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

Monday, April 30, 2012


Psalms 50:1 God, Elohim-Jehovah, hath spoken, and called the earth from the rising of the sun unto the going down thereof. [Darby Bible Translation]
Psalms 50:1 The mighty God, even the LORD, hath spoken, and called the earth from the rising of the sun unto the going down thereof. [KJV]

Elohim Creating Adam Large Color Prints 1795

If birth is an agonising experience, so much more so is creation. The creator and the created express in their faces the trauma and fears they feel. The Elohim, as a winged angel, reaches to the earth for the creative material with his left hand and to the head of the new being with his right. Adam rests upon the earth and dips his left hand into the waters. The worm of mortality or the serpent of fallenness coils itself around his body. Instead of a foot Adam has a cloven hoof which marks him as unclean. The long and difficult process which man must traverse to return to his maker is indicated in this composition of God and man dividing.  

The creation which we read about in Genesis was not the beginning for Blake. The third of the Eyes of God, the Elohim, created the world and established Adam in the garden of Eden. 

Jerusalem,Plate 55, (E 205)
"And they Elected Seven, calld the Seven Eyes of God;
Lucifer, Molech, Elohim, Shaddai, Pahad, Jehovah, Jesus."

In Genesis Chapter 2, is written:
[4] These are the generations of the heavens and of the earth when they were created, in the day that the LORD God made the earth and the heavens,
[5] And every plant of the field before it was in the earth, and every herb of the field before it grew: for the LORD God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and there was not a man to till the ground.
[6] But there went up a mist from the earth, and watered the whole face of the ground.
[7] And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.
[8] And the LORD God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there he put the man whom he had formed.

The word translated God in this Biblical account of creation is Elohim and not Jehovah. Blake follows that use of that name for God the creator:

Jerusalem, Plate 27, (E 171)
"Albion was the Parent of the Druids; & in his Chaotic State of
Sleep Satan & Adam & the whole World was Created by the Elohim."

Four Zoas, Page 107, (E 381)
"Lucifer refusd to die for Satan & in pride he forsook his charge
Then they sent Molech Molech was impatient They sent
Molech impatient They Sent Elohim who created Adam

To die for Satan Adam refusd but was compelld to die
By Satans arts."

Here Los is identified with the Elohim in creating Adam as the limit of contraction:

Jerusalem, Plate 73, (E 228)
"Where Luvahs World of Opakeness grew to a period: It
Became a Limit, a Rocky hardness without form & void
Accumulating without end: here Los. who is of the Elohim
Opens the Furnaces of affliction in the Emanation
Fixing The Sexual into an ever-prolific Generation
Naming the Limit of Opakeness Satan & the Limit of Contraction
, who is Peleg & Joktan: & Esau & Jacob: & Saul & David"

Blake uses the term Elohim Jehovah which occurs only once in the Bible (Psalms 50) to represent the consolidation of divine characteristics which was revealed through Jesus.

Ghost of Abel, Plate 2, (E 272)
"The Elohim of the Heathen Swore Vengeance for Sin! Then Thou stoodst
Forth O Elohim Jehovah! in the midst of the darkness of the Oath! All Clothed
In Thy Covenant of the Forgiveness of Sins
: Death O Holy! Is this Brotherhood
The Elohim saw their Oath Eternal Fire; they rolled apart trembling over The
Mercy Seat: each in his station fixt in the Firmament by Peace Brotherhood and Love."

Blake also combines the names Jehovah and Elohim, the Angel of the Divine Presence, and the 'I Am' who spoke to Moses, in this passage from Vision of the Last Judgment:  

Vision of Last Judgment, (E 559)
"The Aged Figure with Wings having a writing tablet & taking
account of the numbers who arise is That Angel of the Divine
Presence mentiond in Exodus XIVc 19v & in other Places this Angel
is frequently calld by the Name of Jehovah Elohim The I am of the
Oaks of Albion"

Exodus 14
[19] And the angel of God, which went before the camp of Israel, removed and went behind them; and the pillar of the cloud went from before their face, and stood behind them


Saturday, April 28, 2012



 The aim of Blake's poetry is to communicate Vision. In this statement he clarifies what the term means to him. Because he is attempting to represent the Eternal which is imperceptible to human senses, he makes use of images to communicate. Imagination is the ability to create images, to understand them, and to enter the world created by the imagination. Since the natural world is to Blake but a reflection of Divine Vision, he always demands that each description of nature or history be seen 'through' to the essential reality. 

British Museum
Jerusalem, Plate 84
Copy A

Vision of the Last Judgment, (E 554)
"The Last Judgment is not Fable or Allegory
but Vision
Fable or Allegory are a totally distinct & inferior
kind of Poetry. Vision or Imagination is a Representation of
what Eternally Exists. Really & Unchangeably. Fable or Allegory
is Formd by the Daughters of Memory. Imagination is Surrounded
by the daughters of Inspiration who in the aggregate are calld
Jerusalem The Hebrew Bible & the Gospel of
Jesus are not Allegory but Eternal Vision or Imagination of All
that Exists"

In the following autobiographical passage Blake allows us to join with him in a visionary experience.

He says, "I see them in the Vision of God", and "I behold London".

Then London is personified as seeking the return of Albion.

Jerusalem,Plate 34 [38],(E 180)
"Thus speaking; the Divine Family follow Albion:
I see them in the Vision of God upon my pleasant valleys.

I behold London; a Human awful wonder of God!
He says: Return, Albion, return! I give myself for thee:
My Streets are my, Ideas of Imagination.
Awake Albion, awake! and let us awake up together.
My Houses are Thoughts: my Inhabitants; Affections,
The children of my thoughts, walking within my blood-vessels,
Shut from my nervous form which sleeps upon the verge of Beulah
In dreams of darkness, while my vegetating blood in veiny pipes,
Rolls dreadful thro' the Furnaces of Los, and the Mills of Satan.
For Albions sake, and for Jerusalem thy Emanation
I give myself, and these my brethren give themselves for Albion.

