Great Harvest & Vintage' will be accomplished.

As Karl Kroeber says, "we CAN re-establish our true identity, attain true livingness."

Download Blake's Sublime Allegory, Essays on The Four Zoas, Milton, & Jerusalem.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011


______________________________Gates of Paradise, Plate 6

The subject of this poem from Blake's early book Poetical Sketches superficially is an love affair which ended in disappointment and depression. It is also possible to understand the poem as a statement of the young man's dawning awareness of the illusions which are encountered in the mental world we construct. We come to expect that when Blake uses a word, it is a metaphor for an underlying concept. A poem about losing one's true love from Blake is more likely to be about 'cracking the cosmic egg' which has imprisoned one in unawareness. It is probably about a death that leads to a rebirth.

Poetical Sketches, (E 416)

"My silks and fine array,
My smiles and languish'd air,
By love are driv'n away;
And mournful lean Despair
Brings me yew to deck my grave:
Such end true lovers have.

The artificiality of innocence is forced away by experience. Simple pleasures are replaced by the sorrows of experience.

"His face is fair as heav'n,
When springing buds unfold;
O why to him wast giv'n,
Whose heart is wintry cold?
His breast is love's all worship'd tomb,
Where all love's pilgrims come,"

Loveliness and simplicity are appearances; within is the difficult effort of finding truth through dealing with contraries.

'Bring me an axe and spade,
Bring me a winding sheet;
When I my grave have made,
Let winds and tempests beat:
Then down I'll lie, as cold as clay.
True love doth pass away!"

When one dies to the outward and enters the inward, one gives up expectations of affirmation and appreciation and success.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011


In your journey have you ever turned away from the Divine Vision? Or have you known others who have become lost in a wilderness of pain and despair? Do you know of anyone who has refused the assistance of friends and family who attempted to show one the error of one's ways? Blake shows Albion in the circumstances of such a person - disintegrating in a morass of bad decisions, insisting on continuing along the road to destruction.

Albion's life is in a shambles when Los as the agent of the Divine Family continues his mission of saving Albion. Here he gives Albion a reminder of Albion's home in Eden.

Jerusalem, PLATE 34 [38], (E 179)
"So Los spoke: But when he saw blue death in Albions feet,
Again he join'd the Divine Body, following merciful;
While Albion fled more indignant! revengeful covering

His face and bosom with petrific hardness, and his hands
And feet, lest any should enter his bosom & embrace
His hidden heart; his Emanation wept & trembled within him:
Uttering not his jealousy, but hiding it as with
Iron and steel, dark and opake, with clouds & tempests brooding:
His strong limbs shudderd upon his mountains high and dark.

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,

Displaying the Eternal Vision! the Divine Similitude!
In loves and tears of brothers, sisters, sons, fathers, and friends
Which if Man ceases to behold, he ceases to exist:

Saying. Albion! Our wars are wars of life, & wounds of love,
With intellectual spears, & long winged arrows of thought:
Mutual in one anothers love and wrath all renewing
We live as One Man; for contracting our infinite senses
We behold multitude; or expanding: we behold as one,
As One Man all the Universal Family; and that One Man
We call Jesus the Christ: and he in us, and we in him,
Live in perfect harmony in Eden the land of life,
Giving, recieving, and forgiving each others trespasses.
He is the Good shepherd, he is the Lord and master:
He is the Shepherd of Albion, he is all in all,
In Eden: in the garden of God: and in heavenly Jerusalem.
If we have offended, forgive us, take not vengeance against us.

Thus speaking; the Divine Family follow Albion:
I see them in the Vision of God upon my pleasant valleys."

Albion's plight is obvious as are attempts to save him. Here he is given a reminder that whatever heights one may have reached, the Selfhood must be annihilated if the process of healing is to continue. The incarnation which was first manifest through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus is presented to Albion for his salvation. He again refuses.

