Laocoön, by William Blake

Where any view of Money exists, Art cannot be carried on, but War only

Screen Shot 2021-05-01 at 15.48.19

Blake’s extraordinary piece of graffiti art, 200 years before Jean-Michel Basquiat or Banksy. The words themselves seem part of the serpentine struggle, as if logos itself was implicated in the fall into division

The Text

At foot of plate

If Morality was Christianity Socrates was the Saviour

Laocoön was a priest of Apollo who warned his countrymen against the Trojan Horse, and was punished by the gods (Poseidon and Athena), who sent two serpents from the sea to kill him and his two sons. In some versions, the punishment was linked to some sexual transgression (which is significant in Blake’s interpretation). Pliny described the famous statue of the event, and said it was the work of 3 Rhodians: Agesander, Polydorus, and Athenodorus. The statue was spectacularly rediscovered in 1506 AD.

יה [Yod or Jehovah] & his two Sons Satan & Adam as they were copied from the Cherubim
of Solomons Temple by three Rhodians & applied to Natural Fact, or History of Ilium
Art Degraded Imagination Denied, War Governed the Nations

Encircling the three figures’ heads (left-right)


Good & Evil are
Riches & Poverty a Tree of
Generation & Death

The Gods of Priam are the Cherubim of Moses & Solomon: The Hosts
of Heaven

Without Unceasing Practise nothing can be done Practise is Art
If you leave off you are Lost

The Angel of the Divine Presence

מלאך יהוה [Angel of Jehovah]

In 1820 Blake made an engraving of the statue, crowding the background with symbolic epigrams. Blake reinterprets the central figure as Jehovah, or the ‘Angel of the Divine Presence’, with his two sons Satan and Adam; the two serpents binding them are labelled ‘Evil’ and Good’. Blake’s view was that this ‘Angel’ – the orthodox ‘God’ of popular religion – was actually an imposter, a rationalising ‘Emissary ‘often mistaken for God’, whose dissociated state of mind generates a number of divisive dualities – good/evil; light/dark; male/female; divine/human – to which he then becomes enslaved and entwined. Blake nicely underlines this syncretic connection between the Greek and Hebrew versions by referring to ‘The Gods of Priam’ as the “The Hosts of Heaven” – the military armies of angels participating in the original “War in Heaven” (i.e. the Human Brain), rather like the fierce ‘cherubim’ mentioned in the Bible. The implication is that Homer’s Iliad is actually a literalised and naturalised metaphor for an earlier inner (psychological or spiritual) struggle, as Milton intuited in Paradise Lost, between ‘Desire’ and ‘Reason’, the Left and the Right.

ΟΦΙουΧος [Serpent-holder]

called SIN by the Deist SCIENCE
All that we See is Vision
from Generated Organs gone as soon as come
Permanent in The Imagination; Considerd
as Nothing by the

‘The Gods of Priam are the Cherubim of Moses & Solomon’: cherubim were strange winged creatures, originally depicted as fierce guardians protecting secret entrances to the ‘holy’ places (i.e. the myth-generating spaces, from which a culture’s dominant stories emerge – such as the Hebrew ‘ark’ or the Delphic ‘omphalos’). Cherubim often appeared in twos, as binaries, and were connected with power, protection, and concealment. Blake’s astonishingly syncretic mind linked the Biblical cherubim (protecting the Ark, and the entrance to Eden), the Babylonian winged ‘Lamassu’ (often protecting doorways or gates), and the similarly ‘winged’ Greek ‘messenger’ god, Apollo (one of the main ‘gods’ of Priam). When Blake says that the Greek sculptors of the Laocoön ‘copied’ these archetypes and ‘applied’ them ‘to Natural Fact, or History of Ilium’, he means that they mistook transcendent psychological processes for literal, historical events and people – the mysterious Mental figure referred to as ‘The Angel of the Divine Presence’ becomes in the literalist, rationalising, and war-based mindset of the Greeks simply an historical priest, though it retains some of its underlying deeper metaphor, of a vaster struggle at work. It’s a sort of lost, rationalised ‘echo’ of a former truth – a feature so characteristic of all Greek philosophy, as Plato himself remarked. The Greeks also perverted the celebration of psychological or ‘Mental Fight’ into a glorification of actual, literal war: as Damon notes, “Blake’s prime objection to the Greeks was their glorification of war.”

