Daniel M. Tarr: William Blake - The Book of Urizen This is the web version of my MA Thesis http://www.

tarrdaniel.com/documents/Hermetika/BlakeUrizen/WebUrizen/williamblake.htm Chapter I. - Introducing William Blake William Blake (1757-1827), who lived in the latter half of the eighteenth century and the early part of the nineteenth, was a profoundly stirring poet who was, in large part, responsible for bringing about the Romantic movement in poetry. He was able to achieve "remarkable results with the simplest means"; and was one of several poets of the time who restored "rich musicality to the language" (»1). His research and introspection into the human mind and soul has resulted in his being called the "Columbus of the psyche," and because no language existed at the time to describe what he discovered on his voyages, he created his own mythology to describe what he found there (»2). He was an accomplished poet, painter, and engraver. Despite the work of such 17th century baroque poets as Henry Vaughan (1622-1695), and Richard Crashaw (1612-1649), England had no visionary tradition in its literature before the brilliant English poet, painter, engraver and visionary mystic - William Blake. His hand-illustrated series of lyrical and epic poems, beginning with Songs of Innocence (1789) and Songs of Experience (1794), form one of the most strikingly original and independent bodies of work in the Western cultural tradition. Blake is now regarded as one of the earliest and greatest figures of Romanticism. Yet he was ignored by the public of his day and was called mad because he was single-minded and unworldly; he lived on the edge of poverty and died in neglect. "I know I am inspired!" could be the foundation of his obscurity as well as of his dynamic enthusiasm. He was ambitious for fame; he longed for, even demanded, an audience as enthusiastic as himself, to build the Jerusalem he was looking for in England's green and pleasant land. He was after all writing at a time when the Age of reason was turning into an Age of Enthusiasm ( »3). But he had a naive, almost arrogant confidence in the power of his own inspiration. Burning with its fire, convinced that to hear him must be to applaud, he failed to realize that he must also address himself to the minds of his audience before they could hear him. He never made any concessions to them, and as a result they made none to him. He sought to project his inner enthusiasm on to the public, but chose one method after another that ensured that his audience would regard his enthusiasms, not as inspiration, but as mere eccentricity or worse. Blake scholars disagree on whether or not Blake was a mystic. In the Norton Anthology, he is described as "an acknowledged mystic, [who] saw visions from the age of four" ( »4). Frye, however, who seems to be one of the most influential Blake scholars, disagrees, saying that Blake was a visionary rather than a mystic. "'Mysticism' . . . means a certain kind of religious techniques difficult to reconcile with anyone's poetry," says Frye ( »5). He next says that "visionary" is "a word that Blake uses, and uses constantly" and cites the example of Plotinus, the mystic, who experienced a "direct apprehension of God" four times in his life, and then only with "great effort and relentless discipline." He finally cites Blake's poem "I rose up at the dawn of day," in which Blake states, "I am in God's presence night & day, And he never turns his face away." Besides all of these achievements, Blake was a social critic of his own time and considered himself a prophet of times to come. Frye says that "all his poetry was written as though it were about to have the immediate social impact of a new play" ( »6). His social criticism is not only representative of his own country and era, but strikes profound chords in our own time as well. As Appelbaum said in the introduction to his anthology English Romantic Poetry, "[Blake] was not fully rediscovered and rehabilitated until a full century after his death". For Blake was not truly appreciated during his life, except by small cliques of individuals, and was not well-known during the rest of the nineteenth century (»7).

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Blake's life might seem uneventful, but his inner life was so exciting that it did not matter. His enthusiasm lifted him out of London into Jerusalem - or rather, brought Jerusalem into London and turned a rainbow over Hyde Park into a gateway to heaven. Blake's enthusiasm are not the toad-like crazes of a perpetually unsatisfied man, but the developing insights of someone with a wide-ranging mind responding to life's rejections of his hopes, not by losing hope, but by rebuilding it. And each stage has its own artistic correlative. Blake was born November 28, 1757, in London. His father was a hosier living in Broad Street in the Soho district of London, where Blake lived most of his life. He was the second son of a family of four boys and one girl. Only his younger brother Robert was of great significance in William's life, as he was the one to share his devotion to the arts ( »8). William grew up in London and later described the visionary experiences he had as a child in the surrounding countryside, when he saw angels in a tree at Peckham Rye and the prophet Ezekiel in a field. William very soon declared his intention of becoming an artist in 1767, and was allowed to leave ordinary school at the age of ten to join a drawing school and started to attend the drawing school of Henry Pars in the Strand. He educated himself by wide reading and the study of engravings from paintings by the great Renaissance masters. Here he worked for five years, but, when the time came for an apprenticeship, his father was unable to afford the expense of his entrance to a painter's studio. A premium of fifty guineas, however, enabled him, aged nearly fifteen, to enter on 4 August 1772 the workshop of a masterengraver, James Basire. There, in Great Queen Street, Lincoln's Inn Fields, he worked faithfully for seven years, learning all the techniques of engraving, etching, stippling and copying. This thorough training equipped him as a man who could later claim with justice that he was one of the finest craftsmen of his time, one moreover able not only to develop and improve the conventional modes throughout his life, but also to invent methods of his own. Basire sent him to make drawings of the sculptures in Westminster Abbey, and thus awakened his interest in Gothic art ( »9). On completion of his apprenticeship in 1779 Blake entered the Royal Academy as an engraving student. His period of study there seems to have been stormy. He took a violent dislike to Sir Joshua Reynolds, then president of the Royal Academy, rebelling against his aesthetic doctrines, and felt that his talents were being wasted. He was initially influenced by the engravings he studied of the works of Michelangelo and Raphael. He made drawings from the antique in the conventional manner and some life studies, though he soon rejected this form of training, saying that 'copying nature' deadened the force of his imagination. For the rest of his life he exalted imaginative art above all other forms of artistic creation, scarcely any of his productions being strictly representational. While still at the Academy he was earning his living by engraving for publishers and was also producing independent watercolours. At this time his friends included the "roman group" of brilliant young artists, among them the sculptor John Flaxman and the painter Thomas Stothard ( »10). He also came into contact with the highly original Romantic painter Henry Fuseli at this time, whose work may have influenced him. He began his career as an engraver and artist, and was an apprentice to Henry Fuseli for a time. He then became deeply impressed with the work of his contemporary figurative painters like James Barry, John Mortimer, and Henry Fuseli, who, like Blake, depicted dramatically posed nude figures with strongly rhythmic, linear contours. Fuseli's extravagant pictorial fantasies in particular freed Blake to distort his figures to express his inner vision ( »11). In 1784 he set up a print shop; although it failed after a few years, for the rest of his life Blake eked out a living as an engraver and illustrator (»12). In the late 1760s and '70s the "roman group" circle of British painters in Rome had already begun to find academic precepts inadequate. James Barry, the brothers John and Alexander Runciman, John Brown, George Romney, and the Swiss-born Henry Fuseli favoured themes – whether literary, historical, or purely imaginary – determined by a taste for the pathetic, bizarre, and extravagantly heroic. Mutually influential and highly eclectic, they combined, especially in their drawings, the linear tensions of Italian Mannerism with bold contrasts of light and shade. Though never in Rome, John Hamilton Mortimer had much in common with this group, for all were participants in a move to

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found a national school of narrative painting. Fuseli's affiliations with the German Romantic Sturm und Drang writers predisposed him, like Flaxman, toward the "primitive" heroic stories of Homer and Dante. Flaxman himself, in the two-dimensional linear abstraction of his drawings, a twodimensionality implying rejection of Renaissance perspective and seen for instance in the expressive purity of "Penelope's Dream" (1792-93), had important repercussions throughout Europe. Both Fuseli and Flaxman highly influenced both Blake's interest in mythology and the heroic and also his attitude towards art (»13). William Blake absorbed and outstripped the Fuseli circle, evolving new images for a unique private cosmology, rejecting oils in favour of tempera and watercolour, and depicting, as in "Pity" (1795), a shadowless world of soaring, supernatural beings. His passionate rejection of rationalism and materialism, his scorn for both Sir Joshua Reynolds and the Dutch Naturalists, stemmed from a conviction that "poetic genius" could alone perceive the infinite, so essential to the artist since "painting, as well as poetry and music, exists and exults in immortal thoughts." (»14) In his painting (as well as in his poetry), Blake seemed to most of his contemporaries to be completely out of the artistic mainstream of their time. His art was in fact far too adventurous and unconventional to be easily accepted in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. He has been called a pre-romantic because it was not only in poetry that he rejected neoclassical literary style and modes of thought, his graphic art too defied 18th-century conventions. Always stressing imagination over reason, he felt that ideal forms should be constructed not from observations of nature but from inner visions. His rhythmically patterned linear style is also a repudiation of the painterly academic style. Blake's attenuated, fantastic figures go back, instead, to the medieval tomb statuary he copied as an apprentice and to Mannerist sources. The influence of Michelangelo is especially evident in the radical foreshortening and exaggerated muscular form in one of his bestknown illustrations, popularly known as The Ancient of Days, the frontispiece to his poem Europe, a Prophecy (1794). (»15) For this reason Blake remained virtually unknown until Alexander Gilchrist's biography was published in 1863, and he was not fully accepted until his remarkable modernity and his imaginative force, both as poet and artist, were recognized in the twentieth century ( »16). In spite of this his paintings belong to a recognizable artistic tradition, that of English figurative painting of the later 18th century. Throughout his life Blake stressed the superiority of line, or drawing, over colour, commending the "hard wirey line of rectitude." He condemned everything that he felt made painting indefinite in contour, such as painterly brushwork and shadowing. Finally, Blake stressed the primacy of art created from the imagination over that drawn from the observation of nature. The figures in Blake's many prints and watercolour and tempera paintings are notable for the rhythmic vitality of their undulating contours, the monumental simplicity of their stylised forms, and the dramatic effectiveness and originality of their gestures. He also showed himself a daring and unusually subtle colourist in many of his works. Much of Blake's painting was on religious subjects: illustrations of the work of John Milton, his favourite poet (although he rejected Milton's Puritanism), for John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress, and for the Bible, including 21 illustrations to the 'Book of Job'. Blake's favourite subjects were episodes from the Bible, along with episodes found in the works of

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Milton and Dante. Among his secular illustrations were those for an edition of Thomas Gray's poems and the 537 watercolours for Edward Young's Night Thoughts - only 43 of which were published. His illustrations for the Book of Job were done late in life, and they mark the summit of his achievement in the visual arts (»17). The spiritual, symbolical expression of Blake's complex sympathies, his ability to recognize God in a single blade of grass, inspired Samuel Palmer, who, with his friend Edward Calvert, extracted from nature a visionary world of exquisite, though short-lived, intensity ( »18). On August 18, 1782, Blake married a poor, illiterate girl, Catherine Boucher, who was to make a perfect companion for him. Having married, Blake left his father's home and rented a small house round the corner in Poland Street, being joined there by his brother Robert after their father's death in 1784. William then began to train Robert as an artist. Meanwhile he himself, self-educated, had already acquired a wide knowledge of poetry, philosophy and general literature, and was ready to take his place among people of intelligence. He attended social gatherings of intellectuals, to whom he even communicated his own poems, sometimes singing them to tunes of his own composition (»19). Flaxman introduced him to the Rev. Anthony S. Mathew and his wife, and for a time Blake was one of the chief attractions at their literary parties. Flaxman and Mathew paid for the printing of a collection of verses by their young friend, Poetical Sketches (1783). A preface provides the information that the verses were written between Blake's 12th and 20th years. This is a remarkable first volume of poetry, and some of the poems contained in it have a freshness, a purity of vision, and a lyric intensity unequaled in English poetry since the 17th century ( »20). Blake's visits to the Mathews' eventually became less frequent and finally ceased. Nevertheless, in the 1780s he was one of a group of progressive-minded people that met at the house of Blake's employer, the Radical bookseller Joseph Johnson. His mind was developing an unconventional and rebellious quality, acutely conscious of any falsity and pomposity in others, so that about 1784 or 1787 he wrote a burlesque novel, known as An Island in the Moon, in which he ridiculed contemporary manners and conventions, and in which members of this group are satirized. In 1784, after his father's death, Blake started a print shop in London and took his younger brother Robert to live with him as assistant and pupil. Early in 1787 Robert fell ill and in February he died; and William, who had nursed him devotedly, later said that he had seen Robert's soul joyfully rising through the ceiling. At the moment of Robert's death his visionary faculty enable him to see "the released spirit ascend heavenwards, clapping its hands for joy" ( »21). For the rest of his life William claimed that he could communicate with this brother's spirit and gain strength from his advice. He also said that Robert had appeared to him in a vision and revealed a method of engraving the text and illustrations of his books without having recourse to a printer. This method was Blake's invention of what he called "illuminated printing," in which, by a special technique of relief etching, each page of the book was printed in monochrome from an engraved plate containing both text and illustration: an invention foreshadowed by his friend, George Cumberland. Although his method of illuminated printing is not completely understood, the most likely explanation is that he wrote the words – not in reversed script, as an engraver must normally do – and drew the pictures for each poem on a copper plate, using some liquid impervious to acid, which when applied left text and illustration in relief. After etching away the unwanted material, the plate became one large piece of type, to be inked and printed on his engraver's press. Ink or a colour wash was then applied, and the printed picture was finished by hand in watercolours. Thus each print is itself a unique work of art. As an artist Blake broke the ground that would later be cultivated by the Pre-Raphaelites. Most of Blake's works after the Poetical Sketches were engraved and "published" in this way, and so reached only a limited public during his lifetime. Today these "illuminated books," with their dynamic designs and glowing colours, are among the world's art treasures. Most of Blake's paintings

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not as the preacher of doctrines of free innocence. Even this might have succeeded – Shelley found an audience – but Blake's books used an idiom that even his friends found hard to understand. Manet. and he used it as long as he wrote poetry. but as that typical eighteen-century figure. Verlaine. The first books in which Blake made use of his new printing method were two little tracts. in his hatred of deism. unique work of art? As a poet and artist. [and] favorably inspired by the American Revolutionary War and the French Revolution" ( »25). engraved about 1788." or God. William Blake created a unique form of illustrated verse. But apart from Songs of Innocence. for instance. inspired by mystical vision. belongs to the most original lyric and prophetic poetry in the language. how better to see it published than in the style of medieval illuminated book. especially in the Songs. he could create the whole work." since it is the means of perceiving "the Infinite. The production of these works coincided with the outbreak of the French Revolution. along with Rimbaud. however. In them he boldly challenges accepted contemporary theories of the human mind derived from Locke and the prevailing rationalisticmaterialistic philosophy and proclaims the superiority of the imagination over other "organs of perception. it was a clumsy process by our standards. was at first an enthusiastic supporter. Blake was writing poetry. Blake wrote many positive and appreciative things about him. but using new techniques to make reproduction feasible. According to Keynes. however. Blake did. as an engraver he had the skill and the means to make multiple copies. a children's poetry book which might well have found a market. You could say. the inventor. Many of the plates. he illustrated the Songs with designs that demand an imaginative reading of the complicated dialogue between word and picture ( »23). fulfil his hopes and make one artistic unity. It might well have made him a success. Immediately following these tracts came Blake's first masterpieces. and materialism. therefore to fully appreciate one you must see it in context with the other. his poetry. he was one of those 19th century figures who could have and should have been "beatniks". and the result would be as fine as an illustrated manuscript. Cézanne and Whitman. But there was no need for the work to remain unique. in an astonishing outburst of creative activity: Songs of Innocence and The Book of Thel (both engraved 1789). There is No Natural Religion and All Religions are One . a handmade. "He was liberal in politics. he used it almost entirely for his own ideological campaign. bound together in paper covers. and Songs of Innocence and Experience (1794). This is the time when Blake keeps an intensive communication with the revolutionary American political thinker Thomas Paine. As "London" shows. Page 5 of 44 . such as "The Bishop never saw the Everlasting Gospel any more than Tom Paine" ( »26). atheism. though undogmatic. In his readiness to invent new techniques. and his profound. but not easy to produce.(such as "The Ancient of Days" or the frontispiece to Europe: a Prophecy) are actually prints too made from copper plates. In other hands his invention might well have succeeded: the re-creation in modern guise of the medieval illuminated book. He must have thought his fortune was made. of which Blake. As Appelbaum said. The product of his first enthusiasm is the foundation of all the rest. They contain the seeds of practically all the subsequent development of his thought. but it satisfied Blake's needs. Blake was typical of his age. True. and did not produce a very welldefined or legible text. Illustrated books were much in demand. His poetry and visual art are inextricably linked. it reveals him. America and Europe. sensitive to the oppressive government measures of his day. approve of some of the measures that individuals and societies took to gain and maintain individual freedom. His "illuminated books" were usually coloured with watercolour or printed in colour by Blake and his wife. The Marriage of Heaven and Hell and Visions of the Daughters of Albion (both engraved 1793). As was to be Blake's custom. Blake significantly differed from other English revolutionaries. The French Revolution (1791). if he had produced works that the public wanted to see. text and design together as unity. poem and design ( »22). and sold for prices ranging from a few shillings to 10 guineas. like the other members of the group that met at Johnson's shop. religious sense (»24). which he etched in his 'illuminated printing' method. or as a mystical thinker.

