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

Monday, April 29, 2013


Original in Huntington Library
Song of Los
Plate 2, Copy E
Science aims to make the future predictable. Every effect is the result of a cause. Each behavior follows laws which have been tested in the crucible of experiment to insure their reliability. Generalizations can be made from particulars. Any deviation from predicted behavior leads to further rule-making to explain, to justify and to predict. Behavior may fall outside of the predictable range but we can calculate the statistical probability of that occurring.  

A world governed by such science was not one in which William Blake lived. In his world every effect had a spiritual cause. Time was the mercy of eternity. Everything possible to be believed was an image of truth. Outer experience resulted from inner consciousness. Science could not exist in generalizing demonstrations of rational power.

It was possible for Blake to be comfortable in a world where a single moment may contain infinite imagery and every bird that cuts the airy way may be an immense world of delight. 

Ronald L. Grimes writing in Blake's Sublime Allegory, explains that in Blake's thought:

"Events do not proceed from one another developmentally. One might infer that vision is none other than the breakdown of strict chronological and causal sequences. Visionary relationships are the opposite of deterministic relationships, and each event is a 'miracle' in the sense that its cause is not immediately evident if one looks only at the empirical level. Events are somehow related, but not causally related. The problem is to find out exactly how they are related." (Page 64-5)

Milton, Plate 28 (30), (E 126)
"But others of the Sons of Los build Moments & Minutes & Hours
And Days & Months & Years & Ages & Periods; wondrous buildings
And every Moment has a Couch of gold for soft repose,
(A Moment equals a pulsation of the artery)    ,
And between every two Moments stands a Daughter of Beulah
To feed the Sleepers on their Couches with maternal care.
And every Minute has an azure Tent with silken Veils.  
And every Hour has a bright golden Gate carved with skill.
And every Day & Night, has Walls of brass & Gates of adamant,
Shining like precious stones & ornamented with appropriate signs:

And every Month, a silver paved Terrace builded high:
And every Year, invulnerable Barriers with high Towers.
And every Age is Moated deep with Bridges of silver & gold.
And every Seven Ages is Incircled with a Flaming Fire.
Now Seven Ages is amounting to Two Hundred Years
Each has its Guard. each Moment Minute Hour Day Month & Year.
All are the work of Fairy hands of the Four Elements      
The Guard are Angels of Providence on duty evermore
Every Time less than a pulsation of the artery
Is equal in its period & value to Six Thousand Years.
PLATE 29 [31]
For in this Period the Poets Work is Done: and all the Great
Events of Time start forth & are concievd in such a Period
Within a Moment: a Pulsation of the Artery."

Saturday, April 27, 2013


British Museum
Illustrations to Young's Night Thoughts

A book of essays on Blake's three major epics, The Four Zoas, Milton and Jerusalem, published in 1971, has contributed enormously to our understanding of Blake's meaning. Today I quote from Jerome J. McGann's essay, The Air of Blake's Prophecies, contained in Blake's Sublime Allegory, edited by Currran, and Wittreich. 

"All Three of Blake's surviving epics are explicit attempts to recover the Divine Vision for, in, and through the world. He does not compose his poetry for himself but for the 'Divine Humanity,' the brotherhood of all men. Thus he will say: 'I will not cease from Mental Fight...Till we have built Jerusalem' (M1:95). That is, 'I' (Blake) struggle that 'we' (Man)  may together, in vision, recover our emanation Jerusalem, who is the image of every man's infinite desire. Blake is not simply being modest here. The lyric states the literal fact of his belief, that the original state of blessedness is recovered only when every man lives in vision, that is, when every man beholds the universe in his own active imagination. An 'external world' is a delusion just as any 'generalized' conception of reality is a shadow. To find the world must find oneself.

For all are Men in Eternity. Rivers Mountains Cities Villages,
All are Human & when you enter into their Bosoms you walk
In Heavens & Earths; as in your own Bosom you bear your Heaven
And Earth, & all you behold, tho it appears Without it is Within
In your Imagination of which this World of Mortality is but a Shadow.
(J 71:15-19) 
"Milton and Vala carry the same message. Since imagination 'is the Human Existence itself' (M 32:32), to  be without imagination is to be inhuman, dead."  (Page 6) 

Jerusalem, Plate 54, (E 203)
"In Great Eternity, every particular Form gives forth or Emanates
Its own peculiar Light, & the Form is the Divine Vision
And the Light is his Garment This is Jerusalem in every Man
A Tent & Tabernacle of Mutual Forgiveness Male & Female Clothings.
And Jerusalem is called Liberty among the Children of Albion"

Jerusalem, Plate 27, (E 173)
 "He witherd up the Human Form,
By laws of sacrifice for sin:
  Till it became a Mortal Worm:    
But O! translucent all within.

  The Divine Vision still was seen
Still was the Human Form, Divine
  Weeping in weak & mortal clay
O Jesus still the Form was thine."       

Thursday, April 25, 2013


The Bible was deeply ingrained in Blake's psyche. It was natural for him to incorporate Biblical ideas throughout his work. 

John 9
[39] And Jesus said, For judgment I am come into this world, that they which see not might see; and that they which see might be made blind. 

First John 2
[1] My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous:

Revelation 12
[9] And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.

John 12
[23] And Jesus answered them, saying, The hour is come, that the Son of man should be glorified.
[24] Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.
[25] He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal.

