Blake has always attracted those who are interested in the esoteric, the occult, and the deeper or more spiritual systems of thought. In his own time (1757-1827), Freemasonry was one of the most prominent and progressive of these systems – its members included Goethe, Mozart, Voltaire, and many of the key architects of the American and French revolutions (Benjamin Franklin, George Washington; Lafayette, Marat, Danton, and Robespierre), which have therefore often been seen as essentially Masonic projects.
Many have suggested that Blake himself may have been a Freemason. There is no evidence of this however, and it seems highly unlikely given his challenging and radical critiques of existing systems of belief, including Freemasonry, as we’ll see. But he certainly moved in circles where Masonic thinking was a norm, and he clearly had access to some of the most secretive and profound ideas and symbols used in the Craft.
In 1938, Anthony Blunt suggested that Blake’s use of the compass in The Ancient of Days might have owed something to a Masonic influence, and since then there have been several attempts by scholars to further trace the connection between William Blake and Freemasonry. As Rob Allen helpfully remarks in Freemasonry, Blake and the Compass (2010):
The most detailed studies have come from Marsha Keith Schuchard who, since the late 1980s, has published articles contextualising Blake’s work within the cloak and dagger world of late eighteenth-century Freemasonry. In order to do this, Schuchard’s argument rests on establishing Blake firmly within the social milieu of political radicals participating in illuminist Masonic groups. These groups, labelled as illuminist due to their deep engagement with ‘cabalistic and Hermetic studies’ and their highly secretive nature, emerged from ‘Stuart traditions of Scottish, Irish, French and Swedish Masonry’.
The secrecy was not only a result of these groups’ esoteric interests, but also of their radical political and religious affiliations at a time when European powers were highly sensitive to the threat of instability. In the light of the French revolution, the recent regency crisis in England and the revelations about the Bavarian Illuminati, the 1790s saw the growing fear of ‘sinister conspiracies’ involving clandestine, fraternal associations. At the same time, a marked division had taken place within English Freemasonry between Illuminist Masons, the so-called Ancients, and the Moderns, who were dedicated to ‘Newtonian science’ and the British monarchy.
According to Schuchard, Blake’s image alluded to the Supreme Architect characterized by the ‘regular’ Freemasonry of the Moderns and was a veiled comment on contemporary political events as seen through the lens of Illuminist Masonry. In particular, Schuchard points out the recent about-face by the Prince of Wales and his supporters following their failed efforts to seize control during the regency crisis. Having switched allegiance from the Ancient Masonic lodges (with their networks of illuminist radicals) to an avowedly conservative Modern lodge, they made a public oath of loyalty at Freemasons’ Hall in1792 pledging allegiance to George III in terms that characterized God as the ‘Supreme Architect of the Universe, whose Almighty Hand hath laid in the Deep the Firm Foundation of this Country’s Greatness’.
As Allen notes, in the context of the extraordinary political and social upheavals of the eighteenth century, and the widespread appearance of the involvement of notable Freemasons in revolutions on both sides of the Atlantic, many conservative and liberal thinkers forged a connection between the secretive and seemingly subversive nature of Freemasonry and its role and involvement in radical political change.
The most well-known and widely-read of these thinkers was Abbé Barruel, whose monumental Memoirs Illustrating the History of Jacobinism (1797-98, 4 volumes) claimed to have uncovered a continent-wide conspiracy to overthrow all existing governments, monarchies, and Christian churches, through a network of coalition of philosophes, Freemasons, and the Order of the Illuminati (another secretive organisation, with strong links to Freemasonry), founded in Bavaria by Adam Weishhaupt. Barruel’s work and ideas swept through the courts of Europe like wildfire, causing consternation and panic at this suggestion of a coordinated and very secret project aimed at removing the old world order, or Ancien Régime.
As Robert Rix notes in William Blake and the Radical Swedenborgians:
In the fourth volume of his piece of scare-mongering, Barruel singles out the Swedenborgian Masons for particular attention (esp. 4:119-51), because he sees them as the heretical glue that binds together a variety of what he calls “antisocial” (i.e. revolutionary) societies. He describes Swedenborg’s visions as “prophecies of rebellion” and his teaching as intended to “eradicate true Christianity from the minds of their dupes, and to make their New Jerusalem a plea for those revolutions” that aim to overthrow “the present churches and government” (4:132). The underlying meaning of the claim for spiritual regeneration is really “to sweep from the earth every prince and every king, that the God of Swedenborg may reign uncontroled [sic] over the whole globe. And that revolution which they saw bursting forth in France, was nothing more in their eyes than the fire that was to purify the earth to prepare the way for their new Jerusalem (4:126).
As this observation suggests, Blake would undoubtedly have been sympathetic to at least some of these ‘Swedenborgian’ aims and ideas, and their vision of instigating a “New Jerusalem”. And as Schuchard herself notes in The Secret Masonic History of Blake’s Swedenborg Society, Blake was very much part of this radical and esoteric scene in the latter half of the eighteenth century:
To serve both his political agenda and his theosophical ambitions, Swedenborg utilized a network of Masonic lodges in England and Sweden that were linked with sister lodges in France, Holland, Germany, Poland, and Russia. By the time of his death in March 1772, these “illuminated” Masons were laying the foundations of the Swedenborgian Theosophical Society that Blake joined in the 1780s.
Schuchard notes that by the 1780s many of Blake’s friends were members of Ancient Masonic lodges with ties to radical American, French and Swedish masons, including the artists Henry Fuseli and John Opie, both friends of Blake. Many gatherings of artists took place at Freemasons’ Hall, including several that Blake or his friends are known to have attended. Indeed, Blake served his engraving and artistic apprenticeship with James Basire, who lived and worked directly opposite the imposing Freemasons Hall, on the other side of Great Queen Street.
The construction of the Masonic hall, which included Freemasons Tavern, took place between 1771 and 1776, and was formally dedicated “in solemn form to Masonry, Virtue, Universal Charity, and Benevolence” on 23 May 1776. This was exactly the same time that Blake was serving his engraver’s apprenticeship (begun on 4 August 1772, when Blake was fourteen years old, and lasting seven years). Blake not only worked with Basire during this period but also lived in his house, opposite the Masonic hall being magnificently constructed outside his windows. At both the laying of the foundation-stone and the dedication of the finished building, full Masonic ceremonies were performed which could not have been missed by the engravers across the street.
As Schuchard explains, the proximity and intense symbolism of these ceremonies would not have been lost on a mind so eager and curious and Blake’s:
The importance of Freemasons’ Hall to many of Blake’s known associates reveals the major role it played in London political and artistic life. Thomas Paine, whom Blake knew personally in 1792, described Freemasons Hall as a “magnificent building, with a burnished gold roof of the sun and the zodiac,” which he interpreted as Druidical emblems. Paine discussed the Masons’ Druidic rites and theories, their magical practices, and their importance as a liberal, international social-political force.
Another Masonic associate of Blake’s, the engraver Bartolozzi, produced a famous engraving, ‘The Genius of Masonry,’ a picture of Freemasons’ Hail in 1786. One of Bartolozzi’s other Masonic engravings for Freemasons’ Hall was made from Thomas Stothard’s painting; Stothard too was a Mason and an intimate friend of and collaborator with Blake.
