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

Saturday, February 28, 2015


Satiric Verses and Epigrams, (E 514)
"Rafael Sublime Majestic Graceful Wise
His Executive Power must I despise  
Rubens Low Vulgar Stupid Ignorant
His power of Execution I must grant"

Metropolitan Museum of Art
Angel of Revelation
Signature bottom right
In his early career Blake was fond of signing his work 'WB inv'. He recognized that the original conception of the work of art provided the essential foundation upon which the final product was built. Blake worked in various media including drawing, watercoloring, tempera, engraving, poetry and prose. Each depended on an 'Original Invention': an idea or mental image which existed only in his fertile imagination.

Blake's ability to invent was recognized by his contemporaries, but they sometimes denied his ability to execute which depended upon different skills. Blake would not concede that his ability to execute was any less than his ability to invent. 

Blake's training was as a reproductive engraver whose skill is faithfully reproducing images which have been conceived by others for printing in published form. Since his goal was to execute his own inventions, not just the inventions of others, he developed a broad set of skills encompassing disciplines which spanned visual and verbal communication. Engraving in the conventional practice became his vocation; his imaginative creations became his art which he considered to be the 'whole business of man.'
Blake's ability to execute was dependent on a two pronged method of learning: study of his predecessors and experimentation. He found in Michelangelo the finest ability to conceive and execute so he set him up as a model in art, as he did Milton in poetry. His experimentation led him into novel methods of printing, painting and writing. Learning through experiments was another facet of his inventiveness; gaining mastery of his new methods allowed him to execute his images in an individualistic manner. If his aim had been to follow current trends and appeal to popular tastes he would have applied different strategies.

Invention and Execution became for Blake two of his contraries; two opposed but equally true expressions of the unity of his art. His work was in consolidating the inner dimension - the invention, with the outer expression - the execution. If they were not perfectly balanced, the work of art would be spoiled by failing to communicate Eternal truth.

Public Address, Page 60, (E 576)
 "No Man Can
Improve An Original Invention. [Since Hogarths time we have
had very few Efforts of Originality] but   
Drawn with a firm hand at once [with all its Spots & Blemishes which are beauties & not faults] like Fuseli & Michael Angelo Shakespeare & Milton>"
 Public Address, PAGE 62, (E 576) 
     "I have heard many People say Give me the Ideas.  It is no
matter what Words you put them into & others say Give me the
Design it is no matter for the Execution.  These People know
Nothing Of Art.  Ideas cannot be Given
but in their minutely Appropriate Words nor Can a Design be made
without its minutely Appropriate Execution ... He who copies does
not Execute he only Imitates what is already Executed Execution
is only the result of Invention" 
Public Address, Page 24, (E 582)
     "I know my Execution is not like Any Body Else I do not
intend it should be so 
...I defy any Man to Cut
Cleaner Strokes than I do or rougher when I please & assert that
he who thinks he can Engrave or Paint either without being a
Master of Drawing is a Fool  Painting is Drawing
on Canvas & Engraving is Drawing on Copper & nothing Else
[Drawing is Execution & nothing Else] & he who Draws best must be
the best Artist [&] to this I subscribe" 
 Annotations to Reynolds, P iii, (E 637)
     "Invention depends Altogether upon Execution or
Organization. as that is right or wrong so is the Invention
perfect or imperfect.  Whoever is set to Undermine the Execution
of Art is set to Destroy Art   Michael Angelos Art Depends on
Michael Angelos Execution Altogether" 
 Annotations to Reynolds, p 126, (E 654) 
    "Can any Man be such a fool as to believe that Rafael &
Michael Angelo were Incapable of the meer Language of Art & That
Such Idiots as Rubens. Correggio & Titian Knew how to Execute
what they could not Think or Invent" 
 Descriptive Catalogue, (E 528)
 "If Italy is enriched and
made great by RAPHAEL, if MICHAEL ANGELO is its supreme glory, if
Art is the glory of a Nation, if Genius and Inspiration are the
great Origin and Bond of Society, the distinction my Works have
obtained from those who best understand such things, calls for my
Exhibition as the greatest of Duties to my Country." 
Descriptive Catalogue, (E 547)
"...when the Artist took his pencil, to execute his
ideas, his power of imagination weakened so much, and darkened,
that memory of nature and of Pictures of the various
Schools possessed his mind, instead of appropriate execution,
resulting from the inventions; like walking in another man's
style, or speaking or looking in another man's style and manner,
unappropriate and repugnant to your own individual character;
tormenting the true Artist, till he leaves the Florentine, and
adopts the Venetian practice, or does as Mr. B. has done, has the
courage to suffer poverty and disgrace, till he ultimately

Thursday, February 26, 2015


We saw in a previous post that Blake thought Natural Religion an "Impossible absurdity." Something which calls itself religion and limits perception to sensing and reasoning, has misunderstood the meaning of the concept of religion. Without God religion is absurd. In one of Blake's earliest engraved poems he presents his argument that man sees only himself, not God, if he relies of his senses and his reasoning to provide him with a religion.
There is no Natural Religion, (E 2) 
The Author & Printer W Blake
The Argument
Man has no notion of moral
fitness but from Education.
Naturally he is only a nat-
ural organ subject to Sense.
 Man cannot naturally Per-
cieve, but through his natural
or bodily organs
As a natural man all data from the exterior world comes through the senses.

Man by his reason-
ing power. can only 
compare & judge of 
what he has already 
Man's reason can only process what it has received.

From a perception of 
only 3 senses or 3 ele-
ments none could de-
duce a fourth or fifth
Each sense is limited to its own ability to receive data.

None could have other 
than natural or organic 
thoughts if he had none 
but organic perceptions
Sense perceptions provide only material which can be processed mechanically.

