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

Saturday, November 30, 2013


For the Sexes: Gates of Paradise, Plate 10, (E 264) 
"10 Help! Help!" 

 For the Sexes: Gates of Paradise, Plate 19, (E 268) 
"10 In Times Ocean falling drownd In Aged Ignorance profound"
Approximately half of the picture is occupied by the cloudy sky and half by the stormy sea. The man's head and arm protrude from the water into the air. The man looks upward and reaches with his outstretched arm to the heavens above. The fingers of his five senses are spread to grasp whatever help is offered from above. There seems to be a flotation device to the right of the man which he ignores.

The man is in a situation in which help is required. He is in danger of drowning in the sea of time and space, what we usually think of as the material world with its cares and pleasures, its demands and opportunities. He has grown accustomed to the life he endures, but if he notices that his life is barren and bleak he may seek help from above.

Blake sees the divided, fallen man in such a position. He has gotten in over his head and isn't a very good swimmer. But Blake's concept is that man's call for help should be addressed within. Although there are four internal aspects of man, they need not be at war with one another. The God who dwells within each one can make known to us the ways in which our intuition, reason, emotions and sensation are causing us to suffer and to cause suffering.

This plate returns us to the Zoa Tharmas whom Blake identifies with the Western gate of Genesis which was closed when Adam and Eve were expelled from Eden.  Blake conceived that man would reenter Eden when he was able to perceive everything as it is: infinite and holy. 

Marriage of Heaven & Hell, Plate 14, (E 39)
   "The ancient tradition that the world will be consumed in fire
at the  end of six thousand years is true. as I have heard from
   For the cherub with his flaming sword is hereby commanded to 
leave his guard at the tree of life, and when he does, the whole 
creation will be consumed, and appear infinite. and holy whereas
it now  appears finite & corrupt.
   This will come to pass by an improvement of sensual enjoyment.
   But first the notion that man has a body distinct from his
soul, is to  be expunged; this I shall do, by printing in the
infernal method, by corrosives, which in Hell are salutary and
medicinal, melting apparent surfaces away, and displaying the
infinite which was hid.
   If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would
appear  to man as it is: infinite."  

Jerusalem, Plate 38 [43], (E 184) 
"They saw America clos'd out by the Oaks of the western shore;
And Tharmas dash'd on the Rocks of the Altars of Victims in Mexico.
If we are wrathful Albion will destroy Jerusalem with rooty Groves
If we are merciful, ourselves must suffer destruction on his Oaks!
Why should we enter into our Spectres, to behold our own corruptions
O God of Albion descend! deliver Jerusalem from the Oaken Groves!

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

Jerusalem, Plate 40 [45], (E 187)
"In Selfhood, we are nothing: but fade away in mornings breath,
Our mildness is nothing: the greatest mildness we can use
Is incapable and nothing! none but the Lamb of God can heal   
This dread disease: none but Jesus! O Lord descend and save!
Albions Western Gate is clos'd: his death is coming apace!
Jesus alone can save him; for alas we none can know
How soon his lot may be our own."  

Milton, Plate 15 [17], (E 109)
"First Milton saw Albion upon the Rock of Ages,
Deadly pale outstretchd and snowy cold, storm coverd;
A Giant form of perfect beauty outstretchd on the rock

In solemn death: the Sea of Time & Space thunderd aloud
Against the rock, which was inwrapped with the weeds of death    
Hovering over the cold bosom, in its vortex Milton bent down
To the bosom of death, what was underneath soon seemd above.
A cloudy heaven mingled with stormy seas in loudest ruin;
But as a wintry globe descends precipitant thro' Beulah bursting,
With thunders loud and terrible: so Miltons shadow fell        
Precipitant loud thundring into the Sea of Time & Space."

Jerusalem, Plate 13, (E 156)
"The Western Gate fourfold, is closd: having four Cherubim
Its guards, living, the work of elemental hands, laborious task!"

Genesis 3
[22] Then the LORD God said, "Behold, the man has become like one of us, knowing good and evil; and now, lest he put forth his hand and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever" -- 

[23] therefore the LORD God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from which he was taken.
[24] He drove out the man; and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to guard the way to the tree of life. 

Thursday, November 28, 2013


British Museum 
 For the Sexes: Gates of Paradise
Plate 3

For the Sexes: Gates of Paradise, Plate 9, (E 263) 
"9 I want! I want!" 

For the Sexes: Gates of Paradise, Plate 19, (E 268) 
"9 On the shadows of the Moon Climbing thro Nights highest noon"


The picture shows a man beginning to ascend a ladder which reaches from the earth to a crescent moon. His path will lead him through the stars and away from an embracing couple. He is impelled by a desire strong enough to cause him to undertake such a task. 

The caption on the image issued when Blake republished For the Children as For the Sexes remained the same: simply "I want! I want!". The object of the desire is not specified. He could be pursuing material goods, power, success or any facet of achievement in the natural world. But he is leaving the earth and going to the moon which is a feminine symbol associated with love.

The Key to this gate alerts us to the dangers for the man of coming under the influence of the state of repose which the feminine represents. There is the back side of the moon which never shows its face to earth. And there is the Night of unconsciousness through which man must climb to reach a zenith. But perhaps he will return with a treasure from the feminine which he can integrate rather than either rejecting it or succumbing to it.