The Society of Antiquaries, Stonehenge, and William Stukeley
Thomas Paine’s long essay on Masonic Druidism points to another area of experience and of possible friendships for Blake – his interest in and work for the Society of Antiquaries during his apprentice years. In 1718, William Stukeley had helped to found the Society of Antiquaries and served as Secretary until 1727. In 1720 he also joined the Freemasons, seeking for hidden knowledge of “the mysterys of the ancients.” In 1740 Stukeley published Stonehenge. a Temple Restored to the British Druids, and in 1743, Abury, a Temple of the British Druids. The books demonstrated his theory that Druidism was “the aboriginal patriarchal religion,” and stressed the role of the Tyrian Hercules, great grandson of Noah and builder of the serpent-temples.
They build a stupendous Building on the Plain of Salisbury; with chains
Of rocks round London Stone: of Reasonings: of unhewn Demonstrations
In labyrinthine arches. (Mighty Urizen the Architect.)
– Blake, Jerusalem: The Emanation of the Giant Albion (composed c. 1804-1820)
“Mighty Urizen the Architect” signals Blake’s nod to this link between Masonic Druidism and the “Great Architect of the Universe” (GAOTU), the same “Urizen the Architect” as shown on the mighty Frontispiece to Europe, with the same masonic compasses that Blake suggests in his striking illustration on the final plate of Jerusalem.
Europe: The Enlightenment World of the Golden Compasses
Schuchard notes that “among Freemasons today, who are familiar with Blake’s frontispiece to Europe (1794), the figure called the ‘Ancient of Days’ is viewed as a portrayal of the Masonic Grand Architect of the Universe (GAOTU). In Blake’ s own day, his placement of the Divine Architect opposite the revolutionary serpent would have suggested the troubled relationship between Freemasonry and the radical movement in England, France and Scandinavia. In November 1790, Edmund Burke (himself a Mason) published his Reflections on the Revolution in France, in which he warned Britons about the sinister conspiracies of foreign Illuminati, who were spreading their ‘spirit of fanaticism’ to English Freemasons, who ‘receive from them tokens of confraternity and standards consecrated amidst their rites and mysteries’.”
When Thomas Paine, who was also a Mason, answered Burke’s Reflections with The Rights of Man in February 1791, he did not address Burke’s charges about the Illuminati – probably because he knew they were true. However, Paine did write a defence of ‘Druidic’ Freemasonry, which he left in manuscript, and he would later be charged with Illuminatist activities. Blake, who allegedly knew Paine, responded to Burke’s attacks with occulted defences of radical Illuminist Masonry and coded attacks upon conservative Grand Lodge Masonry. (Blake and the Grand Masters (1791-4): Architects of Repression or Revolution?, by Marsha Keith Schuchard)
Schuchard also proposes a reading of the frontispiece to Europe that interprets the specifically “Masonic geometer and … compass” as “emblems of natural religion and materialism”. Certainly, the compass, together with a focus on architecture and geometry, is of central importance to Freemasonry, which Andrew Prescott has noted might be seen, on one level, “as a religion of geometry and space”.
The work of Schuchard is invaluable in establishing the historical and cultural setting and context for Blake’s engagement and familiarity with Masonic ideas and imagery, but it barely scratches the surface of what Freemasonry was actually all about, or why Blake felt it so important both to refer to it and to radically challenge it. What did Freemasons really believe, and why were their beliefs and practices so secretive?
“Son of Morn”: Lucifer and the Left Hemisphere
Freemasonry is one of the most important secret societies and one of the most profound and challenging occult systems of belief. What ultimately lies behind Freemasonry – as indeed many of its main architects and theorists (Pike, Manly Hall, Mackay) have said in print, is belief in Lucifer.
For them, Lucifer is a positive figure – an illuminating force and a heroic liberator for mankind, just as the serpent in Eden liberated humanity from docile captivity to an oppressive Demiurge, and just as Satan (in the Masonic and theosophic view of things) courageously challenged “God” and was expelled from “heaven”, along with a third of the angels. In this role, he has similarities both with the fire-associated Prometheus in Greek myth, also punished by God for daring to help mankind, and with Milton’s figure of “Satan” (which the Enlightenment-inspired Shelley once described as “the hero of Paradise Lost“).
But as Blake notes, the history of this story, or archetypal narrative, has been adopted or written by both sides.
The history of this is written in Paradise Lost, and the Governor or Reason is call’d Messiah.
And the original Archangel, or possessor of the command of the Heavenly Host, is call’d the Devil or Satan, and his children are call’d Sin and Death.
But in the Book of Job, Milton’s Messiah is called Satan.
For this history has been adopted by both parties.
It indeed appear’d to Reason as if Desire was cast out; but the Devil’s account is, that the Messiah fell, and formed a Heaven of what he stole from the Abyss.
– Blake, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell (1790)
There are more twists and turns in this passage than in the serpent’s tail that rises on the title page of Europe to confront the Great Architect. In this re-telling, or further twist of the tale, “Milton’s Messiah is called Satan” and it was not “Satan” who fell, but rather “God” who was expelled – the rational principle, or “Urizen” – what Blake elsewhere calls the “Holy Reasoning Power”, or “O Urizen Prince of light”, “O Prince of Light” (The Four Zoas).
The Four Zoas also tell us that Urizen was the “first born Son of Light”: Urizen, the Great Architect of This World, is therefore Blake’s version or re-versioning of Lucifer, correcting and clarifying the nature of this ambiguous and hugely significant and symbolic figure. And as Damon notes “the cause of Urizen’s downfall into the state of Satan or error (Mil 10:1) was that of the traditional Satan: the desire for dominion, which he does not renounce until the Last Judgment (FZ ix:180–87).”
In this scheme, “The God of This World” (i.e., who is in control of the Human Brain), as Blake puts it, is “Lucifer”, the “Son of Morn”. Or, as he calls it more often “Urizen”, the “Prince of Light”, of enlightenment rationality, and the god also of the horizon: Horus, or ourizein, which again underlines its left hemispheric nature, as Erdman suggests: “Urizen, as his name’s possible origin in the Greek ourizein would indicate, is the power in the fallen psyche that marks boundaries, defines the horizon, separates and divides, and in general limits and reduces” (Erdman, The Complete Poetry and Prose of William Blake).
For what is the origin of Lucifer? The origin of the word at least is from the Latin Lūcifer, meaning “light-bringing, morning star” (from lux, luc- ‘light’ + -fer ‘bearing’). Lucifer is therefore by association with the “son of the morning” (Isaiah 14:12) believed by Christian interpreters to be a reference to Satan. As I suggest in The God of the Left Hemisphere, “Blake follows Isaiah and Ezekiel in singling out one star in particular, the morning star, as being especially relevant to the reign of Urizen within the mind of Man.” In a deceptively innocent and simple verse, attached as an Epilogue to The Gates of Paradise, Blake writes:
Tho thou art Worshipd by the Names Divine
Of Jesus & Jehovah: thou art still
The Son of Morn in weary Nights decline
The lost Travellers Dream under the Hill
Blake addresses this epilogue “To The Accuser who is The God of This World”. Lucifer, the Son of Morn, in other words, is not the liberator of humanity, but the Accuser of humanity: he is associated with knowledge of “Good & Evil”, that is to say, with moral judgment and condemnation (Accusation): the initial act within the brain that precipitated us out of “Eden”, under the Deceit that it would liberate and illuminate us.
