Blake Primer(Revised 3-8-10)(A more complete version of this can be found here or at this one.)
The Wisdom of the Ages
If you have an interest in Blake's religion, you
may want to start with his Spiritual Autobiography.)
According to Blake Ezekiel once acted out
a bizarre symptom of the prospects of the Israelites, lying for an inordinate period of time on his left side, then another period on his right. Mr. Blake had a conversation with him about that and asked him why he had done it; the answer came clearly: "the desire of
raising other [people] into a perception of the infinite"
(Marriage of Heaven and Hell, Plate 13).
Who can doubt that William actually had that interview with Zeke? But if truth be known, that desire became the agenda for Blake's life, and perhaps the generic life purpose of every true prophet.
He saw things that most of us don't, and he urgently needed to show them to us, to show us how to see them.
There are many kinds of seeing and many levels of consciousness, but with the natural proclivity to resort to the dialectic we might say there are two:
1. The sense-based, natural, materialistic time and space
consciousness (Blake called this Ulro; Jesus called it Hell).
2. Vision, coming forth from the inner man, the Light, the Now. It's a different kind of consciousness, a perception of the infinite (Blake called it Eden; Jesus called it the Kingdom of Heaven or the Kingdom of God).
Jesus showed us with his life how to live eternally; and he told us we could do it. Blake did it, periodically at least, and like Jesus he wanted us to share that heavenly gift.
He called it Vision; that's what he lived for, those eternal moments were all that matters. If you can't do it continuously, then you can talk about it, write about it, draw it, paint it. He did (and you can) show us how to see.
Provisional Table of Contents
I give you the end of a golden string, Only wind it into a ball, It will lead you in at Heaven's gate Built in Jerusalem's wall. (Plate 77 of Jerusalem)I must Create a System, or be enslav'd by another Man's (Jerusalem plate 10, line 20)
Blake's myth has a (at least) double meaning: "It was at once a reading of history and an interpretation of his mystical experiences" (from Percival p 47). The myth is about Albion and about Blake's life.
A thumbnail evaluation suggests that Blake was (and remained) a very sensitive social and political animal; his early poems are full of biting social community (look at 'London'). He was also in love with poetry and philsophy of all sorts (including the Bible). Both of these qualities distinguished him from the generality of the population-- of all classes!
Habituated to a prodigious output, he might well have become a complete isolate, but his work couldn't fail to meet the notice of a few other brilliant types.
He read omnivorously and seemed to retain (and use) everything that came into his mind. Some of his most influential reading was the Bible, Plato, the Egyptians, the neoPlatonists, Paracelsus and Boehme. He assembled all this ancient and medieval wisdom (discarded by Western culture with the Enlightenment) into his system, what we call his myth.
Most of the literature and art of special interest to Blake expressed the almost universal concept of metaphysical reality from the days of the earliest Mesopotamians and Egyptians to the present. Blake drew on these symbols everywhere along the spectrum of time.
Sallust in On the Gods and the World (Section IV:That the Species of Myth are Five):
Myths are natural (physical), metaphysical (theological), psychic (psychological), and material (literal); some are a combination. To these we might add the moral or ethical.) (Blake's is definitely a combination of all of them.)
All of these various elements add up to a reality that exists in two spheres: upper and lower above and below Eternity and Time spiritual and material Heavenly and Worldly dry and moist souls good and evil But at the deepest level these pairs belong to one another and God is in all ( "as above so below").
These are all ways of looking at the fundamental metaphysical reality of life.
The kernel of meaning in all this wisdom, in all of Blake's system was the myth of the descent of the soul into generation (this fallen world), her extensive travail here and eventual return to the fount of life from which she came.
Blake drew on the earliest and latest examples of poetry and philosophy to elaborate his myth. Kathleen Raine in her little book, Blake and Antiquity, provides a very good means of elucidating the meanings that Blake intended in all his works. (perhaps the most common trap to avoid is to assume that his symbols connote literal or physical matters rather than psychological or metaphysical one.)
Blake had great familiarity with British poetry, where he found the same "kernel of meaning" as every kind of literature. For example Blake knew and loved Spenser (Queen Elizabeth's poet laureate- he wrote The Faerie Queen). Raine on page 18 provided two examples (expanded here) from Spenser of the oldest myth central to Blake's poetry, namely the descent of the soul and eventual return:
Nevertheless with the Enlightenment this sort of idea had fallen into disrepair in most of the materialistic and rational minds of England. Bacon, Newton, and Locke were the primary exponents of rationalism in Blake's day. This meant in reality that no one was interested in the kind of poetry and philosophy that interested Blake.
But the vision of the mystic suggests that you are more than a creature. The writer of Genesis had such an inkling when he described man as made of the dust of the earth, but in the image of God. The Quakers believe there is 'that of God' in everyone.
Eternal Death in Blake's language refers to the soul's descent from Eden (and Beulah) to the nether regions (Ulro) where Eternity is lost and only the created remains. Lost! but not forever; Eternal Death dies, too; Eternity waits for the soul's Awakening, which may be at the moment of mortal death.