The earlier collection's celebration of a beneficent God is countered by the image of him in Experience. Blake began writing poetry at the age of 12. Innocence and Experience. dating the title page 1789. Songs of Innocence is Blake's first masterpiece of "illuminated printing. Songs of Experience provides a kind of ironic answer to Songs of Innocence. Blake's most popular poems have always been Songs of Innocence (1789). the double collection." The "two contrary states" are innocence. Blake describes the woes that the Industrial Revolution and the breaking of the common man's ties to the land have brought upon him. "London" is an especially powerful indictment of the Page 6 of 44 . The Innocence poems were the products of a mind in a state of innocence and of an imagination unspoiled be stains of worldliness. Public events and private emotions soon converted Innocence into Experience. "Did he who made the Lamb make thee?" Blake also viewed the larger society.however. with agonized doubt in Experience. strength. There is no reason for thinking that when he composed the Songs of Innocence he had already envisaged a second set of antithetical poems embodying Experience. “the two contrary states of the human soul. Both series of poems take on deeper resonances when read in conjunction. Blake did not entirely approve of the measures taken to forward the causes he longed to advance: "London" refers to how the "hapless Soldier's sigh/ runs in blood down Palace walls" ["London" 791]. derivative elements are hints of his later innovative style and themes. this could possibly refer to the storming of the Bastille or the executions of the French nobility. and experience. employing the same lyric style and much of the same subject matter as in Songs of Innocence. As with all his poetry. Songs of Innocence differs radically from the rather derivative pastoral mode of the Poetical Sketches. Blake's subsequent poetry develops the implication that true innocence is impossible without experience. and cruelty. lust. producing Blake's preoccupation with the problem of Good and Evil. transmuting these forms by his genius into some of the purest lyric poetry in the English language. This. and repression. Among many other events which took place during the French Revolution. disillusioned with the possibility of human perfection. The key symbol of Innocence is the Lamb. this volume reached few contemporary readers. In the Songs. in which he becomes the tyrannous God of repression. and his first printed work. and thus initiated the series of his now famous Illuminated Books. So in 1794 he finished a slightly rearranged version of Songs of Innocence with the addition of Songs of Experience. which has been described as summing up many implications of Songs of Experience. the corresponding image in Experience is the Tyger (»27)." Blake made the twentyseven plates of Songs of Innocence. Blake took as his models the popular street ballads and rhymes for children of his own time. Blake issued Songs of Experience. This philosophy demanded the identification of ideas with symbols which could be translated into visual images – word and symbol each reinforcing the other. In the great poem "London". The impulse to produce his poems in this form was partly due to his cast of mind. when it is faced with the world of law. and consequently his output of books reckoned in numbers of copies was always very limited. in Blake's own words in the subtitle. resulted in his composing the second set. is a collection of youthful verse. Poetical Sketches (1783). "shewing the two contrary states of the human soul. in the form of contemporary London. and the tragic dilemma of mankind is poignantly summarized in the final question. when the child's imagination has simply the function of completing its own growth. His lyrical poems have content enough to make them acceptable without the visual addition. whereby the life of the imagination was more real to him than the material world. The Tyger in this poem is the incarnation of energy. transformed by the creative force of the human imagination. These lyrics are notable for their eloquence. morality. but he did not choose that they should be read in this plain shape. in contrast to his happy visions of the city in Innocence. In 1794. Amid its traditional.” are contrasted in such companion pieces as "The Lamb" and "The Tyger". with his feelings of indignation and pity for the sufferings of mankind as he saw them in the streets of London.

and tyranny itself. In the first group of legends (1789-93). are devoted to discovering what had gone wrong.the tyrant threatening the innocent imagination. not of freedom. nature protects this innocence and the only sin is to allow one's nature to be prevented by law and custom. "Proverbs" 20]. Blake was experimenting in narrative as well as lyrical poetry at this time. and the poem's naked simplicity of language is the perfect medium for conveying Blake's anguished vision of a society dominated by money ( »28). As Appelbaum said of Blake. but at the breath of the free imagination. and 'Europe. were the key to its renovation. with its lovely flowing designs. Theological tyranny is one subject of The Book of Urizen (1794). 'America'. The Bible presented a view. 'Visions of the Daughters of Albion' (1793). Rather than accepting a traditional religion from an organized church. The Book of Thel. was never engraved. When Blake's first great enthusiasm gripped him. equating the good with reason and repression and regarding evil as the natural expression of a fundamental psychic energy ( »34). which was to become the staple metre of his narrative poetry (»33). a first attempt. Vala. Written mainly in terse. including the Songs of Experience (1794). a 'Prophecy' (1793). The Marriage of Heaven and Hell (1790-93). and philosophy are mingled in a way that has few parallels. His new visions emerged in his enthusiasm for the plan of a great epic. to illustrate the nature of imaginative truth. Free love is only true love. Blake would put it right with a series of narrative poems in the new medium. innocent happiness and above all. But Blake was convinced that art. "Blake replaced the arid atheism or tepid deism of the encyclopaedists and their disciples with a glowing new personal religion" ( »35). In the exercise of the imagination. such as “The tygers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction”." Blake also attacked conventional religion.new "acquisitive society" then coming into being. Typically Blake did not reject his beliefs. Among the Prophetic Books is a prose work. In The Marriage of Heaven and Hell he wrote "Prisons are built with stones of Law. not political revolution. humour. the purity and inviolability of innocence would reveal itself. In Tiriel and The Book of Thel Blake uses for the first time the long unrhymed line of 14 syllables.” It includes the "Proverbs of Hell". it may be described as a satire on institutional religion and conventional morality. and the dreadful cycle set up by the mutual exploitation of the sexes is vividly described in "The Mental Traveller" (circa 1803). imagination." Blake reverses the tenets of conventional Christianity. love. 'Tiriel'. but law. so the priest lays his curse on the fairest joys" ["Proverbs" 19. but went on to improve them. Blake presents his case: the indestructibility of innocence. infinite. Brothels with bricks of Religion" and "As the caterpillar chooses the fairest leaves to lay her eggs on. Now he understood that it was too simple to see the world's problems as the hostility of evil minds against good . Poems such as 'The French Revolution' (1791). prophecy. the works of the imagination. In it Blake defines the ideal use of sensuality: "If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is. The soul that freely follows its imaginative instincts will be innocent and virtuous. law destroys both love and freedom ( »29). The need for law. Political revolution was not in itself the antidote to tyranny. a Prophecy' (1794) express his condemnation of 18thcentury political and social tyranny. which develops Blake's idea that “without Contraries is no progression. sinewy prose. is an idyll akin to Songs of Innocence in its flowerlike delicacy and transparency. would not wither at the hand of war. The world's images were all wrong. In The Marriage of Heaven and Hell satire. which he started writing on the black proofs of his Night Thoughts designs (»32). But for Blake freedom could not come about except through the imagination. Besides rejecting "arid atheism" and "tepid deism. (»31) These books. poetry. The fragment called 'The French Revolution' is a heroic attempt to make epic poetry out of contemporary history. Page 7 of 44 . Blake designed his own mythology to accompany his personal. Some see him as true nonconformist radical who numbered among his associates such English freethinkers as Thomas Paine and Mary Wollstonecraft ( »30). the world was in the ferment of revolution. but a symptom of mankind's awakening to the freedom of the spirit.

The poetry of The Book of Urizen. and in the human soul. The book includes a famous criticism of Milton and the "Proverbs of Hell". but is inferior in effect to the magnificent accompanying designs. As Blake said. Blake's personal religion was an outgrowth of his search for the Everlasting Gospel. and this. and The Song of Los (all 1795) – Blake elaborates a series of cosmic myths and epics through which he sets forth a complex and intricate philosophical scheme. A principal symbolic figure in these books is Urizen. their production going on at the same time as he was painting numbers of pictures and making large colour prints. the period of Blake's greatest worldly prosperity. which he expressed in an increasingly obscure form. finds that she has attained to a new purity through sexual delight and regeneration. About 1789 Blake and his wife had moved to a small house on the south side of the Thames in a terrace called Hercules Buildings.revealed religion. ending with the affirmation that "everything that lives is Holy" (»36). Here he set about making a number of books embodying his philosophical system. A Prophecy (1793). The Prophetic Books describe a series of epic battles fought out in the cosmos. has a gloomy power. which he believed to be the original. 70 pithy aphorisms that are notable for their praise of heroic energy and their sense of creative vitality. The Marriage of Heaven and Hell culminates in the 'Song of Liberty'. The Book of Ahania. is a powerful short narrative poem giving a visionary interpretation of the American Revolution as the uprising of Orc. was also that of his deepest spiritual uncertainty. using a tempera medium instead of oil paints for the former. a "dark power" whose rebellion against the primeval unity leads to his entrapment in the material world. In this poem the repressive god of abstract morality is first called Urizen. Antiquity preaches the Gospel of Jesus". pre-Jesus revelation which Jesus preached. A Prophecy (1794). Here the Creator is not a beneficent. a hymn of faith in revolution. These have become known as his Prophetic Books. In the Prophetic Book – America. Europe shows the coming of Christ and the French Revolution of the late 18th century as part of the same manifestation of the spirit of rebellion. but Urizen. Blake's religion was based upon the joy of man. In Visions of the Daughters of Albion Blake develops the theme of sexual freedom suggested in several of the Songs of Experience. The central figure in the poem. and the spirit of rebellion (Orc). America. The Book of Urizen (1794). imagination (Los). Lambeth. The Book of Los. written in short unrhymed lines of three accents. They lived there for seven years. Oothoon. Europe. which he believed glorified God. The Book of Urizen is Blake's version of the biblical Book of Genesis. the everlasting Gospel. righteous Jehovah. "all had originally one language and one religion: this was the religion of Jesus. between entities symbolizing the conflicting forces of reason (Urizen). which have an energy and monumental grandeur anticipating the quality of those of Page 8 of 44 . a spurned and outcast immortal who embodies both Jehovah and the forces of reason and law that Blake viewed as restricting and suppressing the natural energies of the human soul (»37). illustrated with brilliantly coloured designs. the spirit of rebellion. in history.

to convey his most urgent messages. He worked on this until 1797. Vala. Matthew Lewis's notorious soft-porn The Monk sold very well indeed. and hostility arises between his now separated elements. he declares in one of these poems. In 1795 he had been commissioned by a bookseller to make designs for an edition of Edward Young's Night Thoughts. 1797. Grandiose. In his so-called Prophetic Books. or The Four Zoas (that is. far from bringing him fame. Apart from the Songs (1789-94). and was finding his attempt at a synthesis based on the "contraries" of good and evil inadequate as an answer to the complexities of human existence ( »38). and since they crowd past. aspects of the human soul. There he experienced profound spiritual insights that prepared him for his mature work. it is not surprising that Blake's major poetry. By this time Blake seems to have reached his spiritual nadir. the rhetorical free-verse lines demand new modes of reading. They envision a new and higher kind of innocence.Jerusalem. He worked on it for about nine years. The first draft of the epic. Blake. rhyme. Blake and his wife went to live in a cottage provided by Hayley at Felpham on the Sussex coast. was begun in 1795. even his best friends found it almost impossible to follow his imaginative fights. but Blake used it for most of his work in 'illuminated printing'. When later he added to his myth the fumblings of antiquaries – notably the theories of William Stukeley – who identified Eastern religions with ancient Britain. Blake created a complex personal mythology and invented his own symbolic characters to reflect his social concerns. A true original in thought and expression. during which period he rewrote it under the title of The Four Zoas. With The Song of Los the experimental period of his poetic career ended: he engraved no more books for nearly 10 years. but never engraved it. None of these elements is perfectly good or evil. virtually all his completed books are such gothic legends. This kind of writing is most suitable for escapist literature.the Human is fragmented. and his poetry peters out in the last of the Prophetic books. he was just as typical in his fascination with the medieval. In his new vision of the ideal world. and Jerusalem (1804-20) have neither traditional plot. unfortunately for him. at the invitation of William Hayley. producing 537 watercolour drawings. Blake's most splendid illuminated book. In The Song of Los Blake returns to the cosmic theme and brings the story of humanity down to his own time. nor meter. rewritten after 1800). In 1800. became the favourite poet of the age (»39). It provided the materials out of which Blake constructed his later epics. a kind of Exodus following the Genesis of Urizen. was captured. Scott. The Four Zoas remains fragmentary and lacking in coherence. brought only ridicule. “I must create a system or be enslaved by another man's”. superhuman figures gesticulate across his pages. called Vala. but the quality of this work's poetry and its thought are obscured by its overly complicated mythological scheme. not Wordsworth. but by the cloudy pseudo-medievalism of Chatterton and Ossian ( »40). not to entertain us but to evangelise. and in The Book of Los. all beings are united in one perfect Human Form. Milton and Jerusalem (»42). the human spirit triumphant over reason. In spite of the grandeur of individual passages and of the major conception. not by the clarity and humour of Chaucer. much as he admired him. It seems to have been while he was working on these illustrations that a fresh creative impulse led to the beginning of his first full-scale epic poem. characters. Milton (1804-08). the great visionary epics written and etched between about 1804 and 1820. bearing names we have never heard of and associations we can slowly grasp. It remains a magnificent torso. where he lived and worked until 1803 under the patronage of Hayley. knights and monks and fair ladies were already popular enough for Jane Austen to parody in Northanger Abbey. Blake was in many ways typical of his age and like William Morris seventy years later. and so do we (»41). After the Fall which as always in Blake is a failure of the imagination . a series of longer poems written from 1789 on. Gothic stories and melodramas of castles. linked the Syrian mother-goddess with Avebury and the Druids with the biblical patriarchs. the Page 9 of 44 . Blake's saga of myths is continued in The Book of Ahania. He had lost faith in the French Revolution as an apocalyptic and regenerating force. a Sussex squire.

Toward the end of his stay at Felpham. as in The Marriage of Heaven and Hell. a government clerk who was for years a generous and loyal supporter and patron of Blake and who commissioned almost his total output of paintings and watercolours at this period. and only a few of its 100 plates are without illustration. Urizen and Los. the whole of mankind. Thus Albion is the Holy Land. the whole universe. It was also probably at Felpham that Blake wrote the most notable of his later lyrical poems. close on the heels of the Immortal Man. "We who call ourselves Christians". and written and engraved soon after the completion of Milton. who had employed Blake to make engravings. and Jesus did indeed walk (in the truth of the imagination) across these hills. a well-meaning. This poem is a comparatively brief epic. are now all damaged pieces of the Universal Human Form. it too is couched in the prophetic grandeur and obscurity of Blake's invented mythology. the archetypal craftsman or creative man. many of them addressed to Thomas Butts.the Spirit of Britain . Milton's struggle with evil in the poem is a reflection of Blake's own conflicts with the domineering patronage of William Hayley. Blake was accused by a soldier called Schofield of having uttered seditious words when he had ejected him from his cottage garden. It is not enough now. Urizen. Now the belief grows into its own images which must be incorporated into the myth.creatures of the earlier myth. Blake has used the phrase. and was acquitted. Jerusalem is Blake's third major epic and his longest poem. which deals with a contest between the hero (Milton) and Satan. and in 1803 the Blake returned to London. too. London is Jerusalem. not this time through disillusionment but because his images had taken a new colouring. Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand And Eternity in an hour. Although the details are complex and present many difficulties. Even Vala. regarded his imaginative works with contempt and tried to turn him into a miniature painter and tame poet on his estate. the great evil of America (1793). He was tried at the quarter sessions at Chichester. Hayley gave bail for Blake and employed counsel to defend him. During Blake's Felpham years another enthusiasm arrived. and the reconciliation of Christ and Albion brings about the reunion of the disintegrated Eternal Human. denied the charges. but he soon found the patronizing Hayley intolerable. the poem's main outlines are simple. Blake's health suffered. obtuse dilettante. Orc. At the opening of the poem the giant Albion (who represents both England and humanity) is shown plunged into the "Sleep of Ulro. The cottage was damp and Mrs. becomes less hated and more pitied. Begun about 1804. but this can Page 10 of 44 . At first Blake was delighted with life in Sussex. is drawn together. the female form who is at first blamed for the disintegration. that he wrote some of his finest letters. and none will be complete without the rest. The Human Form Divine will not be re-created until the whole nation. is at last regenerated ( »43). It is a time once more for the restatement of the vision and the third development of the myth. it is also the most richly decorated of Blake's illuminated books. The core of the poem describes his awakening and regeneration through the agency of Los. including "Auguries of Innocence"." It was at Felpham. Markedly Christian language begins to creep into Vala. who appears then as Christ himself. This experience became part of the mythology underlying Jerusalem and Milton (»44). The poem's consummation is the reunion of Albion with Jerusalem (his lost soul) and with God through his acceptance of Jesus' doctrine of universal brotherhood ( »45). and the Giant Albion . with its memorable opening stanza: "To see a World in a Grain of Sand And a Heaven in a Wild Flower. Even before Felpham.is identified with the Israel of the Bible. In 1804-08 Blake engraved Milton. The Druids of Ancient Britain are identified with the patriarchs of the Bible. which eventually collapses under the strain. From this time on." or the hell of abstract materialism. The solution to the disintegration of man is reconciliation through forgiveness. to find one's own imaginative life. It is a complex development. William Hayley.