Rational enlightenment always operates along these lines: the forever promise of future power, and dominion, and enlightenment – but always a further twist of the screw, a further fall, a further enslavement to its false Eden. Lucifer is obsessed not with sin but with Purity. Like every rational program, it loves straight lines and purity – it’s no coincidence it’s often called Pure Reason, or Pure Science – and that’s why it hates the world of the body and human embodiment (which it necessarily sees as “impure”, a term with which it constantly seeks to get us to think of our bodies: as irrational and chaotic and full of “seething” emotions that need to be controlled, or if possible, erased – “purified”).
Bodies aren’t like this – but Urizen’s view of bodies is, as Mary Douglas makes clear in Purity and Danger (“I believe that ideas about separating, purifying, demarcating and punishing transgressions have as their main function to impose system on an inherently untidy experience”). The project of Lucifer, this program in our heads, is to completely disconnect and dissociate itself from the human body, and embodiment, and this Earth. In the virtualised, technologised, Silicon Valley, space-obsessed, AI world of the 21st century, this agenda is nearing completion.
But as Blake foresaw, an utterly disconnected, divided Reason—“pure” Reason if you like—would not be a precision instrument, let alone a luminous Angel, but a ravenous, compulsive program, endlessly driven to dissect, devour, manipulate, and use. This is the final form in which both Dante and Milton present the traditional bringer of light, Lucifer.
As Damon remarks, “Urizen, in a mistaken attempt to be more and more purely himself, sinks lower and lower. He becomes the architect of the Visible Universe. He supports the Religion of Moral Virtue, which finally snares even himself … Finally he sinks so low that he loses all semblance of humanity, and is nothing but a ravening dragon”. “Even his splendid logical faculties will, in real life situations, produce not actual reasoning but that imitation of reasoning known as rationalization”, as Cleckley says of the rationalising psychopath (The Mask of Sanity); at his worst, it will produce the psychotic destruction of humanity itself.
This is the remarkable trajectory of Lucifer, the Morning Star, and this is the trajectory of human culture since Babylon and the radical psychotic “Fall into Division” around 6,000 years ago (with the Urizenic project called “civilization”); and this is also, as Blake recognised, the trajectory of the development of the human brain in that time: the rise into dominance of Urizen.
Urizen is repeatedly associated by Blake with the human brain, and indeed that is where he is located. Los, who shares this location with him, specifically describes Urizen’s world as being within “the Brain of Man”:
I see the swords & spears of futurity
Tho in the Brain of Man we live, & in his circling Nerves.
Tho’ this bright world of all our joy is in the Human Brain.
Where Urizen & all his Hosts hang their immortal lamps
And again in The Four Zoas Urizen is depicted “as he stood in the Human Brain/And all its golden porches grew pale with his sickening light” (FZ 23:12–13). Note the reference here to “light”- the cognitive hallmark of Lucifer: but here not seen as glorious, as he thinks it is, and as Freemasons think it is, but – in a telling, and double-charged word – “sickening”.
In McGilchrist’s terms, this correlates with the dominance of the hyperactive left brain and the fall of the right hemisphere. At the end of a brilliant if rather pessimistic chapter called “The Triumph of the Left Hemisphere” he concludes:
So if I am right, that the story of the Western world is one of increasing left-hemispheric domination, we would not expect insight to be the key note. Instead we would expect a sort of insouciant optimism, the sleepwalker whistling a happy tune as he ambles towards the abyss.
McGilchrist refers to the “blindness and vanity” of left-hemispheric dominance, noting that it needs to be certain and is “stubbornly convinced of its own correctness”: it will “tend to insist on its theory at the expense of getting things wrong, but it will later cheerfully insist that it got it right”. The left, rational, brain, it might be safe to conclude, has no idea how serious the problem is, that is to say, how psychopathic it has become. These are, again, the recognisable characteristics of Lucifer: convinced of his rightness, of his purity, of his holiness – and willing to condemn all humanity to an alienated, dissociated, and miserable future, convinced of its own god-like status. The concluding chapter of McGilchrist’s book is, tellingly, entitled: “The Master Betrayed.”
Lucifer: The God of Light
In the closing couplets of his remarkable Auguries of Innocence Blake puts his finger on the central problem, from a spiritual or esoteric point of view, of the underlying nature of modern consciousness:
God Appears & God is LightTo those poor Souls who dwell in NightBut does a Human Form DisplayTo those who Dwell in Realms of day
It’s one of the biggest insights and clues he ever gives. For most established systems of thought, most religions on this planet, worship God as a “God of Light”. From secular systems that privilege Newtonian “En-Light-enment’ over the “darkness” of ignorance and superstition, to the multiple Solar Gods of Urizenic Christianity (“I am the Light!”), and Iranian Zoroastrianism (promulgating the idea of the god of Light “defeating” the God of darkness), to modern psychoanalytic theories promoting the “solar consciousness” of the rationalising ego over the “irrational” and “chaotic”, primitive id (Freud, Jung, Edinger, Hartmann et al).
Those who worship or deify these forms of “Solar Logos” as it has been called are all, suggests Blake, worshipping the Lucifer program, the “Holy Reasoning Power”, “Urizen Prince of light”. The underlying and dominant program of the free-wheeling Left Hemisphere. And of course in McGilchrist’s terms, it could not be any other way: we live in an age dominated by the left brain, and by left brain ways of thinking – even, and especially, religious ways of thinking – about how we think of and visualise “God’. We live in the age, McGilchrist starkly observes, of “The Triumph of the Left Hemisphere”.
“Tho’ thou art Worshipd by the Names Divine/Of Jesus & Jehovah”, Blake acutely remarks in The Gates of Paradise, “thou art still/The Son of Morn in weary Nights decline”. The “Son of Morn” is of course, as we have seen, “Lucifer”, the morning star. To unpack this more obviously: Blake is saying that many people actually worship “Lucifer” (remember the psychopathic Urizenic Dragon images, above) through the names of “Jesus” and “Jehovah”.
Those who worship Purity or Light – or perhaps, one might say, those who have to worship a God of Light – do so because they live “in weary Nights decline”, they live in unconsciousness, driven by the program itself. They are the “poor Souls who dwell in Night”. If they could wake up, Blake suggests (“Awake! awake O sleeper of the land of shadows, wake! expand”), they would realise that God is not Light, an abstract electromagnetic medium – but rather is profoundly relational and intimate, and “does a Human Form Display”.
This is the basic choice for the human brain: whether to believe in an impersonal, external, abstract authority or power (‘God the Geometer’), or in a personal, relational God who has an intrinsic and intimate correlation with both human consciousness and the human “Form”, the imaginative processes that constitute who we are. Most people today would probably dismiss the idea of the latter, as being “anthropomorphic” (as if an anthropos could be anything but anthropomorphic), but what actually underlies this “reasoning”, Blake suggests, is an unconscious terror and Doubt at the idea that god might actually be something so close, and so involved. “God is not a Mathematical Diagram”, Blake pointedly noted in The Laocoön: “The Gods of Greece and Egypt were Mathematical Diagrams”. The Greeks and Egyptians, in their desperate desire for Power, Authority, and Dominion, worshipped their own Left Hemispheres, their inner Urizen, in the form of a remote, abstracted, Solar, egoic Power. If anything is anthropomorphic, this is.