So spoke London, immortal Guardian! I heard in Lambeths shades:
In Felpham I heard and saw the Visions of Albion
I write in South Molton Street, what I both see and hear
In regions of Humanity, in Londons opening streets."

Blake is reporting his own visions which came to him in each place he lived. His vision is of the ingredients of his mind - his 'Ideas of Imagination', his 'Thoughts', his 'Affections' - as the streets, houses and inhabitants of London.

You may recall that in the book of 1st Corinthians (Chapter 12), Paul similarly used an image to reveal the one body of Christ as composed of many members with various functions:

[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.
[13] For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.
[14] For the body is not one member, but many


Friday, April 27, 2012


British Museum
Jerusalem, Plate 100

Another instance of Blake using a single image as he did in the Arlington Tempera, to portray a summation of his myth in visual form, is the final plate of Jerusalem. The central figure is Los, the blacksmith whose furnaces were the instrument for shaping thought by destroying error repeatedly until truth became recognisable. In addition to his hammer whose force moulded the malleable metals following the softening in the fire, Los holds the compass which symbolises the rational method of creation as used by Urizen or Newton. The Zoa of reason is also portrayed in the figure on the left who carries on his shoulder a globe of light, as did Urizen in his Eternal form as the Prince of Light.

The right of the picture is devoted to symbols of the feminine, the emanative form. She holds the spindle and the woven fabric (or perhaps veil.) The moon in the form of an ark, pours out the water of material experience. There are three stars from the chain which was created to prevent man from falling from heaven into the abyss.

The lower background consists of a serpentine wall and a circle of triathlons, symbols of error which had been overcome.

Jerusalem, Plate 98,(E 258)
"According to the subject of discourse & every Word & Every Character
Was Human according to the Expansion or Contraction, the Translucence or
Opakeness of Nervous fibres such was the variation of Time & Space
Which vary according as the Organs of Perception vary & they walked
To & fro in Eternity as One Man reflecting each in each & clearly seen
And seeing: according to fitness & order. And I heard Jehovah speak
Terrific from his Holy Place & saw the Words of the Mutual Covenant Divine
On Chariots of gold & jewels with Living Creatures starry & flaming
With every Colour, Lion, Tyger, Horse, Elephant, Eagle Dove, Fly, Worm,
And the all wondrous Serpent clothed in gems & rich array Humanize
In the Forgiveness of Sins according to the Covenant of Jehovah."


Tuesday, April 24, 2012


British Museum
Christ Descending into the Grave
Illustration to Blair's "The Grave"

To stay the fall into the void of the abyss, Urizen is allowed to create the Mundane Shell. The form of man is assumed by the Divine Vision as the descent is made into Grave of Mortality. Until mankind wakes from his sleep, his sorrows are shared by one who voluntarily assumes a human body. Recognising the Divine within the human provides an opening to rebirth.

Four Zoas, Night II, Page 32, (E 321)
"But infinitely beautiful the wondrous work arose
In sorrow & care. a Golden World whose porches round the heavens
And pillard halls & rooms recievd the eternal wandering stars
A wondrous golden Building; many a window many a door
And many a division let in & out into the vast unknown
[Cubed] in [window square] immoveable, within its walls & cielings
The heavens were closd and spirits mournd their bondage night and day
And the Divine Vision appeard in Luvahs robes of blood

Thus was the Mundane shell builded by Urizens strong power

Sorrowing went the Planters forth to plant, the Sowers to sow
They dug the channels for the rivers & they pourd abroad

The seas & lakes, they reard the mountains & the rocks & hills
On broad pavilions, on pillard roofs & porches & high towers
In beauteous order, thence arose soft clouds & exhalations
Wandering even to the sunny Cubes of light & heat
or many a window ornamented with sweet ornaments
Lookd out into the World of Tharmas, where in ceaseless torrents
His billows roll where monsters wander in the foamy paths

On clouds the Sons of Urizen beheld Heaven walled round
They weighd & orderd all & Urizen comforted saw
The wondrous work flow forth like visible out of the invisible
For the Divine Lamb Even Jesus who is the Divine Vision
Permitted all lest Man should fall into Eternal Death
For when Luvah sunk down himself put on the robes of blood
Lest the state calld Luvah should cease. & the Divine Vision
Walked in robes of blood till he who slept should awake"

Four Zoas, Night VII, Page 87, (E 369)
"Los trembling answerd Now I feel the weight of stern repentance
Tremble not so my Enitharmon at the awful gates
Of thy poor broken Heart I see thee like a shadow withering
As on the outside of Existence but look! behold! take comfort!
Turn inwardly thine Eyes & there behold the Lamb of God
Clothed in Luvahs robes of blood descending to redeem"

Four Zoas, Night VIII, Page 101, (FIRST PORTION), (E 373)
"When Urizen saw the Lamb of God clothed in Luvahs robes
Perplexd & terrifid he Stood tho well he knew that Orc
Was Luvah But he now beheld a new Luvah. Or One
Who assumed Luvahs form & stood before him opposite"


Sunday, April 22, 2012


Central figures of Arlington Tempera 

 Kathleen Raine has much more to say about the Arlington Tempera from the perspective of one immersed in the classic literature. She traced the influences on Blake from the ancients on through the wisdom handed down through the ages which is known as the perennial philosophy. Because she was conversant with Blake's sources she was able to recognise both the minute detail and the complete design in Blake's symbolism.  