An additional way in which Blake viewed the Last Judgment was in terms of Satan and Jesus. Satan the accuser, the deceiver, the punisher must be cast out before the Judgment Seat of Jesus who receives all who came to him for forgiveness. It is death who dies before the Judgment Seat as those seeking a new life in Christ are born to Life Eternal. In this image of the Day of Judgment, the fall of those in the state of Satan is pictured on the left side of Jesus, on his right are those who are forgiving and forgiven. At the very bottom of the picture are souls coming from under ground, about to choose which path to follow: that of forgiving or accusing. 

Jerusalem, Plate 31 [35], (E 177)
"Then the Divine hand found the Two Limits, Satan and Adam,
In Albions bosom: for in every Human bosom those Limits stand.
And the Divine voice came from the Furnaces, as multitudes without
Number! the voices of the innumerable multitudes of Eternity.
And the appearance of a Man was seen in the Furnaces;            
Saving those who have sinned from the punishment of the Law,
(In pity of the punisher whose state is eternal death,)
And keeping them from Sin by the mild counsels of his love.
Albion goes to Eternal Death: In Me all Eternity.
Must pass thro' condemnation, and awake beyond the Grave!"

Vision of Last Judgment, (E 565)
 "In Hell all is Self
Righteousness there is no such thing there as Forgiveness of Sin
he who does Forgive Sin is Crucified as an Abettor of Criminals.
& he who performs Works of Mercy in Any shape whatever is punishd
& if possible destroyd not thro Envy  or Hatred or Malice but
thro Self Righteousness that thinks it does God service which God
is Satan 
Forgiveness of Sin is only at the Judgment Seat of Jesus the
Saviour where the Accuser is cast out. not because he Sins but
because he torments the Just & makes them do what he condemns as
Sin & what he knows is opposite to their own Identity 
     It is not because Angels are Holier than Men or Devils that
makes them Angels but because they do not Expect Holiness from
one another but from God only" 

Vision of Last Judgment, (E 564) 
"Christ comes
as he came at first to deliver those who were bound under the
Knave not to deliver the Knave He Comes to Deliver Man the
[Forgiven]  not Satan the Accuser we do not
find any where that Satan is Accused of Sin he is only accused of
Unbelief & thereby drawing Man into Sin that he may accuse him. 
Such is the Last Judgment a Deliverance from Satans Accusation
Satan thinks that Sin is displeasing to God he ought to know that
Nothing is displeasing to God but Unbelief & Eating of the Tree
of Knowledge of Good & Evil 
     Men are admitted into Heaven not because they have
 governd their Passions or have No Passions but because
they have Cultivated their Understandings.  The Treasures of
Heaven are not Negations of Passion but Realities of Intellect
from which All the Passions Emanate  in their Eternal
Glory   The Fool shall not enter into Heaven let him be ever so
Holy.  Holiness is not The Price of Enterance into Heaven Those
who are cast out Are All Those who having no Passions of their
own because No Intellect.  Have spent their lives in Curbing &
Governing other Peoples by the Various arts of Poverty & Cruelty
of all kinds   Wo Wo Wo to you Hypocrites   Even Murder the
Courts of Justice  are compelld to
allow is not done in Passion but in Cool Blooded Design &
     The Modern Church Crucifies Christ with the Head Downwards"  

Everlasting Gospel, (in Blake's Notebook), (E 876)
British Museum
Illustrations to Robert Blair's The Grave
Designed by Blake engraved by Schiavonetti
Day of Judgment
     "It was when Jesus said to Me
     Thy Sins are all forgiven thee
     The Christian trumpets loud proclaim
     Thro all the World in Jesus name
     Mutual forgiveness of each Vice
     And oped the Gates of Paradise
     The Moral Virtues in Great fear
     Formed the Cross & Nails & Spear
     And the Accuser standing by
     Cried out Crucify Crucify
     Our Moral Virtues neer can be
     Nor Warlike pomp & Majesty
     For Moral Virtues all begin
     In the Accusations of Sin"

Revelation 12
[10] And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night.

The picture can be greatly enlarged by right clicking to open in a new window. Then click on picture for more detail.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013


Since the Book of Revelation revealed the vision of John of Patmos and Blake himself received visions which informed his writing and painting, Blake was influenced by what he read in Revelation. Blake's attention to the Last Judgment reflects the imagery in Revelation.

Revelation 14
[13] And I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, Write, Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours; and their works do follow them.
[14] And I looked, and behold a white cloud, and upon the cloud one sat like unto the Son of man, having on his head a golden crown, and in his hand a sharp sickle.
[15] And another angel came out of the temple, crying with a loud voice to him that sat on the cloud, Thrust in thy sickle, and reap: for the time is come for thee to reap; for the harvest of the earth is ripe.
[16] And he that sat on the cloud thrust in his sickle on the earth; and the earth was reaped.
[17] And another angel came out of the temple which is in heaven, he also having a sharp sickle.
[18] And another angel came out from the altar, which had power over fire; and cried with a loud cry to him that had the sharp sickle, saying, Thrust in thy sharp sickle, and gather the clusters of the vine of the earth; for her grapes are fully ripe.
[19] And the angel thrust in his sickle into the earth, and gathered the vine of the earth, and cast it into the great winepress of the wrath of God.
[20] And the winepress was trodden without the city, and blood came out of the winepress, even unto the horse bridles, by the space of a thousand and six hundred furlongs.