The God of Freemasonry, as of Pythagoras, as of Newton, as of Galileo, is a God of Geometry – a God of mere Ratio – as Blake’s startling frontispiece to Europe makes clear. Those who dwell in Night cannot see, or rather cannot dare to admit or hope, that God might be a personal God, a relational God, and in-Formed God – a human God. They reject such a God – in fact they do more than reject it – they mock it and belittle it, as a sign of some ridiculous superstition or “anthropomorphic” projection. And yet they do not see that the impersonal God – the Triangle, or Solar Circle, or no God at all – is the true projection, the astral projection of the program of the narcissistic left hemisphere onto the whole of space:
So spoke the Spectre to Albion. he is the Great Selfhood
Satan: Worshipd as God by the Mighty Ones of the Earth
Having a white Dot calld a Center from which branches out
A Circle in continual gyrations
– Jerusalem: The Emanation of the Giant Albion
As the Jungian analyst and scholar Edward Edinger explains, “solar consciousness” – the unconscious program behind all these religions of “Light” – is a projection of the solar, or conscious “rational” program of the human Ego:
Light represents consciousness. All peoples have myths of creation which depict it as the creation of light. Such myths refer to the creation of the ego which is the light of consciousness born out of the darkness of the unconscious. Similarly, dawn is the daily birth of the light of the sun and is an apt image to represent emerging consciousness. (Ego and Archetype)
Of course, as Blake would point out – but which Edinger cannot point out because he, too, unconsciously follows the very same egoic solar (rational) consciousness – this story about “consciousness” has been adopted by both parties. We have so many myths of creation “which depict it as the creation of light” because Urizen was the program dictating those myths. And it made them in its own Image or Program. They arose around 6,000 years ago, with the ascendancy of the new “Solar Logos” in the brain of humanity, and were formulated and written down in the stories that this newly dominant power set out – the left hemisphere is also the hemisphere that developed written language and the phonetic alphabet, as Marshall McLuhan strikingly observes:
We do know how the left hemisphere did suddenly get activated. It was by Phoenician business men. They worked out this alphabetic code, just out of sheer need for speed, in their calculations and book-keeping. And they passed it along to the Greeks.
This translation or move from auditory to visual refers to many of the characteristics we associate with civilisation. The alphabet, in divorcing the heart, the right hemisphere, from the head – the left hemisphere – the quantifying, visual, detached, observant function, the alphabet in doing that left the other side of the brain somewhat in abeyance.
The newly dominant left hemisphere ‘conscious’ ego was therefore embodied and instantiated in a series of stories and myths, depicting the emergence and progress of this new ‘Creation of the ego” as a solar Hero – the stories of Hercules, Gilgamesh, St Michael, Jason (and the Argonauts), and the Solar Christ (not the real Jesus, but the solar version re-told and re-packaged by esoteric Greek rationalists such as St John).
As I note in The God of the Left Hemisphere, “the test to see whether the rational ego can murder the poor dragon, rescue the pure maiden, and fulfil and perpetuate the ego ‘ideals’ has been the basic fodder for mythological stories, fairy tales, and adventure stories ever since Gilgamesh (Gilgamesh being one of the earliest post-Sumerean narratives to embody this new egoic, or Urizenic-heroic psychology).”
In his excellent book The Fall, Steve Taylor relates the sudden development of “a new kind of sharpened individuality” in the early Babylonian and Sumerian civilisations specifically to the emergence of a newly intensified sense of “ego” within these cultures, reflected both in the élites and their leaders, and in the proliferation at this time of stories of so-called heroes—“individual heroes pitting their will and strength against fate”—such as the intrepid adventures of Hercules, Jason, Gilgamesh, and other self-congratulatory portraits of the Ego as a young Hero, usually deployed in attacking and killing rather Freudian dragons and serpents, the symbols of the subconscious bodily powers with which it was now at war (see Edinger: “the myth of the birth of the hero … is also the myth of the birth of the ego”).
As Taylor himself is aware, “ego-consciousness seems to be related to the left hemisphere of the brain”, and it was this newly-sharpened egoic centre in the left brain that received such a massive boost and development at this time, and which it recorded in the monumental (both metaphorically and physically) features of this new high-rise, high-tech world.
I think it’s interesting in this respect that McGilchrist, in a rare give-away line in his book, describes the left hemisphere as “Lucifer in his most attractive guise”, for example in the forms of Apollo (another Prince of Light and God of This World), that dominated the new, militarised cultures of Greece and Egypt. And that Blake repeatedly suggests that this “God of This World” (i.e., the God of the left hemisphere template with which we see and understand “This World”) controls psychological reality in this dimension. As he remarked cryptically on the verso of the title page of Bishop Richard Watson’s An Apology for the Bible (1798) “The Beast and Whore rule without Control”. Blake’s whole work is an elaboration of this idea: that modern, “Enlightenment”, progressive, industrial Britain is actually being ruled by forces and powers that are authoritarian, controlling, enslaving, and spiritually destructive.
Most Blakeans, or academics, take these references to the “Son of Morn” or to “Urizen” rather abstractly, or mythically, but I think Blake actually means them. For Blake, the central problem of the world, of our enslavement (our “mind-forg’d manacles”) is not capitalism, or greed, or pollution, or ignorance, or materialism, or mechanism, or technology. For him it is fundamentally spiritual: that is to say, that he believed that this dimension of reality is an essentially spiritual (or ‘psychological’) one that is currently ruled by powers and principles that are terrifying, have no interest or love for humanity, or forgiveness, but are driven by the purest values of the left brain: control, domination, purity, power, know-how, dissociation.
As McGilchrist notes, “the left hemisphere is competitive, and its concern, its prime motivation, is power.” Indeed, the whole agenda of the divided, fallen “Rational Power” is manipulation and power: as McGilchrist succinctly puts it, “the will to power … is the agenda of the left hemisphere”. It is precisely this drive that characterises it, and which has led to its evolutionary dominance. It arose not to communicate with the world but to manipulate it:
The drive here is towards manipulation, and its ruling value is utility. It began in my view by colonising the left hemisphere, and with the increasing capacity for distance from the world mediated by the expansion of the frontal lobes as one ascends the evolutionary tree, resulted in a physical expansion of the area designed to facilitate manipulation of the environment, symbolically and physically, in the higher monkeys and apes. Eventually that expansion became the natural seat of referential language in humans.
He describes it as a neurological process or power, which it is, but he also knows that the source of it, its origins, may actually precede the left hemisphere, which he says, “it” colonised. He says that the left hemisphere is the instantiation of this Power, and through the left hemisphere, – or as we’ve seen, through what he elsewhere calls ”Lucifer” – it instantiates in the world we see today, the psychological reality which we construct and are constructed by.
Single Vision: The Detached Eye
Perhaps the most common, and fitting, symbol for this Luciferan “Power” is the all-seeing Eye, the single, detached and detaching Eye through which the left hemisphere inspects and observes the world.
As Marshall McLuan acutely notes, it was the singular achievement and effect of the development of the phonetic alphabet “by Phoenician traders and business men” in the 7th or 8th century BC (as he conjectures) that led to the radical separation of the visual sense from every other sense, and its detachment and elevation into the symbol and epitome for “seeing”, for knowing. For rational, egoic, ‘consciousness’ – the solar consciousness of the Solar Logos.
