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

Tuesday, May 31, 2011


Another short account of the fall is given by Ahania to Urizen.

Ahania the emanation of Urizen, playing the loyal wife, wants to help Urizen avoid the consequences of a bad decision. She attempts to build his ego; she places the blame on Luvah; she make excuses for Urizen. But her supportiveness is to no avail. When she asks that Urizen listen to her vision he turns against her.

Four Zoas, Night III, PAGE 38, (E 326)
"O Prince the Eternal One hath set thee leader of his hosts
Leave all futurity to him Resume thy fields of Light
Why didst thou listen to the voice of Luvah that dread morn
To give the immortal steeds of light to his deceitful hands
No longer now obedient to thy will thou art compell'd
To forge the curbs of iron & brass to build the iron mangers
To feed them with intoxication from the wine presses of Luvah
Till the Divine Vision & Fruition is quite obliterated
They call thy lions to the fields of blood, they rowze thy tygers
Out of the halls of justice, till these dens thy wisdom framd
Golden & beautiful but O how unlike those sweet fields of bliss
Where liberty was justice & eternal science was mercy
Then O my dear lord listen to Ahania, listen to the vision
The vision of Ahania in the slumbers of Urizen
When Urizen slept in the porch & the Ancient Man was smitten"

Image from proof title page
Europe a Prophecy

Here Ahania presents a long prophetic vision which Urizen finds disturbing. Rather than giving his attention to the scenario presented to him by the part of his mind which allows him to draw back from the relentless pursuit of exercising control, he turns control over to his emotions. Luvah and Vala are ready and willing to become active. In her vision Ahania sees Luvah, Vala and Albion being dragged down into outer manifestations. Nature attains an autonomous existence as Vala becomes distant from Luvah, the spirit whom she should incorporate. Urizen feels compelled to once again exercise control by declaring himself the only god.

Four Zoas, Night III, Page 42 (E 328)
"O Urizen why art thou pale at the visions of Ahania
Listen to her who loves thee lest we also are driven away.

They heard the Voice & fled swift as the winters setting sun
And now the Human Blood foamd high, I saw that Luvah & Vala
Went down the Human Heart where Paradise & its joys abounded
In jealous fears in fury & rage, & flames roll'd round their fervid feet
And the vast form of Nature like a Serpent play'd before them
And as they went in folding fires & thunders of the deep
Vala shrunk in like the dark sea that leaves its slimy banks
And from her bosom Luvah fell far as the east & west
And the vast form of Nature like a Serpent roll'd between.

She ended. for [from] his wrathful throne burst forth the black hail storm

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"

By bringing up the subject of the fall to Urizen, Ahania has precipitated a continuation of the process of falling away from inwardness to outwardness, from the active to the subjective, and from the Eternal to the temporal.

Monday, May 30, 2011


An image that Blake uses for the Fall of Man (the division into duality or multiplicity), is presented in the limitation of man's sensory acuity. The senses of Eternity are flexible, expanding and contracting at will: their perceptions are infinite.

The Book of Urizen dramatizes the process of the infinite senses becoming the senses five that we recognize and enjoy today. It is not a happy sight to see the powers of Eternity being defined and limited into the narrow range of sight, sound, smell, and taste and touch to which we have access.

Book of Urizen, Plate 12, (E 76) ................Plate 13

"8. In harrowing fear rolling round;
His nervous brain shot branches
Round the branches of his heart.
On high into two little orbs
And fixed in two little eaves
Hiding carefully from the wind,
His Eyes beheld the deep,
And a third Age passed over:
And a state of dismal woe.

9. The pangs of hope began,
In heavy pain striving, struggling.
Two Ears in close volutions.
From beneath his orbs of vision
Shot spiring out and petrified
As they grew. And a fourth Age passed
And a state of dismal woe.

10. In ghastly torment sick;
Hanging upon the wind;

Two Nostrils bent down to the deep.
And a fifth Age passed over;
And a state of dismal woe.

11. In ghastly torment sick;
Within his ribs bloated round,
A craving Hungry Cavern;
Thence arose his channeld Throat,
And like a red flame a Tongue
Of thirst & of hunger appeard.
And a sixth Age passed over:
And a state of dismal woe.

PLATE 22, (E 82)
The Senses inward rush'd shrinking,
Beneath the dark net of infection.

2. Till the shrunken eyes clouded over
Discernd not the woven hipocrisy
But the streaky slime in their heavens
Brought together by narrowing perceptions
Appeard transparent air; for their eyes
Grew small like the eyes of a man
And in reptile forms shrinking together"

The inability to perceive reality shows itself in man's forgetting Eternity from which he originated. This limits his ability to discern the possibility of living as he is meant to live. His limited perceptions further cloud his mind to the distorted conditions which he becomes satisfied with living under in the world he has made for himself.

Letter to Truxler, (E 702)
"As a man is So he Sees.
As the Eye is formed such are its Powers"

We are limited in what we see by who we are; likewise we are limited in who we are by what we see. In our present circumstances the distortions of our perceptions cause us to accept war, imprisonment, impoverishment, exploitation, and destruction of the environment. Likewise we are diminished in our self-perception by what we see is happening around us. Cleansing the windows of perception is a way to alter the direction in which we are heading. Blake has the journey to regeneration begin by Los recognizing himself in his enemy Urizen. Our return journey can begin with a recognition that we are creating the self-destructing world in our own image. Healing ourselves can heal our world.

Sunday, May 29, 2011


We have looked at two accounts of the fall as told by the Spectre of Urthona. Now Urizen gives his own account of the fall.

Four Zoas, Night V, Page 64, (E 343)
"But now my land is darkend & my wise men are departed

My songs are turned to cries of Lamentation
Heard on my Mountains & deep sighs under my palace roofs
Because the Steeds of Urizen once swifter than the light
Were kept back from my Lord & from his chariot of mercies
O did I keep the horses of the day in silver pastures
O I refusd the Lord of day the horses of his prince
O did I close my treasuries with roofs of solid stone
And darken all my Palace walls with envyings & hate

O Fool to think that I could hide from his all piercing eyes
The gold & silver & costly stones his holy workmanship
O Fool could I forget the light that filled my bright spheres
Was a reflection of his face who calld me from the deep

I well remember for I heard the mild & holy voice
Saying O light spring up & shine & I sprang up from the deep
He gave to me a silver scepter & crownd me with a golden crown
& said Go forth & guide my Son who wanders on the ocean

I went not forth. I hid myself in black clouds of my wrath
I calld the stars around my feet in the night of councils dark
The stars threw down their spears & fled naked away
We fell. I siezd thee dark Urthona In my left hand falling

I siezd thee beauteous Luvah thou art faded like a flower
And like a lilly is thy wife Vala witherd by winds
When thou didst bear the golden cup at the immortal tables
Thy children smote their fiery wings crownd with the gold of heaven
Thy pure feet stepd on the steps divine. too pure for other feet
And thy fair locks shadowd thine eyes from the divine effulgence
Then thou didst keep with Strong Urthona the living gates of heaven
But now thou art bound down with him even to the gates of hell