The CharactersAlbion Jerusalem The Four Zoas
When Albion fell asleep, he divided into the four zoas: Urizen Luvah Urthona Los Sons of Los and Enitharmon
The Emanations: (Each zoa has an emanation: his feminine, passive half, his wife, lover, consort, whatever it seems like she is at the moment): Ahania Vala Enitharmon Enion
Albion has a composite character second to none. It means (originally) England, but at a deeper level it means the cosmos, which is a man!. (In this Blake agrees with the Adam Kadmon of the Kabbalah, the Heavenly Man of Philo, St. Paul's heavenly man, the second Adam, and the cosmic man of Gnostic mythology, and the Hindu god, Krishna.)
Albion, the eternal man, fell asleep into mortality in Beulah. We read at the beginning of Night 2 these ominous words:
He divides and divides into four parts, the four zoas (strangely similar to the four functions promulgated a hundred years later by Carl Jung).
- Rising upon his Couch of Death Albion beheld his Sons Turning his Eyes outward to Self, losing the Divine Vision. Albion called Urizen & said: "Take thou possession! take this Scepter! go forth in my might For I am weary, & must sleep in the dark sleep of Death.
This dissolution of the cosmic man, described at the beginning of The Four Zoas, passes through the Circle of Destiny, and at the end of The Four Zoas he awakens from his mortal sleep and resumes his place in Eternity. That in essence is a thumbnail account of Blake's myth: descent from Eternity, struggle, and eventually return.
JerusalemEvery (male) character in Blake has an emanation; this conforms to Heraclitus' doctrine of contraries, and indicates the ultimate duality. The (male) character represents active energy (especially in Great Eternity), which the (female) emanation represents passive repose. (when Albion fell things changed!) [Blake thereby unfortunately and unwittingly insulted in a deadly way many if not all 'women's libbers'. But Blake had simply followed the virtually universal principle of mythopoetic sex. Some very secure women find it possible to excuse this violation of 'pc' from one born two centuries ago, just as they excuse the apostle Paul for a few of his unfortunate remarks. We all have failings, and Blake taught above all forgiveness.]
Albion's emanation, Jerusalem, remains eternal through all the Wheel of Destiny; Blake gave her fallen component other names, particularly Vala, Tirzah, and Rahab.
When I began to attempt The Four Zoas, I soon realized that Blake saw much more than I can possibly see. Reading it is always an adventure: how much can you grasp? There will always be more to strive for. What follows is an initial attempt to describe the ten primary characters who appear in The Four Zoas.
No matter how much you study Blake much will always remains opaque to many (or most) of us. In that respect he's very like the Bible. In fact he began the poem with a verse from St. Paul, which tell us what he means to do with the poem:
- 4 lines of Greek text; Ephesians 6: 12: For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. (King James version)]>
Although we hear of the birth of these characters, some from others, they are actually manifestations of the four functions of the Eternal Man (later celebrated by Carl Jung).
At the final consummation Blake rehabilitated Bacon, Newton and Locke. They appeared counterbalancing Blake's three great poets.
In Night II of The Four Zoas Urizen lost his faith and in vision saw the world collapsing into darkness:
- The Druid Spectre was Annihilate loud thundring rejoicing terrific vanishing J98.7; E257| Fourfold Annihilation & at the clangor of the Arrows of Intellect J98.8; E257| The innumerable Chariots of the Almighty appeard in Heaven J98.9; E257| And Bacon & Newton & Locke, & Milton & Shakspear & Chaucer (Jerusalem 98: 6-9 )
The Mundane Shell thus represents the world as we know it with the two contraries, darkness and light competing for priority. (For example after WWII with the reconstruction and rehabilitation of Germany and Japan light came relatively to the fore, to be succeeded by the terrible darkness and chaos of the Vietnam disaster.)
- Urizen rose from the bright Feast like a star thro' the evening sky. First he beheld the body of Man pale, cold; the horrors of death Beneath his feet shot thro' him as he stood in the Human Brain, Pale he beheld futurity; pale he beheld the Abyss ......[he said:] Build we a Bower for heavens darling in the grizzly deep, Build we the Mundane Shell around the Rock of Albion. FZ2: 23:9-24.8; (314)
The darkness led Urizen to this confession.
More about this in the next section:
- O Fool could I forget the light that filled my bright spheres Was a reflection of his face who calld me from the deep? I well remember for I heard the mild & holy voice saying 'O light spring up and shine' and I sprang up from the deep He gave to me a silver scepter & crownd me with a golden crown and said Go forth & guide my Son who wanders on the ocean. I went not forth. I hid myself in black clouds of my wrath I calld the stars around my feet in the night of councils dark The stars threw down their spears and fled naked away. We fell. (Four Zoas Night 5 64:20-28, 
Urizen symbolized the demiurge, used by gnostic and other philosophers as the lesser god who created this sorry mess, our world. Urizen often shaded into a Moses like figure, constantly looking at and working on his books of the law, the vengeful Old Testament God, and other uncomplimentary names. In the fallen condition he shades into Satan:
Urizen lost prominence in the later epics
- Urizen calld together the Synagogue of Satan in dire Sanhedrin To Judge the Lamb of God to Death as a murderer & robber. (FZ8-109:6-7) )
Luvah's first appearance in Beulah includes his emanation, Vala. They spend idyllic time in her garden of shadows. But this is interrupted when Luvah gives to Urizen the forbidden Wine of the Almighty.