This translation or move from auditory to visual refers to many of the characteristics we associate with civilisation. The alphabet, in divorcing the heart, the right hemisphere, from the head – the left hemisphere – the quantifying, visual, detached, observant function, the alphabet in doing that left the other side of the brain somewhat in abeyance. (Narcissus 2.0: Left Brain Technology and Civilisation, by Marshall McLuhan)
The single, detached Eye is also, as McGilchrist remarks, the appropriate symbol for the hyper-functioning left brain, and as such is spontaneously and repeatedly found as a symbol in the artwork of subjects with schizophrenia. As he observes in The Master and his Emissary, “schizophrenic subjects, whose psychopathology depends on a reflexive hyperconsciousness, and who often depict a detached observing eye in their paintings, show a relative hypofunction of the right hemisphere in relation to the left”.
And in his fascinating talk ‘Neuromania – Spiders, yes, but why cats?’ (which is about the art of psychotic subjects), he explores this conjunction, noting that “the single disembodied Eye” is “probably the single most common finding in patients with schizophrenia in their paintings”. He also describes schizophrenia as being based on not a lack of reasoning, but rather a “hypertrophy [enlargement, or excessive amount] of rationality”, again neatly tying in with Blake’s identification of Urizen, the hyper-rationalising power of the human brain, with “Single Vision”, “Newton’s sleep”, and the deification of “Light” or Lucifer.
Neuromania – Spiders, yes, but why cats?: One of the most profound explorations of the symbolism of Freemasonry, and the esoteric imagery of Egyptian culture, Rosicrucian symbolism, and Western art ever given.
The single detached or “disembodied” (a very key word) Eye is therefore common both to the hyper-rationalising esoteric systems of thought of Freemasonry and many other Luciferic traditions, and also schizophrenia, a similar elevation or in a sense “deification” of the dissociating and disembodying principle of excessive rationality. “Both schizophrenia and the modern condition, I suggest, deal with the same problem: a free-wheeling left hemisphere” (McGilchrist, The Master and his Emissary).
McGilchrist therefore characterises the rather abstract and abstracting stance of “an excessively detached, hyper-rational, reflexively self-aware, disembodied and alienated condition” as being common to both schizophrenia and post-Enlightenment philosophy. As he observes, the “conscious effort to distance oneself from one’s surroundings, refrain from normal action and interaction with them, suspend one’s normal assumptions and feelings about them and subject them to a detached scrutiny” is “an exercise which in the non-mentally ill is normally confined to philosophers”. Blake would probably have agreed:
Till a Philosophy of Five Senses was complete
Urizen wept & gave it into the hands of Newton & Locke
– The Song of Los
The presence, and elevation, of the Single Eye is also of course found in every Masonic lodge as well as in many of the Lucifer-worshipping (or “Christos”-worshipping) churches of Europe and America. This is because not only does the Detached Eye denote, or in a sense transmit, this sort of pathological consciousness, but also because it represents left hemispheric “enlightenment”, the very basis of its world view.
All Luciferian or Urizenic religions therefore worship the Sun (the single “Eye” of the universe) as the objective correlative or unconscious external counterpart to this relentless inner “attentional spotlight’ (as McGilchrist terms it) of the left brain. All Urizenic thinkers, all Masons, revolve around their left brain, and place it at the centre of their worlds – a profound act of de-centring.
Blake may well have derived his idea of “Single Vision”, linked as it is to a perverse and excessive form of over-rationalisation, from Jacob Boehme, who (like McGilchrist later) distinguished between an integrated, gestalt type of reasoning, and a peculiarly narrowed, manipulative, and oppressive form which had degenerated into mere rationalising. As Bryan Aubrey remarks in The influence of Jacob Boehme on the work of William Blake, Blake’s concept of the different levels of vision “was undoubtedly stimulated by Boehme”, who “continually contrasts the limitations of discursive reason (Verstand), which ‘knows nothing of God’, with what he calls understanding (Vernunft), a higher intelligence which ‘proceeds only from God’.” The same distinction can also be found in the Kabbalistic distinction between Chakhmah (wisdom) and Binah (understanding), as Aryeh Kaplan notes: “Wisdom is associated with the nonverbal right hemisphere of the brain, while Understanding is associated with the verbal left hemisphere”. Indeed, Boehme’s own distinction between these two different modes of intelligence may itself have derived from Kabbalistic thinking:
Verstand is analytic and sequential, baffled by paradox and unable to see the universe other than as a series of unrelated parts. Vernunft, on the other hand, is intuitive and holistic, able to grasp and reconcile contradictions in a simultaneous vision of the whole. Here is Boehme as he hectors Vernunft: ‘Beloved Reason, behold! open both your eyes, and look not with one eye only’ (T.F.L. 11:11). After the fall, the world ‘hath but one Eye’ (T.F.L. 9:107), and as long as man continues to seek only in the stars and elements for knowledge of the mysteries of nature, his effort will forever be wasted: ‘you find no more but one Eye, and see with but one Eye’ (T.F.L. 10:1). Thus Ulro becomes the world of ‘single vision’.
– Bryan Aubrey, The influence of Jacob Boehme on the work of William Blake
Similarly, in The Master and his Emissary – in many ways the title is an allusion to the radical difference between Boehme’s two terms – McGilchrist contrasts “Vernunft“, as being “flexible, resisting fixed formulation, shaped by experience, and involving the whole living being” and which he says is “congenial to the operations of the right hemisphere”, with Verstandt, which is “more rigid, rarified, mechanical, governed by explicit laws – to those of the left”.
In particular, he links the left-hemisphere version of rationality with “logos”: “the edifice of rationality (logos), the left-hemisphere type of reason, was weakened by the recognition that a thing and its opposite may well both be true … Logos represents, as indeed the left hemisphere does, a closed system which cannot reach outside itself to whatever it is that exists apart from itself.” It was within this closed system, revolving around the solar Logos, that humanity was now entrapped and encased.
The Solar Logos and the Greek Apollo: Worship of the “Son of Morn”
“I am the eye with which the Universe / Beholds itself, and knows it is divine”, Shelley beautifully wrote in his magnificent translation of Homer’s Hymn to Apollo – Apollo being of course another instantiation of the new Luciferan or “Apollonian” power now in ascendancy within the human brain.
Blake once referred to the Apollonian Sun as “Satan”: “I have conversed with the Spiritual Sun—I saw him on Primrose hill”, Blake once told Crabb Robinson, driving home the demonic nature of the God of popular pantheism. “He said ‘Do you take me for the Greek Apollo?‘ ’No’ I said ‘that (and Blake pointed to the sky) that is the Greek Apollo—He is Satan.” Blake believed that the modern Church was worshipping Lucifer, in the form of the Solar King, the “Prince of Light” (an epithet Blake as we’ve seen regularly applies to Urizen, another instantiation of Luciferean thinking), the deification of the underlying egoic left hemisphere program into “the God of This World”: “he is the Great Selfhood Satan: Worshipd as God by the Mighty Ones of the Earth” (Jerusalem).
It is entirely fitting therefore, indeed inevitable, that the cultures and mnid-sets worshipping the Solar Logos, the egoic rationalising consciousness of the left hemisphere which sees its future and its path as modelled on the solar journey of the Sun itself (passing through the 12 houses of the Zodiac, the 12 “Labours” of the new egoic “Hero” Hercules), would eventually gravitate towards belief in a heliocentric universe. As David Spangler remarks, “a solar system is simply the manifestation of the consciousness of a very great being known as the Solar Logos.”