What can be Created
Can be Destroyed
Adam is only
The Natural Man
& not the Soul
or Imagination


לילית [Lilith]

“Good & Evil are Riches & Poverty, a Tree of Misery propagating Generation & Death”. It’s interesting that Blake links money with both Morality and the War Machine, as that is exactly how the current system of financial control and command operates (see the ‘Self-Attribution Myth’ below). Blake returns again and again to the corrosive and divisive, adversarial aspect of money-worship, as an inevitable consequence of the dualism generated by “the Fall into Division” – the fall into us/them, rich/poor, higher/lower – just like the similar religious origins of the ‘work ethic’ (another consequence of expulsion from Paradise, so we’re told) – all of which ensures, and perpetuates, the dominance of the psychopathic ‘Angel of the Divine Presence’ Emissary figure in our heads. Even more remarkably, he anticipates much later thinkers such as Marx, Deleuze, Graeber, and Conio, in recognising the link between rationalising thought and this system of quantifiable equivalences: that both money and thinking (left-brain systems of calculation and control) are rooted in a similar despotic, instrumental mindset (“Money, which is The Great Satan or Reason”). As Andrew Conio notes, under capitalism the “unconscious of money” perpetually manifests and resurfaces as violence (‘the War Machine’, structural inequality). As Blake put it, “Where any view of Money exists, Art cannot be carried on, but War only”.

Satans Wife The Goddess Nature is War & Misery, & Heroism a Miser

To left of plate

Spiritual War
Israel deliverd from Egypt
is Art deliverd from
Nature & Imitation

A Poet a Painter a Musician an Architect : the Man
Or Woman who is not one of these is not a Christian
You must leave Fathers & Mothers & Houses & Lands if they stand in the way of Art

The Eternal Body of Man is The IMAGINATION, that is God himself
The Divine Body } ישע [Yeshua] JESUS we are his

It manifests itself in his Works of Art (In Eternity All is Vision)
The True Christian Charity not dependent on Money (the lifes blood of Poor Families)
that is on Caesar or Empire or Natural Religion
Money, which is The Great Satan or Reason
the Root of Good & Evil
In The Accusation of Sin

George Monbiot and Russell Brand explore some of the key psychological stories and myths that keep capitalism going: the moralisation of wealth and the self-attribution myth (the fallacy that people at the top deserve to be there – money as the “accusation of sin”, as Blake notes), the myth of the heroic ‘individual’, and the myth of entitlement. As Brand notes, “It’s why information has to be so tightly controlled – because the story has no truth to it”. “You have to espouse it and espouse it and espouse it when you’re faced with this massive inequality, which we’ve got at the moment. So you have to constantly bang home the idea that the people at the top got there through their amazing genius and talent and efforts, and that they deserve to be there, and that this is the correct social order” – rather than being there, say, because “you inherited loads from your parents and had this incredible private education” (Monbiot)

Prayer is the Study of Art Praise is the Practise of Art
Fasting &c. all relate to Art, The outward Ceremony is Antichrist

At head of plate

Where any view of Money exists Art cannot be carried on, but War only
Read Matthew C X. 9 & 10v
by pretences to the Two Impossibilities Chastity & Abstinence Gods of the Heathen

He repented that he had made Adam
(of the Female, the Adamah)
& it grieved him at his heart

An enduring archetype: ‘Lilith’ by John Collier (1892); ‘Lilith, Adam and Eve’ by Raphael; and ‘J-Law and snake’ for Vanity Fair. Lilith was originally a Sumerian and Babylonian spirit associated with the night (the name means ‘night creature’) and sex. Interestingly, in Jewish folklore Lilith actually appears as Adam’s first wife, co-created with him out of the original ‘earth’ (or ‘adamah’ in Hebrew). According to one story they immediately began fighting because neither would submit to the other, which seems to be what Blake is alluding to here – another form of struggle between the apparently ‘spiritual’ and ‘material’, the left and right. As suggested by Collier’s picture, Lilith was also associated with snakes and serpents, which reveals another layer to the Laocoön composition: these writhing, entwined snakes suggest the bodily, sexual drives (perhaps the dual drives of Eros and Thanatos) – the serpent’s head is significantly poised at Laocoön’s hip, and goes right between Ophiuchus’s legs in the heavenly constellation (see below) – again hinting at more earthly origins.

Art can never exist without
Naked Beauty displayed
The Gods of Greece & Egypt were Mathematical
See Plato’s