The Fall began when Luvah stole (or was given, lent) the horses of light (the Sun); you might say that Luvah, like Icarus got too close to the Sun. In Night 5 Urizen tells us about it in The Woes of Urizen:
This is a central event in Blake's myth; in fact we read about it at least three times in The Four Zoas.
- Then in my ivory pavilions I slumberd in the noon And walked in the silent night among sweet smelling flowers Till on my silver bed I slept & sweet dreams round me hoverd. But now my land is darkend & my wise men are departed. My songs are turned to cries of Lamentation Heard on my Mountains & deep sighs under my palace roofs, Because the Steeds of Urizen once swifter than the light Were kept back from my Lord & from his chariot of mercies O did I keep the horses of the day in silver pastures I refusd the Lord of day the horses of his prince O Fool could I forget the light that filled my bright spheres Was a reflection of his face who calld me from the deep (64:6-20)
When Luvah sunk to the perversion of hate, he caused the Incarnation:
Luvah, and Christ with him, spend the ages in the Furnaces of Affliction, but we must know that a happy outcome will come (just as the Sun puts an end to the dark night).
Urthona"Earth owner": the creative imagination of the individual is how Damon first describes Urthona. He is the contrary of Urizen: In Blake's generation students of Kant and of other philosophers postulated "a form of intelligence superior to the rational mind" (Percival page 37), which eventually went by the name of the unconscious. Blake referred to it as the poetic genius and ascribed it to Urthona.
Urthona is dark, but it isn't the darkness of fallenness; it's a creative darkness--the kind of darkness we find in The Cloud of Unknowing. The dark Urthona and Urizen are a pair: the dark (unconscious) superior intelligence and the light plodding, legalistic mind. With the initial Fall Urizen took control of the universe, but he soon made mess and was suceeded by Los, Urthona's earthly manifestation.
It might be appropriate to define Urthona as intuition. Blake used the word only once, in Annotations to the Works of Sir Joshua Reynolds (whom he disliked), but the quotation is juicy:
You might also say that Urthona brought whatever we have of Eternity to Earth. His creative work took place in his earthly manifestation, Los.
- Demonstration Similitude & Harmony are Objects of Reasoning Invention Identity & Melody are Objects of Intuition. (Annotations to Reynolds page 200, 659)
Urthona's fall brought forth a triad: Los Enitharmon, Los' emanation the Spectre Pure negativity, totally commited to absolute materialism negating any spiritual reality. Inventing good and evil the spectre reveled in the evil (of others) and saw none in himself.
- In the Fourth region of Humanity, Urthona namd, Mortality begins to roll the billows of Eternal Death Before the Gate of Los. Urthona here is named Los. (Jerusalem 35: 7-9 181)
Blake saw, and hated the continually intrusive spectre in himself, who doubted, who judged, who forgot Eternity. The spectre condemns us to ulro where Eden and Beulah are alike forgotten and acting as 'realists' we evaluate life as dismal. There is a spectre in every man, and his unwelcome presence is most acutely suffered (night and day) by men of discernment, like Blake. and hated
Los is "the expression in this world of the creative imagination" (Damon, 246), and in Beulah his name reverts to Urthona.
- Los was the fourth immortal starry one, & in the Earth Of a bright Universe Empery attended day & night Days & nights of revolving joy, Urthona was his name (Four Zoas 1-3:9-11; 301)
A master smith, worker in metal Los worked at the furnaces, hopefully changing iron to gold; this happens, but it's realized only at the end of time. Los, master of time, is trying to work himself out of a job, and at the end he is in fact reabsorbed into Urthona, the poetic genius. (For that we're still waiting.)
In Ulro Urizen's sun has virtually gone out; Los labors to create a worldly sun (Sun is Los backward).
The paradoxical significance of the furnace is borne out in the Bible with Shadrach, Meshach. and Abednego.
- Then wondrously the Starry Wheels felt the divine hand. Limit Was put to Eternal Death Los felt the Limit & saw The Finger of God touch the Seventh furnace in terror And Los beheld the hand of God over his furnaces Beneath the Deeps in dismal Darkness beneath immensity (Four Zoas 4-56:23-26 338)
Once escaped from Ulro Los, the master builder, proceeded to build Golgonooza, representing material progress. Los builded it and builded it 'time on time'; each time a society went into eclipse, Golgonooza must be built again. This of course is a figure for worldly progress, all very good, but not in the same dimension as the City of God.
However Blake wrote to Hayley: "The Ruins of Time builds Mansions in Eternity." (Letter 9), referring to the final transformation of the best of Golgonooza into Jerusalem, which is the meaning of the Last Judgment.
Children of Los and Enitharmon
Blake had important 'prophecies' re America and The French Revolution.
The Book of Urizen, especially chapters vi and vii, gives much insight into the mythical identity of Orc. (This little prophecy in fact is an excellent introduction to some of the important threads of 4Z.)