Because thou gavest Urizen the wine of the Almighty
For steeds of Light that they might run in thy golden chariot of pride
I gave to thee the Steeds I pourd the stolen wine
And drunken with the immortal draught fell from my throne sublime

I will arise Explore these dens & find that deep pulsation
That shakes my caverns with strong shudders. perhaps this is the night
Of Prophecy & Luvah hath burst his way from Enitharmon
When Thought is closd in Caves. Then love shall shew its root in deepest Hell

End of the Fifth Night"
Illustration to Milton's
On the Morning of Christ's Nativity
Butts set

Urizen, the Apollo of Blake's system, was the Prince of Light, the intellectual capacity of the total man. His steeds which were the source of his energy, together with his chariot which was his form, were at the service of his Lord. However, he conceived that he would lose his special place as bearer of the Lord's light to the Lord's Son. Proud of his position, he was disobedient to the Lord's request. He hid from his Lord and became consumed by wrath. As he fell from Eternity, he took with him the Zoas of Imagination and Emotion, Urthona and Luvah.

Perhaps as an afterthought, he accused Luvah of having stolen the wine of the Almighty and gotten him drunk, causing him to fall from his throne.

No Zoa can change without changing the other Zoas. They are linked together and form a pattern within the wholeness. Did Urizen originate the cascading consequences by altering the balance? He looks at his situation in comparison with what it was when he accepted without question what was expected of him. Being the reasoner he constructs a scenario in which he plays the leading role but he spreads blame around.

As the fall continued Urizen continued to change. He explored, he built, he confronted, he constructed a system. The Urizen who was eventually reunited with the other three Zoas was a new Urizen chastened by experience.

Saturday, May 28, 2011


British Museum
Albion Rose

Albion Rose - Blake's inscription: 'Albion rose from where he labourd at the Mill with Slaves / Giving himself for the Nations he danc'd the dance of Eternal Death'.

"...myth is the secret opening through which the inexhaustible energies of the cosmos pour into human cultural manifestations." Joseph Campbell

It is interesting to observe the parallels visible between the mythological tradition and Blake's created myth. Here we have Joseph Campbell showing how the same concepts of fall and return which we encounter in Blake's poetry pervade the hero story.

From Joseph Campbell's, The Hero with a Thousand Faces, Page 259:

"'For, as Jesus states it, 'behold, the Kingdom of God is within you.' Indeed, the lapse of superconsciousness into the state of unconsciousness is precisely the meaning of the Biblical image of the Fall. The constriction of consciousness, to which we owe the fact that we see not the source of the universal power but only the phenomenal forms reflected from that power, turns superconsciousness into unconsciousness and, at the same time creates the world. Redemption consists in the return to superconsciousness and therewith the dissolution of the world. This is the great image and theme of the cosmogonic cycle, the mythical image of the world's coming into manifestation and subsequent return into the nonmanifest condition. Equally, the birth, life, and death of the individual may be regarded as a descent into unconsciousness and return. The hero is the one who, while still alive, knows and represents the claim of the superconsciouness which throughout creation is more or less unconscious. The adventure of the hero represents the moment in his life when he achieved illumination - the nuclear moment when, while still alive, he found and opened the road to the light beyond the dark walls of our living death."...
"In any case, they are telling metaphors of the destiny of man, man's hope, man's faith, and man's dark mystery."

These are the processes of the human mind or of life as we experience it: analysis and synthesis (Chemistry), differentiation and integration (Mathematics), destruction and construction (Architecture), death and birth (Biology).

As Blake describes the breaking apart and bringing together and we join in the experience, hopefully we can focus as much on the synthesis as on the analysis.

Here Blake portrays Los as the Hero:

Jerusalem, Plate 38, (E 184)

 "Then Los grew furious raging: 
Why stand we here trembling around 
Calling on God for help; and not ourselves in whom God dwells 
Stretching a hand to save the falling Man: are we not Four
Beholding Albion upon the Precipice ready to fall into Non-Entity:
Seeing these Heavens & Hells conglobing in the Void."

Friday, May 27, 2011


In an account of the fall told by the Spectre of Urthona to Enitharmon, the narrator recalls the state of bliss which existed in Eternity before the fall. Enitharmon appears as a result of the event which is narrated. The Spectre of Urthona describes the fall as an internal event wherein the 'gentle passions' were divided from the 'manhood.' This may indicate that the aspect which became Luvah (and Vala) was divided from the total man producing the principle of the autonomous female (or the vehicle for matter) as a separate being. The 'masculine spirit' resists becoming embodied (materialized.) The infant terror (los) and the infant woe (Enitharmon) divide and separate leaving the Zoa Urthona as a spectre subject to the creation he himself created.

The Spectre of Urthona is a poor imitation of the Zoa he once was. He is, however, a Spectre or shade of the living: of the Eternal who is immortal. He expects to reenter the Gates of Eternity when the impediments which resulted from the Fall are removed.

Even in the fallen state the three fallen aspects of Urthona - Los, Enitharmon and the Spectre - are instruments for ending the divisions which prevent the return to life in Eternity.

Image from
America a Prophecy
Plate 1

Spectre of Urthona speaks to Shade of Enitharmon:

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

Thou knowest that the Spectre is in Every Man insane brutish
Deformd that I am thus a ravening devouring lust continually
Craving & devouring but my Eyes are always upon thee O lovely
Delusion & I cannot crave for any thing but thee not so
The spectres of the Dead for I am as the Spectre of the Living
For till these terrors planted round the Gates of Eternal life
Are driven away & annihilated we never can repass the Gates
Astonishd filld with tears the spirit of Enitharmon beheld
And heard the Spectre bitterly she wept Embracing fervent
Her once lovd Lord now but a Shade herself also a shade
Conferring times on times among the branches of that Tree"

Thursday, May 26, 2011


Yale Center for British Art 
Frontispiece, Copy E

The frontispiece of Blake's Jerusalem pictures 
a man clothed as a night watchman entering a dark doorway. He carries the watchman's light to illuminate the 'perilous path' whose entry he steps into wearing his sandals (which he strapped on in the poem Milton). The figure is Los beginning his journey through the underworld which Persephone entered before him. Blake describes it as 'the passage through Eternal Death! and of the awaking to Eternal Life.' (Jerusalem, Plate 4, E 146)

Among the many roles that Los is assigned is that of watchman for which he was first chosen in the Book of Urizen. When the Eternals see the vast world of Urizen appear, Los is called upon to confine Urizen's world.

Urizen, Plate 5, (E 73)
"8. And Los round the dark globe of Urizen,
Kept watch for Eternals to confine,
The obscure separation alone;
For Eternity stood wide apart,"

In Milton Los is singled out to be the watchman and to keep the peace until Milton's redemptive act is completed. The full weight falls on Los and his sons because the other Zoas have left their stations.