Library of Congress
Marriage if Heaven & Hell
Plate 10

A passage in Milton which sheds light on Blake's view of the Last Judgment focuses our attention on the Last Vintage. Blake's view that the Last Judgment takes place when error is identified and repudiated is here put into the positive terms of the Last Vintage being a harvest of Truth. The vintage pressed out by the winepress is the gathering in of the accumulation of intellect as an expression of the Wisdom acquired by the whole of humanity. 
The Last Vintage initiates the Awakening of Albion through which he become able to separate the classes of men into their proper configuration. The redeemed and reprobate are contraries who can be expressed simultaneously as parallel but complementary aspects in a paradigm. The elect is a negation which aims to eliminate the fine balance which the contraries can achieve.  The contraries when bound together are prepared for the consummation or transformation by fire or spirit to higher consciousness. The negation cannot advance but must continue in the cycle of struggle until its limitations are recognized.

Milton, PLATE 25 [27], (E 121)
"Loud shout the Sons of Luvah, at the Wine-presses as Los descended
With Rintrah & Palamabron in his fires of resistless fury.

The Wine-press on the Rhine groans loud, but all its central beams
Act more terrific in the central Cities of the Nations
Where Human Thought is crushd beneath the iron hand of Power.    
There Los puts all into the Press, the Opressor & the Opressed
Together, ripe for the Harvest & Vintage & ready for the Loom.

They sang at the Vintage. This is the Last Vintage! & Seed
Shall no more be sown upon Earth, till all the Vintage is over
And all gatherd in, till the Plow has passd over the Nations     
And the Harrow & heavy thundering Roller upon the mountains

And loud the Souls howl round the Porches of Golgonooza
Crying O God deliver us to the Heavens or to the Earths,
That we may preach righteousness & punish the sinner with death
But Los refused, till all the Vintage of Earth was gatherd in.  

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,
He listens to the sounds of War astonishd & ashamed;
He sees his Children mock at Faith and deny Providence          
Therefore you must bind the Sheaves not by Nations or Families
You shall bind them in Three Classes; according to their Classes
So shall you bind them. Separating What has been Mixed
Since Men began to be Wove into Nations by Rahab & Tirzah
Since Albions Death & Satans Cutting-off from our awful Fields;  
When under pretence to benevolence the Elect Subdud All
From the Foundation of the World. The Elect is one Class: You
Shall bind them separate: they cannot Believe in Eternal Life
Except by Miracle & a New Birth. The other two Classes;
The Reprobate who never cease to Believe, and the Redeemd,       
Who live in doubts & fears perpetually tormented by the Elect
These you shall bind in a twin-bundle for the Consummation--
But the Elect must be saved [from] fires of Eternal Death,
To be formed into the Churches of Beulah that they destroy not the Earth"

Sunday, April 21, 2013


In Blake's myth, during man's passage through generation his true lineaments are not naked but are clothed in garments. Among the garments are the states through which man passes. States 'seem to be,' but are only transient stages of development. Two states, which are perhaps the master or controlling states, Blake names Adam & Satan. The states are both within a man, and experienced outwardly. In the state called Satan, man is blind to Eternal Realities. He has reached the 'Limit of Opacity' in which the possibility of perceiving the infinite in all things is obscured from his sight. The state called Adam which is Blake's 'Limit of Contraction', provides the possibility of spiritual evolution. Adam is  physical man with the seed of God planted within his Soul. The mercy provided in generation is this opportunity, this possibility that the door of Eternity may reopen and that the individual may enter. Within man the two limits, Satan & Adam, find their home and struggle to possess the psyche on its journey.  

The Judgment to Blake is the event when the individual 'rejects Error & Embraces Truth.' Although Blake uses the term 'Last Judgment' he does not mean that his event occurs at the end of mortal life or that it occurs only once in a lifetime. Satan may be cast out and a vision of Eternity may be received whenever man recognizes his own Humanity and Brotherhood through forgiveness.

British Museum
Sketch for Plate 26 of Jerusalem

Milton, PLATE 32 [35], (E 131) 
"But the Divine Humanity & Mercy gave us a Human Form                                         
Because we were combind in Freedom & holy Brotherhood"

Vision of Last Judgment, (E 562)
"What are all the Gifts of the
Spirit but Mental Gifts whenever any Individual Rejects Error &
Embraces Truth a Last Judgment passes upon that Individual" 

Four Zoas, Night IV, Page 56, (E 338)
"And first he found the Limit of Opacity & namd it Satan 
In Albions bosom for in every human bosom these limits stand 
And next he found the Limit of Contraction & namd it Adam 
While yet those beings were not born nor knew of good or  Evil"  
Jerusalem, Plate 42,  (E 189)     
"There is a limit of Opakeness, and a limit of Contraction;
In every Individual Man, and the limit of Opakeness,             
Is named Satan: and the limit of Contraction is named Adam.
But when Man sleeps in Beulah, the Saviour in mercy takes
Contractions Limit, and of the Limit he forms Woman: That
Himself may in process of time be born Man to redeem
But there is no Limit of Expansion! there is no Limit of Translucence.   
In the bosom of Man for ever from eternity to eternity."  
Here are some of the teachings of the New Testament on judgment and condemnation which are reflected in Blake's vision: 
Luke 6
[37] Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven: 

 John 8
[10] When Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee?
[11] She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more. 

 1ST John 3
[20] For if our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things.
[21] Beloved, if our heart condemn us not, then have we confidence toward God. 


Friday, April 19, 2013


The term Last Judgment is not mentioned in the Bible. In a parable of the Kingdom in Matthew's gospel Jesus speaks of the division of the nations along the lines of those who provide for the needy and those who do not: 'Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me. And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.' (Matthew 25:45-46) Blake saw the Last Judgment as the final casting away of error so that the just would no longer be oppressed by it.