Four Zoas, Night I, Page 5, (E 303)
"There is from Great Eternity a mild & pleasant rest
Namd Beulah a Soft Moony Universe feminine lovely 
Pure mild & Gentle given in Mercy to those who sleep
Eternally. Created by the Lamb of God around
On all sides within & without the Universal Man
The Daughters of Beulah follow sleepers in all their Dreams
Creating Spaces lest they fall into Eternal Death                

The Circle of Destiny complete they gave to it a Space
And namd the Space Ulro & brooded over it in care & love
They said The Spectre is in every man insane & most
Deformd     Thro the three heavens descending in fury & fire
We meet it with our Songs & loving blandishments & give          
To it a form of vegetation But this Spectre of Tharmas
Is Eternal Death What shall we do O God pity & help   
So spoke they & closd the Gate of the Tongue in trembling fear" 

Tuesday, November 26, 2013


British Museum
For the Sexes: Gates of Paradise
Plate 8

For the Sexes: Gates of Paradise, Plate 8, (E 263) 
"8 My Son! my Son!  

For the Sexes: Gates of Paradise, Plate 19, (E 268) 
"8 In Vain-glory hatcht & nurst 
By double Spectres Self Accurst 
My Son! my Son! thou treatest me 
But as I have instructed thee"

A young man lifts an arrow above his head pointing it toward a seated pensive man resting on a stone seat. The long haired bearded man resembles Jehovah, Job or Urizen. In the man's right hand is an object shaped something like a cane, cross, sword or stake. In spite of the arrow the boy does not appear threatening or the man fearful.

The words of the Caption and of the Key are addressed to the adolescent by the  mature man:

"My Son! my Son! thou treatest me
 But as I have instructed thee"

The boy in the image is announcing his emancipation from the father. The young man has been brought up in the conventional way to have a strong superego and a strong ego. He can now use these as weapons against the family and society in which he has been raised. But the strength of his psychic development in two areas is unbalanced. It is turned against his identity which is his true self and against his body which desires sexual expression. 

Externally the boy wants to free himself from his father, his school and his cultural milieu (including the mores which restrict sexual activity.) Internally he wants to be released from the demands of the unexamined superego and the self-righteous ego. Establishing his own identity through gaining self-knowledge and internal balance will allow him to proceed on his journey.

Visions of Daughters of Albion, Plate 7, (E 50)
"In happy copulation; if in evening mild. wearied with work;
Sit on a bank and draw the pleasures of this free born joy.

The moment of desire! the moment of desire! The virgin
That pines for man; shall awaken her womb to enormous joys
In the secret shadows of her chamber; the youth shut up from     
The lustful joy. shall forget to generate. & create an amorous image
In the shadows of his curtains and in the folds of his silent pillow.
Are not these the places of religion? the rewards of continence?
The self enjoyings of self denial? Why dost thou seek religion?
Is it because acts are not lovely, that thou seekest solitude,   
Where the horrible darkness is impressed with reflections of desire.

Father of jealousy. be thou accursed from the earth!
Why hast thou taught my Theotormon this accursed thing?"

Jerusalem, Plate 28, (E 174)
"And Albion spoke from his secret seat and said                   

All these ornaments are crimes, they are made by the labours
Of loves: of unnatural consanguinities and friendships
Horrid to think of when enquired deeply into; and all
These hills & valleys are accursed witnesses of Sin
I therefore condense them into solid rocks, stedfast!         
A foundation and certainty and demonstrative truth:
That Man be separate from Man, & here I plant my seat."

Milton, Plate 14 [15], (E 108) 
"I in my Selfhood am that Satan: I am that Evil One!              
He is my Spectre! in my obedience to loose him from my Hells
To claim the Hells, my Furnaces, I go to Eternal Death."

Milton, Plate 38 [43], (E 139)
"Satan! my Spectre! I know my power thee to annihilate
And be a greater in thy place, & be thy Tabernacle               
A covering for thee to do thy will, till one greater comes
And smites me as I smote thee & becomes my covering.
Such are the Laws of thy false Heavns! but Laws of Eternity
Are not such: know thou: I come to Self Annihilation
Such are the Laws of Eternity that each shall mutually     
Annihilate himself for others good, as I for thee[.]"

Notebook, My Spectre, (E 477)
"Let us agree to give up Love
And root up the infernal grove                                 
Then shall we return & see
The worlds of happy Eternity

& Throughout all Eternity  
I forgive you you forgive me
As our dear Redeemer said                                   
This the Wine & this the Bread"
Genesis 4
[3] In the course of time Cain brought to the LORD an offering of the fruit of the ground,
[4] and Abel brought of the firstlings of his flock and of their fat portions. And the LORD had regard for Abel and his offering,
[5] but for Cain and his offering he had no regard. So Cain was very angry, and his countenance fell.
[6] The LORD said to Cain, "Why are you angry, and why has your countenance fallen?
[7] If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is couching at the door; its desire is for you, but you must master it." 

Matthew 12
[46] While he was still speaking to the people, behold, his mother and his brothers stood outside, asking to speak to him.
[48] But he replied to the man who told him, "Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?"
[49] And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, "Here are my mother and my brothers!
[50] For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother, and sister, and mother." 

Sunday, November 24, 2013


A young man with his hat in his hand stands before dense vegetation as if he intends to capture the flying human figure who is fleeing from him. At his feet lies another small figure appearing lifeless. If we see the two small figures as female we could interpret the image as an adolescent who has freed himself from a devouring mother and is in pursuit of his anima who would lead him into the next stage of his development. But the caption and the Key to the plate indicate Blake may have been saying something more complex.
British Museum
For the Sexes: Gates of Paradise
Plate 7

For the Sexes: Gates of Paradise, Plate 9, (E 263)
"7 What are these? Alas! the Female Martyr 
     Is She also the Divine Image"  

For the Sexes: Gates of Paradise, Plate 19, (E 268) 
"7 One Dies! Alas! the Living & Dead 
     One is slain & One is fled"

The role of the female in Blake is ambivalent because of the differences between life in Eternity and life in the natural world. The image which represents man's Soul or his 'perception of the infinite' in Eternity becomes in the Generative world the force which struggles to prevent him from returning to Eternity. Jerusalem is the most constructive force in man; Jerusalem's shadow Vala is the most destructive.