Milton, Plate 23 [25], (E 119)
"We were plac'd here by the Universal Brotherhood & Mercy
With powers fitted to circumscribe this dark Satanic death
And that the Seven Eyes of God may have space for Redemption.
But how this is as yet we know not, and we cannot know;
Till Albion is arisen; then patient wait a little while,
Six Thousand years are passd away the end approaches fast;
This mighty one is come from Eden, he is of the Elect,
Who died from Earth & he is returnd before the Judgment. This thing
Was never known that one of the holy dead should willing return
Then patient wait a little while till the Last Vintage is over:"

Milton, Plate 24 (E 119)
"Because of Satan: & the Seven Eyes of God continually
Guard round them, but I the Fourth Zoa am also set
The Watchman of Eternity, the Three are not! & I am preserved
Still my four mighty ones are left to me in Golgonooza
Still Rintrah fierce, and Palamabron mild & piteous
Theotormon filld with care, Bromion loving Science
You O my Sons still guard round Los."

Jerusalem, the role of watchman again falls to Los as he watches at his furnaces until Albion awakes.

Jerusalem, Plate 83, (E 242)
"It must lie in confusion till Albions time of awaking.
Place the Tribes of Llewellyn in America for a hiding place!
Till sweet Jerusalem emanates again into Eternity
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
Of London City on the Thames from Surrey Hills to Highgate
While Los arose upon his Watch, and down from Golgonooza
Putting on his golden sandals to walk from mountain to mountain,
He takes his way, girding himself with gold & in his hand
Holding his iron mace: The Spectre remains attentive
Alternate they watch in night: alternate labour in day
Before the Furnaces labouring, while Los all night watches
The stars rising & setting, & the meteors & terrors of night!"

We can go back to the book America to get an intimation of the rejoicing which will take place when the watchman's duty is over.

America, PLATE 6, (E 52)
"The morning comes, the night decays, the watchmen leave their stations;
The grave is burst, the spices shed, the linen wrapped up;
The bones of death, the cov'ring clay, the sinews shrunk & dry'd.
Reviving shake, inspiring move, breathing! awakening!
Spring like redeemed captives when their bonds & bars are burst;"

Wednesday, May 25, 2011


Book of Urizen

Plate 17

The event of the Fall made a big impression on all involved as do major traumatic events in every life. Blake allows several of his character to present their own accounts of their involvement in the Fall. Each views from his own perspective.

The Spectre of Urthona sees the Fall in terms of the initial separation from the female.

Four Zoas, Night IV, Page 49, (E 333)
"The Spectre of Urthona seeing Enitharmon writhd
His cloudy form in jealous fear & muttering thunders hoarse
And casting round thick glooms. thus utterd his fierce pangs of heart

Tharmas I know thee. how are we alterd our beauty decayd
But still I know thee tho in this horrible ruin whelmd
Thou once the mildest son of heaven art now become a Rage
A terror to all living things. think not that I am ignorant
That thou art risen from the dead or that my power forgot
I slumber here in weak repose. I well remember the Day
The day of terror & abhorrence
When fleeing from the battle thou fleeting like the raven
Of dawn outstretching an expanse where neer expanse had been
Drewst all the Sons of Beulah into thy dread vortex following
Thy Eddying spirit down the hills of Beulah. All my sons
Stood round me at the anvil where new heated the wedge
Of iron glowd furious prepard for spades & mattocks
Hearing the symphonies of war loud sounding All my sons
Fled from my side then pangs smote me unknown before. I saw
My loins begin to break forth into veiny pipes & writhe
Before me in the wind englobing trembling with strong vibrations
The bloody mass began to animate. I bending over
Wept bitter tears incessant. Still beholding how the piteous form
Dividing & dividing from my loins a weak & piteous
Soft cloud of snow a female pale & weak I soft embracd
My counter part & calld it Love I named her Enitharmon
But found myself & her together issuing down the tide
Which now our rivers were become delving thro caverns huge
Of goary blood strugg[l]ing to be deliverd from our bonds
She strove in vain not so Urthona strove for breaking forth,
A shadow blue obscure & dismal from the breathing Nostrils

Of Enion I issued into the air divided from Enitharmon
I howld in sorrow I beheld thee rotting upon the Rocks
I pitying hoverd over thee I protected thy ghastly corse
From Vultures of the deep then wherefore shouldst thou rage
Against me who thee guarded in the night of death from harm"

The division from Enitharmon and guarding Tharmas from harm during the 'night of death' were the most memorable aspects of the fall to the Spectre of Urthona. An account of the division of Enitharmon from Los, the vehicular form of Urthona is reported in the Book of Urizen.
Book of Urizen, Plate 15, (E 78)
"Thus the Eternal Prophet was divided
Before the death-image of Urizen
For in changeable clouds and darkness
In a winterly night beneath,
The Abyss of Los stretch'd immense:
And now seen, now obscur'd, to the eyes
Of Eternals, the visions remote
Of the dark seperation appear'd.
As glasses discover Worlds
In the endless Abyss of space,
So the expanding eyes of Immortals
Beheld the dark visions of Los,
And the globe of life blood trembling
8. The globe of life blood trembled
Branching out into roots;
Fib'rous, writhing upon the winds;
Fibres of blood, milk and tears;
In pangs, eternity on eternity.
At length in tears & cries imbodied
A female form trembling and pale
Waves before his deathy face

9. All Eternity shudderd at sight
Of the first female now separate
Pale as a cloud of snow
Waving before the face of Los"

Tuesday, May 24, 2011


Each of the Four Zoas is associated with one of the four elements: Urizen with air, Luvah with fire, Urthona with earth, and Tharmas with water. The four elements appear in the Book of Urizen, but in this early work they had different names. Here is a vivid picture of the four as they appear on Plate 24 of the Book of Urizen. Individual images appear in the Gates of Paradise.

For one of the images of the Small Book of Designs, Blake reused Plate 24 of the Book of Urizen, but he redesigned the image to include only Tharmas submerged in a rough sea with only his face above water. The other elements were covered over in the print with the sea, the mountains and red light from a rising or setting sun. The role of Tharmas is given prominence apropos for his importance in Blake's system. Tharmas as the body, is the avenue of sensory perception which in the fallen state, overloads man's mind leading to the exclusion of spiritual perception. Drowning in a watery world is a good image for living by the precepts of 'Bacon, Newton and Locke' which Blake deplored.

Tharmas occurs as the first building block the psyche, but he is the last to be recognized as deserving of a position among the Zoas. He takes a back seat as the dynamics of the struggle for the structuring of the psychic life occurs. In the end he becomes a unifying principle which represents the possibility of further development beyond a simple return to the original status.