In Blake's paintings which he named Visions of the Last Judgment, he showed the division between those going to 'life eternal' and those falling away from the vision of Eternity which they rejected. His description of one of his paintings of the Last Judgment (now lost) includes this passage which demonstrates how the images which filled the Bible and his poetry appeared in close proximity in his picture. He mentions all of these images of what appeared in just one small section of his vision:
Savior & Redeemer
Holy Spirit like a Dove
Ark of the Covenant
Dove of Peace
Table of Shew bread
Glorification of Angels
Mount of God
River of Life
Tree of Life
temples, pinnacles, tents, pavilions, gardens, groves
Beams of Glory
Infants representing Eternal Births of Intellect

Vision of the Last Judgment, (E 562)
   "Over the Head of the Saviour & Redeemer The Holy
Spirit like a Dove is surrounded by a blue Heaven in which are
the two Cherubim that bowd over the Ark for here the temple is
opend in Heaven & the Ark of the Covenant is as a Dove of Peace  
The Curtains are drawn apart Christ having rent the Veil The
Candlestick & the Table of Shew bread appear on Each side a
Glorification of Angels with Harps surrou[n]d the Dove 
     The Temple stands on the Mount of God from it flows on each
side the River of Life on whose banks Grows the tree of Life
among whose branches temples & Pinnacles tents & pavilions
Gardens & Groves Display Paradise with its Inhabitants walking up
& down in Conversations concerning Mental Delights 
     Here they are no longer talking of what is Good &
Evil or of what is Right or Wrong & puzzling themselves in Satans
Labyrinth But are Conversing with Eternal
Realities as they Exist in the Human Imagination   We are in a
World of Generation & death & this world we must cast off if we
would be Painters Such as Rafa[e]l Mich Angelo & the
Ancient Sculptors. if we do not cast off this world we shall be
only Venetian Painters who will be cast off & Lost from Art 
     Jesus is surrounded by Beams of Glory in which are
seen all around him Infants emanating from him   these represent
the Eternal Births of Intellect from the divine Humanity" 
British Museum
Illustrations to Young's Night Thoughhts 

Wednesday, April 17, 2013


British Museum
Illustrations to Edward Young's Night Thoughts
If you have ever made a black and white photograph by going through all of the stages from clicking the camera to viewing your completed picture, you should have a good grasp of the concept of images. You choose a subject to be photographed, adjust the camera, view the image through the viewer and click the shutter. Now you have an exposed piece of film which recorded more and less amounts of reflected light. You have created an image but it is not visible to your eye. You develop the film in chemicals which create on the film a visible image of the object which was visible through the camera. The image is however a reversal of the patterns of light in the object you wanted to record. So you use the developed film to expose photographic paper to the patterns of light. Finally the photographic paper is placed in chemicals which selectively record light and dark in the same patterns as were present it the object you saw through the camera.
The photograph is the image (without color) of the object which you wanted to record. However the process of creating that image involved a whole series of images which were stages along the way. The image which the lens of the camera collected and sent to the film when the shutter was opened, the invisible image on the exposed film, the reversed image on the developed film, the pattern of light which is sent from the enlarger to the photographic paper: all these, and more, are true images of the original object.

Variables which may occur throughout the process would have an effect on the final image so that multiple photographs of differing appearances could be produced by the same process from the same object.  

This account has been to demonstrate how the word 'image' can easily be used as a symbol with complex meaning. When Blake spoke of 'image of Truth' it was with the realization the Truth produces many images. Each image is partial and inadequate for encompassing Truth, but as images they are valuable illuminations of facets of Truth. Blake used the term 'imagination' more the the term 'image.' But imagination was to Blake the ability to manipulate images in order that Truth be revealed.

Blake's production of images in poetry and painting is only the tip of the iceberg. Blake saw the things he read, including the Bible, as containing images of underlying truth which could not be communicated literally. He related to the natural world as a source of images which explained eternal truth. His awareness of the language of images provided the connections through which he could draw together the pieces of Eternity scattered in time. Images to Blake were not simple reflections as we may see in our mirrors, but the way in which Eternity becomes manifest in time.

Marriage of Heaven & Hell, Plate 8, (E 37) 
"Every thing possible to be believ'd is an image of truth."    
All Religions Are One, Plate 3, (E 1)
"No man can think write or speak from his heart,
but he must intend truth."

Songs of Innocence & of Experience, Song 54, (E 31)
"The Voice of the Ancient Bard.

Youth of delight come hither:
And see the opening morn,
Image of truth new born.
Doubt is fled & clouds of reason.
Dark disputes & artful teazing.
Folly is an endless maze,
Tangled roots perplex her ways,

How many have fallen there!
They stumble all night over bones of the dead,
And feel they know not what but care
And wish to lead others, when they should be led."
Marriage of Heaven & Hell, Plate 10, E 38
"Truth can never be told so as to be understood, and not be believ'd."