the problem of Blake himself. He found it difficult to get work. The most notable poetry Blake wrote after Jerusalem is to be found in The Everlasting Gospel (1818?). He touched it probably French. a rollicking satire on events in his early life. and the engravings that can be identified as his from this period are often hack jobs. Toward the end of his life Blake still coloured copies of his books while resting in bed. and a notebook containing sketches and some shorter poems dating between 1793 and 1818. in London. As a result. He once painted while receiving a vision of Voltaire. Blake thus found in his 60s a following and support for the imaginative work he had longed to do all his life. He threw nothing away. It was like the touch of a musical key. no less radical (»46). begun in 1825 and left unfinished at his death. whose members shared Blake's religious seriousness and revered him as their master. one of the first to recognize Blake's genius. – in his 70th year – leaving uncompleted a cycle of drawings inspired by Dante's Divine Comedy. more precisely strapping on the sandals) of Elijah and Milton. It is something less systematic. He envisioned his works as expressions of prophecy. The difficulty is not to be solved by finding a missing key. The function of Orc and Urizen in America (1793) is quite plain. who introduced him to a group of young artists among whom was Samuel Palmer. In 1809 he made a last effort to put his work before the public and held an exhibition of 16 paintings and watercolour drawings. One never Page 11 of 44 . because it was acquired in 1847 by the English poet Dante Gabriel Rossetti. rather than the vividness that has captured the commentators. Blake's life during the period from 1803 to about 1820 was one of worldly failure. Linnell also commissioned Blake's designs for Dante's Divine Comedy. He wrote a thoughtful Descriptive Catalogue for the exhibition. England is 'clouded' by spiritual blindness more than by cumuli. and by Vala (1803) and Milton (1810) they have had to be altered almost out of recognition. and that is how he died in a room off the Strand. he refines his myth too. the other for law. Each of Blake's new enthusiasm reshapes the legend of his poems. He tended to 'improve' his longer poems by a process of accumulation rather than by following the demands of the narrative. Blake's writings also include An Island in the Moon (1784). It is true that he has a habit of allusiveness that is certainly obscure. of which the Industrial Revolution is only one manifestation. but this is not really accurate. As Blake refines his beliefs. or in the politics. They have sought high and low in the mystical philosophies. for example. Blake was not by instinct a narrative poet. These consist of 102 watercolours notable for their brilliant colour. one fights for freedom. but now his thought is less simple and more mystical. Blake has returned to the idealistic hope of America. on the 12th August 1827. a collection of letters. following in the footsteps (or. yet as the pages of Jerusalem show. replied: "To my sensations it was English. but they are never quite abandoned. and when asked later whether Voltaire spoke English. these include some of his best known pictures.begin in the smallest of single actions. and often used old material for new tasks. Blake is frequently referred to as a mystic. Blake found in 1819 a new and generous patron in the painter John Linnell." ( »47) It is the difficulty of Blake's visionary poetry. But after this long period of obscurity. a fragmentary and unfinished work containing a challenging reinterpretation of the character and teaching of Christ. it was in his last years that he produced his most technically assured and beautiful designs. But Blake's last years were devoted mainly to pictorial art. It was called the Rossetti Manuscript. In his filthy London studio he succumbed to constant visions of angels and prophets who instructed him in his work. and the 'Satanic mills' are the shackles of the mind. of East and West for the "key" to his work. He deliberately wrote in the style of the Hebrew prophets and apocalyptic writers. In his last years Blake became the centre of this group. In the famous song. In The Book of Urizen (1794) it is much more complex. He was buried in an unmarked grave in Bunhill Fields. but to my ear it became English. but only a few people attended. In 1821 Linnell commissioned him to make a series of 22 watercolours inspired by the Book of Job. His mind was like an untidy desk.

the eternal spirit of the imagination. lies the "key" to Blake. Milton ceases to be a seventeenth-century poet and becomes a state of Los. More important. he became obscure or tedious – often both. Yet there are many occasions. No one scheme fits all his works. generalized figures representing eternal states of humanity. we can begin to find our way through the difficulties of his work. he was neo-classic by training and inclination. at his worst. nor vivid observations of human life. as his mystical figures move across the abyss. each stage grows out of the one preceding it. His lyrics are usually marvels of conciseness. but representative figures to embody both the inner nature of the subject and his own response to it. much of his poetry disregards his own rule.knows what one will find. The reader ploughing through pages full of 'dismal howling woe' comes across an unexpected line of startling beauty which only Blake could have written ( »48). Each enthusiasm gives a striking new turn to his legend and its imagery. There is an odd contradiction at the heart of Blake's writing. when all the elements come together. He was not a "Romantic" writer. evangelic fervour and profound imagery. Page 12 of 44 . and then he produces poetry of a unique kind of genius. Blake champions the imagination. His instinct was to create – inspired by his own visions – not symbols out of mystical tradition. whatever that is. If we can understand the series of enthusiasms. He blundered into greatness. He repeatedly called for art to concern itself with the 'minute particulars' of life: "To generalise is to be an idiot!" he scribbled in the margin of Reynold's Discourses (»49). but too much misplaced convention. he created a kind of magic of which no other poet has been capable. but he chose to express his dearest beliefs. At his greatest. It is easy to dismiss Blake as 'primitive'. just as he often blundered away from it. not as 'minute particulars'. pigheadedness. On the other hand he criticized Wordsworth for paying too much attention to the details of nature at the expense of inner realities ( »50). It is therefore no use trying to understand Blake by means of a key. His long epic poems are made up of a mixture of inspiration. which leave the reader in something more than admiration – in wonderment. which is lost when the work becomes heavy and charmless. an artist whose attraction resides in his naivety. He had no time for classical myth. but that is irrelevant. From first to last. When he succeeded. but the new is always superimposed on the old. the eternal becomes a scheme ( »51). Words like 'howling' and 'dismal' appear far too often. When he failed. but as cloudy. Here if anywhere else. minutiae become eternal. This is also too simple.

[London. 1971. Maynard (ed. [Boston. 12.Blake's Composite Art: A Study of the Illuminated Poetry. 1967.Introduction to English Romantic Poetry: An Anthology. [Mineola. V. 1995.] (Chpt. [(ed.] (p. Oxford University Press.] (13) Bindman.] (p. S. Northrop . Maynard (ed. 4. [New York: Norton.William Blake. New York. Dutton. [New York. Phaidon. Oxford University Press. Expanded Edition. 1967. . [Princeton. Jonathan Cape.William Blake: His Life and Work. (Chpt. 1971. [Thames and Hudson.Footnotes: (1) Appelbaum.) c.William Blake: Songs of Innocence and of Experience. (p. S.a.] (p.) (5) Frye. 783.The Life of William Blake.] (11) Bindman. N. 45.] (10) Wilson. Constable.] (p.] (p. [Columbia University Press. [New York: Oxford University Press. [New York: Oxford University Press. Dover.A Blake Dictionary: The Ideas and Symbols of William Blake. 1996.Introduction to English Romantic Poetry: An Anthology. 1971. [London. [Budapest.The Art of William Blake. [New York.] (Chpt.) . 1982.T.William Blake.) . Volume 2. 1977. Jack . Beacon Press.] (Chpt.Blake as an Artist.) (16) Keynes.) Geoffrey Keynes.] (p.Blake as an Artist. Phaidon. [New York: Norton.] (20) Keynes.) (24) Appelbaum.J. Expanded Edition.) (26) Mack. 45-50. Volume 2. [Mineola. ELTE-BTK DELL. [Columbia University Press. Dover.) .) (6) c.A Blake Dictionary: The Ideas and Symbols of William Blake. Maynard (ed. David . 1933. 1967. IX. 1995. Foster .) (15) Blunt. 8.William Blake: His Life and Work.) (2) Damon. [Mineola.] ("An Introduction to William Blake") (21) Bindman.a. 1978.) (25) Damon. Jack . Dover. London. Mona .58.) (8) Keynes. [New York: Oxford University Press. London. 1967. Stanley .] (p. 1995. V.] (p.) (22) Mitchell.] Page 13 of 44 .) (12) Lindsay.) (23) Bindman. 1982. John Middleton . Stanley . His Art and Times.785. 34.William Blake: Songs of Innocence and of Experience. 1967.Fearful Symmetry: A Study of William Blake.William Blake. 1963. 1996.] (p. Dutton.) (27) Mack. Geoffrey .: Princeton University Press. [Oxford. 318. Anthony . [New York: Oxford University Press. Geoffrey . Anthony . 1996.) (28) Varanyi Szilvia .The Life of William Blake.) (7) Appelbaum. W. Geoffrey .] ("An Introduction to William Blake") (19) Lindsay."William Blake" in The Norton Anthology: World Masterpieces."William Blake" in The Norton Anthology: World Masterpieces.William Blake: Songs of Innocence and of Experience. 78.] ("An Introduction to William Blake") (9) Wilson. [(ed. New York. Mona . [Thames and Hudson. [New York: Norton.) (18) Keynes.] (p.Sin and Error in William Blake."William Blake" in The Norton Anthology: World Masterpieces. [Oxford.) (3) Murry. 1971.] (Chpt. His Art and Times. 15-23. 1978.William Blake: Songs of Innocence and of Experience. V. Volume 2.) Geoffrey Keynes. 13.The Art of William Blake.) (4) Mack. Expanded Edition.J.Introduction to English Romantic Poetry: An Anthology.12. 1977. Szakdolgozat 19xx. [London. David . Geoffrey . 53-56.] (p.a. David .) (14) c. (p.] ("An Introduction to William Blake") (17) Blunt. Constable. Stanley . 1978.] (Chpt.784. 1963.] (p. Foster . David .

] (41) Lindsay. Mass. S.. 1971. 1971. [London.) (30) Nurmi. [Princeton: Princeton University Press. [Mineola. [London. [Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.) Geoffrey Keynes.) Chapter II. [London. [Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1992. agricultural society to an industrial society where philosophers and political thinkers such as John Locke (1632-1704) and Thomas Paine (1737-1809) championed the rights of the individual. 1975. Dover. Constable.) (40) Fisher. [New York. Jack . 1978. Jack .) . .] (p.) .] (p. 1958. S.The Life of William Blake. I.William Blake: His Life and Work.] (p. Dutton. 1978.] (45) Nathan. 1978. 1978. XI.] (37) Damon. [New York.A Blake Dictionary: The Ideas and Symbols of William Blake. S.) (51) Behrendt. 1971.Literary Kicks on William Blake. the French Revolution.] (Chpt. Jack . nevertheless." was matched a generation later Page 14 of 44 .) (33) Damon. 45. [Mineola. Oxford University Press. [in Frye (ed.Prince William B.] (p. and the great writers of the period did not call themselves Romantics. .: Peter Smith. "Romantic" is indispensable but also a little misleading: there was no self-styled "Romantic movement" at the time. and the Industrial Revolution all happened during his lifetime..] (p.] (46) Levi Asher .a. S. Foster . 106. [Paris.] (43) Wilson. others did not. Dutton. Foster . 1975. Stanley . Stephen C. .] (p.A Blake Dictionary: The Ideas and Symbols of William Blake. Foster . Constable. (47) Phillips. 1971. Constable. Hutchinson. 87. 114-116. [London.] (44) Lindsay. – Blake: Prophet against Empire. David V.Blake and the Druids. [(ed. Blake lived during a time of intense social change.Introduction to English Romantic Poetry: An Anthology.] (p. 79. Dover. Some of these changes had Blake's approval.] (38) Appelbaum.William Blake: His Life and Work. 344. 1996.) (35) Damon. Norman . 193.] (p. Michael (ed. These changes gave Blake a chance to see one of the most dramatic stages in the transformation of the Western world from a somewhat feudal. 54. . The American Revolution.] (Chpt.William Blake: His Life and Work.Introduction to English Romantic Poetry: An Anthology. Stanley .Major Influences The Romantic period As a term to cover the most distinctive writers who flourished in the last years of the 18th century and the first decades of the 19th. F.) (36) Lindsay. 124. Constable. [New York.112. [London. Constable.The Philosophical Conceptions of William Blake. 1977.) (34) Appelbaum. Mona . Blake's affirmation in 1793 that "A new Heaven is begun. Macmillan Press.] (Chpt. 1996. 1978. Mouton. (p. 1978.) (39) Phillips. New Jersey 1966.William Blake.] (42) Damon.William Blake: His Life and Work. [London. III.) (32) c.(29) Erdman.) (50) c.a.) (49) Lindsay. (p. 1978.): Blake . Prentice-Hall. Foster . [London.Reading William Blake.) (31) Lindsay.Interpreting Blake.William Blake: His Philosophy and Symbols.A Blake Dictionary: The Ideas and Symbols of William Blake.William Blake: His Life and Work.Interpreting Blake. Many of the age's foremost writers thought that something new was happening in the world's affairs. Peter . Jack . Dutton. [Gloucester. Michael (ed. London. Martin K. Jack .

His theories of diction have been allowed to loom too large in critical discussion: his own best practice very often differs from Page 15 of 44 . or "gaudy and inane. The feature most likely to strike a reader turning to the poets of the time after reading their immediate predecessors is the new role of individual feeling and thought. addressing a cultivated and homogeneous audience and having as his end the conveyance of "truth. for them." (»1) Poetry was regarded as conveying its own truth. A further sign of the diminished stress placed on judgment is the Romantic attitude to form: if poetry must be spontaneous. Wordsworth and his followers. on dreams and reveries. The emphasis on feeling . trust to those feelings. and your poem will take its shape and proportions as a tree does from the vital principle that actuates it. Wordsworth called it "the spontaneous overflow of powerful feeling. to see the poet as a spokesman of society. the poets of this period accordingly placed great emphasis on the workings of the unconscious mind. and often by those who were ignorant that the phrase is Dryden's or that the type was adumbrated in the "poor Indian" of Pope's Essay on Man (»4). the resulting creation must be valuable. the Divine Vision." and in 1833 John Stuart Mill defined "natural poetry" as "Feeling itself. imagination and judgement" but William Blake wrote: "One Power alone makes a Poet: Imagination. But feeling had begun to receive particular emphasis and is found in most of the Romantic definitions of poetry. referring to Haydon Leigh Hunt and Wordsworth. the imagination was the supreme poetic quality." each with its own linguistic decorum. as Coleridge saw it. employing Thought only as the medium of its utterance. found the prevailing poetic diction of the later 18th century stale and stilted. and other pulses" wrote Keats. and it led to the feeling that poetic sublimity was unattainable except in short passages ( »5). and it is worth remembering that Pope praised his father as having known no language but the language of the heart. "You feel strongly." This organic view of poetry is opposed to the classical theory of "genres. but for Men. unique experience." (»3) The judgment." The poet was seen as an individual distinguished from his fellows by the intensity of his perceptions. to particularise is the alone distinction of merit." the Romantics found the source of poetry in the particular. Wordsworth advised a young poet.by Shelley's "The world's great age begins anew." (»2) It followed that the best poetry was that in which the greatest intensity of feeling was expressed.seen perhaps at its finest in the poems of Burns . a quasi-divine creative force that made the poet a godlike being." for Shelley the poet was "a nightingale who sits in darkness and sings to cheer its own solitude with sweet sounds. and on the childlike or primitive view of the world. Where the main trend of 18th-century poetics had been to praise the general. The degree of intensity was affected by the extent to which the poet's imagination had been at work." and totally unsuited to the expression of their perceptions. these shall give the world/Another heart. The implied attitude to an audience varied accordingly: although Wordsworth maintained that a poet did not write "for Poets alone." Rousseau's sentimental conception of the "noble savage" was often invoked. sincerity was the criterion by which it was to be judged. and Wordsworth accordingly sought to bring the language of poetry back to that of common speech. Hand in hand with the new conception of poetry and the insistence on a new subject matter went a demand for new ways of writing. the language of feeling. It could not be. or conscious control. it should be fashioned primarily according to the dictates of the creative imagination. sincere. Fresh ideals came to the fore: in particular the ideal of freedom. particularly Keats." "These.was in some ways a continuation of the earlier "cult of sensibility". long cherished in England. As that ideal swept through Europe. it became natural to believe that the age of tyrants might soon end. on the supernatural. taking as his basic subject matter the workings of his own mind. Provided the feeling behind it was genuine. was felt to be secondary. and hence a new importance was attached to the lyric." and Keats declared "I never wrote one single line of Poetry with the least Shadow of public thought. Romantic theory thus differed from the neoclassic in the relative importance it allotted to the imagination: Samuel Johnson had seen the components of poetry as "invention. this last being regarded as valuable because its clarity and intensity had not been overlaid by the restrictions of civilized "reason. intense. Blake's marginal comment on Sir Joshua Reynolds' Discourses expresses the position with characteristic vehemence: "to generalise is to be an idiot. was being extended to every range of human endeavour.