The single word ‘ΟΦΙουΧος’ (written above the central figure of his Laocoön engraving) is elliptical even for Blake. It denotes Ophiuchus (which means ‘Serpent-holder’ or ‘Serpent-bearer’), a large constellation commonly represented as a man grasping a snake and sometimes regarded as the mysterious “13th sign” of the Zodiac. We can see here again Blake’s integrative mind at work, deftly linking similar ‘archetypes’ throughout man’s mythic imagination (Yehovah, Laocoön, Apollo, Ophiuchus). To the ancient Greeks, the constellation represented the god Apollo, struggling with a huge snake that guarded the Oracle of Delphi – or in some versions he represents the son of Apollo, Asclepius, the founder of modern medicine (who apparently learned the secrets of keeping death at bay after observing one serpent bringing another one healing herbs). Later myths also identified Ophiuchus with Laocoön, and with the mysterious figure of Imhotep, who was said to have brought the healing arts to ancient Egypt, and was strongly associated with astronomy and the stars. In all instances, the entwining, double-helix snakes are associated with a life/death dynamic or struggle. The connection with stars (the ‘heavens’) is also interesting as for Blake they always denote the vast mill-like operations of the Urizenic or Apollonian (ratio-nalising) mind. It’s no surprise to learn, for instance, that the astronomer Kepler was fascinated by Ophiuchus. This underlines Blake’s belief that the central figure of the Laocoön composition, the so-called ‘Angel of the Divine Presence’, actually signifies the Urizenic mind (what McGilchrist terms the “Emissary” or Left Hemisphere – another messenger masquerading as a master) – a dissociating abstracting Power that has set itself up to rule but finds itself constantly caught between the dualities that its perception of reality has actually brought into being. ΟΦΙουΧος is therefore מלאך יהוה.

Divine Union
And Denying Immediate
Communion with God
The Spoilers say
Where are his Works
That he did in the Wilderness
Lo what are these
Whence came they
These are not the Works
Of Egypt nor Babylon
Whose Gods are the Powers
Of this World. Goddess, Nature.

Mother Nature? Urizenic consciousness, driven by the ego (what Blake terms ‘Satan’, meaning accuser or opposer) and its obsession with death, generates a schizoid view of ‘Nature’ as both terrifyingly brutal (Darwin) and sentimentally comforting (Disney, most religions). This image of life as a comforting Mother actually keeps man as an infant – in a state of perpetual arrested development, and is deeply conservative. The Egyptian goddess Isis suckling the infant Horus, and the Virgin Mary encompassing and swamping the tiny Christos are expressions of the deep mother-fixation of the terrified left brain. It is thus a disease for which it purports to be the cure: a comforting delusory opiate for the distress generated by the left brain’s own underlying programming – its view of mortality and existence conceived of in terms of survival: “War & Misery” as Blake notes. ‘Nature’ is always synonymous with ‘Babylon’ for him: an enslaving and empty signifier pretending to be a comforting container, but what it contains is the Imagination, which goes well beyond this World.

Who first spoil & then destroy
Imaginative Art
For their Glory is
War and Dominion
Empire against Art See Virgils Eneid.
Lib. VI.v 848
For every
Is Useless

Blake suggests that in Solomon’s Temple there was a scene similar to that depicted by the Laocoön statue, which the “three Rhodians” copied. This implies a correspondence between the priest and his two sons (in the Greek statue) and God and his two sons (“Satan & Adam”). In the Bible (1 Kings 6:18, 21, 35) we’re told that “Solomon overlaid the temple with pure gold: and he made a partition by the chains of gold before the oracle (ark); and he overlaid it with gold. And he carved thereon cherubims and palm trees and open flowers.” The correspondence of “ark” and “oracle” is interesting because the ‘winged’ Apollo also spoke through his ark or “oracle” at Delphi, having slain or subdued its serpent (the famous Python) – i.e. the previous chthonic or subconscious earth/body energy, which was driven underground but whose divine and prophetic power the left-brain Apollo then appropriated for his own glorification and uses. In the Greek version, the golden ark is replaced by a “gilded tripod’ on which the Oracle sat and prophesied. In Solomon’s Temple, ‘Yahweh’ similarly speaks through his cherubim-covered ‘oracle’: “There I will meet with you, and I will impart to you—from above the cover, from between the two cherubim that are on top of the Ark” (Exodus 25). Blake often couples “Satan and Adam”, signifying the unconscious and conscious, or the two limits of thought (‘”the Two Limits, first of Opacity, then of Contraction. Opacity was named Satan, Contraction was named Adam”). As the two sons of Laocoön, they are shown entwined with the serpents of Good and Evil, which are also killing their father.

There are States
in which. all
Visionary Men
are accounted
Mad Men
such are
Greece & Rome
Such is
or Tax
See Luke Ch 2.v l

To right of plate

Jesus & his Apostles & Disciples were all Artists Their Works were destroyd by the
Seven Angels of the Seven Churches in Asia Antichrist Science
The unproductive Man is not a Christian much less the Destroyer

The Old & New Testaments are the Great Code of Art
SCIENCE is the Tree of DEATH
ART is the Tree

The Whole Business of Man Is
The Arts & All Things Common
No Secre
sy in Art
What we call Antique Gems are the Gems of Aarons Breast Plate
Christianity is Art & not Money
Money is its Curse
Is not every Vice possible to Man
described in the Bible openly
All is not Sin that Satan calls so
all the Loves & Graces of Eternity

Drawn & Engraved by William Blake.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s