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

Saturday, March 31, 2012


S. Foster Damon's book A Blake Dictionary, is always an excellent source for acquiring a grasp of Blake's idiosyncratic meanings. On Page 295 we read:
"Nature is an external visualizing of the Individual's emotions. Vala (who is Nature) is the Emanation of Luvah (the Emotions). But Vala is now covered with her Veil of matter, which (in another symbol) is the shell of the Mundane Egg, the starry heavens.
Blake anticipated the cruel world of Darwin: Nature is 'A Creation that groans, living on Death, where Fish & Bird & Beast & Man & Tree & Metal & Stone live by Devouring, going into Eternal Death continually' (J 50:5; cf. Rom viii:22)."

And on page 344:
"The worldly religions were all derived from Nature. The Deists drew their conclusions by logic from the material world, but before that, the poets had drawn theirs by imaginative insight."

Religion for Blake was either true religion, developed through revelation of the Eternal; or false religion, which came from replicating the operation of the observed natural world using data from the senses. Vala, as the projection of the emotions outwardly, became the progenitor of false religions based on Nature or matter. Just as the Eternal Reason externalized became attached to the material world in Urizen, the Eternal Emotions became attached to the material world as Vala. Both Vala and Urizen engaged in activities which sought to control the outer world and shape it to aggrandise their own self-images. The two weapons in Vala's arsenal were sex and cruelty which she combined in various ways to impose her will.

The religion of the law (Jews), the religion of sacrifice (Druids), the religion of nature (Natural Religion), and the religion of rationalism (Deism) were all schemes of Vala to turn outward the consciousness of man which was in Eden open inward to the Eternal dimension.

Jerusalem, Plate 52, (E 201)
" Man must & will have Some Religion; if he has not the Religion
of Jesus, he will have the Religion of Satan, & will erect the
Synagogue of Satan. calling the Prince of this World, God; and
destroying all who do not worship Satan under the Name of God.
Will any one say: Where are those who worship Satan under the
Name of God! Where are they? Listen! Every Religion that Preaches
Vengeance for Sins the Religion of the Enemy & Avenger; and not
the Forgiver of Sin, and their God is Satan, Named by the Divine
Name Your Religion O Deists: Deism, is the Worship of the God
of this World by the means of what you call Natural Religion and
Natural Philosophy, and of Natural Morality or
Self-Righteousness, the Selfish Virtues of the Natural Heart.

This was the Religion of the Pharisees who murderd Jesus. Deism
is the same & ends in the same."

Yale Center for British Art
Jerusalem, Plate 63

Jerusalem, Plate 29 [33], (E 175)
"Vala replied in clouds of tears Albions garment embracing

I was a City & a Temple built by Albions Children.
I was a Garden planted with beauty I allured on hill & valley
The River of Life to flow against my walls & among my trees
Vala was Albions Bride & Wife in great Eternity
The loveliest of the daughters of Eternity when in day-break

I emanated from Luvah over the Towers of Jerusalem
And in her Courts among her little Children offering up
The Sacrifice of fanatic love! why loved I Jerusalem!
Why was I one with her embracing in the Vision of Jesus
Wherefore did I loving create love, which never yet
Immingled God & Man, when thou & I, hid the Divine Vision
In cloud of secret gloom which behold involve me round about
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"

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.


Thursday, March 29, 2012


This is a continuation of the post Blake's Vala.

So Vala, the sinless soul in her Eternal form, comes under the influence of Luvah, the God of love. He constructs a beautiful house in her pleasant world which becomes permanent rather than remaining transitory.

Blake was calling into our minds the myth of Psyche and Cupid. Psyche an unblemished virgin attracted the attention of Cupid. Because of a prediction in an oracle that she would marry a monster, her parents left her to die on a mountaintop. She did not die but awoke in a beautiful hidden valley where she entered a house built for her by Cupid the god of love. She disobeyed the god by lighting a candle that she may see his countenance when he visited her in the darkness of night. Thus began her journey of restitution and redemption.

In Blake's myth it is Albion the giant body of the Eternal Man who is enchanted by the beauty of Vala as she is manifest in Nature's 'net of gold and silver twine.' Albion turned away from Jerusalem and embraced Vala. Spiritual beauty had thus been divided from natural beauty. Jerusalem was withdrawn from the bosom of Albion to be joined with Jesus. Vala became united with Albion. Temporarily the arrangement was felicitous, but Vala divided from Jerusalem and Luvah (whose emanation she was) began a decline which we will follow in a later post.

Jerusalem, PLATE 20, (E 165)
"But when they saw Albion fall'n upon mild Lambeths vale:
Astonish'd! Terrified! they hover'd over his Giant limbs.
Then thus Jerusalem spoke, while Vala wove the veil of tears:
Weeping in pleadings of Love, in the web of despair.

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

Vala replied weeping & trembling, hiding in her veil.

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

Jerusalem answer'd with soft tears over the valleys.