Quotes from Blake and Tradition:

Page 78
"Behind Odysseus, Athena's hand reaches to the lowest steps of the staircase that ascends to the sun's shining realm. Both godesses are pointing the way to the eternal world, though for the moment Odysseus sees neither of them - Leucothea by her own command, Athena because (as Homer tells) he has not yet recognized her. The body, like the soul, returns to eternity, the one as a dissolving cloud, the other as 'the true man.'"

Page 86
"Porphyry's cave is the womb by which man enters life; but, seen otherwise, it is the grave in which he dies to eternity. However, for those who leave it by the southern gate, it is, conversely, the grave of this world, from which returning souls are born into the world of immortals."

Page 93
"Homer speaks of the northern and southern entrances of the Cave of the Nymphs; and in explaining these Porphyry passes to astronomical the logic of astrological symbolism it follows that souls enter generation by the moon-governed gate of Cancer, since the moon is the ruler of generation and also of the waters. Conversely, souls leaving this world through the gate of Capricorn enter Saturn's golden country of eternity...These two entrances Blake faithfully depicted in the vital downward current of generation and the radiant staircase rising from the distant extremity of the cave into the golden world."

Page 96
"Blake is suggesting the contrasting states of life in this world as death in the other; or, in this case, the waking in the one as sleep in the other, for the symbolic meaning of sleep and death is the same: the lost vision becomes, in psychological terms, the 'unconscious.'"

Page 97
"Job is the traveler who enters Experience, the state in which the divine in man sleeps, of dies; when the lost traveller returns, the God awakes. The contrasting states of sleep and waking, a death into life and a reawakening into eternity, form the very substance of Blake's thought."   
Just as the consciousness of Odysseus developed through the experiences of his travels, the consciousness of the soul is altered by its passage through materiality. The individual psyche is not static; it is given the opportunity to evolve. The process can be thought of as cyclical. The old is discarded in order that it may be replaced by the new. The awakening is a consequence of going to sleep. Entering into the feminine or projected (externalised) status provides the means of gaining experience. When a new level of development has been assimilated, the psyche returns to the unified wholeness called eternity. Although eternity may not be altered in its completeness by the return of the psyche, the patterns of expression are modified.    

Europe, Plate 3, (E 61)
"The deep of winter came;
What time the secret child,
Descended thro' the orient gates of the eternal day:
War ceas'd, & all the troops like shadows fled to their abodes.

Then Enitharmon saw her sons & daughters rise around.
Like pearly clouds they meet together in the crystal house:
And Los, possessor of the moon, joy'd in the peaceful night:
Thus speaking while his num'rous sons shook their bright fiery wings

Again the night is come
That strong Urthona takes his rest,
And Urizen unloos'd from chains
Glows like a meteor in the distant north
Stretch forth your hands and strike the elemental strings!
Awake the thunders of the deep."

Here is an earlier post based on the Arlington Tempera. 


Friday, April 20, 2012


Center portion of Arlington Tempera

In the Odyssey, when he returns to Ithaca
Odysseus has a additional task to accomplish, that of reuniting with his wife after a ten year absence without communication. He enlists the assistance of Athena and is eventually reunited with Penelope after their long separation.

To Blake the reunion of the Zoa with his Emanation is an important step in achieving regeneration. Symptomatic of the disintegration of the whole man is the loss of the feminine. An example of the recovery of the emanation is reported in this post of Ahania's return to Urizen. The process is that of re-generation, not of simple return to former conditions.

The central figure in the Arlington Tempera may be simple in appearance but she represents a complex symbol because she is the reconciliation or culmination of multiple mythopoeic threads. If seen as Athena she is the divine assistance which aided Odysseus in his travels and brought about his reunion with his wife. Some may see as well as Athena (the intuition or imagination), Aphrodite (the emotions or source of life, born herself from the sea).

In Blake's mythic construction she is primarily Jerusalem the spiritual connection of man to God. She is also Vala from whom the veil has been removed returning her to her unblemished beauty of eternity. She is Enitharmon whose work with Los wrought the bodies in which generation traversed the Sea of Time and Space. She is Enion who knew most acutely what it meant for spirit to be separated from matter.  

The emanations are necessary in the created world; in fact they are the expression outwardly of internal realities: 

Jerusalem, Plate 88, (E 246)
"For Man cannot unite with Man but by their Emanations
Which stand both Male & Female at the Gates of each Humanity
How then can I ever again be united as Man with Man
While thou my Emanation refusest my Fibres of dominion.
When Souls mingle & join thro all the Fibres of Brotherhood
Can there be any secret joy on Earth greater than this?"

The paradox of Blake's use of the female to connect heaven and earth, is that the separateness of the female is extinguished when man awakes to the unity of Eternity. The fragmentation, which in some accounts began with the appearance of the first female, ends with her disappearance:

Jerusalem, Plate 92, (E 252)
"So Los spoke. Enitharmon answerd in great terror in Lambeths Vale

The Poets Song draws to its period & Enitharmon is no more.
For if he be that Albion I can never weave him in my Looms
But when he touches the first fibrous thread, like filmy dew
My Looms will be no more & I annihilate vanish for ever
Then thou wilt Create another Female according to thy Will.

Los answerd swift as the shuttle of gold. Sexes must vanish & cease
To be, when Albion arises from his dread repose O lovely Enitharmon:
When all their Crimes, their Punishments their Accusations of Sin:
All their Jealousies Revenges. Murders. hidings of Cruelty in Deceit
Appear only in the Outward Spheres of Visionary Space and Time.
In the shadows of Possibility by Mutual Forgiveness forevermore
And in the Vision & in the Prophecy, that we may Foresee & Avoid
The terrors of Creation & Redemption & Judgment."

