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
—William Blake, To The Accuser who is The God of This World
Blake believed that the existing Christian Church actually worships Lucifer, “the Accuser who is The God of This World”. As he notes in this deceptively simple poem, the well-known names of “Jesus & Jehovah” are used to mask the true identity of this “God”, who Blake elsewhere reveals as “the Angel of the Divine Presence”. This Divine Angel is popularly known as “Christos”, the mighty God of Light, or in an earlier guise “Horus” or “Lucifer” ( הֵילֵל in Hebrew, meaning “shining one, light bearer”, and more particularly “bringer of dawn, the morning star” – hence “the Son of Morn in weary Nights decline”, in Blake’s poem). Damon clarifies his Biblical identity: “the Angel of the Divine Presence is Satan. He may take the form of an angel of light (II Cor ix:14), and is often mistaken for God.” Blake often illustrates him, as a glorious Emissary, who unfortunately – indeed tragically – is mistaken for the Master:
The Aged Figure with Wings, having a writing tablet & taking account of the numbers who arise, is That Angel of the Divine Presence mention’d in Exodus xiv.c.,19 v [as leading the Israelites into the Wilderness] & in other Places; this Angel is frequently call’d by the Name of Jehovah Elohim, The ‘I am’ of the Oaks of Albion” (LJ).
As Damon notes, to emphasize this difference Blake only used the term Christ “five times in his poetry as he preferred the personal name ‘Jesus’ “, a point reiterated by Philip Pullman: “Paul refers to Christ rather than Jesus; the Gospels call him Jesus rather than Christ. And I thought that was significant.” Christ (the priestly and kingly Christós) denoted the established Church’s pious and suffering Urizenic solar deity, while the name Jesus pointed to the radical and imaginative “Son of Man” who broke every commandment and challenged the authorities of his day.
To help us understand this distinction between the two, Blake provides the following guide:
- God is not Light. God is Every Thing. And Every Thing is God. The worship of Light, in orthodox systems of thought, signifies the deification of egoic rational consciousness: as America’s leading Jungian theorist Edward F. Edinger observes, “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.” Edinger is correct in suggesting this identification of light with egoic consciousness and also the widespread nature of this myth, but as Blake points out, these are all Urizenic myths of creation. Its clearly very flattering for the rational ego to unconsciously worship the symbol which represents itself, and the extent and depth of this narcissistic self-identification is astonishing – covering both orthodox, traditional religious systems of thought as well as modern Jungian, psychoanalytic, Buddhist, pantheistic, and secular ideologies. But as Blake counters:
God Appears & God is LightTo those poor Souls who dwell in NightBut does a Human Form DisplayTo those who Dwell in Realms of day.
—William Blake, Auguries of Innocence
It is the “poor Souls who dwell in Night” who are therefore naturally attracted to Light as a symbol of how the rational ego operates, and who elevate it to Godhead. This identification of Reason with Light has also been noticed by Iain McGilchrist, in his remarkable study of the differences between the left and right hemispheres of the human brain. As he notes, the achievements of the Apollonian, reason-loving ancient Greeks surely “represent the most positive aspects of the left hemisphere, in its guise as Lucifer, the bringer of light”. The relentless spotlight that is so characteristic of the left hemisphere both deifies light—and demonises darkness. Blake repeatedly identifies Urizen as the “Prince of Light” (e.g. FZ vii:244), whereas Urthona—the creative imagination and source of true divinity in the world—is given the epithet “dark”. As Damon notes, “Urthona (‘earth owner’) is the deepest and most mysterious of the Zoas. He is called “dark” thirteen times (FZ i.519-ix.821).”
2. All religions are imaginative constructs of the human brain. Religions claiming an external or objective authority or source are therefore, according to Blake, in error. Urizen thinks that “all religions are one” means that all share something in common (the “lowest common denominator”, rationalising interpretation of God), or are all just different ways of going up the same hill: One God, One King, One Law, One Hill. Blake believed the exact opposite: that all religions are different, are particular, and that many of them are immensely destructive to human life. Many religions, for example, worship an abstract or impersonal deity: Buddhism, Platonism, Kabbalah. Blake’s reply is that “he who adores an impersonal God has none”. Many religions believe in Nature—pantheists, pagans, environmentalists, deists, Druids, Darwinists. Blake’s response is that “he who believes in Nature disbelieves in God. For Nature is the work of the Devil [i.e Urizen]”. But his particular fight is with orthodox Christianity and the orthodox churches: “the Vision of Christ that thou dost see is my Visions Greatest Enemy”. Traditional Christianity has manufactured a preposterous hybrid of Mithras, Horus, and the Greek Logos, glued it onto the imperial requirements of the Church of Constantine, and now has the temerity to label its product “Christ”. To claim that Blake advocated that “all religions are one’—in the sense that modern, Urizenic consciousness would like to believe it, is nonsense. Indeed, Blake regarded such vague, abstracting, rationalising logic as an attack on the very source of divinity – which does not reside in Nature, or priests, or the Logos, or rationality, but within “the Human breast”:
The ancient Poets animated all sensible objects with Gods or Geniuses, calling them by the names and adorning them with the properties of woods, rivers, mountains, lakes, cities, nations, and whatever their enlarged & numerous senses could perceive.
And particularly they studied the genius of each city & country, placing it under its mental deity.
Till a system was formed, which some took advantage of & enslav’d the vulgar by attempting to realize or abstract the mental deities from their objects: thus began Priesthood.
Choosing forms of worship from poetic tales.
And at length they pronounc’d that the Gods had order’d such things.
Thus men forgot that All deities reside in the human breast.
In fact, the only spiritual figure or teaching that Blake had much time for was that of the revolutionary incarnation of imaginative, humanising consciousness, Jesus. Blake deeply loved the work of Milton, Dante and Shakespeare: they wrote poetry. For Blake, Jesus was poetry. “Jesus and his Apostles and his Disciples were all Artists” (Laocoön) – a point underlined by Shelley in his observation that the words “of this extraordinary person are all instinct with the most vivid poetry”. As Marcus Borg also notes, Jesus “seems to have had a metaphorical mind”.
3. The Human Body is the source of divinity and spiritual energy. Whereas all hitherto left brain religion and systems of thought had attacked and denigrated the body—Plato and the Gnostics portrayed it as a prison or charnel-house; the orthodox Church demonised the body’s energies and desires, and worst of all, Newton and the Enlightenment scientists treated it as if it was a machine—Blake restores it to its central place in redemption. As he declares in The Marriage of Heaven and Hell:
All Bibles or sacred codes have been the causes of the following Errors.
1. That Man has two real existing principles Viz: a Body & a Soul.
2. That Energy, call’d Evil, is alone from the Body, & that Reason, call’d Good, is alone from the Soul.
3. That God will torment Man in Eternity for following his Energies.
But the following Contraries to these are True
1. Man has no Body distinct from his Soul for that call’d Body is a portion of Soul discern’d by the five Senses, the chief inlets of Soul in this age
2. Energy is the only life and is from the Body and Reason is the bound or outward circumference of Energy.
3 Energy is Eternal Delight
The point of the Church of Blake is not to tell you what to do, but to support you in what you know you have to do. “Let every Christian, as much as in him lies, engage himself openly and publicly, before all the World, in some mental pursuit for the Building up of Jerusalem.”
Above all, the Church is Here to encourage and inspire You to use your imagination and vision to recreate and transform this world into a world fit for humanity. “I know of no other Christianity and of no other Gospel,” Blake once wrote, “than the liberty both of body and mind to exercise the Divine Arts of Imagination.”