O Vala what is Sin? that thou shudderest and weepest
At sight of thy once lov'd Jerusalem! What is Sin but a little
Error & fault that is soon forgiven; but mercy is not a Sin
Nor pity nor love nor kind forgiveness! O! if I have Sinned
Forgive & pity me! O! unfold thy Veil in mercy & love!
Slay not my little ones, beloved Virgin daughter of Babylon
Slay not my infant loves & graces, beautiful daughter of Moab
I cannot put off the human form I strive but strive in vain
When Albion rent thy beautiful net of gold and silver twine;
Thou hadst woven it with art, thou hadst caught me in the bands
Of love; thou refusedst to let me go
: Albion beheld thy beauty
Beautiful thro' our Love's comeliness, beautiful thro' pity.
The Veil shone with thy brightness in the eyes of Albion,
Because it inclosd pity & love; because we lov'd one-another!
Albion lov'd thee! he rent thy Veil! he embrac'd thee! he lov'd

Astonish'd at his beauty & perfection, thou forgavest his furious
I redounded from Albions bosom in my virgin loveliness.
The Lamb of God reciev'd me in his arms he smil'd upon us:

He made me his Bride & Wife: he gave thee to Albion.
Then was a time of love: O why is it passed away!"

Blake first gave the title Vala to the poem now called the Four Zoas. He began the poem with these words:

Four Zoas , Night I, Page 3, (E 301)
Night the First
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; a Perfect Unity
Cannot Exist. but from the Universal Brotherhood of Eden
Universal Man. To Whom be Glory Evermore Amen

Los was the fourth immortal starry one, & in the Earth
Of a bright Universe Empery attended day & night
Days & nights of revolving joy, Urthona was his name"

Tuesday, March 27, 2012


Four Zoas, Night IX, (E 397) "So spoke the Sinless Soul & laid her head on the downy fleece
Of a curld Ram who stretchd himself in sleep beside his mistress
And soft sleep fell upon her eyelids in the silent noon of day

Then Luvah passed by & saw the sinless Soul
And said Let a pleasant house arise to be the dwelling place
Of this immortal Spirit growing in lower Paradise

He spoke & pillars were builded & walls as white as ivory
The grass she slept upon was pavd with pavement as of pearl
Beneath her rose a downy bed & a cieling coverd all

Vala awoke. When in the pleasant gates of sleep I enterd
I saw my Luvah like a spirit stand in the bright air
Round him stood spirits like me who reard me a bright house
And here I see thee house remain in my most pleasant world

My Luvah smild I kneeled down he laid his hand on my head
And when he laid his hand upon me from the gates of sleep I came
Into this bodily house to tend my flocks in my pleasant garden

So saying she arose & walked round her beautiful house
And then from her white door she lookd to see her bleating lambs
But her flocks were gone up from beneath the trees into the hills

I see the hand that leadeth me doth also lead my flocks
She went up to her flocks & turned oft to see her shining house
She stopd to drink of the clear spring & eat the grapes & apples

She bore the fruits in her lap she gatherd flowers for her bosom
She called to her flocks saying follow me O my flocks

They followd her to the silent vall[e]y beneath the spreading trees
And on the rivers margin she ungirded her golden girdle
She stood in the river & viewd herself within the watry glass
And her bright hair was wet with the waters She rose up from the river
And as she rose her Eyes were opend to the world of waters
She saw Tharmas sitting upon the rocks beside the wavy sea
He strokd the water from his beard & mournd faint thro the summer vales

And Vala stood on the rocks of Tharmas & heard his mournful voice"
British Museum
Jerusalem, Copy a
Plate 46

Her house is Vala's garment of material nature. She enters it as her eyes are opened to a reflected image of the permanent realities of Eternity. She steps into the water of time and space as she assumes a body. Kathleen Raine relates the Neo-platonic idea that the the soul of Nature desired to contemplate herself and so relinquished a part of of herself to externality. But the substance remains the original Eternal Reality. The shadow is the world of matter in which our bodies live as Vala lives in her house of illusion beside the river while Tharmas mourns .

On Page 36 of Golgonooza: City of Imagination, Raine writes:

"Vala's only reality is as the 'shadow' of Jerusalem, a reflection of Soul cast in the 'Vegetable Glass' of nature."

Vision of the Last Judgment, (E 555)
"There Exist
in that Eternal World the Permanent Realities of Every Thing
which we see are reflected in this Vegetable Glass of Nature"

Jerusalem, Plate 11, (E 154)
"Vala is but thy Shadow, O thou loveliest among women!
A shadow animated by thy tears O mournful Jerusalem!
Plate 12
Why wilt thou give to her a Body whose life is but a Shade?.
Her joy and love, a shade: a shade of sweet repose:
But animated and vegetated, she is a devouring worm:
What shall we do for thee O lovely mild Jerusalem?"


Sunday, March 25, 2012


A Large Book of Designs
Joseph of Arimathea Preaching to the Inhabitants of Britain

John Wesley was an older contemporary of William Blake. Both lived in London although Wesley travelled widely in Britain. Wesley was a public figure for whom
crowds gathered in the open air to hear his sermons.