so that he was influenced by the stars and could dominate them in turn. 1784-85). and the whole edifice of magic which had been built on it. The Marriage of Heaven and Hell (1790-93) and Songs of Experience (1794). and suggest the transitory nature of human life. still using mythological characters. His early development of a protective shield of mocking humour with which to face a world in which science had become trifling and art inconsequential is visible in the satirical An Island in the Moon (c.his theory. pulsing with currents of divine energy. Later Blake shifted his poetic aim once more. The story of Urizen's rise to provide a fortification against the chaos created by loss of a true human spirit was set out first in "Prophetic Books" such as The First Book of Urizen (1794) and then. Blake's later poetry was most probably influenced by the graveyard school. little first-rate poetry had been produced (as distinct from published) in Britain since the 1740s ( »6). alive and all trough. In his powerful works. Tradition has it that he openly wore the revolutionary red cockade in the streets of London. Top The Poets of Early-Romanticism Useful as it is to trace the common elements in Romantic poetry. the time was ripe for a change: the flexible diction of earlier 18th-century poetry had hardened into a merely conventional language and. The poem is a dignified. Nevertheless." The works of the graveyard school were significant as early precursors of the Romantic Movement. and William Wordsworth. These poems express the sorrow and pain of bereavement. Man could not now climb the ladder of his own nature to scale the heights of power. The "graveyard" is a genre of 18th-century British poetry that focused on death and bereavement. and of Edward Young's celebrated blank-verse dramatic rhapsody Night Thoughts (1742-45). with the notable exceptions of Blake and Burns. were consigned to the Page 16 of 44 . or The Four Zoas. he then took the bolder step of setting aside sophistication in the visionary Songs of Innocence (1789). which the magician sought to employ. there was little conformity among the poets themselves. He did not contain the heavens himself. Among Blake's secular illustrations were those for an edition of Thomas Gray's poems and the 537 watercolours for Edward Young's 'Night Thoughts'. gently melancholy elegy celebrating the graves of humble and unknown villagers and suggesting that the lives of rich and poor alike "lead but to the grave. responsive to human will and desire. The Grave (1743). philosophical tendencies of graveyard poetry found their fullest expression in Thomas Gray's "An Elegy Written in a Country Church Yard" (1751). It is misleading to read the poetry of the first Romantics – William Blake. The graveyard school consisted largely of imitations of Robert Blair's popular long poem of morbid appeal. when Wordsworth published his preface to Lyrical Ballads in 1800. more ambitiously. Top Mysticism and Romanticism The 18th century – and especially the second half – is a very important age from an esoteric point of view. Blake had been dissatisfied since boyhood with the current state of poetry and the drabness of contemporary thought. he portrayed the imaginative artist as the hero of society and forgiveness as the greatest human virtue. he renewed his efforts to revise his contemporaries' view of the universe and to construct a new mythology centred not in the God of the Bible but in Urizen. in the unfinished manuscript Vala. he attacked the hypocrisies of the age and the impersonal cruelties resulting from the dominance of analytic reason in contemporary thought. The new scientific view of the world demolished the theory of macrocosm and microcosm. The universe was no longer constructed on the model of a man. a figure of reason and law who he believed to be the true deity worshiped by his contemporaries. As it became clear that the ideals of the Revolution were not likely to be realized in his time. His desire for renewal encouraged him to view the outbreak of the French Revolution as a momentous event. Their concern was rather to change the intellectual climate of the age. written from about 1796 to about 1807 (»7). for example – as if it had been written primarily to express their feelings. evoke the horror of death's physical manifestations. The meditative. Samuel Taylor Coleridge. The links of sympathy and correspondence. Instead of attempting a narrative epic on the model of Paradise Lost he produced the more loosely organized visionary narratives of Milton (1804-08) and Jerusalem (1804-20) where.

magical or psychic exercise. Gemistos Plethon. These include the thoughts of the neoplatonist Marsiglio Ficino (1433-1499). As a counter-reaction of the new scientific dogmas there is a growing interest in the esoteric teachings everywhere in Europe from the late 1700s. where the old religion and the old traditions fared better. The rationalism of the Enlightenment cut the arteries of folk customs and William Blake – Newton ceremonies. Predicting the future changed into a scientific instead of a religious. The famous English magicians John Dee (-1608) and Edward Kelly (-1595) are published again as well as the astrologers Regiomontanus (Johann Müller 1436-76). At popular levels. improved agricultural and medical techniques weakened – without entirely destroying – the hold of magic. was correspondingly stronger in Protestant than in Catholic spheres of influence. though it proved hollow. herb-lore and astrology on the most important areas of most people's lives. The reaction.rubbish heap of discarded theories. Raimondus Lullus. when it came. and indeed it became questionable whether they existed at all. magic ceased to command respect or cause much alarm in intellectual circles. But the thoughts of the theosophical Page 17 of 44 . and the works of Nostradamus (Michel de Nostredame 1503-1566). The spirits of things which made them worth mastering. and Copernicus (-1543). It was dismissed with contempt as irrational and ridiculous. People began to look instead to improved technology for control of the environment. There's a kind of “renaissance of the esoteric” and many works of former esoteric and classical hermetic writers are widely published. it cogs and wheels turning in accordance with immutable laws which left no scope for magical and mystical manipulation and little for effective religion. The universe was now a dead piece of machinery. the writings of the alchemists Paracelsus (14931541) and Bombast von Hohenheim (1493-1541). Agrippa Von Nettesheim (Heinrich Cornelius 1486-1535) and Johannes Trithemius (1462-1516). Cusanus and cardinal Bessarion. witchcraft. A certain respect remained for religion. the occultists Johann Reuchlin (1455-1522). Jerome Cardan (1501-76). which began to die (Newton designing the new universe) out. Pico della Mirandola (1463-1494). These trends were far more pronounced in Protestant quarters than in Roman Catholic ones.

incarnate whenever people rise into union with God. Protestant mystics explicitly recognize that the divine Light or Spark is a universal principle. First Epistle]. like the Cambridge Platonists." Böhme took over the Gnostic belief that the physical world arose from a primeval fall. In Holland a mystical group known as "Collegiants".Sebastian Franck (1499-1553). The religion of the "Ranters" and other radical Puritans in 17th-century England had mystical aspects (»8). taught that humans as created beings are totally corrupt." Sebastian Franck. Protestant mystical circles. Valentin Weigel (1533-88). essential reality lies in the ideal world. founded in Holland by Hendrik Niclaes early in the 16th century before moving to England about 1550. broke away from the Remonstrant (Calvinist) Church. The cardinal feature of Protestant mysticism is the emphasis laid on the divine element in humanity variously known as the "spark" or "ground" of the soul. there is a birth of God (or of Christ) in the soul. The divine life is embodied in "the true holy self that lies within the other" [Böhme. There's no end to the number of mystic groups and selfmade magicians proclaiming some kind of superior mystic knowledge. William Law remarked: "the eternal Word of God lies hid in thee. whether Roman Catholic or Protestant ( »10). the "divine image" or "holy self. sin is essentially the assertion of the self in its separation from God. His teaching was the main formative influence on the developed outlook of William Law and William Blake. Among traditional Lutherans Johann Arndt (1555-1621) in his Four Books on True Christianity took up many of the themes of medieval mysticism in the context of Reformation theology and prepared the way for the spiritual revival known as Pietism. and the "Family of Love". the "Quakers" headed by George Fox (1624-91) and William Law (1686-1761) were important. unlike Protestant mystics generally. Protestant mystics rejected the Lutheran and Calvinist doctrine of the total corruption of human nature." the "Inner Light." Protestant mystics stated plainly that. George Fox appealed to the conscience of the American Indians as a proof of the universality of the Inner Light. Hans Denck in the early 16th century spoke of the witness of the Spirit in "heathens and Jews. which Böhme described as "the uncreated Heaven. or Jacob Böhme (1575-1624) are even more influential. as a spark of the divine nature" [The Spirit of Prayer.1499-c. Page 18 of 44 . Galileo Galilei (1564-1641) and Francis Bacon (1561-1626). For Protestant as well as for Roman Catholic mystics. I. Other mystical bodies were the "Schwenckfeldians". similar to the Quakers. and Jakob Böhme (1575-1624) are especially noteworthy. Fox said: "I saw. renewed with the Fall of Adam. within which such mystics as Count von Zinzendorf flourished. salvation means deliverance from the creaturely nature and union with the heavenly Christ (»9). England is especially intricate. found divine revelation in the work of the sages of Greece and Rome. Valentin Weigel (1533-1588). as well as the ideas of the great Renaissance natural philosophers like Giordano Bruno (1548-1600).2. freemason lodges and magical societies pop up like mushrooms after a heavy rain and good sunshine. By the Spirituals Christ was viewed as the ideal humanity born in God from all eternity. For Böhme and the Spirituals. It was especially on this ground that the mystics came into conflict with the established church. In England the Anglican divines known as the "Cambridge Platonists". When that self is manifested. who.]. neoplatonist groupings. "The eternal Word of God" is the inner Christ. founded by Kaspar Schwenckfeld. This conception received its greatest emphasis with Kaspar Schwenckfeld. Top Protestant mysticism The chief representatives of Protestant mysticism are the continental "Spirituals." or the "Christ within. in that Light and Spirit that was before the Scriptures were given forth" [Journal." among whom Sebastian Franck (c." This was one of the essential elements of 'Rhineland mysticism' and shows the connection between medieval and Reformation mysticism.1542). William Law described non-Christian saints as "apostles of a Christ within. for the mystic. supreme authority lies of necessity not in the written word of Scripture but in the Word of God in the self. chapter 2].

millenialism provided an explanation for the tumultuous revolutionary uprisings going on in the world in the 1790s. They held. Harrison has observed. who saw Paine as instrumental in ushering in a new age. Throughout his works William Blake makes such claims as "There is no natural religion. which emphasized individual spiritual guidance [Paine I: 464]." and "He never can be a Friend to the Human Race who is the Preacher of Natural Morality or Natural Religion. with Fox and Hendrik Niclaes. It does not matter that Blake and Paine apparently cannot reconcile their religious differences. simply based on his popular reception as such. as it has been for us classify him as a deist ( »13). millenarian Christians. Indeed. simply for economic reasons. and The Age of Reason. Other works that contributed to his reputation as one of the greatest political propagandists in history were Rights of Man. Presumably he saw deism as a very dangerous tyrannical movement. who were drawn to evangelical religious groups. Evangelical egalitarian rhetoric offered these struggling people a voice in a social system that was unresponsive to their needs. including The Age of Reason attracted these politically concerned. Top Political radicalism The degree to which Blake was personally acquainted with the leading radicals of his days. such as Godwin. Holcroft. through the well-known radical bookseller Joseph Johnson. Moreover. because Blake recognized that Paine and he were attacking the same tyrannous regimes. since these are clearly reflected in the two works which follow the Songs of Innocence and Thel: The French revolution and the Marriage of Heaven and Hell. at least. Paine's deism was incorporated into religious beliefs. when Bishop Watson wrote a refutation of Thomas Paine's The Age of Reason. Thomas Paine (1737-1809) was an English-American writer and political pamphleteer whose "Common Sense" and "Crisis" papers were important influences on the American Revolution. no doubt. It would be just as easy to call Paine a millenialist. However. an antinomian tendency among them that rejected the principle of moral law. He is a flatterer who means to betray." as apt articulations of their own dissenting faiths. Page 19 of 44 . pauperised and criminalised" artisans and laborers of middle and low classes whose troubles Paine would well have known. that perfection is possible in this life. Paine's writings. a defence of the French Revolution and of republican principles. These evangelical millenialists were actually drawn to such deist expressions in Paine's work as "My own mind is my own church. The millenialist rhetoric of the Protestant dissenting faiths and Great Awakening promotion of "inner light" theology helped to fuel political resistance to bring about a new way of life for those who were not benefiting from the current system. Although.The "Ranters" provide a good example of the conflict between mysticism and established religion.C. A positive explanation of revolutionary movements would have been welcome to members of working classes. F. proclaiming Watson's motives to be tyrannical and Paine to be a "worker of miracles"." and there was. has been exaggerated ( »11). it never appeared and is known only from a proof copy. Yet. 52]. and Thomas Paine. The former Blake planned to print and publish in the ordinary way. but there is no question that he sympathised with their ideas. to perpetuate Tyrant Pride" ["Jerusalem" Pl. Puritan leaders under the Commonwealth denounced them for their "blasphemous and execrable opinions. It was only a short step from religious conversion to radical political activism. Blake had much better reason – involving his very particular use of the terms "natural religion" and "prophecy" – for praising Paine as a miracle-worker. an exposition of the place of religion in society. uprisings which threatened the status quo. Harrison suggests that at the popular level. Most studies on the subject tend to locate the reason for Blake's extravagant praise of Paine in his sympathies with revolutionary politics. it is of importance in setting forth the story of the first years of the French Revolution in a manner which shows clearly that Blake was at this date a convinced Jacobin ( »12). Blake angrily annotated the refutation. as J. the casualised. and many millenarians joined the radical secular groups which commonly attracted a motley group of "the insecure and declining. and not by his method of illuminated painting. Some rejected the very notion of sin and believed in the universal restoration of all things in God.

Nathanael Culverwel. shared with other deists like Voltaire a respect for Quakerism as "the religion that approaches the nearest of all others to true Deism. They learned much from Descartes's critique of Empiricism. the Platonists said. is a call to do the work of God to bring about a better world. However." [Paine I:562]. but. In their eyes. according to Paine. Their metaphysics derives from Renaissance Platonism. who was so concerned with his role as both poet and prophet. His principal disciples at the University of Cambridge were Ralph Cudworth. Richard Cumberland. Paine. it was written by poets and prophets who "were in parties. whose father was a Quaker. Paine goes further than his fellow deists when he calls for the Quakers to promote their religious beliefs in support of the colonial cause in 1776. and the good man's love of goodness is at the same time an understanding of its nature. which Blake might have read as part of the Appendix to the third edition of Common Sense . we can expect that this passage would have angered Blake. The width of their tolerance won them the nickname "latitude men". the Cambridge Platonists reacted against the Calvinist emphasis on the arbitrariness of divine sovereignty. they denied that ritual. archbishop of Canterbury. Paine accuses this movement of hypocrisy. These writings reveal that. which interpreted Plato in a Neoplatonic light. Really. Henry More. in the moral and benign part thereof" [Paine. which not even God can alter through sovereign power. is essentially rational. Page 20 of 44 . In instructing those who shared the faith of his father on how to best apply their religious beliefs as a force for good. Paine saw the Quaker cause as allied closely with his own. fearing that the new "mechanical" theories might undermine the religious world view. Paine thus calls for mental warfare for inner light principles of human equality which are closer to popular millenialist ideals than to a deism that supports the status quo by proclaiming a God afar off whose machine is set to run perfectly in his absence. Educated as Puritans. more than simply respecting this branch of inner light theology. and they were often condemned as Unitarians or atheists because they stressed morality so far above dogma. the political philosopher. church government. what may be less clear is that Paine advocates a particular kind of deism that shares the tenets of the popular "inner light" philosophy in a way that very likely interested Blake. and they prophesied for or against. Morality. in short. To be a Christian is to participate in divine wisdom and to be free to choose whatever forms of religious organization prove helpful. Age of Reason I: 498]. and the Calvinists both erred in supposing that morality consists in obedience to a will. and the mystic Peter Sterry at Cambridge and John Norris at Oxford were influenced by Cambridge Platonism without wholly accepting its moral and religious ideals. and the Calvinists. was written in response to a Tory movement among colonial Quakers. However. Thomas Hobbes. Against both William Laud. Top Neoplatonism The "Cambridge Platonists" hoped to reconcile Christian ethics with Renaissance humanism. Paine gives them a non-military mode of opposition similar to his own: the Quakers must publish to spread their ideals and convince those who are tyrannically acting in the name of God that they must change their ways. or detailed dogmas are essentials of Christianity. This. and John Smith. and faith with rationality. who expounded in his sermons the Christian humanism that united the group. as the poetical and political writers of the present day write in defence of the party they associate with against the other. From what we know of the importance Blake places on revelation. Joseph Glanvill was a University of Oxford convert. according to the party they were with. Paine's "Epistle to Quakers". religion with the new science.Paine's attack on Christianity in The Age of Reason claims that the Bible is inapplicable to the eighteenth century. Their leader was Benjamin Whichcote. they supported (against Descartes) a teleological interpretation of natural processes (»14).

of the time are Sincerus Renatus (Sigmund Richter 1710). The first freemason lodge is founded in London in 1717. The Platonism of the English Romantic poets Coleridge and Shelley also derives from Taylor. In the poetry of William Blake – who eventually succeeded in reconciling Taylor's paganism with his own very original version of Christianity – much of the symbolism is Neoplatonic. had brought with them from among the Hebrews when they left Palestine for Britain about the time of Abraham. Top Freemasonry and Secret Societies Freemasonry also becomes a major organizing factor of the modern age.from a philosophical point of view . with students like Louis Claude de St-Martin (1743-1803). who founded "The Order of Black Eagle Rosy Cross". in the early 20th century. especially with his work “The Marriage of Heaven and Hell”. But there has also been a strongly anti-Christian Neoplatonic influence. William Blake (1757-1827). with affectionate amusement. James Price. Elus Cohens de l’Universe". The most poular of them was Vox Page 21 of 44 . He investigated Stonehenge and Avenbury. when a Fellow of the Royal Society. Astrology though less popular is kept alive in a rudimentary form in the almanacs. the influence of Taylor's writings was again apparent in the Irish poet and dramatist William Butler Yeats.The influence of "Christian Platonism" on English literature. Stukeley became a Mason because he hoped that the Craft's secret concealed 'the remains of the mysteries of the ancients'. and Franz Anton Mesmer (1734-1815). and especially on English poetry. His ideas had a strong influence on the English Romantics. although both were able to read the original texts. Stukeley was dismayed by the atheism of his time and. he thought.. Stukeley's ideas seem to have had a great impact on Blake's own mythology (»17). the Prussian king (1786-97). Important freemasons . This is the age when "The Golden Rosy Cross Brotherhood" is formed. the pure and ancient knowledge of God which the Druids. which has amongst its members for example William II. also greatly constitutes to the mystical philosophy and tradition of the age. Stukeley was a clergyman. hoped to re-establish the authority of Christianity by tracing its essence back to the earliest times. But the feat turned out to have been fraudulent and the unfortunate Price committed suicide. He was also a member of the "Egyptian Society". and a large number of Neoplatonic works in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. with his unique form of illuminated poetry inspired by mystical vision. There was a sensation in England in 1782. He laid out a Druid shrine round an old apple tree in his garden in Linconshire and his friends. and Jacobite Scots (1750’). Taylor also deeply influenced Emerson and his circle in America. This is the time when William Stukeley (1687-1765) lays the foundations of the modern "Druid Society". In Druidism he found 'the aboriginal patriarchal religion'. which can be traced back to the German freemason lodge called “Strict Observance”. that of Thomas Taylor "the Platonist" (1758-1835). whose writings had greatly influenced Blake. Giacomo Casanova (1725-98). This is when the French magician. called him "the Arch-Druid of his Age" ( »16). The most important esoteric thinker of the time is Emanuel Swedenborg (1688-1772). but then it quickly spreads to the continent and America. Other important figures of the age are Jean Baptiste Willermoz (1767). and was founded by Baron von Hund (1755). Martinez de Pasqually (1727-79) founds the "Ordere des Chevalier-Macons. In a book published in 1736 he carried his efforts to the remarkable length of identifying the Roman Bacchus with God the Father. [See below: The New Church] Alchemy was conducted in hidden societies. who in his later poems made use of Stephen MacKenna's then new translation of Plotinus ( »15). who published translations of Plato. but this is the revival of the "Order of the Templarian Knights" too. Aristotle. physician and archaeologist. and published books on the two sites as 'temples of the British Druids' in the 1740s. Later. Taylor was as militant in his pagan Platonism as was Gemistus Plethon. founded in 1741 to promote the antique wisdom of the Nile. who founded mesmerism. has been wide and deep. due to the activity of the legendary Cagliostro (1743-95) and Saint Germain (-1784). a Fellow of the Royal Society and the founder of the "Royal Society of Antiquaries". in the Renaissance spirit. turned mercury into gold in the presence of distinguished observers.

