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

Saturday, April 30, 2011


Seldom do we find Blake making a simple direct statement which we immediately understand. These few lines seem to be such a statement. The love found in the light of day is the love in the time of innocence - undeveloped consciousness. In the darkness of the night is found the love of experience which has been tested by suffering and had learned compassion. The gift of love is more likely to be received and given among those who have encountered not only light but darkness.

Pickering Manuscript, William Bond, (E 497)
"I thought Love livd in the hot sun Shine
But O he lives in the Moony light
I thought to find Love in the heat of day
But sweet Love is the Comforter of Night

Seek Love in the Pity of others Woe
In the gentle relief of anothers care
In the darkness of night & the winters snow
In the naked & outcast Seek Love there"

The journey from innocence to experience draws us from the unadulterated light into the shadows or darkness. Blake wrote The Book of Thel from the perspective of an innocent who looked ahead to the journey of acquiring experience and declined to take the next step.

Thel, PLATE 1, (E 3)
"The daughters of Mne Seraphim led round their sunny flocks.
All but the youngest; she in paleness sought the secret air.
To fade away like morning beauty from her mortal day:
Down by the river of Adona her soft voice is heard:
And thus her gentle lamentation falls like morning dew.

O life of this our spring! why fades the lotus of the water?
Why fade these children of the spring? born but to smile & fall.
Ah! Thel is like a watry bow. and like a parting cloud.
Like a reflection in a glass. like shadows in the water.
Like dreams of infants. like a smile upon an infants face,
Like the doves voice, like transient day, like music in the air;
Ah! gentle may I lay me down, and gentle rest my head.
And gentle sleep the sleep of death. and gentle hear the voice
Of him that walketh in the garden in the evening time."

To experience life implies becoming acquainted with death; entering the field of time inevitably exposes one to the experience of change; pain is introduced as a pedagogue to guide development. Thel avoided these threatening things by remaining in a state of innocence instead of transitioning into an adult who knew from experience the meaning of sacrifice, brotherhood, redemption and compassion. Blake proposes that participating in the experience of division, and living in an imperfect world is the way to completeness, to the realization of the infinite and to Eternity. Thel choose the 'sleep of death' rather than the sleep of life.

____________________________ Picture from Song of Los, Plate 6

Friday, April 29, 2011


The previous post on Blake's Emanations ended with the deterioration of the Emanations as they became wedded to materiality and lost their eternal qualities of flexibility, creativity and joy. Los turns to his furnaces as the means of returning the sons and daughters of Jerusalem to their former splendor. 

Jerusalem, PLATE 10, (E 152)
"Into the Furnaces & into the valleys of the Anvils of Death
And into the mountains of the Anvils & of the heavy Hammers
Till he should bring the Sons & Daughters of Jerusalem to be
The Sons & Daughters of Los that he might protect them from
Albions dread Spectres; storming, loud, thunderous & mighty
The Bellows & the Hammers move compell'd by Los's hand."

The situation Los is attempting to correct is described in this passage:

Jerusalem , PLATE 90, (E 249)
"The Feminine separates from the Masculine & both from Man,
Ceasing to be His Emanations, Life to Themselves assuming!
And while they circumscribe his Brain, & while they circumscribe
His Heart, & while they circumscribe his Loins! a Veil & Net
Of Veins of red Blood grows around them like a scarlet robe.
Covering them from the sight of Man like the woven Veil of Sleep
Such as the Flowers of Beulah weave to be their Funeral Mantles
But dark! opake! tender to touch, & painful! & agonizing
To the embrace of love, & to the mingling of soft fibres
Of tender affection. that no more the Masculine mingles
With the Feminine. but the Sublime is shut out from the Pathos
In howling torment, to build stone walls of separation, compelling
The Pathos, to weave curtains of hiding secresy from the torment."

The separation of the Emanation from the Masculine is not the final breakdown, for Man is connected to Man in Brotherhood through his Emanation.

Jerusalem, PLATE 88, (E 246)
"Los answerd sighing like the Bellows of his Furnaces

I care not! the swing of my Hammer shall measure the starry
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
How then can I ever again be united as Man with Man
While thou my Emanation refusest my Fibres of dominion.
When Souls mingle & join thro all the Fibres of Brotherhood
Can there be any secret joy on Earth greater than this?"

Los cannot relax his vigilance nor neglect the labor of the furnaces for it is through his agency that the scene is to be set for redemption.

Jerusalem , Plate 83, (E 242)
"The night falls thick: I go upon my watch: be attentive:
The Sons of Albion go forth; I follow from my Furnaces:
That they return no more: that a place be prepard on Euphrates
Listen to your Watchmans voice: sleep not before the Furnaces
Eternal Death stands at the door. O God pity our labours.

So Los spoke. to the Daughters of Beulah while his Emanation
Like a faint rainbow waved before him in the awful gloom"

Milton O. Percival, William Blake's Circle of Destiny, tells of Los and his furnaces:

Yale Center for British Art
Paul Mellon Collection
The First Book of Urizen 
copy C, plate 18

"As the arbiter of the world of experience, the creator of its finite and changing forms, Los is Lord of the furnaces, which together constitute the cycle of experience through which man passes in the interim between Eternity and Eternity. These are the 'furnaces of affliction' in which man is tempered and refined, and out of which, after the purifying process, he is to be delivered, even as the Israelites were delivered out of the iron furnace of Egypt. The condition of deliverance is revealed in one of the concluding pages of Jerusalem. Los, peering in his furnaces, sees all the nations of the world amalgamated into one, the individual law laid aside for the law of brotherhood. The purpose of the fires has been accomplished. The corruptible has put on incorruption. The mortal has put on immortality." (Page 222)

Thursday, April 28, 2011


In the GOSPEL OF MARK we read:

10:17 - As he began to take the road again (after welcoming
the children), a man came running up and fell at his feet,
and asked him, "Good Master, what must I do to be sure of
eternal life?"
10:18-19 - "I wonder why you call me good," returned Jesus.
"No one is good - only God"

We learn from Blake too, that 'good and evil' are terms of
judgment not forgiveness. Even Jesus did not wish to be
called 'good.' Calling him 'good' forces us back into the old
system of law and vengeance. The New Testament teaches
that the alternative to the law is 'the inspiration of the Holy
Spirit' through whom we can love, trust, forgive and hope
for the glorious unfolding of God's grace.

JERUSALEM plate 49

"Because the Evil is Created into a State. that Men
May be deliverd time after time evermore. Amen.
Learn therefore O Sisters to distinguish the Eternal Human
That walks about among the stones of fire in bliss & woe
Alternate! from those States or Worlds in which the Spirit travels:
This is the only means to Forgiveness of Enemies"

In Circle of Destiny Milton Percival explains the beginning of the fall thus:
"The great cosmic break in which the fine relationship of the contraries is destroyed is the work of the Spectre. Blown with pride in his emanative life, he abstracts from it a set of qualities called Good. In his arrogance he believes that these qualities which he admires are due to his own activities; he does not realize that they are but the result of the undisturbed functioning of an harmonious whole."

