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

Saturday, January 31, 2015


Pilgrim's Progress
John Bunyan
  {90} CHR. But what is it that made you so afraid of this sight?
MAN. Why, I thought that the day of judgement was come, and that I was not ready for it: but this frighted me most, that the angels gathered up several, and left me behind; also the pit of hell opened her mouth just where I stood. My conscience, too, afflicted me; and, as I thought, the Judge had always his eye upon me, shewing indignation in his countenance.
{91} Then said the Interpreter to Christian, Hast thou considered all these things?
CHR. Yes, and they put me in hope and fear.  
INTER. Well, keep all things so in thy mind that they may be as a goad in thy sides, to prick thee forward in the way thou must go. Then Christian began to gird up his loins, and to address himself to his journey. Then said the Interpreter, The Comforter be always with thee, good Christian, to guide thee in the way that leads to the City. So Christian went on his way, saying--
"Here I have seen things rare and profitable; Things pleasant, dreadful, things to make me stable In what I have begun to take in hand; Then let me think on them, and understand Wherefore they showed me were, and let me be Thankful, O good Interpreter, to thee."
{92} Now I saw in my dream, that the highway up which Christian was to go, was fenced on either side with a wall, and that wall was called Salvation. [Isa. 26:1] Up this way, therefore, did burdened Christian run, but not without great difficulty, because of the load on his back.
{93} He ran thus till he came at a place somewhat ascending, and upon that place stood a cross, and a little below, in the bottom, a sepulchre. So I saw in my dream, that just as Christian came up with the cross, his burden loosed from off his shoulders, and fell from off his back, and began to tumble, and so continued to do, till it came to the mouth of the sepulchre, where it fell in, and I saw it no more.
{94} Then was Christian glad and lightsome, and said, with a merry heart, "He hath given me rest by his sorrow, and life by his death." Then he stood still awhile to look and wonder; for it was very surprising to him, that the sight of the cross should thus ease him of his burden. He looked therefore, and looked again, even till the springs that were in his head sent the waters down his cheeks." 

Illustrations to Pilgrim's Progress
Plate 14 Christian at the Cross
Although this incident of Pilgrim encountering the cross is not the midpoint of Bunyan's story, Blake makes it the fourteenth of his twenty-eight illustrations and the turning point of the Pilgrim's journey. Christian has received instructions from the Interpreter including an introduction to a dreaming man obsessed with a consciousness of his sinfulness. Christian still carries strapped to his back his own burden of sin from which he has not found release. The cross that Christian sees in Pilgrim's Progress appears in Blake's image as a vision of Christ Crucified. To Blake it is the experience of Christ as an inner presence whose healing power can wipe away the remembrance of sin that frees the Pilgrim from his burden.

Gerda Norvig states that this drawing is of "the experience of conversion" and that it represents "altered perception." She sees that Blake is dramatizing Christian's "shift of consciousness." 
On page 169 she states:
"Blake, however, takes the lines in the text describing Christian's attitude of wonder as a reference to the way a visionary imagination endows ephemeral
Yale center for British Art

Plate 76
objects with archetypal significance and that, of course, is by observing them with the altered eye of 'spiritual sensation' ... seeing the object's inner image...Here, then, we see that Christian sees not the apparent surface of the cross, but its personified, symbolic center. And this act of Christian vision is the vision: a resurrection of imaginative awareness conforming to the image of the risen Son of Man." 

The centrality of the cross to Blake leads him to picture Pilgrim's experience as reflective of Albion's encounter with Jesus as pictured on Plate 76 of Jerusalem. Albion's outstretched arms are a reminder that individuals participate in the crucifixion with Christ and enter a new relationship with God and their brothers. Blake pictures Christian, knowing at a deep level that he is forgiven, has had his imagination cleansed from the stain of sin and has been released to the 'supreme delight' of fourfold vision.
Jerusalem, Plate 96, (E 255)
"Albion said. O Lord what can I do! my Selfhood cruel
Marches against thee deceitful from Sinai & from Edom
Into the Wilderness of Judah to meet thee in his pride       
I behold the Visions of my deadly Sleep of Six Thousand Years
Dazling around thy skirts like a Serpent of precious stones & gold
I know it is my Self. O my Divine Creator & Redeemer

Jesus replied Fear not Albion unless I die thou canst not live
But if I die I shall arise again & thou with me            
This is Friendship & Brotherhood without it Man Is Not

So Jesus spoke! the Covering Cherub coming on in darkness
Overshadowd them & Jesus said Thus do Men in Eternity
One for another to put off by forgiveness, every sin

Albion replyd. Cannot Man exist without Mysterious          
Offering of Self for Another, is this Friendship & Brotherhood
I see thee in the likeness & similitude of Los my Friend

Jesus said. Wouldest thou love one who never died
For thee or ever die for one who had not died for thee
And if God dieth not for Man & giveth not himself           
Eternally for Man Man could not exist. for Man is Love:
As God is Love: every kindness to another is a little Death
In the Divine Image nor can Man exist but by Brotherhood

So saying. the Cloud overshadowing divided them asunder
Albion stood in terror: not for himself but for his Friend     
Divine, & Self was lost in the contemplation of faith
And wonder at the Divine Mercy & at Los's sublime honour

Do I sleep amidst danger to Friends! O my Cities & Counties
Do you sleep! rouze up! rouze up. Eternal Death is abroad

So Albion spoke & threw himself into the Furnaces of affliction 
All was a Vision, all a Dream: the Furnaces became
Fountains of Living Waters flowing from the Humanity Divine"

Thursday, January 29, 2015


Illustrations to Pilgrim's Progress
Plate 18
Christian Passes the Lions
William Blake created twenty-eight illustrations for John Bunyan's Pilgrims Progress. Blake selected the passages he would illustrate in order to highlight sections of the book which lent themselves to understandings which were congruent with his own visionary perceptions.
Gerda Norvig, on page 127 of Dark Figures in the Desired Country, indicates the challenge Blake faced in illustrating a book which whose structure was in the form of allegory rather than vision: 
"[A]ccording to Blake, images at work within any genuinely visionary structure never simply substitute as fixed vehicles for displaced and equally fixed tenors. Instead they function as complex 'identities' that literally hold their own, evolving, unfolding, and yielding only to further images rendered meaningful through interrelations and extended contextual references."