In 1788 the first building for New Church worship was opened in Great East Cheap. who laid the foundations of today’s modern ‘lower’ astrology. and would not be till the 1820s. or New Church. mystical melting-pot was the perennial glamour of Egyptian wisdom. He gave an admirably clear summary of his theological thinking in his last work. Shortly after Swedenborg's death. (1785-89. the General Convention of the New Jerusalem in the U. Swedenborg thereafter left his remaining works in the natural sciences unfinished. Swedenborg did not himself found a church. which was put out under the name of the Astrologer Francis Moore long after his death in 1715.S. London. But less than a half a dozen new astrological textbooks were published between 1700 and 1780. Swedenborg told his friends in his later years. all of them in Latin and the major part anonymously. Soon after his death. except for 17941806 and 1809-14. On April 7.Stellarum. A definite call to abandon worldly learning occurred in April 1745. 1744." which he related to the New Jerusalem mentioned in the biblical Book of Revelation. Francis Barrett (1801). By this time the Sicilian adventurer Giuseppe Balsamo (1743-95). 4 vol. that he even tried to establish his own Swedenborgian society ( »21).A. (»18) Another ingredient in the magical. They were still believed to be charged with esoteric and compelling wisdom. Some more important figures of this age were the English magician. But perhaps the most important figure was to be Eliphas Levi (Alphonse Louis Constant 1810-?). and theologian: the General Conference of the New Church. but he believed that his writings would be the basis of a "New Church. De Coelo et ejus Mirabilibus et de Inferno (1758. respectively. who called himself Count Cagliostro. which gave him a temporary rest from the temptations of his own pride and the evil spirits he believed to be around him. the Vera Christiana Religio Page 22 of 44 . Swedenborg devoted his enormous energy to interpreting the Bible and to relating what he had seen and heard in the world of spirits and angels. the astrologer Robert Cross Smith (1795-1832) and Richard James Morrison (1795-1874). Egyptology and Orientalism directed the general interest towards ‘ancient’ wisdom and the mystical teachings.000 copies in 1768 and subsequently became the well-known Old Moore's Almanac. Top The New Church Probably the most important 'movement' to have influence on William Blake's philosophy and work was "The New Church". Its members are followers of the theology of Emanuel Swedenborg. a group of his followers in England decided to establish a separate church. who made the biggest influence on his age ( »19). For the remainder of his long career. devoted followers created Swedenborgian societies dedicated to the study of his thought. and was rapidly followed by others. Apocalypse Explained). which contain his commentaries on the internal spiritual meaning of Genesis and Exodus and on the Book of Revelation. Also called Swedenborgians. In 1789 a conference met in the London church. Heavenly Arcana) and Apocalypsis Explicata. These societies formed the nucleus of the Church of the New Jerusalem. and some suggest. 8 vol. and the General Church of the New Jerusalem. had founded his "Egyptian Rite of Masonry". On Heaven and Its Wonders and on Hell) is perhaps his best-known theological work. The call apparently came in the form of a waking vision of the Lord. It sold over 100. From 1749 to 1771 he wrote some 30 volumes. with himself at its head as Grand Copht and his beautiful wife presiding over the women's lodges as the Queen of Sheba. Swedenborg had his first vision of Christ. which is still published. philosopher. the General Conference of the New Church has met annually. the 18th-century Swedish scientist.. Among these were Arcana Coelestia. (1749-56. According to a number of researchers William Blake was in very close contact with the Church of the New Jerusalem (»20). it refers to the churches founded by the followers of Emanuel Swedenborg (1688-1772). The hieroglyphs had not yet been deciphered. also referred to as the Swedenborgians. Mozart was a mason and The Magic Flute (1791) is set in ancient Egypt and identifies the mysteries of Masonry with those of Isis and Osiris as the pathway to salvation. and.

and mind. This true order of creation. Man's salvation depends on his acceptance of and response to divine truth (»23). and that the long series of exegetical and theological works that he wrote constituted a revelation from God for a new age of truth and reason in religion. body. True Christian Religion). the Son the human embodiment of that divine soul. that his spiritual senses were opened so that he might be in the spiritual world as consciously as in the material world.e. to spiritual realities. and the inflowing of the divine being into the human plane thus perfected interposed an eternal and infinitely powerful barrier between the hells and mankind. Swedenborg rejected the tripersonalism of the orthodox doctrine of the Trinity (i. indivisible power and life within all creation is God. In order to redeem and save mankind. Swedenborg consistently maintained that the infinite. which are the communities of the spirits of evil men in the spiritual world. Jesus resisted every possible temptation and lived to their divine fullness the truths of the Word of God. He has diverted his love from God to his own ego. Swedenborg has often been regarded either as a spiritualist "medium" or as a mystic. Christ's soul partook of the divine being itself. for Swedenborg. By admitting into himself the evil spirits' temptations and by his complete resistance to them. the divine being of God had to come into the world in the material. Swedenborg attempted to interpret the Scriptures in the light of the "correspondence" between the spiritual and the material planes. Jesus broke their power. and thus evil has come into the world. or the "Divine Human. ( »22) Swedenborg asserted that his entry into the field of theological study was in response to a divine vision and call. and activity. which was written when he was 83. and Holy Spirit). consisted in mankind being re-created in God's image through the vehicle of Christ's glorification. Human beings are thus saved from the forcible imposition of the hells upon themselves and are thus free to know and obey the truth. The Father. Furthermore. During the course of his life on earth. however. The hells. the key to which he tried to find through detailed and voluminous commentaries and interpretations. Because of his otherworldly experiences." Swedenborg also rejected the orthodox conceptions of redemption. Swedenborg died in Page 23 of 44 . Swedenborg accepted that all creation has its origin in the divine love and wisdom and asserted that all created things are forms and effects of specific aspects of that love and wisdom and thus "correspond. He viewed references in the Bible to mundane historical matters as symbolically communicated spiritual truths. has been disturbed by man's misuse of his free will. and his nature was revealed as the divine embodiment of the divine soul. but in his dry. and the Holy Spirit the outflowing activity of Jesus. the one God revealed in the Persons of Father.(1771. and the Holy Spirit represent a trinity of essential qualities in God. love. Redemption. he held that this new revelation of God was what was meant by the Second Coming." on the material plane. To him the redemption of mankind represented a deliverance from the domination of evil. Jesus Christ. In his theology he asserts the absolute unity of God in both essence (essentia) and being (esse). Son. This divine trinity is reproduced in human beings in the form of the trinity of soul. the Father being the originating divine being itself. were aspiring to force themselves upon men's minds. matter-of-fact accounts of the spiritual world and in his acutely reasoned theology he actually retains his lifelong attitude of the scientific and philosophic investigator. tangible form of a human being--i. but in order that there might be an intimate contact of God with fallen mankind. To him the Trinity was in one Person.e. It was through the example of Christ's victory over all temptation and all evil that men could achieve a similar harmonious unification between their spiritual and their material aspects. Jesus assumed from Mary a body and a human nature comprising all the planes of human life. wisdom.. In his massive exegetical and theological volumes. the Son. in so doing he laid aside all the human qualities he had received from Mary. destroying their freedom to discern between truth and falsity and therefore between good and evil..

[West Cornwall. Harold . (ed. p.45. David V.) (13) Elisa E. trans. George Mills . 123. 24. Charles Baudelaire. Harold . .Emanuel Swedenborg. 1963. 125.] (Introduction) Page 24 of 44 . Paul A. (5) Bloom. Richard ."The Secret Masonic History of Blake's Swedenborg Society".) (3) Cantor. 122-132. [Princeton: Princeton University Press.] (21) Schuchard."A New Heaven Is Begun: Blake and Swedenborgianism.) (12) Blunt. [in Blake: An Illustrated Quarterly 26 (1992): 40-51. [in Blake: An Illustrated Quarterly 13 (1979): 64-90. [West Cornwall: Locust Hill Press.] (16) Cavendish. Locust Hill Press. and August Strindberg ( »24). . His visions and religious ideas have not only been a source of inspiration for William Blake. [in Frye (ed.". including Honoré de Balzac. 1984. Cambridge University Press.) (8) Encyclopaedia Britannica [1994-1998] See: Protestant Christianity (9) Erdman.] (p. [New York: Columbia University Press. to the extent that the first Swedenborgian societies appeared in the 1780s.] (Chpt. 1971. Cambridge University Press. [London. Richard . 1978.Creature and Creator: Myth-Making and English Romanticism.] (18) Cavendish.) (2) Bloom.a.] (23) "Swedenborg's Theology" in Encyclopaedia Britannica [1994-1998] See: Emanuel Swedenborg (24) I. [Eng. [Arkana. Hyde . Richard . 1961. IV.) (20) Paley."For every thing that lives is Holy": The Millenialist Revolutionary Visions of William Blake and Thomas Paine [Penn State University] (14) Encyclopaedia Britannica [1994-1998] See: Cambridge Neoplatonists (15) Harper.) .] (p.A History of Magic.The Visionary Company: A Reading of English Romantic Poetry. Jonsson .] (22) J.) (17) Fisher. (ed.) (11) Erdman.) (19) Cavendish. where he was buried in the Swedish Church.56.London in 1772.see: Romanticism (7) Lindsay. [Cambridge. Marsha Keith . [Cambridge. 1990. 1971. F.Blake and the Druids. David V. Ralph Waldo Emerson. but for a number of prominent writers. His influence was by no means restricted to his immediate disciples. and the first independent congregation. Jack .A History of Magic.The Visionary Company: A Reading of English Romantic Poetry. Cornell University Press.The Art of William Blake. [Arkana.] (p.] (p. 139-47. 1990. Paul A.Blake: Prophet against Empire. [Ithaca. 113.A History of Magic.] (p. 1990. was founded in London in 1788 – only sixteen years after his death.] (p. 1971. 1990. Top Footnotes (1) Quotations from Cantor.) .) (4) c. [Ithaca. the origin of the various Church of the New Jerusalem organizations. 1990.A Bibliography of the Works of Emanuel Swedenborg.Creature and Creator: Myth-Making and English Romanticism. Beshero .The Neoplatonism of William Blake. [Chapel Hill. 22-28. William Butler Yeats. Cornell University Press. 1984. his body was removed to Uppsala cathedral in 1908.] (10) Erdman. Morton D. 1977. University of North Carolina Press. Peter .): Blake .] (p.] (p. [1906. Constable. David V.Blake and His Bibles. .] (6) Encyclopaedia Britannica [1994-1998] . Prentice-Hall. 62.William Blake: His Life and Work. Swedenborg never acted as a preacher but rather relied totally on the effect of his huge Latin volumes. At the request of the Swedish government.Blake and His Bibles. New Jersey 1966. Anthony . . [Arkana.] (p.

fled to France. "to fix a limit" and is identified with the Jehovah (IHVH) of the Old Testament by Blake in opposition to Jesus of the New Testament. and water become elements of oppression and death. This basic opposition he extended by adding to Urizen-Jehovah the attributes of reason. He foreswore political activity and turned inward toward "mental strife". and Godwin spent the rest of his life in pure speculation and the creation of anarchist Utopias (»1). The name "Urizen" comes from the Greek oriezein. And the bitter groan of a Martyr's woe Is an Arrow from the Almighty's Bow. and the execution of the King and Queen in 1793. An a Sigh is the Sword of an Angel King. whom he identified with the force of good. air. which he called URIZEN (»2). The intellectual members of the group found various solutions to the disillusionment which they felt at the failure of the hopes they had placed in the Revolution and the breaking up of their movement. Designs are chiefly restricted to blocks at top or bottom of the page. Some. For a Tear is an Intellectual Thing. both in their text and their illustration. seeking a philosophical and religious solution to the problems of the universe rather than aiming at the immediate improvement of man's state on earth. the text is divided into two columns and set out in chapters and verses. The Hermit's Prayer & the Widow's tear Alone can free the world from fear. followed by the Terror. and for the next five years Blake was to plunge into a despair from which he only slowly emerged after 1800. as he gradually discovered a final. The September Massacres in 1792. mystical solution to his problem. others were brought to trial. or the blind Urizen opening his book of corruption. Blake's bitter awareness of the evil of the world led him to a dualist belief which insisted on the existence of an original force of evil. and law. But this solution was not to be found all in a moment. are the darkest and gloomiest in the whole range of his work. Only Page 25 of 44 . restraint. . which he associated with Christ. for example. called the Lambeth Books from his new place of residence. and though Holcroft escaped conviction.Chapter III. Further. As in the Bible. Mary Wollstonecraft devoted herself to propaganda against social evils and the battle for the rights of women. Earth. The poems. Blake's solution was in many ways similar to Godwin's. as opposed to imagination. and love for one's neighbour. often however filling more than half the page and dominating it. The [First] Book of Urizen is known in seven copies.The Book of Urizen The years 1793 and 1794 mark a crisis for William Blake and the group of radicals with whom he was associated. made those whose support for the Revolution was combined with humanitarianism gradually change their views. containing from 24 to 28 plates plus some scattered plates – including the title page and ten full-page designs. which he produced during these years. written some years later: But vain the Sword & vain the Bow They never can work War's overthrow. He gave his most moving expression to this reincarnation of his belief in revolutionary activity in "The Grey Monk". freedom. The first copy was published in 1794. many of his friends were less fortunate and were condemned to deportation. The figures are often gruesome: a crouching skeleton. the reaction of Pitt's government to the new development in France led to a violent repression of all radicalism in England. like Thomas Paine. fire.

( »4) Understanding the text thus must necessarily be a recursive act. webs and nets: Blake's illuminated poetry is replete with objects that snag and bind. Finally. by the power of imagination. The storyline of the poem is as follows: Urizen – a god of Reason who separates himself from other Eternals. a writer who fuels his works with the friction of opposition. (The title page is a good example of this. like Cain. Mitchell has noted – that ten of the plates are full-page illustrations and that their order is different in each of the seven extant copies of Urizen. Orc is born to her. which precedes sequential chapters. Fibres and chains. vain and punitive deity. Nearly every character in The Book of Urizen is caught up in something. Los nets and binds Urizen [8:6]. and Enitharmon his Eve. and falls into Chaos – is an abstract. clarify and make sense of the disaster. all of which rest on the ideas presented in this poem. preludium. the immortal artist. This dialectic between bookish linearity and conceptual chaos is not. and mankind shrinks up from Eternity. Los. Urizen. though it is only alluded to in Urizen.T. Structurally the book also evinces a recognizable architecture: the title page submits to the preludium. antisequential quality" as a "deliberate formal device. But Los./ Dictate swift winged words" [Prel:5-6] (»5) suggests that the process of composition proceeds in a continuous (hence linear) manner. additionally confounds the reader who expects a Manichean division of good and evil in the characters. was an angel enjoying the immoral life. America. Urizen cannot be read – it can only be re-read. of course. Mitchell sees this "atemporal. The reader. re-shaping the Fall and the Creation of the physical universe. Humanity as we know appears only at the very end of a long cataclysmic process. demands obedience to his self-proclaimed principles. The Book of Urizen – written in a rough anapaestic trimeter ( »3)– is Blake's Genesis. abnormal in Blake. Urizen as writer of course is a major theme in The Four Zoas. finds navigation difficult. the collapsed temporal framework of Blake's cosmogony thwarts the linear. Enitharmon and Urizen chain Orc [20:20]. Apocalypse is genesis. Los becomes Adam. though among democracy of immortals. again. all of which deny interpretation as mere portrayals of the textual narration. The narrator's response to the muse-like Eternals "I hear your call gladly. It is important to note that for Blake the Creation and the Fall are one event. the book maintains a certain fixity: the title page. In Urizen.) The most obvious subversion of order is the fact – as W. a way of augmenting the anti-narrative elements disclosed by the text. Their child Orc – who represents Rebellious Energy – is born but immediately chained to a rock. So. exhausted. The Book of Ahania and The Book of Los. and the core of his Bible of Hell. easy read. emerges to define. the Web of Religion enmeshes all [25:20]. but also the Serpent. some of Urizen's children begin an exodus. Not all the plates. each of which shows unity lapsing into duality and spiritual energy lapsing into material passivity. Blake works in many more allusions. it seems that linearity in Blake's Urizen inheres neither in the text nor in the Page 26 of 44 . and is – from the point of view of Eternity – almost wholly pathetic. 'the eternal prophet' or Divine Imagination. divides into male (Los) and female (Enitharmon).J. each subdivided and numbered. But the tension between linearity and non-sequentiality (or multi-sequentiality) in the text of Urizen is exacerbated by the illustrations. It is also the locus for his mythology in 'A Song of Liberty'. Yet. like Milton's Satan.a few of the designs are lighter and more hopeful. creation is fall – conflations that obviously clash with the logical flow of the biblical (and Miltonic) hexameral paradigm. but separates himself by demanding that Law be established. Urizen. A body is created for him by Los. at the centre of both binaries. Urizen then explores his deadly world. Europe. for example. Blake's theme now is not the overthrow of tyranny. a distinct temporal progression does characterize the events of Urizen. and (most of) the textual plates follow in the same basic sequential order in all copies of the poem." ( »6) And yet. too. The Song of Los. This event occurs in stages. He is not cast out for rebellion against law. depict scenes mentioned in (or even suggested by) the text itself. but a horrified fascination with its origin.