So partaking of the 'fruit of the tree of good and evil' means naming part of the whole, good and claiming it as one's own. Forgiveness is the reversal of that process. By not claiming good as one's own or as something anyone can possess, we put God who includes all things into the right position. We recognize Evil as a State, not a quality or a human being. Forgiveness loses sight of the State by focusing on the individual as part of the Divine Being.

JERUSALEM Plate 99 Erdman says of this image: "God does not appear as beams of light to outshine the flames of Hell but as a human father welcoming a lost prodigal."

Wednesday, April 27, 2011


In Fearful Symmetry we read:
"The word "emanation" in Blake means the object-world; creature in Eden, female in Beulah, object or nature in Generation, abstraction in Ulro.
(Page 127)
"Abstract ideas are called spectres by Blake and Spectre with a capital letter is the Selfhood. The corresponding term is "Emanation,"' which means the total form of all the things a man loves and creates. In the fallen states the Emanation is conceived as outside, and hence it becomes the source of a continuously tantalizing and elusive torment. In imaginative states it is united with and emanates from the man, hence its name."
(Page 73)

Here in Milton is an example of the Emanation of Eden "like females of sweet beauty" guarding Milton in his descent and feeding him the food of Eden.

Milton, PLATE 15 [17], (E 109)
His real and immortal Self: was as appeard to those
Who dwell in immortality, as One sleeping on a couch
Of gold; and those in immortality gave forth their Emanations
Like Females of sweet beauty, to guard round him & to feed
His lips with food of Eden in his cold and dim repose!

But to himself he seemd a wanderer lost in dreary night.

Onwards his Shadow kept its course among the Spectres; call'd
Satan, but swift as lightning passing them, startled the shades
Of Hell beheld him in a trail of light as of a comet
That travels into Chaos: so Milton went guarded within."

Blake, however, reports that it was the Emanation who asked for relief from the "severe contentions of Eternity". The Emanations "who pass away in winter" and who "tremble and weep" when the "unbounded joy" becomes "terrible" to them, seek a "temporal habitation." Beulah is provided to accommodate their needs. This occasion can be seen as another account of how the "fall" began.

Milton, PLATE 30 [33], (E 129)
"In the great Wars of Eternity, in fury of Poetic Inspiration,
To build the Universe stupendous: Mental forms Creating

But the Emanations trembled exceedingly, nor could they
Live, because the life of Man was too exceeding unbounded
His joy became terrible to them they trembled & wept
Crying with one voice. Give us a habitation & a place
In which we may be hidden under the shadow of wings
For if we who are but for a time, & who pass away in winter
Behold these wonders of Eternity we shall consume
But you O our Fathers & Brothers, remain in Eternity

But grant us a Temporal Habitation. do you speak
To us; we will obey your words as you obey Jesus
The Eternal who is blessed for ever & ever. Amen

So spake the lovely Emanations; & there appeard a pleasant
Mild Shadow above: beneath: & on all sides round,"

In Jerusalem we find another way of describing the divisions which accompany the fall. The Divine Vision fades from view and the Emanation is hidden from sight.

Jerusalem, Plate 4, (E 146)
"the Divine Vision is darkend:
Thy Emanation that was wont to play before thy face,
Beaming forth with her daughters into the Divine bosom
Where hast thou hidden thy Emanation lovely Jerusalem
From the vision and fruition of the Holy-one?"

, Plate 8, (E 151)
"All the infant Loves & Graces were lost, for the mighty Hand
Condens'd his Emanations into hard opake substances;
And his infant thoughts & desires, into cold, dark, cliffs of death.
His hammer of gold he siezd; and his anvil of adamant.
He siez'd the bars of condens'd thoughts, to forge them:
Into the sword of war: into the bow and arrow:
Into the thundering cannon and into the murdering gun
I saw the limbs form'd for exercise, contemn'd: & the beauty of
Eternity, look'd upon as deformity & loveliness as a dry tree:
I saw disease forming a Body of Death around the Lamb
Of God, to destroy Jerusalem, & to devour the body of Albion
Every Emanative joy forbidden as a Crime:
And the Emanations buried alive in the earth with pomp of religion:
Inspiration deny'd; Genius forbidden by laws of punishment:
I saw terrified; I took the sighs & tears, & bitter groans:
I lifted them into my Furnaces; to form the spiritual sword.
That lays open the hidden heart:"
Jerusalem, Plate 72
"Continually Building, Continually Destroying Because of Love and Jealousy"

The eternal qualities of the Emanation had been lost; they were no longer the source of joy and creativity. It becomes the job of Los to shape them into his sons and daughters that he may protect them from further fall.

, PLATE 10, (E 152)
"Into the Furnaces & into the valleys of the Anvils of Death
And into the mountains of the Anvils & of the heavy Hammers
Till he should bring the Sons & Daughters of Jerusalem to be
The Sons & Daughters of Los that he might protect them from
Albions dread Spectres; storming, loud, thunderous & mighty
The Bellows & the Hammers move compell'd by Los's hand.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011


I enjoy locating Blake images which are rarely seen. Recently I came across an image in the British Museum collection which I had not seen before. It is from A Large Book of Designs which Blake was commissioned to make for Ozias Humphry (a painter of miniatures) in 1794.

The images from the book include:
plate 1: "Albion rose from where he laboured at the Mill with Slaves
Giving himself for the Nations he danc'd the dance of Eternal Death"
plate 2: The Accusers of Theft Adultery Murder, used as frontispiece of copy B of The Marriage of Heaven and Hell
plate 3: Plate 21 of Book of Urizen - Los, Enitharmon, Orc
plate 4: Plate 4 of Visions of the Daughters of Albion
plate 5: Frontispiece to Visions of the Daughters of Albion
plate 6: Joseph of Arimathea Preaching to the Inhabitants of Britain
plate 7: Plate 8 of Book of Urizen
plate 8: A Dream of Thiralatha from a canceled plate for America

Most of the images in A Large Book of Designs are familiar from other sources but this one was new to me: A Dream of Thiralatha. To see images from the Small and Large books of designs in the British Museum click on link.
These are two mentions of Thiralatha in Blake's early works.
Following America (E 59) [Fragment] [d]

"As when a dream of Thiralatha flies the midnight hour:
In vain the dreamer grasps the joyful images, they fly
Seen in obscured traces in the Vale of Leutha, So
The British Colonies beneath the woful Princes fade.

And so the Princes fade from earth, scarce seen by souls of men
But tho' obscur'd, this is the form of the Angelic land."

Europe, Plate 14, (E 66)
"Sotha & Thiralatha, secret dwellers of dreamful caves,
Arise and please the horrent fiend with your melodious songs.
Still all your thunders golden hoofd, & bind your horses black.
Orc! smile upon my children!
Smile son of my afflictions.
Arise O Orc and give our mountains joy of thy red light."