Here are the later and multiple progency of Los and Enitharmon ("And she bore an enormous race"):
One might think here that Blake has descended to obscurity; but wait a minute: many of these early 'sons' are characters in other works (and 4Z is really more a notebook than a finished poem. Reuben-Benjamin are of course the 12 sons of Israel (and the 12 tribes). Then he names the leading lights of our faith from David to Milton.
- And these are the Sons of Los & Enitharmon. Rintrah Palamabron Theotormon Bromion Antamon Ananton Ozoth Ohana Sotha Mydon Ellayol Natho Gon Harhath Satan Har Ochim Ijim Adam Reuben Simeon Levi Judah Dan Naphtali Gad Asher Issachar Zebulun Joseph Benjamin David Solomon Paul Constantine Charlemaine Luther Milton (FZ8-107.6 Erdman 380)
And from Dr. Ed Friedlander, in his classic William Blake's Milton had this to say about the sons of Los and Enitharmon:
- Twelve of the Sons of Los and Enitharmon were lost to Urizenism. These remaining Four embrace all humanistic endeavor. All are forms of Orc, but unlike the terrible child, the drive of the Four toward a comfortable and happy world is controlled and directed by Los, prime agent of regeneration. Because Milton is a poem about people as we know them rather than a cosmic chronicle, the Four are very important in our epic. In particular, Rintrah, Palamabron, Theotormon, and Bromion are the enlightened, socially conscious people of Blake's age.
TharmasThe first three zoas have a lot more coverage than Tharmas; they describe attitudes, activities, and changes of Humankind. Tharmas represents the body; his emanation Enion represents Nature.
In particular Tharmas is said to be body's energy (Percival 42). In Night i of The Four Zoas Blake referred to him as the "parent power":
Damon (122) tells us that Blake used the separation of Thamas and Enion to depict the struggles of the growing lad when he discovers for the first time the power of his awakening sex, and tries "in agonized despair to suppress or control it" page 4 (of Night 1). This likely may not be the issue in our day that it was in Blake's (or in mine). The lad (Tharmas in this case) has learned from his emanation that it is sin:
- Begin with Tharmas Parent power, darkning in the West. (Four Zoas Night 1 page 4:6 301)
Here is the birth of the concept of sexuality as sin which has cursed Western culture for 2000 years. Blake called it Mystery Religion and throughout his works he expressed inveterate hostility again the control of sexual mores by the priest.
- Lost! Lost! Lost! are my Emanations Enion O Enion We are become a Victim to the Living We hide in secret (Four Zoas 1:4:7-8 301) Enion said--Thy fear has made me tremble thy terrors have surrounded me All Love is lost Terror succeeds & Hatred instead of Love And stern demands of Right & Duty instead of Liberty. Once thou wast to Me the loveliest son of heaven--But now Why art thou Terrible (Four Zoas 4.17-21 301) I have lookd into the secret soul of him I lovd And in the Dark recesses found Sin & cannot return (Four Zoas 1.4:26-7)
In the Four Zoas there follows a loveless embrace of the Spectre from which comes forth Enitharmon (who is the emanation of Los). (This is one of several ways Blake described the appearance of the emanations as the zoas divided into their contraries.)
"As bodily energy Tharmas is the regent of sex" (Percival 42), but much more than that in Eden. There he is the poetic genius and "the symbol of the united world", a "portion of soul":
With the disasters precipitated by Urizen and Luvah Tharmas became a raging storm (in fact he became the deluge). Blake believed that the ante-diluvian age was closer to Eden; with the deluge of Tharmas man is put down into Ulro.
- Man has no Body distinct from his Soul for that calld Body is a portion of Soul discernd by the five Senses. the chief inlets of Soul in this age (MHH4; 34)
Ahania represented Urizen's intuitive and visual self; he seems to have preferred reposing in Ahania rather than continuing his activity spreading the seeds of Science in his golden chariot (or plow!). The upshot of this was a level of doubt that caused him to cast Ahania out. Unfortunately when he did this, his intuition failed and he resorted more and more to vindictive law rather than 'sweet reason'; his creations thereafter were fallen (although the golden chain remained, even when it turned to iron).
- Am I not God said Urizen. Who is Equal to me Do I not stretch the heavens abroad or fold them up like a garment ...... His visage changd to darkness & his strong right hand came forth To cast Ahania to the Earth. He seizd her by the hair And threw her from the steps of ice that froze around his throne............. Saying Art thou also become like Vala? Thus I cast thee out. Shall the feminine indolent bliss Set herself up to give her laws to the active masculine virtue, Thou little diminutive portion that darst be a counterpart Thy passivity, thy laws of obedience & insincerity Are my abhorrence. And art thou also become like Vala? Thus I cast thee out. (Four Zoas Night 3 42:19-43:22 
Vala was the contrary (opposite) of Jerusalem (the bride of Christ). She represents all the negativity of the feminine character. She also goes by the names of Rahab and Tirzah.
So we can see that in Blake's myth Vala occupied the same symbolic role that Eve did in the Garden.