A book of 15 hymns called Hymns for the National Fast was published by John's brother Charles Wesley in 1782 in response to King George's call for a day of fasting following the loss of the Battle of Yorktown. Hymns from this book were combined later with a 1781 hymnal. The expanded version of the hymnal containing hymns from both brothers, was published by the Wesley brothers with the title Hymns for the Nation. A copy of this book made its way into the hands of William Blake who retained it until his death.

In the Preface of 1780, Wesley defended his own poetry in much the same way that William Blake felt obliged to defend his poetry.

Preface of 1780
"6. May I be permitted to add a few words with regard to the poetry? Then I will speak to those who are judges thereof, with all freedom and unreserve. To these I may say, without offence, 1. In these hymns there is no doggerel; no botches; nothing put in to patch up the rhyme; no feeble expletives. 2. Here is nothing turgid or bombast, on the one hand, or low and creeping, on the other. 3. Here are no cant expressions; no words without meaning. Those who impute this to us know not what they say. We talk common sense, both in prose and verse, and use no word but in a fixed and determinate sense. 4. Here are, allow me to say, both the purity, the strength, and the elegance of the English language; and, at the same time, the utmost simplicity and plainness, suited to every capacity. Lastly, I desire men of taste to judge, (these are the only competent judges) whether there be not in some of the following hymns the true spirit of poetry, such as cannot be acquired by art and labour, but must be the gift of nature. By labour a man may become a tolerable imitator of Spencer, Shakespeare, or Milton; and may heap together pretty compound epithets, as "pale-eyed," "meek-eyed," and the like; but unless he be born a poet, he will never attain the genuine spirit of poetry."

Wesley himself and his fellow evangelist Whitefield appear in Blake's Milton as two servants who suffer the fate of prophets as they witness to Christ.

Milton, Plate 22 [24], (E 118)
But then I rais'd up Whitefield, Palamabron raisd up Westley,
And these are the cries of the Churches before the two Witnesses[']
Faith in God the dear Saviour who took on the likeness of men:
Becoming obedient to death, even the death of the Cross
The Witnesses lie dead in the Street of the Great City
No Faith is in all the Earth: the Book of God is trodden under Foot:
He sent his two Servants Whitefield & Westley; were they Prophets
Or were they Idiots or Madmen? shew us Miracles!

Plate 23 [25]
Can you have greater Miracles than these? Men who devote

Their lifes whole comfort to intire scorn & injury & death
Awake thou sleeper on the Rock of Eternity Albion awake
The trumpet of Judgment hath twice sounded: all Nations are awake
But thou art still heavy and dull: Awake Albion awake!"

You can learn more about the books Blake read in Blake's Margins: An Interpretive Study of the Annotations by Hazard Adams. Exerts from the book are available at this website.

Saturday, March 24, 2012


Jerusalem, PLATE 63, (E 213)
"Jehovah stood among the Druids in the Valley of Annandale
When the Four Zoas of Albion, the Four Living Creatures, the Cherubim
Of Albion tremble before the Spectre, in the starry likeness of the Plow
Of Nations. And their Names are Urizen & Luvah & Tharmas & Urthona"

Milton Percival, author of William Blake's Circle of Destiny, was capable of revealing psychological meaning in Blake's poetry and pictures. He understood that Blake was depicting internal dynamics as he presented his Four Mighty Ones in the one giant body of Albion.

On page 20 we read:
"It is in his presentation of the Zoas that much of the power of Blake's myth lies. They are not the bloodless abstractions common to allegory. Blake believed in them. They are in consequence realities of the imagination, with power to terrify us as they terrified their creator. No other poet has given us so profound a sense of the helplessness of man before the primal forces of life; and no other poet, so passionate a denial of that helplessness. He fears these forces, because he sees them as demonic, with power over him; but he takes hope from the fact that these forces are in him - that they are himself. When man shall have brought them again into harmony, they will become his willing servants."

Jung touches on several of the same paradigms of psychic development as does Percival in this passage from his Psychological Commentary in Tibetan Book of the Dead, Edited by W. Y. Evans-Wentz:

"Fear of self-sacrifice lurks deep in every ego, and this fear is often only [of] the precariously controlled demand of the unconscious forces to burst out in full strength. No one who strives for selfhood (individuation) is spared this dangerous passage, for that which is feared also belongs to the wholeness of the self -- the sub-human, or supra-human world of psychic ‘dominants’ (archetypes) from which the ego originally emancipated itself with enormous effort, and then only partially, for the sake of a more or less illusory freedom. This liberation is certainly a very necessary and very heroic undertaking, but it represents nothing final: it is merely the creation of a subject, who, in order to find fulfillment, has still to be confronted by an object. This [object], at first sight, would appear to be the world, which is swelled out with projections for that very purpose. Here we seek and find our difficulties, here we seek and find our enemy, here we seek and find what is dear and precious to us; and it is comforting to know that all evil and all good is to be found out there, in the visible object, where it can be conquered, punished, destroyed, or enjoyed. But nature herself does not allow this paradisal state of innocence to continue for ever. There are, and always have been, those who cannot help but see that the world and its experiences are in the nature of a symbol, and that it really reflects something that lies hidden in the subject himself, in his own trans-subjective reality."