On page 124 of A Blake Dictionary, Damon provides a diagram of THE REPRESSION OF SEX UNDER ENITHARMON. On the female side the regression is from Ethinthus (the body) to Leutha (guilt) to Oothoon (frustrated desire) to Thiralatha (the erotic dream). Although Damon calls Thiralatha "the last overt expression of thwarted sex," something of the imagination remains in her as seen in the lovely woman and child of the dream.

Monday, April 25, 2011


Blake is fond of switching perspectives in his descriptions of his characters. In her Eternal state Enitharmon is space to Los' time but the time and space of Eternity are not the time and space we experience in the material world.

Four Zoas, Page 34, (E 322)
"For Los & Enitharmon walkd forth on the dewy Earth
Contracting or expanding their all flexible senses
At will to murmur in the flowers small as the honey bee
At will to stretch across the heavens & step from star to star
Or standing on the Earth erect, or on the stormy waves
Driving the storms before them or delighting in sunny beams
While round their heads the Elemental Gods kept harmony "

The fall of man brings about change in the "flexible senses" of Los and Enitharmon. As Kathleen Raine observes "Time and Space are now fixed and dead:"

Four Zoas, Page 57, (E 338)
"Terrific pale. Enitharmon stretchd on the dreary Earth
Felt her immortal limbs freeze stiffning pale inflexible
His feet shrink withring from the deep shrinking & withering
And Enitharmon shrunk up all their fibres withring beneath
As plants witherd by winter leaves & stems & roots decaying
Melt into thin air while the seed drivn by the furious wind
Rests on the distant Mountains top. So Los & Enitharmon
Shrunk into fixed space stood trembling on a Rocky cliff
Yet mighty bulk & majesty & beauty remaind but unexpansive
As far as highest Zenith from the lowest Nadir. so far shrunk
Los from the furnaces a Space immense & left the cold
Prince of Light bound in chains of intellect among the furnaces
But all the furnaces were out & the bellows had ceast to blow

He stood trembling & Enitharmon clung around his knees
Their senses unexpansive in one stedfast bulk remain
The night blew cold & Enitharmon shriekd on the dismal wind"

Blake has begun describing a process with the Eternal state. As it degenerates the imaginative state in which perception is not limited or fixed disappears. The loss of the infinite perception leads to further loss and failure which is associated with a continued breakdown of the ability to discern things as they are. A later stage of the breakdown of Enitharmon is described by Percival (William Blake's Circle of Destiny.)

"She is the spiritual garment of man in the Generative world, being in this respect the counterpart of Jerusalem in Eden. Now the spiritual clothing which Los desires in a troubled world is pity. But true pity, as we have seen in the discussion of Luvah and Vala, is imaginative and spontaneous, not selfish and rational. The attempt to achieve pity by false means ends in vengeance and strife, and in the character Enitharmon all too often appears." (Page 40)

"Enitharmon sinks with Los into the lethargy of the eighteen Christian centuries. During these centuries Christianity ceases to be a thing of the spirit, retaining only the Christian name. This is the "sleep" of Enitharmon - the triumph of the recalcitrant female emotions as they are personified in Vala-Rahab." (Page 41)

Europe, PLATE 9 (E 63)
"Enitharmon slept,
Eighteen hundred years: Man was a Dream!
The night of Nature and their harps unstrung:
She slept in middle of her nightly song,
Eighteen hundred years, a female dream!"

Meant to be the spiritual garment of man in the Generative world she relinquishes her role in sleep and allows man to lose the spiritual dimension to which Jesus had introduced the world.

Europe, Plate 4, Arise O Orc

, Plate 13, (E 65)
"Then Enitharmon woke, nor knew that she had slept
And eighteen hundred years were fled
As if they had not been
She calld her sons & daughters
To the sports of night,
Within her crystal house;
And thus her song proceeds.

Arise Ethinthus! tho' the earth-worm call;
Let him call in vain;
Till the night of holy shadows
And human solitude is past!"

Europe, Plate 15, (E 66)
"The Lions lash their wrathful tails!
The Tigers couch upon the prey & suck the ruddy tide:
And Enitharmon groans & cries in anguish and dismay.

Then Los arose his head he reard in snaky thunders clad:
And with a cry that shook all nature to the utmost pole,
Call'd all his sons to the strife of blood."

Blake has switched his perspective again and sees the awakening of Enitharmon in conjunction with the awakening of the revolutionary spirit.

Sunday, April 24, 2011


Four Zoas, Night VII, Page 84, (E 359)

"This thou well rememberest listen I will tell
What thou forgettest. They in us & we in them alternate Livd
Drinking the joys of Universal Manhood. One dread morn
Listen O vision of Delight One dread morn of goary blood
The manhood was divided for the gentle passions making way
Thro the infinite labyrinths of the heart & thro the nostrils issuing
In odorous stupefaction stood before the Eyes of Man
A female bright. I stood beside my anvil dark a mass
Of iron glowd bright prepard for spades & plowshares. sudden down
I sunk with cries of blood issuing downward in the veins
Which now my rivers were become rolling in tubelike forms
Shut up within themselves descending down I sunk along,
The goary tide even to the place of seed & there dividing
I was divided in darkness & oblivion thou an infant woe
And I an infant terror in the womb of Enion
My masculine spirit scorning the frail body issud forth
From Enions brain In this deformed form leaving thee there
Till times passd over thee but still my spirit returning hoverd
And formd a Male to be a counterpart to thee O Love
Darkend & Lost In due time issuing forth from Enions womb
Thou & that demon Los wert born Ah jealousy & woe
Ah poor divided dark Urthona now a Spectre wandering
The deeps of Los the Slave of that Creation I created
I labour night & day for Los but listen thou my vision
I view futurity in thee I will bring down soft Vala
To the embraces of this terror & I will destroy
That body I created then shall we unite again in bliss"

From the Seventh Night of the Four Zoas we have one of several accounts of the origin of Los, Enitharmon and the Spectre of Urthona. The eternal Zoa Urthona, first has his manhood divided from the gentle passions resulting in the externalization of the female. Urthona begins to manifest internal changes as he continues his work at his furnaces. The masculine spirit issues from Enion's brain. Times passed until Enitharmon issued from Enion's womb. The division into the 'infant terror', Los and the 'infant woe', Enitharmon leaves Urthona as a Spectre.

Illustrations to Gray's Poems, Page 78

Looking at this situation from the perspective of Los as the Imagination, the division has left the imagination without its inspiration which should be supplied by the Emanation and the instrumentality which could be supplied by the Spectre.

