Introduction: The Twenty-Seven States or “Churches” of Human History
“the Twenty-Seven Heavens & their Churches”. The word “church” originally meant “circle” or “circus”, because early congregants gathered in a circle – as in the “church” of Stonehenge. These evolving “churches” denote the progression – like the wheels on a chariot – of human consciousness in its long journey towards liberation and imaginative uncovery. This journey has been recorded and embodied in all of the dominant religions and cultural narratives of human history, from Adam to Luther, suggesting that this story or evolution is both spiritual and political. It its fallen form (ie, to the rationalising, left brain mind and eye), these powerful revolving “heavens” appear to us as the literal, material “heavens” projected into the sky, with their cycles or circles similarly literal. The Babylonian Zodiac was an early and important stage in this fall within perception (zodiac, from Greek zodiakos, circle, and Zoa orzôion, “Living Beasts”, alluding to their true psychological origins within the Imagination).
The Twenty-Seven States, or Heavens, represent dogmatic Christianity in its successive aspects. They are to man’s spiritual life what the Mundane Shell (which contains them) is to his physical being: an enclosure which shuts him from Eternity. They are “Satan & Adam … States Created into Twenty-seven Churches” (Mil 32: 25). They are described in Milton 37:35–43 (after the analysis of paganism as the Twelve Gods of Asia) and in Jerusalem 75:10–26.
There are several accounts of the Fall in Blake but the invariable characteristic of them is Albion’s relapse from active creative energy to passivity. This passivity takes the form of wonder or awe at the world he has created, which in eternity he sees as a woman. The Fall thus begins in Beulah, the divine garden identified with Eden in Genesis.
Once he takes the fatal step of thinking the object-world independent of him, Albion sinks into a sleep symbolizing the passivity of his mind, and his creation separates and becomes the “female will” or Mother Nature, the remote and inaccessible universe of tantalizing mystery we now see. Love, or the transformation of the objective into the beloved, and art, or the transformation of the objective into the created, are the two activities pursued on this earth to repair the damage of the Fall, and they raise our state to Beulah and Eden respectively.
Images of Transfiguration:Trasumanar and Transformation in Paradise
Introduction: Inside Blake’s Body
Dante’s journey in the otherworld has introduced generations of readers to the consequences of the divine judgment, the architecture of sin and salvation, the moral condemnation of materialism, and the pilgrim’s encounter with God. God is the “somma luce” (“eternal beam”), which cannot be grasped by means of human understanding. The blinding light of redemption thus remains a mystery untold in the Commedia.
Introduction: The Forms and the Archetypes of Being
There’s a fascinating tradition of thought that links early formulations of the twelve aspects or ‘faces’ of the Zodiac with Plato’s esoteric theory of the Forms, the fundamental geometries and patterns which generate our world, and which casts an intriguing light on the original meaning of the Zodiacal Signs and their significance.
‘Wisdom’, Entrance to the Rockefeller Center, New York. Sculpture created by Lee Lawrie, after William Blake
New York is essentially a spiritual city, one of the most occult and esoteric cities on Earth. As David Ovason has suggested in The Secret Architecture of our Nation’s Capital, New York – like Washington DC (the main focus of his study) – is laid out according to a whole matrix of secret symbolism and occult geometry.
Blake’s term for the psychopathic power of the Urizenic ‘rational’ mind when it is dissociated and divided from man’s imaginative and empathic consciousness was the “Red Dragon”. The term derives from the Biblical Book of Revelation, where the reality of things is supposed to be finally uncovered (‘apocalypsis‘, meaning “uncover, disclose, reveal”), but as usual with Blake, it’s given a surprisingly modern twist – one that is both psychological and politically radical in nature.
Blake’s presentation of the “dragon” form of Urizen as his final dissociated apotheosis (his “logical conclusion”, if you like), is a stinging critique of the very power and cognitive process that drove and underwrote much of the ‘Enlightenment’ project – the period in which he was living. The enormously powerful, as well as devastatingly disruptive, destructive and dehumanising, energy unleashed on Britain (and later Europe) on a vast – indeed global – scale was, Blake believed, the unregulated and domineering character of the instrumental left brain itself: what many Enlightenment thinkers rather naively simply called ‘Reason’. Blake analyses this celebrated function of the human brain and reveals that it was actually a peculiar and peculiarly distorted form of reason that was being developed and harnessed – “ratio-nality” (rather than reasonableness) – a self-enclosed, rapacious, and manipulative power that was being released into the world via the Industrial Revolution and modern capitalism.
Harvard neuroanatomist Jill Bolte Taylor, commenting on the subtle but significant differences between how each hemisphere of our brain understands and engages with the world, observed that “the two halves of my brain don’t just perceive and think in different ways at a neurological level, but they demonstrate very different values based upon the types of information they perceive, and thus exhibit very different personalities” (My Stroke of Insight).