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.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009


A way of looking at images in Blake in regard to being clothed
or unclothed is demonstrated by these three images.

In the first is Milton fresh from his sojourn in Eternity,
prepared to undertake the mission that Blake has assigned
him. His lack of clothing is symbolic of his being outside of
the world of materiality which he will soon rejoin.


Second we look at the image of Los, which is from the
beginning of Jerusalem as our first image is from the
beginning of Milton. Erdman points out that the
positioning of the bodies of these two represents a
mirror image. Unlike Milton, Los is clothed. This is the
reversal of what we would expect if we were thinking
naturally, since Milton is a human and Los is an
Eternal. But the character Los, in the poem
Jerusalem, is playing the opposite role to that
played by Milton. He is leaving the material world to
enter the stage where the Eternal drama will unfold.


Our third image is of Urizen, clothed in a robe which
seems to grow from his body as he is entering the dark
world of his own creation. In other words he doesn't
just wear the garment, he is the garment.


From this I understand that the degree of clothing can
be used to hide or reveal the character's spiritual
activity or condition.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Some Significant Symbols

Much of this is taken from Digby's 'Symbol and Image in William Blake':

ALBION (Glad Day) was Blake's name for Everyman, Adam Kadman, Cosmic Man, the Eternal Great Humanity Divine (See Milton, plates 2 and 30) or in Quakereze 'that of God in Everyone'. Albion asleep is an apt commentary on Blake's age-- and ours.

"Every human life is part of Albion and can realize more or less the Cosmic Man's total nature... Albion suffers and triumphs in each individual, as is described in ...Jerusalem
The Dance of Eternal Death" Digby p.12.

ETERNAL DEATH: Blake used this phrase 78 times; it's mortal life;I translate it to 'this vale of tears', the Sea of Time and Space from which we may emerge at the end; "whenever any Individual Rejects Error & Embraces Truth a Last Judgment passes upon that Individual.." [[A Vision of the Last Judgment] PAGE 85] (Erdman 562)

From Milton: In Heaven, having heard the Bard's Song,
"Milton said, I go to Eternal Death! The Nations still
Follow after the detestable Gods of Priam; in pomp
Of warlike selfhood, contradicting and blaspheming.
When will the Resurrection come; to deliver the sleeping body.."

JERUSALEM: This image cannot be defined; we can only begin a journey of 1000 miles. The Concordance has 288 occurences and Damon has 7 pages trying to describe it. Blake used it as the title for his largest poem; 'Jerusalem' the (smaller) poem, appears in the Preface to Milton (and in many hymnbooks): "till we have built Jerusalem in Englands green and pleasant land."

Jerusalem is the bride of Christ (the conventional church considers itself to be the bride of Christ, but to Blake the bride of Christ was the human race). Jerusalem was Albion's wife-- until he went to sleep; at that point he turned to Vala.

VALA is fallen Jerusalem. A picture is worth a thousand words, and the relationship betwem Vala and Jerusalem can be best understood in this plate (click on the pic for an enlargement). Jerusalem stands out in light with (supposedly) her three daughter, while Vala, in a dark vale, attempts to entice Jerusalem into her darkness. The two battle through The Four Zoas and Jerusalem (the large poem). In your life you can see the 'good girl' and 'bad girl' fighting for supremacy. A woman may become a thief, and/or she may give birth to a spiritual genius. Such is life.

Blake did not believe in 'good and bad'; he believed in Truth and Error. At the Last Judgment Error is burned up and we live (eternally) in Truth.

Thursday, January 15, 2009


Nothing interested Blake more than the relationship of man and God. One way he saw his purpose in life was to 'open the minds of men to a perception of the Infinite'. Because he knew that religion was supposed to serve that purpose for man, he was appalled by false religions which separated God from man, and man from man.

False religions he recognized as taking many forms. Here are some:

Creating individual requirements and forcing them on others;

Milton, Plate 11 (E103)
Where Satan making to himself Laws from his own identity.
Compell'd others to serve him in moral gratitude & submission
Being call'd God: setting himself above all that is called God.

Naming behaviors sin and devising punishments;

Milton, Plate 9 (E102)
He created Seven deadly Sins drawing out his infernal scroll,
Of Moral laws and cruel punishments upon the clouds of Jehovah
To pervert the Divine voice in its entrance to the earth
With thunder of war & trumpets sound, with armies of disease
Punisbments & deaths musterd & number'd; Saying I am God alone
There is no other! let all obey my principles of moral individuality

Using religion to confine perception to that of the senses;

Song of Los, Plate 4, (E 68)
Thus the terrible race of Los & Enitharmon gave
Laws & Religions to the sons of Har binding them more
And more to Earth: closing and restraining:
Till a Philosophy of Five Senses was complete
Urizen wept & gave it into the hands of Newton & Locke

Assuming the role of intermediary between God and man through secrecy;

Urizen, Plate 2, (E 70)
Of the primeval Priests assum'd power,
When Eternals spurn'd back his religion;
And gave him a place in the north,
Obscure, shadowy, void, solitary.

