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

Wednesday, April 6, 2011


Count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing. (James 1:2-4)

e epigram says it all!

This little poem sets the natural scene:
"Man was made for Joy & Woe;
And when this we rightly know
Thro' the World we safely go.
Joy & Woe are woven fine,
A Clothing for the Soul divine;"
(From Auguries of Innocence; Erdman page 491)

We might wonder what meanings joy and woe had for Blake in the spiritual development of his life.

Blake must have been a joyous child to see a tree full of angels, but like all children he also knew woe at an early age; that is symbolized by the angry God at the window who left him screaming (I wonder how many of the small children of fundamentalist Christians have a similar experience.)

The angry God became Blake's chief source of woe and set him to writing feverishly over the years. It led to the system he created, the Myth, begun with a Fall. It led to a systematic study of human psychology with the division of the psyche into four fractions, namely Urizen, Luvah, Los, and Tharmas or in modern day parlance Thinking, Feeling, Intuition or Imagination, and Sensation.

Blake's Thinking became a bane to him; he identified Urizen with the Angry God, the Lawgiver, the Schoolmaster. He wrote thousands of words and produced a multitude of images dealing with Urizen.

He is first mentioned in 1793 in Visions of the Daughters of Albion: "O Urizen! Creator of men! mistaken Demon of heaven: Thy joys are tears! thy labour vain, to form men to thine image."(Erdman 48)

Also in 1793 Blake mentioned Urizen three times in America. (Erdman 54ff) Here's one of them:
"The fiery joy, that Urizen perverted to ten commands"; here he has identified Urizen with the God who directed Moses in the Exodus, but this Exodus was not to liberty, but from Eternity to a rule bound life .

In 1794 Blake began to describe Urizen's career with the Book of Urizen. The story is amplified in great detail. In The Four Zoas. (Put Urizen in the concordance if you want to know where it occurs.)

Blake hated the dominance of Urizen over his mind, but in the course of time he dealt creatively with Urizen. After many, many scenes showing Urizen making things worse and beginning to fear for Futurity he encountered and was confronted by Los. The contest was arduous-- between imagination and what had become fear. The enmity went on and on until finally Los subdued Urizen.

Then strangely enough Los found that he no longer hated Urizen; in fact he had come to love him. (He forgave one who had sinned against him!) Urizen was in his power. With the shivering Urizen subdued by Los, Blake laid to rest the Angry God.

For Blake the thump on the head was replaced by the healing balm of the Jesus he had come to love and worship. Facing God he said: "Throughout Eternity I forgive you; you forgive me." (Notebook, "MySpectre"54; E477) This is a powerful general statement about the consequences of grace. You is everyone of course, but Blake particularly addressed God in this statement. (We may not know it, but a host of us need to forgive God for the things that have appeared to us to be unjust.) Making that decision is infinitely liberating to the human soul.

For Blake having made it led to an immediate release of the visionary power he had lost twenty years before; like C.S.Lewis he was Surprised by Joy. He began to write and draw with power and vigor. In fact he became an evangelist. Unlike Francis of Assisi he used words by choice; words were his forte.

Milton, Jerusalem, Job (Illustrations): three of many ways of telling the old, old story.

Posted by Larry Clayton

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