Blake's objective was to transform what was less than visionary in Bunyan's allegory to a fully imaginative production.

Pilgrim's Progress
John Bunyan
"Now also he remembered the story that Mistrust and Timorous told him of; how they were frighted with the sight of the lions. Then said Christian to himself again, These beasts range in the night for their prey; and if they should meet with me in the dark, how should I shift them? How should I escape being by them torn in pieces? Thus he went on his way. But while he was thus bewailing his unhappy miscarriage, he lift up his eyes, and behold there was a very stately palace before him, the name of which was Beautiful; and it stood just by the highway side.
110} So I saw in my dream that he made haste and went forward, that if possible he might get lodging there. Now, before he had gone far, he entered into a very narrow passage, which was about a furlong off the porter's lodge; and looking very narrowly before him as he went, he espied two lions in the way. Now, thought he, I see the dangers that Mistrust and Timorous were driven back by. (The lions were chained, but he saw not the chains.) Then he was afraid, and thought also himself to go back after them, for he thought nothing but death was before him. But the porter at the lodge, whose name is Watchful, perceiving that Christian made a halt as if he would go back, cried unto him, saying, Is thy strength so small? [Mark 8:34-37] Fear not the lions, for they are chained, and are placed there for trial of faith where it is, and for discovery of those that had none. Keep in the midst of the path, no hurt shall come unto thee.

"Difficulty is behind, Fear is before,
Though he's got on the hill, the lions roar;
A Christian man is never long at ease,
When one fright's gone, another doth him seize."

{111} Then I saw that he went on, trembling for fear of the lions, but taking good heed to the directions of the porter; he heard them roar, but they did him no harm. Then he clapped his hands, and went on till he came and stood before the gate where the porter was. Then said Christian to the porter, Sir, what house is this? And may I lodge here to-night? The porter answered, This house was built by the Lord of the hill, and he built it for the relief and security of pilgrims. The porter also asked whence he was, and whither he was going.

{112} CHR. I am come from the City of Destruction, and am going to Mount Zion; but because the sun is now set, I desire, if I may, to lodge here to-night."

Blake's picture is his commentary on Bunyan's text. The path is narrow and beside it are beasts whose power and ferocity are frightening to men. But both Blake and Bunyan acknowledge that there is nothing to fear but fear itself. The lions are pacific, and chained as well. Lions in Blake's poetry, although capable of wrath, assume the role as protectors of the flock. In Songs of Experience the Lion acts as an Angel of Death taking a child and her parents to a lovely place where there is no longer any cause for fear. In Blake's illustration the presence of the lions is more than a threat to his safety. It serves to enable Pilgrim to resolve his fears and pass safely to the palace named Beautiful.

Songs of Experience, Plate 36, (E 21)
"The Little Girl Found
Famish'd, weeping, weak
With hollow piteous shriek

Rising from unrest,
The trembling woman prest,
With feet of weary woe;
She could no further go. 

In his arms he bore,
Her arm'd with sorrow sore;
Till before their way,
A couching lion lay.

Turning back was vain, 
Soon his heavy mane,
Bore them to the ground;
Then he stalk'd around,

Smelling to his prey.
But their fears allay,
When he licks their hands;
And silent by them stands.

They look upon his eyes
Fill'd with deep surprise:
And wondering behold,
A spirit arm'd in gold. 

On his head a crown
On his shoulders down,
Flow'd his golden hair.
Gone was all their care. 

Follow me he said,
Weep not for the maid;
In my palace deep,
Lyca lies asleep.

Then they followed, 
Where the vision led:
And saw their sleeping child,
Among tygers wild.

To this day they dwell
In a lonely dell
Nor fear the wolvish howl,
Nor the lions growl." 

If you are a reader of C S Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia you may be reminded in this passage from Blake's Marriage of Heaven & Hell of Lewis' portrayal of the ambiguities of the lion Aslan .
Marriage of Heaven & Hell, Plate 8, (E 36)
"Prisons are built with stones of Law, Brothels with bricks of Religion.
The pride of the peacock is the glory of God.
The lust of the goat is the bounty of God.
The wrath of the lion is the wisdom of God.
The nakedness of woman is the work of God.

Excess of sorrow laughs. Excess of joy weeps.

The roaring of lions, the howling of wolves, the raging of the
    stormy sea,    and the destructive sword. are portions of
    eternity too great for the eye of man."

Pilgrim's fears resemble those of Enitharmon who is given lines in the Four Zoas that express her fear of continuing along the path to salvation because of her awareness of past failures and disappointments.
Four Zoas, Night VII, Page 78, (E 369)
[Los speaks]
"Couldst thou but cease from terror & trembling & affright
When I appear before thee in forgiveness of ancient injuries
Why shouldst thou remember & be afraid. I surely have died in pain
Often enough to convince thy jealousy & fear & terror
Come hither be patient let us converse together because  
I also tremble at myself & at all my former life
Enitharmon answerd I behold the Lamb of God descending
To Meet these Spectres of the Dead I therefore fear that he
Will give us to Eternal Death fit punishment for such
Hideous offenders Uttermost extinction in eternal pain    
An ever dying life of stifling & obstruction shut out
Of existence to be a sign & terror to all who behold
Lest any should in futurity do as we have done in heaven
Such is our state nor will the Son of God redeem us but destroy" 

Tuesday, January 27, 2015


Illustrations to Pilgrim's Progress
Plate 6
Christian Drawn out of the Slough by Help
Pilgrim's Progress
John Bunyan

{31} "Wherefore Christian was left to tumble in the Slough of Despond alone: but still he endeavoured to struggle to that side of the slough that was still further from his own house, and next to the wicket-gate; the which he did, but could not get out, because of the burden that was upon his back: but I beheld in my dream, that a man came to him, whose name was Help, and asked him, What he did there?