At some points in Blake's myth, there is a close association between Urthona and Tharmas. In the final stage of The Four Zoas the two of them recognize their closeness and recall being friends in earlier times. Urthona and Tharmas are the two Zoas that function most unconsciously, just as intuition and sensation are the less conscious functions in Jung's system. Earth is the element from which Adam was formed in the Bible. Water is the element from which life arises in the evolutionary process. Earth and Water; Imagination (or the Spiritual Sense) and the Body (or sensation); Urthona and Tharmas are the foundational materials for building life in both a physical and psychological sense. Blake presents them as forces that held the unified man together before the fall, and as the unifying forces available to man as he enters the new age.

Four Zoas, Page 137, (E 405)
"Then Los who is Urthona rose in all his regenerate power
The Sea that rolld & foamd with darkness & the shadows of death
Vomited out & gave up all the floods lift up their hands
Singing & shouting to the Man they bow their hoary heads
And murmuring in their channels flow & circle round his feet
Page 138
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 Loose
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"

Monday, May 23, 2011


The element of Tharmas is water. He is pictured here raising his head above the angry waters of the ocean. As the body of man, Tharmas provides the sea of time and space in which man functions. Damon (A Blake Dictionary) tells us: "All forms of water signify Matter, the Flood was the overwhelming of mankind with Matter, which separated them from Eternity." (Page 300)

Small Book of Designs

From Page 24, Book of Urizen
Four Elements

So man enters the Body, the great flood of sensation, the world of matter, the Circle of Destiny. Time and Space become the milieu which confine and separate man from Eternity.

Enion separated from Tharmas weaves from the outer and inner ability to perceive, a material instrument of perception; the physical body enclosing the spirit. Tharmas is consumed with rage and repentance over the loss of Enion.

Four Zoas, Night I,
Page 5, (E 302)
"Singing her lamentation. Tharmas groand among his Clouds
Weeping, then bending from his Clouds he stoopd his innocent head
And stretching out his holy hand in the vast Deep sublime
Turnd round the circle of Destiny with tears & bitter sighs
And said. Return O Wanderer when the Day of Clouds is oer

So saying he sunk down into the sea a pale white corse
In torment he sunk down & flowd among her filmy Woof
His Spectre issuing from his feet in flames of fire
In gnawing pain drawn out by her lovd fingers every nerve
She counted. every vein & lacteal threading them among
Her woof of terror. Terrified & drinking tears of woe
Shuddring she wove--nine days & nights Sleepless her food was tears
Wondring she saw her woof begin to animate. & not
As Garments woven subservient to her hands but having a will
Of its own perverse & wayward Enion lovd & wept

Nine days she labourd at her work. & nine dark sleepless nights
But on the tenth trembling morn the Circle of Destiny Complete
Round rolld the Sea Englobing in a watry Globe self balancd
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"

Reading from Milton O Percival's William Blake's Circle of Destiny we find that:
"He [Tharmas] will be what he can, but she [Enion] must remain in the deeps of matter, where her misguided efforts led her. A dual physical world has been achieved. It is the complement to the duality already achieved in the moral world."
"Still, Tharmas is not satisfied. Though as the principle of life within the physical universe he scorns matter, he cannot live without it. Separated from Enion, he finds himself little more than a formless and meaningless will to be. What is more he can find no release from his suffering; he is now 'immortal in immortal torment.' Deathless in his despair, he wanders seeking oblivion. Enion alone can provide it. It is to satisfy this hunger of one contrary for the other that the mortal world is made. It is built at Tharmas' command in forms of 'death and decay,' in the hope that 'some little semblance' of Enion may return. In short, a mortal world is the logical answer to a dualism of spirit and matter. It is the only conceivable world that will take account of both the physical contraries, one of which has been driven into matter."
(Page 184)

Four Zoas, Night I, Page 11, (E 306)
"Tho in the Brain of Man we live, & in his circling Nerves.
Tho' this bright world of all our joy is in the Human Brain.
Where Urizen & all his Hosts hang their immortal lamps
Thou neer shalt leave this cold expanse where watry Tharmas mourns

So spoke Los. Scorn & Indignation rose upon Enitharmon
Then Enitharmon reddning fierce stretchd her immortal hands

Descend O Urizen descend with horse & chariots
Threaten not me O visionary thine the punishment
The Human Nature shall no more remain nor Human acts
Form the rebellious Spirits of Heaven. but War & Princedom & Victory & Blood"

Four Zoas, Night IV, PAGE 47, (E 331)
"Ah Enion Ah Enion Ah lovely l vely Enion
How is this All my hope is gone for ever fled
Like a famishd Eagle Eyeless raging in the vast expanse
Incessant tears are now my food. incessant rage & tears
Deathless for ever now I wander seeking oblivion
In torrents of despair in vain. for if I plunge beneath
Stifling I live. If dashd in pieces from a rocky height
I reunite in endless torment. would I had never risen
From deaths cold sleep beneath the bottom of the raging Ocean
And cannot those who once have lovd. ever forget their Love?
Are love & rage the same passion? they are the same in me
Are those who love. like those who died. risen again from death
Immortal. in immortal torment. never to be deliverd
Is it not possible that one risen again from Death
Can die! When dark despair comes over [me] can I not
Flow down into the sea & slumber in oblivion. Ah Enion
Deformd I see these lineaments of ungratified Desire
The all powerful curse of an honest man be upon Urizen & Luvah
But thou My Son Glorious in brightness comforter of Tharmas
Go forth Rebuild this Universe beneath my indignant power
A Universe of Death & Decay. Let Enitharmons hands
Weave soft delusive forms of Man above my watry world
Renew these ruind souls of Men thro Earth Sea Air & Fire
To waste in endless corruption. renew thou I will destroy
Perhaps Enion may resume some little semblance
To ease my pangs of heart & to restore some peace to Tharmas"

Blake is working out his complicated process for explaining the fall of man and his eventual return to Eternity.

Sunday, May 22, 2011


Enion, the Emanation of Tharmas, ages rapidly after the birth of her two children, Los and Enitharmon, Time and Space. She flees from Tharmas who represents the body and the energy supply of generation. Although Damon associates her with the Earth Mother, it is not she who populates the world but Los and Enitharman.

She does have the heart of a mother for she, more than any other character, feels the suffering of the natural world which lives on death. Feeling responsible for the suffering which manifests in Nature she wanders bent and blind and assumes the pain all around her. Her blindness may represent her inability to see beyond the natural world to the purpose it serves. Enion is given some of the most beautiful of Blake's poetry as she laments both the misfortunes of the created world, and the expected loss of the outer existence.

Enion seems to represent the world as appearances, as would be appropriate as the mother of Time and Space, (who create the conditions necessary for the production of matter.) In her final lament, she recognizes that appearance (the material world) is fading and she rejoices in being the 'dark consumer.' The Immortal Body which has been expressed through these visible forms will be gathered once again into the Eternal visage. Seeing that the Mortal is to be absorbed back into Immortality, she rejoices in hope.