Wednesday, April 18, 2012


Center left portion of Arlington Tempera
By relating the themes in Blake's Arlington Tempera to myths from ancient Greece, Kathleen Raine, in Blake and Tradition, supplies a key to understanding the puzzling picture:

"The living spirits of light and water, reborn in their everlasting youth from Blake's imagination are age-old. They enact the perpetual cycle of the descent and return of souls between an eternal and a temporal world, and the journey through life, under the symbol of a crossing of the sea. Of this journey, the voyage of Odysseus, his dangers and his adventures, his departure and his home-coming to Ithaca, is the type and symbol. in Blake's painting the figure on the sea-verge is Odysseus, newly landed on his native shore, in the cove of the sea god Phorcys, close to the Cave of the Nymphs." (Page 75)

The picture is opened to Homer's archetypal myth by looking through Raine's eyes:
"Odysseus, for the Neoplatonists, symbolised man, whose progress from birth to death, through material existence, is likened to the hero's perilous journey." (Page 79)

The sea itself dominates this segment to the picture. Kathleen Raine identifies the kneeling man in the red robe as Odysseus. The Odyssey records an account of Odysseus' return to his home over the waters after the Battle of Troy. In his sea journey he encounters a series of adventures which expose him to various situations which have psychological import.

Instead of representing the trials of man as he gains experience, Blake suggests the whole of life's journey by portraying a single event from Odysseus' story upon the mighty sea. Probably the main clue to the identity of the man kneeling on the shore is the turning of the gaze away from the direction in which the man is tossing an object into the sea. The account of such an event is in Book V of the Odyssey where the goddess Leucothea (Ino) instructs Odysseus on how to return her girdle which has saved his life:

"Which you shall cast far distant from the shore
Into the Deep, Turning thy face away."

Leucothea had come to the rescue of Odysseus after he had lost all his men and his last ship and even the raft to which he was clinging. In his desperation, Odysseus is assisted by the sea itself in the form of the girdle of the goddess providing the means through which he may reach the islands of the Phaeacians.

On the horizon, the sea goddess accompanied by four horses, is reaching upward into a cloud. Raine tells us that Blake identified the girdle with the body, and that Blake often used the cloud to represent the body. So this portion of the image represents the end of the cycle of physical embodiment of the Soul. Odysseus has relinquished the physical body which was lent to him to traverse the sea (of time and space). Raine points out that Homer used a team of four stallions as a metaphor for the ship which took Odysseus on the final stage of his journey from Phaeacia where he relinquished the girdle. His ultimate destination was Ithaca, the home to which he was returning. The Cave of the Nymphs in the upper right portion of the Arlington Tempera where the descent into a material body began lies near the shore of his homeland.

In The Eternal Drama, Edward Edinger provides this insight into the conclusion of the journey of Odysseus: for the final stage of the return, the body was not required because the ships of the Phaeacians themselves understand the thoughts and minds of men. (Page 121)

Milton, Plate 25 [27], (E 121)
"And Los stood & cried to the Labourers of the Vintage in voice of awe.

Fellow Labourers! The Great Vintage & Harvest is now upon Earth
The whole extent of the Globe is explored: Every scatterd Atom
Of Human Intellect now is flocking to the sound of the Trumpet
All the Wisdom which was hidden in caves & dens, from ancient
Time; is now sought out from Animal & Vegetable & Mineral

The Awakener is come. outstretchd over Europe! the Vision of God is fulfilled
The Ancient Man upon the Rock of Albion Awakes,"

Monday, April 16, 2012


Lower left portion of Arlington Tempera

Following the clockwise circle of life, the soul having been clothed in the garment of flesh, is prepared to enter the Sea of Time and Space. Human life flows into the river of time to be under the dominion to the three fates. Providing the cord with which the fates will allot the life span of each individual, is Blake's Zoa Tharmas. Here is the third male in the picture. In Blake's myth he represents the body including the senses; his element is water. This portion of the Arlington Tempera represents the entry of the soul into the mortal world. The body is experienced as divided from the soul and subject to death.

The three fates are seen allocating the thread of life, measuring it and determining its length. Through the fates we are introduced to the death of the physical life.

Four Zoas , Night IV. PAGE 56, (E 337)
"The Corse of Albion lay on the Rock the sea of Time & Space
Beat round the Rock in mighty waves & as a Polypus
That vegetates beneath the Sea the limbs of Man vegetated
In monstrous forms of Death a Human polypus of Death"

Milton O. Percival, who wrote William Blake's Circle of Destiny, helps us to connect entry into the wartry world of Tharmas with the division into the contraries of spirit and matter; male and female:

"Henceforth the world will know both good and evil and the rigors of vengeance for sin.

Still, Tharmas is not satisfied. Though, as the principle of life within the physical universe he scorns matter, he cannot live with out 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 another that the mortal world is made. It is built at Tharmas's 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 IV, Page 48, (E 332)
"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

Los answerd in his furious pride sparks issuing from his hair
Hitherto shalt thou come. no further. here thy proud waves cease"

Saturday, April 14, 2012


Lower right portion of Arlington Tempera
From Myspace

Only four males are encountered in the Arlington Tempera. The first was the sleeping charioteer; the second was the partner in the couple outside of the cave commented on in the last post. This section of the image contains no males. Raine sees the work of Los going on the flames which are visible in a few spots of this portion; but we see only females engaging in the activities here portrayed. The female when separated from the male becomes the projected or outer world to the interior world of form represented by the divided male. The import of the picture in its entirety is the Cycle of Life, or as I have entitled it in my series of posts: The Soul's Journey.

Represented in this section is the Soul's being born to Death, and her dying to to Life Eternal. The womb of the cave has become a tomb because the entry into this new life ends the Soul's consciousness of life Eternal. Death is the metaphor for man's journey through experience to regain awareness of the Eternal.