CHR. Sir, said Christian, I was bid go this way by a man called Evangelist, who directed me also to yonder gate, that I might escape the wrath to come; and as I was going thither I fell in here.

{32} HELP. But why did not you look for the steps?

CHR. Fear followed me so hard, that I fled the next way, and fell in.

HELP. Then said he, Give me thy hand: so he gave him his hand, and he drew him out, and set him upon sound ground, and bid him go on his way. [Ps. 40:2]

{33} Then I stepped to him that plucked him out, and said, Sir, wherefore, since over this place is the way from the City of Destruction to yonder gate, is it that this plat is not mended, that poor travellers might go thither with more security? And he said unto me, This miry slough is such a place as cannot be mended; it is the descent whither the scum and filth that attends conviction for sin doth continually run, and therefore it is called the Slough of Despond; for still, as the sinner is awakened about his lost condition, there ariseth in his soul many fears, and doubts, and discouraging apprehensions, which all of them get together, and settle in this place."

In one of my earliest posts, I used this quote from Edward F Edinger, a Jungian psychologist, who wrote THE ETERNAL DRAMA: The Inner Meaning of Greek Mythology:
"Nothing new can emerge unless one is willing to dip into chaos and pull it out.
Once it is out it promptly splits in two, into earth and sky in terms of the myth. This is something we see whenever something is coming into awareness: the very process of achieving consciousness involves a split into opposites. Things can remain in their state of oneness only as long as they are unconscious. When they reach consciousness, they must divide into opposites and then we have the experience of conflict." (Page 10)
"At first, the encounter with the Self is indeed a defeat of the ego; but with perseverance, /Deo volente,/ light is born from the darkness. One meets the  'Immortal One' who wounds and heals, who casts down and raises up, who makes small and makes large - in a word the one who makes one whole."

In Blake's sixth illustration to Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress he portrays the assistance one receives when one is willing to endure the encounter with the darkness of the unconscious which is labeled sin by the superego.

In Dark Figures in the Desired Country, Gerda Norvig makes this statement about the healing powers which are called forth when one engages in the process of individuation:
"Blake seems to be giving here graphic expression to a common psychological rule that goes beyond Bunyan's: the rule that active differentiation of the contents of the dark side of the self precedes spiritual assistance, but also literally creates a space for the healing powers of the psyche to move into as they well up from archetypal dimensions recognized as existing deep in the background of our mental landscape." (Page 148)

In this passage from Jerusalem, divisions within Albion had distorted the functioning of his Zoas until they expressed attitudes which are opposite to their eternal natures. The source of help for Albion come from Los who represents the Creative Imagination functioning in this world.
Jerusalem, Plate 38 [43], (E 184)
"They saw their Wheels rising up poisonous against Albion
Urizen, cold & scientific: Luvah, pitying & weeping
Tharmas, indolent & sullen: Urthona, doubting & despairing
Victims to one another & dreadfully plotting against each other
To prevent Albion walking about in the Four Complexions.      

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. Heavens over Hells
Brooding in holy hypocritic lust, drinking the cries of pain
From howling victims of Law: building Heavens Twenty-seven-fold.
Swelld & bloated General Forms, repugnant to the Divine-
Humanity, who is the Only General and Universal Form         
To which all Lineaments tend & seek with love & sympathy
All broad & general principles belong to benevolence
Who protects minute particulars, every one in their own identity."

Sunday, January 25, 2015


John Bunyan and William Blake both adopted the image of Beulah from the Book of Isaiah in which there is the only biblical reference to Beulah. Isaiah associates Beulah with a future state of blessedness where divisions will be resolved. The people and their land joined together will be prepared for salvation or redemption.

Isaiah 62
[1] For Zion's sake will I not hold my peace, and for Jerusalem's sake I will not rest, until the righteousness thereof go forth as brightness, and the salvation thereof as a lamp that burneth.
[2] And the Gentiles shall see thy righteousness, and all kings thy glory: and thou shalt be called by a new name, which the mouth of the LORD shall name.
[3] Thou shalt also be a crown of glory in the hand of the LORD, and a royal diadem in the hand of thy God.
[4] Thou shalt no more be termed Forsaken; neither shall thy land any more be termed Desolate: but thou shalt be called Hephzi-bah, and thy land Beulah: for the LORD delighteth in thee, and thy land shall be married.
[5] For as a young man marrieth a virgin, so shall thy sons marry thee: and as the bridegroom rejoiceth over the bride, so shall thy God rejoice over thee.
[10] Go through, go through the gates; prepare ye the way of the people; cast up, cast up the highway; gather out the stones; lift up a standard for the people.
[11] Behold, the LORD hath proclaimed unto the end of the world, Say ye to the daughter of Zion, Behold, thy salvation cometh; behold, his reward is with him, and his work before him.
[12] And they shall call them, The holy people, The redeemed of the LORD: and thou shalt be called, Sought out, A city not forsaken.

Bunyan's vision of Beulah incorporates the idea of a gentle place of rest and safety for the pilgrim before the final ascent up the mountain.