Annunciation to the Shepherds

Four of her Laments can be found in The Four Zoas:
Page 17-18 (E 310) Night the First, Line1

Page 35-36 (E 324) Night the Second, Line 1

Page 45 (E 329) Night the Third, Line 2 ff

Page 113-4 (E 383) Night the Eighth, Line 13

Percival sums up her role in Circle of Destiny, page 44:

"In the grave Enion learns that the 'time of love' returns, and sees man gathering up the scattered portions of his immortal body. She is here the mouthpiece for Blake's belief that the function of the mortal body is the return of the immortal. Having borne the burden or corporeality, Enion learns its purpose. Life cannot be quenched; it springs eternal. But error must be destroyed, and as death, the 'dark consumer,' Enion is happy in her function."

Four Zoas, Night 8 (E385)

"Behold the time approaches fast that thou shalt be as a thing
Forgotten when one speaks of thee he will not be believd
When the man gently fades away in his immortality
When the mortal disappears in improved knowledge cast away
The former things so shall the Mortal gently fade away
And so become invisible to those who still remain
Listen I will tell thee what is done in the caverns of the grave"

Saturday, May 21, 2011


Blake uses the Zoas as a means of presenting the aspects of the psyche which he sees internally and recognizes as the structure of the human mind. Early in Blake's life he recognized that there were internal divisions within himself. Reason, desire, imagination and sensation each tried to claim the uppermost position in the allocation of his time and resources. Blake personified these abstractions as the 'Four Mighty Ones in Every Man.'

The beginning of the Four Zoas brings to our attention the four mighty ones who do battle:

Four Zoas, Night I, Page 3, (E 300)
"The Song of the Aged Mother which shook the heavens with wrath
Hearing the march of long resounding strong heroic Verse
Marshalld in order for the day of Intellectual Battle

Four Mighty Ones are in every Man;"

Later Blake identifies the Four Zoas and their positions in the Eternal World.

Four Zoas, Night VII, Page 74, (E 351)
"But in Eternal times the Seat of Urizen is in the South
Urthona in the North Luvah in East Tharmas in West"

Laurens van der Post, in Jung and the Story of Our Time, speaking of Jung's observation that the conflict between the conscious and unconscious forces in the mind led to mental illness notes that :

"The trouble started only when the part of the human personality which was conscious behaved as if it were the whole of the man. There was nothing this unconscious world abhorred more than one-sidedness. When one extreme of spirit attempted a monopoly for itself another extreme sooner of later rose titanic in the unconscious to overthrow it. That is why the history of man was so much a swing from one opposite of spirit into another as Heraclitus had observed millenniums before." (Page 209)

The trouble starts in Blake's myth when the positions of the Zoas are altered by the deal between Urizen and Luvah. The harmonious balance is ruined.

Milton, PLATE 19 [21], (E 112)
"Four Universes round the Mundane Egg remain Chaotic
One to the North, named Urthona: One to the South, named Urizen:
One to the East, named Luvah: One to the West, named Tharmas
They are the Four Zoa's that stood around the Throne Divine!
But when Luvah assum'd the World of Urizen to the South:
And Albion was slain upon his mountains, & in his tent;
All fell towards the Center in dire ruin, sinking down.
And in the South remains a burning fire; in the East a void.
In the West, a world of raging waters; in the North a solid,
Unfathomable! without end. But in the midst of these,
Is built eternally the Universe of Los and Enitharmon:
Towards which Milton went, but Urizen oppos'd his path."

Van der Post writes of the collective unconscious and archetypes of Jung as the patterns of the mind which organize its form and put to use the psyche's energy.

"He [Jung] revealed how in this collective unconscious of the individual man were infinite resources of energy, organized in definite patterns. Each of these patterns had at its disposal its own form of energy and somewhere located, as it were, in the center, between the unconscious and the conscious, there was a master pattern to which all the others subscribed and all their other energies could be joined in one transcendental orbit. He called these patterns, first of all, 'primordial images,' ... but later changed to 'archetypes,' an idea rediscovered from Saint Augustine, and before him from Hermes Trimegistus, who proclaimed in the Poimandres, 'You have seen in your mind the archetypal image!'" (Page 209)

In Jerusalem we learn the Zoas have lost their original abilities and exemplify the opposite characteristics:

Jerusalem, Plate 38, (E184)
"They [the Four Zoas] saw their Wheels rising up poisonous against Albion
Urizen, cold & scientific: Luvah, pitying & weeping
Tharmas, indolent & sullen: Urthona, doubting & despairing
Victims to one another & dreadfully plotting against each other
To prevent Albion walking about in the Four Complexions."

Jerusalem, Plate 49, (E 199)
"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"

Blake and Jung both sought consciousness of the internal dynamics of the psyche, awareness of the forces seeking expression or dominance, and recognition of 'the Eternal Human That walks about among the stones of fire in bliss & woe.'

Frontispiece to B├╝rger's "Leonora" (London, 1796)
Designed by Blake, Engraved by Perry

Van der Post explains Jung's concept of wholeness:
"Wholeness was the ultimate of man's conscious and unconscious seeking; indeed consciousness was so important because it was the chosen instrument of the unconscious seeking the abolition of partialities in a harmony of differences that is wholeness." (Page 219)

Friday, May 20, 2011


From the Book of Genesis

Milton Percival in Circle of Destiny, explains the level or 'world' which Blake calls generation.

"..This is double vision, a correlative of the sexual world of
Generation. The object is outward, corporeal, feminine; the
imaginative image is masculine. Both assert themselves,
each challenging the other's right. The world of generation
might indeed be thought of as a training school in vision.
It may slip back into Ulro, or ascend to Beulah. This is
Los's world, the world of the loins, twofold and sexual;
corporeal, yet struggling to be spiritual" (272-3)

Percival describes the world of generation as Los's world. It
is our world too, a divided world, pulled upward and
downward. The contraries manifest themselves in such

"Since there is no chasm, in Blake's system, between man
and nature, the struggle toward regeneration in the natural
world must be thought of, equally with the struggle in the
spiritual world, as the work of Los. Los with his hammer
vehemently constricting, hardening and fixing, eternally
creating only to destroy the false work he has created, is
Blake's dramatization of the process he saw as constantly
at work. For destruction is as essential as creation. For
this reason the natural world is cast in mortal form. Death
and decay are its attributes. It's vegetable life, like Los's
systems, is "continually building and continually decaying."
The invisible fires in which these vegetable forms consume
are the fires of vegetation or generation which also light
the furnaces of Los. Just as the Soul of man is purified in
the "furnaces of affliction," so is the physical world
destroyed and renewed in the fires of "generation or
vegetation." The necessary change is in both cases
accomplished by death in fire."

Blake prefers not to use the terms 'good and evil' in talking
about his worlds because the outcome has already been
decided. Whatever happens along the way, whether it
appears to be constructive or destructive, moves the
process toward wholeness, reintegration, regeneration -
the Eternal completeness in which nothing is lost and
nothing wasted.