Creating terror, despair and cruelty through self-righteousness;

Milton, Plate 22, (E 116)
Miltons Religion is the cause: there is no end to destruction!
Seeing the Churches at their Period in terror & despair:
Asserting the Self-righteousness against the Universal Saviour,
Mocking the Confessors & Martyrs, claiming Self-righteousness;
With cruel Virtue: making War upon the Lambs Redeemed;
To perpetuate War & Glory. to perpetuate the Laws of Sin:

Forbidding the joys that flow from following God;

Jerusalem, Plate 9, (E 151)
Every Emanative joy forbidden as a Crime:
And the Emanations buried alive in the earth with pomp of religion:
Inspiration deny'd; Genius forbidden by laws of punishment:
I saw terrified;

Creating a mask that obscures the true relationship of man and God;

Jerusalem, Plate 38, (E 184)
A pretence of Art, to destroy Art: a pretence of Liberty
To destroy Liberty. a pretence of Religion to destroy Religion

Allowing consciousness of of sin to obscure consciousness of the spirit;

Jerusalem, Plate 41, (E 188)
Alas!--The time will come, when a mans worst enemies
Shall be those of his own house and family: in a Religion
Of Generation, to destroy by Sin and Atonement, happy Jerusalem,
The Bride and Wife of the Lamb. O God thou art Not an Avenger!

Worshiping satan instead of God;

Jerusalem, Plate 52, (E 200)
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.

Imposing chastity which divides man from woman;

Jerusalem, Plate 69, (E 222)
A Religion of Chastity, forming a Commerce to sell Loves
With Moral Law, an Equal Balance, not going down with decision
Therefore the Male severe & cruel filld with stern Revenge:
Mutual Hate returns & mutual Deceit & mutual Fear.

Bringing hate and destruction under the guise of religion;

Jerusalem, Plate 77, (E 231)
I stood among my valleys of the south
And saw a flame of fire, even as a Wheel
Of fire surrounding all the heavens: it went
From west to cast against the current of
Creation and devourd all things in its loud
Fury & thundering course round heaven & earth
And I asked a Watcher & a Holy-One
Its Name? he answerd. It is the Wheel of Religion

God Answers Job out of the Whirlwind _____________________________________________
Making a concise statement about the nature of true religion, Carl Jung has this to say:

"The religious attitude is quite different from faith associated
with a specific creed. The latter, as a codified and
dogmatized form of an original religious experience, simply
gives expression to a particular collective belief. True religion
involves a subjective relationship to certain metaphysical,
extramundane factors."
Carl Jung, The Undiscovered Self, Complete Works,
Vol. 10, par. 507

Friday, January 9, 2009

Before the Fall

What was Blake saying with this Picture?

It's about the world, and about everyone:

The biblical source is obvious (Genesis 3), the Garden scene:
Adam and Eve and the snake! Just before the fatal meal that
made us all mortal. But who's the 3rd figure above our
ancestors with the snake all coiled around him? Well Genesis
3 mentions a third figure called "cherubim and a flaming
sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of

Now look at Blake's myth:
The third figure has a thousand faces: serpent, Satan, Covering Cherub...Urizen! above all the Spectre, the Selfhood!

Blake, the world, you and I are three: masculine, feminine,
and spectrous.

Man and woman work together amicably-- with love;
the spectre, (Satan, Lucifer, Urizen, the Covering Cherub!)
is jealous; his thoughts are evil.

The Fall of Man began Blake's myth, and he wrote many ends (the Bible does as well). One of Blake's earliest and most dramatic ones come in Plate 14 of MHH:
"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 Hell.
For the cherub with his flaming sword is hereby commanded to leave his guard at tree of life, and when he does, the whole creation will be consumed, and appear infinite, and holy whereas it now appears finite & corrupt."
Once again the poem, My Spectre Round me Night and Day tells the whole story in microcosm.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Bacon, Newton, and Locke