Mans desires are 
limited by his percept
ions. none can de
-sire what he has not 
Without the ability to perceive extra-sensory data man is cut off from desire for more.

The desires & percepti-
ons of man untaught by
any thing but organs of
sense, must be limited 
to objects of sense.
Without desire or additional means of perceptions, man is trapped in a state of 'single vision.'

Mans percepti-
ons are not bound-
ed by organs of
perception. he per-
cieves more than
sense (tho' ever 
so acute) can 
Man's senses provide limited information. However man has the ability to perceive more than the narrow range which his eyes, ears, nose, mouth and skin can sense.

Reason or the ra-
tio of all we have
already known. is
not the same that 
it shall be when
we know more. 
If we were to depend on reason alone we would not be able to go beyond the limit that reason is able to discern.

[III lacking]
The bounded is 
loathed by its pos-
sessor.  The same
dull round even
of a univer[s]e would
soon become a
mill with complica-
ted wheels.
Input from outside of a limited system prevents it from becoming a continual repetition of the same events.

If the many be-
come the same as
the few, when pos-
sess'd, More! More!
is the cry of a mista
-ken soul, less than
All cannot satisfy 
Continually treading the same ground cannot satisfy man no matter how often it is repeated.

If any could de-
sire what he is in-
capable of pos-
sessing, despair must
be his eternal 
The desire for more than man can access through his senses and reasoning power would lead to a dead end if he were incapable of perceiving more.

The desire of 
Man being Infi-
nite the possession 
is Infinite & him-
self Infinite
If man is capable of desiring more than his limited faculties provide, he opens himself to achieving a perception of the Infinite through perceiving the Infinite within himself.

If it were not for the
Poetic or Prophetic
character. the Philo-
sophic & Experimen-
tal would soon be
at the ratio of all
things & stand still, 
unable to do other 
than repeat the same 
dull round over a-
There is a level of perception which is beyond that which is reached by sensing and reasoning. Poetry and Prophecy are expressions which allow man to reach outside of the static repetition of natural patterns.

He who sees the In-
finite in all things
sees God.  He who 
sees the Ratio only
sees himself only.
Unless an individual develops the ability to go beyond depending on his own sense perception and reasoning power, he is trapped within himself. Seeing more than the surface - into the depths - will open the way to seeing the Infinite in all things and God.

Wikimedia Commons There is No Natural Religion
Plate 6
The presence of God within man provides him with the ability to recognize that Presence. Through that recognition he develops the ability to see as God sees - the Infinite in all things. We are in the process of becoming with God. The whole of creation is an expression of God. As creation recognizes God, God becomes as we are and we as he is. God has chosen to be articulated through his creation. As creation strives to respond to the God which is embodied in it, Man and God become One


John 17
[20] Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word;
[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.

Romans 12
[2] And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.

Colossians 1
[15] He is the image of the invisible God, the first-born of all creation;
[16] for in him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or authorities -- all things were created through him and for him.
[17] He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.
[18] He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the first-born from the dead, that in everything he might be pre-eminent.
[19] For in him all the fulness of God was pleased to dwell,
[20] and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. 


Tuesday, February 24, 2015


Without a perception of the infinite Deism became associated with Natural Religion through which the workings of nature replace the workings of God. Man became dependent on nature to provide an object of worship and a system of ethics. Newtonian science became the primary tool to understand reality. The outer material world absorbed his attention and commanded loyalty. In as much as man finds all of his enjoyment in material pleasures and his ethics are directed by the desire for accumulating material goods, he is an adherent of Natural Religion.

These activities which dominate our contemporary culture may be manifestations of our devotion to Natural Religion:
preoccupation with appearance of one's body,
desire to exploit the resources of nature,
fear of dying,
willingness to exploit the weak for the benefit of the strong.

Yale Center for British Art  
Copy E, Plate 24
On Plate 24 of Jerusalem we see Albion, the Universal Man, being tortured by Rahab, Vala and Tirzah, three aspects of Natural Religion. All three are manifestations in the fallen world of Eternal realities which have been debased. Rahab as Moral Virture imputes sin or righteousness to individuals rather than to the states through they pass. Vala spreads her veil to prevent man from perceiving the Eternal through the world in which he lives. Tirzah provides man with a physical body to lure him from consciousness of his spiritual body.

Blake saw the danger of replacing revealed religion with the worship of the material world, and spoke out with great force against Natural Religion.

Four Zoas, Night VIII, Page 115, (E 386)
"The Synagogue of Satan therefore uniting against Mystery
Satan divided against Satan resolvd in open Sanhedrim
To burn Mystery with fire & form another from her ashes 
For God put it into their heart to fulfill all his will

The Ashes of Mystery began to animate they calld it Deism
And Natural Religion as of old so now anew began
Babylon again in Infancy Calld Natural Religion"

Jerusalem, Plate 90, (E 250)
"So Los spoke. And the Giants of Albion terrified & ashamed  
With Los's thunderous Words, began to build trembling rocking Stones
For his Words roll in thunders & lightnings among the Temples   
Terrified rocking to & fro upon the earth, & sometimes
Resting in a Circle in Maiden or in Strathness or Dura.
Plotting to devour Albion & Los the friend of Albion
Denying in private: mocking God & Eternal Life: & in Public
Collusion, calling themselves Deists, Worshipping the Maternal  
Humanity; calling it Nature, and Natural Religion 
But still the thunder of Los peals loud & thus the thunder's cry 

These beautiful Witchcrafts of Albion, are gratifyd by Cruelty" 
Milton, Plate 40 [46], (E 141)
"Before Ololon Milton stood & percievd the Eternal Form
Of that mild Vision; wondrous were their acts by me unknown
Except remotely; and I heard Ololon say to Milton

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

No sooner she had spoke but Rahab Babylon appeard
Eastward upon the Paved work across Europe & Asia
Glorious as the midday Sun in Satans bosom glowing:
A Female hidden in a Male, Religion hidden in War  

