Blake’s Snakes: The Image of the Serpent in Blake’s Vision

The Symbol of Symbolism: Unravelling the form and nature of the underlying Energy

 

Introduction: Entering the Serpent

Sometimes it’s good just to look at Blake’s images, and let them approach you, without any verbal text, theory, or explanation.  An encounter with their other-ness. Over the next few weeks this site will be posting a number of articles exploring the meaning and importance of the symbol of the serpent in Blake’s work, which weaves throughout his vision, and twists and turns throughout his images. 

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John Milton’s Devil-Deities in William Blake’s Illustrations to the Nativity Ode, by David McIrvine

Milton’s Dark Materials: the Dissociations of the Human Brain

One of the aims of Blake’s work is to encourage integration of the various disconnected aspects of the human brain and body. Under Urizenic (left brain dominant) systems, these often become split off and psychotic – a form of dissociative identity disorder, presented in the Bible, Dante, and Milton as separate-headed ‘demons’ – the compulsive and obsessive nature of processes that are not properly integrated. The cause of this is usually a form of hyper-rationalisation, which McGilchrist and Louis Sass associate both with schizo-phrenia and modern forms of madness.

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The Social Hell of William Blake: Industrialisation and Dante’s Hell, by Myat Aung 

Exploring the Impact of the Industrial Revolution on Blake’s Illustrations of Dante’s Inferno 

Dark Satanic Mills … Images: (top) Blake’s illustration to Dante’s Inferno, Canto X; (middle): the burning of the Albion Flour Mill on Blackfriars Road, London in 1791. Interestingly, Blake lived very nearby at the time, and the east wind that night would have blown smoke towards his house in Lambeth. The Albion Mill was unpopular and ran several of the local wind-driven mills in Lambeth out of business; (bottom): Coalbrookdale by Night, by Philip James Loutherbourg (1801).

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The Left Brain Buddha, by Leonard Shlain

Against Attachment: The anti-body, anti-sex, anti-feminine nature of Buddhist ‘Enlightenment’

 

Introduction: The Wheel of Birth/Death

On ignorance depends karma;
On karma depends consciousness;
On consciousness depend name and form;
On name and form depend the six organs of sense;
On the six organs of sense depends contact;
On contact depends sensation;
On sensation depends desire;
On desire depends attachment;
On attachment depends existence;
On existence depends birth;
On birth depend old age and death, sorrow, lamentation, misery, grief, and despair.- The Buddha’s twelvefold concatenation of cause and effect

“The Jains were an ascetic sect that advocated the denial of all bodily wants as the highest form of spirituality.” They cover their mouths in order not to inadvertently swallow and kill any small insects and thereby perpetuate their place on this karmic wheel of suffering bodily life.

The sixth century BC saw the rise of rational philosophers, who used withering arguments to discredit Vedic rites and beliefs. Paralleling the surge in logic was the appearance of super-rigorous practices whose aim was to help the individual achieve union with the god-head by bypassing the priesthood. The Jains were an ascetic sect that advocated the denial of all bodily wants as the highest form of spirituality. The more extreme adherents believed it was a triumph to die of starvation.

Despite its austere creed, Jainism gained many followers. Counterbalancing the ascetics was the increasingly popular Bhakti cult, which proclaimed that a communion with the divine could be only achieved through the senses. Worshippers chose a god or goddess upon whom to project their feelings, then used right-brained experiential pathways to achieve a state of ecstasy. Dance, chanting, shouting, and unbridled sexuality accompanied Bhakti rituals.

The Bhakti cult, on the other hemisphere, proclaimed that a communion with the divine could be only achieved through the senses.

The hypertrophy of reason that results from the introduction of alphabet literacy inevitably galvanises a countermovement that seeks to exalt the wisdom of the senses. I would suggest that alphabet literacy was the impetus behind Rationalism, Jainism, and Bhakti in India. It also prepared the ground for a new religion – Buddhism.

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Frozen Children: Devitalisation, Ice-olation, and Zero Degrees Princesses, by Rod Tweedy

Rod Tweedy explores the pathology of contemporary Disney

Frozen is now the second highest-grossing animated film of all time, and one of the highest-grossing films in any medium ($1.3 billion in worldwide box office sales). 676 million youngsters have viewed and sung along to the YouTube clip of it’s hit song Let It Go, and as Dorian Lynskey notes, “it’s shaped the imagination of a generation”. Beyond the sparkle and CGI patina something about the movie clearly resonates powerfully with children and young people, and I think it’s secret – and what lies at the heart of its appeal – is its potent exploration of themes of childhood anger, ‘ice-olation’, inner devitalisation and self-absorption, which the film both addresses and amplifies.