- Among the Flowers of Beulah walkd the Eternal Man & Saw Vala the lilly of the desart. Melting in high noon Upon her bosom in sweet bliss he fainted. Wonder siezd All heaven, they saw him dark. They built a golden wall Round Beulah. There he reveld in delight among the Flowers. Vala was pregnant & brought forth Urizen, Prince of Light, First born of Generation. Then behold: a wonder to the Eyes Of the now fallen Man a double form Vala appeard. A Male And female; shuddring pale the Fallen Man recoild From the Enormity & calld them Luvah & Vala. Turning down The vales to find his way back into Heaven, but found none For his frail eyes were faded & his ears heavy & dull. (Four Zoas 7a:83:8-18; [E358])
In even fewer words The Fall can be described as
- Hear! I will sing a Song of Death! it is a Song of Vala! The Fallen Man takes his repose: Urizen sleeps in the porch Luvah and Vala woke & flew up from the Human Heart Into the Brain; from thence upon the pillow Vala slumber'd. And Luvah seiz'd the Horses of Light, & rose into the Chariot of Day Sweet laughter siezd me in my sleep! silent & close I laughd For in the visions of Vala I walkd with the mighty Fallen One I heard his voice among the branches, & among sweet flowers. (Four Zoas 1:10-16, 305)
Love gone bad!In a few words during the Fall Enitharmon comported herself as a sort of Vala, but at a certain point she repented and thereafter became a dutiful help to her husband, Los.
In Jerusalem Los makes a creative proposal to Enitharmon, but she replies like this:
But in this redemptive scene near the end of Night vii we find Los and Enitharmon released from the horror of the past, in the Garden they had forsaken:
- be thou assured I never will be thy slave Let Mans delight be Love; but Womans delight be Pride In Eden our loves were the same here they are opposite I have Loves of my own. (J87:15-18 246)
Here we see how a terribly unhappy wife, becoming reconciled to her husband, sees in him the Lamb of God. Her sorrow turns to joy, and in the end the two become one spirit.
- Los trembling answerd Now I feel the weight of stern repentance Tremble not so my Enitharmon at the awful gates Of thy poor broken Heart I see thee like a shadow withering As on the outside of Existence but look! behold! take comfort! Turn inwardly thine Eyes & there behold the Lamb of God Clothed in Luvahs robes of blood descending to redeem (FZ7a-87:39-44 369) And Enitharmon answered: O Lovely terrible Los wonder of Eternity O Los my defence & guide Thy works are all my joy. ..... They shall be ransoms for our Souls that we may live. (Four Zoas 7a 98:16-24; 370)
She is noted for her complaints against cold cruel nature:
This of course is a complaint against blind nature, "red of tooth and claw"; but here's another more pointed complaint against social immorality, where the economic world too often emulates the natural one, which is to say there is no spirit evident in the world (that's Ulro).
- Enion blind & age-bent wept upon the desolate wind: Why does the Raven cry aloud and no eye pities her? Why fall the Sparrow & the Robin in the foodless winter? Faint! shivering they sit on leafless bush, or frozen stone Wearied with seeking food across the snowy waste; the little Heart, cold; and the little tongue consum'd, that once in thoughtless joy Gave songs of gratitude to waving corn fields round their nest. Why howl the Lion & the Wolf? why do they roam abroad? Deluded by summers heat they sport in enormous love And cast their young out to the hungry wilds & sandy desarts Why is the Sheep given to the knife? the Lamb plays in the Sun He starts! he hears the foot of Man! he says, Take thou my wool But spare my life, but he knows not that winter cometh fast. The Spider sits in his labourd Web, eager watching for the Fly Presently comes a famishd Bird & takes away the Spider His Web is left all desolate, that his little anxious heart So careful wove; & spread it out with sighs and weariness. This was the Lamentation of Enion round the golden Feast Eternity groand and was troubled at the image of Eternal Death. (Four Zoas 1-17.2-18.9; E310)
If nothing else Blake demonstrates here his power as a social prophet. Was it any more appropriate for his age than it is for ours?
- What is the price of Experience do men buy it for a song Or wisdom for a dance in the street? No it is bought with the price Of all that a man hath his house his wife his children Wisdom is sold in the desolate market where none come to buy And in the witherd field where the farmer plows for bread in vain It is an easy thing to triumph in the summers sun in the vintage & to sing on the waggon loaded with corn It is an easy thing to talk of patience to the afflicted to speak the laws of prudence to the houseless wanderer To listen to the hungry ravens cry in wintry season When the red blood is filld with wine & with the marrow of lambs It is an easy thing to laugh at wrathful elements To hear the dog howl at the wintry door, the ox in the slaughter house moan To see a god on every wind & a blessing on every blast To hear sounds of love in the thunder storm that destroys our enemies house To rejoice in the blight that covers his field, & the sickness that cuts off his children While our olive & vine sing & laugh round our door & our children bring fruits & flowers Then the groan & the dolor are quite forgotten & the slave grinding at the mill And the captive in chains & the poor in the prison, & the soldier in the field When the shatterd bone hath laid him groaning among the happier dead It is an easy thing to rejoice in the tents of prosperity Thus could I sing & thus rejoice, but it is not so with me! (Four Zoas 2-35.11-36.13 325)