of Urizen. This tension is a function of a narrative constrained by its own materiality. we readers stand at the centre of a tangle of lines. [New York: Columbia University Press. one that cuts across the lines of signification.images but rather in the format of the book itself.: The First Illuminated Books). At this most basic level there is a sense that Blake toyed around with the meaning of linear progression through his textual picture book. In a word. "Unseen in tormenting passions.] (pp. Mitchell notes that the "temporal manifestation of this form is the structure of intricate. we "chunk. so the "chunks" of image. we crumple them together in order to perform the most basic readerly task of understanding the poem. and subdivisions. another fashions a demonic. (p. none of the seven extant copies of the illuminated books is composed of plates arranged in the same order. divisions./ An activity unknown and horrible. perception. another depicts Urizen as the Adamic first human "rent from Eternity. It inheres in multiplicity. fallen Urizen. The figure of Urizen (and the other polymorphous characters) literally is the intersection of these storylines. Hilton describes the spatializing feat that the reader must execute in trying to manoeuvre the narrative lines of Urizen: "To stave off the madness of proliferating extensions and regression. together the levels not directly before us. for to follow a particular line to its end is to be led astray. or the proliferation of genealogical ‘branches' from a single root. an explosive series of mitoses. Nelson Hilton believes that Blake was aware of textual accordioning to the extent that his word "fold" is a self-conscious referent. a kind of node moving among the bifurcating elements of the narrative. That is.) Page 27 of 44 .The Art of William Blake. they are rather separate and discrete (though they do intersect). We must effect a stasis like Urizen in plate six." (»7) The narrative lines in Urizen – of the Eternals.. No one knows for sure how to proceed through The Book of Urizen. Francis Wood – "The Pronunciation of Blakean Names" in Blake Newsletter 21. rather than hanging ourselves in them like the figures in the next plate. One "storyline" constructs Urizen as the God of creation whose "Words articulate" "rolled on the tops of his mountains"[4:4-5]. Anthony . IV. echoing Urizen caught in the Web of Religion. for the various and tangled narrative lines in Urizen can bewilder the reader and stymie the sense of a logical flow. Urizen is multi-linear./ A self-contemplating shadow" . As words have no direct relation to things. and of Enitharmon – do not merge into a singularly definable narrative "trunk". and the feeling that our movement through the poem is like watching the uncontrolled growth of a cancer. and so on have no direct relation to reality. For the clear metrical evidence see: Metcalf. perception becomes a localized function of past and present environment. 1963.." a "clod of clay" [6:8-10]. Perceptually we distort the neat physical lines of the book." or shrink. [1972. Only by moving associatively through the forest of signification can sense be constructed. 17-18. 59. of Los. labyrinthine interplay between various narrative lines. or not to be led anywhere.] (Chpt. Navigating these lines requires surrendering the very notion of line.) (2) The name "Urizen" was pronounced by Blake with primary stress on the first syllable (not on the second). Commenting on the motif of the "Fibrous form" (one of many kinds of organic filaments in Blake's poem). As the agents of the perception. Top Footnotes: • • (1) Blunt." ( »8) Reality here corresponds to the material artefact that is the book of Urizen. belief.

we have to accept the "expressive theory" as a general point of view. The myth here is of an active but unprolific God. I think.: Princeton University Press. [Oxford: Oxford Universitiy Press. that we shall either go mad from the revelation or flee from the deadly light into the peace and safety of a new dark age. there are some general points we have to consider in order to save ourselves from making far-reaching statements. Theosophists have guessed at the awesome grandeur of the cosmic cycle wherein our world and human race form transient incidents.The Complete Poetry and Prose of William Blake. David V. with no special purpose or appreciable result.. /. Clouds of blood. but fits in with the spiritual progress of Blake's own ideas. To fully understand Blake's importance without overestimating his personal potential. But what lies beneath the surface of this myth? Before we can investigate into that question.T. For what we find in his work is one of the most superior literary expression of a certain "psychological idea".J. . A time will come. and decay spreads over the tottering cities of men. I wish to point out by this. (6) Mitchell. is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents.: Princeton University Press.. rise and mingle and wane in indefinite ways. mindspring.J." [H. Nelson . The sciences.The Complete Writings of William Blake. ..) (4) The "bounding line": Verbal and Visual Linearity in Blake's "Laocoön" and Book of Urizen. They have hinted at strange survival in terms which would freeze blood if not masked by a bland optimism./ Who knows the end? What has risen may sink. All the later pieces of his work tend to express the various aspects of this myth. [Princeton. each straining in its own direction. warring with shapes of the wilderness. W. and at variance with the eternals: beaten upon by Time.J.P. In-text references to poems cite first the plate then the line number.Blakean Zen. N.. Blake with his prophetic abilities could have been precisely the kind of man to gain such 'transcendental' knowledge.)] (p.• • • • • • (3) Keynes. [in Studies in Romanticism 24. The Book of Urizen is therefore not a separate piece of writing.130. 1996. 1978] (p. Lovecraft – "The Call of Cthulhu". Geoffrey (ed.) (8) Hilton.] Page 28 of 44 . and of our frightful position therein. and it was not meant that we should voyage far. Loathsomeness waits and dreams in the deep.) (7) Mitchell. shadows of horror.Blake's Composite Art: A Study of the Illuminated Poetry. which we could call "The Urizen Myth".] (p. 1988]. .T. 1978] (p. N. W. have hitherto harmed us little.137. the possibility of gaining unconscious knowledge of universal truths. The First Book of Urizen is perhaps more shapeless and chaotic at a first glimpse than any other of these prose poems of the Prophetic Books.) .J.com/~jntolva/blake/#5] (5) All Blake quotations are from Erdman. 913. [http://www. [New York: Doubleday. but some day the piecing together of dissociated knowledge will open up such terrifying vistas of reality. So now we can put the question forward again: What is Urizen? "The most merciful thing in the world.Blake's Composite Art: A Study of the Illuminated Poetry.184) The Chapters At this point I have to indicate that Blake's mythology should be considered as a complex whole. built round several main "ideas" of which perhaps the most consistent summary is the Four Zoas. and what has sunk may rise. worlds without form and void. (Summer 1985. [Princeton. We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity.

This is exactly what Blake's referring to in the Preludium to The Book of Urizen. This I shall do by printing in the infernal method by corrosives. yet through their senses they discover God. Blake makes the fantastic claim that "The Prophets Isaiah and Ezekiel dined with me.This idea of being a non-conscious communicator is well represented in the figure on the title page often described as the blind Urizen. one needs only to be honestly indignant. and I asked them how they dared so roundly to assert that God spoke to them. "If the doors of perception were cleansed everything would appear to man as it is: Infinite. in a finite organical perception. and calls for their power [2:1]. He takes part of their 'assumed power' to communicate with the Eternals and blindly record the dictated words of eternity. and as I was then persuaded & remain confirmed. Thus Urizen himself is a prophet unfolding the mysteries of his own creation.] Blake thus explains the nature of prophecy paradoxically: Prophets neither see nor hear God. it seems. who took on themselves the tormenting task of revealing heavenly secrets." [The Marriage of Heaven and Hell pl. Moreover. but my senses discovered the infinite in every thing.] is quite clear – the canonical representation of the two stone plates of the Commandments in the background can be easily recognised. In my opinion it also refers to the prophets of illumination. melting apparent surfaces away. I cared not for consequences but wrote. ( »1) As a self-proclaimed seer he takes his place among the prophets setting forth his ability to record his visions of the infinite. Isaiah answered." [The Marriage of Heaven and Hell] Page 29 of 44 . that the voice of honest indignation is the voice of God. and whether they did not think at the time that they would be misunderstood. to be a prophet. The allusion to Moses writing 'The Ten Commandments' [Exodus 19-20. Almost as if he were replying to Paine's discrediting of biblical prophecy.12. I saw no God nor heard any. which in Hell are salutary and medicinal. & so be the cause of imposition.Preludium Blake in the early 1790s was writing about the nature of prophecy in The Marriage of Heaven and Hell . and displaying the infinite which was hid. where he pays homage to his great masters – 'the primeval Priests' – Isaiah and Ezekiel.

but rather identify a number of historicalcultural images of the same idea only. In order to get a full grip of the question matter we have to investigate into the system of Hermetics (»3) – the religio-philosophical system. There is nothing else. the ruler of the Underworld. It is not the importance of the exact figure. "the creator of all". Pan-Urizen is called Pan pangenitor. was Imhotep. and II. means "everything". Hermes-Urizen is the progenitor-existent of the micro-cosmos just the same as of the macro-cosmos. similarly to Hermes who became son of Agathodaimon. was himself Toth.) He is the one appearing in different 'disguises' changing from one to the other – he was Hermes Trismegistos of Egypt. In hermetics. the high-priest and architecture of Heliopoli. but really there is a hiding fourth. The aspect above existence and non-existence. the Sun and the Saturn. but also the Venus. which deals with the mystical-magical tradition of mankind. In this respect he is called Gnosis by the Gnostic. Sometimes he is vulgarised." that is the senses and their relationship to the imagination. Therefore Hermes is also Pan. [3:1-20] – for two reasons: From the point of view of Eternity. We might understand this better by looking at what Pan means. the Page 30 of 44 . According to hermetic ideas we can identify Blake's Urizen with the well-known character of the system called Hermes or Pan. describe the state of the Universe before Creation unfolds. Hermes-Urizen is a primordial figure. In a full reality. unseen. who precede the existence of the cosmos. appearing in countless figures: In alchemy he is Alchemy. In alchemy Saturn is called "Sol Niger". the progenitor-existent of Chaos in the aspect of Pan. The word pan (Greek: ran). the uniting-all divine aspect. Dys. Therefore he represents the all-aspect of the universe. who according to the Greek cosmology and works trying to describe the origin of the cosmos and mind – like Hesiod's –. the physical world. He is the creator of both Heaven and Earth. Blake condemns such qualities in a deity. he is the omnipotent. Given. but Hermes – every movement is happening within himself. Hermes is everything. The character of Urizen is also defined by abstractions and negations – unknown. Not only is he the planet Mercurius. This all-aspect is anthropomorphised in the figure of Pan-Hermes. secret. and mocks them by exaggeration. He changes face. etc. but is also called Pan panfager.375-7]. but as an allegory of different phases of the mind and of the world. therefore he is also the black sun. As the primarily. By comparison Milton's God is praised by the angels for being 'invisible' and 'thorned inaccessible' [ Paradise Lost III. one-god aspect of everything. uniting with Asklepios. the Father of the Underworld. "to fix a limit" and is identified with the Jehovah (IHVH) of the Old Testament by Blake. vacuum. The name "Urizen" comes from the Greek orizein. In Latin tradition the dark aspect of Pan will be called Dispater. and mezzo-cosmos. he has a satanic face. that this is a literary paper focusing on Blake's Urizen. Urizen is unreal." ( »2) Chapter I. but also father and sometimes the son of Toth. There are versions where he appears as Asklepios Imhotes deriving from Imhotep who was a real character. but the interaction and the undividable complexity of these symbols. So we see that Pan is an ambivalent figure like Mercurius-Hermes-Toth. – Urizen Chapters I. ancient and creative idea. Since this 'state of being' precedes every kind of singularity and rational identification. divine. and only an isolated 'Reason' can invent abstract and negative terms. the Saturnic. the idea world and the one above all. as in any other tradition. appearing as a triarchic system of micro-. I will not to go into all of the philosophical and psychological aspects. macro-. and awaken Man from the "sleep of reason. the psychic world. void. such terms would have no meaning.This is the reason for the development of the Illuminated Book as means of fusing the visual and the literary into a form which – according to Blake – would cleanse the "doors of perception. "the destroyer of all". it is described as Chaos identified with the emerging Urizen thereof. repelling. he was Asklepios. (The planetary aspects of Hermes should of course not be understood by physical terms. which is rather a state of "existence" than a defined existent. the divine sphere of One. and the deciple of Toth. divine. At places he was Agathodaimon or the master of Agathodaimon. unprolific. belongs to the very first generation of Gods.

Eternity is non-Newtonian. Eternity is undivided and has nothing to separate the oneness of immanent power. This "underworldness" was called khthonicity by the Greeks – the absolute darkness and abyss of all evil. but eternal life sprang" [3:36]. Death was not. the same layers of the underworld are given centuries before. the universality of above existence. and the first stage always refers to the realm “before the creation”. A self-contemplating shadow. "In his cold horrors silent. In this chthonic under-water realm is where Dispater rules. Chapter II. the primal Dispater. Expansion and contraction are by will.] Pan-Urizen's dark aspect can be traced through the centuries. – Prior to Existence According to every spiritual tradition. Page 31 of 44 .) Pan is the Master of the Universe. stars. where the hermetic tradition seems rather chaotic. the lord of the chaotic under-waters and the equivalent of all dark aspects of things. and was always placed in absolute central position like the city of the underworld. Dys in Dante's Divina Comedia. We could go on and on showing the immense variety of ideas trying to formulate the meaning of Pan-Urizen through the various traditions. In enormous labours occupied" [The Book of Urizen I. and therefore presents us with a very rich variety of ontology. It is always described as the disordered entire beyond the sphere of the universe – the Kabbalah calls it zimzum meo – which is characterized by absolute nothing (ayin) and absolute everything (ayin sof). the creation of the universe consists of several “phases”. the will of the Immortal expanded or contracted at will his all-flexible senses. moons. winter god.) subject to the law of gravity [3:36]. the face of the chaos of the under-waters. etc. nor globes of attraction. but it is more profitable to narrow our subject down to the actual representation of Blake. the nearlynothing-aspect. Blake also sees Urizen as a dark. not by the law of gravity [3:37-38] (»5). Of course we will have to reach out to the latest times of Hermetics. Blake describes it beautifully: "Earth was not. An activity unknown and horrible. anticipated in the imagery of "Winter" of Poetical Sketches (»4). the 20th century. Just like Blake's Urizen who first appears embodied in the dark horrors of the "petrific abominable chaos" [3:26]. the face of the underworld. Geoffrey Keynes understands this as in Eternity there are no spheres (such as planets. dark Urizen prepared" [3:27-28]. but later becomes the creator of the Worl "Dark revolting in silent activity: Unseen in tormenting passion. The Gnostic describe it as complete emptiness (keroma) and complete inclusiveness (pleroma): this is the infinite orb of divinity before the emanation. (In the Book of Enoch.Sol Niger face.4. and he has the face of the spiritual sun.

Urizen partakes in the first stage of Creation by becoming the God of restraint.55-60]. even I!" [The Book of Urizen II. 33:11]. O house of Israel?" [Ezekiel 18:31. He is aroused by the sound of a heavenly trumpet. Albedo is "whiteness" or the 'emptiness'.] Details could have been taken from the mustering of armies in Milton's Paradise Lost [VI. but also in their task to create order. and therefore is for ages divided from Eternity and at war with Time. but the clear expression of the horrors of standing out against emptiness. with long white hair and beard. but the Almighty God stays hidden in darkness. He describes his solitude fighting the fire of passion within himself [4:14] that has pushed him in a state which Alchemy calls albedo. when the creative powers are locked in passivity generating an empty space. and that the burning fires of 'the enjoyments of Genius' only appear like 'torment and insanity' to those who do not understand them. not just in their common act of recording the secrets of Heaven. Similarly to Moses.4b. [For comparison see: The Marriage of Heaven and Hell (pl. the creator of prohibition. 4 Urizen is depicted just like Michelangelo's Moses. and then in the windowless “Holy of Holies”. His reason echoes the reason of Neoplatonic creation myths: to fulfil the void.5 “I alone. Urizen is seated on a mountain writing secret words of wisdom that are uttered from the bursting thunders [4:34]. He – just like Moses – is seeking to learn the secret laws of the Eternals. Urizen is left alone to manifest the creative powers of Eternity. The trumpet [3:40] does not refer to the trumpet of the Last Judgement. On plate no. Compare "Why will you die O Eternals?" [4:12] to "Why will ye die. Many more biblical parallels can be found. but the trumpet that sounded over Sinai when God gave the Law to Moses [Exodus 19:16]. Urizen and Moses are identified. "Consumed inwards. Similarly to Ezekiel witnessing the change of times. awakening the sleeping God of Formation.Creation begins with the unfolding of the unspeakable creative forces. Natures wide womb And self balanced stretched over the void I alone. hid himself in darkness. or Satan fallen from Heaven. into the world within: A void immense. describing Nature's wide womb. It isn’t egotism like Stevenson would suggest (»6).5] In stanza no. This is when Urizen is first named – “the solitary one in Immensity” [3:43]. wild dark and deep. in the cloud in Sinai.17-20)]. It is intended to sound reasonable. whose laws are forbearance and abstinence. Compare “Self balanced stretched over the void” [4:18] with "And the Earth was without form and void" [Genesis I:2] and "And Earth self-balanced on her Centre hung" [Paradise Lost VII. as Urizen is Reason – he has to justify his task of recording the true secrets of Creation.242]. Where nothing was. Urizen’s motivation is clearly explained [4:6-13]. Jehovah too. Urizen is the only progenitor-existent capable of withstanding the excruciating transformation of Creation. But he does not see that joy and pain are necessary contraries for a living existence. In Alchemy the philosopher’s vase is often portrayed as the womb (of Nature). Blake describes this with an alchemical allusion too. I even!” [4:19] shows the lonesomeness of Urizen which echoes at once the biblical Jehovah ("I am the Lord thy God" [Exodus 20:2]) and Milton's Satan. Page 32 of 44 . Urizen [pl. that 'a solid without fluctuation' is dead.