Namd Moral Virtue; cruel two-fold Monster shining bright
A Dragon red & hidden Harlot which John in Patmos saw
But turning toward Ololon in terrible majesty Milton
Replied. Obey thou the Words of the Inspired Man
All that can be annihilated must be annihilated   

That the Children of Jerusalem may be saved from slavery"

If we are inclined to think that it is science that upholds the notion that the world is matter only, we should note what Max Planck had to say:
"As a man who has devoted his whole life to the most clear headed science, to the study of matter, I can tell you as a result of my research about atoms this much: There is no matter as such. All matter originates and exists only by virtue of a force which brings the particle of an atom to vibration and holds this most minute solar system of the atom together. We must assume behind this force the existence of a conscious and intelligent Mind. This Mind is the matrix of all matter."
Max Planck, Das Wesen der Materie, 1944 


Sunday, February 22, 2015


In Blake's day Deism was on the rise. Although Deism is not an organized religion, its influence was replacing religion especially among the educated populace. Since its tenents were diametrically opposed to the religion of Jesus to which Blake ascribed, he spoke out against it. The third chapter of Jerusalem is addressed to the Deists whose error Blake wanted to expose and correct.
Yale Center for British Art
 Jerusalem, Plate 75
"And Rahab Babylon the Great hath destroyed Jerusalem"

The popular attraction of Deism was that it appealed to reason and postulated a God who did not interfere in the operation of the world. The transitions that the culture was undergoing from an agrarian to an industrialized economy, and from an authoritarian to an egalitarian political structure, were supported by the philosophies promulgated by Deists. Although there was not a uniform belief system among Deists, they undermined the belief among the masses that God could be turned to for guidance and assistance.

Blake saw that man was in danger of losing the spiritual foundations on which a society of brotherhood, community and faith could be sustained. Blake's desire was that man should awake to the possibilities within himself to reflect the benevolence, mercy, forgiveness and imagination of God. Man to Blake was Human because God was in Man and Man was in God. To him, a God who did not involve himself with man was no God at all; a society without a connection to the Divine would crumble into chaos.

Jerusalem, Plate 52, (E 200)                                                                
"                                                     |The Spiritual States of
                                                      |the Soul are all Eternal  
Rahab is an   |   To the Deists.      |Distinguish between the 
Eternal State |                               |Man, & his present State  
  He never can be a Friend to the Human Race who is the Preacher
of Natural Morality or Natural Religion. he is a flatterer who
means to betray, to perpetuate Tyrant Pride & the Laws of that
Babylon which he foresees shall shortly be destroyed, with the
Spiritual and not the Natural Sword: He is in the State named
Rahab: which State must be put off before he can be the Friend of
  You O Deists profess yourselves the Enemies of Christianity:
and you are so: you are also the Enemies of the Human Race & of
Universal Nature.  Man is born a Spectre or Satan & is altogether
an Evil, & requires a New Selfhood continually & must continually
be changed into his direct Contrary.  But your Greek Philosophy
(which is a remnant of Druidism) teaches that Man is Righteous in
his Vegetated Spectre: an Opinion of fatal & accursed consequence
to Man, as the Ancients saw plainly by Revelation to the intire
abrogation of                  
Experimental Theory. and many believed what they saw, and
Prophecied of Jesus.
  Man must & will have Some Religion; if he has not the Religion
of Jesus, he will have the Religion of Satan, & will erect the
Synagogue of Satan. calling the Prince of this World, God; and
destroying all who do not worship Satan under the Name of God. 
Will any one say: Where are those who worship Satan under the
Name of God! Where are they? Listen! Every Religion that Preaches
Vengeance for Sins the Religion of the Enemy & Avenger; and not
the Forgiver of Sin, and their God is Satan, Named by the Divine
Name   Your Religion O Deists: Deism, is the Worship of the God
of this World by the means of what you call Natural Religion and
Natural Philosophy, and of Natural Morality or
Self-Righteousness, the Selfish Virtues of the Natural Heart. 
This was the Religion of the Pharisees who murderd Jesus.  Deism
is the same & ends in the same.
  Voltaire Rousseau Gibbon Hume. charge the Spiritually Religious
with Hypocrisy! but how a Monk or a Methodist either, can be a
Hypocrite: I cannot concieve.  We are Men of like passions with
others & pretend not to be holier than others: therefore, when a
Religious Man falls into Sin, he ought not to be calld a
Hypocrite: this title is more properly to be given to a Player
who falls into Sin; whose profession is Virtue & Morality & the
making Men Self-Righteous.  Foote in calling Whitefield,
Hypocrite: was himself one: for Whitefield pretended not to be
holier than others: but confessed his Sins before all the World;
Voltaire! Rousseau! You cannot escape my charge that you are
Pharisees & Hypocrites, for you are constantly talking of the
Virtues of the Human Heart, and particularly of your own, that
you may accuse others & especially the Religious, whose errors,
you by this display of pretended Virtue, chiefly design to
expose.  Rousseau thought Men Good by Nature; he found them Evil
& found no friend.  Friendship cannot exist without Forgiveness
of Sins continually.  The Book written by Rousseau calld his
Confessions is an apology & cloke for his sin & not a confession.
  But you also charge the poor Monks & Religious with being the
causes of War: while you acquit & flatter the Alexanders &
Caesars, the Lewis's & Fredericks: who alone are its causes & its
actors.  But the Religion of Jesus, Forgiveness of Sin, can never
be the cause of a War nor of a single Martyrdom.
  Those who Martyr others or who cause War are Deists, but never
can be Forgivers of Sin.  The Glory of Christianity is, To
Conquer by Forgiveness.  All the Destruction therefore, in
Christian Europe has arisen from Deism, which is Natural