Frye, on page 294 of Fearful Symmetry, explains some of the consequences of the division and separation of the unified Zoa Urthona:
"In creation, therefore, the Spectre of Urthona is the inventive faculty, and invention is the art of finding things in nature: it does not create so much as supply the instruments for creating. The Spectre of Urthona, properly controlled, is the obedient demon who brings his master the fire and metals and other physical needs of culture, and brings the artist his technical skill...But once separated from creative and imaginative ends, the instrumental becomes an end in itself, its criteria of use and value are made absolute principles, its media, such as money, become more important than the things they circulate, and vast complications of tools and machines are produced out of sheer automatic compulsion to produce them."

Only the reunion of the disparate functions - the terror and the woe - can restore the bliss of integration.

Saturday, April 23, 2011


Following the pattern Blake uses to set forth the Zoas and the emanation as they become divided as a result of the fall, Vala is the counterpart of Luvah the emotions of of man. Taking on the emotional life as a facet of the outer material world she is a veil of appearances or illusions.

In this passage we see Vala's positive view of nature which contrasts emphatically with the view of the natural world perceived by Enion or Ahania. She bends the material world to her pleasure and covers it with her soft and gentle emotions.

Four Zoas, PAGE 94, (E 367)
"And she went forth & saw the forms of Life & of delight
Walking on Mountains or flying in the open expanse of heaven
She heard sweet voices in the winds & in the voices of birds
That rose from waters for the waters were as the voice of Luvah
Not seen to her like waters or like this dark world of death
Tho all those fair perfections which men know only by name
In beautiful substantial forms appeard & served her
As food or drink or ornament or in delightful works
To build her bowers for the Elements brought forth abundantly
The living soul in glorious forms & every One came forth
Walking before her Shadowy face & bowing at her feet
But in vain delights were poured forth on the howling melancholy
For her delight the horse his proud neck bowd & his white mane
And the Strong Lion deignd in his mouth to wear the golden bit
While the far beaming Peacock waited on the fragrant wind
To bring her fruits of sweet delight from trees of richest wonders
And the strong piniond Eagle bore the fire of heaven in the night season
Wood & subdud into Eternal Death the Demon Lay
In rage against the dark despair. the howling Melancholy "

But her delights result from the imposition on her will all around her. Her own material beauty, the illusion of the materialized world is used to lure Albion from the Divine Image.

Jerusalem, PLATE 29 [33], (E 175)
"Know me now, Albion : look upon me. I alone am Beauty.
The Imaginative Human Form is but a breathing of Vala.
I breathe him forth into the Heaven from my secret Cave,
Born of the Woman to obey the Woman, O Albion the mighty.
For the Divine appearance is Brotherhood, but I am Love".

In William Blake: Poet and Mystic, Pierre Berger sheds light on Vala and her downfall:

"The beauty that has ceased to be desired and loved is no longer beauty in the eyes of the human spirit. And this brings upon Vala a new fall, and death.
Death means complete materialisation. Urizen takes her ashes and mingles them with the Mundane Shell. She is no longer even the soul of material beauty : she has become a part of the physical world, perceived only by the senses, and not by the spirit. She can no longer be seen apart from the world of matter. Every time that Luvah thinks he has seized her, and tries to possess her, ' the vast form of Nature, like a serpent, rolled between.'

"Love will be henceforth a material thing, an act of the senses, the desire for generation, leading to the production of physical beings, creating and loving the creatures of nature that are born of it, forming ever-repeated circles, like the coils of the serpent, in an endless series of conceptions and births. Vala is the object of this passion, the beauty which attracts sensual desire, the mother of our bodies of death. 'Vala produced the Bodies : Jerusalem gave the Souls.' Lastly, when man contracted and subdivided into distinct individuals, each with a body of his own, Vala became Woman, the goddess and the temptress, manifold and eternal." (Page 148)

"Albion recognises her. Though he knows well that in Eternity there is neither love of woman, nor natural beauty, nor sensual passion he yet feels himself enveloped and dominated by her. All his masculine strength goes from him. The throne of God, which is in every man, has been claimed and usurped by woman. Man, as man, no longer exists. He has become the Tabernacle of Vala and her Temple, And not the Tabernacle and Temple of the Most High." (Page 149)

In irony the Spectre Sons of Albion address Vala:

Jerusalem, PLATE 65, (E 216)
"Now now the Battle rages round thy tender limbs O Vala
Now smile among thy bitter tears now put on all thy beauty
Is not the wound of the sword Sweet & the broken bone delightful
Wilt thou now smile among the slain when the wounded groan in the field"

The depth of Vala's fallen state is the religion called by Blake - Mystery - a religion of the passive, outward, feminine emotions designed through deceit and hypocrisy to dominate the active, inward, masculine energies. Percival (William Blake's Circle of Destiny) sees that: "everything that Mystery offers is unreal. It pretends to love, but practices hate. It pretends to forgiveness, but practices envy, revenge, and cruelty. Nevertheless, the rational mind, weary of the long and futile struggle to subdue energy which cannot be subdued turns eagerly to the new Mystery religions..."

Vala is the veil that hides and disguises, that deceives and distorts, that redirects the energies of man from the perception of the infinite to the pursuit of materialism.

Image from Blake's Water-Colours for the Poems of Thomas Gray

Friday, April 22, 2011


We are fortunate to have Northrup Frye's Fearful Symmetry as a Google book even though we are not able to read all the pages there. Click here to go to Chapter 5 of Fearful Symmetry.

In the first paragraph of Chapter 5, Frye delineates the relationship between the individual mind and mind of God. He refers to fallen man as the ego which perceives the general. As a part of the Universal Creator, man perceives or creates as a mental form. It is in the mind of the totality of creative power that we are able to perceive the particular. If we see through that seed of truth planted within us, we perceive this world as a 'single creature' fallen and redeemed. Frye states, 'This is the vision of God (subjective genitive: the vision which God in us has).'

This is the fourfold vision of which Blake speaks in a Letter to Thomas Butts, (E 722):

"Now I a fourfold vision see
And a fourfold vision is given to me
Tis fourfold in my supreme delight
And three fold in soft Beulahs night
And twofold Always. May God us keep
From Single vision & Newtons sleep"

Blake's idea that we must see not with but through the eye, is true at the level of vision as well; we are not to see the vision, or with the vision but through the vision to the transcendent reality which provides the vision and the means of apprehending it.

Auguries of Innocence, (E 520)
"This Lifes dim Windows of the Soul
Distorts the Heavens from Pole to Pole
And leads you to Believe a Lie
When you see with not thro the Eye
That was born in a night to perish in a night
When the Soul slept in the beams of Light."

Thursday, April 21, 2011


When the Zoas fall from the unity of the Eternal Man, the Zoa becomes the manifestation of what is inner and spiritual and the Emmanation of what is outer and material. This is the condition of fallenness. Tharmas as the Zoa of the body in his fallen state is not matter but spirit with no expression in matter. Enion, the emanation of Tharmas becomes matter without association with spirit. Kathleen Raine calls Enion the 'first matter out of which all things are generated.'