Vala must die that Jerusalem might live. By doing so she may become the Female Martyr who is the Divine Image. But if Vala were slain, Jerusalem would flee. The two are contraries and complete one another. One of Blake's great insights was the enemy could only be annihilated by accepting it as a brother/sister.

This Plate is early in the journey toward wholeness. The young man is only now learning that by slaying one contrary he will cause the other to flee.

Four Zoas, Night VIII, PAGE 104 (SECOND PORTION), (E 377)
"The war roard round Jerusalems Gates it took a hideous form
Seen in the aggregate a Vast Hermaphroditic form 
Heavd like an Earthquake labring with convulsive groans
Intolerable at length an awful wonder burst
From the Hermaphroditic bosom Satan he was namd
Son of Perdition terrible his form dishumanizd monstrous 
A male without a female counterpart a howling fiend 
Fo[r]lorn of Eden & repugnant to the forms of life
Yet hiding the shadowy female Vala as in an ark & Curtains
Abhorrd accursed ever dying an Eternal death

Being multitudes of tyrant Men in union blasphemous
Against the divine image. Congregated Assemblies of wicked men 

Los said to Enitbarmon Pitying I saw
Pitying the Lamb of God Descended thro Jerusalems gates
To put off Mystery time after time & as a Man
Is born on Earth so was he born of Fair Jerusalem
In mysterys woven mantle & in the Robes of Luvah 

He stood in fair Jerusalem to awake up into Eden
The fallen Man but first to Give his vegetated body  
To be cut off & separated that the Spiritual body may be Reveald"

Friday, November 22, 2013


British Museum
For the Sexes: Gates of Paradise
Plate 6

For the Sexes: Gates of Paradise, Plate 6, (E 262)  
"6 At length for hatching ripe he breaks the shell" 

For the Sexes: Gates of Paradise, Plate 19, (E 268) 

"6 I rent the Veil where the Dead dwell 
When weary Man enters his Cave 
He meets his Saviour in the Grave 
Some find a Female Garment there 
And some a Male, woven with care 
Lest the Sexual Garments sweet 
Should grow a devouring Winding sheet"

If William Blake created a system he did not mean for it to have universal application. He did not want to be bounded by someone else's system nor to limit anyone by his own system. His enigmatic images and aphorisms in Gates of Paradise are meant to to provide openings, not to close the mind into a pattern that must be followed. Whatever meanings can be attached to the series of plates he created will serve its purpose if the reader/viewer looks into himself and his experience as he puzzles over the images. 

The image of a winged infant emerging from a cracked egg awakens in our minds memories of periods of transition. Exiting from the egg is a second birth following the first in which the infant was uprooted from the earth in Plate 1. Between the two events the child has become acquainted with the functioning of his mind in four spheres - body, mind, imagination and emotions. According to Erik Erikson the child transitions though four periods each with its own tasks which should lead to trust, autonomy, love and competence. If the transition is not made smoothly the child may not develop a sense of identity, may experience shame and doubt, may find guilt in himself, or may view himself as inferior.

However the child navigates the four aspects of himself and his outer world, he will arrive at puberty facing greater change internally and externally than he has faced to that point.

Every birth is a death to the previous state. The life inside the egg of childhood is dead when the adolescent emerges into the sexual potentialities which have developed in his body. Simultaneously his mind has arrived at a point when his ability to think abstractly and analytically and inclusively has increased exponentially.

The new world which the mind and body encounter is not without assistance because the spiritual sense has been activated as well. The garments which one may put on are the active and receptive modes which complement each other. Not recognizing the states as garments will result in over-identification and illusion. Either position when confused with the identity may lead to another death with a repetition of the cycle.  
Milton, PLATE 41 [48], (E 142)
"These are the Sexual Garments, the Abomination of Desolation
Hiding the Human lineaments as with an Ark & Curtains
Which Jesus rent: & now shall wholly purge away with Fire
Till Generation is swallowd up in Regeneration.

Then trembled the Virgin Ololon & replyd in clouds of despair

Is this our Femin[in]e Portion the Six-fold Miltonic Female
Terribly this Portion trembles before thee O awful Man
Altho' our Human Power can sustain the severe contentions
Of Friendship, our Sexual cannot: but flies into the Ulro.
Hence arose all our terrors in Eternity! & now remembrance
Returns upon us! are we Contraries O Milton, Thou & I
O Immortal! how were we led to War the Wars of Death
Is this the Void Outside of Existence, which if enterd into
PLATE 42 [49]
Becomes a Womb? & is this the Death Couch of Albion
Thou goest to Eternal Death & all must go with thee

So saying, the Virgin divided Six-fold & with a shriek
Dolorous that ran thro all Creation a Double Six-fold Wonder!
Away from Ololon she divided & fled into the depths
Of Miltons Shadow as a Dove upon the stormy Sea."

John 3
[1] There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews:
[2] The same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him.
[3] Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.
[4] Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother's womb, and be born?
[5] Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.
[6] That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.
[7] Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013


British Museum For the Sexes: Gates of Paradise
Plate 5

For the Sexes: Gates of Paradise, Plate 5, (E 262) 
"5 Fire That end in endless Strife"
For the Sexes: Gates of Paradise, Plate 19, (E 268)
"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"


Completing his emblems for the four Elements, Blake gives us an image personifying Fire. The other three images are of men seated or kneeling; Fire stands upright in a menacing position. In his hands are a shield for defense and a spear for offense. His lower  body is covered with scales in a late version of Gates of Paradise. 

The caption, "That end in endless Strife", suggests conflict with the other elements as well as internal conflict. The first line of Blake's Key to this plate refers to the individual element, Fire, who is blind and provided with weapons. The lines that follow summarize truths found in the first six plates. The status of dividedness with its consequences of "Doubt", "Self contradiction", darkness, and rationalization are brought together in one paragraph. The masculine/feminine division is emphasized by calling the Hermaphrodite: "We". The "me" near the end is associated with with the flaming sword; while the snowy Whirlwind is "her" symbol.