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

Teach me O Holy Spirit the Testimony of Jesus! let me
Comprehend wonderous things out of the Divine Law                
I behold Babylon in the opening Street of London, I behold
Jerusalem in ruins wandering about from house to house
This I behold the shudderings of death attend my steps
I see a Feminine Form arise from the Four terrible Zoas
Beautiful but terrible struggling to take a form of beauty
Rooted in Shechem: this is Dinah, the youthful form of Erin
The Wound I see in South Molton Street & Stratford place  
Whence Joseph & Benjamin rolld apart away from the Nations
In vain they rolld apart; they are fixd into the Land of Cabul
Plate 75
And Rahab Babylon the Great hath destroyed Jerusalem"


Friday, February 20, 2015


British Museum
Illustrations to Young's Night Thoughts
The influence of William Blake on June Singer is apparent in the title of her book, Seeing Through the Visible World. Seeing through the eye to Blake was extra-sensory. It was using Spiritual Sensation to perceive beyond the physical world to the Eternal where ordinary senses are inadequate. Singer explores, not seeing through the eye, but seeing through the world which our senses perceive, to the the invisible world from which we can draw insight and wisdom for our journey through life. The invisible world which Singer most wanted to explore was the unconscious world within the psyche.

At the conclusion of her book she acknowledges that the two worlds are indivisible, parts of one organic whole which is all inclusive and ever present:

"Finally we will know that the visible world and the invisible world are only concepts created by the intellect, the functions of which are to analyze, to discriminate, to reason, to judge.

If we could even for a moment throw away our concepts and see with the inner eye through all the veils of conditioning, we would know that there is only one world, one indissoluble world. We would see that all the creatures on earth are part of a single system. There is no preferred species; there is no preferred race. In the eye of Wisdom we are all equals, participants in one cosmic system. The world we experience as visible was never separate from the whole; it only seemed so. The separation was an illusion. There is no other place from which we came, except in the illusions cherished by the mind. There is no other place to which we must someday go. It is all here, all now, in its entirety. The future dose not exist, the past is already gone. What we do we must do in this moment. There is no other or preferred moment. When we can accept what is before our eyes, accept it with our whole heart, we no longer have anything to fear, anything to long for. All we need to set the world aright is here. We have only to see it." (Page 221)

Jerusalem, Plate 13, (E 157)
"(But whatever is visible to the Generated Man,
Is a Creation of mercy & love, from the Satanic Void.)           
The land of darkness flamed but no light, & no repose:
The land of snows of trembling, & of iron hail incessant:
The land of earthquakes: and the land of woven labyrinths:
The land of snares & traps & wheels & pit-falls & dire mills:
The Voids, the Solids, & the land of clouds & regions of waters:
With their inhabitants: in the Twenty-seven Heavens beneath Beulah:
Self-righteousnesses conglomerating against the Divine Vision:
A Concave Earth wondrous, Chasmal, Abyssal, Incoherent!
Forming the Mundane Shell: above; beneath: on all sides surrounding
Golgonooza: Los walks round the walls night and day."
Jerusalem, Plate 72, (E 227) 
"The Nations wait for Jerusalem. they look up for the Bride

France Spain Italy Germany Poland Russia Sweden Turkey
Arabia Palestine Persia Hindostan China Tartary Siberia
Egypt Lybia Ethiopia Guinea Caffraria Negroland Morocco          
Congo Zaara Canada Greenland Carolina Mexico
Peru Patagonia Amazonia Brazil. Thirty-two Nations
And under these Thirty-two Classes of Islands in the Ocean
All the Nations Peoples & Tongues throughout all the Earth

And the Four Gates of Los surround the Universe Within and       
Without; & whatever is visible in the Vegetable Earth, the same
Is visible in the Mundane Shell; reversd in mountain & vale
And a Son of Eden was set over each Daughter of Beulah to guard
In Albions Tomb the wondrous Creation: & the Four-fold Gate
Towards Beulah is to the South[.] Fenelon, Guion, Teresa,    
Whitefield & Hervey, guard that Gate; with all the gentle Souls
Who guide the great Wine-press of Love; Four precious stones that Gate:"
Four Zoas, Night II, Page 33, (E 321)
"For many a window ornamented with sweet ornaments                
Lookd out into the World of Tharmas, where in ceaseless torrents 
His billows roll where monsters wander in the foamy paths

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

Thus were the stars of heaven created like a golden chain
To bind the Body of Man to heaven from failing into the Abyss 
Each took his station, & his course began with sorrow & care" 
Annotations to Lavater, (E 592)
Lavater wrote: "Whatever is visible is the vessel or veil of the
invisible past, present, future--as man penetrates to this more,
or perceives it less, he raises or depresses his dignity of
Blake commented: "A vision of the Eternal Now-"
Blake's Autograph in Album of William Upcott,(E 698)
[Blake's quotation in his autograph]
  "For what delights the Sense is False & Weak 
     Beyond the Visible World she soars to Seek 
     Ideal Form, The Universal Mold
  Michael Angelo.  Sonnet as Translated by Mr Wordsworth"

Deuteronomy 29
[4] but to this day the LORD has not given you a mind to understand, or eyes to see, or ears to hear.
[5] I have led you forty years in the wilderness; your clothes have not worn out upon you, and your sandals have not worn off your feet;
[6] you have not eaten bread, and you have not drunk wine or strong drink; that you may know that I am the LORD your God.