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The Eighth Eye: Prophetic Vision in Blake’s Poetry and Design, by Rachel V. Billigheimer

Apocalypse and Perception: Moving beyond Natural Perception

‘The Man Who Taught Blake Painting in his Dreams’ (c. 1825). This is a replica of one of Blake’s drawings of figures that appeared to him in visions. It has also been proposed that Blake’s image might be a ‘visionary self-portrait’, showing the artist himself at the moment of the inspiration. The strange form on the forehead may represent flames.

“Through the eighth Eye man is able to cast off the error of tradition and dogma and achieve individual inspiration”. Picture: ‘The Sun At His Eastern Gate’. Many people see the sun as a natural object in the sky, i.e., see it in terms of the dogmas of natural science, literality, and tradition, without the reality-based eight eye.

 

Prophetic Vision in Blake’s Poetry

In a previous study, Blake’s Eyes of God Cycles to Apocalypse and Redemption, the seven Eyes of God in Blake’s prophetic books were correlated with biblical and historical periods. Directed by the spirit of imagination, these cycles were seen as intrinsic to apocalypse. Here we examine the poetic inspiration of Blake’s eighth Eye and relate it to the prophetic vision in some of Blake’s designs.

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Job’s Gethsemane: William Blake and the Problem of Suffering, by Penelope Minney

Tradition and Imagination in William Blake’s Illustrations for the Book of Job

Suffering into Wisdom: If Oedipus was the key figure for the 20th Century then Job is the archetypal figure for the 21st century, embodying the awakening into the social and the imaginative nature of self, through the collapse of ego and the experience of trauma and suffering

 

Introduction

“Previous studies have concentrated on the engraved set, and no one has explored the implications of the earlier dating now agreed for the watercolour series.”

Blake created two versions of his Illustrations of the Book of Job, and it is now agreed that about twenty years separates his first watercolour series and the final engraved set of plates. The first (‘Butts’) series of water-colours was the product of the tumultuous and creative years 1805-10, following a time when Blake experienced a strong sense of vision and Christian regeneration; whereas the engraved set was produced 1821-1826, at the end of his life.

This article explores Blake’s treatment of the Job theme, in which the ‘friends-turned-accusers’ seem to have been a central pre-occupation. Blake’s illustrations contain important elements which are not found in the Old Testament text, and I consider Blake’s imaginative use of this material, exploring in particular the importance to Blake of St.Teresa, Fenelon, Mme. Guyon, Hervey and other people of ‘prayer’.

Blake’s Job was unique in the corpus of his work. Previous studies have followed Wicksteed in concentrating on the engraved set, and no one has explored the implications of the earlier dating now agreed for the watercolour series. The thesis is essentially concerned with Blake’s Christocentric theme, and Job’s inner journey of prayer, in these illustrations.

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Evil and Urizen: William Blake’s Visions of a Demiurge, by Daniil Leiderman

The Nature of Perception and the Limitations of Your Reason

Is reason the root of all evil? That’s the core theme romantic era poet and artist, William Blake, tackles in his alternative-to-Genesis creation story, The Book of Urizen.

“a spiritual vision whose intensity is at the least a mystic’s, if not a prophet’s”

William Blake is justifiably considered to be among the greatest of England’s poets and artists. His place in the books of art history is assured despite his general disengagement from any definable movement, except perhaps romanticism, to which he belonged in spirit more than in form. Blake was professionally an engraver and acquired little acclaim for his work in his lifetime. To a degree this was due to Blake’s strange beliefs and obsessions – he at times claimed to see the dead, communicate with Biblical prophets and experience ecstatic visions. The Book of Urizen, Blake’s masterpiece – an epic poem originally created in seven copies using copperplate engravings, is of particular interest since it displays a unique artistic style, complex poetic form and most interestingly a spiritual vision whose intensity is at the least a mystic’s, if not a prophet’s.

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The Veil of Vala: Blake’s ‘Jerusalem’ and the Origins of Patriarchy, by Marc Kaplan

The Genitals as Private Property: Sexual Possessiveness and the roots of Jealousy, Monogamy and Patriarchy 

“Albion here is at the stage where patriarchy institutionalizes and encourages the worship of the mother-goddess; Babylon was such a civilization”

 

Jerusalem and the Origins of Patriarchy

“O Albion why wilt thou Create a Female Will?” Los wails in Jerusalem (30:31). The term “Female Will” here makes its first appearance in Blake’s poetry, though for years critics have used it retroactively to explicate prior works, because it ties together so many of the sinister actions of the women characters of the earlier poetry.

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