In the final line the "Mundane Shell", the egg-like enclosure of the world we know and live in, is recognized as the Veil that the feminine division makes possible to conceal Eternity. The "Root of Evil and Good" reflects back to the Key to Plate 3 and the choice which led to dualistic thought. 

From  the ancient usage of Fire as an Element of change, Blake adopted Fire as the representation of Luvah, the Zoa of the emotions or passions. Because of the battles which arise from the initial fall in which Luvah conspired with Urizen to displace Urthona, we see little of the gentler, loving side of Luvah. But along with his pugnacious side is his role as Prince of Love.  

Four Zoas, Night I, Page 22, (E 311)
"Luvah replied Dictate to thy Equals. am not I
The Prince of all the hosts of Men
nor Equal know in Heaven
If I arise into the Zenith leaving thee to watch
The Emanation & her Sons the Satan & the Anak
Sihon and Og. wilt thou not rebel to my laws remain
In darkness building thy strong throne & in my ancient night
Daring my power wilt arm my sons against me in the Atlantic
My deep My night which thou assuming hast assumed my Crown
I will remain as well as thou & here with hands of blood
Smite this dark sleeper in his tent then try my strength with thee

While thus he spoke his fires reddend oer the holy tent
Urizen cast deep darkness round him silent brooding death
Eternal death to Luvah. raging Luvah pourd
The Lances of Urizen from chariots. round the holy tent
Discord began & yells & cries shook the wide firmament"

Four Zoas, Night IX, Page 126, (E 395) 
"Luvah & Vala descended & enterd the Gates of Dark Urthona
And walkd from the hands of Urizen in the shadows of Valas Garden
Where the impressions of Despair & Hope for ever vegetate        
In flowers in fruits in fishes birds & beasts & clouds & waters
The land of doubts & shadows sweet delusions unformd hopes
They saw no more the terrible confusion of the wracking universe
They heard not saw not felt not all the terrible confusion
For in their orbed senses within closd up they wanderd at will   
And those upon the Couches viewd them in the dreams of Beulah
As they reposd from the terrible wide universal harvest
Invisible Luvah in bright clouds hoverd over Valas head
And thus their ancient golden age renewd for Luvah spoke
With voice mild from his golden Cloud upon the breath of morning 

Come forth O Vala from the grass & from the silent Dew
Rise from the dews of death for the Eternal Man is Risen

She rises among flowers & looks toward the Eastern clearness
She walks yea runs her feet are wingd on the tops of the bending grass
Her garments rejoice in the vocal wind & her hair glistens with dew    

She answerd thus Whose voice is this in the voice of the nourishing air
In the spirit of the morning awaking the Soul from its grassy bed"
Acts 2
[1] When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place.
[2] And suddenly a sound came from heaven like the rush of a mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting.
[3] And there appeared to them tongues as of fire, distributed and resting on each one of them.
[4] And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. 

Monday, November 18, 2013


British Museum For the Sexes: Gates of Paradise
Plate 3

For the Sexes: Gates of Paradise, Plate 4, (E 261
"4 Air On Cloudy Doubts & Reasoning Cares" 

For the Sexes: Gates of Paradise, Plate 19, (E 268) 
Keys "4 Naked in Air in Shame & Fear"


Blake's picture of the Element Air is consistent with the caption he provides: "Cloudy Doubts & Reasoning Cares." The man is seated on clouds and surrounded by clouds. However his feet are hidden by the clouds. His troubled expression indicates his doubts and cares. His preoccupation with thought is seen in the position of his hands supporting his head. Blake adds the stars as the symbol of the orderly universe which reason desires.  

Blake feared dependence predominately on reasoning to the exclusion of the use of the imagination, the emotions and the senses in organizing the psyche. His Key to this image, "Naked in Air in Shame & Fear," indicates the precarious position of reason without the other functions. Reason would be left alone, afraid and aware of guilt.   

In Blake's mythology the character we see as the element Air becomes man's reason and is called Urizen. One of the ways Blake had of describing the fallen state of man was in terms of Urizen's desire to dominate and control the other three Zoas.  

Four Zoas, Night VI, Plate 73, (E 350)
"Here will I [Urizen] fix my foot & here rebuild
Here Mountains of Brass promise much riches in their dreadful bosoms

So he began to dig form[ing] of gold silver & iron    
And brass vast instruments to measure out the immense & fix
The whole into another world better suited to obey
His will where none should dare oppose his will himself being King
Of All & all futurity be bound in his vast chain"        

Jerusalem, Plate 74, (E 229)
"The Four Zoa's clouded rage; Urizen stood by Albion
With Rintrah and Palamabron and Theotormon and Bromion
These Four are Verulam & London & York & Edinburgh
And the Four Zoa's are Urizen & Luvah & Tharmas & Urthona
In opposition deadly, and their Wheels in poisonous              
And deadly stupor turn'd against each other loud & fierce
Entering into the Reasoning Power, forsaking Imagination
They became Spectres; & their Human Bodies were reposed
In Beulah, by the Daughters of Beulah with tears & lamentations

The Spectre is the Reasoning Power in Man; & when separated      
From Imagination, and closing itself as in steel, in a Ratio
Of the Things of Memory. It thence frames Laws & Moralities
To destroy Imagination! the Divine Body, by Martyrdoms & Wars" 

Saturday, November 16, 2013


British Museum 
  For the Sexes: Gates of Paradise
Plate 3

For the Sexes: Gates of Paradise, Plate 3, (E 261) 
"3 Earth He struggles into Life"  

For the Sexes: Gates of Paradise, Plate 19, (E 268) 
"3 Struggling thro Earths Melancholy"

Blake was aware that there were parts of his mind which were hidden to him. Earth symbolized to him the buried or underground aspects of himself. He pictures Earth as the individual struggling to escape into the open or into 'Life' as he says in the caption.