Jerusalem, Plate 55, (E 205)
"He who would do good to another, must do it in Minute Particulars 
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 continually" 
Vision of Last Judgment, (E 562)
"All Life consists of these Two Throwing off Error 
continually & recieving Truth or Wise Men into our
Company Continually
What are all the Gifts of the
Spirit but Mental Gifts whenever any Individual Rejects Error &
Embraces Truth a Last Judgment passes upon that Individual" 
Vision of Last Judgment, (E 563)
"These represent those who tho willing were
too weak to Reject Error without the Assistance & Countenance of
those Already in the Truth for a Man Can only Reject Error by the
Advice of a Friend or by the Immediate Inspiration of God it is
for this Reason among many others that I have put the Lords
Supper on the Left hand of the [Picture] Throne for it appears so
at the Last Judgment for a Protection" 
Vision of Last Judgment, (E 565)
"Error is
Created Truth is Eternal Error or Creation will be Burned Up &
then & not till then Truth or Eternity will appear It is Burnt up
the Moment Men cease to behold it I assert for My self that I do
not behold the Outward Creation & that to me it is hindrance &
not Action it is as the Dirt upon my feet No part of Me."
Annotations to Watson, (E 613)
"The Man who pretends to be a modest enquirer into the truth of a self
evident thing is a Knave   The truth & certainty of Virtue &
Honesty i.e Inspiration needs no one to prove it   it is Evident
as the Sun & Moon He who stands doubting of what he
intends whether it is Virtuous or Vicious knows not what Virtue
means. no man can do a Vicious action & think it to be Virtuous.
no man can take darkness for light. he may pretend to do so & may
pretend to be a modest Enquirer. but is a Knave"
Annotations to Bacon, (E 621)
"Self Evident Truth is one Thing and Truth the result of
Reasoning is another Thing Rational Truth is not the Truth of
Christ but of Pilate   It is the Tree of the Knowledge of Good &

Monday, April 15, 2013


Original in Morgan Library & Museum
Illustrations of the Book of Job
Job's Evil Dreams
Butts Set, Plate 11
 Two sides of man's psyche can be seen in the images stone and fire. Throughout Blake's poetry and visual images we see these symbols recurring but they are never pinned down or defined in concrete terms. To define them in concrete terms would be to make them into 'stones' and remove the possibility that they become 'fire.'

The level of truth which can be put into laws or doctrine or scientific definitions is well represented by stone. It is hard and inflexible; it is not amenable to change. Fire, on the contrary, ever changing itself, is the agent of change. Fire, as a level of truth, is active not passive, responsive not rejecting, forgiving not condemning. In Biblical terms stone is the Old Testament, fire the New testament; stone the priest, fire the prophet; stone the law, fire the gospel; stone is matter, fire is spirit. Becoming receptive to higher levels of spiritual development involves moving from the truth which is  known, to the spirit which is unknowable. Stone is codified truth; fire is experienced truth. The process of developing spiritual consciousness involves both stone and fire because spirit once achieved must produce new truth which becomes stone before it can again become transforming fire. 

Jerusalem, Plate 49, (E 199)
"They are beginning to form Heavens & Hells in immense
Circles: the Hells for food to the Heavens: food of torment,
Food of despair: they drink the condemnd Soul & rejoice
In cruel holiness, in their Heavens of Chastity & Uncircumcision
Yet they are blameless & Iniquity must be imputed only           
To the State they are enterd into that they may be deliverd:
Satan is the State of Death, & not a Human existence:
But Luvah is named Satan, because he has enterd that State.
A World where Man is by Nature the enemy of Man
Because the Evil is Created into a State. that Men               
May be deliverd time after time evermore. Amen.
Learn therefore O Sisters to distinguish the Eternal Human
That walks about among the stones of fire in bliss & woe
Alternate! from those States or Worlds in which the Spirit travels:
This is the only means to Forgiveness of Enemies"

Marriage of Heaven & Hell, Plate 21 and 24, (E 43) 
" I tell you, no virtue can exist
without breaking these ten commandments: Jesus was all virtue,
and acted from impulse: not from rules.
  When he had so spoken: I beheld the Angel who stretched out
his arms embracing the flame of fire & he was consumed and arose
as Elijah."

Vision of Last Judgment, (E 559)
"By the side of Seth is Elijah he comprehends all the
Prophetic Characters he is seen on his fiery Chariot bowing
before the throne of the Saviour." 

Acting from the level of stone leads to division; embracing the the flame leads to reconciliation of the contraries.

Saturday, April 13, 2013


Yale Center for British Art
Book of Urizen
Copy C, Plate 12
When man is enclosed in a material body he loses the fluctuating sensation he enjoyed in Eternity and acquires characteristics of solidity and inflexibility. The restraints and limitations which we endure in our physical bodies will fall away when we reenter our spiritual bodies. We will once again experience time and space as fluid movements which respond to our ability to perceive without restriction. Our senses will no longer be narrow chinks in our caverned skull but panoramic receptors of infinite worlds of delight.   

Urizen, Plate 3, (E 71)
1. Earth was not: nor globes of attraction
The will of the Immortal expanded
Or contracted his all flexible senses.
Death was not, but eternal life sprung
Europe, Plate 1, (E 60)

The nameless shadowy female rose from out the breast of Orc:
Her snaky hair brandishing in the winds of Enitharmon,
And thus her voice arose.
Plate 2
Unwilling I look up to heaven! unwilling count the stars!
Sitting in fathomless abyss of my immortal shrine.
I sieze their burning power
And bring forth howling terrors, all devouring fiery kings.

Devouring & devoured roaming on dark and desolate mountains      
In forests of eternal death, shrieking in hollow trees.
Ah mother Enitharmon!
Stamp not with solid form this vig'rous progeny of fires.

I bring forth from my teeming bosom myriads of flames.
And thou dost stamp them with a signet, then they roam abroad    
And leave me void as death:
Ah! I am drown'd in shady woe, and visionary joy."

Urizen, Plate 4, (E 71)    
"4: From the depths of dark solitude. From
The eternal abode in my holiness,
Hidden set apart in my stern counsels
Reserv'd for the days of futurity,
I have sought for a joy without pain,                   

For a solid without fluctuation
Why will you die O Eternals?
Why live in unquenchable burnings?"

