Anyone may learn to know and love William Blake. Small steps include reading, asking questions, making comments about posts made here (or anywhere else for that matter). We are ordinary people interested in Blake and anxious to meet and converse with any others. Tip: The primary text for Blake is on line. The url is Contents.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Blake's Urizen

Yes, he had one-- the Urizen within; we all have one: the thinking component of our psyche. We can only begin to understand Blake when we realize that his IQ had to be frightening. You and I might have a sudden thought; Blake had an Explosion-- of Urizen or Luvah, either one and sometimes all together. The average person wants nothing to do with such an individual (that means of course that if you read this, you are Not average.

Blake's mind was infinitely expansible-- and contractable, as in Plate 55 of Jerusalem (E205):
"Let the Human Organs be kept in their perfect Integrity
At will Contracting into Worms, or Expanding into Gods
"Such are these Ulro Visions, for tho we sit down within
The plowed furrow, listning to the weeping clods till we
Contract or Expand Space at will: or if we raise ourselves
Upon the chariots of the morning. Contracting or Expanding Time!
Every one knows, we are One Family! One Man blessed for ever"

(But the Heavenly Visions know nothing of time or space; those are artifacts of the World.)

"Damn braces Bless relaxes." (MHH plate 9; Erdman 37)
In MHH Blake's Energy and Creativity ran away with him; he despised restraints: turn out all the stops; put the volume pedal on the floor. MHH is shocking in the Nth degree, frightening! All his life his problem was self-control (the last of the Gifts of the Spirit). He had no desire for Self-control.

Lucky for Blake he had a wife, a good and faithful wife: indulgent, but she had a limit. (If Nietzsche and Van Gogh had achieved a successful marriage, they might have flamed out so early.

So as we see Blake had a Urizen within. Urizen believed in Control; he gave the Law, and Blake fought him. He also had a Luvah within. Blake fought the first battle with the struggle between Urizen and Luvah; it was a power struggle between the two inner 'gods', and eventually they made a deal: Urizen, the Light Bearer, gave the Sun to Luvah (Luvah took over the South, while Urizen moved to the North (For a while Blake seemed free from the Law and gave himself up to Feeling).
"When man lives by Urizen's 'beast-formed science' he is in nonexistence. The change from nonexistence to existence - the change from Satan to Christ" (Percival page 231))

It was a fragile arrangement; Luvah, like Icarus, got too close to the Sun and crashed. Meanwhile Urizen continued his (false) Creation. He went from bad to worse. In his rocky creation he look ahead; Futurity terrified him, took all his ego and left him a quivering failure. Los came in and subdued him (which seems to represent Blake's Imagination getting the best of his fears).

Once Los had won the battle he found his hatred of Urizen melting away; he found he loved him; he rehabilitated him, so that Urizen was now able to recognize and accept a New Lord.

In Jerusalem 98 Blake told of the final reconciliation of Urizen, Luvah, Urthona, and Tharmas. It is the Apocalypse, the End of Eternal Death leading to Eternal Life, when we graduate from Mortal Life, all is United into the One Man (as in John 17:21).

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Job Picture 2

This one resembles Picture 1 in its lower part, but now the well behaved children also have books or scrolls, obviously growing up to be Establishment types.

At the top the Establishment God has the BOOK  that we're to go by; go by the book, and only good things will happen.
"God is in his Heaven, and all's right with the world." (Browning).

But between the righteous God and the righteous Job and family something strange is happening: look at that strange figure below God, arms and legs spread widely (in violent motion); he's enveloped in fire.

"Hast thou considered my servant Job" inscribed above the picture: the words of God.  The picture concerns a conversation God had with Satan (on the left hand of God?) about Job.  Back in MHH days the devil wasn't so bad (Blake said Milton "was of the devil's party without knowing it" (MHH plate six).  for Blake at that time, in contrast to the passive, Elected, Satan represented  the satisfaction of Desire; he represented Revolution: anathema for the Established, longed for by the poor and needy.

Some people's identity rests on the opinion of others; without reflection, they're called outer directed. But the ability to reflect on yourself is required in order to become an individual, and through the 'dark night of the soul' Job will come to see the whole bit, not just the persona or ego, but the shadow (Jung's terms).

The O.T. God was certainly not altogether good; according to Job's code when you behave all is well; when you misbehave there's hell to pay.

Through-out the Illustrations Job's (and our) Innocence are sacrificed by Experience, which is obligatory if you are to grow beyond Goody Two Shoes.

  So the Devil is commissioned to test us; after he tested Job, he tested Jesus (in the wilderness), and he tests us.  Job met the test; Jesus did, and became our Savior; we may and become sons of God.  That's Job's message for us today.