Blake's use of the term Earth's Melancholy gives us a clue that he is tying his analysis of the Four Elements with the Four Humors of Greek Medicine. The Black Bile is associated with the Earth. It "makes one pensive, melancholy and withdrawn.  It encourages prudence, caution, realism, pragmatism and pessimism." The Melancholy type engages in internal work; for his work to appear externally he must engage in struggle.

Urthona is the Zoa associated with Earth. For Blake he embodied the zenith of man's mental work, the imagination, even though his place was underground. Urthona's work is done through his expressed form: the blacksmith, prophet, poet, artist named Los.  

Four Zoas, Night I, Page 3, (E 301)
"Los was the fourth immortal starry one, & in the Earth
Of a bright Universe Empery attended day & night                 
Days & nights of revolving joy, Urthona was his name
Page 4    
In Eden; in the Auricular Nerves of Human life
Which is the Earth of Eden, he his Emanations propagated
Fairies of Albion afterwards Gods of the Heathen, Daughter of Beulah Sing
His fall into Division & his Resurrection to Unity
His fall into the Generation of Decay & Death & his Regeneration 
          by the Resurrection from the dead   

Four Zoas, Night VII, Page 86, (E 368)
"Even I already feel a World within
Opening its gates & in it all the real substances
Of which these in the outward World are shadows which pass away
Come then into my Bosom & in thy shadowy arms bring with thee   
My lovely Enitharmon. I will quell my fury & teach
Peace to the Soul of dark revenge & repentance to Cruelty

So spoke Los & Embracing Enitharmon & the Spectre
Clouds would have folded round in Extacy & Love uniting
Page 87 
But Enitharmon trembling fled & hid beneath Urizens tree
But mingling together with his Spectre the Spectre of Urthona 
Wondering beheld the Center opend by Divine Mercy inspired    
He in his turn Gave Tasks to Los Enormous to destroy          
That body he created but in vain for Los performd Wonders of labour 
They Builded Golgonooza Los labouring builded pillars high   
And Domes terrific in the nether heavens for beneath
Was opend new heavens & a new Earth beneath & within
Threefold within the brain within the heart within the loins
A Threefold Atmosphere Sublime continuous from Urthonas world"

As I wrote in an earlier post:
The level of imagination represents a transformation or conversion to a spiritual perception. At this level the spirit will speak through the words, not just with or in the words. If Blake is inspired himself, (and he seemed to believe that he was a prophet in the same sense as the OT prophets;) his words can transmit to our spirits through a direct connection with the spirit in him. This level of communication, which Blake called Imagination, was his primary interest. His time, his energy, his goods, his thought, his labor were directed toward expressing Imagination and trying to awaken it in others. Through Imagination we get the fullest understanding of Blake. Non-sensory perception is represented by Urthona (the creative imagination of the individual.)


Thursday, November 14, 2013


British Museum
For the Sexes: Gates of Paradise
Plate 2

For the Sexes: Gates of Paradise, Plate 2, (E 260) 
"2 Water 
Thou Waterest him with Tears" 

For the Sexes: Gates of Paradise, Plate 19, (E 268) 
"2 Doubt Self Jealous Watry folly"


The dividing of consciousness into male and female as delineated in Plate 1, is followed by a recognition of further divisions. The next four plates portray the four elements of classical thought as ways in which the human consciousness manifests itself. 

Blake will in his prophetic works develop the symbol of water around his character Tharmas. In Plate 2 his image of man is surrounded with falling rain, his feet are touching what may be the rising water of a flood. The caption suggests that sorrow accompanies the condition of being dominated by water.

In the five words which Blake offers in his Key to this plate he suggests further separation and mistaken attitudes.

We may see this plate as a preview of Tharmas the Zoa of the Body and of sensation. Separated from the other Zoas by the flood of sense data in which he is immersed, he struggles to recover his emanation Enion whose laments reflect the Darwinian world.
Four Zoas, Night III, Page 45, (E 331)
"Enion return
Why does thy piteous face Evanish like a rainy cloud 
Page 46
Melting. a shower of falling tears. nothing but tears! Enion: 
Substanceless. voiceless, weeping. vanishd. nothing but tears! Enion
Art thou for ever vanishd from the watry eyes of Tharmas
Rage Rage shall never from my bosom. winds & waters of woe
Consuming all to the end consuming Love and Hope are ended 

For now no more remaind of Enion in the dismal air
Only a voice eternal wailing in the Elements"

Four Zoas, Night IV, Page 48, (E 332)
[Spoken by Tharmas to Los]
"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"  

Tuesday, November 12, 2013


British Museum
  For the Sexes: Gates of Paradise
Plate 1
For the Sexes: Gates of Paradise, Plate 3, (E 260) 
"1 I found him beneath a Tree"  

For the Sexes: Gates of Paradise, Plate 19, (E 268)


1    My Eternal Man set in Repose
     The Female from his darkness rose
     And She found me beneath a Tree                     
     A Mandrake & in her Veil hid me
     Serpent Reasonings us entice
     Of Good & Evil: Virtue & Vice"

The undivided man is neither male nor female. He becomes divided when the female is separated by becoming exteriorized. The unified individual is the goal toward which the journey leads as well as the starting point from which it begins. The first of the series of plates in For the Sexes: Gates of Paradise represents the first of the divisions the Eternal Man undergoes which starts him on the return Journey. Higher levels of consciousness develop through the breaking down of the paradigm which is in control of the current level of development. Blake follows the thought pattern which asserts that we behold externally what we need to deal with internally.

