William Blake and the Last Judgment: The Elohim Program, by Rod Tweedy

Seeing without Judging: Passing through the Doors of Perception

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Introduction: The Last Judgment

The ancient tradition that the world will be consumed in fire at the end of six thousand years is true. as I have heard from Hell.
For the cherub with his flaming sword is hereby commanded to leave his guard at the tree of life, and when he does, the whole creation will be consumed, and appear infinite and holy whereas it now appears finite & corrupt.
This will come to pass by an improvement of sensual enjoyment.

– Blake, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell

In order to see reality as “infinite and holy” Blake’s advice is to let go, to “surrender”: to cast one’s rationalising, judgmental ego or “Selfhood” into the “Lakes of Los”, and to let go of the entire egoic program. We can have no real relationship or communion with reality while we are judging it: to judge something is to stand outside it, and to convert living contraries into dead and conflicting ideas or opposites (“good and bad”, “light and dark” etc).

The Hebrew word for “judges” is “Elohim“: it’s the name given to the “God” of the Book of Genesis which presides over our expulsion from Eden, that is from the present moment – from Being.  This is what Judgment does to the human form and the human brain: this is what the Judgment program looks like:

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Elohim Creating Adam, by Blake (c. 1795-1805). The Biblical name for the “judge” or “judges” within the psyche of man is “Elohim”, and as such they appear in the Book of Genesis. “And God [Elohim] said, Let us [plural] make man in our image, after our likeness” (Genesis 1:26). It is no coincidence that this moment of “creation” (or rather “division”) is shortly followed by the eating of the tree of “good and evil”, and the even swifter expulsion from “Paradise” (i.e., from integrated Being) as a result. As Blake suggests in the detailed notes he made for his Vision of the Last Judgment (1810), every time a judgment is made about reality, the same “Satanic” process or judgment program (within “Adam”) gets activated.

In many ways, Blake’s whole poetic output has been leading up to this moment: the moment in his work where the individual finally realises the nature of his own psyche, and becomes aware of the pathological nature of the egoic Selfhood that had previously controlled and conditioned him.

In Jerusalem: The Emanation of the Giant Albion (1820), Blake himself directly addresses the human imagination as that agency within man which can give “Error” a form (so that it can be ‘seen’, so that it can be known and rejected), and which also operates above and beyond normal (egoic or rational) consciousness, in order to “Annihilate the Selfhood in me” (J 5:22). With the profoundly unconscious rational Selfhood no longer “God” of the human perceptual and cognitive system, of the left hemisphere of the brain, the individual can finally “awake from Slumbers of Six Thousand Years”.

Note in the picture above that the Elohim’s right hand (i.e., left hemisphere) is directly targeting Adam’s right hemisphere, as if to take control of it, to demobilise and suppress it. The right brain is non-judgmental and relational; it contains the networks and processes of empathy, inter-connectedness, “I/Thou’ relationships, intuition, betweenness, and being itself (through its intimate and extensive connection to the human body, and to embodiment). This act effectively makes the deeper intelligence and awareness of the right brain “unconscious” or as Blake says, “asleep”.

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The cloven hooves of the Elohim Program: the Dividing, Judging Power within the Brain. Image: ‘Job’s Evil Dreams’ from Blake’s Illustrations of the Book of Job. Note the irony, and inversion, of the title: Job’s “Evil” dream is of a “Good” god. How can this be?

The “Creation” – that is, the conversion of the infinite and holy world into a “natural” or material world riven by discrete objects in perpetual conflict – is a moment of profound torment and agony.

Look how unconscious both agents are in this process of conversion. And yet, in another of the inversions that this process (the elevation of the Elohim over Adam, and the left hemisphere into dominance and Mastery), this deep sleep or unconsciousness is what we now call (rational) consciousness – the externalising, rationalising, atomising, “objecting” (as Blake beautifully describes it – deftly combining both its judgmental character and its conversion of the flow of bring into “object representations”, into things) nature of this “Fall into Division”.

The result, suggests Blake, has been “six thousand years” of humanity being “asleep” (this correlates with the ascendancy of these powerful judging, rationalising, and measuring programs of the brain in the cultures of Sumer, Babylon, and Egypt around 4,000 BC).  But now, he notes, we are slowly beginning to realise what’s happened to us, and the false nature of the reality we find ourselves in.

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The Whore of Babylon, a key figure or archetype in the process of our estrangement from Being and the processes of judgment and alienation that facilitate it, here shown sitting on the back of the Great Beast. (Image: ‘The Harlot and the Giant’ from Blake’s Illustrations to Dante’s Divine Comedy). As Blake noted in 1798, in contemporary culture and society “The Beast & the Whore rule without controls” (Annotations to Watson). We will see this figure again in Blake’s many Visions of the Last Judgment.

Blake refers to this process, which he also calls “awakening”, as a casting off or a letting go of the Selfhood. The Selfhood is what the Judging program uses to define itself and give it a sense of power (putting itself “up” by judging others and putting them “down”; the vocabulary of up and down, higher and lower, is always a sign of the presence of the Elohim). Awareness is the letting go. As Blake noted, “whenever any Individual Rejects Error & Embraces Truth a Last Judgment passes upon that Individual” (LJ 84).

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The old, or orthodox, version of The Last Judgment. This version is, both ironically and appropriately, itself the expression of the Judging power that has usurped its position in the human brain. (Image: ‘The Last Judgment’, or Il Giudizio Universale, by Michelangelo in the Sistine Chapel). As Damon notes, such a view of both Judgment and of Jesus (as Judge) “was utterly opposed to Blake’s belief in the character and teaching of Jesus”. As with his admiration for both Dante and Milton, whose work Blake celebrated but whose erroneous belief systems he corrected, Michelangelo’s imaginative power was an inspiration for Blake, but not a wholly uncritical one.