In the beginning of the Book of Urizen Blake expresses a recognition of the disturbance in the psyche which has given power to a force which is 'Obscure, shadowy, void, solitary.' He gladly hears the call to have the 'dark visions of torment' revealed to him.

Urizen, PLATE 2, (E 74)

Of the primeval Priests assum'd power,
When Eternals spurn'd back his religion;
And gave him a place in the north,
Obscure, shadowy, void, solitary.

Eternals I hear your call gladly,
Dictate swift winged words, & fear not
To unfold your dark visions of torment."

Entering in the dark, unknown aspects of the psyche changes the occupation of the mind to the experience of emotional states which are both pleasant and painful and which appear to be outside of the mind.

Jerusalem, Plate 68, (E 222)
"Sometimes I curse & sometimes bless thy fascinating beauty
Once Man was occupied in intellectual pleasures & energies
But now my soul is harrowd with grief & fear & love & desire
And now I hate & now I love & Intellect is no more:
There is no time for any thing but the torments of love & desire
The Feminine & Masculine Shadows soft, mild & ever varying
In beauty: are Shadows now no more, but Rocks in Horeb"

To be torn asunder, to be under the control of one's own wrath, to experience fury, anguish and terror - these are the 'far worse' things of which Los and Blake know. But they know too that Albion will be made whole.

Jerusalem, Plate 7, (E 150)
"Los answer'd. Altho' I know not this! I know far worse than this:
I know that Albion hath divided me, and that thou O my Spectre,
Hast just cause to be irritated: but look stedfastly upon me:
Comfort thyself in my strength the time will arrive,
When all Albions injuries shall cease, and when we shall
Embrace him tenfold bright, rising from his tomb in immortality.
They have divided themselves by Wrath. they must be united by
Pity: let us therefore take example & warning O my Spectre,
O that I could abstain from wrath! O that the Lamb
Of God would look upon me and pity me in my fury.
In anguish of regeneration! in terrors of self annihilation:
Pity must join together those whom wrath has torn in sunder,
And the Religion of Generation which was meant for the destruction
Of Jerusalem, become her covering, till the time of the End."

The reunification of Albion, the archetype of the complete (individuated) individual and of the undivided mankind, restores the connection between humanity and the 'Universal Father' in 'Infinitude.'

Jerusalem, PLATE 97, (E 256)
"Awake! Awake Jerusalem! O lovely Emanation of Albion
Awake and overspread all Nations as in Ancient Time
For lo! the Night of Death is past and the Eternal Day
Appears upon our Hills: Awake Jerusalem, and come away

So spake the Vision of Albion & in him so spake in my hearing
The Universal Father. Then Albion stretchd his hand into Infinitude."

Image from Jerusalem, Plate 99

Friday, March 23, 2012


In the Biblical story of the Prodigal Son the younger son arrives at the point of despair after having separated himself from his family and exhausted his resources:

Luke 15
[13] And not many days after the younger son gathered all together, and took his journey into a far country, and there wasted his substance with riotous living.
[14] And when he had spent all, there arose a mighty famine in that land; and he began to be in want.
[15] And he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country; and he sent him into his fields to feed swine.
[16] And he would fain have filled his belly with the husks that the swine did eat: and no man gave unto him.
[17] And when he came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my father's have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger!

Job reached a similar point of hopelessness and darkness which Blake picture in Plate 8 of his Illustrations to the Book of Job.

Illustrations to the Book of Job
Plate 8, Linnell Set
Job 3
[1] After this opened Job his mouth, and cursed his day.
[2] And Job spake, and said,
[3] Let the day perish wherein I was born, and the night in which it was said, There is a man child conceived.
[4] Let that day be darkness; let not God regard it from above, neither let the light shine upon it.
[5] Let darkness and the shadow of death stain it; let a cloud dwell upon it; let the blackness of the day terrify it.
[6] As for that night, let darkness seize upon it; let it not be joined unto the days of the year, let it not come into the number of the months.
[7] Lo, let that night be solitary, let no joyful voice come therein.

The term that Blake used for the real or authentic humanity which resides within each individual is the Identity. This is the part of us that is connected to the Eternal and is Eternal itself. When an individual ascribes to false ideas or acts in inauthentic ways the Identity may be obscured or may enter a state like sleep. The Selfhood occupies the position vacated by the Identity and the connection with the Eternal is broken. If the individual could 'come to himself' as did the Prodigal son, the Identity would be released from its bondage and he would cast out the inauthentic behaviours which were being expressed.