Pilgrim's Progress
John Bunyan
"Now I saw in my dream, that by this time the Pilgrims were
got over the Enchanted Ground, and entering into the country of
Beulah, whose air was very sweet and pleasant, the way lying directly
through it, they solaced themselves there for a season.  Yea, here
they heard continually the singing of birds, and saw every day the
flowers appear on the earth, and heard the voice of the turtle in
the land.  In this country
the sun shineth night and day; wherefore this was beyond the Valley
of the Shadow of Death, and also out of the reach of Giant Despair,
neither could they from this place so much as see Doubting Castle.
Here they were within sight of the city they were going to, also
here met them some of the inhabitants thereof; for in this land
the Shining Ones commonly walked, because it was upon the borders
of heaven.  In this land also, the contract between the bride and
the bridegroom was renewed; yea, here, "As the bridegroom rejoiceth
over the bride, so did their God rejoice over them."  
Here they had no want of corn and wine; for in this place they met
with abundance of what they had sought for in all their pilgrimage. 
Here they heard voices from out of the city, loud voices,
saying, "'Say ye to the daughter of Zion, Behold, thy salvation
cometh!  Behold, his reward is with him!'  Here all the inhabitants
of the country called them, 'The holy people, The redeemed of the
Lord, Sought out'" 
Wikimedia Commons
Gates of Paradise
In an earlier post we looked at some of what Blake implied in his development of Beulah as a symbol:
Through Los, generation supplies belief in the Eternal values using reason and the senses, (although confined in the illusion of time and space). Beulah supplies knowledge of the Eternal through the imagination which can transcend material limits. Beulah like generation is a world of the sexes, but in Beulah the male and female are married, each plays a role and accepts the designed functions. Beulah is a place of rest and repose where the contraries are equally true. The active nature of the male is in abeyance and the female is obedient. The delicate balance of Beulah however is maintained through illusion which is not to be taken for reality. Reality is unified as in Eden; Beulah maintains the illusion of duality.

Page 86: " long as love remains self-sacrificing, man retains his faith in a spiritual reality beyond the world of appearance. When, however, love fails, faith is lost and the finite mind seeks for reality within the finite form." Milton Percival, William Blake's Circle of Destiny

Man is not meant to remain in Beulah for it is a place of retreat and renewal. Upward to Eden or downward to Generation are the options offered. A desire to remain in Beulah destroys the beautiful balance and sends man backward. Beulah shares with Eden evanescence, fluidity the ability to escape time and space. Love and forgiveness are the methods of maintaining Beulah as the environs of Eden.

On page 42 of Dark Figures in the Desired Country, Gerda Norvig introduces some of the psychic implications of Blake's Beulah:

"Blake's Beulah likewise becomes the place of sleep, of dreams, but for him it takes on the uncanny and ambivalent value of self-centered personal unconscious - a realm of the psyche that harbors defenses and illusions as well a prophetic thought, painful as well a joyous memories, latent as well as manifest meanings, strategies of evil as well as strategies of good. Further, the Beulah of Blake functions not simply as a one-way route to eternity, but as a gateway back, too, into the distorting light of the everyday where Blake saw lurking the delusive forms of material generation. For Blake, then, Beulah was a threshold state, a place of rest and renewal for the imagination, yet one where through fantasies and dreams individuals blurred the boundaries between what Lacan calls the imaginary and the symbolic registers, experiencing their attachment to both in an unconscious and sometimes inflexibly literalistic way."

Milton, Plate 30 [33], (E 129)
"There is a place where Contrarieties are equally True
This place is called Beulah, It is a pleasant lovely Shadow
Where no dispute can come. Because of those who Sleep.
Into this place the Sons & Daughters of Ololon descended
With solemn mourning into Beulahs moony shades & hills           
Weeping for Milton: mute wonder held the Daughters of Beulah
Enrapturd with affection sweet and mild benevolence

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."

Friday, January 23, 2015


Wikimedia Commons
Christian with the Shield of Faith
When Blake met John Linnell in 1818 and there gathered around him a group of young men, mostly artists, he became their mentor. They were drawn to him because they recognized his skills as an artist and because they saw the light of truth which shown through his life and work. A fellowship grew among the youthful followers and the man whom only the eyes of vision could identify as Bunyan's Interpreter.

In Pilgrim's Progress, Bunyan introduces Pilgrim to the House of the Interpreter midway through his journey, in order to receive guidance which would inwardly prepare him for the challenges ahead.

It was Blake's privilege, as one of a long line of dissenting Christians, to take up the mantle of Interpreter from Bunyan's character who directed Christian along the path to the Celestial City.

As reported in an earlier post, Bunhill Fields is the final resting place of William Blake, George Fox and John Wesley (nearby). John Bunyan is among the company of dissenters resting there too. Included also are Blake's parents and his brother Robert. 

Four Zoas, Night IV, Page 64, (E 344)
"O Fool to think that I could hide from his all piercing eyes
The gold & silver & costly stones his holy workmanship
O Fool could I forget the light that filled my bright spheres
Was a reflection of his face who calld me from the deep          

I well remember for I heard the mild & holy voice
Saying O light spring up & shine & I sprang up from the deep   
He gave to me a silver scepter & crownd me with a golden crown
& said Go forth & guide my Son who wanders on the ocean"  
Pilgrim's Progress
by John Bunyan
        "Then Christian began to gird up his loins, and to address himself to his Journey. So the other told him, That by that he was gone some distance from the Gate, he would come at the house of the Interpreter, at whose door he should knock, and he would show him excellent things. Then Christian took his leave of his Friend, and he again bid him God speed.

        Then he went on till he came at the house of the Interpreter, where he knocked over and over; at last one came to the door, and asked, Who was there?

        Christian: Sir, here is a Traveler, who was bid by an acquaintance of the Good Man of this house, to call here from my profit; I would therefore speak with the Master of the house: So he called for the Master of the house; who after a little time came to Christian, and asked him what he would have?

        Christian: Sir, said Christian, I am a man that am come from the City of Destruction, and am going to the Mount Zion; and I was told by the Man that stands at the Gate, at the head of this way, that if I called here, you would show me excellent things, such as would be a help to me in my Journey.