The Copernican system is the exoteric form of the esoteric system of Solar King worship. That’s why its devotees and acolytes so revere this luminary – Galileo was a member of a secret sect, the Lynceans, which worshipped the sun as an occult force and power – that’s why he put the sun at the centre of his belief system, as I note in The God of the Left Hemisphere: “Galileo himself was a member of a secretive society called the Lyncean Academy which saw in the sun, as did the earlier Egyptians and Gnostics, an emblem of divine Light and Logos”. The “Lynxes”, as they were called, originally consisted of just five men, clearly a significant number for those with an interest in geometry and the occult, and all of them had interests in the occult, natural magic, and alchemy. Giambattista della Porta, for instance, was “an elder statesmen of the occult and philosophy who had written books on natural magic and alchemy”, and Jean Eck, “a Flemish doctor and convicted murderer, who was known to have strong links with black-magic circles” and who called himself L’illuminato because of his interest in light and enlightenment. As White notes in his classic biography of Galileo:
Galileo maintained very strong associations with Cesi and the other enthusiasts of the Lynxes. Immediately after dining with Federico Cesi in early April … when he met the other members of the academy, Galileo was invited to become the sixth member of their group. He accepted the invitation without hesitation, and in the membership book he wrote proudly: “I Galileo Galilei Lyncean son of Vincenzo, Florentine, age forty-eight years, in Rome. Written in my own hand on 25 April of the year of grace 1611”.
Blake challenges both the literalism and the Luciferean framework of this mental belief system. In his long poem Milton, he corrects Galileo’s Single Vision universe and provides an example of what the new, true, revolutionary reality looked like:
Every Space that a Man views around his dwelling-place:
Standing on his own roof, or in his garden on a mount
Of twenty-five cubits in height, such space is his Universe;
And on its verge the Sun rises & sets. the Clouds bow
To meet the flat Earth & the Sea in such an orderd Space:
The Starry heavens reach no further but here bend and set
On all sides & the two Poles turn on their valves of gold:
And if he move his dwelling-place, his heavens also move.
[Mil 29:5–12, p. 127]
In other words, it is the universe actually perceived and experienced by ordinary people. It is not a conceptual world, such as Copernicanism, nor does it deny the reality of the things immediately apprehended, as in the Platonic and materialistic systems. Such a view of space places “Man” where he belongs: at the centre of his universe. Blake’s poetry is the ultimate grounding experience. “And if he move his dwelling-place, his heavens also move”: this is about the coolest riposte to the alienated gyrations of Galileo that I have ever come across. Damon observes that in presenting this view of the nature of the universe (as neither geocentric nor heliocentric but human-centric, and indeed not even centric, but just human), Blake quietly aligns himself with Ptolemy and Copernicus. But in a sense Blake goes much further. Copernicus only changed the positions of the planets: Blake alters the position of man himself, and therefore of everything.
“This World of Generation”: The Role of the Ideology of Sex and Death in Maintaining This World
One of the key symbols and garments of Freemasonry is the Masonic apron. The apron is worn directly in front of the Mason’s genitals, which it both draws attention to, and which it also hides.
It’s another form of being “hidden in plain sight”, except here, both the genitals are hidden, and the meaning of the apron. Sex is the point of entry into “This World” – into the world of Apollonian consciousness, ruled by Light and revolving around the Sun. This is the cognitive universe where we think we live, or rather where we’ve been told that we live. The actual reality, like the genitals, is hidden in plain sight, or rather hidden by plain sight – by the narrow electromagnetic bandwidth which we call visible (or solar) “Light”, and which we worship, and live by, and put at the centre of our consciousness.
Light, like the ‘conscious’ rational mind of which it is the emblem and medium, might therefore best be seen as a sort of filtering or “funnelling” system, as Aldous Huxley suggests:
“To make biological survival possible, Mind at Large has to be funnelled through the reducing valve of the brain and nervous system. What comes out at the other end is a measly trickle of the kind of consciousness which will help us to stay alive on the surface of this particular planet. To formulate and express the contents of this reduced awareness, man has invented and endlessly elaborated those symbol-systems and implicit philosophies which we call languages. Every individual is at once the beneficiary and the victim of the linguistic tradition into which he or she has been born – the beneficiary inasmuch as language gives access to he accumulated records of other people’s experience, the victim in so far as it confirms him in the belief that reduced awareness is the only awareness and as it be-devils his sense of reality, so that he is all too apt to take his concepts for data, his words for actual things.” (Aldous Huxley, The Doors of Perception & Heaven and Hell).
Our conscious minds are a radical filtering system of reality, geared or set to reproduction (“Generation”, in Blake’s terms) and survival (“Death”). A mind set to these controls would see reality exactly how Darwin sees it, as indeed Blake predicted a century before Darwin. It is a radically reduced mode of vision – “a measly trickle” of consciousness, as Huxley puts it. “For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things thro’ narrow chinks of his cavern”, Blake observes in The Marriage of Heaven and Hell. Indeed, the line preceding this is where Huxley took the title of his book from: “If the doors of perception were cleansed everything would appear to man as it is, infinite.” Darwin does not see everything “as it is”, but through the Urizen-tinted glasses of Huxley’s survival funnel.
Huxley is similarly penetrating in his understanding of the role that language – the Solar “Logos” – plays in keeping us blinded by the form of abstract solar consciousness which underwrites it, and its “measly trickle”: language, Huxley notes, keeps us stuck “in the belief that reduced awareness is the only awareness” there is, and also “be-devils [our] sense of reality”. The relentless attentional spotlight of the left hemisphere not only allows us to see in close detail what is directly in front of us, and available for perception through the narrow visible electromagnetic bandwidth it registers and measures, but also blinds us to everything else, hiding almost all of reality from its view in doing so. The most appropriate symbol for this dreadful foreshortening of vision is indeed Galileo’s Sun: just as the Sun in the daytime hides the vast infinity of the night skies and their multitude of galaxies – which are still only a fraction of reality, that fraction available to “the reducing valve of the brain and nervous system” – so his privileging of “Reason” and “Geometry” conceals the vast multitude of imaginative reality all around us.
That is to say, that Light itself is part of the problem – a narrow electromagnetic spectrum range that blocks out most of reality. It’s Light that allows the Left Hemisphere to function and dominate the world. If we adjusted our sight – if we “cleansed” our doors of perception – we would be able to see the non-solar universe, which always surrounds us but which is hidden and occluded and obscured most of the time by the very fact of turning on our left-brain “solar” consciousness”. Just as the relentless “attentional spotlight” of the left hemisphere mode of seeing (which McGilchrist had compared to “Lucifer in his most attractive guise”) blocks out most of the right hemisphere knowledge and imaginative understanding of things, so too Galileo’s Sun blocks out virtually all of actual reality leaving only the narrow, quantifiable, visible, world:
This is a radically foreshortened and diminished world for us, but it is one that the Left Hemisphere can control and have Dominion over, and so it is the one that we are relentlessly told to be believe in. Very few poets or writers are brave enough, or perceptive enough, to challenge its hegemony over our optic nerves:
To see a World in a Grain of SandAnd a Heaven in a Wild FlowerHold Infinity in the palm of your handAnd Eternity in an hour– Blake, Auguries of Innocence
This is the “World” as it truly is, without Copernican consciousness blocking off everything – without “Bacon & Newton & Locke” reducing everything to what can be pinned down, made explicit, and measured – the act of Urizen’s golden compasses. Within the tiny parabola of their vision, we currently live. And are told to live.