Ezekiel 12
[1] The word of the LORD also came unto me, saying,
[2] Son of man, thou dwellest in the midst of a rebellious house, which have eyes to see, and see not; they have ears to hear, and hear not: for they are a rebellious house.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015


The first illustration Blake made for Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress was a print which he produced before 1822, perhaps much earlier. He created a white line engraving of The Man Sweeping the Interpreter's Parlor which illustrated the second lesson of the Interpreter to Christian in Pilgrim's Progress. The series of 28 watercolor illustrations to Pilgrim's Progress was painted in approximately 1824. 
Yale Center for British Art
Man Sweeping Interpreter's Parlour
Sin did not play the same role in Blake's theology as it did in Bunyan's. Because Blake believed that everything that lives is holy, his effort was directed toward releasing man's energies, not toward removing his sinfulness. Blake's picture The Man Sweeping the Interpreter's Parlor may be seen allegorically as Bunyan wrote his account: representing the sinful, corrupt nature of man which is brought under control by the Law & the Gospel. However Blake's image lends itself to further insight apropos to his own attitude to sin. Blake saw the child as born innocent, not as burdened by original sin which Bunyan saw to be the heritage of humanity from Adam and Eve. Sin to Blake was simply failure to exercise one's ability to perceive the Eternal. It was not man's sinfulness which had to be eradicated but his blindness to the bliss which he was meant to experience. The nearest Blake can to imputing sin was calling man to task for hindering - preventing others from developing their own spiritual potential.

To Blake man needed to cleanse himself of the idea that the world can be separated into 'good and evil.' There are functions of the psyche which perform different tasks but all are valuable and necessary to completeness. By picturing the Law as the Devil and the Gospel as the Angel, Blake impels us to think of how the Law functions in performing necessary tasks which complete the tasks performed by the Gospel. As Paul said in Galatians 3, 'The law is the pedagogue'.  

Although there is no mention of either in Bunyan's account, Blake pictures an angel and a devil in his engraving of The Man Sweeping the Interpreter's Parlor. Blake may well have been picturing the energies of the diabolic figure as removing, not sin, but the chains that bound man to the conventions of a tyrannical society and a repressive religion. In which case the angelic damsel who is descending the stair, represents reason, 'the bound and outward circumference of Energy.' Blake has encouraged us to see contraries united, not opposed but functioning together. Wrath and Pity, Woe and Joy, Time and Eternity, Evil and Good, Body and Soul, Energy and Reason: not combating but cooperating.

Marriage of Heaven & Hell, Plate 4, (E 35)
                 "The voice of the Devil
  All Bibles or sacred codes. have been the causes of the
following Errors.
  1. That Man has two real existing principles Viz: a Body & a
  2. That Energy. calld Evil. is alone from the Body. & that
Reason. calld Good. is alone from the Soul.
  3. That God will torment Man in Eternity for following his
  But the following Contraries to these are True
  1 Man has no Body distinct from his Soul for that calld Body is
a portion of Soul discernd by the five Senses. the chief inlets
of Soul in this age
  2. Energy is the only life and is from the Body and Reason is
the bound or outward circumference of Energy.
  3 Energy is Eternal Delight" 

By writing an allegory Bunyan attempted to pin down his metaphors to single meanings. Blake's mind could not allow a one-to-one correspondence between a word and the thoughts which could be attached to it. Blake saw such a correspondence as Urizenic and wrote extensively on the pitfalls of following the reasoning mind into the labyrinths of delusion.

Vision of The Last Judgment, (E 554)
                     "For the Year 1810
        Additions to Blakes Catalogue of Pictures 

     The Last Judgment when all those are Cast away who trouble
Religion with Questions concerning Good & Evil or Eating of the
Tree of those Knowledges or Reasonings which hinder the Vision of
God turning all into a Consuming fire  Imaginative Art &
Science & all Intellectual Gifts all the Gifts of the Holy Ghost
are [despisd] lookd upon as of no use & only Contention
remains to Man then the Last Judgment begins & its Vision is seen
by the [Imaginative Eye] of Every one according to the
situation he holds
      The Last Judgment is not Fable or Allegory
but   Vision Fable or Allegory are a totally distinct & inferior
kind of Poetry.  Vision or Imagination is a Representation of
what Eternally Exists.  Really & Unchangeably.  Fable or Allegory
is Formd by the Daughters of Memory.  Imagination is Surrounded
by the daughters of Inspiration who in the aggregate are calld

Galatians 3 
 [24] Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.
[25] But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster.
[26] For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.

Romans 12
[14] Bless them which persecute you: bless, and curse not.
[15] Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep.
[16] Be of the same mind one toward another. Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate. Be not wise in your own conceits.
[17] Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men.
[18] If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.
[19] Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.
[20] Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head.
[21] Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.

Gerda Norvig's commentary on The Interpreter's Parlor is found on pages 48-61 of Dark Figures in the Desired Country.