Unfortunately, as Tharmas did in this passage, mankind often flees from his Identity in pursuit of the Vain Shadow of Hope because his eyes are on Urizen:

Four Zoas, Night VIII, PAGE 122 [108], (E 383)
"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"

Wednesday, March 21, 2012


Image from Wikimedia
There is No Natural Religion
Title Page

There is No Natural Religion
, (E 3)
"VII The desire of Man being Infinite the possession is Infinite & himself Infinite
Conclusion, If it were not for the Poetic or Prophetic
character. the Philosophic & Experimental would soon be at the
ratio of all things & stand still, unable to do other than repeat the same dull round over again
Application. He who sees the Infinite in all things sees
God. He who sees the Ratio only sees himself only.

Therefore God becomes as we are, that we may be as he is"

Here is a quote from Athanasius, a 4th century bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Church:
"The Son of God became man so that man might become God." (CCC #460)

The statement by Athanasius became Christian doctrine and is included in the Catholic Church Catechism. Blake's similar statement is considered by some to be a repetition of the doctrine formulated by Athanasius. A closer look will reveal the differences.

First notice that Blake is speaking in the first person, "as we are" and "that we may be". This is personal experience. This doesn't sound like doctrine because it isn't doctrine. The direction that Blake is heading is toward becoming like God through acknowledging that God becomes like us. The action, "becomes", is in the present. The idea that God "becomes" rather than that he simply "be", conforms with Blake's value of active rather than passive. In Blake's second phrase he uses the word "be" instead of become. This indicates that he is talking about the Identity, our Eternal nature which is unchanging, which goes through states and casts off error but remains the essential being.

Annotations to Reynolds, (E 655)
"Reynolds Thinks that Man Learns all that he Knows I say on
the Contrary That Man Brings All that he has or Can have Into the
World with him. Man is Born Like a Garden ready Planted & Sown
This World is too poor to produce one Seed"

Jerusalem , Plate 38, (E 184)
"the Divine-
Humanity, who is the Only General and Universal Form
To which all Lineaments tend & seek with love & sympathy
All broad & general principles belong to benevolence
Who protects minute particulars, every one in their own identity."

Jerusalem , Plate 55, (E204)
"General Good is the plea of the scoundrel hypocrite & flatterer:
For Art & Science cannot exist but in minutely organized Particulars
And not in generalizing Demonstrations of the Rational Power.
The Infinite alone resides in Definite & Determinate Identity
Establishment of Truth depends on destruction of Falshood

Vision of the Last Judgement , Page 79,(E 355)
"In Eternity one Thing never Changes into
another Thing Each Identity is Eternal...
Eternal Identity is one thing & Corporeal
Vegetation is another thing"

It is interesting to note that in the Athanasius quote that God "became", since the static "I am" represents most traditional thinking about God. Although God acts in the Old Testament he is thought to be unchanging. The third person "man" is used rather than the "we" of Blake's passage. And there is
Athanasius' trinitarian reference when he speaks of "the Son of God", the second person of the trinity. Athanasius specifies "become God" whereas Blake indicates "be as he is". Actually "become God" is more gnostic than Blake's "be as he is".

If Blake were trying to duplicate the thoughts of Athanasius he would have used his words. Instead he uses his own words (slightly different from the original) to change the meaning, as he frequently does when reproducing another's statements. Subtleties, yes, but that's Blake.

Monday, March 19, 2012


I've gathered together some quotes from Blake and from the New Testament to compare what they say about the God or Christ who is within us. The New Testament refers to Christ, where Blake refers to God. Blake is not repeating the New Testament nor is he contradicting it. He is including New Testament concepts in his own mythopoeic system of thought which originated through his Imagination.

Marriage of Heaven & Hell, PLATE 11, (E 38)
"Thus men forgot that All deities reside in the human breast"

Four Zoas, Night I, Page 21, (E 310)
"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"

Annotations to Lavater, (E 599)
"It is the God in all that is our companion &
friend, for our God himself says, you are my brother my sister &
my mother; & St John. Whoso dwelleth in love dwelleth in God &
God in him. & such an one cannot judge of any but in love. & his
feelings will be attractions or repulses
God is in the lowest effects as well as in the highest
causes for he is become a worm that he may nourish the weak
For let it be rememberd that creation is. God descending
according to the weakness of man for our Lord is the word of God
& every thing on earth is the word of God & in its essence is God"

Auguries of Innocence , (E 493)
"God Appears and God is Light
To those poor Souls who dwell in Night,
But does a Human Form Display
To those who Dwell in Realms of day."

Jerusalem, Plate 5, (E147)
"To open the Eternal Worlds, to open the immortal Eyes
Of Man inwards into the Worlds of Thought: into Eternity
Ever expanding in the Bosom of God. the Human Imagination"

Jerusalem, Plate 4, (E 146)
"I am not a God afar off, I am a brother and friend;
Within your bosoms I reside, and you reside in me:
Lo! we are One; forgiving all Evil; Not seeking recompense!"