        Interpreter: Then said the Interpreter, Come in; I will show you that which will be profitable to you. So he commanded his man to light the Candle, and bid Christian follow him."

Bunyan's grave. More about Bunhill Fields. Another post featuring this picture

Thursday, January 22, 2015


Illustrations to Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress

Christian Reading His Book
Don't go to Greda Norvig's book Dark Figures in the Desired Country looking for light reading. If you are willing to be challenged by her intellect, her vocabulary and her psychological perceptions, you will be rewarded with insights that are as astounding as they are nourishing. In this passage she is using Blake's engraving techniques to present the relationship of what 'is' and 'what seems to be.' 
Quoting from page 59 of Norvig's book on Blake's Illustrations to The Pilgrims Progress:

"But life as it is here and now can be known to be 'infinite and holy' as soon as distinctions between body and soul, medium and message, 'sensual enjoyment' and spiritual understanding, are recognized as expendable. Achieving such a visionary perspective is clearly not a matter of wresting a precept from an image. On the contrary, Blake's whole effort spent on encouraging trust in the immanent wisdom of observable form. For him, things are literally 'metaphors' of vision, designed to 'carry over' the imaginal archetypes they embody or express. One's attitude toward things, as toward the process of embodiment or ensouling, may need correction; but the problem is perceptual not ontological. So the 'infernal method' of etching on copper is intended to exemplify and to involve the participant in a process of sudden apprehension of surface truth, an apprehension that carries  the certitude of revelation and no need of 'corporeal' explication. Just the reverse of Bunyan's formal strategy of recession, it reflects a coming-forth procedure. Every encounter with Blake's acid-forged forms is meant as a mutual epiphany, a friendship through the eye on the plane of appearance, between the deep structures of the spectator's psyche and the content displayed. The pun on the word apparent, in the phrase 'melting apparent surfaces away,' tells the story. For Blake real surfaces were made apparent (visible) by the elimination of apparent (seeming) surfaces. But the images of truth do not hide as ideas behind a false appearance in his conception, nor do they exist in contradiction to 'apparent surfaces.' Rather, Blake makes his vision of the infinite lift out of the everyday by emphatically affirming their concrete substantiality. Through the 'infernal method,' his printed language of forms - visual and verbal combined - a spiritual body is literally raised. There is a concept of redemption here, both of the spirit and of the body, both of the form and of the inward meaning - the 'infernal state' - of the form."

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

Then those in Great Eternity who contemplate on Death            
Said thus. What seems to Be: Is: To those to whom
It seems to Be, & is productive of the most dreadful
Consequences to those to whom it seems to Be: even of
Torments, Despair, Eternal Death; but the Divine Mercy
Steps beyond and Redeems Man in the Body of Jesus Amen           
And Length Bredth Highth again Obey the Divine Vision Hallelujah"

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.
   For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things thro'
narrow chinks of his cavern.
Plate 15
                            A Memorable Fancy

   I was in a Printing house in Hell & saw the method in which
knowledge is transmitted from generation to generation.
   In the first chamber was a Dragon-Man, clearing away the
rubbish from a caves mouth; within, a number of Dragons were
hollowing the  cave, 
   In the second chamber was a Viper folding round the rock & the 
cave, and others adorning it with gold silver and precious
   In the third chamber was an Eagle with wings and feathers of air, 
he caused the inside of the cave to be infinite, around were
numbers  of Eagle like men, who built palaces in the immense
   In the fourth chamber were Lions of flaming fire raging around
&  melting the metals into living fluids.
   In the fifth chamber were Unnam'd forms, which cast the metals 
into the expanse.
   There they were reciev'd by Men who occupied the sixth
chamber,  and took the forms of books & were arranged in

Post on Printing House.

Monday, January 19, 2015


British Museum
Illustrations to Young's Night Thoughts
Harold Bloom, who wrote Blake's Apocalypse, uses his deep acquaintance with the Old Testament to reveal something or what Blake was trying to communicate in his conclusion of Auguries of Innocence. Bloom connects the Human Form which is Blake's term for the indwelling spirit with the lesson Jonah was taught about the lost souls of Ninivah whom God would reclaim.

"In the passage that ends Blake's Auguries [of Innocence] the bodily eye is identified with the shadowing gourd [Book of Jonah], born in the night of our fall to perish in the night of our destruction. Blake's irony is at its subtlest as he plays at the equivocal beams of light that blind us in our wilful darkness. The eye of our corporeal existence, a narrow opening in our material cavern, was born when our soul slept in the heavenly light. If our soul had kept awake in the light, we would not have fallen, and would now have an eye to see with, and not through, if we are to see our own relation to what we were. But like Jonah we are poor souls dwelling within the mental cavern or whale's belly of the night, the dark forest in which the Bard of Experience saw his Tyger.

As God taught Jonah the humane view of apocalypse, so now Blake seeks to teach it to himself. God appears as a light shining into our darkness if we insist upon dwelling in the darkness. But if we see through the eye, the we are auguries of a second Innocence, and dwell in the clear realms of day, where the Tygers of Wrath are anything but fearful, and where God displays the form of the human."
(Page 303)

Everlasting Gospel, (E 520)
"This Lifes dim Windows of the Soul
Distorts the Heavens from Pole to Pole
And leads you to Believe a Lie
When you see with not thro the Eye   
That was born in a night to perish in a night
When the Soul slept in the beams of Light."

Auguries of Innocence, (E 492)
"Every Night & every Morn
Some to Misery are Born 
Every Morn & every Night
Some are Born to sweet delight
Some are Born to sweet delight
Some are Born to Endless Night
We are led to Believe a Lie 
When we see not Thro the Eye  
Which was Born in a Night to perish in a Night
When the Soul Slept in Beams of Light
God Appears & God is Light
To those poor Souls who dwell in Night 
But does a Human Form Display
To those who Dwell in Realms of day"

Songs of Innocence & of Experience, (E 12)
Song 18, The Divine Image 
"For Mercy has a human heart
Pity, a human face:
And Love, the human form divine,
And Peace, the human dress."