Pilgrim's Progress
John Bunyan

CHR. 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.
{72} INTER. Then said the Interpreter, Come in; I will show that which will be profitable to thee. So he commanded his man to light the candle, and bid Christian follow him: so he had him into a private room, and bid his man open a door; the which when he had done, Christian saw the picture of a very grave person hang up against the wall; and this was the fashion of it. It had eyes lifted up to heaven, the best of books in his hand, the law of truth was written upon his lips, the world was behind his back. It stood as if it pleaded with men, and a crown of gold did hang over his head.
CHR. Then said Christian, What meaneth this?
{73} INTER. The man whose picture this is, is one of a thousand; he can beget children [1 Cor. 4:15], travail in birth with children [Gal. 4:19], and nurse them himself when they are born. And whereas thou seest him with his eyes lift up to heaven, the best of books in his hand, and the law of truth writ on his lips, it is to show thee that his work is to know and unfold dark things to sinners; even as also thou seest him stand as if he pleaded with men: and whereas thou seest the world as cast behind him, and that a crown hangs over his head, that is to show thee that slighting and despising the things that are present, for the love that he hath to his Master's service, he is sure in the world that comes next to have glory for his reward. Now, said the Interpreter, I have showed thee this picture first, because the man whose picture this is, is the only man whom the Lord of the place whither thou art going, hath authorised to be thy guide in all difficult places thou mayest meet with in the way; wherefore, take good heed to what I have shewed thee, and bear well in thy mind what thou hast seen, lest in thy journey thou meet with some that pretend to lead thee right, but their way goes down to death.
{74} Then he took him by the hand, and led him into a very large parlour that was full of dust, because never swept; the which after he had reviewed a little while, the Interpreter called for a man to sweep. Now, when he began to sweep, the dust began so abundantly to fly about, that Christian had almost therewith been choked. Then said the Interpreter to a damsel that stood by, Bring hither the water, and sprinkle the room; the which, when she had done, it was swept and cleansed with pleasure.
{75} CHR. Then said Christian, What means this?
INTER. The Interpreter answered, This parlour is the heart of a man that was never sanctified by the sweet grace of the gospel; the dust is his original sin and inward corruptions, that have defiled the whole man. He that began to sweep at first, is the Law; but she that brought water, and did sprinkle it, is the Gospel. Now, whereas thou sawest, that so soon as the first began to sweep, the dust did so fly about that the room by him could not be cleansed, but that thou wast almost choked therewith; this is to shew thee, that the law, instead of cleansing the heart (by its working) from sin, doth revive, put strength into, and increase it in the soul, even as it doth discover and forbid it, for it doth not give power to subdue. [Rom. 7:6; 1 Cor. 15:56; Rom. 5:20]
{76} Again, as thou sawest the damsel sprinkle the room with water, upon which it was cleansed with pleasure; this is to show thee, that when the gospel comes in the sweet and precious influences thereof to the heart, then, I say, even as thou sawest the damsel lay the dust by sprinkling the floor with water, so is sin vanquished and subdued, and the soul made clean through the faith of it, and consequently fit for the King of glory to inhabit. [John 15:3; Eph. 5:26; Acts 15:9; Rom. 16:25,26; John 15:13]

Monday, February 16, 2015


Some time between 1660 and 1675 when John Bunyan was twice imprisoned for holding religious services out of the auspice of the established church, he began work on Pilgrim's Progress, his allegory of Christian's progress from 'this world to that which is to come'. He describes a stop on Christian's journey at the House of the Interpreter who was to instruct him on the right way to live the Christian life. In 1822, William Blake made an illustration for one of the lessons taught in the House of the Interpreter. Pilgrim was led into a parlor filled with dust; a man was called to sweep but he only stirred up the dust. A damsel was called to sprinkle the room with water with the result that the room was easily swept clean.

The Interpreter explained to Pilgrim: "This parlor is the heart of a man that was never sanctified by the sweet grace of the gospel: the dust is his original sin, and inward corruptions that have defiled the whole man. He that began to sweep at first, is the Law; but she that brought water, and did sprinkle it, is the Gospel. Now, whereas thou sawest that so soon as the first began to sweep, the dust did so fly about that the room by him could not be cleansed, but that thou wast almost choked therewith; this is to show thee, that the Law, instead of cleansing the heart (by its working) from sin, doth revive, put strength into, and increase it in the soul, even as it doth discover and forbid it, but doth not give power to subdue."

Yale Center for British Art
Man Sweeping Interpreter's Parlour
Blake's understanding of the roles of the law and the gospel is set forth in these passages in Jerusalem. In this first section Blake is saying that the forgiveness of God does not require 'Moral Virtue' but that we mutually sacrifice for, and continually forgive one another.

Jerusalem, Plate 61, (E 212)
"Saying, Doth Jehovah Forgive a Debt only on condition that it shall
Be Payed? Doth he Forgive Pollution only on conditions of Purity
That Debt is not Forgiven! That Pollution is not Forgiven
Such is the Forgiveness of the Gods, the Moral Virtues of the
Heathen, whose tender Mercies are Cruelty. But Jehovahs Salvation
Is without Money & without Price, in the Continual Forgiveness of Sins
In the Perpetual Mutual Sacrifice in Great Eternity! for behold!
There is none that liveth & Sinneth not! And this is the Covenant
Of Jehovah: If you Forgive one-another, so shall Jehovah Forgive You:
That He Himself may Dwell among You."

Here Blake tells us that 'accusation of sin & judgment' is the root of our quarrels and violence leading to Eternal Death.

Jerusalem, Plate 64, (E215)
"All Quarrels arise from Reasoning. the secret Murder, and
The violent Man-slaughter. these are the Spectres double Cave
The Sexual Death living on accusation of Sin & judgment
To freeze Love & Innocence into the gold & silver of the Merchant
Without Forgiveness of Sin Love is Itself Eternal Death"

Now Blake contrasts the message of Jesus: self-denial, forgiveness of sin, casting out devils, healing, pity, and setting prisoners free with that of the Pharisees (the chief proponents of the law): smiting with terror and punishment, crucifying, and proselyting to tyranny and wrath.

Jerusalem, Plate 77, (E 232)
"But Jesus is the bright Preacher of Life
Creating Nature from this fiery Law,
By self-denial & forgiveness of Sin.

Go therefore, cast out devils in Christs name
Heal thou the sick of spiritual disease
Pity the evil, for thou art not sent
To smite with terror & with punishments
Those that are sick, like the Pharisees
Crucifying &,encompassing sea & land
For proselytes to tyranny & wrath,
But to the Publicans & Harlots go!
Teach them True Happiness, but let no curse
Go forth out of thy mouth to blight their peace
For Hell is opend to heaven; thine eyes beheld
The dungeons burst & the Prisoners set free."

Blake and Bunyan were both teaching the message of Paul in the second chapter of Galatians: "
a man is justified not by performing what the Law commands but by faith in Jesus Christ. We ourselves are justified by our faith and not by our obedience to the Law, for we have recognized that no one can achieve justification by doing the 'works of the Law'" (Galatians 2:16, Phillips Translation). Bunyan had the Interpreter explain to Pilgrim; "when the gospel comes in the sweet and precious influences thereof to the is sin vanquished and subdued, and the soul made clean...."

