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.
In 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.
"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."