Jerusalem, Plate 5, (E 147)
"Trembling I sit day and night, my friends are astonish'd at me.
Yet they forgive my wanderings, I rest not from my great task!
To open the Eternal Worlds, to open the immortal Eyes
Of Man inwards into the Worlds of Thought: into Eternity
Ever expanding in the Bosom of God. the Human Imagination"

Jerusalem, Plate 38 [43], (E 184)
"O God of Albion descend! deliver Jerusalem from the Oaken Groves!

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

Marriage of Heaven & Hell, Plate 5, (E 36)
"Eternity is in love with the productions of time"

Luke 17
[21] Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you.

John 14
[16] And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever;
[17] Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.
[18] I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.
[19] Yet a little while, and the world seeth me no more; but ye see me: because I live, ye shall live also.
[20] At that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you.

I Corinthians
[12] For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ.
[27] Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular.

[17] Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.
[18] And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation;
[19] To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation.

Colossians 1
[27] To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory:

Galatians 2
[20] I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.

Ephesians 3
[16] That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man;
[17] That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love,
[18] May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height;
[19] And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God.

Phillipians 2
[5] Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:

British Museum
Illustrations to Edward Young's Night Thoughts


Saturday, March 17, 2012


Milton and Blake aligned themselves with nonconformity rather than with the established Church of England which resulted from the break with Rome by King Henry the VIII in 1534. As adults neither Milton nor Blake was known to have joined a church or have been a regular church attender. Milton trusted scripture, read and interpreted by the individual, as the means through which knowledge of God might be acquired. Blake too was emphatically dependant on the Bible but only as the vehicle in which the living word is incorporate.

Annotations to Watson, (E 615)

"The Bible or Word of God, Exclusive of Conscience
or the Word of God Universal, is that Abomination which like the
Jewish ceremonies is for ever removed & henceforth every man may
converse with God & be a King & Priest in his own house"

Yale Center for British Art
Book of Urizen
Plate 21

Northrop Frye enlightens us on the relationship of the church to vision in Fearful Symmetry. He sees that escaping from the bonds of nature and reason are requirements for entering the visionary world.

"If Milton or Blake had joined or formed a church, therefore, they would have lost the real Church, the total vision which is the city of God and gained a sect. No visible church will ever identify with civilized art, purge itself all legal and historical conception of truth, and attain the absolute clarity of present vision.
The place of honor in art goes to the artist who has passed through religion and come out on the other side. Such an artist, in Blake's symbolism, has gone with the church to the upper limit of Beulah, where it visualizes itself as the Bride of Christ and man as a creature of God, and has then burst through the ring of fire into the Eden where man is no longer a creature but a creator and is one with God. Here he is a citizen of the free city which all human life strives to realize in this world, and which is the Word of God or the Body of Jesus; and whenever he speaks to other men in the language of the creating mind he recreates that Word in time. Anything short of this will drive him back from the ring of purging visionary fire into the mundane shell, the world of nature and reason, where all religions attempt to include the natural religion which is an "Impossible Absurdity." (Pages 344-5)

Milton , PLATE 40 [46], (E 141)
"Before Ololon Milton stood & percievd the Eternal Form
Of that mild Vision; wondrous were their acts by me unknown
Except remotely; and I heard Ololon say to Milton

I see thee strive upon the Brooks of Arnon. there a dread
And awful Man I see, oercoverd with the mantle of years.
I behold Los & Urizen. I behold Orc & Tharmas;
The Four Zoa's of Albion & thy Spirit with them striving
In Self annihilation giving thy life to thy enemies
Are those who contemn Religion & seek to annihilate it
Become in their Femin[in]e portions the causes & promoters
Of these Religions, how is this thing? this Newtonian Phantasm
This Voltaire & Rousseau: this Hume & Gibbon & Bolingbroke
This Natural Religion! this impossible absurdity
Is Ololon the cause of this? O where shall I hide my face
These tears fall for the little-ones: the Children of Jerusalem
Lest they be annihilated in thy annihilation."

Thursday, March 15, 2012


Information in the natural or physical world is accessed through the five senses. Even in the physical world the senses give us a rather limited range of data which we have learned to supplement with an array of electronic devices. Sense data to Blake was something of an impediment and a distraction. His attention was focused on visionary data which came to him through his imagination. Eternal Realities made themselves known to him through the ability to 'See Visions, Dream Dreams, & prophecy & speak Parables'. Blake was willing to set aside the things of this world in order to enter the world of Spirit and Vision.
British Museum
Drawing by William Blake
Etching by Luigi Schiavonetti
Illustration to Blair's "The Grave"

Descriptive Catalogue, (E 541)
"The connoisseurs and artists who have made objections to
Mr. B.'s mode of representing spirits with real bodies, would do
well to consider that the Venus, the Minerva, the Jupiter, the
Apollo, which they admire in Greek statues, are all of them
representations of spiritual existences of God's immortal, to
the mortal perishing organ of sight; and yet they are embodied
and organized in solid marble. Mr B. requires the same latitude
and all is well. The Prophets describe what they saw in Vision
as real and existing men whom they saw with their imaginative and
immortal organs; the Apostles the same; the clearer the organ the
more distinct the object. A Spirit and a Vision are not, as the
modern philosophy supposes, a cloudy vapour or a
nothing: they are organized and minutely articulated beyond all
that the mortal and perishing nature can produce. He who does
not imagine in stronger and better lineaments, and in stronger
and better light than his perishing mortal eye can see does not
imagine at all. The painter of this work asserts that all his
imaginations appear to him infinitely more perfect and more
minutely organized than any thing seen by his
mortal eye. Spirits are organized men: Moderns wish to
draw figures without lines, and with great and heavy shadows;
are not shadows more unmeaning than lines, and more heavy? O
who can doubt this!