Blake represents this birth/death in the metaphor of receiving a garment or body which clothes the soul in this world of mortality. The females in this section are in the process of descending or ascending; weaving a garment or receiving a woven garment; carrying their water or spilling their water; winding or unwinding the 'golden string'. Entering the world of generation is a blessing and a curse, a mercy and a trial; both aspects are suggested here.

Look for the spindles being held aloft by three joyful maidens with a loom; the thread which connects the girl with the thread wound on her hands to the woman behind the tree with the ball in her right hand; the girl on the right who is being woven into a net; the figure who holds the fabric which is being dragged into the water; the woman climbing the stair with her bucket and reaching upward; the sleeping girl whose container is being emptied into the stream.

, Plate 1, (E 144)
"There is a Void, outside of Existence, which if enterd into

Englobes itself & becomes a Womb, such was Albions Couch in the world of mortality
A pleasant Shadow of Repose calld Albions lovely Land

His Sublime & Pathos become Two Rocks fixd in the Earth
His Reason his Spectrous Power, covers them above
Jerusalem his Emanation is a Stone laying beneath
O behold the Vision of Albion

Half Friendship is the bitterest Enmity said Los
As he enterd the Door of Death for Albions sake Inspired
The long sufferings of God are not for ever there is a Judgment

Every Thing has its Vermin O Spectre of the Sleeping Dead!"

Jerusalem, PLATE 67, (E 220)
"And the Twelve Daughters of Albion united in Rahab & Tirzah
A Double Female: and they drew out from the Rocky Stones
Fibres of Life to Weave[,] for every Female is a Golden Loom
The Rocks are opake hardnesses covering all Vegetated things
And as they Wove & Cut from the Looms in various divisions
Stretching over Europe & Asia from Ireland to Japan
They divided into many lovely Daughters to be counterparts
To those they Wove, for when they Wove a Male, they divided
Into a Female to the Woven Male. in opake hardness
They cut the Fibres from the Rocks groaning in pain they Weave;
Calling the Rocks Atomic Origins of Existence; denying Eternity
By the Atheistical Epicurean Philosophy of Albions Tree
Such are the Feminine & Masculine when separated from Man
They call the Rocks Parents of Men, & adore the frowning Chaos
Dancing around in howling pain clothed in the bloody Veil."

Thursday, April 12, 2012


Upper right portion of Arlington Tempera
From Myspace

Moving clockwise from the image in the last post we get the first intimation that Blake is weaving Homer's Odyssey into the fabric of his picture. As noted earlier Blake and Thomas Taylor were friends during the time that the Neoplatonist Taylor was translating Porphyry's Greek to English. From Chapter 13 of Taylor's translation on the Odyssey we read:

"High at the head a branching olive grows
And crowns the pointed cliffs with shady boughs.
A cavern pleasant, though involved in night,
Beneath it lies, the Naiades delight:
Where bowls and urns of workmanship divine
And massy beams in native marble shine;
On which the Nymphs amazing webs display,
Of purple hue and exquisite array,
The busy bees within the urns secure
Honey delicious, and like nectar pure.
Perpetual waters through the grotto glide,
A lofty gate unfolds on either side;
That to the north is pervious to mankind:
The sacred south t'immortals is consign'd."

Taylor's translation or Porphyry

Blake's picture has moved away from the initial unity in Eternity which was broken by the fall into unconsciousness symbolised by the sleeping charioteer. Appropriately the process of generation is to begin in a cave as human life begins in the Mother's womb. The particular cave Blake uses as his symbol is the Cave of the Nymphs described by Homer. Within the cave in Blake's portrayal are the Naiades with urns upon their heads. Signalling the process which is beginning is a Nymph emptying her urn producing a stream of water flowing down the hillside. Nearby lies a couple reminding us that male and female have been differentiated and will unite in procreation, the process of dividing by uniting which characterises our world.

Two prevalent symbols for Blake of life in this world are water and the female. Water represents the milieu which wipes away the consciousness of the Eternal. The flood introduces the Sea of Time and Space which masks from man his origin. The ability to perceive the Eternal and Infinite, from which man proceeds, is lost in the sensory data from matter. The female is the emanative portion of man which provides the perspective of dualism which leads to the constant dividing, judging and discarding in which man engages. These two processes are introduced in this little portion of the picture and will be developed as we proceed through the clockwise cycle.

Milton, Plate 37 [41], (E 138)
"From Star to Star, Mountains & Valleys, terrible dimension
Stretchd out, compose the Mundane Shell, a mighty Incrustation
Of Forty-eight deformed Human Wonders of the Almighty
With Caverns whose remotest bottoms meet again beyond
The Mundane Shell in Golgonooza, but the Fires of Los, rage
In the remotest bottoms of the Caves, that none can pass
Into Eternity that way, but all descend to Los
To Bowlahoola & Allamanda & to Entuthon Benython"

Four Zoas , Page 43, (E 329)
"Down from the dismal North the Prince in thunders & thick clouds
As when the thunderbolt down falleth on the appointed place
Fell down down rushing ruining thundering shuddering
Into the Caverns of the Grave & places of Human Seed
Where the impressions of Despair & Hope enroot forever
A world of Darkness. Ahania fell far into Non Entity"

Post on the Work of Los.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012


Upper left section of Arlington Tempera as found on Myspace

The upper left area of the Arlington Tempera can represent the starting point in the cycle which is portrayed in the picture. Sitting in a chariot or on a throne is a figure who appears to be asleep. Behind him is a radiant sun. In Greek mythology the sun god is Apollo; the parallel in Blake's mythology is Urizen whom Damon calls the 'Charioteer of the material sun.'