Four Zoas, Night V, Page 57, (E 338)
"Infected Mad he dancd on his mountains high & dark as heaven
Now fixd into one stedfast bulk his features stonify
From his mouth curses & from his eyes sparks of blighting
Beside the anvil cold he dancd with the hammer of Urthona
Terrific pale. Enitharmon stretchd on the dreary Earth   
Felt her immortal limbs freeze stiffning pale inflexible
His feet shrink withring from the deep shrinking & withering 
And Enitharmon shrunk up all their fibres withring beneath
As plants witherd by winter leaves & stems & roots decaying
Melt into thin air while the seed drivn by the furious wind      
Rests on the distant Mountains top. So Los & Enitharmon
Shrunk into fixed space stood trembling on a Rocky cliff
Yet mighty bulk & majesty & beauty remaind but unexpansive
As far as highest Zenith from the lowest Nadir. so far shrunk 
Los from the furnaces a Space immense & left the cold           
Prince of Light bound in chains of intellect among the furnaces
But all the furnaces were out & the bellows had ceast to blow"

Wednesday, April 10, 2013


John of Patmos and William Blake were both visionary poets. Their minds were open to visionary messages from the Divine Inspiration. They communicated through describing the visual images they received translated into intellectual forms which their audience may understand. The forces which would build God's Kingdom and those which would destroy it waged battles in the minds of the two men. The great red dragon, and the woman clothed with the sun, were antagonsits whose contrasting images could demonstrate the nature of the opposed forces.
Brooklyn Museum
The Great Red Dragon and 
 the Woman Clothed with the Sun


From the description in the Brooklyn Museum web page:
"Inscriptions: Inscribed above the image: 'A Woman clothed with the sun, & the moon under her feet, and/upon her head a crown of twelve stars; and behold a great red dragon also.' Inscribed below the image at right: 'Revns:ch:12th: v 4th:' Inscribed below the image: 'And the tail of the great red dragon drew the third part of the stars of/heaven, and did cast them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the/woman which was ready to be delivered for to devour her child as soon as it was born.'"

Revelation 12
[1] And there appeared a great wonder in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars:
[2] And she being with child cried, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered.
[3] And there appeared another wonder in heaven; and behold a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads.
[4] And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth: and the dragon stood before the woman which was ready to be delivered, for to devour her child as soon as it was born.
[5] And she brought forth a man child, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron: and her child was caught up unto God, and to his throne.
[6] And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she hath a place prepared of God, that they should feed her there a thousand two hundred and threescore days.
[7] And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels,
[8] And prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven.
[9] And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.
[10] And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night.
[11] And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death.
[12] Therefore rejoice, ye heavens, and ye that dwell in them. Woe to the inhabiters of the earth and of the sea! for the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time.
[13] And when the dragon saw that he was cast unto the earth, he persecuted the woman which brought forth the man child.
[14] And to the woman were given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness, into her place, where she is nourished for a time, and times, and half a time, from the face of the serpent.
[15] And the serpent cast out of his mouth water as a flood after the woman, that he might cause her to be carried away of the flood.
[16] And the earth helped the woman, and the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed up the flood which the dragon cast out of his mouth.
[17] And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.

Milton, Plate 39 [44],(E 141)
"So Milton
Labourd in Chasms of the Mundane Shell, tho here before
My Cottage midst the Starry Seven, where the Virgin Ololon
Stood trembling in the Porch: loud Satan thunderd on the stormy Sea
Circling Albions Cliffs in which the Four-fold World resides     
Tho seen in fallacy outside: a fallacy of Satans Churches
PLATE 40 [46]
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.

No sooner she had spoke but Rahab Babylon appeard
Eastward upon the Paved work across Europe & Asia
Glorious as the midday Sun in Satans bosom glowing:
A Female hidden in a Male, Religion hidden in War               
Namd Moral Virtue; cruel two-fold Monster shining bright
A Dragon red & hidden Harlot which John in Patmos saw

And all beneath the Nations innumerable of Ulro
Appeard, the Seven Kingdoms of Canaan & Five Baalim
Of Philistea. into Twelve divided, calld after the Names      
Of Israel: as they are in Eden. Mountain. River & Plain
City & sandy Desart intermingled beyond mortal ken

But turning toward Ololon in terrible majesty Milton
Replied. Obey thou the Words of the Inspired Man
All that can be annihilated must be annihilated" 
Urizen remembers his own fall.

Sunday, April 7, 2013


Alfred Ames in reviewing Fearful Symmetry in 1947 soon after its publication comments:
"The typical poet, Frye believes, as he becomes wiser becomes less lyrical and more didactic, progressively rejecting the “cloven fictions” that delight and instruction are separable objectives, and that subject and object of experience are discrete entities."

Blake speaks of 'cloven fiction' as a shorthand for the false dichotomy which we create between things, people or ideas of equal value by calling them opposites. By using the term 'contrary' himself, Blake recognizes that what seems to be unlike may be equally true. The problem to Blake arises when our first parents eat of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.