Tharmas as the Zoa of the body is seen in this description:

Marriage of Heaven and Hell, Plate 4, (E 34)
"Man has no Body distinct from his Soul for that calld Body is
a portion of Soul discernd by the five Senses. the chief inlets
of Soul in this age"

Raine (Blake and Traditiion) finds the antecedents for Enion in Platonic metaphysics. She quotes Plotinus: 'matter is neither soul nor intellect, nor life, nor form, nor reason nor bound, but a certain indefiniteness ... of itself invisible, and avoiding the desire of him who wishes to perceive its nature.' In a reversal of the way we may have been trained to perceive, spirit is substantial and matter has no substance. Enion in her fallen state neither sees nor is seen; she resides close to non entity which she fears.

Enion is the mother of Time and Space, Los and Enitharmon who promptly dissociate themselves from their mother. The populated world of generation follows in the work of her children. She perceives that the movement which she initiated cannot be reversed but must continue until its resolution. Tharmas reinforces the process by turning the Circle of Destiny.

The response of Enion to becoming the embodiment of the material world is to lament the conditions in which 'life lives on life' and the price of experience is suffering and woe.

Four Zoas, Page 4, (E 301)
"Enion said--Thy fear has made me tremble thy terrors have surrounded me
All Love is lost Terror succeeds & Hatred instead of Love
And stern demands of Right & Duty instead of Liberty.
Once thou wast to Me the loveliest son of heaven--But now

Why art thou Terrible and yet I love thee in thy terror till
I am almost Extinct & soon shall be a Shadow in Oblivion
Unless some way can be found that I may look upon thee & live

Hide me some Shadowy semblance. secret whispring in my Ear
In secret of soft wings. in mazes of delusive beauty
I have lookd into the secret soul of him I lovd
And in the Dark recesses found Sin & cannot return

Trembling & pale sat Tharmas weeping in his clouds"

Four Zoas, Plate 5,(E 3O3)
"A Frowning Continent appeard Where Enion in the Desart
Terrified in her own Creation viewing her woven shadow
Sat in a dread intoxication of Repentance & Contrition"
"The Circle of Destiny complete they gave to it a Space
And namd the Space Ulro & brooded over it in care & love
What have I done! said Enion accursed wretch! What deed.
Is this a deed of Love I know what I have done. I know
Too late now to repent. Love is changd to deadly Hate
A [ll] life is blotted out & I alone remain possessd with Fears
I see the Shadow of the dead within my Soul wandering
In darkness & solitude forming Seas of Doubt & rocks of Repentance
Already are my Eyes reverted. all that I behold
Within my Soul has lost its splendor & a brooding Fear
Shadows me oer & drives me outward to a world of woe
So waild she trembling before her own Created Phantasm"

Four Zoas, Page 45, (E330)
"The bounds of Destiny were broken & hatred now began
Instead of love to Enion. Enion blind & age bent
Plungd into the cold billows living a life in midst of waters
In terrors she witherd away to Entuthon Benithon
A world of deep darkness where all things in horrors are rooted

These are the words of Enion heard from the cold waves of despair

O Tharmas I had lost thee. & when I hoped I had found thee
O Tharmas do not thou destroy me quite but let
A little shadow. but a little showery form of Enion
Be near thee loved Terror. let me still remain & then do thou
Thy righteous doom upon me. only let me hear thy voice
Driven by thy rage I wander like a cloud into the deep
Where never yet Existence came, there losing all my life
I back return weaker & weaker, consume me not away
In thy great wrath. tho I have sinned. tho I have rebelld
Make me not like the things forgotten as they had not been
Make not the thing that loveth thee. a tear wiped away"

Kathleen Raine: "As the voice of matter in a universe from which spirit has been blotted out, the lament takes on not only meaning but tragedy and horror."

Wednesday, April 20, 2011


Nobody can really explain Blake, and that's the way he wanted it. We can listen to him, try to experience with him, and draw from our own lives scraps and pictures to associate with his words and images. So do what you can with what he says here.

Four Zoas, Night I, Page 5, (E302)
"In Eden Females sleep the winter in soft silken veils 
Woven by their own hands to hide them in the darksom grave 
But Males immortal live renewd by female deaths. in soft
Delight they die & they revive in spring with music & songs
Enion said Farewell I die I hide from thy searching eyes"

Milton Percival says in Circle of Destiny on page 56:

"The form dies in order that the imaginative impulse may be released for new expression. The masculine creative world of Eden is continually sustained by feminine self-sacrifice in Beulah. "Males immortal live, renewed by female deaths." The obedience of outward form to inner vision extends even to the landscape....(spaces of Beulah)...are merciful illusions, provided for the repose of the mind which has wearied of the visionary reality of Eden. They characterize the hypothetical age in which the visionary life that Blake enjoyed in ecstasy was a habitual experience. In contrast to the spaces of Beulah, which are so readily transcended, are the "Satanic spaces" of Ulro, which limit and enslave the mind that beholds them."

Damon called the Emanation the ''counterpart" of the fundamentally bisexual male."

In Jerusalem, Plate 88, (E246), we learn why the female Emanations are so essential to man.

"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"

Yale Center for British Art
 Plate 14

Blake didn't depreciate the role of the female, nor did he mean what we usually mean when we use the term. The female to Blake is an image which carries many meanings but without her, man would never reach Eternity.

Albion Asleep, Jerusalem as Butterfly

Tuesday, April 19, 2011


___________________Book of Ahania, Sketch and Frontispiece

Although Los, Luvah and Tharmas seek reunion with their
emanations, Urizen actively rejects and casts out his emanation Ahania. Ironically Blake provides us with a picture of the two intimately bonded in poses of repentance and forgiveness. Considering their mutual history the image may remind us that each of the two is incomplete without what the other brings to the relationship. The loss of Ahania drove Urizen to the false reasoning which replaced the complete intellect of the 'first born Son of Light.'

In the Book of Ahania Urizen casts out his gentler self and names her 'sin'.

Book of Ahania , Plate 2, (E 84)
"7: Dire shriek'd his invisible Lust
Deep groan'd Urizen! stretching his awful hand
Ahania (so name his parted soul)
He siez'd on his mountains of jealousy.
He groand anguishd & called her Sin,"

She laments the loss of the pleasure and joy which the two had formerly experienced together.

Book of Ahania , Plate 5, (E 89)
"But I wander on the rocks
With hard necessity.

6: Where is my golden palace
Where my ivory bed
Where the joy of my morning hour
Where the sons of eternity, singing

7: To awake bright Urizen my king!
To arise to the mountain sport,
To the bliss of eternal valleys:"

We learn in the Four Zoas events which led to the casting out of Ahania. It began with Urizen's inflation in which he declares himself the only God.