Thursday, May 19, 2011


Dr. David R. Hiles of De Montfort University, Leicester UK, a professor of psychology, a student of Jung and Blake, makes these comments on suffering and the contraries in his paper "Jung, William Blake and our answer to Job."

"Taking this view on board, we can see that Job should not be seen as the archetype of suffering, but instead we should think of Job as the archetype of our relationship to suffering. The story of Job is not just about suffering, or about the human experience of suffering, but about the wisdom that can unfold from our experience of suffering. The Job archetype is something that we all possess, but only with profound difficulty, can we access it in ourselves. Of necessity, each of us must formulate our own answer to Job, from our experience of, and participation in, suffering. The importance of our experience of the Job archetype is that it so clearly portrays the coincidentia oppositorium, the coincidence or conjunction of opposites that are brought into human consciousness (I must stress this is not the marriage of opposites). This is an idea which occupies such an important place in Jung’s psychology. However, what is at stake here is not the recognition of opposites, or the interplay of opposites in our experience, or even the union or marriage of opposites, but the shocking realization of their conjunction in the same object or situation. The reason why the coincidentia oppositorium is so crucial is that it does not simply represent the opposition of fear and love, but represents fear and love of the same object. Fearing one object, and loving another, is hardly a challenging experience. But fearing and loving the same object, now that is a completely different matter!! This is a theme, or psychic truth, that must lie at the core of an existential- transpersonal model of human experience. It is almost certain that the fearful symmetry which William Blake refers to in his poem, The Tyger, is precisely this conjunction of opposites:" (Page 19)
"If we take this seriously, then it does not take much effort to realize that the God archetype could not manifest itself in human consciousness in any other way. It is precisely this realization that lies at the core of Blake’s interpretation of Job, but which Jung strangely fails to make explicit despite his extensive study of alchemy, and the creative tension of opposites. A close examination of the major difference between Jung’s and Blake’s interpretation of Job shows that, whereas Jung sees Job as morally defeating God, there is no suggestion of this in Blake’s engravings at all. This is a crucial point. For Blake the conjunction comes at the midpoint, i.e. at Plate 11. The marriage, or union, of opposites that unfolds in the second half of Blake’s designs would not be possible without this terrifying conjunction being experienced first. The notion of a moral defeat, over God by Job, is really a symptom of being stuck in the coincidentia oppositorium, and not being able to move beyond it.
Blake therefore offers a resolution that Jung falls well short of. Blake is offering a richer and far more subtle view of the human response to suffering than can be found in Jung’s Answer to Job." (Page 21)

Oothoon in The Visions of the Daughters of Albion seems to have reached the resolution of holding both the joy and the sorrow of experience in the one vision of everything as holy.

Visions of Daughters of Albion, Plate 7-8, (E 50)

"Does the sun walk in glorious raiment. on the secret floor
Where the cold miser spreads his gold? or does the bright cloud drop
On his stone threshold? does his eye behold the beam that brings
Expansion to the eye of pity? or will he bind himself
Beside the ox to thy hard furrow? does not that mild beam blot
The bat, the owl, the glowing tyger, and the king of night.
The sea fowl takes the wintry blast. for a cov'ring to her limbs:
And the wild snake, the pestilence to adorn him with gems & gold.
And trees. & birds. & beasts. & men. behold their eternal joy.
Arise you little glancing wings, and sing your infant joy!
Arise and drink your bliss, for every thing that lives is holy!

Thus every morning wails Oothoon. but Theotormon sits
Upon the margind ocean conversing with shadows dire.

The Daughters of Albion hear her woes, & eccho back her sighs."

Wednesday, May 18, 2011


It is not easy to understand Blake's attitude toward Good & Evil. Northrup Frye, a renowned student of Blake has given some explanations in Fearful Symmetry. Let's go to him and to Mr. Blake himself for some help.

Northrup Frey, Fearful Symmetry, Page 197
"Moral good and moral evil do not represent any genuine opposition. The one wages wars and executes criminals; the other murders. The one exploits labor; the other robs. The one exploits marriage on the destruction of virginity; the other rapes. But they have a common enemy, the power of genius and prophecy. In terms of moral good it is not the murderer or the robber but the prophet who is really evil. Barabbas can be safely released, for it is impossible that his robberies can destroy the social structure of Pilate and Caiphas; but there is deadly danger in Jesus and John the Baptist, who must be got rid of at all costs."

Northrup Frey, Fearful Symmetry, Page 56
"Hence evil is a negative: all evil consists either in self-restraint or restraint of others. There can be no such thing, strictly speaking, as an evil act; all acts are good, and evil comes when activity is perverted into the frustration of activity, in oneself or others...
This death-impulse, this perverted wish to cut down and restrict the scope of life, is the touchstone not only of all the obvious vices, but of many acts often not classified as such, like teasing, instilling fear or discouragement, or exacting unthinking obedience."

William Blake, Annotations to Lavater (E 601)
"But as I understand Vice it is a Negative...Accident is the omission of act in self & the hindering of act in another, This is Vice but all Act [<from Individual propensity>] is Virtue. To hinder another is not an act it is the contrary it is a restraint on action both in ourselves & in the person hinderd. for he who hinders another omits his own duty. at the time
Murder is Hindering Another
Theft is Hindering Another
Backbiting. Undermining C[i]rcumventing & whatever is Negative is Vice."

Northrup Frey, Fearful Symmetry, Page 58
"But self-development leads us into a higher state of integration with a larger imaginative unit which is ultimately God. Hence the paradox that one gains his life by losing it, which Jesus taught. The selfish or egocentric are incapable of developing themselves; that comes from expansion outward not withdrawal inward. Hence there are two selves in man absolutely opposed to one another, the better self that grows and lives and the worse self that rots and withers, the good and evil angel:"

William Blake, Annotation to Lavater (E 594)
"Man is a twofold being. one part capable of evil & the other
capable of good that which is capable of good is not also
capable of evil. but that which is capable of evil is also
capable of good. this aphorism seems to consider man as
simple & yet capable of evil. now both evil & good cannot
exist in a simple being. for thus 2 contraries would. spring
from one essence which is impossible. but if man is
considerd as only evil. & god only good. how then is
regeneration effected which turns the evil to good. by
casting out the evil. by the good.
See Matthew XII. Ch. 26. 27. 28. 29 vs"
["If it is Satan who is expelling Satan, then he is divided against himself - so how do you suppose that his kingdom can continue? And if I expel devils because I am an ally of Beelzebub, what alliance do your sons make when they do the same thing? They can settle that question for you! But if I am expelling devils by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has swept over you unawares! How do you suppose anyone could get into a strong man's house and steal his property unless he first tied up the strong man? But if he did that, he could ransack his whole house."]

Northrup Frey, Fearful Symmetry, Page 58
"Man has within him the principle of life and the principle of death: one is the imagination, the other the natural man.
The only possible cure for the original sin of this Selfhood of the natural man is vision, the revelation that this world is fallen and therefore not ultimate."