2. Daughters of Albion (Memory), obeying Reason weave the natural world of spiritual depravity.
- Then those in Great Eternity met in the Council of God As one Man for contracting their Exalted Senses They behold Multitude or Expanding they behold as one As One Man all the Universal family & that one Man They call Jesus the Christ & they in him & he in them Live in Perfect harmony in Eden the land of life Consulting as One Man above the Mountain of Snowdon Sublime For messengers from Beulah come in tears & darkning clouds Saying Shiloh is in ruins our brother is sick Albion He whom thou lovest is sick he wanders from his house of Eternity The daughters of Beulah terrified have closd the Gate of the Tongue Luvah & Urizen contend in war around the holy tent (Four Zoas Night 1 21:1-12 311)
In the Rosetti Manuscript Blake wrote the final word showing how we are afflicted by our spectre:
We may take this poem as highly autobiographical, as is in fact everything Blake wrote. Blake told us here that he is two people--actually three; he is Blake, the man; he is the emanation (not used much in this poem), and he is the spectre.
- My spectre around me night and day Like a wild beast guards my way; My Emanation far within Weeps incessantly for my sin. `A fathomless and boundless deep, There we wander, there we weep; On the hungry craving wind My Spectre follows thee behind. `He scents thy footsteps in the snow, Wheresoever thou dost go, Thro' the wintry hail and rain. When wilt thou return again? `Dost thou not in pride and scorn Fill with tempests all my morn, And with jealousies and fears Fill my pleasant nights with tears? `Seven of my sweet loves thy knife Has bereaved of their life. Their marble tombs I built with tears, And with cold and shuddering fears. `Seven more loves weep night and day Round the tombs where my loves lay, And seven more loves attend each night Around my couch with torches bright. `And seven more loves in my bed Crown with wine my mournful head, Pitying and forgiving all Thy transgressions great and small. `When wilt thou return and view My loves, and them to life renew? When wilt thou return and live? When wilt thou pity as I forgive?' `O'er my sins thou sit and moan: Hast thou no sins of thy own? O'er my sins thou sit and weep, And lull thy own sins fast asleep. `What transgressions I commit Are for thy transgressions fit. They thy harlots, thou their slave; And my bed becomes their grave. `Never, never, I return: Still for victory I burn. Living, thee alone I'll have; And when dead I'll be thy grave. 'Thro' the Heaven and Earth and Hell Thou shalt never, never quell: I will fly and thou pursue: Night and morn the flight renew.' 'Poor, pale, pitiable form I follow in a storm; on tears and groans of lead Bind around my aching head. 'Till I turn from Female love And root up the Infernal Grove, I shall never worthy be To step into Eternity. 'And, to end thy cruel mocks, Annihilate thee on the rocks, And another form create To be subservient to my fate. `Let us agree to give up love, And root up the Infernal Grove; Then shall we return and see The worlds of happy Eternity. `And throughout all Eternity I forgive you, you forgive me. As 1000 our dear Redeemer said: "This the Wine, and this the Bread."'
Well folks, we all have a spectre (except those of you who are perfect!). It's the bad old one inside, sometimes called the devil. It's what makes us "do what we would not" (Romans 7). In Blake's case he has told us that the passive acceptance of culture as it is (to work for the main chance) is a temptation; to be acceptable as a artist, even to enjoy the fame he deserves. These are some of the temptations that assail any artist: to please the (fallen) crowd or to keep his integrity. The spectre in him shuts out Eden and condemns him to Ulro. Friedlander tells us that after Blake's poem, Milton, the negative dimension (Negation) of Los became the Spector of Urthona.
A great many particulars could be cited, but he cited them at great length and exhaustively throughout his creative career. He was like Isaiah and Ezekiel, telling his world how they're going to hell and what he could do about it.
To be a prophet always makes a person unpopular. Blake wanted to be successful and popular, but like every prophet he eventually came to terms with the reality that the two things are incompatible.
This section is essentially an abstract of Chapter III of Percival's Circle of Destiny.
As the epigram suggests Blake had a four story universe; it was made up of:
Four Worlds Eden Beulah The Fall Ulro Generation
Eden, the embodiment of imagination, contains a perfect intellectual energy. Through this comes a perfect unity beyond rational achievement or even rational conception. Eden is not a refuge of holiness, but a haven of intelligence where souls occupy themselves in hunting and mental war, sifting truth from error.
- There exists in the eternal world the permanent realities of everything which we see reflected in this vegetable glass. (Vision of the Last Judgment], N69[c]; E555)
The symbol of Eden is the radiant sun. In Eden (Great Eternity) good and evil do not exist, nor does time and space, nor sexual division (Matthew 22:30) . Truth and error take the place of good and evil, and "severe contentions of friendship & the burning fire of thought" (Jerusalem, 91.17; E251) take the place of corporeal war. One's enemies are one's friends. In Eden souls live together in perfect harmony in the brotherhood of man, a form of love transcending sexual organization.
- "Albion! Our wars are wars of life, & wounds of love, With intellectual spears, & long winged arrows of thought: Mutual in one anothers love and wrath all renewing We live as One Man; (Jerusalem, 34.14-17; E180)
In Eternity all is vision. During his entire life Blake's visions represented his frequent experiences with Eden. As his wife said, "Mr. Blake spends too much time in heaven". But the level of Eden is impossible for mortals to maintain continuously; infinity recedes; the Eternals need R and R, and for that Beulah was created.