when the disintegrated chaotic powers appear in the world. This is what Crowley – although had no kind of relationship with Lovecraft – calls CTHLH666. goes beyond fantasy and horror as a genre. All mythological representations are symbolic expressions of this chaotic condition preceding the emergence of the human psyche. It is interesting to draw a parallel to Aleister Crowley (»8). setting the foundations of a created Universe – he becomes the Ordering Power of God. who dwell in the inter dimensional spheres or the deep oceans. This is the Sumerian Kaprunuja. who by means of unparalleled talent of literary capabilities. as well as known by the Indian tradition as a sea-monster called Khatala. for everything is allowed. which they called Sub Isniggarab. the sabbatical goat is the strongest satanic aspect. Compare: "Thou shall have no other gods before me" [Exodus 20:3]. Similarly to the Bible he writes all the laws in “the Book of eternal brass” [4:32-40]. Lovecraft (»7) called the "Great Old Ones" – a group of gods from the times of chaos. It is not by coincidence that he does that. which is closely similar to the Sumerian pan-aspect. but at this point I wish to summarize. who chooses Pan as the main principle of his magical system. for it is the progenitor-existent preceding consciousness. but the symbolical representation of the 'Pan principle'. the age of Saturn. and the time where one falls or transcends. and is able to express this pre-conscious principle. he is not an outer force. the " black goat of the woods with a thousand progeny". the time of 'chaos-magic'. where Cthulhu is the most clear manifestation of Chaos. the vitiating. The Chinese are also familiar with it as Hui Tai Lao "the monster in the sea". He calls his main god Yog-Sothoth. This certain psychological condition is still there in every human. far beyond the deepest domain of the mind: The fear of the unrecognisable. the Lead Age. Milton's God promises. representing the chaotic under-waters. Therefore Urizen is not a horror character like Frankenstein or Dracula. He is the first. then it is the time of Chaos. as well as Sub Niggurath. for Sabbath is the resting sun. We also have to introduce a new line: the dark mythology of H.He creates the dividing laws and lays down the fundamentals of Creation. after 'long obedience…One Kingdom' [Paradise Lost VII. inexplicable non-consciousness. consciousness. the last sphere. more ancient than anything else in the world. the same principle. So this is where we meet up with the hermetic tradition once more. We can identify Lovecraft’s beast as the most central figure of chaos magic.159-61. Blake's importance lies in the perfect representation of this inner force.]. Chaos appears when it is believed to have emerged. known in the Islam too as the satanic principle. the principle which Blake calls Urizen and the Greeks called panfager. This god lies deep below the realms of time and space ready to emerge from the chaotic abyss. I could go on showing the parallels in Blake's Urizen and the way it appears in certain mytho-magical systems or the way his intuitive descriptions influence and interact with other mystic circles. This is what the hermetic tradition identifies with IHVH or Jehovah. inconceivable. The important is that they are all the same representatives of the same idea. which also presents us with the expression of the same idea. All those who see Blake as a simple writer Page 33 of 44 .P. the disrupting force.

Compare the creation of the world by the power of the Word in the Bible. the daughter of the world is cast. the world of Formation (Yetzirah) and the world of Action (Assiyah).]. In this condition of existence Urizen can be identified with Pan as ‘the Master of the Universe’. but fall short of understanding their own inner depths. This is the state the Greeks called kthonicity – the absolute darkness of the abyss. the primal Dispater. (»9) Aziluth separates Heaven and Earth from Nothingness – it is the world that was summoned from the non-existent by the “Ten Voices of God”. Compare “He dug mountains” [5:22] with Milton's war in Heaven [Paradise Lost VI. The hermetic tradition reveals to us a very interesting 'aspect' of this chaotic state of existence: this is where the female aspect of Nature ( Physis). In the Kabbalah the emanation creates four "universes": the world of Emanation ( Aziluth). Creation also starts with a division for Blake [5:3-4].61-63.1-10. Urizen also summons the first sphere of existence by opening ‘the Book of Brass’ unleashing the creative powers of nature – “enormous forms of energy.of dark horror and fantasy. fury and fierce madness [4:24]. By Hermetics she is called Khoré Kosmu and by the Sumerian tradition Erestigal. so the images are confusing [5:28-37]. not only underestimate his work. Blake is also aware of it and takes a detail “No light from the fires” [5:17] from Milton's Hell [Paradise Lost I. Emanating from the dark void Urizen becomes the focal point of existence gathering the creative powers around his own existence. the world of Creation (Beriah). 639-69]. According to the neoplatonic views Creation is no other than the emanation of the light of God arranging chaos around its emanative route generating different spheres. She becomes the Page 34 of 44 .]. At this emanative state creation is still unconscious and automatically ordains existence around the centre of creation. the Sophia. The creative processes are mechanical and even Urizen cannot resist becoming the nucleus of life [4:21]. the lord of the chaotic under-waters and the equivalent of all dark aspects of things. The bounding forces of the productive energies of nature unleashed by Urizen establish the boundaries of the created universe – Blake compares it to a bloody womb [4:29] and a black globe [4:33] ‘standing on the shore of the infinite ocean’. – Grasping Subsistence The Fall (of God or Man) is always understood by all hermetic traditions as a division. Chapter III. all the seven deadly sins of the soul” [4:48-49]. The created universe in this state is 'unorganised' [6:8] and 'formless' [7:9]. The division of Urizen from the hosts of Eternity has ironically resulted from his attempts to enforce a fixed static unity. separating the Heaven and the Earth [Genesis I. This state is understood in the hermetic tradition as the state of "Hell". like an immense gravitational field that draws light towards itself. In this chthonic under-water realm is where the Dispater rules without reason or rational construction – the laws of generating are ruled by chaotic conditions: fear.

as mayavin – world magician. 10:21] referring to the alchemical theory of metamorphosis. Hurtling bones…surging…raging [8:2-4] means he has become a chaos of disorganised motion. His elements (sulphur. in her 'sacred whore' aspect. Chapter IV. what is prajna in the East is Khoré Kosmu in the Kabbalah and Hermetics. Urizen lost in the chaotic state of his own emptiness is locked in unconscious sleep. for in anguish. later descending to the bottom of the world and kept prisoner by the snake or becoming a snake-goddess. as Sakta – the Lord of the World.]. Accordingly Pan is this aspect of Nature too. In order to change his condition he needs to be bounded by Los – he has to go through an "alchemical transmutation". Los is in anguish because he has lost his Mind. As with Orpheus and Erudite in the Ileuses mysteries.21-23. with his female aspect ( Sakti) there in the beginning too. "Los wept howling around the dark Demon And cursing his lot. It is only the physical sphere (Physis) that is able to frame and orient the creative powers lost in chaos. or Pan-Hermes and Khoré Kosmu in the hermetic tradition. The biblical allusion of Adam and Eve is quite clear – Urizen was created from the side of Los [6:4] like Eve of Adam’s rib [Genesis II. We find such examples in Orpheus and Erudite or the hymns of the Gnostic. both are drastically wounded.9] Los is the power of poetic imagination. because sulphur is a primal formative element in alchemical theory. in contradiction to Innana.mistress of the underworld. Shekinah in the Jewish tradition. This pan-face of Hermes can be found in the proto-Indian early states like the proto-Siva of Mohenjodaro. Separated from his power of imagination. known as Sub Isniggarad for the 'goat-aspect' by the Sumerians.) She is there in many other traditions as well. If Imagination is separated from Reason. Shakina in the Sufi. upheld by the nets and rivets of Los [8:8-11]. As with every transmutation he is first hemmed in the alchemical stove. resulting in a Page 35 of 44 . the virgin aspect. The same idea is there: the highaspect of Siva sitting on the top of the mountain of life. pitch. the sabbatical goat. Blake calls this wisdom principle of Nature – the Sophia – Los. when because of oblivion the creative powers are unrealised. and Kernumos for the 'deer-aspect' by the Celts. Urizen is locked in the state that Alchemy calls nigredo. as the representative of the mind. (This tradition reflects nicely in the Kundalini-yoga praxis. and so on. 10:14. His mind is still characterized by “perturbed immortal mad raging” but it is also "sulphureous" [8:3. nitre) suggest that he has become a hell [8:3-5]. he is dead until Los creates a vault for him to be reborn [7:8]. Nigredo is "blackness" or the ‘philosophical death’. Urizen was rent from his side"[The Book of Urizen III. Urizen and Los are inseparable – they are the diabolic aspect of the same unity. – Taking Form Urizen is asleep or dead from the point of view of Eternity.

In Eternity there is no need for Prophecy because there is no Time.10 & 11 (chapter IV [a]) is like a prologue to the detailed description of the transmutation of Urizen that follow. The visionary cabbalistic writing. It is the highest of heavenly principle in the human body seated at the highest point of the body. The eternal mind… White as the snow [10:19-23] is an allusion to the tabula rasa of John Lock’s psychology. shaped mammoth-wise. Blake describes this change with a number of alchemical allusions. Next a huge fettered figure with blind shut eyes overflowing into tears. bones heart. every sphere is connected to one universal principle symbolised by one of the seven planets. referring to the infinite nature of this power. a 'blank slate' empty of intrinsic ideas. twisted forms round which flames break out fourfold. Hence Los divides the night into 'watches' and creates 'hours. Also there is a more ancient tradition of septinity immediately reflected in the occult concept of "the seven spheres". This is Fire. days and years' by the repeated beat of his blacksmith's hammer – which is a metaphor for the metre of poetry. tortured elemental shapes that plunge and writhe and moan. the Síúr Qomá – as well as the Zohar – give detailed descriptions of the creation of the First Man (Adam Kadmon) as an allegory to the creative processes of heavenly emanation. Without going into specific details of the system. "the lotus with a thousand leaves". the Sun – the Light of God –. This stage of Creation belongs to the World of Formation. It is interesting that Blake also describes the unfold of creative powers with the formation of Urizen’s body by Los. on age of agony being allotted to each of the seven created features. throat with tongue. still toiling in fire and beset by snares. These transformations of Urizen make up some of Blake's grandest and strangest prophetic studies.death like stupor (»10). Without these symbols one would not be able to gain knowledge of the higher stages of existence. With the birth of every ability. In time the formless God takes from. The first stage of emanation from is the framework of the mind. The emanation of the hidden creative powers of Urizen is a re-verbalization of the biblical Genesis – the seven "Ages" [10:42] refer to the days of creation in Genesis. Page 36 of 44 . in grovelling involution of limb. Plate no. capable only of receiving and combining external impressions. Each sphere is a faculty of awareness and construction. hands with feet. The Hindu mystics call it sahasrara. Time belongs to the fallen world. Los is now for the first time called 'the Eternal Prophet' [10:15]. with branchwork of rib and savage nudity of joint and clavicle. the clear emanating creative force imprisoned by the human skull – “A roof shaggy wild inclosed in an orb” [10:33]. For the transmutation to go into operation a new order has to be adopted – the measurement of time – since changes can only take effect in time. with convulsed mouth and sodden stream of beard: then bones painfully gathering flesh. The transformation is full of horror and pain. which the Cabbala calls Yetzirah. First the spinal skeleton. The head. and is a necessity for it. the beard and every part of the first divine body refer to metaphysical symbols of creation. nostrils. each reflecting a stage of emanation. eyes. possessing the potential to organise reality accordingly. creating and assuming feature by feature. reality takes a new form. To begin with Urizen is described as a dark waste [10:3] – what alchemists called prima materia ("first matter") and often identified with soil.

since it connects to the powers of Wisdom (Hokmah) and Understanding (Binah) as well as the powers of Forgiveness (Hesed) and Judgement (Gevurah). arms and legs. Attached to the skull the spine brings forth the whole body structure. but also the birth of the physical universe. and finally eyes and thus seeing relate to the fifth element: space. creating the solid framework of the spinal skeleton [10:35-41]. This is the final world: the World of Action ( Assiyah). Blake describes it as a “round globe hot burning deep” [11:3]. which the Gnostic called logoi spermatikoi. since it is the manifestation of divine presence in the 'Heart of Being'. It fits in perfectly with the hermetic tradition: the creation of Men is also the creation of the World – the micro.From this centre all other forces descend and become more embodied in matter. the Earth-sphere and the body of Men. superius. “A red / round globe…ten thousand branches” [11:2-6]. the nose [13:1] and “A craving Hungry Cavern” [13:6] – the digestive system and tongue. such a faint fierce tint as one might look for on the cast scales or flakes of dragons left a strand in the ebb of a deluge (»11). It is the ignition point harmonising the creative and destructive forces. nose and thus smell relate Fire.” “It is without doubt. the eyes. There is an endless line of analogies where every existent constituent in the physical world relates to one of the senses. Finally. The five sensual organs in every hermetic tradition represent the five principle elements: limbs and thus touch relate to Earth. tongue and thus taste relate to Water. the ears [11:21]. his left Arm to the south… and his Feet stamped the nether Abyss” [13:13-16]. while the Jewish mystics refer to it as the 'Throne of Solomon'.stages of existence linking the superior and inferior sephiras. the central seat of power residing in the heart of the ‘Tree of Life’.and lower. certum et verissimum. in the Seventh Age the limbs appear.” Page 37 of 44 . "the seed of life". naturam habet inferioram et ascendens naturam descendentis. that what is above corresponds to what is below. It is interesting to note that Blake also describes Urizen’s body as big as the created physical universe – “his right Arm [reaching] to the north. Stages four to seven generate the other four senses of perception. The Hindu mystics call it anahata-cakra. The second stage starts with the painful descent of the ‘life force’. quod est. “Verum est. This is what the Sephirot Kabbalah calls Tiferet ("beauty"). (»12) The third stage of emanation creates the nervous system “Brain shot branches” [11:11] and the primal perceptive sense. When it reaches the central point of the physical framework it creates the heart and blood vessels.and macro-cosmos is the same. They also refer to it as “You” or “May He be Holy”. In one copy at least these bones are touched with dim green and gold colour. and what is below corresponds to what is above. "the centre of the Heart". certain and true. It is the dividing line between the higher. ears and thus hearing relate Air. The development of the five sensual organs does not only mean the birth of Urizen. This is Air – the Human Soul.

Los – the wisdom principle of Nature (Sophia) – returns to the inactive condition of his primordial passivity. His imaginative powers merge with Urizen’s creative. – Foundations of Life Urizen has become the created universe well ‘bounded in a deadly sleep’ [14:27]. “A nerveless silence. his prophetic voice seized” [14:38] Examining his own creation Los falls into exhaustion and attachment with Urizen [13:40] – he is infatuated with what he has created. they call it Pan Ku. It is the creation of the first "living" organism. represented by the black and white flames rotating in the Wheel of Life ( ). the active formation of the unified potential creative powers into something definite. Although Blake and his interpreters see this as a negative process. which unifies [13:51-2].7 pity is a patronizing emotion. I will elucidate this condition for the sake of simplicity with the help of Chinese mysticism.)] Chapter V.[Hermes Trismegistos – Tabula Smaragdina (1-3. The Jewish mystics call the same condition of the form taken universe Adam Kadmon "The World Man". Here it indicates passive helplessness in the face of disaster. Having created this stable dimension of existence. so now Los will divide into male (strong. See plate 11. This state is understood by Chinese mystics as "doubleness" ( t'ai-chi). Los. active) and female (weak. This division does not exist in Eternity. now has space – the potential universe (the body of Urizen) – and creative "mental" power to fill in the void. In stanza no. as against love. As Urizen divided himself from the other Eternals. This process for Blake is triggered by pity. where Urizen (black) and Los (white) are locked in the flames of Creation. The Chinese mystics know this stage of Creation very well. rational powers: "The Eternal Prophet & Urizen closed" [13:40]. The divine powers of Urizen have manifested in the body of the World conjured up by Los' enormous errand. the imaginative force of Creation. obliterating his eternal condition. male). "The Cosmic Man". passive). female) and yang (white. Thus he unites with his complementary primordial power – now regulated and ordered. Chinese mysticism sees this progression natural and identifies the two forces of division as yin (black. Page 38 of 44 . Los sees Urizen "deadly black" too [13:50].