To the right is a team of four horses under the precarious control of four maidens. Urizen is the 'limiter of Energy' as well as the 'Prince of Light' (Damon.) As Urizen falls asleep his horses are loosed to destroy the unity which is the condition of Eternity. Energy is released to become manifest in time and space. The section of the picture shone above captures the fire, light and activity of Eternity. Moving into time and space this energy will be contained and transformed.

Kathleen Raine in Blake and Tradition makes these comments on this section of the picture (Page 96):

"The god in the chariot of the sun is a strange figure. He appears to be intended to resemble the traditional Apollo, although he has no 'bow of burning gold' - and there is a striking resemblance to the figure of in God in the Job engravings, the fifth plate, 'Then went Satan forth from the presence of the Lord.' There the drowsy God is not actually sleeping, as he appears to be here; yet the symbolic event, though stated in other terms, is parallel. The separation of Satan (the Selfhood, as Blake invariably defines him) from God (the Divine Humanity) is about to initiate a cycle of Experience, a descent and return, in the suffering of Job, as is here symbolized by the voyage of Odysseus across the stormy sea of time and space, and his final home-coming. One thinks of the opening lines of The Gates of Paradise:
My Eternal Man set in Repose,
The Female from his darkness rose."

This description of the fall by Urizen in the Four Zoas presents images reminiscent of those in the portion of the Arlington Tempera shown above:

Four Zoas, Night V, Page 64, (E 343)
"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"

Sunday, April 8, 2012


I have posted several times recently on Vala in her various manifestations and have revisited the Arlington Tempera about which much more needs to be said. I plan to relate more of what Kathleen Raine writes in Blake and Tradition about the Arlington Tempera. However today I will first repost material from two of Larry's posts from September 2009 & 11. Raine treats the Arlington Tempera in a section of her book which she names: The Myth of the Soul. The Soul's journey is traced in the wanderings of Vala and in the imagery of the Arlington Tempera.

Larry Clayton's post:

" A most significant key to Blake's symbolism came to light only in 1947 when Arlington Court was bequeathed to the British National Trust. Among the furnishings there was a large tempera by Blake, called alternatively The Sea of Time and Space or The Cave of the Nymphs. This treasure had been hidden from public eyes for a century.

(Most of us are unlikely to see the original, but Blake and Antiquity by Kathleen Raine offers several glimpses of the picture with a detailed account of the symbols it contains. There is no better way to begin an understanding of Blake at the deeper level than to read carefully and study this small and accessible book.)

The picture contains the essential symbolism of Blake's myth; the theme goes back to Homer, then to Plato and Porphyry.

Blake and Taylor were approximately the same age and as young men close friends. Many people think that Taylor introduced Blake to the Platonic and Neoplatonic traditions. It seems certain that Taylor's On the Homeric Cave of the Nymphs deeply influenced the painting of the Arlington Tempera. It also introduced a great number of the most common symbols used in Blake's myth; they were used over and over throughout Blake's work."

Continuing from another post:

"The last post included a link to the Arlington Tempera. You may see it as an excellent portrayal of the Circle of Destiny.

One of the common names for the picture is The Sea of Time and Space. However Damon suggested The Circle of Life as a more appropriate term.

The sea in the picture is only one of several vital scenes; it occurs in the left foreground. The right hand part portrays the Cave of the Nymphs, found in the 13th book of the Odyssey. In fact it's from an interpretation of the cave by Porphyry, a 3rd century a Neoplatonist philosopher.

The upper left portrays Eternity. The center shows two prominent characters. The man kneeling on the shore has been given several names: Odysseus by Kathleen Raine, Luvah by Damon, Albion/Jesus by Digby, or better yet, Everyman (you and I). He has gotten close to completion of the circle of destiny; without looking at the sea he is throwing the girdle of Leucothea which she had lent him to be able to swim ashore (Blake used Book 5 of the Odyssey for this feature).

Behind 'Everyman' stands a woman, perhaps Athena (Raine), Vala (Damon), the anima (Digby). (This shows how Blake says different things to different people -- much like the Bible!)

On the right side of the picture there's an image you might imagine as a double escalator with the right side going down and the left up. Down the northern come the souls with a hankering for mortal life. Up the southern may go Everyman:

Gates of Paradise, The Keys of the Gates, (E 269)
"13 But when once I did descry
The Immortal Man that cannot Die
14 Thro evening shades I haste away
To close the Labours of my Day"

We can only suppose that Everyman, responding to the radiant woman's signal, looked up and moved!"

To conclude here is a quote from Raine's Blake and Tradition:
"The figure of the soul is symbolized by a series of female figures, each a little more complex than the last - Thel, Lyca, Oothoon, Vala, and Jerusalem. All these experience descent, suffering and return... In Jerusalem the story of the soul is Christianized but retains traces of the earlier myths out of which grew this latest expression of Blake's mature spiritual insight and perfected artistry." (Page 67,68)

Friday, April 6, 2012


One of Blake's pictures which first was located in 1947, incorporates imagery from a large number of sources. Blake did not attach a name to the picture but it is known by various names such as the Arlington Tempera, the Sea of Time and Space, and the Circle of Destiny. Blake was not illustrating a particular myth or a single incident. He was asking the viewer to scan the picture for multiple meanings and relate individual images to one's own life experiences. Of course a pattern emerges as we enter into the entire portrayal.