For those surfeited by "hunting and mental warfare" Beulah was created as a refuge from the "war zone"; the warriors rotate to the "home front". Beulah means married (Isaiah 62.4). Blake used it here because the fundamental polarity (male/female) has risen, with all the other polarities of mortal life. Time and space also arose in Beulah.
- Beulah is evermore Created around Eternity; appearing To the Inhabitants of Eden, around them on all sides. But Beulah to its Inhabitants appears within each district As the beloved infant in his mothers bosom round incircled With arms of love & pity & sweet compassion. But to The Sons of Eden the moony habitations of Beulah, Are from Great Eternity a mild & pleasant Rest. (Milton 30:8-14)
The female component are the emanations of the reposing Eternals. They have had only a "secondary existence" (Percival page 52) in the mental intensity of Eden. Beulah is in fact the answer to their prayer:
(Here begins Book 2 of Milton):
The feminine forgiveness and self sacrifice of the emanation renders ineffectual the errors into which the masculine mind may sink. She
- There is a place where Contrarieties are equally True. This place is called Beulah, It is a pleasant lovely Shadow Where no dispute can come. Because of those who Sleep. Beulah is evermore Created around Eternity; appearing To the Inhabitants of Eden, around them on all sides.... But the Emanations trembled exceedingly, nor could they Live, because the life of Man was too exceeding unbounded His joy became terrible to them; they trembled & wept Crying with one voice: Give us a habitation & a place In which we may be hidden under the shadow of wings For if we who are but for a time, & who pass away in winter Behold these wonders of Eternity we shall consume, But you O our Fathers & Brothers, remain in Eternity. So spake the lovely Emanations; & there appeard a pleasant Mild Shadow above: beneath: & on all sides round, Into this pleasant Shadow all the weak & weary Like Women & Children were taken away as on wings Of dovelike softness, & shadowy habitations prepared for them But every Man returnd & went still going forward thro' The Bosom of the Father in Eternity on Eternity Neither did any lack or fall into Error without A Shadow to repose in all the Days of happy Eternity. (plates 36-7)
In Beulah the road ahead forked. Refreshed by a truly loving and self-sacrificial emanation, the male resting from a strenuous Eden may once again become ready for the "severe contentions of friendship" (Jerusalem 91:17). He returns, and she goes to sleep in beautiful Beulah.
- creates at her will a little moony night & silence With Spaces of sweet gardens & a tent of elegant beauty: Closed in by a sandy desart & a night of stars shining. (Jerusalem 69:20-21)
However falling into a deeper sleep he will fall into Ulro. His emanation has become self-righteous and proud, she may behave like the one Blake describes here:
As stated before Ulro is 'the pit'; it's also the world that most of us live in ante enlightenment (although our matrimonial experience may be entirely different). It's material; the inhabitant of Ulro has no cognizance of anything except a material world: no Plato, no Boehme, no mystics. (The faithful Christian may have some notion of the non-material if he/she believes in prayer.)
- She cries: The Human is but a Worm, & thou O Male: Thou art Thyself Female, a Male: a breeder of Seed: a Son & Husband: & Lo. The Human Divine is Womans Shadow, a Vapor in the summers heat - - - - - - - - - - O Woman-born And Woman-nourishd & Woman-educated & Woman-scorn'd! (Jerusalem 64:13-17)
Should the emotions of the emanation turn self-righteous and vengeful, the male, like Samson will fall under Delilah's spell and choose the sleep of Ulro. This is the most significant stage of the Fall of man, and it infects the entire universe (cosmos).
The soul who takes the illusions of Beulah for the ultimate reality will fall into the sleep of eternal death in ulro.
- Rising upon his Couch of Death Albion beheld his Sons turning his Eyes outward to Self. losing the Divine Vision (Four Zoas 2-23.1-2; E313)
The problem with good and evil is that we take as our own what belongs to God, and thereafter what we may acquire is good, and what we lack is evil. In Blake's language we have chosen the selfhood, to focus on I, me, and mine. Or in Ovid's language like Narcissus we have fallen in love with ourselves and chosen the watery materiality over the inward spiritual truth. In love with the world of things and thrills we have become ardent materialists. We fall into Ulro.
As was said before, the Fall began when Luvah seized Urizen's chariot of the sun in effect blotting out the sun of Urizen. For a while (feminine) feeling ruled the world. Eventually Los, the imagination, became Urizen's chief adversary. So
But a strange thing happened; the Spectre of Urthona came to a different plan. Los, empowered by love, found Urizen in his hands. So ends Night vii:
- Urizen read in his book of brass in sounding tones 'Listen O Daughters to my voice. Listen to the Words of Wisdom: shall [ye] govern over all; let Moral Duty tune your tongue; be your hearts harder than the nether millstone; bring the shadow of Enitharmon beneath our wondrous tree that Los may Evaporate like smoke & be no more. Draw down Enitharmon to the Spectre of Urthona And let him have dominion over Los the terrible shade.' (Four Zoas 7a:80:1-8 Erdman 355)
In 4Z Blake tried over and over to give an account of the Fall; the one shown here is only one of many.