The divided man becomes a babe emerging from the earth which represents a darker region of the unconscious. The female assumes care and control of the infant. The outer world becomes more real to the man than the inner world which had been his whole world before he divided.

The first division leads to another. Eve who has split from Adam eats of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. The knowledge is passed on to Adam and the internal reasoning power becomes dualistic rather the monistic.

The man taken from the earth assumes the garment of mortality; he is hidden in the veil of flesh.

The serpent is said to represent the infinite confined by the finite. The ability to see everything as holy has become the desire to cling to what we call good, and reject what we call evil. Integrating the contraries becomes a major task of continuing on the Journey.

Jerusalem, Plate 30 [34], (E 176)
"What may Man be? who can tell! but what may Woman be?            
To have power over Man from Cradle to corruptible Grave.
There is a Throne in every Man, it is the Throne of God
This Woman has claimd as her own & Man is no more!" 

 Four Zoas, Night IX, Page 133, (E 401)
"And Many Eternal Men sat at the golden feast to see 
The female form now separate They shudderd at the horrible thing
Not born for the sport and amusement of Man but born to drink up all his powers
They wept to see their shadows they said to one another this is Sin  
This is the Generative world" 

 Milton, Plate 3, (E 97)  
"Enraged & stifled without & within: in terror & woe, he threw his
Right Arm to the north, his left Arm to the south, & his Feet  
Stampd the nether Abyss in trembling & howling & dismay
And a seventh Age passed over & a State of dismal woe

Terrified Los stood in the Abyss & his immortal limbs
Grew deadly pale; he became what he beheld: for a red
Round Globe sunk down from his Bosom into the Deep in pangs  
He hoverd over it trembling & weeping. suspended it shook
The nether Abyss in temblings. he wept over it, he cherish'd it
In deadly sickening pain: till separated into a Female pale
As the cloud that brings the snow: all the while from his Back
A blue fluid exuded in Sinews hardening in the Abyss       
Till it separated into a Male Form howling in Jealousy

Within labouring. beholding Without: from Particulars to Generals
Subduing his Spectre, they Builded the Looms of Generation
They Builded Great Golgonooza Times on Times Ages on Ages
First Orc was Born then the Shadowy Female: then All Los's Family
At last Enitharmon brought forth Satan Refusing Form, in vain
The Miller of Eternity made subservient to the Great Harvest
That he may go to his own Place Prince of the Starry Wheels"
First Corinthians 11
[11] (Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man nor man of woman;
[12] for as woman was made from man, so man is now born of woman. And all things are from God.) 

Sunday, November 10, 2013


British Museum
Title & Prologue
As a prologue to Blake's second version of The Gates of Paradise he added a passage which incorporates some of his most basic teaching about the condition of man. He tells us that entry into Eternity in which man's divine nature is realized, requires that man engage in Mutual Forgiveness. Unless an individual knows himself to be forgiven and actively forgives the faults in others he aligns himself with the Accuser. Having eaten of the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil, the individual assigns the category good to whatever benefits him, and evil to whatever opposes him. Until he realizes the everything is holy, the Gates will not open for him.

To Blake eating of the fruit of the forbidden tree led to the promulgation of the law which is the instrument of accusation, dividing man into the virtuous and the law-breaker. Mercy, which does not assign guilt, deserves to be placed on Christian altars in the place of commandments through which man may be condemned.

Blake wrote The Gates of Paradise as a guide for entry into Paradise. The prologue serves a reminder that the stages through which man progresses are are not for the purpose of condemnation but should lead to acceptance and forgiveness.

For The Sexes: THE GATES of PARADISE, Prologue, (E259)                      
"Mutual Forgiveness of each Vice
Such are the Gates of Paradise
Against the Accusers chief desire
Who walkd among the Stones of Fire
Jehovahs Finger Wrote the Law 
Then Wept! then rose in Zeal & Awe
And the Dead Corpse from Sinais heat 
Buried beneath his Mercy Seat
O Christians Christians! tell me Why
You rear it on your Altars high"         

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 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."

Songs and Ballads, (E 477)
"Let us agree to give up Love
And root up the infernal grove                                 
Then shall we return & see
The worlds of happy Eternity

& Throughout all Eternity 
I forgive you you forgive me
As our dear Redeemer said                                   
This the Wine & this the Bread"
Ephesians 4
[31] Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, with all malice,
[32] and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

Mark 2
[5] And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, "My son, your sins are forgiven."

Mark 11
[25] And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against any one; so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses."

Luke 6
[37] "Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven


Friday, November 8, 2013


Wikipedia Commons  
For the Sexes: The Gates of Paradise
Blake published The Gates of Paradise twice: once For Children, once For The Sexes. The second version provides the same pictures with added statements.

On the Frontispiece is an image of a caterpillar on a leaf above another leaf upon which rests a chrysalis bearing the face of a sleeping infant. Blake has set the stage for two versions of the answer to the question, "What is Man!", which forms the caption for the picture. When he issued the plate for a second time he added: "The Suns Light when he unfolds it/Depends on the Organ that beholds it." Thus he reinforced the idea that there are alternate ways of understanding the nature of man.

The version of the poem, For The Sexes, adds Keys to the gates at the end of the 18 plates. The Key to the Frontispiece is, "The Catterpiller on the Leaf/ Reminds thee of thy Mothers Grief." Being born of woman is Natural birth, birth into the Natural world by the Natural man. The Gates of Paradise proposes to lead the reader through a rebirth which is available to the sleeping infant bound in the chrysalis if he emerges from the Natural to the Spiritual.

Thel, Plate 3, (E 5)
"Then if thou art the food of worms. O virgin of the skies,       
How great thy use. how great thy blessing; every thing that lives,
Lives not alone, nor for itself: fear not and I will call
The weak worm from its lowly bed, and thou shalt hear its voice.
Come forth worm of the silent valley, to thy pensive queen.