"I consider them [Bacon, Newton, and Locke] as the three greatest men that have ever lived, without any exception.." (from the pen of Thomas Jefferson in a letter in 1789.
You can see what Blake thought of Bacon by reading his annotations to one of Bacon's books (Erdman pp 620-32). Here's are two examples:
"7. Bacon a Liar
AnnBacon62; E624
8. Bacon has no notion of any thing but Mammon
AnnBacon69; E625"
Re Newton look at the end of a famous letter (23) to Butts in 1802:
"Now I a fourfold vision see
And a fourfold vision is given to me
Tis fourfold in my supreme delight
And three fold in soft Beulahs night
And twofold Always.  May God us keep
From Single vision & Newtons sleep" (Erdman 722) 
 Re Locke: the tabula raza was particularly offense to Blake
who thought intelligence and imagination were inherent in us
 In Milton plate 41 Blake dispatches all three with this:
"To cleanse the Face of my Spirit by Self-examination.
To bathe in the Waters of Life; to wash off the Not Human
I come in Self-annihilation & the grandeur of Inspiration
To cast off Rational Demonstration by Faith in the Saviour
To cast off the rotten rags of Memory by Inspiration
To cast off Bacon, Locke & Newton from Albions covering
To take off his filthy garments, & clothe him with
Imagination" (Erdman 142)

Blake felt that these three men (Blake's 'unholy trinity')
had led England into a thoroughly materialistic,
spirit-denying culture dominated by greed.  What he said
about them was largely true although they had a positive
dimension as well. Blake acknowledged the positive dimension
in plate 98 near the end of Jerusalem:
"The Druid Spectre was Annihilate loud thundring rejoicing
terrific vanishing
Fourfold Annihilation & at the clangor of the Arrows of
The innumerable Chariots of the Almighty appeard in Heaven
And Bacon & Newton & Locke, & Milton & Shakspear &
Chaucer"(Erdman 257)
Although he had excoriated them systematically throughout
his works, he realized that they were not negatives, but
contraries.  The essential polarity of the mind means that
the opposites are also true. 

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Blake's God

Here we go again:
We start of course with the four year old who ran screaming to his mother after seeing an angry God in the window. This certainly suggests exposure to one of the angry preachers who (then and now) project their own misery onto the God they describe for their parishioners. It set for Blake the mode for 25 years of defiance for a God so destructive to the human psyche. Christians through the ages have repressed the anger they feel toward such a God. But Blake did not repress! He let it all out.

By the age of 33 in MHH he had learned to express complete skepticism re the God and the Church that directed the religious life of the multitude. In particular he saw it as a conspiracy of rogues (look again at Plate 11).

Now look again at Milton, plate 37:
"The Monstrous Churches of Beulah, the Gods of Ulro
Twelve monstrous dishumanizd terrors Synagogues of Satan.
A Double Twelve & Thrice Nine: such their divisions:"

Here Blake named twelve (prechristian) "Gods, the Twelve Spectre Sons of the Druid Albion " and twenty-seven "Heavens & their Churches" in three groups: the antediluvian ones, the Judaic ones, and the supposed Christian ones. So he's talking about fallen religion, where many of us attend every Sunday (that would be the church of Luther).

The religious denomination that goes by the name of 'Witnesses' would take great issue with the description that Blake made of Jehovah:

Jehovah was Urizen, even Satan, the Angel of the Divine Presence, the Gnostic demiurge who made a hash of his Creation. So much for that God. He was called everything but 'Loving'.

Blake mentioned Jehovah 64 times; here is a fairly representative

one from his notes on The Last Judgment:

" The Aged Figure with Wings having a writing tablet & taking
account of the numbers who arise is That Angel of the Divine
Presence mentiond in Exodus XIVc 19v & in other Places
this Angelis frequently calld by the Name of Jehovah Elohim The I am of the Oaks of Albion"

Jehovah was too often identified with condemnation:

In the Epilogue to Gates of Paradise we read:
" To The Accuser Who is
The God of This World
Truly My Satan thou art but a Dunce
And dost not know the Garment from the Man
Every Harlot was a Virgin once
Nor canst thou ever change Kate into Nan
Tho thou art Worshipd by the Names Divine
Of Jesus & Jehovah thou art still
The Son of Morn in weary Nights decline
The lost Travellers Dream under the Hill"

The most derogatory figure Blake used for authorities
such as King George or Jehovah is in Nobodaddy, a term
used again in an indelicate doggerel on Erdman 499.

Blake accurately portrayed the leading spirit of the Old Testament in the above discussion.

We come now to the gospel. Blake considered Jesus the only God. In his mind Jesus was largely about forgiveness; many examples of Blake's forgiveness (the forgiveness Jesus taught can be found throughout his poetry.) The most succinct one has
appeared in these posts before: the little unnamed poem
going by the name of My Spectre; here's the end of it:

"And Throughout all Eternity I forgive you; you forgive me.
As the dear Redeemer said, this the Wine and this the Bread."

If you want more on Blake and God, look at the
Spiritual Autobiography, Chapter Five.