Vision of Last Judgment , Year 1810, (E 555)
"The Nature of Visionary Fancy or Imagination is very little
Known & the Eternal nature & permanence of its ever Existent
Images is considerd as less permanent than the things of
Vegetative & Generative Nature yet the Oak dies as well as the
Lettuce but Its Eternal Image & Individuality never dies. but
renews by its seed. just the Imaginative Image returns
the seed of Contemplative Thought the Writings of the Prophets
illustrate these conceptions of the Visionary Fancy by their
various sublime & Divine Images as seen in the Worlds of Vision

Letters, to Thomas Butts, July 1803, (E 728)
"Now I may say to you what perhaps I should not dare to say
to any one else. That I can alone carry on my visionary studies
in London unannoyd & that I may converse with my friends in
Eternity. See Visions, Dream Dreams, & prophecy & speak Parables
unobserv'd & at liberty from the Doubts of other Mortals. perhaps
Doubts proceeding from Kindness. but Doubts are always pernicious
Especially when we Doubt our Friends Christ is very decided on
this Point. "He who is Not With Me is Against Me" There is no
Medium or Middle state & if a Man is the Enemy of my Spiritual
Life while he pretends to be the Friend of my Corporeal. he is a
Real Enemy--but the Man may be the friend of my Spiritual Life
while he seems the Enemy of my Corporeal but Not Vice Versa"

Tuesday, March 13, 2012


Anna Beer's biography, Milton: Poet Pamphleteer, and Patriot, is available online as a Google book. In Beer's biography she comments on political and spiritual implication of Paradise Lost. She sees Satan's experience in establishing his alternate system as commentary on Cromwell's attempts to establish an alternate system.

"Paradise Lost explores, painfully and honestly, what went wrong from the moment that Charles I was executed. Milton shows, clinically, how systems of government descend into tyranny, how belief in God turns to idolatry, and he shows Adam's horror and his tears when he is allowed a glimpse of future humanity oppressed under a series of tyrannical rulers, worshipping false gods, forgetting to 'add love'." (Page 345)

Milton's interest was in creating political and religious liberty. The attempt to establish a republic in England had been short-lived but there were many lessons to be learned from it. Milton concluded that the people were not ready to govern themselves; that first they must be transformed internally. To prepare for establishing the outer paradise they must possess 'this paradise within' which Michael revealed as the the potential of humanity.

"Milton's emphasis on private, internal transformation, the development of a 'paradise within', in itself suggests that there should be no established Church attempting to police that private belief.
This interlinking of the religious and political messages was precisely the factor that worried Milton's opponents." (Page 345)

"The readers involvement is critical, not just spiritually and emotionally, but politically. Milton believed that republicanism was the best mode of government for his country, but he also, by the time of writing Paradise Lost, knew that the English people would not, perhaps could not deliver it...Yet alongside this elitist view is a concern to create those leaders, to create a nation that can enjoy political and religious liberty." (Page 347)

"Paradise Lost therefore both demands and creates readers who will be alert to all its complexities, able to appreciate its ironies, able to share its anger and its compassion." (Page 348)

Blake's Illustrations to Paradise Lost
Linnell Set
Paradise Lost, Book XII [line 574]
  • To whom thus also the angel last replied.
  • This having learned, thou hast attained the sum
  • Of wisdom; hope no higher, though all the stars
  • Thou knewest by name, and all the ethereal powers,
  • All secrets of the deep, all Nature's works,
  • Or works of God in Heaven, air, earth, or sea,
  • And all the riches of this world enjoyedst,
  • And all the rule, one empire; only add
  • Deeds to thy knowledge answerable; add faith,
  • Add virtue, patience, temperance; add love,
  • By name to come called charity, the soul
  • Of all the rest: then wilt thou not be loath
  • To leave this Paradise, but shalt possess
  • A Paradise within thee, happier far.

  • The necessity as well as the difficulty of achieving this internal transformation in intimated in these words from Blake:

    Jerusalem, Plate 4, (E 146)
    "I am not a God afar off, I am a brother and friend;
    Within your bosoms I reside, and you reside in me:
    Lo! we are One; forgiving all Evil; Not seeking recompense!
    Ye are my members O ye sleepers of Beulah, land of shades!