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.      

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

Jonah 4
[6] And the LORD God prepared a gourd, and made it to come up over Jonah, that it might be a shadow over his head, to deliver him from his grief. So Jonah was exceeding glad of the gourd.
[7] But God prepared a worm when the morning rose the next day, and it smote the gourd that it withered.
[9] And God said to Jonah, Doest thou well to be angry for the gourd ? And he said, I do well to be angry, even unto death.
[10] Then said the LORD, Thou hast had pity on the gourd, for the which thou hast not laboured, neither madest it grow; which came up in a night, and perished in a night:

[11] And should not I spare Nineveh, that great city, wherein are more than sixscore thousand persons that cannot discern between their right hand and their left hand; and also much cattle?

Saturday, January 17, 2015


British Museum
Small Book of Designs
As Urizen functions as the setter of limits, the promulgator of laws to regulate behavior, Orc is symbolic of the energy which Urizen seeks to control. In one account of the Fall, Urizen and Luvah plot together and then turn against each other in distrust. Both become reduced as their eternal qualities are diminished when they enter the physical world. Luvah's name in the world of generation is Orc. His is the energy striving to be released without thought of restraint. Blake's Orc is a character who will be admired or feared, sought or despised, welcomed or rejected.  His fiery unpredictability makes him the perfect foil for Urizen's cold rationality.

America, Plate 7, (E 54)    
"Lover of wild rebellion, and transgresser of Gods Law; 
Why dost thou come to Angels eyes in this terrific form?
Plate, 8
The terror answerd: I am Orc, wreath'd round the accursed tree:
The times are ended; shadows pass the morning gins to break;
The fiery joy, that Urizen perverted to ten commands,
What night he led the starry hosts thro' the wide wilderness:
That stony law I stamp to dust: and scatter religion abroad      
To the four winds as a torn book, & none shall gather the leaves;
But they shall rot on desart sands, & consume in bottomless deeps;
To make the desarts blossom, & the deeps shrink to their fountains,
And to renew the fiery joy, and burst the stony roof.
That pale religious letchery, seeking Virginity,                 
May find it in a harlot, and in coarse-clad honesty
The undefil'd tho' ravish'd in her cradle night and morn:
For every thing that lives is holy, life delights in life;
Because the soul of sweet delight can never be defil'd.
Fires inwrap the earthly globe, yet man is not consumd;      
Amidst the lustful fires he walks: his feet become like brass,
His knees and thighs like silver, & his breast and head like gold."

John Middleton Murry, on Page 92 of William Blake, reveals the essential function of Orc:
"In the final lines of America we are brought back to the event of which the whole prophecy is symbolic: the consuming of the whole Creation by the cleansing of the doors of perception, so that instead of finite and corrupt, it appears infinite and holy. For the five gates  of the law-built heaven, which the Guardians seek to bar, are the five senses. These gates are consumed, as the doors of perception are cleansed: the consuming and the cleansing are the same act. This is accomplished, in Blake's revolutionary legend, by the flames of Orc- by those 'corroding fires' with which the mighty Devil wrote on the sides of the abyss of the five senses the words of liberation:    

"How do you know but ev'ry Bird that cuts the airy way,
   Is an immense world of delight, clos'd by your senses five?""
Marriage of Heaven & Hell, Plate 5

Thursday, January 15, 2015


The Blakes had a garden at their home in Lambeth. They are said to have sat in their garden under an arbor reading Paradise Lost. The grape vine in their garden is said to have been left untrimmed to give it complete liberty to grow as it would. We know something of the Blake's garden at Felpham also, since he ejected an unwelcome Dragoon from his garden.  This act led to unfortunate consequences since Blake was accused by the Dragoon of damning the King, indicted and tried for sedition. Blake had risked losing his own garden by removing the soldier. Blake, though acquitted, returned to London in reduced circumstances, and never again had a significant garden.
In Genesis the garden is the image of the ideal state of existence in which man and woman walked and conversed with God. The garden was lost to Adam and Eve when they fractured their connection with God through disobedience.

Genesis 2
[15] And the LORD God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it.

Genesis 3
[24] So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life.

Library of Congress Milton
Plate 47, Copy D
In Milton, Blake has much of the action take place in his garden at Felpham. Ololon, the Emanation of Milton, descends to Blake's garden in Felpham seeking Milton. It is on the path in Blake's garden that Milton encounters the Starry Seven. Blake himself is struck in terror as he is given a vision of the Immortal Four. Blake returns to his mortal state in his garden beside his cottage with his wife anxiously looking after him.

Blake's two characters, Milton and Blake, have both experienced Judgement in the garden having been convinced of the Error in whose grip they had been enthralled.

Perhaps you have been reminded of the experience of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane.