Image of Arlington Tempera from Myspace
Link to National Trust Image

In his book, Symbol and Image in William Blake, George Wingfield Digby, devotes a chapter to developing an understanding of the picture both as a whole and as individual parts. Here is a sample of his analysis or the activity which is illustrated on the right side of the picture. Digby's statement focuses our attention on aspects of the meaning incorporated in Enitharmon's looms and Los' furnaces:

"The weavers and spinners on the hillside, from which the flames are issuing, remain to be considered. Here is depicted the work of Los and Enitharmon - Los labouring at his forge, Enitharmon at the looms and spindles - a theme which runs as a refrain throughout all Blake's major Prophetic Books. Los, with his intuitive imagination, works at his furnaces, melting down the ores and metals, recasting them,and shaping them at his forge. The flames playing around the hill show that Los is at work within. Enitharmon and her daughters ply the looms and spinning wheels, preparing the threads of fate and the garments for the Spectrous Souls of the Dead. What does this signify? It means that the experience of day-to-day existence, which is the material of life, can be shaped and woven in a creative way; it is this day-to-day experience which is the means of amending life." (Page 89)

Digby points out in the above passage that two kinds of work go on simultaneously. The inner work done by Los in his fiery furnace and at his anvil; the outer work done by Enitharmon with her looms and spindles.

Blake's poetry expands on the visual image with words which can take us deeper into the work of redemption:

Four Zoas , Night VIII, PAGE 113 (FIRST PORTION), (E 376)
We behold with wonder Enitharmons Looms & Los's Forges
And the Spindles of Tirzah & Rahab and the Mills of Satan & Beelzeboul
In Golgonooza Los's anvils stand & his Furnaces rage
Ten thousand demons labour at the forges Creating Continually
The times & spaces of Mortal Life the Sun the Moon the Stars
In periods of Pulsative furor beating into wedges & bars
Then drawing into wires the terrific Passions & Affections
Of Spectrous dead. Thence to the Looms of Cathedron conveyd
The Daughters of Enitharmon weave the ovarium & the integument
In soft silk drawn from their own bowels in lascivious delight
With songs of sweetest cadence to the turning spindle & reel
Lulling the weeping spectres of the dead. Clothing their limbs
With gifts & gold of Eden. Astonishd stupefied with delight
The terrors put on their sweet clothing on the banks of Arnon
Whence they plunge into the river of space for a period till
The dread Sleep of Ulro is past. But Satan Og & Sihon
Build Mills of resistless wheels to unwind the soft threads & reveal
Naked of their clothing the poor spectres before the accusing heavens
While Rahab & Tirzah far different mantles prepare webs of torture
Mantles of despair girdles of bitter compunction shoes of indolence
Veils of ignorance covering from head to feet with a cold web

We look down into Ulro we behold the Wonders of the Grave
Eastward of Golgonooza stands the Lake of Udan Adan In
Entuthon Benithon a Lake not of Waters but of Spaces
Perturbd black & deadly on its Islands & its Margins
The Mills of Satan and Beelzeboul stand round the roots of Urizens tree
For this Lake is formd from the tears & sighs & death sweat of the Victims
Of Urizens laws. to irrigate the roots of the tree of Mystery
They unweave the soft threads then they weave them anew in the forms
Of dark death & despair & none from Eternity to Eternity could Escape
But thou O Universal Humanity who is One Man blessed for Ever
Recievest the Integuments woven Rahab beholds the Lamb of God
She smites with her knife of flint She destroys her own work
Times upon times thinking to destroy the Lamb blessed for Ever
He puts off the clothing of blood he redeems the spectres from their bonds
He awakes the sleepers in Ulro the Daughters of Beulah praise him
They anoint his feet with ointment they wipe them with the hair of their head

We now behold the Ends of Beulah & we now behold
Where Death Eternal is put off Eternally
Assume the dark Satanic body in the Virgins womb
O Lamb divin[e] it cannot thee annoy O pitying one
Thy pity is from the foundation of the World & thy Redemption
Begun Already in Eternity Come then O Lamb of God
Come Lord Jesus come quickly

So sang they in Eternity looking down into Beulah."

Additional posts on Arlington Tempera

Wednesday, April 4, 2012


British Museum
Jerusalem, Plate 53

Rahab may appear harmless, even attractive in this picture but we are not to be deceived.
What exactly is Rahab?

, PLATE 52, (E 200)

                              |The Spiritual States of
                              |the Soul are all Eternal
Rahab is an   |   To the Deists.         |Distinguish between the
Eternal State |                                 |Man, & his present State
"He never can be a Friend to the Human Race who is the Preacher
of Natural Morality or Natural Religion. he is a flatterer who
means to betray, to perpetuate Tyrant Pride & the Laws of that
Babylon which he foresees shall shortly be destroyed, with the
Spiritual and not the Natural Sword: He is in the State named
Rahab: which State must be put off before he can be the Friend of

How does she manage to get control?

Jerusalem, Plate 53, (E 202)
"And the roots of Albions Tree enterd the Soul of Los
As he sat before his Furnaces clothed in sackcloth of hair
In gnawing pain dividing him from his Emanation;
Inclosing all the Children of Los time after time.
Their Giant forms condensing into Nations & Peoples & Tongues"

Why do we let her do it?

Jerusalem, Plate 70, (E 224)
"Imputing Sin & Righteousness to Individuals; Rahab
Sat deep within him hid: his Feminine Power unreveal'd
Brooding Abstract Philosophy. to destroy Imagination, the Divine-
-Humanity A Three-fold Wonder: feminine: most beautiful: Three-fold
Each within other. On her white marble & even Neck, her Heart
Inorb'd and bonified: with locks of shadowing modesty, shining
Over her beautiful Female features, soft flourishing in beauty
Beams mild, all love and all perfection, that when the lips
Recieve a kiss from Gods or Men, a threefold kiss returns
>From the pressd loveliness: so her whole immortal form three-fold
Three-fold embrace returns: consuming lives of Gods & Men
In fires of beauty melting them as gold & silver in the furnace
Her Brain enlabyrinths the whole heaven of her bosom & loins
To put in act what her Heart wills; O who can withstand her power
Her name is Vala in Eternity: in Time her name is Rahab"

What harm does she do?