Four Zoas , Page 42, (E 328)
"Am I not God said Urizen. Who is Equal to me
Do I not stretch the heavens abroad or fold them up like a garment

He spoke mustering his heavy clouds around him black opake
PAGE 43,
Then thunders rolld around & lightnings darted to & fro
His visage changd to darkness & his strong right hand came forth
To cast Ahania to the Earth be siezd her by the hair
And threw her from the steps of ice that froze around his throne

Saying Art thou also become like Vala. thus I cast thee out
Shall the feminine indolent bliss. the indulgent self of weariness

The passive idle sleep the enormous night & darkness of Death
Set herself up to give her laws to the active masculine virtue
Thou little diminutive portion that darst be a counterpart
Thy passivity thy laws of obedience & insincerity
Are my abhorrence. Wherefore hast thou taken that fair form
Whence is this power given to thee! once thou wast in my breast
A sluggish current of dim waters. on whose verdant margin
A cavern shaggd with horrid shades. dark cool & deadly. where
I laid my head in the hot noon after the broken clods
Had wearied me. there I laid my plow & there my horses fed
And thou hast risen with thy moist locks into a watry image
Reflecting all my indolence my weakness & my death
To weigh me down beneath the grave into non Entity

Shrinking & shrinking from her Lord & calling him the Tempter
And art thou also become like Vala thus I cast thee out."

There are many ways in which the 'fall' is described by Blake and one of them is the separation of the emanation. The fall may be seen to take place in stages. The first described by Blake takes place when reason and emotion separate themselves from the totality. As each of the aspects of the personality establishes a discrete identity, it further divides into its active and receptive modes (contraries). The 'feminine' receptive mode is the emanation. Problems result from the attempts of the receptive to dominate the active. Urizen's problem, however, is not domination by the feminine but her loss and absence.

The repose which Ahania had provided to Urizen was sought and valued by him until he saw the gift she offered as reflecting his own indolence, weakness and death. The qualities he rejected in himself were projected onto Ahania and he rejected her. The repose of the emanation is required by the intellect to maintain its vitality.

Four Zoas, PAGE 52, (E 335)
"But Urizen slept in a stoned stupor in the nether Abyss
A dreamful horrible State in tossings on his icy bed
Freezing to solid all beneath, his grey oblivious form
Stretchd over the immense heaves in strong shudders. silent his voice
In brooding contemplation stretching out from North to South
In mighty power."

Monday, April 18, 2011


Sea of Unconsciousness
Book of Urizen, Plate 6

The aspect of the psyche which is hidden, buried and unknown is spoken of as the unconscious. It is unknown but not unknowable. Although the gate is closed to enter the unconscious; the gate for unconscious content to come out is not entirely closed. Much of what Blake has written about in his poetry has come from his unconscious.

One of the Four Zoas is mentioned less frequently than the others - Urthona - and when he is mentioned his name is frequently prefixed by the word dark. He has a manifestation in the outer world who is named Los, but as an Eternal he seems to play a lessor role. He is dark for Blake because he is in the unconscious. As he enters consciousness his forms and activities become a part of the world of consciousness.

Jung called Reason and Feeling the rational functions; Sensation and Intuition were called irrational. Blake has Tharmas and Urthona working together to repel the advances of Urizen into Urthona's territory. I have spoken of Tharmas (Blake's image for the physical body or senses) functioning as the Id, Urthona can be seen as functioning as the Intuition. Both reside in man's unconscious.

Here is an account of Urizen's attempt to invade the territory of Urthona:

Four Zoas : Night VI, Page 74, (E 350)
"And now he came into the Abhorred world of Dark Urthona
By Providence divine conducted not bent from his own will
Lest death Eternal should be the result for the Will cannot be violated
Into the doleful vales where no tree grew nor river flowd
Nor man nor beast nor creeping thing nor sun nor cloud nor star
Still he with his globe of fire immense in his venturous hand
Bore on thro the Affrighted vales ascending & descending
Oerwearied or in cumbrous flight he venturd oer dark rifts
Or down dark precipices or climbd with pain and labour huge
Till he beheld the world of Los from the Peaked rock of Urthona
And heard the howling of red Orc distincter & distincter"

Urizen fails to occupy Urthona's territory. Later near the end of the Four Zoas, Urthona resumes his work which had been interrupted as he fell from Eternity with Urizen and Luvah. The association between Urthona and Tharmas continues.

Four Zoas: Night IX, PAGE 138 (E 405)
"Then Dark Urthona took the Corn out of the Stores of Urizen'
He ground it in his rumbling Mills Terrible the distress
Of all the Nations
of Earth ground in the Mills of Urthona
In his hand Tharmas takes the Storms. he turns the whirlwind
Upon the wheels the stormy seas howl at his dread command
And Eddying fierce rejoice in the fierce agitation of the wheels
Of Dark Urthona Thunders Earthquakes Fires Water floods
Rejoice to one another loud their voices shake the Abyss
Their dread forms tending the dire mills The grey hoar frost was there
And his pale wife the aged Snow they watch over the fires
They build the Ovens of Urthona Nature in darkness groans
And Men are bound to sullen contemplations in the night
Restless they turn on beds of sorrow. in their inmost brain
Feeling the crushing Wheels they rise they write the bitter words
Of Stern Philosophy & knead the bread of knowledge with tears & groans

Such are the works of Dark Urthona Tharmas sifted the corn
Urthona made the Bread of Ages & he placed it
In golden & in silver baskets in heavens of precious stone
And then took his repose in Winter in the night of Time"

As the Four Zoas ends it is Urthona who is the image of the restored and unified psyche. He is strong and undivided residing as always in man's 'inmost brain' after providing 'bread for the ages' from the 'distress of the nations.'

PAGE 139
"Urthona is arisen in his strength no longer now
Divided from Enitharmon no longer the Spectre Los
Where is the Spectre of Prophecy where the delusive Phantom
Departed & Urthona rises from the ruinous walls
In all his ancient strength to form the golden armour of science
For intellectual War The war of swords departed now
The dark Religions are departed & sweet Science reigns"

Sunday, April 17, 2011


Gates of Paradise, Plate 18

Of the Shadowy Female, Damon (A Blake Dictionary) writes:

"The Shadowy Female is this material world, a fallen form of Vala ... She is the voice of the Darwinian world, the struggle for life, "consumed and consuming ... howling terrors ... devouring & devoured.'"

The Shadowy Female gains power through an abdication by Tharmas and Urthona. She binds all mortal things into permanent forms. But for the purpose served is that 'the Divine Lamb who died for all And all in him died' may put off Death.

It is Ahania, the emanation of Urizen, who describes the sorry world which the Shadowy Female represents.