    But the perturbed Man away turns down the valleys dark;"

    Blake's response to the prophetic poetry of Milton was to continue the work in which
    Milton was engaged; to direct his writing to producing in the reader the inner transformation which open the mind to Eternity. Blake saw that each individual has the ability to cast off the shroud of death, exit the cavern of darkness and receive Life Eternal.

    Jerusalem, Plate 62, (E213)
    "I see the Maternal Line, I behold the Seed of the Woman!
    Cainah, & Ada & Zillah & Naamah Wife of Noah.
    Shuahs daughter & Tamar & Rahab the Canaanites:
    Ruth the Moabite & Bathsheba of the daughters of Heth
    Naamah the Ammonite, Zibeah the Philistine, & Mary
    These are the Daughters of Vala, Mother of the Body of death
    But I thy Magdalen behold thy Spiritual Risen Body
    Shall Albion arise? I know he shall arise at the Last Day!
    I know that in my flesh I shall see God: but Emanations
    Are weak. they know not whence they are, nor whither tend.

    Jesus replied. I am the Resurrection & the Life.
    I Die & pass the limits of possibility, as it appears
    To individual perception. Luvah must be Created
    And Vala; for I cannot leave them in the gnawing Grave.
    But will prepare a way for my banished-ones to return
    Come now with me into the villages. walk thro all the cities.
    Tho thou art taken to prison & judgment, starved in the streets
    I will command the cloud to give thee food & the hard rock
    To flow with milk & wine, tho thou seest me not a season
    Even a long season & a hard journey & a howling wilderness!
    Tho Valas cloud hide thee & Luvahs fires follow thee!
    Only believe & trust in me, Lo. I am always with thee!

    So spoke the Lamb of God while Luvahs Cloud reddening above
    Burst forth in streams of blood upon the heavens & dark night
    Involvd Jerusalem."

    John 10
    [9] I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.
    [28] And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.

    Sunday, March 11, 2012


    The Good and Evil Angels Struggling for Possession of a Child

    From a Private Collection
    Available at Complete Works

    Blake knew that the evil angel is Satan. But Satan is not what the conventional image shows him to be. He is not outside of us at all but is the state of mind within each human being which through its selfish greed allows evil to thrive in the world.

    To identify the internal Selfhood and integrate it into one's self image (Identity), is the way that Satan is cast out. The struggle of the 'Good and Evil Angels' is never completed. The process of annihilating the Selfhood is an Eternal process. Although it may be accomplished in Eternity, the necessity to repeat it will recur in time.

    In this image of the Good and Evil Angels struggling for the possession of the child, there is not a great contrast between the two angels (as there is in some other copies). Perhaps the struggle is close to being resolved. Then the child would be shared and good would overcome evil. The struggle itself is an expression of Selfhood.

    In Fearful Symmetry, Northrop Frye writes of Blake's use of Satan to represent the force that opposes Imagination:

    "When Milton reincarnates himself as Blake and Blake's imagination is purified, Satan is cast out of both of them at once and revealed for what he is. He is a lot of things, but fundamentally moral virtue, the alternative 'good' of passive conformity, which the world offers the imagination...If bad men could not get along in this world Satan would not be the prince of it. Blake clarifying this point still further, sees that evil is dangerous in proportion as it is protected and concealed by society. Hypocrisy is more dangerous than crime; self-deception is more dangerous than hypocrisy. The reason why society pays so little attention to its wise men is not that society consists of criminals or hypocrites, but that it consists of 'normal' people who sincerely believe in the superiority of common to uncommon sense." (Page 331)

    "But it is not in the grandiose but in the petty events of life, where the issues involved seem of too trifling importance to be worth making principles of, that tyranny and repression of genius achieve their really significant triumphs." (Page 332)

    Milton, Plate 38 [43], (E 139)
    "In the Eastern porch of Satans Universe Milton stood & said
    Thy purpose & the purpose of thy Priests & of thy Churches
    Is to impress on men the fear of death; to teach
    Trembling & fear, terror, constriction; abject selfishness
    Mine is to teach Men to despise death & to go on
    In fearless majesty annihilating Self, laughing to scorn
    Thy Laws & terrors, shaking down thy Synagogues as webs
    I come to discover before Heavn & Hell the Self righteousness
    In all its Hypocritic turpitude, opening to every eye
    These wonders of Satans holiness shewing to the Earth
    The Idol Virtues of the Natural Heart, & Satans Seat
    Explore in all its Selfish Natural Virtue & put off
    In Self annihilation all that is not of God alone:
    To put off Self & all I have ever & ever Amen"

    Romans 12
    [9] Let love be without dissimulation. Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good.
    [10] Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another;
    [11] Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord;
    [12] Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer;
    [13] Distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality.
    [14] Bless them which persecute you: bless, and curse not.
    [15] Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep.
    [16] Be of the same mind one toward another. Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate. Be not wise in your own conceits.
    [17] Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men.
    [18] If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.
    [19] Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.
    [20] Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head.
    [21] Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.