Galatians 2 (KJV)
[16] Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.

The little circle of younger artists who gathered around Blake in his later years referred to his humble home as the House of the Interpreter.

Saturday, February 14, 2015


"My dark and cloudy words, they do but hold
The truth, as cabinets enclose the gold." Bunyan

The process of learning invariably involves going from the known into the unknown. We begin with what we are capable of doing and proceed to what is beyond our present capabilities. In our lives we have crossed this threshold many times from the very first times when we learned to suck air into our lungs and milk from our mothers' breast. Nevertheless learning always involves overcoming inertia and taking risk. Reluctance to relinquish our present positions for the uncertain prospect of finding security in that hazy possibilities which may replace them is perceived as threat.

Learning to see as Blake sees may seem a particularly threatening activity because we have invested so much in learning to think rationally - trusting only evidence and proof and linear thought patterns. Blake has devised an approach to design and writing which breaks down the patterns or rationality to facilitate imaginative activity.
In one sense Norvig's book (Dark Figures in the Desired Country: Blake's Illustrations to the Pilgrim's Progress) is an account of her learning Visionary Hermeneutics. She says:
"Normally hermeneutics refers to a set of predetermined interpretive strategies that a reader brings to and imposes on a work for one or more ulterior purposes..." (Page 4) However Blake's strategy was to apply the imagination in such a way that the internal and external context of the work interact to stimulate the activity of the imagination of the reader. But the imagination is not just put to use for interpretation, it gains self awareness and is strengthened through the process. "I have been speaking of visionary hermeneutics as a process that depends less on rules of interpretation than on an imaginative perspective, meaning both a perspective we learn to take toward the image and a perspective the imagination gradually gains on itself." (Page 6)                 
Illustrations to Pilgrim's Progress  
Plate 28
At the Gates of Heaven
Norvig attempts to enlighten her audience on Blake's practice of Visionary Hermeneutics which she learned from her teacher William Blake by studying his illustrations to Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress. The heart of her book is her commentary on each of Blake's 28 illustrations. But the illustrations are not to be viewed individually but as a whole, commenting on one another and complementing others as do Blake's Illustration to the Book of Job. She compares, in detail, the process that they illustrate to the process delineated in Gates of Paradise. In the illustrations to Pilgrim's Progress as in his work from beginning to end, Blake sought to open to his readers the avenue to the visionary world he experienced.

Descriptive Catalogue, Penance of Jane Shore, (E 550)
"This Drawing was done above Thirty Years ago, and proves
to the Author, and he thinks will prove to any discerning eye,
that the productions of our youth and of our maturer age
are equal in all essential points."

Norvig observes: "Even in the Songs [of Innocence & of Experience] itself a much more intricate pattern of mutual commentary, plotted by the progressive permutations of repeated verbal and pictorial motifs shown in changing contexts throughout the song cycle, emerges to enrich the work as a sort of primer of visionary literacy." (Page 5)

In Blake's iIllustration Pilgrim and Hopeful, together with the two Ministering Spirits, arise as a quaternity, signifying in Blake's system the wholeness that has been achieved by passing through the stages of spiritual development discernable to Blake in Pilgrim's journey.

Pilgrim's Progress
John Bunyan
"Hopeful also would endeavour to comfort him, saying, Brother, I see the gate, and men standing by to receive us: but Christian would answer, It is you, it is you they wait for; you have been Hopeful ever since I knew you. And so have you, said he to Christian. Ah! brother! said he, surely if I was right he would now arise to help me; but for my sins he hath brought me into the snare, and hath left me. Then said Hopeful, My brother, you have quite forgot the text, where it is said of the wicked, "There are no bands in their death, but their strength is firm. They are not in trouble as other men, neither are they plagued like other men. [Ps. 73:4,5] These troubles and distresses that you go through in these waters are no sign that God hath forsaken you; but are sent to try you, whether you will call to mind that which heretofore you have received of his goodness, and live upon him in your distresses.
{393} Then I saw in my dream, that Christian was as in a muse a while. To whom also Hopeful added this word, Be of good cheer, Jesus Christ maketh thee whole; and with that Christian brake out with a loud voice, Oh, I see him again! and he tells me, "When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee, and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee." [Isa. 43:2] Then they both took courage, and the enemy was after that as still as a stone, until they were gone over. Christian therefore presently found ground to stand upon, and so it followed that the rest of the river was but shallow. Thus they got over. Now, upon the bank of the river, on the other side, they saw the two shining men again, who there waited for them; wherefore, being come out of the river, they saluted them, saying, We are ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for those that shall be heirs of salvation. Thus they went along towards the gate." 

Thursday, February 12, 2015


Reposted from January 23, 2011

Blake uses the rainbow more as a visual image than a verbal image. Jerusalem appears here as a butterfly within the arc of a rainbow in the image at the bottom of Plate 14 of Jerusalem which shows Albion in his death-sleep. The heavenly bodies are portrayed in the plate as reminders of the universe measured in eons not minutes.

Jerusalem, Plate 13 & 14, (E 158)
"And all that has existed in the space of six thousand years:
Permanent, & not lost not lost nor vanishd, & every little act,
Word, work, & wish, that has existed, all remaining still
In those Churches ever consuming & ever building by the Spectres
Of all the inhabitants of Earth wailing to be Created:
Shadowy to those who dwell not in them, meer possibilities:
But to those who enter into them they seem the only substances
For every thing exists & not one sigh nor smile nor tear,
Plate 14
One hair nor particle of dust, not one can pass away.