Four Zoas, PAGE 111 [107], (E 383)
"And Tharmas gave his Power to Los Urthona gave his strength
Into the youthful prophet for the Love of Enitharmon
And of the nameless Shadowy female in the nether deep
And for the dread of the dark terrors of Orc & Urizen

Thus in a living Death the nameless shadow all things bound
All mortal things made permanent that they may be put off
Time after time by the Divine Lamb who died for all
And all in him died. & he put off all mortality

PAGE 122 [108]
Tharmas on high rode furious thro the afflicted worlds
Pursuing the Vain Shadow of Hope fleeing from identity
In abstract false Expanses that he may not hear the Voice
Of Ahania wailing on the winds in vain he flies for still
The voice incessant calls on all the children of Men
For she spoke of all in heaven & all upon the Earth
Saw not as yet the Divine vision her Eyes are Toward Urizen
And thus Ahania cries aloud to the Caverns of the Grave

Will you keep a flock of wolves & lead them will you take the wintry blast
For a covering to your limbs or the summer pestilence for a tent to abide in
Will you erect a lasting habitation in the mouldering Church yard
Or a pillar & palace of Eternity in the jaws of the hungry grave
Will you seek pleasure from the festering wound or marry for a Wife
The ancient Leprosy that the King & Priest may still feast on your decay
And the grave mock & laugh at the plowd field saying
I am the nourisher thou the destroyer in my bosom is milk & wine
And a fountain from my breasts to me come all multitudes
To my breath they obey they worship me I am a goddess & queen
But listen to Ahania O ye sons of the Murderd one
Listen to her whose memory beholds your ancient days
Listen to her whose eyes behold the dark body of corruptible death
Looking for Urizen in vain. in vain I seek for morning
The Eternal Man sleeps in the Earth nor feels the vigrous sun
And the Strong Eagle now with num[m]ing cold blighted of feathers
Once like the pride of the sun now flagging in cold night
Hovers with blasted wings aloft watching with Eager Eye
Till Man shall leave a corruptible body he famishd hears him groan
And now he fixes his strong talons in the pointed rock
And now he beats the heavy air with his enormous wings
Beside him lies the Lion dead & in his belly worms
Feast on his death till universal death devours all
And the pale horse seeks for the pool to lie him down & die
But finds the pools filled with serpents devouring one another
He droops his head & trembling stands & his bright eyes decay
These are the Visions of My Eyes the Visions of Ahania

Thus cries Ahania Enion replies from the Caverns of the Grave"

The role which Ahania plays is similar to that of the chorus of Greek plays; she observes, she comments, she doesn't participate, but she helps us understand the action. Without Ahania's speech the Shadowy Female would not make the vivid impression which it does.

Saturday, April 16, 2011


June Singer, a Jungian psychologist, wrote several books on psychology but only one book on Blake. Her first book which developed from her thesis for her analysts diploma from the C. G. Jung Institute in Zurich, is titled The Unholy Bible: Blake, Jung and the Collective Unconscious. Although most of the book is a psychological analysis of The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, she provides insight into the later prophetic writings as well. In this passage she explains The Four Zoas in terms of individuation. The quote from Blake represents the reassembling of the pieces after 'all things are changd'.

"The long poem , The Four Zoas, describes the many aspects of man as they are differentiated from one another.The symbolism amazingly parallels the analytic process of differentiating the many unconscious contents from the other, and then gradually reintegrating them into a new and productive unity. The parallel is even more impressive when we consider that Blake uses the schema of nine nights of dreams, since dreams in analytical psychology provide the key to understanding the unconscious processes. It is with this key that Blake has unlocked 'the doors of perception' as he promised he would in The Marriage of Heaven and Hell. At the end of the ninth night man beholds the infinite vision, and he sings the Ode to Joy (we recall the first two lines, first uttered by the enslaved wives and children of America): [Four Zoas, Page 138, (E 406)]

'The Sun has left his blackness & has found a fresher morning
And the mild moon rejoices in the clear & cloudless night
And Man walks forth from midst of the fires the evil is all
His eyes behold the Angelic spheres arising night & day
The stars consumd like a lamp blown out & in their stead behold
The Expanding Eyes of Man behold the depths of wondrous worlds
One Earth one sea beneath nor Erring Globes wander but Stars
Of fire rise up nightly from the Ocean & one Sun
Each morning like a New born Man issues with songs & Joy
Calling the Plowman to his Labour & the Shepherd to his rest
He walks upon the Eternal Mountains raising his heavenly voice
Conversing with the Animal forms of wisdom night & day
That risen from the Sea of fire renewd walk oer the Earth

For Tharmas brought his flocks upon the hills & in the Vales
Around the Eternal Mans bright tent the little Children play
Among the wooly flocks The hammer of Urthona sounds
In the deep caves beneath his limbs renewd his Lions roar
Around the Furnaces & in Evening sport upon the plains
They raise their faces from the Earth conversing with the Man

How is it we have walkd thro fires & yet are not consumd
How is it that all things are changd even as in ancient times' "

Friday, April 15, 2011


Most agree that the literary and spiritual source which had the most influence on Blake was the Bible - both the Old and New Testaments. Some wish to discount the Greek influence on Blake without acknowledging that the Bible itself was influenced by Greek thought. The language in which the New Testament was written was Greek. In all likelihood Jesus was conversant in Greek. The Jewish people of New Testament times were scattered through the Roman Empire and therefore exposed to Greek thought, Greek literature, Greek religion and the legacy of Greek culture which pervaded the Roman culture in whose empire they lived. The Greek culture had far more effect on Jewish culture than visa versa. The New Testament is a Jewish and Greek document.

An aspect of Greek culture with which many people in contemporary culture are familiar is their mythology. Myth making came to Blake not solely from the Greeks but they were one source. The Hebrews took history as the account of man's relationship with God but the Greeks took mythology to fill that role. Psychology as well as religion was understood by the Greeks as a dimension of mythology.

Jerusalem, Plate 54
Blake's Four Zoas
When Blake chose his method of communicating, it was myth which best suited his mental proclivities. The aspects of Blake's psychic struggles became not the Gods of the Greeks but the giant Zoas of his poetry. Fragments of the Greek tales appear as episodes in the Blake epics along side characters and events from the Bible. Like most myth makers he wrote not to amuse or entertain but to explain the mysteries of life and death, of good and evil, of beginnings and endings.

The Eternal Drama: The Inner Meaning of Greek Mythology, Edward F. Edinger states:
"The Greek myths are sacred scripture, no less than the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament. Certainly the Greek myths and what was built on them - the science and philosophy and literature - form some of the basic roots of the Western Unconscious. Myths are not simple tales of happenings in the remote past but eternal dramas that are living themselves out repeatedly in our own personal lives and in what we see all around us. To be aware of this adds a dimension to existence that is usually reserved for the poets. To the extent that we can cultivate awareness of this transpersonal dimension, life is enlarged and broadened. Just as Moses is eternally bringing down the law and Jesus is forever being crucified and resurrected, so Heracles is eternally performing his labors, Perseus is confronting Medusa, and Theseus is forever stalking the Minotaur. All these dramas are happening in us and around us constantly. They are eternal patterns of the way life happens below the surface, if only we can see it." (Page 3)

The 'Eternal Drama' was more real to Blake than was his earthly life: he lived it in his visions, he assimilated it from multiple sources, he expressed it through his imagination and he urged his readers to learn to recognize it.