I think this leads us right back to the first quote; which says in essence that the enemy of the moral system is the prophet who can destroy the status quo.

Los and his Spectre
Jerusalem, Plate 6

Tuesday, May 17, 2011


Blake first invented the image which became known as the 'Good and Evil Angels Struggling for Possession of a Child' as an illustration on Plate 4 of The Marriage of Heaven and Hell. The text presents two sets of contraries.

MHH, PLATE 4, (E 34)
"The voice of the Devil

All Bibles or sacred codes. have been the causes of the
following Errors.
1. That Man has two real existing principles Viz: a Body & a Soul.
2. That Energy. calld Evil. is alone from the Body. & that Reason. calld Good. is alone from the Soul.
3. That God will torment Man in Eternity for following his Energies.
But the following Contraries to these are True
1 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
2. Energy is the only life and is from the Body and Reason is the bound or outward circumference of Energy.
3 Energy is Eternal Delight"


Blake used the same picture later as the basis for a watercolor painting and for an engraving reversing the positions of the figures. Here is the image from the Large Book of Designs.

If you are of the Devil's party the angel on the left is the good angel, if you favor conventional religion the angel on the right is the good angel. If you listen to Blake good and evil are contraries which can be resolved when they are seen in the light of Forgiveness and Brotherhood. Neither contrary is meant to claim possession of the child who represents their reconciliation. Each time Blake reproduced this image including several copies of Marriage of Heaven an Hell, he modified it. In some the angel in flames is chained, in some he is blind. In some the angel in the light clings to the child, in some he releases it. In some the angels are both male, in some the sex is ambiguous. Blake found no way to present the tension between the contraries which encompassed all their dimensions. He gives us a variety of presentations so that we can resolve the tensions ourselves (and resolve the tensions within ourselves.)

Here are samples of comments on the picture.

Comment from the Tate Museum's Display Caption:
"In his annotations to a text by Lavater, Blake claimed that ‘Active Evil is better than Passive Good’, rendering the figures in this picture somewhat ambiguous. Perhaps the chain attached to the ‘evil’ angel’s ankle suggests the curtailing of energy by misguided rational thought?

In constructing his figures, Blake evokes conventional eighteenth century stereotypes. The heavy build and darker skin of the ‘evil’ angel suggest a non-European character, described by Lavater as ‘strong, muscular, agile; but dirty, indolent and trifling’, while the fair hair and light skin of the ‘good’ angel are consonant with ideas of physical – and intellectual – perfection."

From Inspiration of William Blake By Jah Wobble
"This painting conveys a strong sense of unreality, a form of artificiality reminiscent of simplistic childlike drama. William Blake informs me that there is a stage in the development of the human soul where we are handed over to the forces of darkness, often represented in his poetry by the state, church and family. This aspect can also be seen from the viewpoint of purely inner experience, dark primal instinct versus reason, the conscious versus the unconscious."

Terry Eagleton in The Guardian:
"Political states keep power by convincing us of our limitations.
They do so, too, by persuading us to be "moderate"; Blake, however, was not enamoured of the third way. The New Testament that Gordon Brown reads in his Presbyterian fashion as a model of prudence, conscience and sobriety, Blake read as a hymn to creative recklessness. He sees that Jesus's ethics are extravagant, hostile to the calculative spirit of the utilitarians. If they ask for your coat, give them your cloak; if they ask you to walk one mile, walk two. The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom, and those who restrain their desires do so because their desires are feeble enough to be restrained."

June Singer in The Unholy Bible:
"The young child seen here is the newborn infant of Plate 3. He is Imagination, the treasured possession of the feminine spirit of energy. The anima, mistress of the soul, holds fast to he love-child, and keeps him out of reach of the masculine figure who represents Reason."

So, what does it mean to you?

Monday, May 16, 2011


Blake offers us four levels of existence in time, plus a level of existence outside of time: Great Eternity.

The first thing to focus on in considering Great Eternity is that Eternity is not time. Eternity is not an extension of time. Eternity may contain time, but time cannot contain Eternity. Eternity may interact with time. There is a flexibility in Eternity that does not exist in time, because time is a restraint allowing only sequential experience (access.) Without time multiplicity and unity are not contradictory. In Eternity essence remains, appearances fluctuate.

"Then those in Great Eternity met in the Council of God
As one Man for contracting their Exalted Senses
They behold Multitude or Expanding they behold as one
As One Man all the Universal family & that one Man
They call Jesus the Christ & they in him & he in them
Live in Perfect harmony in Eden the land of life
Consulting as One Man above the Mountain of Snowdon Sublime"

This passage in Night the First of the Four Zoas (Page 21) uses the word one, five times in seven lines. It seems that Blake wanted to emphasize that in Great Eternity there is no division. Blake does not envision Great Eternity as a static place but as one in which the movement does not result in separation. Envisioning Eternity is impossible for mortals, but these are characteristics Blake offers:

1 Contracting their Exalted Senses, they see Multitude (Four Zoas, Page 21)
2 Expanding they see as One (Four Zoas, Page 21)
3 Visions of Human Life & Shadows of Wisdom & Knowledge are expandable (Milton, Plate34)
4 War & Hunting are the Two Fountains of the River of Life (Milton, Plate35)
5 Universal Brotherhood exists in Eternity (Four Zoas, E300, Lines 3.4-3.5)
6 Ideas may not be slain (they are the Divine Members) (Milton, Plate35)
7 Every particular form is the Divine Vision (Jerusalem, Plate 54)
8 Every form Emanates its Light which is its Garment (Jerusalem, Plate 54)
9 There is Continual Forgiveness of Sins and Perpetual Mutual Sacrifice (Jerusalem, Plate 61, Line 23-4)
The Eternal can be expressed but it cannot be contained.
We can be present to it, and it can be present to us as imagination and inspiration.
Forgiveness and Brotherhood are expressions of the Eternal.
Divisions and limitations disappear in Eternity.
Life and Light participate in the great exchange.
The energies of the mind and body and spirit interact freely and cooperatively in Great Eternity.

Sunday, May 15, 2011


A phrase of Blake's which occurs in several contexts seems to carry more importance than is first apparent. 'Grain of sand' first appears in Milton in conjunction with the tiny fly with a brain open to 'heaven & hell'. Second Satan's search of 'every grain of sand' each night does not yield the Gate of Los which might allow entry into Eternity. Next it is the 'grain of sand' itself which Satan's Watch Fiends cannot find. We are warned against laying a finger in vengeance against any 'grain of sand'. In Auguries of Innocence we are introduced to the idea of seeing the world in a 'grain of sand'. Next we read that in Painting no 'grain of sand' is insignificant. In Blake's letter to Thomas Butts the 'grain of sand' is revealed as an instance of 'men seen afar'.