Orthodox “Enlightenment” ways of thinking also try to tell us that we live in a world dominated by Sex and Death, the basic drives and obsessions of Urizenic consciousness. It turns this turning world into one apparently ruled by these forces: either through the Urizenic gaze of Darwin’s Struggle for Existence, or the more esoteric mystification of sex as the left hemisphere brain transforms it and its seemingly “magickal” or “irrational” processes into some weird religious cult, a cult obsessed with Virgin births (the necessary result of its dissociation of mind/logos/spirit from body), ideas of sin/impurity, and endless punishments for sexual engagement, while all the time being itself a vast sublimation or superstructure rooted in frustrated and displaced sexual processes, as Blake suggests.
“This is the Spectre of Man, the Holy Reasoning Power, and in its Holiness is closed the Abomination of Desolation” (J 10:15). It is also “State Religion, which is the source of all Cruelty” (On Watson, K 393). This perverted version of human sensual interconnectedness, this “Abomination of Desolation” is, notes Blake, the enemy of Holy Generation, birthplace of the Lamb (J 7:70). But it is also the reduction of regeneration into mere generation: “These are the Sexual Garments, the Abomination of Desolation, hiding the Human Lineaments as with an Ark & Curtains, which Jesus rent & now shall wholly purge away with Fire till Generation is swallow’d up in Regeneration” (Mil 41:25).
The Masonic Apron also hides “the Human Lineaments as with an Ark & Curtains”, thereby exposing its actual meaning and importance. As Altiyan Childs remarks, “Freemasonry is basically a sex cult”, rather like Crowley’s “Satanism”, with which it clearly has much in common in its esoteric form (its worship of Lucifer etc).
Darwinism is not a break from past Apollonian ways of thinking, but a culmination and fulfilment of them. As Damon notes, Blake prefigured and foresaw these developments and ways of seeing, or perhaps ways of blinding, fifty years before they happened:
“The World of Generation” is the state of the Darwinian struggle for life, “devouring & devoured” (Eur 2:5), “the Generation of decay & death” (FZ i:22), where “Life lives upon death & by devouring appetite all things subsist on one another” (FZ vii:390).
In Chapter 3 of his long poem Jerusalem, Damon observes, Blake therefore recounts “the triumph of Reason, against a confused background of war. The Spectre (reason) proclaims himself God; reacting against him the Eternals elect the seven Eyes of God. The plowing of the Nations begins; when Albion himself falls into the furrow and is plowed under, his Spectre then drives the plow. Los labors to create ‘a World of Generation from the World of Death’ (58:18); Urizen directs the building which becomes his temple. Jerusalem (liberty) is degraded and enslaved. Luvah (France) is conquered and crucified (63:5; 65:8).”
This is, in very terse and truncated form, the history of what is usually called “civilisation”: the rise of Urizen within the human brain (coinciding with the emergence of agriculture and the “plow” – the civilised constructions of Urizenic reasoning and practice), the cult of Nature (“Natural Religion”, the Druidic worship of the Apollonian Sun, finally degenerating into the literalism of Copernicus and Darwin), and the formation of “This World” now revealed to be a perceptual and cognitive matrix, the very “temple” of Urizen – made in its Image.
As Damon remarks, “Another symbol for the worldly religion is Urizen’s Tree of Mystery, the tree of Moral Values. Among other things, this has produced the cruel religion of sex (or ‘generation’). Urizen’s temple of sex, ‘builded … in the image of the human heart,’ with its ‘Secret place, reversing all the order of delight … the hidden wonders, allegoric of the Generations of secret lust,’ and its priests and priestesses ‘cloth’d in disguises beastial, inspiring secrecy,’ is described in The Four Zoas vii b: 18–38.”
“Urizen’s temple of sex”, or “The Temple of Nature”, as Erasmus Darwin – poet and grandfather of Charles – titled his 1802 work, heralded the full Urizenic development of this mode of perception: the world transformed into a world of “devouring & devoured” (Europe), “the Generation of decay & death” (The Four Zoas), where “Life lives upon death & by devouring appetite all things subsist on one another”. This vision of the embodied world is the converse side of the radical dissociation of body and soul that the Urizenic mind insists on (Gnosticism, Cartesianism, Platonism, orthodox Christianity) in its attempt to separate itself from, purify, and rid itself of, “irrational” embodiment.
In The Temple of Nature (significantly subtitled ‘The Origin of Society’ – Darwinism was always intended to describe human society rather than ‘Nature’) had described This World as “one great Slaughter-house”, where “smiling Flora drives her armed car/Through the thick ranks of vegetable war”. And just like many a “Natural Religion” devotee after him, he draws the requisite analogy for human populations:
All these, increasing by successive birth,
Would each o’erpeople ocean, air, and earth.
So human progenies, if unrestrain’d,
By climate friended, and by food sustain’d,
O’er seas and soils, prolific hordes! Would spread
Erelong, and deluge their terraqueous bed;
But war, and pestilence, disease, and dearth,
Sweep the superfluous myriads from the earth.
How fortunate that we have disease and war to check our prolific tribe and “sweep the superfluous myriads from the earth”. It’s interesting in that respect that the chief work to influence Charles Darwin’s similarly anthropomorphic take on Flora/Vala was not any book of biology or natural science, but Reverend Thomas Malthus’s book on human population (or rather “over-population”, as in Erasmus Darwin’s fiction, where even insects “o’erpeople” ocean, air, and earth). Indeed, Charles Darwin himself wrote that the theory of natural selection was “the doctrine of Malthus applied with manifold force to the whole animal and vegetable kingdoms” (On the Origin of Species).
We live in a world defined by the story of the fall from Eden – or rather, the story of the liberation from Eden, in the Luciferian traditions – in which Lucifer (like Prometheus) is the great liberator of humanity from the subservient, “animal” state of life, before the serpent rescued us from the bland prison of Paradise. Satan – the serpent – is supposed to have opened our eyes so we could become “as gods” – as the Left Hemisphere, with its knowledge (construction) of “Good & Evil” – the programs of judgment and condemnation that characterise all Luciferian thinking, behind its hifalutin rhetoric of charitable works, purity, and continual promise of enlightenment. As Bolte Taylor puts it: our left hemisphere “places the judgment of good on those things we like and bad on those things we dislike. Through the action of critical judgment and analysis, our left brain constantly compares us with everyone else.” Indeed she repeatedly refers to the “left hemisphere’s analytical judgment”, noting that before she had her (left hemisphere) stroke the “judging and analytical character in my left mind dominated my personality” (My Stroke of Insight).
The analytical and abstracting processing of the rationalising mind is therefore deeply connected to the judgmental, evaluative, and moralistic nature of the left brain. And in Blake’s writings we find the exact same connection being made. “Rational Truth Root of Evil & Good”, Blake succinctly notes in the The Keys of the Gates. For, according to Blake, “Reason” (Logos) is not just an innocent calculating or analytical process within the brain, although it often likes to present itself as this. Blake refers to it as “the Holy Reasoning Power”, a phrase that captures beautifully its pontificating, judgmental nature; and just as through its development of “natural laws” it learns to manipulate and control the energy of the universe, so through its development of “moral laws” it comes to control and regulate both individual and social energy. It is therefore no coincidence that that portion of the brain which is preoccupied with rationality and moral judgments is also the one obsessed with law-making.