Job: Picture 1

To get an expanded version click on the picture, and then raise font size with the Ctrl +.

To return to the post move back with left arrow.

Picture 1 seems right out of the Bible: we see Job with his family (all musicians) gathered around while he and his wife read from the good book and he prays to them. In the top left the sun sets over the cathedral, a symbol of organized religion (of organzied society, government, commerce, and the whole bit). The sun is not to rise again until the end of this dark night.

Such was Job: "blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil."

Click on the picture, and then enlarge your font, and you can read the legend(s), of which there are many:

Above the picture you may find the beginning of the Lord's Prayer suggesting an "innocent trusting attitude toward God", an innocence about to be sacrificed.

Beneath the picture proper you may imagine an altar with four animals (perhaps an ox, two lambs, and a ram), where Job offered the sacrifice for possible sins of his children. (This O.T. idea has a parallel in the gospels, where God sacrificed his Son for our sins.)

Edinger p. 17: "Inscribed on the altar are the words, The Letter Killeth. The Spirit giveth Life, indicating that it is the word and Job's reliance on it which are to be sacrificed."

As a fairly young man Blake wrote The Four Zoas, a voluminous work in Nine Nights. Now at 65 he illustrated the Book of Job with a one composite Night. Both works tell the same story.

The text from Job 1:

" In the land of Uz there lived a man whose name was Job. This man was blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil. 2 He had seven sons and three daughters, 3 and he owned seven thousand sheep, three thousand camels, five 1 hundred yoke of oxen and five hundred donkeys, and had a large number of servants. He was the greatest man among all the people of the East."
4 His sons used to take turns holding feasts in their homes, and they would invite their three sisters to eat and drink with them. 5 When a period of feasting had run its course, Job would send and have them purified. Early in the morning he would sacrifice a burnt offering for each of them, thinking, "Perhaps my children have sinned and cursed God in their hearts." This was Job's regular custom."

Friday, March 12, 2010

Blake's worm

Blake used the worm as a minor but important symbol in his poetry; you may find 87 occurrences of the word in his Complete Works. He used it to express many different, contrasting or even opposite things. Let's begin with Thel:

Thel, Plate 3, (E 5)
" ...Every thing that lives

Lives not alone nor for itself. Fear not, and I will call
The weak worm from its lowly bed, and thou shalt hear its voice,
Come forth, worm of the silent valley, to thy pensive queen."
The helpless worm arose, and sat upon the Lily's leaf,
And the bright Cloud sail'd on, to find his partner in the vale.
Then Thel astonish'd view'd the Worm upon its dewy bed.
"Art thou a Worm? Image of weakness, art thou but a Worm?
I see thee like an infant wrapped in the Lily's leaf
Ah! weep not, little voice, thou canst not speak, but thou canst weep.
Is this a Worm? I see thee lay helpless and naked, weeping,
And none to answer, none to cherish thee with mother's smiles."
The Clod of Clay heard the Worm's voice and rais'd her pitying head:
She bow'd over the weeping infant, and her life exhal'd
In milky fondness: then on Thel she fix'd her humble eyes.
'O beauty of the vales of Har! we live not for ourselves.' "

Blake has been telling us something about ourselves, our psyche, our community, nation, world.

Another important facet of Blake's worm occurs in the Gates of Paradise: (E 269)

"15. The Door of Death I open found, And the Worm weaving in the ground:
16. Thou'rt my Mother, from the womb; Wife, Sister, Daughter, to the tomb;

Among other ideas this evokes something Jesus said about his mother at Matthew 12:46-50:

While he yet talked to the people, behold, his mother and his brethren stood without, desiring to speak with him.

Then one said unto him, Behold, thy mother and thy brethren stand without, desiring to speak with thee.
48But he answered and said unto him that told him, Who is my mother? and who are my brethren?
49And he stretched forth his hand toward his disciples, and said, Behold my mother and my brethren!
50For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother.

But here we find worm used in a virtually opposite sense,.
Look at Jerusalem Plate 29, (Erdman 175) where the Spectre of Albion pronounces this:

"I am your Rational Power O Albion & that Human Form
You call Divine, is but a Worm seventy inches long
That creeps forth in a night & is dried in the morning sun"

What does the big worm suggest? a purely conventional life, with no imagination or creativity, a kind of man in whom Los and Luvah are simply absent. A man ruled body and soul by the Selfhood.

