Laocoön, by William Blake

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

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

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Masks of Anarchy, by Paul Foot

Rise like lions after slumber: Revolutionary Shelley


Richard Holmes rightly describes Shelley’s The Mask of Anarchy as “the greatest political poem ever written in English”. The ninety-two verses of The Mask were written in hot indignation in September 1819, immediately after Shelley heard the news of the massacre at Peterloo. It is the most concise, the most popularly written and the most explicit statement of his political ideas in poetry.

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Eternity in an Hour: Blake in Time, by S. Foster Damon

Left Brain Time and Right Brain Space

Hold infinity in the palm of your hand

Eternity is what always is, the reality underlying all temporal phenomena, the nunc stans of St. Thomas Aquinas. It is vulgarly supposed to be an endless prolongation of Time, to begin in the future; it is instead the annihilation of Time, which is limited to this temporal world; in short, Eternity is the real Now.

The problem of conceptualising eternity with the linear time (left hemisphere) program. We don’t enter Eternity – we enter Time; we’re already in Eternity

“Eternity Exists, and All Things in Eternity” (Vision of the Last Judgment). Whatever was, is, and shall be is there. “Every thing exists & not one sigh nor smile nor tear, one hair nor particle of dust, not one can pass away” (Jerusalem). Nothing real can have a literal beginning. Man “pre-existed” before his creation in Eden, which was only his materialising, an episode of his Fall.

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Through a Glass Darkly: Cleansing the Doors of Religion, by Christopher Rowland

                                    Seeing the Bible through Blake’s Eyes



A decade ago I was invited by one of my graduate students to share in a complete reading of William Blake’s Jerusalem. A group of 12 of us attended the event, among them Philip Pullman, a Blake admirer. Each member of the group was asked to share in turn their experience of Blake and his work.

Reading Blake’s Jerusalem: (left to right) Tim Heath (the Spectre), Philip Pullman (Albion), and Val Doulton (the Daughters of Albion)

I found myself blurting out the words, ‘Blake has taught me to read the Bible.’ I had never articulated it like that before, but since then I have often recollected that off-the-cuff comment. I had never thought in that way before. I have reflected on the truth of that statement and come to see that Blake (as in much else in my intellectual endeavour) has been an important catalyst for my thoughts and understanding (Rowland, Blake and the Bible).

In trying to articulate what it is that Blake has taught me, I have started with this because the words ‘Blake taught me’ suggest a direct impact rather than a detached engagement with someone’s words. There’s always a sense when engaging with any of Blake’s works that more is going on than a mere encounter with words or images. It is what is constitutive of what is ‘more’ that is one of the most important aspects of Blake’s works, indeed, is the way he relates to pedagogy.

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‘The Human Form Divine’: Radicalism and Orthodoxy in William Blake, by Rowan Williams

The Human Imagination and the Eternal Body


Priests promoting Conflict and Soldiers promoting Peace

To Mercy, Pity, Peace, and Love

All pray in their distress;

And to these virtues of delight

Return their thankfulness.


For Mercy, Pity, Peace, and Love

Is God, our father dear,

And Mercy, Pity, Peace, and Love

Is Man, his child and care.


For Mercy has a human heart,

Pity a human face,

And Love, the human form divine,

And Peace, the human dress.


Then every man, of every clime,

That prays in his distress,

Prays to the human form divine,

Love, Mercy, Pity, Peace.


And all must love the human form,

In heathen, Turk, or Jew;

Where Mercy, Love, and Pity dwell

There God is dwelling too.

Blake might have been surprised to learn that these verses, ‘The Divine Image’, from Songs of Innocence, are sometimes printed – and sung – as a hymn. On their own, they are indeed a touchingly direct statement of a certain kind of Christian humanism, apparently optimistic and universalist – a suitable text for the enlightened, perhaps rather Tolystoyan, Christian who looks to Blake as part of his or her canon.