The helpless worm arose, and sat upon the Lillys leaf,           
And the bright Cloud saild on, to find his partner in the vale."

Four Zoas, Night IX, Page 133, (E 401)
"And Many Eternal Men sat at the golden feast to see 
The female form now separate They shudderd at the horrible thing
Not born for the sport and amusement of Man but born to drink up all his powers
They wept to see their shadows they said to one another this is Sin
This is the Generative world they rememberd the Days of old

And One of the Eternals spoke All was silent at the feast 

Man is a Worm wearied with joy he seeks the caves of sleep
Among the Flowers of Beulah in his Selfish cold repose
Forsaking Brotherhood & Universal love in selfish clay
Folding the pure wings of his mind seeking the places dark"

Job 7
[17] What is man, that thou dost make so much of him,
and that thou dost set thy mind upon him,

Psalms 8
[4] what is man that thou art mindful of him,
and the son of man that thou dost care for him?

John 19
[5] So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, "Behold the man!" 


Wednesday, November 6, 2013


Blake's image of the Elohim creating Adam is well known. An equally striking image of the creation of mankind is rarely seen. The opportunity to illustrate a new edition of Young's Night Thoughts impelled Blake to paint 537 watercolor images for the book. However only 43 were published before the project was suspended. The complete set of illustrations resides in the British Museum and is available to be viewed online.

The particular image that recently caught my attention shows Jesus in the role of the creator breathing  the Breath of Life into the newly formed body of man still clothed in the red clay from which he was formed. The hands of the creator rest on the head of the new being and on the earth from which he came as they do in the more famous image, however the positions are reversed.

The 'breath of the Almighty', 'Human Hands & Feet & Breath', and 'the Breath Divine', are terms which Blake used to designate the indwelling spirit which gives life to man. Biblical terminology includes 'the breath of life', 'the breath of the Almighty', and 'the Holy Spirit.' 

Milton, Plate 30 [33], (E 129)
"Beulah is evermore Created around Eternity; appearing
To the Inhabitants of Eden, around them on all sides.
But Beulah to its Inhabitants appears within each district       
As the beloved infant in his mothers bosom round incircled
With arms of love & pity & sweet compassion. But to
The Sons of Eden the moony habitations of Beulah,
Are from Great Eternity a mild & pleasant Rest.

And it is thus Created. Lo the Eternal Great Humanity            
To whom be Glory & Dominion Evermore Amen
Walks among all his awful Family seen in every face
As the breath of the Almighty. such are the words of man to man
In the great Wars of Eternity, in fury of Poetic Inspiration,
To build the Universe stupendous: Mental forms Creating"          

Jerusalem, Plate 27, (E 173)
 "The Divine Vision still was seen
Still was the Human Form, Divine
  Weeping in weak & mortal clay
O Jesus still the Form was thine.      

  And thine the Human Face & thine
The Human Hands & Feet & Breath
  Entering thro' the Gates of Birth
And passing thro' the Gates of Death"

Jerusalem, Plate 93, (E 254) 
"Over them the famishd Eagle screams on boney Wings and around   
Them howls the Wolf of famine deep heaves the Ocean black thundering
Around the wormy Garments of Albion: then pausing in deathlike silence

Time was Finished! The Breath Divine Breathed over Albion
Beneath the Furnaces & starry Wheels and in the Immortal Tomb
And England who is Brittannia awoke from Death on Albions bosom 
She awoke pale & cold she fainted seven times on the Body of Albion" 

Jerusalem, Plate 95, (E 254)
"Her voice pierc'd Albions clay cold ear. he moved upon the Rock
The Breath Divine went forth upon the morning hills, Albion mov'd 
Upon the Rock, he opend his eyelids in pain; in pain he mov'd
His stony members, he saw England. Ah! shall the Dead live again

The Breath Divine went forth over the morning hills Albion rose 
In anger: the wrath of God breaking bright flaming on all sides around
His awful limbs: into the Heavens he walked clothed in flames
Loud thundring, with broad flashes of flaming lightning & pillars
Of fire, speaking the Words of Eternity in Human Forms, in direful
Revolutions of Action & Passion, thro the Four Elements on all sides  
Surrounding his awful Members."

[1] Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them.
[2] And on the seventh day God finished his work which he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had done.
[3] So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, because on it God rested from all his work which he had done in creation.
[4] These are the generations of the heavens and the earth when they were created. In the day that the LORD God made the earth and the heavens,
[5] when no plant of the field was yet in the earth and no herb of the field had yet sprung up -- for the LORD God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and there was no man to till the ground;
[6] but a mist went up from the earth and watered the whole face of the ground --
[7] then the LORD God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.

Job 32
[8] But it is the spirit in a man,
the breath of the Almighty, that makes him understand.
[9] It is not the old that are wise,
nor the aged that understand what is right.

Job 33
[4] The spirit of God has made me,
and the breath of the Almighty gives me life.

John 20
[21] Jesus said to them again, "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I send you."
[22] And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit..."