PLATE 40 [45], (E 187)
"Bath, healing City! whose wisdom in midst of Poetic
Fervor: mild spoke thro' the Western Porch, in soft gentle tears

O Albion mildest Son of Eden! clos'd is thy Western Gate
Brothers of Eternity! this Man whose great example
We all admir'd & lov'd, whose all benevolent countenance, seen
In Eden, in lovely Jerusalem, drew even from envy
The, tear: and the confession of honesty, open & undisguis'd
From mistrust and suspition. The Man is himself become
A piteous example of oblivion. To teach the Sons
Of Eden, that however great and glorious; however loving
And merciful the Individuality; however high
Our palaces and cities, and however fruitful are our fields
In Selfhood, we are nothing: but fade away in mornings breath,
Our mildness is nothing: the greatest mildness we can use
Is incapable and nothing! none but the Lamb of God call heal
This dread disease: none but Jesus! O Lord descend and save!
Albions Western Gate is clos'd: his death is coming apace!
Jesus alone can save him; for alas we none can know
How soon his lot may be our own. When Africa in sleep
Rose in the night of Beulah, and bound down the Sun & Moon
His friends cut his strong chains, & overwhelm'd his dark
Machines in fury & destruction, and the Man reviving repented
He wept before his wrathful brethren, thankful & considerate
For their well timed wrath. But Albions sleep is not
Like Africa's: and his machines are woven with his life
Nothing but mercy can save him! nothing but mercy interposing
Lest he should slay Jerusalem in his fearful jealousy
O God descend! gather our brethren, deliver Jerusalem
But that we may omit no office of the friendly spirit
Oxford take thou these leaves of the Tree of Life: with eloquence
That thy immortal tongue inspires; present them to Albion:
Perhaps he may recieve them, offerd from thy loved hands.

So spoke, unheard by Albion. the merciful Son of Heaven
To those whose Western Gates were open, as they stood weeping
Around Albion: but Albion heard him not; obdurate! hard!
He frown'd on all his Friends, counting them enemies in his

And the Seventeen conjoining with Bath, the Seventh:
In whom the other Ten shone manifest, a Divine Vision!
Assimilated and embrac'd Eternal Death for Albions sake."

We can see ourselves in Albion and Albion in ourselves. His experiences are our experiences.

Monday, March 14, 2011


As you read through posts to our blog, you may noticed themes or threads which run through them. Various ideas resurface in different forms in multiple posts. We are led to do this by following Blake's dominant ideas which are expressed in many guises throughout his works and his lifetime.

As an example I will follow the post on Michelangelo with another mention of him in another context many years after the portrait of Michelangelo was engraved in 1801. In 1826 Blake produced his 'autograph' in the Album of William Upcott. Mr. Upcott made a hobby of collecting autographs of famous men as well as friends and associates. He eventually had a collection of 2069 in 31 volumes. Blake provided more than a simple autograph.

When Blake says at the beginning of his autograph that he is delighted with the company, he may be referring to all the influential people who also signed their autographs. Blake's reference to having died several times intimates that he has been reborn several times as well. Blake indicates that the word 'autograph' should not be used both for something written unconsciously and something done with 'thought & mind'. His own autograph and two others he considers to be 'Works of Art & not of Nature or Chance.'

Finally I get to the connection with Michelangelo. Blake concludes with a sonnet by Michelangelo translated by Wordsworth. But of course it is not just any sonnet but one which conveys Blake's understanding of the connection of the soul of man with the source from which it originates. Blake's autograph is not only words but a visual image as well. The soaring soul seeking the 'Universal Mold' is seen in the youth with arms outstretched (reminiscent of Glad Day): Blake himself released from the garment of the body.

Miscellaneous Prose, (E698)
"WILLIAM BLAKE one who is very much delighted with being in
good Company
Born 28 Novr 1757 in London
& has died several times since
January 16
The above was written & the drawing annexed by the desire of
Mr Leigh how far it is an Autograph is a Question I do not
think an Artist can write an Autograph especially one who has
Studied in the Florentine & Roman Schools as such an one will
Consider what he is doing but an Autograph as I understand it, is
Writ helter skelter like a hog upon a rope or a Man who walks
without Considering whether he shall run against a Post or a
House or a Horse or a Man & I am apt to believe that what is done
without meaning is very different from that which a Man Does with
his Thought & Mind & ought not to be Calld by the Same Name.
I consider the Autograph of Mr Cruikshank which very justly
stands first in the Book & that Beautiful Specimen of Writing by
Mr Comfield & my own; as standing [in] the same Predicament they
are in some measure Works of Art & not of Nature or Chance

Heaven born the Soul a Heavenward Course must hold
For what delights the Sense is False & Weak
Beyond the Visible World she soars to Seek
Ideal Form, The Universal Mold

Michael Angelo. Sonnet as Translated by Mr Wordsworth"