Letters, (E 727)
Felpham Jany 30--1803.
Dear Brother
"I go on Merrily with my Greek & Latin: am very sorry that I did not begin to learn languages early in life as I find it very Easy. am now learning my Hebrew I read Greek as fluently as an Oxford scholar & the Testament is my chief master."

Thursday, April 14, 2011


The symbolism of alchemy runs through Blake's writings and will be apparent to those who seek it out. The basic symbolism of alchemy is of transformation. Although the original object was to produce gold from base metals, the discipline was later spiritualized to that of becoming transformed oneself by the processes which were developed in the laboratory for transmuting elements.

Click on this picture from MHH Plate 14 to enlarge an image of transformation by fire.

There is a chapter on Alchemical Symbolism in Milton O Percival's book, William Blake's Circle of Destiny. William Blake's acquaintance with alchemy was primarily through Paracelsus and Boehme whom he acknowledges as influential in his thinking. Among the prominent patterns of thought in alchemy which are noticed in Blake are:
>The four elements - air, water, fire and earth,
>The original state is unified,
>The centrality of reunifying male and female,
>Fire as the liberating and regenerating agent,
>That all things are alive and sentient,
>Achieving life through death,
>Transformation of body into soul.

In this passage the Angel at the point of transformation undergoes mutations of color which are the primary indication that the crisis has been reached. Color changes were outward manifestations that hidden change were taking place in the alchemical processes.

Marriage of Heaven and Hell, Plate 22, (E 43)
"The Angel hearing this became almost blue but mastering
himself he grew yellow, & at last white pink & smiling, and then

Los' work at his furnaces is the work of the alchemist. Here is a quote from page 212 of Circle of Destiny:
"Los handles the purification of the contraries in the furnaces in accordance with alchemical tradition. As in alchemy the imperfect triple body (salt, sulphur, and mercury) has to be broken, and the masculine sulphur and the feminine mercury freed for purification in the fire, that they may be united in the one only essence, so must sinful man, his doubting head and cruel heart selfishly combined into a mortal body, be subjected to trial by fire, that his divided selves may be reunited in the one man Christ. But, though man himself is metaphorically the sum of all that is in the furnaces, the forms (or bodies) which Los continually breaks down should be thought of as forms of government, of religion, of what you will - forms constructed by a crafty head or a cruel heart. The intellectual life (the theory, the dogma) of these forms must be broken down in order that the chastened emotions may be set free for a new fixation under the guidance of a liberated intelligence. In alchemical parlance, two must be drawn out of the three and separately purged before the transforming union can take place."

Blake writes of a world in need of renewal and regeneration. He uses the symbols of alchemy in presenting his complex myth of breaking down the destructive systems and opening the way to transformation to the new age.

Jerusalem, Plate 78, (E 233)
"Los with his mace of iron
Walks round: loud his threats, loud his blows fall
On the rocky Spectres, as the Potter breaks the potsherds;
Dashing in pieces Self-righteousnesses: driving them from Albions
Cliffs: dividing them into Male & Female forms in his Furnaces
And on his Anvils: lest they destroy the Feminine Affections
They are broken. Loud howl the Spectres in his iron Furnace

While Los laments at his dire labours, viewing Jerusalem,
Sitting before his Furnaces clothed in sackcloth of hair;"

Wednesday, April 13, 2011


Mary Magdalen at the Sepulcher
To enlarge, click on picture, then click again.

Mary Magdalene was important in the gospels as an individual who was forgiven and transformed. She exemplified the law-breaker who was confronted by the law and then by grace. Her initial encounter with Jesus led her to a recognition of Jesus as the Lamb of God who had taken away her sins. She gained the strength and discernment to perceive the Spiritual Body of Jesus. The resurrected Christ was revealed first to her.

John 8
[3] And the scribes and Pharisees brought unto him a woman taken in adultery; and when they had set her in the midst,
[4] They say unto him, Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act.
[5] Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou?
[6] This they said, tempting him, that they might have to accuse him. But Jesus stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground, as though he heard them not.
[7] So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.
[8] And again he stooped down, and wrote on the ground.
[9] And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst.
[10] When Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee?
[11] She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.

Luke 8
[1] And it came to pass afterward, that he went throughout every city and village, preaching and shewing the glad tidings of the kingdom of God: and the twelve were with him,
[2] And certain women, which had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities, Mary called Magdalene, out of whom went seven devils,

John 19
[25] Now there stood by the cross of Jesus his mother, and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalene.

John 20
[1] The first day of the week cometh Mary Magdalene early, when it was yet dark, unto the sepulchre, and seeth the stone taken away from the sepulchre.
[18] Mary Magdalene came and told the disciples that she had seen the Lord, and that he had spoken these things unto her.

Mark 16
[9] Now when Jesus was risen early the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had cast seven devils.

Blake wrote of the spiritual awakening of Mary Magdalene in The Everlasting Gospel. Portions are skipped but you can read more here. Scroll down to Pages 48-52.

The Everlasting Gospel, PAGES 48-52, (E 521)
"Was Jesus Chaste or did he
Give any Lessons of Chastity
The morning blushd fiery red
Mary was found in Adulterous bed
Earth groand beneath & Heaven above
Trembled at discovery of Love
Jesus was sitting in Moses Chair
They brought the trembling Woman There
Moses commands she be stoned to Death
What was the sound of Jesus breath
He laid his hand on Moses Law
The Ancient Heavens in Silent Awe
Writ with Curses from Pole to Pole
All away began to roll
The Earth trembling & Naked lay
In secret bed of Mortal Clay
Nor may the sinner cast one stone
To be Good only is to be
A Devil or else a Pharisee
Thou Angel of the Presence Divine
That didst create this Body of Mine
Wherefore has[t] thou writ these Laws
Still the breath Divine does move
And the breath Divine is Love
Mary Fear Not Let me see
The Seven Devils that torment thee
Hide not from my Sight thy Sin
That forgiveness thou maist win
Has no Man Condemned thee
No Man Lord! then what is he
Who shall Accuse thee. Come Ye forth
That they may call a shame & Sin
Loves Temple that God dwelleth in
And hide in secret hidden Shrine
The Naked Human form divine
And render that a Lawless thing
On which the Soul Expands its wing
But this O Lord this was my Sin
When first I let these Devils in
In dark pretence to Chastity
Blaspheming Love blaspheming thee
Thence Rose Secret Adulteries
And thence did Covet also rise
My Sin thou hast forgiven me
Canst thou forgive my Blasphemy
Canst thou return to this dark Hell
And in my burning bosom dwell
And canst thou Die that I may live
And canst thou Pity & forgive
Then Rolld the shadowy Man away
From the Limbs of Jesus to make them his prey"