Vision of Last Judgment, (E 564)
"Satan thinks that Sin is displeasing to God he ought to know that
Nothing is displeasing to God but Unbelief & Eating of the Tree
of Knowledge of Good & Evil"  
The knowledge they gained introduced a dualistic viewpoint which began to categorize everything they encountered as either good or evil. As Northrop Frey explains the situation:
"The same distinction between a contrary and a negation occurs in Blake's theory of ideas. All real thing have qualities in them, and qualities have opposites.This is particularly true of moral qualities, as every virtue has its corresponding vice. All 'good' men by any standards  may be 'bad' by other standards, just as an egg that is bad to eat may be good to throw at someone. But the believer in the cloven fiction prefers to identify a real thing with one of its qualities, because things become easier to generalize about when classified into qualities. Now as things are good or bad according to circumstances, the cloven fiction leads to absolutizing of circumstance. The deader a thing is, the more obedient it is to circumstances, and the more alive it is the less predictable it becomes. Hence the believer in the cloven fiction finds it much easier  to understand the behavior of dead things, the objects of exact science under the laws of 'mathematic form.' And in studying human activity he again finds it easiest to understand what is most automatic. So insensibly he tends to call 'the passive that obeys Reason' good, and the active springing from Energy' bad." (Page 189)

On Homers Poetry, (E 269)
"It is the same with the Moral of a whole Poem as with the Moral
Goodness of its parts Unity & Morality, are secondary considerations &
belong to Philosophy & not to Poetry, to Exception & not to Rule,
to Accident & not to Substance. the Ancients calld it eating of
the tree of good & evil." 
Vision of Last Judgment, (E 554)
    "The Last Judgment when all those are Cast away who trouble
Religion with Questions concerning Good & Evil or Eating of the
Tree of those Knowledges or Reasonings which hinder the Vision of
God turning all into a Consuming fire" 

Vision of Last Judgment, (E 563)
"By this it will be seen that I do not consider either the Just
or the Wicked to be in a Supreme State but to be every one of
them States of the Sleep which the Soul may fall into in its
Deadly Dreams of Good & Evil when it leaves Paradise
following the Serpent
The term 'Cloven Fiction' comes from this verse in the Keys to The Gates of Paradise
For Children: The Gates of Paradise 
Copy D, Page 7
For the Sexes: The Gates of Paradise, (E 268)
"Keys of The Gates

5    Blind in Fire with shield & spear 
     Two Horn'd Reasoning Cloven Fiction 
     In Doubt which is Self contradiction
     A dark Hermaphrodite We stood             
     Rational Truth Root of Evil & Good
     Round me flew the Flaming Sword
     Round her snowy Whirlwinds roard
     Freezing her Veil the Mundane Shell"

Friday, April 5, 2013


Library of Congress
Plate 3, Copy E
This picture from Europe seems a perfect illustration for the following passage from Milton.
Milton, PLATE 41 [48], (E 142)  "To cast off the idiot Questioner who is always questioning,  But never capable of answering; who sits with a sly grin  Silent plotting when to question, like a thief in a cave;  Who publishes doubt & calls it knowledge; whose Science is Despair  Whose pretence to knowledge is Envy, whose whole Science is  To destroy the wisdom of ages to gratify ravenous Envy;  That rages round him like a Wolf day & night without rest" 

The traveller setting forth expecting a safe and productive journey is not alone. He is observed by a sinister figure who will impede his travels in whatever way possible. Blake's thesis is that the hostile figure is not hidden a cave but is within our own minds. When we begin to see reality not as the creation of our own mental imaging but as the exterior world, a spit has occurred. The first separation is seen as the Emanation, the second as the Spectre. The first as the emotions having an independent existence. The second as reason forgoing the role of supporting the producer of images (the imagination) for the sake of producing a world that he alone will structure and control.

Milton, Plate 32 [35], (E 131)
"I have turned my back upon these Heavens builded on cruelty
My Spectre still wandering thro' them follows my Emanation
He hunts her footsteps thro' the snow & the wintry hail & rain   
The idiot Reasoner laughs at the Man of Imagination
And from laughter proceeds to murder by undervaluing calumny"

The Spectre is Blake's chief formulation for the opposition to Art & Science, the work of the imagination. In these two quotes Blake impolitely refers to him as an 'Idiot Questioner' or an 'idiot Reasoner.' Blake knew his Spectre well for he often felt pursued by him. Blake is not reluctant to let us see the anger he feels toward his Specter. 
Songs and Ballads, (E 475)                                             
"My Spectre around me night & day
Like a Wild beast guards my way
My Emanation far within   
Weeps incessantly for my Sin 
A Fathomless & boundless deep     
There we wander there we weep
On the hungry craving wind
My Spectre follows thee behind" 
 Read more in these two posts by Larry based on the whole poem from which the first two verses are printed. 

Wednesday, April 3, 2013


Library of Congress
 Songs of Innocence & of Experience
Plate 9
In his chapter in Blake's Visionary Forms Dramatic W. J. T. Mitchell is presenting his study of Blake's Composite Art: his welding into a single art-form the the arts of poetry and painting. On page 72 he speaks of the role imagination played in Blake's activity:
"But Imagination is not simply a product for Blake, a fixed body of well-defined forms; it is the process by which any symbolic form comes into being. When Blake says he 'copies imagination', he means he renders faithfully the activity of the mind as it alters the objects of perception: both the finished product and the process by which it comes into being are 'imagination.'"

When Blake links Art & Science his aim is to speak of the mental pursuits necessary for building the spiritual dimension in the familiar world in which we live. The Imagination takes intellectual form as Art, physical form as Science. But neither Art nor Science is primarily a product; both are processes through which Imagination, the activity of Eternity, becomes manifest in time and space. Art & Science both exist for the display of 'Naked Beauty'; to make visible through 'forms and features' the lineaments which reveal the underlying Eternal existence.