But Blake is a dialectical writer, to a rare and vertiginous degree, and to understand what a text like this means we also have to read his own reply to it – indeed, his own critique of it. The textual history of this dialogue is itself intriguing, as if he could not easily settle on how he was to ‘voice’ the necessary riposte. His first attempt, not finally included in the Songs of Experience, survives in a design from 1791 or 1792:

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Blake’s Christ-Consciousness, by Kathleen Raine

The Evolution of Vision


BLAKE is only known to have attended a religious service three times in his life: he was baptized, in the year 1757, at the beautiful font of St. James’s, Piccadilly. He was married in Battersea Old Church; and at his own wish, his burial service (he died in 1827) was according to the rites of the Church of England. His admiration for such dissenters as John Wesley and William Law notwithstanding, he preferred the national Church to non-conformity; perhaps in part because of his love for those Gothic churches—and especially Westminster Abbey—in whose architecture he saw the true expression of the spirit, in contrast with Wren’s St. Paul’s, which he saw as a monument to Deism and human reason. His last great work was the splendid but incomplete series of illustrations to Dante; he admired St. Teresa of Avila, and the French Quietists, Fénélon and Mme Guyon, no less than the Protestant mystics, of whom two in particular—Jakob Boehme and Emmanuel Swedenborg—were his acknowledged masters.


Blake contrasted the “Living Form” of Gothic (infinite, organic) with the cold rationalism of Wren’s “monument to Deism”: round, rational, and religious

He declared himself a Christian without reservation: “I still and shall to Eternity Embrace Christianity and Adore him who is the Express image of God” he declared. He never had any period of doubt, early or late. But what kind of Christian was our great visionary and national prophet?

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Ezekiel and the Burning Coal of Prophecy, by Rod Tweedy

Commodities and Idolatries



The Nature of Appearances

The name Ezekiel is perhaps the most well known and celebrated of all the Old Testament prophets, referenced by everyone from Blake to Quentin Tarantino. The extraordinary vision which he saw of the chariot of God coming toward him burning with flashing fire, moving “wheel within wheel” and driven by strange four-headed winged cherubim, has seared itself into the vision of every succeeding generation.

img_5904What Ezekiel saw has been variously interpreted – as a record of a profound mystical experience (as in the extensive and esoteric Jewish merkabah tradition), a glimpse into the nature of God, a literary text that has inspired poets from Dante and Blake to T. S. Eliot and Yeats, and in more recent times as a record of a possible encounter with extraterrestrial beings – even as a statement of a traumatic and possibly schizophrenic episode that the prophet experienced two and a half thousand years ago near the Chebal canal “in the land of the Chaldeans” (southern Mesopotamia), where he and three thousand other Jews had been deported and lived in exile.

When I was a kid there was an American children’s drama series called Project UFO which began every episode with the words: “Ezekiel saw the wheel. This is the wheel he said he saw.” – accompanied by a diagram of Ezekiel’s supposed UFO. It was a striking way to capture a child’s attention, but like many modern-day takes on Biblical passages and experiences, was also an incredibly literalist and diminished interpretation of Ezekiel’s original vision. Interestingly, this peculiarly ‘left brain’ way of seeing reality and understanding imaginative truth was one that historically emerged in the very cultures that Ezekiel grew up in and was surrounded by – the technologically advanced, newly literate, post-Sumerian high-rise cultures of Babylon, Egypt and the Near East.

ezekiel_25_17_by_chronicrick-d51w168What is remarkable about Ezekiel’s vision is that it’s actually aimed directly at this new literalist way of seeing. For Ezekiel, seeing phenomena as if they were discreet, objectified, literal ‘things’ – as ‘idols’ (from Greek eidōlon, meaning representation or illusory shape, literally “appearance, reflection in water or a mirror”) both obscured and reified their inherently transcendental and interconnected, relational nature – their true value. In this he shares a striking resemblance to another well-known social prophet, Karl Marx, who also exposed the ‘fetishistic’ nature of our modern belief in similar sorts of idols – commodities.