 Milton, Plate 36 [40], (E 136)
 "Thus are the Messengers dispatchd till they reach the Earth again
In the East Gate of Golgonooza, & the Twenty-eighth bright
Lark. met the Female Ololon descending into my Garden            
Thus it appears to Mortal eyes & those of the Ulro Heavens
But not thus to Immortals, the Lark is a mighty, Angel.
For Ololon step'd into the Polypus within the Mundane Shell
They could not step into Vegetable Worlds without becoming
The enemies of Humanity except in a Female Form          
And as One Female, Ololon and all its mighty Hosts
Appear'd: a Virgin of twelve years nor time nor space was
To the perception of the Virgin Ololon but as the
Flash of lightning but more  quick the Virgin in my Garden
Before my Cottage stood for the Satanic Space is delusion        

For when Los joind with me he took me in his firy whirlwind
My Vegetated portion was hurried from Lambeths shades
He set me down in Felphams Vale & prepard a beautiful
Cottage for me that in three years I might write all these Visions
To display Natures cruel holiness: the deceits of Natural Religion[.]   
Walking in my Cottage Garden, sudden I beheld
The Virgin Ololon & address'd her as a Daughter of Beulah[:]

Virgin of Providence fear not to enter into my Cottage
What is thy message to thy friend: What am I now to do
Is it again to plunge into deeper affliction? behold me          
Ready to obey, but pity thou my Shadow of Delight
Enter my Cottage, comfort her, for she is sick with fatigue"
Plate 37 [41]
The Virgin answerd. Knowest thou of Milton who descended
Driven from Eternity; him I seek! terrified at my Act
In Great Eternity which thou  knowest!  I come him to seek"

Milton, Plate 39 [44], (E 140)
"Suddenly around Milton on my Path, the Starry Seven
Burnd terrible! my Path became a solid fire, as bright
As the clear Sun & Milton silent came down on my Path.           
And there went forth from the Starry limbs of the Seven: Forms
Human; with Trumpets innumerable, sounding articulate
As the Seven spake; and they stood in a mighty Column of Fire
Surrounding Felphams Vale, reaching to the Mundane Shell, Saying

Awake Albion awake! reclaim thy Reasoning Spectre. Subdue        

Him to the Divine Mercy, Cast him down into the Lake
Of Los, that ever burneth with fire, ever & ever Amen!
Let the Four Zoa's awake from Slumbers of Six Thousand Years

Then loud the Furnaces of Los were heard! & seen as Seven heavens
Stretching from south to north over the mountains of Albion"

Milton, Plate 42 [49], (E 143)
"And I beheld the Twenty-four Cities of Albion
Arise upon their Thrones to Judge the Nations of the Earth
And the Immortal Four in whom the Twenty-four appear Four-fold
Arose around Albions body: Jesus wept & walked forth
From Felphams Vale clothed in Clouds of blood, to enter into     
Albions Bosom, the bosom of death & the Four surrounded him
In the Column of Fire in Felphams Vale; then to their mouths the Four
Applied their Four Trumpets & them sounded to the Four winds

Terror struck in the Vale I stood at that immortal sound
My bones trembled. I fell outstretchd upon the path              
A moment, & my Soul returnd into its mortal state
To Resurrection & Judgment in the Vegetable Body
And my sweet Shadow of Delight stood trembling by my side

Immediately the Lark mounted with a loud trill from Felphams Vale
And the Wild Thyme from Wimbletons green & impurpled Hills   

And Los & Enitharmon rose over the Hills of Surrey"

Tuesday, January 13, 2015


Yale Center for British ArtBook of Urizen
Copy A, Plate 4

In 1794 and 1795 Blake was printing copies of the Book of Urizen with two images in which we see his Four Zoas whom he was later to develop into the Four Mighty Ones. The were present to Blake in embryonic form before they came to dominate his thinking and writing. The beginning of the Four Zoas gives further definition of the nature of man's psyche. The unity of the Four Mighty ones is associated with the unity in Eden of the Father, the Son and all in whom He lives. The Brotherhood of Eden exists because of the Son taking on the Human Form. Blake repeats in Greek the phrase "He dwelt among us."

Four Zoas, Night I, Page 3, (E 300) "The Song of the Aged Mother which shook the heavens with wrath Hearing the march of long resounding strong heroic Verse Marshalld in order for the day of Intellectual Battle Four Mighty Ones are in every Man; a Perfect Unity          John XVII c. 21 & 22 & 23 v  

[John 17 
[21] That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. 
[22] And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: 
[23] I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me.]
Cannot Exist. but from the Universal Brotherhood of Eden        John I c. 14. v  

[John 1 
[14] And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.]
The Universal Man. To Whom be Glory Evermore Amen      >Greek [kai eskanosen en [h]amen]<

John 1 
And the Word became flesh and pitched a tent with us, and we gazed upon his glory, 

Transliteration of Blake phrase:
"and dwelt among us"  

[What] are the Natures of those Living Creatures the Heavenly Father only 
[Knoweth] no Individual [Knoweth nor] Can know in all Eternity" 

Sunday, January 11, 2015


Wikimedia Commons
Illustrations to Poems of Thomas Gray
Reuniting the broken psyche is not a clean-cut, simple process. Urthona had been torn into pieces who could not agree on who could control the real man. Los and the Spectre had reached a point at which they could call each other brother but they were still more aware of the other's faults than his virtues. In part of this statement in the Four Zoas, it is not clear which brother is claiming to be the real self and which is accused of being the embodiment of the negating, destroying characteristics they each would choose to reject. Apparently Los, although unable to accept the Spectre's claims intellectually, began to experience an opening to reconciliation with his Spectre through seeing his own defenses reflected in those of his Spectre. The avenue to healing the psyche involved seeing the errors in oneself as well as the virtues in the enemy. 

John Middleton Murry in his biographical commentary William Blake, gives this explanation on Page 164:
"But the psychological meaning is, that by being reconciled to the Spectre within himself, by recognizing and receiving Urizen as a part of his own self, Los-Blake attains a new understanding, a new synthesis (as we might call it today). Not of course an intellectual synthesis; but a real and decisive act of new spiritual understanding, involving a revolution of the whole man, - an act of Self-annihilation which is  Imagination. Blake understands that Urizen is not a separate, demonic power, from whose dominion Blake alone is free; he is Blake himself, a necessary element of Blake's being. Hence Los's task 'to destroy the body he created'. He was to destroy the figure of Urizen as he had formerly created him; he has, by the same compulsion to destroy the figure of Los as he had formerly created him. For the Los of the past is essentially the enemy and opposite of the former Urizen. He belongs to the same order of spiritual blindness; as Blake puts it simply, in looking on Urizen with the eyes of separateness and hatred and contempt, Los 'became what he beheld.' Thus, while the Spectre describes himself as having been 'a ravening, hungering & thirsting cruel lust & murder' in 'old times' when Los subdued him (which is story told in The First Book of Urizen) Los reciprocates by discovering in his former self fury and cruelty and 'the soul of dark revenge'."