Jerusalem, Plate 52, (E 201)
"Those who Martyr others or who cause War are Deists, but never
can be Forgivers of Sin. The Glory of Christianity is, To
Conquer by Forgiveness. All the Destruction therefore, in
Christian Europe has arisen from Deism, which is Natural

Damon, in A Blake Dictionary, states: "Deism is a religion made by historians, sociologists, and economists, not by the religious, the metaphysicians, or the mystics." (Page 100)

Monday, April 2, 2012


City of Bristol Museum
Vala takes the form of the Shadowy Female as the symptoms of fallen nature are exhibited in the world. Misery, suffering, imprisonment, starvation, pestilence, famine, and war are the articulations of the fallen condition of humanity. These conditions were not strangers to Blake. His London in 1799 was as close to famine as had been seen in Britain since the 14th century according to Erdman.
There is a precarious balance between the suffering of humanity represented by the Shadowy Female and explosion into the violence of revolution represented by Orc. Blake had seen two revolutions; the American colonies and the French. Revolution in England was a possibility considering existing conditions.

In this passage Blake seems to present the idea that sufferings represented by the Shadowy Female have not yet been materialized in Human Form. The descent of Milton into the lower worlds required embodiment of the Shadowy Female as Rahab and Tirzah. Orc, from experience, knew the sorrows of Revolution which became materialized. He pleaded with the Shadowy Female to refuse to assume the characteristics of the Selfhood exemplified in the System of Moral Virtue (Rahab) and in the mortal body (Tirzah).

, Plate 17 [19], (E 111)
"Los the Vehicular terror beheld him, & divine Enitharmon
Call'd all her daughters, Saying. Surely to unloose my bond
Is this Man come! Satan shall be unloosd upon Albion
Los heard in terror Enitharmons words: in fibrous strength
His limbs shot forth like roots of trees against the forward path
Of Miltons journey. Urizen beheld the immortal Man,
Plate 18 [20]
And Tharmas Demon of the Waters, & Orc, who is Luvah

The Shadowy Female seeing Milton, howl'd in her lamentation
Over the Deeps. outstretching her Twenty seven Heavens over Albion

And thus the Shadowy Female howls in articulate howlings

I will lament over Milton in the lamentations of the afflicted
My Garments shall be woven of sighs & heart broken lamentations
The misery of unhappy Families shall be drawn out into its border
Wrought with the needle with dire sufferings poverty pain & woe
Along the rocky Island & thence throughout the whole Earth
There shall be the sick Father & his starving Family! there
The Prisoner in the stone Dungeon & the Slave at the Mill
I will have Writings written all over it in Human Words
That every Infant that is born upon the Earth shall read
And get by rote as a hard task of a life of sixty years
I will have Kings inwoven upon it, & Councellors & Mighty Men
The Famine shall clasp it together with buckles & Clasps
And the Pestilence shall be its fringe & the War its girdle
To divide into Rahab & Tirzah that Milton may come to our tents
For I will put on the Human Form & take the Image of God
Even Pity & Humanity but my Clothing shall be Cruelty
And I will put on Holiness as a breastplate & as a helmet
And all my ornaments shall be of the gold of broken hearts
And the precious stones of anxiety & care & desperation & death
And repentance for sin & sorrow & punishment & fear
To defend me from thy terrors O Orc! my only beloved!

Orc answerd. Take not the Human Form O loveliest. Take not
Terror upon thee! Behold how I am & tremble lest thou also
Consume in my Consummation; but thou maist take a Form
Female & lovely, that cannot consume in Mans consummation
Wherefore dost thou Create & Weave this Satan for a Covering[?]
When thou attemptest to put on the Human Form, my wrath

Burns to the top of heaven against thee in Jealousy & Fear.
Then I rend thee asunder, then I howl over thy clay & ashes
When wilt thou put on the Female Form as in times of old
With a Garment of Pity & Compassion like the Garment of God
His garments are long sufferings for the Children of Men
Jerusalem is his Garment & not thy Covering Cherub O lovely
Shadow of my delight who wanderest seeking for the prey."

The resolution at the end of Jerusalem offers the solution to the problem epitomised by Vala:

Jerusalem, Plate 92, (E 252)
"Los answerd swift as the shuttle of gold. Sexes must vanish & cease
To be, when Albion arises from his dread repose O lovely Enitharmon:
When all their Crimes, their Punishments their Accusations of Sin:
All their Jealousies Revenges. Murders. hidings of Cruelty in Deceit
Appear only in the Outward Spheres of Visionary Space and Time.
In the shadows of Possibility by Mutual Forgiveness forevermore
And in the Vision & in the Prophecy, that we may Foresee & Avoid
The terrors of Creation & Redemption & Judgment. Beholding them
Displayd in the Emanative Visions of Canaan in Jerusalem & in Shiloh
And in the Shadows of Remembrance, & in the Chaos of the Spectre"


"Sexes must vanish & cease To be": meaning that the manhood must not be divided into inner and outer, Spectre and Emanation, male and female.

"Appear only in the Outward Spheres of Visionary Space and Time": meaning that man must learn to recognise what happens in the Sphere of Vision for what it is.

"that we may Foresee & Avoid The terrors of Creation & Redemption & Judgment": meaning that by not giving reality to forces which are perceived as threat we may remove the harm in them.

"Beholding them Displayd in the Emanative Visions of Canaan in Jerusalem & in Shiloh And in the Shadows of Remembrance, & in the Chaos of the Spectre": meaning that we can learn to discriminate among the experiences which come to us rather than becoming their victims.