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Review of 2016

A New Year, A New Self, A New Politics

Thank you to everyone who’s followed the posts this year, left comments, suggested ideas, and supported thehumandivine project in its first year. Over the last twelve months we’ve posted a new blog each week, covering everything from Kabbalah and Brexit to neuroscience and the sexuality of God – all united by an approach rooted in William Blake’s imaginative and radical take on God. We hope this will be a useful resource for anyone wanting to explore Blake’s alternative vision and its relevance for today.

blake7-xmas-1But in 2017 thehumandivine is changing! From January the site is going to develop in new and exciting ways: instead of weekly articles there’ll be more in-depth monthly posts exploring key passages from the Bible (Book of Job, Ezekiel, etc) from a radical Blakean perspective, to help illuminate them and also to suggest their relevance to what’s happening today, and how these narratives and thought systems continue to shape both our inner and outer lives.

Blake read the Bible not as “the word of God” to be followed literally but as a profound record of the psychological evolution of humanity – its terrifying psychic splits and dissections, its self-alienation and state of “exile”, its fall into “division”, its capacity for forgiveness, and its longing for integration and wholeness.

We’re also hoping to develop the themes of the website in practical ways: there are plans to organise a conference next summer to explore the implications of Blake for contemporary theology and to see if the Church can be shifted more in a Blakean direction. The theme of the conference will be Blake’s observation: “The Vision of Christ that thou dost see Is my Vision’s Greatest Enemy” – and what he means by this. Watch this space!


Here’s a selection of some of the highlights from 2016:

tumblr_inline_mn9yw5yacg1qz4rgpNICK CAVE: The Flesh Made Word: A Poetic Interpretation

1-brexit-1ROD TWEEDY: William Blake, Brexit and the Re-Awakening of Albion

this-screen-shot-2016-12-08-at-22-12-40IAIN McGILCHRIST: William Blake and the Divided Brain

558386_440269706046483_367614937_nSHAMS TABRIZI: The 40 Rules of Love

ecstasy-1PETER ANDERSON: Poetry & Madness: Blake, Eigen & the Psychotic God

blake-a1-1-bigCHRISTOPHER Z. HOBSON: Anarchism and William Blake’s Idea of Jesus

image142-1ERIC PYLE: Blake’s Illustrations of Dante’s Hell

The Ghost of a Flea c.1819-20 by William Blake 1757-1827E.M. NOTENBOOM: From Hell: Alan Moore and William Blake

milton_pic-1ANDREI BURKE: The Secret World and Sexual Rebellion of William Blake

theatre2-jpeg-3SUSANNE M. SKLAR: Blake’s Jerusalem as Visionary Theatre


Happy Christmas!!


The Genius of Blake, by Philip Pullman

Keeping the Divine Vision in Time of Trouble


There was no one like William Blake. There had been no one like him before and there has been no one like him since. He’s unique not only among English poets but among writers and artists from anywhere in the world. Poets and critics of his own time were unsure whether he was mad; Wordsworth thought he undoubtedly was but said there was something in Blake’s madness that interested him more than the sanity of Lord Byron and Walter Scott.

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William Blake and the Divided Brain, by Iain McGilchrist

The Infinite Brain and the Narrow Circle

The Blake Society Annual Lecture was this year given by Iain McGilchrist, whose remarkable book The Master and His Emissary: The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World is widely regarded as one of the most important texts of the twenty-first century.

His extraordinary talk on William Blake shows how a profound understanding of contemporary neuroscience and hemispheric difference can illuminate and reveal hidden dimensions of Blake’s thought, a writer and thinker so at home with contraries, asymmetries, and the deep processes of the human brain. It is quite simply the best talk on Blake that has ever been given or is ever likely to be given. Prepare to have your hemispheres altered!

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