Four Zoas, Night VII, Page 95, (E 367) 
"Los embracd the Spectre first as a brother
Then as another Self; astonishd humanizing & in tears    
In Self abasement Giving up his Domineering lust 
Thou never canst embrace sweet Enitharmon terrible Demon. Till
Thou art united with thy Spectre Consummating by pains & labours
That mortal body & by Self annihilation back returning 
To Life Eternal be assurd I am thy real Self  
Tho thus divided from thee & the Slave of Every passion
Of thy fierce Soul Unbar the Gates of Memory look upon me 
Not as another but as thy real Self I am thy Spectre
Thou didst subdue me in old times by thy Immortal Strength 
When I was a ravning hungring & thirsting cruel lust & murder   
Tho horrible & Ghastly to thine Eyes tho buried beneath
The ruins of the Universe. hear what inspird I speak & be silent

If we unite in one[,] another better world will be    
Opend within your heart & loins & wondrous brain
Threefold as it was in Eternity & this the fourth Universe 
Will be Renewd by the three & consummated in Mental fires
But if thou dost refuse Another body will be prepared
PAGE 86 
For me & thou annihilate evaporate & be no more
For thou art but a form & organ of life & of thyself
Art nothing being Created Continually by Mercy & Love divine

Los furious answerd. Spectre horrible thy words astound my Ear
With irresistible conviction I feel I am not one of those 
Who when convincd can still persist. tho furious.controllable
By Reasons power. 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"

Saturday, January 10, 2015


British Museum
Plate 6, Copy A
The battle between Los and his Spectre, which is played out in Blake's poetry, is displayed in Plate 10 of Jerusalem. Los is the form of Urthona who is active in our world, but his work is resisted by another aspect of Urthona, the Spectre. Although Urthona is one of the Four Zoas or divisions of the complete man, he is divided again into his Humanity (Los), his Emanation (Enitharmon), his Spectre, and a less well-defined Shadow. An inner struggle on which Blake focuses great attention is the contention between Los as Imagination and the Spectre as Reason. As a part of Urthona, the Spectre is analogous to Urizen as one of the divisions of the total man. The Spectre represents the doubting, explaining, despairing mind.
This dichotomy is a central theme in Blake's thought because the Imagination must be fully developed and reach maximum expression for man to enter the fullness of his Human Form.

Notice in this passage that the Spectre intends to restrict Los in his relating to Enitharmon. Further the Spectre would deny the worth of Los's children. For Blake man's emanation and his children are the outer forms which result from the internal activity of man's spirit. Los will do everything he can to prevent the Spectre from achieving his goal but his options are limited. Los engages the Spectre in the work he has undertaken himself -  building Golgonooza. The Spectre will serve the negative function of tearing down and clearing away the discarded material which needs to be left behind as the Imagination constantly expands.
The Spectre defines himself in negative terms - grief, dispair, distress, dead. His concept of God is negative also - requiring sacrifice, without pity or compassion.
Jerusalem, Plate 10, (E 153)
"Los cries, Obey my voice & never deviate from my will
And I will be merciful to thee: be thou invisible to all          
To whom I make thee invisible, but chief to my own Children
O Spectre of Urthona: Reason not against their dear approach
Nor them obstruct with thy temptations of doubt & despair
O Shame O strong & mighty Shame I break thy brazen fetters
If thou refuse, thy present torments will seem southern breezes  
To what thou shalt endure if thou obey not my great will.

The Spectre answer'd. Art thou not ashamd of those thy Sins
That thou callest thy Children? lo the Law of God commands
That they be offered upon his Altar: O cruelty & torment
For thine are also mine! I have kept silent hitherto,            
Concerning my chief delight: but thou hast broken silence
Now I will speak my mind! Where is my lovely Enitharmon
O thou my enemy, where is my Great Sin?  She is also thine
I said: Now is my grief at worst: incapable of being
Surpassed: but every moment it accumulates more & more           
It continues accumulating to eternity! the joys of God advance
For he is Righteous: he is not a Being of Pity & Compassion
He cannot feel Distress: he feeds on Sacrifice & Offering:
Delighting in cries & tears & clothed in Holiness & solitude
But my griefs advance also, for ever & ever without end          
O that I could cease to be! Despair! I am Despair
Created to be the great example of horror & agony: also my
Prayer is vain I called for compassion: compassion mockd
Mercy & pity threw the grave stone over me & with lead
And iron, bound it over me for ever: Life lives on my
Consuming: & the Almighty hath made me his Contrary
To be all evil, all reversed & for ever dead: knowing
And seeing life, yet living not; how can I then behold
And not tremble; how can I be beheld & not abhorrd

So spoke the Spectre shuddring, & dark tears ran down his shadowy face
Which Los wiped off, but comfort none could give! or beam of hope
Yet ceasd he not from labouring at the roarings of his Forge
With iron & brass Building Golgonooza in great contendings
Till his Sons & Daughters came forth from the Furnaces
At the sublime Labours for Los. compelld the invisible Spectre   
Plate 11
To labours mighty, with vast strength, with his mighty chains,
In pulsations of time, & extensions of space, like Urns of Beulah
With great labour upon his anvils, & in his ladles the Ore
He lifted, pouring it into the clay ground prepar'd with art;
Striving with Systems to deliver Individuals from those Systems; 
That whenever any Spectre began to devour the Dead,
He might feel the pain as if a man gnawd his own tender nerves."