Monday, November 4, 2013


Blake felt compelled to speak out against the criticism in the Monthly Magazine which his friend Fuseli's painting Count Ugolino received. Blake defended Fuseli's rendering of the subject and attacked the publication for undermining the taste of the British public by promoting the style imported from Flanders and Holland.
Wikipedia Count Ugolino
Print of Fuseli's lost painting

Letters, To the Editor of the Monthly Magazine (E 768) SIR, 
 My indignation was exceedingly moved at reading a criticism in Bell's Weekly Messenger (25th May) on the picture of Count Ugolino, by Mr. Fuseli, in the Royal Academy exhibition
"My criticism on this picture is as follows:

     Mr. Fuseli's Count Ugolino is the father of sons of feeling
and dignity, who would not sit looking in their parent's face in
the moment of his agony, but would rather retire and die in
secret, while they suffer him to indulge his passionate and
innocent grief, his innocent and venerable madness, and insanity,
and fury, and whatever paltry cold hearted critics cannot,
because they dare not, look upon.  Fuseli's Count Ugolino is a
man of wonder and admiration, of resentment against man and
devil, and of humilitation before God; prayer and parental
affection fills the figure from head to foot.  The child in his
arms, whether boy or girl signifies not, (but the critic must be
a fool who has not read Dante, and who does not know a boy from a
girl); I say, the child is as beautifully drawn as it is
coloured--in both, inimitable! and the effect of the whole is
truly sublime, on account of that very colouring which our critic
calls black and heavy.  The German flute colour, which was used
by the Flemings, (they call it burnt bone), has possessed the eye
of certain connoisseurs, that they cannot see appropriate
colouring, and are blind to the gloom of a real terror."

The theme of Ugolino's imprisonment and suffering was common among artists. Milton Klonsky writes in Blake's Dante, "As an instance of papal tyranny, Ugolino's imprisonment and death by starvation became a popular subject for Protestant English artists."  Blake included images of the family who had been sealed in a locked tower sentenced to die of starvation in Marriage of Heaven & Hell, in A Small Book of Designs, and in Gates of Paradise. The caption on the image in Gates of Paradise is, "Does thy God O Priest take such vengeance as this?" When Blake illustrated Dante's Divine Comedy near the end of his life he returned to the tragic incident.

Among the themes Blake alluded to in his images are his opposition to vengeance, the imprisonment of man in his five senses, and the suffering which man brings on himself and his children by violence. 

In his final use of the image Blake adds two motifs not present in the earlier images; angels make there presence known in the cell, and the flames of a fire are seen behind Ugolino's head. The protection by the Divine Providence can be seen in the presence of the angels. The cleansing fire of the furnace preliminary to regeneration has been added as well.  
Wikipedia Commons
Ugolino in Prison
Illustration to Dante's Divine Comedy

Sunday, November 3, 2013


Blake valued Wordsworth's works highly enough to study them carefully and to write comments in two of his books. He found that he could not agree with Wordsworth view that the appreciation of Nature led to spiritual consciousness.
Annotations to Wordsworth's Poems, (E 665)  
Wordsworth on page 44:
" Influence of Natural Objects 
     Incalling forth and strengthening the Imagination 
     in Boyhood and early Youth."

"Natural Objects always did & now do Weaken deaden &
obliterate Imagination in Me  Wordsworth must know that what he
Writes Valuable is Not to be found in Nature Read Michael Angelos
Sonnet vol 2 p. 179"
Wordsworth was quite familiar with the poem from Michelangelo to which Blake referred; he had translated it himself from the Italian to English poetry. Blake finds in the poem affirmation that the spiritual world is primary, that the natural world derives its meaning from the spiritual world and not the reverse. Wordsworth's expressed dependence on the world of nature for inspiration was repugnant to Blake because Nature to him obscured and distorted the visionary experience which he enjoyed.

The Life of William Blake by Alexander Gilchrist provides the poem which Blake cited:
Miscellaneous Poems, Michael Angelo
"No mortal object did these eyes behold
When first they met the placid light of thine,
And my Soul felt her destiny divine,
And hope of endless peace in me grew bold:
Heaven-born, the Soul a heavenward course must hold;
Beyond the visible world she soars to seek
(For what delights the sense is false and weak)
Ideal Form, the universal mould.
The wise man, I affirm, can find no rest
In that which perishes: nor will he lend
His heart to aught which doth on time depend.
'Tis sense, unbridled will, and not true love,
That kills the soul: love betters what is best,
Even here below, but more in heaven above."

British Museum

Caption for the picture in the British Museum:
"Adapted by Blake after a figure painted by Michelangelo in the Pauline Chapel in the Vatican, known to Blake through prints. Almost wholly engraved - very few etched lines. The plate is dated 1773, which is the date of the first state (the earliest known print designed and engraved by Blake). Substantially reworked for the second state c1810-20."

From Engravings of William Blake by Archibald Russell on page 53 we read:
"The figure of Joseph is derived from that on the extreme right, in front, of Michelangelo's fresco of the Crucifixion of St. Peter in the Vatican."   

Legend on second version of image:

"JOSEPH of Arimathea among The Rocks of Albion
     Engraved by W Blake 1773 from an old Italian Drawing 
     This is One of the Gothic Artists who Built the Cathedrals
in what we call the Dark Ages    Wandering about in sheep skins &
goat skins of  whom  the World was not worthy   such were the
Christians in all Ages
     Michael Angelo Pinxit 

 [on a proof of the early state of the plate]
     Engraved when I was a beginner at Basires from a drawing by
Salviati after Michael Angelo" 
Blake's comment on the final paragraph of the 1818 edition of Wordsworth's Poems gave him the opportunity further to express his thoughts on the contrast between Memory and Imagination, between the Natural Man and the Spiritual Man.

Annotations to Wordsworth's Poems, (E 666)  
[Page 375, final paragraph]  
Wordsworth: ". . . if [the Writer] were not
persuaded that the Contents of these Volumes . . . evinced
something of the "Vision and the Faculty divine," . . . he would
not, if a wish could do it, save them from immediate

Blake: "It appears to me as if the last Paragraph beginning With "Is
it the result" Was writ by another hand & mind from the rest of
these Prefaces.  Perhaps they are the opinions of Sr G Beaumont a
Landscape Painter [to whom the book was dedicated] 
Imagination is the Divine Vision not of The
World nor of Man nor from Man as he is a Natural Man but only as
he is a Spiritual Man Imagination has nothing to do with Memory"