Milton, PLATE 20 [22], (E 114)
"Seest thou the little winged fly, smaller than a grain of sand?
It has a heart like thee; a brain open to heaven & hell,"

Jerusalem, PLATE 35 [39], (E 181)
"By Satans Watch-fiends tho' they search numbering every grain
Of sand on Earth every night, they never find this Gate.
It is the Gate of Los. Withoutside is the Mill, intricate, dreadful"

Jerusalem, PLATE 37 [41],(E 183)
"There is a Grain of Sand in Lambeth that Satan cannot find
Nor can his Watch Fiends find it: tis translucent & has many Angles
But he who finds it will find Oothoons palace, for within
Opening into Beulah every angle is a lovely heaven
But should the Watch Fiends find it, they would call it Sin"

Jerusalem, PLATE 45 [31], (E 194)
"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! "

Songs and Ballads, (E 490)
Auguries of Innocence

"To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour"

Last Judgment, (E 560)
"Poetry admits not a
Letter that is Insignificant so Painting admits not a Grain of
Sand or a Blade of Grass much less an
Insignificant Blur or Mark"

Letters, 16,
(E 712)
[To] Mr [Thomas] Butts, Great Marlborough Street
Felpham Octr 2d 1800
"For they beckond to me
Remote by the Sea
Saying. Each grain of Sand
Every Stone on the Land
Each rock & each hill
Each fountain & rill
Each herb & each tree
Mountain hill Earth & Sea
Cloud Meteor & Star
Are Men Seen Afar"

Christ on the Pinnacle of the Temple

There is a sense in which God allows himself to be distributed in man as Christ. Blake seems to be using 'grain of sand' as an image of the internalized Christ who exists within the soul of each individual. Through the 'grain of sand' man sees his own true nature as a child of God and enters Eternity.

'Grain of sand' is apropos as an image of a distributed or scattered form of existence as is the bread of communion which is offered as the broken body which is to be eaten.

[24] And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me

[16] The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?

[27] Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular.

In Greek mythology we learn of a similar usage of a spark of existence which was distributed through the breaking of a body. Edward F. Edinger writes in The Eternal Drama: The Inner Meaning of Greek Mythology about the myth of Dionysus:

"I am of your blessed race" refers to the myth of the dismemberment of the infant Dionysus by the Titans. It will be recalled that the Titans ate Dionysus except for his heart, and Zeus then destroyed them with a thunderbolt, but of the ashes man was made, and man thus contains a remnant of the divine spark of Dionysis. The soul declares that he has the Dionysian spark in him because he is made of Titan dust." (Page 166)

Blake's phrase 'grain of sand' symbolizes the individual's internal opening for the entry of the spirit which we all share but which we each experience as uniquely our own.

Friday, May 13, 2011


Kathleen Raine devotes a chapter in Volume II of Blake and Tradition to considering the source of evil in the world we inhabit.

"It would be foolish to pretend that in or about 1793 Blake as a man on thirty-six, living an active, practical life as a London craftsman, noticed for the first time that there are evils - or is evil - in the world. He had written robustly about such things in Poetical Sketches, and his Songs of Innocence imply a full awareness of evils of many kinds: The Chimney Sweeper can scarcely be said to show an unawareness of evil; rather it expresses a vision of innocence which can make the worst evils tolerable. What is new in Songs of Experience is not the knowledge that evil exists, or some personal struggle with it (the poems on the theme of evil are all strikingly impersonal), but the intellectual excitement of a new imaginative realization of its place in the order of things." (Page 12)

This opening to a new understanding of evil, Raine believes developed through Blake's acquaintance with Gnostic thought.

"...whatever Blake may have known of Gnostic thought came to him at third hand, from the writings of ecclesiastical historians drawing solely upon the fragments of Gnostic thought preserved, of attributed, by their enemies the Church Fathers. ... Blake must have been aware that the Gnostic systems all held that the creator of the temporal world was not the supreme god." (Page 12-13)

"According to the Jewish Gnostics, the god of the Old Testament is this lesser divinity. Those Gnostics who adopted Christianity believed that Christ, son of the supreme God, came to end the power of the inferior deity [the demiurge]." (Page 14)

The characterization of the demiurge as the combination of sterling characteristics and extreme arrogance "may well be a source for the 'Prince of Light', Urizen who 'descends' from his place in eternity to create the temporal world, his 'horrible chaos of futurity'". (Page 14)

"The theft of fire is one of the oldest and most universal of all myths; for that theft Prometheus was punished by Zeus. Fire is the divine essence, and whoever would become a creator must possess it of himself. This is the cosmic crime, to create by perversion of a principle that in itself remains incorruptible and divine, a world apart from God." (Page 10)

Songs of Experience, Song 52, (E 30)
To Tirzah
"Thou Mother of my Mortal part.
With cruelty didst mould my Heart.
And with false self-decieving tears,
Didst bind my Nostrils Eyes & Ears.

Didst close my Tongue in senseless clay
And me to Mortal Life betray:"

Image from Book of Urizen
Plate 14

In the created world Los becomes the counterbalancing force to Urizen, the movement to undo the work of the demiurge:
"this potter and blacksmith becomes, in the Prophetic Books, expanded into the figure of Los with his 'Furnces', hammer, and anvil which binds Urizen and Orc with the chain of time that he hammers out in heartbeats on his anvil." (Page 18)

"...Yet in making Los lord of the furnaces, Blake felt the necessity of overcoming some confusion of function between Los and Urizen, which he does in characteristically perfunctory fashion by stating that Los's furnaces were 'given over to him' by Urizen. This clue is not to be overlooked; for it does unmistakably indicate that for Blake, Urizen, ruler of destiny and of the stars, was pre-eminetly the demiurge, as responsible for the fallen world, whereas Los's task, as the time-spirit, is its recovery:" (Page 23)

Four Zoas, Night IV, Page 52, (E 335)
"Terrified Los beheld the ruins of Urizen beneath
A horrible Chaos to his eyes. a formless unmeasurable Death
Whirling up broken rocks on high into the dismal air
And fluctuating all beneath in Eddies of molten fluid

Then Los with terrible hands siezd on the Ruind Furnaces
Of Urizen. Enormous work: he builded them anew
Labour of Ages in the Darkness & the war of Tharmas
And Los formd Anvils of Iron petrific. for his blows
Petrify with incessant beating many a rock. many a planet"

"Blake's delight [was] not in the solution but in the presentation of the problem of evil as he found it in the Hermetic and Gnostic tradition. Instead of the uncompromising, unimaginative, and closed dualism of the conventional picture of heaven and hell, Blake had discovered a world of profounder perspectives, a tradition that makes possible the simultaneous contemplation of the perfection of an eternal world and imperfection of the temporal as modes of being simultaneously possible within one harmonious whole." (Page 31)

Songs of Experience, Song 42, (E 24)
The Tyger
"What the hammer? what the chain,
In what furnace was thy brain?
What the anvil? what dread grasp,
Dare its deadly terrors clasp!"