Compelled by its own internal programs and logic (Logos) to impose order and “rationality” on the world of man, just as it seeks to organise the external world according to universal, rational laws, Urizen (like the Platonic Demiurge in Timaeus) is shocked to discover that real living beings cannot live according to these abstract, pure laws of reason:
He, in darkness clos’d, view’d all his race
And his soul sicken’d! he curs’d
Both sons & daughters; for he saw
That no flesh nor spirit could keep
His iron laws one moment.
– The First Book of Urizen
But Urizen wants to keep this sort of world going, even if it means being King of a desolated and desecrated space of miserable and enslaved carbon-based units, following ever more draconian and authoritarian laws. It aspires to purity, to the status of the “stars”: what it finds is body.
This is why sex has such a weird place in this Logos-driven schema – from the Garden of Eden to the Masonic apron and the Holy of Holies.
Freemasonry and Sex
Freemasonry is a secret society, and one of its secrets is of the nature and role of sex. Radically dissociating itself from the human body (now re-interpreted as prison, charnel house, as impure and corrupt – exactly how a computer would see a living being), the Urizen program has no choice but to interpret the world of the body as animalistic, dominated by “irrational” urges such as sex, and constantly terrified by, and defined by, death – which it can’t see past (as the left hemisphere doesn’t know what the left hemisphere doesn’t know).
Darwinian evolution is the natural product, or by-product, of this way of thinking. A world of the uninitiated, the “profane’ – as Masonic literature refers to the uninitiated – a world of stupid animals, like ordinary humans, who have not been “enlightened”, or “initiated”, and who do not even understand the symbols or systems used to enslave them and keep them as farm animals, basically, in the Temple of Nature. In Masonic literature, the herd of common “unenlightened” and “uninitiated” people are referred to and represented by “the rough Ashlar”, the rude and unorganised stone, that simply serves as raw material for the Masonic elites to build their Temples and to realise their projects.
But, Blake suggests, the world of Generation is not an objective or “material” reality, but rather a particular mode of seeing, or vision – as are Beulah, Ulro, and Eden. They are states of consciousness, or experience, which we can move in and out of. But the purpose of the Urizen or ‘Lucifer’ program is to keep us locked within the Generation program or operating system: the world as seen through the filter of a brain mechanism pre-programmed in terms of survival and death, as Huxley noted.
As Damon notes, one of the purposes of Blake’s work is to reveal the true nature of these illusions and delusions that keep us asleep and chained to it:
Death is only an illusion of Leutha (sin, or ‘separation’): “In dreams she bore the Shadowy Spectre of Sleep & nam’d him Death” (Mil 13:40). Otherwise, Eve is the mortal mother of Death: when she was separated from Adam and ate the fatal fruit, then Generation and Death appeared in this world. It is an interesting coincidence that the modern biologists say that death does not appear in nature until the sexes are separated. (A Blake Dictionary)
Sex, as this sort of occult portal, comes to occupy an astonishingly important place in all such religions, though its place is often obscured or made secret. Indeed, the very word “secret” is usually a euphemism for sex or the sexual organs in these societies, because talking about any of this openly tends to both destroy its magic and hold, to diminish the charged vicinities of “religious” spaces, and to divert and displace our attention from the truly sacred spaces, which are located within our own bodies – the very bodies from which many of these traditions seek to radically separate themselves as being “impure”. One of the desired and required consequences of the whole narrative of the Garden of Eden – the basic html of all post-Babylonian civilisations – was to make us tongue-tied about talking about sex, with its accompanying neurotic guilt and bodily shame – as with anything “forbidden”, thereby multiplying its attractiveness and hold over us.
Whilst ostensibly seeking to control and demonise the sexual and bodily organs and processes, many religious traditions are therefore actually secretly driven by them, in sublimated and secretive forms. In William Blake and the Sexual Basis of Spiritual Vision, Schuchard for example observes that “according to the Kabbalistic theories adopted by Zinzendorf (a bishop of the Moravian Church to which Blake may have been associated), God and the universe are composed of dynamic sexual potencies (the sephiroth) which interact with each other and produce orgasmic joy when in perfect equilibrium”:
In the Holy of Holies of the Temple in Jerusalem, a golden sculpture of male and female cherubim guarded the Ark of the Covenant. The Kabbalists claimed that the cherubim were entwined in the act of marital intercourse, thus forming an emblem of God’s joyful marriage with his female emanation, the Shekhinah (or Jerusalem). When the Temple was sacked by pagans, the erotic statuary was paraded through the streets in order to ridicule the Jews. That Blake was aware of this tradition is suggested by his reference to the defilement of Jerusalem, ‘Thy Tabernacle taken down, thy secret Cherubim disclosed.’
This “Holy of Holies” is also what’s covered by the Masonic apron. Some commentators have also suggested that the ‘one eye’ on the apron, directly placed over the genitals, is also an allusion to the one ‘eye’ of the penis, where in patriarchal systems this ‘life’ or Power is situated. Similarly, the masonic tools prominently displayed on the apron, again suggest in this context the genitals, the opening into “This World” of Solar Logos: thus, for example, the “V” shape of the upturned compass is widely seen as an esoteric symbol for the female genitalia. The “G” stamped on many masonic emblems and signs stands in part not only for “God” (and “Geometry”) but also for “Generation” or the generative principle, again alluding to the triple Urizenic aspect of the “God” of this world (as in Darwin’s system) – with the Sun, and its light, and the one Eye shooting its “sperm” or rays of light in order to generate its form of ‘life’. Hence also the relevance and indeed reverence in Masonic, Egyptian, and other systems of occult thought, for the Obelisk. One really doesn’t need to be Freud to see the meaning of this impressive stone erection, even though it’s again often “hidden in plain sight” – such as the massive penis seemingly deliberately placed outside St Peters’ in Rome.
We can perhaps see now why Blake placed such significance on Masonic and other esoteric systems of thought, and why he put the Great Architect of the Universe, the Biblical Demiurge or ‘Ancient of Days’, so magnificently upfront on the Frontispiece to his prophetic poem about the future of Europe, and the powers and dominions that were increasingly controlling it. As Paul observed in Ephesians 6:12: “For we are not contending against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers … against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.” And these powers and principalities, Blake suggests, operate within each of our brains. In that sense, the future of the world rests within our our own hands – and indeed hemispheres. Blake believed that his imaginative vision or way of seeing and his remarkable counter-images could help reveal what is currently being concealed.
Rod Tweedy, PhD, is the author of The God of the Left Hemisphere: Blake, Bolte Taylor and the Myth of Creation (Karnac, 2013), a study of Blake’s work in the light of modern neuroscience; the editor of The Political Self: Understanding the Social Context for Mental Illness (Karnac, 2017), and the editor of The Divided Therapist: Hemispheric Difference and Contemporary Psychotherapy (Routledge, 2021). He is also an active supporter of Veterans for Peace UK and and the user-led mental health organisation, Mental Fight Club.
To receive more posts direct from Church of Blake, simply Follow the blog here (bottom right hand corner): https://thehumandivine.org
The God of This World: How Urizen Rules Popular Culture