In Genesis we read that God created Man in his own image, and also that he formed man out of the dust. And following Digby we have two kinds of men: the one represented by Glad Day and the one represented by the worm of 70 inches. But God includes 'Men' and 'worms' as part of the 'whole Creation' that will be redeemed.

Thursday, March 11, 2010


Blake had a fourfold vision but the system of fourfold was not exclusive to Blake. Have a look at this chart and see how well Blake's system holds up when comparing it to Greek Mythology and modern Psychology.

Greek Mythology ...Jung............. Blake

Hesperus/Hestia = sensation . = Tharmas/Enion

Apollo/Artemis.... = reason...... = Urizen/Ahania

Ares/Aphrodite... = feeling....... = Luvah/Vala

Hermes/Athena.. = imagination,= Los/Enithrarmon,
...............................intuition......... Urthona

Blake..................... Activity...... Psychology... Psyche

Tharmas/Enion.. = Shepherd . = id............ = unconscious

Urizen/Ahania ... = Plowman... = superego = subconscious

Luvah/Vala .........= Weaver..... = ego..........= conscious

Los/Enithrarmon, = Blacksmith = self...........= collective
Urthona........................................................... unconscious

Level............ Element.. Vision

Ulro........... = Water.. = Single

Generation = Air....... = Twofold

Beulah....... = Fire..... = Threefold

Eden.......... = Earth... = Fourfold

As you can see from the quotations in the previous post about fourfold, Blake has also given each Zoa a sense, a metal, a direction and much more. By using this symbolic language Blake brings forth a rich and diverse pattern of associations which speak to the conscious, subconscious and unconscious levels of our minds.

If you don't think these associations are a good fit, come up with your own system.

Water, Earth, Air, and Fire are shown on pages 4 through 8 of this pdf file of Gates of Paradise.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The Clod of Clay

Blake's myth posits our pre-existence, like Thel in the pastoral Vale of Har; we all choose material, temporal life. That's why we're here-- for a time! Eventually we will return--whether we will or not.

But like Thel the choice was ours; we chose life; she declined.

Why do those in the 'above' choose mortal life? Who can say? Some do; some don't.

Thel explored the option. She found the end of mortal life fearsome. With a screech she forsook the world and presumably returned to Har.

For Blake everything is a man: rocks, clouds, all creatures, the whole Creation"
"Cities are Men....and Rivers & Mountains are also Men; everything is Human, mighty! sublime!" (Jerusalem, Plate 34 [38]; line 46ff; Erdman 180) Also lilies, clouds, worms, a Clod of Clay.

In Thel we meet the Lilly, the Cloud, the Worm, the Clod of Clay. The last one had this to say:

"...on Thel she fix'd her humble eyes;
'O beauty of the vales of Har, we live not for ourselves.
Thou seest me the meanest thing, and so I am indeed:
My bosom of itself is cold, and of itself is dark,
But he that loves the lowly pours his oil upon my head,
And kisses me, and binds his nuptial bands around my breast,
And says: "Thou mother of my children, I have loved thee,
And I have given thee a crown that none can take away."
But how this is, sweet maid, I know not, and I cannot know;
I ponder, and I cannot ponder, yet I live and love.' (Erdman 6)

Such a beautiful passage! the 'Clod of Clay' is the mother of God's children, 'he that loves the lowly'. God promises to redeem the entire Creation. ("the whole Creation groans in travail ......waiting for the Redemption" (Romans 22).
"Cities are Men, fathers of multitudes, and Rivers & Mount[a]ins Are also Men; every thing is Human, mighty! sublime! (J34.47f; Erdman 180)

And from Milton, Plate 22, 24 line 17ff; (Erdman 117):

"Six Thousand Years Are finishd. I return! both Time & Space obey my will. I in Six Thousand Years walk up and down: for not one Moment Of Time is lost, nor one Event of Space unpermanent. But all remain: every fabric of Six Thousand Years Remains permanent: tho' on the Earth where Satan Fell, and was cut off all things vanish & are seen no more They vanish not from me & mine, we guard them first & last. The generations of men run on in the tide of Time But leave their destind lineaments permanent for ever & ever."

You could construct an elaborate and beautiful cosmology out of that idea:

Jerusalem Plate 99.1; (Erdman 258):

"All Human Forms identified even Tree Metal Earth & Stone. all
Human Forms identified, living going forth & returning wearied
Into the Planetary lives of Years Months Days & Hours reposing And then Awaking into his Bosom in the Life of Immortality."

When we've completely annihilated our Selfhood, our journey is complete:
"When once I did descry the immortal man who cannot die Through evening shades I haste away to close the labors of my day." Gates of Paradise, (E 269)