This is exactly what happens to Los [20:2]. and so on. This is what every hermetic tradition calls "the veil". the Gnostic Zoé. therefore the first female form is called Pity [19:1]. the universal eternal female element. . Page 39 of 44 .Generation With the birth of the first female – Nature – the World of Generation begins. From the point of view of the Eternals. The formative creative forces – Los and Urizen – can thus be identified as 'parents': "the universal father and mother of all living things". This topic is highly important for Blake. since it is the origin of all material life. the Cabbalists Kelipot. The primal difference of this existent is that it is material and definite. This process is described in occult philosophy as "the mirroring". "the shroud of the soul". For Blake the first female – Nature – is created from a fluid. Time. Los's pity is a false love [19:10]. Blake calls it "Science" [19:9] reflecting his views on the Newtonian universe. "the veil of illusion". which all hermetic traditions describe as the "cosmic egg". which blinds us from seeing the eternal reality. well reflected in his separate piece of painting called 'Pity'. divided against himself. brings forth Space. He surrenders to false identification and gradually comes to believe that he is identical with his false (physical) image: the material body or Nature. "bubble". rather than a solid rib [18:1]. since she emanates from the supple state of Los. The gods recoil in fear from the dawn of human creation and division and therefore the material universe is shielded by the Eternals.The birth of the 'globe of life' is naturally identified with the birth of the first female. As a consequence he loses his touch with his own true nature and loses the connection with ultimate reality. The essence of this teaching is that during the emanative processes of Creation the creator is blinded by his own reflection and becomes enslaved by it. "the cosmic egg". Chapter VI. "Great Womb".The separation starts with the birth of "the globe of life" [15:13]. The Gnostic call it "Curtain". Since the materialised world reflects divine nature and as a result resembles true reality Los is succumbed and blinded by his "own divided image" [19:16]. the new-born material world is deceptive and was generated by pity. the Hindus maya. and so on. the Sufi kashkul. which produces a whole range of false reactions in the responsive material universe (Enitharmon). the Kabbalah Ruah ha Kodesh. "vessel". according to which the world is a dead piece of machinery. in order that it would not disturb the 'real' world [19:2-8]. "life orb". the Hindus Mula Trikona. where the first female is represented lying on the ground in a position of the dead with an angelic figure handing down a baby – the symbol of life – to her thus giving her life. operating in accordance with immutable laws leaving no space for divine organization. The Chinese call it Hun Tun.

Similarly to the biblical story Los' intercourse with Enitharmon has fundamental consequences: he commits the original sin and sets forth the generation of living creatures. There are endless representations of this principium. the king of the snakes (naga). There is also a hermetic secret of the Serpent concealed in this symbolism. Erikhthonios.] – as the expression of this idea.) and is related to the powers of Time ( Kronos-Saturnus). This is what the Greeks called the "Wheel of Ixion". as well as it's spiral motion connecting to the ascent and descent of divine powers.Los does not realise that the manifested world is a mere projection of his own imaginative powers ordained by the 'satanic' rationalizing powers of Urizen. Hebrew Leviatan. In this respect the Serpent is called Uroboros (= Phoenician Lotan. The imaginative creating force (Los) unites with the power of Nature (Enitharmon) creating life (Orc). but perhaps one more important aspect in connection to Blake is that the Serpent is the symbol of Time locked in motion – the creative forces bolted in the endless cycle of death and rebirth. The coiled snake is in itself symbolizes the womb and the embryo. The serpent is seen as a protector-god in Hindu mythology and is represented in the form of Mucilinda. Due to its constant change of skin it is the symbol of eternal life and rejuvenation. Sensing the separated nature of the Female Los feels pity – as in contrast to the platonic love ( agapé) – and unites with Enitharmon only to be separated again. Page 40 of 44 . It is the power of fertility appearing in the form of the phallus – the linga of Siva. so Enitharmon is associated with Eve. The separation of active and passive energies result in the unceasing world of motion. Enitharmon conceives an embryo. the Serpent is not the tempter to vice. 477-82. while in Greek mythology it appears as the Goddess of Earth with a snake tail. Scandinavian Midgardrom. Of these two divinities is born the first man-child Orc.]. They are identified with the first humans of the biblical paradise [Genesis II. According to Platonic philosophy the division of the One (hen) into male and female – active and passive powers – results in constant movement or 'energy flow' and the eternal desire for steadiness and oneness. Greek Ladon. coiled around the neck of God Siva. As a result Los becomes a separated character appearing in the anthropomorphic form of the first man. in nature active powers flow towards the passive. Here Orc also recalls Cain. For Blake. the Gnostic "the circle of genesis" (cyclostes genestos). but the Bible legend is altered. chained by mankind's false perceptions. We can identify Enitharmon's attempt to flee from Los [19:13] – just like Eve fleeing Adam at first in Paradise Lost [IV. who is again identified with the Serpent of Paradise. while Los is related with Adam. as the productive force of life. Accordingly the first feminine power becomes embodied in the human form of Enitharmon. the Hindus "the wheel of life" (samsara) and so on. which is described as a worm [19:20]. but repressed energy. and in other forms it is recognized as the keeper of all secret knowledge. but the symbolic representation of generative powers and all secret knowledge. Only in unity do they come to a rest. the cursed child of Adam and Eve [Genesis IV.]. of constant revitalization. etc. The worm is to become Orc. In Christian mysticism for example the snake is identified with the force of Immaculate Conception. The snake is not altogether a negative image.

and hide it from the rest of Reality [19:51-52].] The energy of life cannot be restricted by the power of imagination and so it flows into the material world. who is unable to break free from the world of yearning. Chapter VII. Orc developing on the milk of Enitharmon gives rise to what every hermetic tradition calls "the great chain of being". Los emanated girdles form an inseparable chain "in each other link by link locked" [20:20]. This idea is also reflected in Swedenborg's philosophy of nature. The dead refers to matter coming to life. – Chains of Being The birth of Orc – the life force – sets off an avalanche of changes in the materialized world. true nature always stays hidden. the chain not only means a bonding to the world of craving and dependence. especially in the Principia Rerum Naturalium ("Principles of Natural Things"). Their struggle – the struggle between the progenitor creative force and materialized life – is described similarly to the Oedipus legend.Los act of seduction sets forth the spinning wheels of Life – with the creative powers now transferred into matter the world becomes a self-generating existent. This is what Buddhist philosophy calls "dependent origination" which means the interwoven connections between all things in existence: nothing is without cause and causation. therefore his aroused by longing and envy. these particles are themselves composed of smaller particles in motion related to each other ( »14). Like the infant Oedipus was abandoned on a mountainside because of an oracle that he would kill his father and marry his mother. In neoplatonic philosophy the chain is an invisible cord by which the Eternals govern the actions of mortals. Material beings are locked away from the true gnosis – the secret wisdom of Nature. Page 41 of 44 . Orc represents unrestricted life power. of which Los has no possession. but instead of finding a universe of freedom and imagination materialized life faces a universe of limitation and dependence. but it is also a symbol of punishment. where he posited that matter consists of interdependent particles that are indefinitely divisible. locked in the everlasting cycle of life and death. Furthermore. [20:23] "The dead heard the voice of the child and began to awake from sleep all things heard the voice of the child and began to awake to life. Blake's version of the Oedipus myth combines the theme of incest-threat with the idea of adult authority restricting youthful energy. The material world now powered by its own generating force becomes a separate unit in Eternity – the Eternals close it in a fixed place. It is interesting that like many hermetic traditions. and that these particles are in constant vortical (swirling) motion. The unleashed powers of creation begin their unfold to generate a whole new race of extant beings: the Human race. From the corporeal reality of our existence. Orc is the progenitor existent of all material beings [19:43] and is clearly the ultimate life force stimulating dead matter. Thus. This is the earth-bound nature of physical existence. In renaissance symbolism the chained man is the allegory of the human bound by his own desires. "Delving earth in his resistless way" [19:44] of course means "irresistibly digging through the mother's body" (»13). In Blake's description Orc suckling the power of Nature creates in Los "a tightening girdle" – a heart-constricting jealousy [20:9].5. but on a higher level of interpretation it also means plunging into the material world. so is Orc abandoned." [The Book of Urizen VII. Blake is also aware of the secrets of the hidden aspect of Nature: "Los encircled Enitharmon with fires of Prophecy from the sight of Urizen & Orc" [20:42-44]. without having to rely on the continuous participation and control of divine intervention. We cannot help recall the figure of Prometheus – also the representation of the life force (heavenly fire) – chained to the rocks of the Caucasus by Zeus. Life is chained to the material world with 'the Chain of Jealousy' [20:23-24].

represented by the four letters of YHVH. and physical nature. but manifestation in the form of the material world or Nature ( pistis sophia or physis) can only take one definite structure – the configuration of the 'garden' governed by the forces of a quaternity. His figure clearly resembles the figure of Sisyphus pushing the boulder of human sin and trying to reach the summit of relief (»15). R for Remez. This tetrasomy is the manifesting quaternity of materialised life energy. The idea of Paradise. This activity is seen by Blake as creating the natural laws of modern science – scales to weigh. an allegory of the embodied secrets of the world. spiritus. dias. the Eagle. Urizen's labour is like Sisyphus': hopeless and without end. the four guardians of the quarters of Heaven: Hapi (the Monkey north). Water and Earth in all traditions. anima and solum. Hayot ha Kodesh. and tetrad. In Gnostic tradition the emanated Page 42 of 44 . or the four main gods Re. 3. Thamutet (the Jackal . creative aspect of the Father his powers manifest in the organization and stabilization of the material world. Quebsenut (the Falcon west). astral. Utha. equipments for measurement – and in the aspect of the Father creating the biblical Garden of Eden [20:41]. Su.east). In Egyptian tradition. represented by the great quarters in every tradition: the four basic principles of Air. like Paradise. Urizen is awakened by "hunger and the odours of Nature" [20:30]. Geb and Apis. This is the den of Urizen signifying the world of Materialism [20:46]. In the Kübalion tradition: spiritual. water. As the objective. the most special name of god. monas. and the Cherub or Man. – The Material World The divine creative powers manifesting in existence can take the form of many structures. the Shem ha Meforash. is therefore the idea of the world. are the symbolic representation of the material universe. born from cloud. In Hebrew tradition. Grodna. The four dimensions in Latin tradition: cosmos. from fire-" and his daughters from green herbs and cattle.The arising of life in matter awakens the sleeping forces of generation: Urizen. mental. which is also seen in every hermetic tradition as the symbol of the fixed boundary of the existing universe. His main aspect is forming dividing rules to distinguish all material manifestations. earth and fire. In the Kabbalist tradition along with the former. It is built up of four organizing powers represented by the four sons of Urtizen: And the children of Urizen were Thiriel. or 1. The dens of Urizen.Urizen is represented as a figure pushing the orb of the physical world in its set place.south). D for Drus and S for Sod. the universe that God created. trias. setting the World as we know it. with the four attributes. In Christian tradition. from earth. the Lion. The tetrakthus in the Pythagorean tradition. Urizen's four sons are the four principle elements of air. Chapter VIII. He seeks to control by reason and natural law. the four animate beasts: the Bull. the 'angels' with four faces around the Keter Sefirah. the universal tetrasomy: P stands for Pesat. 2. from water. and Amset (the Man . 4. something that is surrounded (Avestan pairi+díz). Fire. instead of enjoying by imagination. Fuzon "first-begotten. last-born. This structure is called Gan Eden "world garden" or simply pardes "garden" in the Hebrew tradition – revealing PRDS (»16). from monsters and worms of the pit [23:11-17].

The sons and daughters of Urizen are cursed because they are lost in the world of matter: "no flesh nor spirit could keep his iron laws one moment" [23:25-26]. flexible powers hardening in shapes of matter [25:25].1-3. It is interesting how Blake's description of the world of suffering and the 'web of religion' parallel the Buddhist teachings of the 'wheel of life' ( samsara) according to which the interdependent origination and existence of all beings in the material world leads to suffering ( dhukha). The birth of the Human race is paralleled to the creation of the universe [Genesis I. The episode also parallels the journey of Satan through Chaos in Milton's Paradise Lost. since sensual perception blinded by the Net of Religion ("woven hypocrisy … streaky slime" [25:32-3]) is the major cause of the loss of Eternity and Page 43 of 44 .] and the birth of Urizen [Chapter IV. The limitation of the senses is crucial. Laws of unity are impossible in this world. but the seven ages of Urizen's creation become seven days for the creation of humans: "For six days they shrunk up from existence and on the seventh day they rested" [25:39-40. and they blessed the seventh day. Material beings bound by the chains of being automatically create the general conviction that their physical state of existence is real and singular. In the fallen world.] The degeneration of the children of Urizen is a consequence of their belief in the fixed and limited nature of the natural world. Urizen's exploration of the physical world is a highly elaborated topic. This is what Hindu philosophy calls the 'illusion of reality' (maya) and the Gnostic the 'force of corruption' or 'faith' (pistis). Thus "The Net of Religion" [25:22] is a second enclosure for mankind. appeared transparent air.]. but in a degraded state and power. the dungeon-like heaven dividing" [25:11-12] – and the knotted meshes of the web to involve all races and cities. – The Human Race "The Senses inward rushed shrinking beneath the dark net of infection: till the shrunken eyes. and sarks. brought together by narrowing perceptions. the material world is a mere projection of the mind. Six days they shrank up from existence. and forgot their eternal life. In Hindu philosophy this is referred to as all living things caught in the "Web of Brahman". greatly expanded in the Four Zoas Night the Sixth. discerned not the woven hypocrisy. and the seventh day rested. Nerves create a marrow around which a limited structure of senses evolve. Then from his sorrows for these his children begotten on the material body of nature. "throwing out from his sorrowing soul. which create the prison of the material body. another lacks (the Dog goes hungry). in sick hope. The "Web of Religion" Urizen leaves trailing behind him parallels the highway built by Sin and Death in Satan's track [ Paradise Lost II:1024-9]. The loss of height refers to "There were giants in the earth in those days" [Genesis 6:4].arkhons: gnosis. for their eyes grew small like the eyes of a man. Blake again touches on the root of the matter: "the Web is a Female in embrio" [25:18] that is a growing conviction in the reality of the material world. This idea is clearly expressed in the yogacara philosophy of Buddhism. Correspondingly Blake compares the web to the meshes of the human brain [25:21]. They take on definite material forms. Blake consistently makes Churches female – a generating force – since the church signifies a belief in the predetermined actuality of the physical universe.] "And in reptile forms shrinking together of seven feet stature they remained" [25:37-38]. the central governing law of this condition of existence is suffering. "life lived upon death" [23:27]. pneuma." [The Book of Urizen IX. according to which reality is what we believe it to be. psyché. their soft. but of limited perception. the web of religion begins to unwind and expand. everything lives on something else (the Ox is food) and what one appropriates. but the streaky slime in their heavens. Chapter IX. clouded over. The materialisation of life in the form of human beings also takes seven stages. Primitive mankind recapitulates the constriction and shrinking of Urizen's divine senses. like the "Tent of Science" [25:19].

Geoffrey (ed. [New York: Doubleday.) . mystical. Geoffrey (ed. [robin.William Blake and the Illuminated Book. [Arkana. [Oxford: Oxford Universitiy Press.] • (9) MacGregor Mathers – The Kabbalah Unveiled. Algernon . London 1925.) . . 1991. 1996. [Oxford: Oxford Universitiy Press.) The freer and stronger spirits leave the world of men to the dominion of earth and water. (ed. Infinite.The Complete Writings of William Blake.917.Chpt. 249.William Blake. more ancient than any other systems known.] (p. Footnotes: • (1) All Blake quotations are from Erdman. and they are left only with the heaviness of imprisoning clay and the bitterness of violent sea. : the alchemical state of albedo (page 54.) • (6) Stevenson.] (p.] (p.) • (5) Keynes. magical.org. Laws of limitation replace the true laws of God. Tim . the son of the Fire. [Oxford: Oxford Universitiy Press.: The Prophetic Books . Fuzon.H. [Oxford: Oxford Universitiy Press.The Complete Writings of William Blake.) • (12) Papus (Encausse. [William Heinemann.) • (11) Swinburne. 1999. Ch.P.] • (10) Compare with Chapter II. The thirty cities also refer to the thirty organs of the human body bounding the spirit of man to earth.918. . • (2) Keep. Seeing these his brethren degraded into life and debased into flesh.] (p. only the consonants of pardes are written. a topic highly elaborated in The Book of Ahania. Blake ends his vision in a very gloomy way. David V. (Fuzon parallels Moses leading the Exodus from Egypt. 1988]. the imaginative power of the soul.) • (14) Swedenborg's Philosophy of Nautre in Encyclopaedia Britannica [1994-1998] See: Emanuel Swedendorg • (15) There is a possible influence of Tiziano's or Giordano's Sisyphus on the representation (author's comment).] • (13) Keynes. W. [Song of Los 3:3] which is the cradle of civilization (»17).) .P. reprint of 1926.) – William Blake : Selected Poetry. • (17) Keynes. Law is the root of every human organization: "thirty cities divided in from of a human heart" [25:43-4] could relate to heart-formed Africa. [Hermit: Miskolc. • (16) Since the body of the word in Hebrew comes from the consonants. Lovecraft Omnibus 1-3. If the doors of perception were cleansed Every thing would appear to man as it is. air and fire are withdrawn from them. III. Hence grows the animal tyranny of gravitation.) .The Complete Poetry and Prose of William Blake. Lovecraft – At the Mountains of Madness. 1985. the creative power of the mind and Air. 282. (The H. In general terms it is a philosophical system organizing all religious.The Complete Writings of William Blake. 1988.escalation@ACM . 1996. Geoffrey (ed.914.) [Harper Collins. In-text references to poems cite first the plate then the line number. The narrowing perceptions are responsible for the bound-to-earth nature of humanity [25:47-48]. Gerard) – Kabbala. starting from Egypt around the 2nd century BC. Of course it is a tradition itself. [Penguin.freedom. Christopher & McLaughlin.] (p.] • (8) Aleister Crowley – MAGICK in theory and practice.914. • (4) Keynes. 1995] • (3) Hermetics: In a narrow sense – from historical and philological point of view – the Hermetic tradition refers to a well distinguishable cultural phenomenon... [Castle Books. calls together the remaining children of Urizen and they leave the pendulous earth [28:19-22].] (p. Accordingly humanity is left without the divine elements of Fire. 1996.) Page 44 of 44 . which allow absolute freedom in every aspect. 1996. Geoffrey (ed.The Complete Writings of William Blake.) • (7) H. philosophical traditions and mythological ideas ever known to mankind. Humanity can no longer discern the divine element in the universe [28:17-18]. and hence also the spiritual tyranny of the laws of prudence [28:6-7].

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