He views the Cherub at the Tree of Life, also the Serpent,
Orc the first born coild in the south: the Dragon Urizen:
Tharmas the Vegetated Tongue even the Devouring Tongue:
A threefold region, a false brain: a false heart:
And false bowels: altogether composing the False Tongue,
Beneath Beulah: as a watry flame revolving every way
And as dark roots and stems: a Forest of affliction, growing
In seas of sorrow. Los also views the Four Females:
Ahania, and Enion, and Vala, and Enitharmon lovely.
And from them all the lovely beaming Daughters of Albion,
Ahania & Enion & Vala, are three evanescent shades:
Enitharmon is a vegetated mortal Wife of Los:
His Emanation, yet his Wife till the sleep of death is past.

Such are the Buildings of Los! & such are the Woofs of

The permanence and the multiplicity of the created world are described in the text. Blake has used words and images to remind us that there is an eternal world which underlies the vicissitudes of the temporal world. Because the image of the rainbow (which appeared after the Flood of Noah) is seen on this plate, Blake is going beyond the idea of an account of the physical body or the world of matter. The use of the rainbow makes the plate a token of a benevolent God's infinite care. We must remember that Blake uses water as a symbol for the material. To say that the world will not be destroyed by flood is to say the materiality shall not overcome spirituality.

When we seek out the biblical references for the rainbow we find this passage in Genesis 9:

[11] And I will establish my covenant with you; neither shall
all flesh be cut off any more by the waters of a flood; neither shall
there any more be a flood to destroy the earth.
[12] And God said, This is the token of the covenant which I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for perpetual generations:
[13] I do set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a token of a covenant between me and the earth.
[14] And it shall come to pass, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the bow shall be seen in the cloud:
[15] And I will remember my covenant, which is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall no more become a flood to destroy all flesh.
[16] And the bow shall be in the cloud; and I will look upon it, that I may remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is upon the earth.
[17] And God said unto Noah, This is the token of the covenant, which I have established between me and all flesh that is upon the earth.

Genesis states that God covenants not to repeat the destruction of the earth and all living things by flood. The covenant is among God, man and the living creatures of the earth. The rainbow is a token of the covenant which is everlasting.

In Blake's 28 illustrations to Pilgrim's progress the rainbow colors appear frequently as reminders of the rainbow as a token. The rainbow image itself is prominent in three plates: the first, the last, and Plate 17. In Plate One the arc of the rainbow previews the pilgrim's journey as a reminder of God's providence as man travels through life. Christian at the Arbor shows the linkage between God and man, a reference to the incarnation through which physicality and spirituality become one. The rainbow above the arbor symbolizes that linkage. In the final picture, in which the fourfold ascension is portrayed, the pilgrims and angels are embedded in the rainbow becoming themselves tokens of the process of reaching the visionary goal.
Pilgrim's Progress
Plate 1
The Dreamer Dreams a Dream

Tuesday, February 10, 2015


Reposted from Jan 19, 2011 
A remarkable aspect of Norvig's book is the way she traces themes which appear in Blake's Bunyan illustrations through the work of his lifetime. This is prominent in the work she does in linking The Gates of Paradise with the Pilgrim illustrations. 'Gates' itself was evidence of the continuity of Blake's work stretching over decades.

The fact that Blake produced his images through engravings gave them an existence beyond the printed page; they also existed as copper plates. As Blake modified or developed his ideas, the printed images of the same plates could evolve with his thought. It has frequently been noted that the pages of his books were rearranged in various of the printings, or that additional pages were included. Also 'Minute Particulars' were added or emphasized or obscured according to the meaning he wished to convey at a particular time or to a particular audience. Norvig gives substance to the appearance of Blake's ideas as they resurfaced in unexpected places.

The Gates of Paradise initially printed with the prefix of For Children in 1793, was reissued in 1818 prefixed For the Sexes. Three additional plates were engraved with the Keys to the Gates and a final poem and image as an epilogue. This final plate Norvig sees as a link to the Bunyan illustrations which were produced in 1824. That is a period of 35 years over which Blake was communicating related ideas on the development of the psyche in the framework of the journey of a pilgrim (or 'traveller' as Blake called him).

Gerda Norvig states on Page 114 of
Dark Figures in the Desired Country: Blake's Illustrations to the Pilgrim's Progress:
"In this late revision of the emblem series, however, by alluding to Christian's identity scroll in The Pilgrim's Progress, the walking stick of the epilogue plate serves to emblemize the function of the eternal personality, which is shown to be basically at odds with those states of change we enter into and out of all the time, like sleep. The message is a terse development of the whole metaphysics of individuals versus states as Blake had refined in the years since his experiences at Felpham; and it is given expression in the poem accompanying the emblem in terms of the difference between 'Man' and 'Garment' - a difference that Satan (our own intrapsychic Accuser aspect) has not learned 'distinct to know.'

"Once again, then we see Bunyan's image of the Christan mental Traveler linked by Blake with his own system of imaginal representation with which the concept of individuation via the route of differentiating self from "state," from his garment, permanent identity from temporary condition, the "Eternal Human" from "those States or Worlds in which the Spirit travels." (J 49).

Jerusalem, Plate 49, (E 198)
"Satan is the State of Death, & not a Human existence:
But Luvah is named Satan, because he has enterd that State.
A World where Man is by Nature the enemy of Man
Because the Evil is Created into a State. that Men
May be deliverd time after time evermore. Amen.
Learn therefore O Sisters to distinguish the Eternal Human
That walks about among the stones of fire in bliss & woe
Alternate! from those States or Worlds in which the Spirit
This is the only means to Forgiveness of Enemies[.]"

Illustrations to Pilgrim's Progress
Plate 17

Christian at the Arbor

In this picture Christian has recovered his lost identity scroll which will allow him passage into heaven. Norvig sees Christian "retrieving his testament of selfhood from the zone of the state of grace (the arbor) so that it can serve him in the forward journey through all other states." (Page 177)