Jerusalem, Plate 32 [36],(E 179)
"Art & Science cannot exist but by Naked Beauty displayd"

Descriptive Catalogue, (E 544)
"The Beauty proper for sublime art, is lineaments, or
forms and features that are capable of being the receptacles of

Jerusalem, Plate 77, (E 231)
"Is God a Spirit who must be worshipped in
Spirit & in Truth and are not the Gifts of the Spirit Every-thing
to Man? O ye Religious discountenance every one among
you who shall pretend to despise Art & Science! I call upon you
in the Name of Jesus! What is the Life of Man but Art & Science?
is it Meat & Drink? is not the Body more than Raiment? What is
Mortality but the things relating to the Body, which Dies? What
is Immortality but the things relating to the Spirit, which Lives
Eternally! What is the joy of Heaven but Improvement in the
things of the Spirit? What are the Pains of Hell but Ignorance,
Bodily Lust, Idleness & devastation of the things of the
 Answer this to yourselves, & expel from among you those who
pretend to despise the labours of Art & Science, which alone are
the labours of the Gospel: Is not this plain & manifest to the
thought? Can you think at all & not pronounce heartily! That to
Labour in Knowledge. is to Build up Jerusalem: and to Despise
Knowledge, is to Despise Jerusalem & her Builders. 
  And remember: He who despises & mocks a Mental Gift in another;
calling it pride & selfishness & sin; mocks Jesus the giver of
every Mental Gift, which always appear to the ignorance-loving
Hypocrite, as Sins. but that which is a Sin in the sight of cruel
Man, is not so in the sight of our kind God. 
  Let every Christian as much as in him lies engage himself
openly & publicly before all the World in some Mental pursuit for
the Building up of Jerusalem" 
Jerusalem, Plate 52, (E 202)
 "For a Tear is an Intellectual thing;
And a Sigh is the Sword of an Angel King
  And the bitter groan of a Martyrs woe
Is an Arrow from the Almighties Bow!"

Going from the sublime to the mundane, this is the oversimplified understanding of Blake's use of Art & Science as products and process of imagination:
art = mental pursuits = inspired thoughts = poetry and painting,
science = physical pursuits = inspired acts = religion, law and medicine.


Monday, April 1, 2013


British Museum
Lithograph, 1807
Genesis 5
[21] And Enoch lived sixty and five years, and begat Methuselah:
[22] And Enoch walked with God after he begat Methuselah three hundred years, and begat sons and daughters:
[23] And all the days of Enoch were three hundred sixty and five years:
[24] And Enoch walked with God: and he was not; for God took him.

Hebrews 11
[5] By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him: for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God.
[6] But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.

Milton, PLATE 27 [29], (E 124)
"But in Eternity the Four Arts: Poetry, Painting, Music, And 

Architecture which is Science: are the Four Faces of Man."

In Blake's lithograph of the Old Testament patriarch named Enoch he presents the Four Arts: Poetry, Painting, Music, And Architecture which are in Eternity the Four Faces of Man. We are familiar with the Four Faces of Man as the Four Zoas. The Art of Urthona is poetry, of Tharmas is painting, of Luvah is music, and of Urizen is architecture. Blake pictures music, painting and poetry plying their arts as they stand and sit on the foundation of architecture. The three are portrayed in human form but the fourth as an inanimate object. In the previous post we saw that architecture had become manifest as science in the material world and was expressed as Religion, Law, and Physic & Surgery.

Blake names Poetry Painting & Music as the 'three powers in man of conversing with paradise' not swept away by by the flood. Exercising these powers facilitate communicating with eternity.

Vision of the Last Judgment, (E 559)
"The Persons who ascend to Meet the Lord coming in the Clouds
with power & great Glory. are representations of those States
described in the Bible under the Names of the Fathers before &
after the Flood Noah is seen in the Midst of these Canopied by a
Rainbow. on his right hand Shem & on his Left Japhet these three
Persons represent Poetry Painting & Music the three Powers <in
Man> of conversing with Paradise which the flood did not Sweep
Moving to the central  image of the picture we see a man who holds a book in which is written the name Enoch in Hebrew. Enoch was unique in the Old Testament for having been translated to God's presence without experiencing death. Blake's teaching was that of experiencing Eternity is an ever present possibility through annihilating the Selfhood. The image of Enoch reinforces the idea that within man are the powers of transcending confinement in an existence that is limited to the material.

The face of this figure of Enoch is indistinguishable from Blake's portrayals of Job, Jehovah, and Urizen. He holds a book which Blake associates with the priestly religion rather than a scroll which he associates with the prophetic. His left foot is exposed offering the possibility of an entry point for either the divine or the demonic. So he is a symbol for reconciling contraries.

In the Marriage of Heaven & Hell Blake asserts that man has no body distinct from his soul. This statement is an indication that the incarnation is not the exception but the rule: that the body and soul are inseparable. The picture centered around Enoch can be seen as an image of the body and soul as the appear from various  viewpoints. The soul is expressed through the body, and the body is expressed through the soul.

Marriage of Heaven & Hell, Plate 4, (E 34)
                 "The voice of the Devil
  All Bibles or sacred codes. have been the causes of the
following Errors.
  1. That Man has two real existing principles Viz: a Body & a
  2. That Energy. calld Evil. is alone from the Body. & that
Reason. calld Good. is alone from the Soul.
  3. That God will torment Man in Eternity for following his
  But the following Contraries to these are True
  1 Man has no Body distinct from his Soul for that calld Body is
a portion of Soul discernd by the five Senses. the chief inlets
of Soul in this age
  2. Energy is the only life and is from the Body and Reason is
the bound or outward circumference of Energy.
  3 Energy is Eternal Delight"