- First his immortal spirit drew Urizen's Shadow away From out the ranks of war separating him in sunder Leaving his Spectrous form which could not be drawn away Then he divided Thiriel the Eldest of Urizens sons Urizen became Rintrah Thiriel became Palamabron Thus dividing the powers of Every Warrior Startled was Los he found his Enemy Urizen now In his hands. he wonderd that he felt love & not hate His whole soul loved him he beheld him an infant. (Four Zoas, Night 7a 59-66 Erdman 371)
UlroThe fallen Albion meets Vala and hears her say:
You can see here how Blake placed a low valuation on the word love.
- Know me now Albion: look upon me. I alone am Beauty The Imaginative Human Form is but a breathing of Vala. I breathe him forth into the Heaven from my secret Cave, Born of the Woman to obey the Woman O Albion the mighty For the Divine appearance is Brotherhood, but I am love. (Jerusalem 29.49-52; E176)
And this from Los:
That is the experience of Ulro. (Note that Vala is not really a woman, but the outward experience of phenomena in the temporal, passive world. She calls herself love, but it is female love, domineering, 'castrating'.) In the same way those most attached to the "hard-nosed reality" of pure materialism often sneer at or ridicule any kind of spiritual idea. So female love also applies to greedy 'realistic' materialists. They live in a blind alley with no exit other than 'repentance'.
- What may Man be? who can tell! but what may Woman be? To have power over Man from Cradle to corruptible Grave. There is a Throne in every Man, it is the Throne of God This Woman has claimd as her own & Man is no more! Albion is the Tabernacle of Vala & her Temple And not the Tabernacle & Temple of the Most High O Albion why wilt thou Create a Female Will? (Jerusalem 30:25-31; E176)
Ulro and Generation exist at the same time denoting the destructive and the creative modes of human life. The first represents man's continuous drift away from Eternity with ever greater commitment to radical materialism (the female will). Generation is "man's painful and disheartening struggle to build the New Jerusalem" (per 71).
This movement began when, commissioned by Urthona's Spectre to create, Los is converted: "Los wonders to find that now he loves his enemies instead of hating them. (Creation frees one from all manner of prejudice and hate.)
Here are verses from the 2nd version of Night vii:
(We might ask ourselves what kind of pity did Los feel? Was it the loving pity of Beulah and Eden? Or was it the cruel, self-righteous pity of Ulro? The last line quoted here gives a good clue.)
- Then took the tree of Mystery root in the World of Los But then the Spectre enterd Los's bosom Every sigh & groan Of Enitharmon bore Urthona's Spectre on its wings. Obdurate Los felt Pity. Enitharmon told the tale Of Urthona. Los embracd the Spectre first as a brother Then as another Self; astonishd humanizing & in tears In Self abasement, giving up his Domineering lust.
Here is the most significant change of man (in the form of Los, the Imagination) from hate to love. This is the Return and the beginning of the journey of 1000 miles (6,000 years) from Ulro back to Eden. (Protestants consider this conversion and the beginning of the 'upward trail'.)
Los, the architect and builder of generation, builded Golgoonza, the man made Jerusalem. For 6000 years Los built it, tore it down, built it again, over and over, preparing for the parousia.
When Albion (through his zoas) fell into ulro, an escape hatch was provided:
(The golden chain parallels a passage in Homer's Iliad, book 8:
- For the Divine Lamb Even Jesus who is the Divine Vision Permitted all lest Man should fall into Eternal Death For when Luvah sunk down, himself put on the robes of blood Lest the state calld Luvah should cease. The Divine Vision Walked in robes of blood till he who slept should awake. Thus were the stars of heaven created like a golden chain To bind the Body of Man to heaven from failing into the Abyss (Four Zoas Night 2 33:11-17 321f)
But even in Ulro we find redemptive possibilities. The golden chain has deteriorated to a 'chain of iron', but it still connects the fallen zoas (and us) to the higher realm.
- "Make ye fast from heaven a chain of gold, and lay ye hold thereof, all ye gods and all goddesses; yet could ye not drag to earth from out of heaven Zeus the counsellor most high, not though ye laboured sore. But whenso I were minded to draw of a ready heart, then with earth itself should I draw you and with sea withal; and the rope should I thereafter bind about a peak of Olympus and all those things should hang in space.)
The Mundane Shell, built by Urizen, the 'creator' is imaged as a "chain, beginning as gold and ending as iron" (Percival, 60), but it's purpose is always redemptive.
Circle of Destiny
By the Circle of Destiny Blake seemed to mean the period of created time, from beginning to end, which he poetically described as 6,000 years. When Albion falls asleep, time begins, and when he reascends, time ends.
- Tharmas groaned among his Clouds Weeping; then bending from his clouds, he stooped his innocent head, and stretching out his holy hand in the vast deep sublime, turned round the Circle of Destiny with tears and bitter sighs, and said "Return, O wanderer, when the day of clouds is o'er." (Night 1 5:8-12 of The Four Zoas)