This shows how radically Blake has reinterpreted and indeed cast off the traditional meaning of the “Last Judgment”. Rather than denoting something that might happen at the end of linear time, or as a punishment, Blake suggests that it happens and is happening now (it is the ending of the linear time “program”), and instead of it referring to a process of accusation and condemnation, it is a release from all programs of accusation. Indeed, the end of linear time can never arrive for the left hemisphere, since to be identified with the left brain is to be inside the linear time construct. As Damon has observed: 

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William Blake and the Spiritual Form of Tony Blair, by Rod Tweedy

The Rise and Fall of Urizen: Psychopathy and Rationality

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Introduction: The Triumph of the Left Hemisphere

In his startling conclusion to his illuminated prophecy Jerusalem: The Emanation of the Giant Albion, Blake depicts Urizen (“your Reason”) in his final, contemporary form: completely dissociated or divided: no longer the originally luminous and enlightening power within the human brain, that he had once been, but now a totally unempathic, ruthless, manipulative drive, obsessed only with power and control. Blake refers to this “debased” or “insane” and dysfunctional form of the former “Holy Reasoning Power” as the “Red Dragon”, “the Dragon Urizen”.

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Through the Round Window: Review of Carol Leader’s ‘Blake and the Therapists’, by Rod Tweedy

A Review of ‘Unfolding the Mythological Unconscious: An Illuminated Talk’ by Carol Leader

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Introduction: William Blake and Therapy

“Was William Blake mad?” is the usual question that comes up in any discussion of Blake and therapy. What was fascinating about psychoanalytic psychotherapist Carol Leader’s talk at the Blake Society event at the Freud Museum was the way in which she explored this connection between ‘Blake and the Therapists’ on a new and much more profound level. Indeed, her presentation was so thought-provoking that it makes you wonder why more hasn’t been written on this connection. As Tim Heath noted in his introduction to the talk, “whenever you converse with William Blake, whenever you dive into his work, it immediately becomes apparent why Blake intimated the coming of therapy.”

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‘Come, You Giants!’: Review of Jez Butterworth’s ‘Jerusalem’, by Rod Tweedy

Albion’s Enslavement: Green and Pleasant Lands vs Chartered Streets 

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In April 2022, Jez Butterworth’s terrific, William Blake-inspired drama Jerusalem returns to London for a special, limited 16-week run. I was lucky enough to see it last night at the press review – red carpet, flashing cameras, which was also kind of fun to see, and a sign of the eagerness with which the revival of this play – often said to be the “greatest British play of the 21st century” – has been greeted.

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Fearful Symmetry: Blake and the Symbolism of the Left Brain, by Iain McGilchrist

TygerTyger: The Predators, the Single Eye, and the Pyramids within our Heads

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Introduction: Symbols and Symptoms

In 2014, the psychiatrist and philosopher Iain McGilchrist gave a remarkable talk on the art and symbolism of patients with schizophrenia or psychosis (‘Neuromania – Spiders, yes, but why cats?‘). The presentation was not only a fascinating insight into the nature of these conditions, and the implicit and intrinsic connections between symptoms and symbols, but also a profound exploration of the peculiar symbolism and imagery that more generally surrounds us in our supposedly hyper-rational cultures, and which artist and writer William Blake somehow understood and drew upon.

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The Shadow of Christmas, by Rod Tweedy

Charles Dickens and the Manufacture of Christmas 

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Introduction: Unpacking the Myth of Christmas

When we think of Christmas, we often think of the glowing celebrations and colourful conjuring-up of deep midwinter festivals and festivities, of the re-telling of a story that has gone back 2,000 years to the birth of a child in a manger, under a burning star, or even further back into time – to the glimmerings and Götterdämmerungs of much older, more ancestral pagan celebrations and rituals of solstice suns and the promise of the rebirth of the year, that make us feel somehow that we’re participating in some deep magic, some atavistic world of connection and history, as we cosy ourselves back in our sofas, turn on the TV, and pour another glass of mulled wine.

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The Golden Compasses: William Blake and Freemasonry

The Single Eye, the Dividers, and the Pyramid: Understanding the God of This World 

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Introduction

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. 

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Narcissus 2.0: Left Brain Technology and Civilisation, by Marshall McLuhan

How the phonetic alphabet drove the Fall into Division

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 Marshall McLuhan’s Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man is widely considered to be “the most important book ever written on communication,” and is famous for introducing the concepts of the “global village” and “the medium is the message”. But it’s really much more than even that – it’s a wholesale critique of how technology, from the radical development of the phonetic alphabet by mercantile and bureaucratic Phoenician traders in the 7th-8th century BC (“by Phoenician business men”), to the dramatic impact of the Gutenberg printing press in the 15th century, and the even greater impacts and consequences of radio, television, and the internet (by modern “business men”) in the 20th-21st centuries, has radically changed our way of being, our way of thinking, our way of relating, and even our way of feeling, remaking our very bodies – as he observes in this compelling article – in its own image.

McLuhan’s arguments are remarkable, not only for their own acute perceptions and analysis of the nature of media, and his striking framing of this development in terms of the left and right hemispheres, but also for the light they shine on Blake’s in many ways similar and equally radical critique of what is often called “civilisation”. McLuhan frequently references Blake, as someone who he felt recognised these changes and cognitive shifts and really understood the nature of “media”. As he acutely observes, Blake saw Newton and Locke and others as hyponitized Narcissus types quite unable to meet the challenge of mechanism.

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Blake and the Zodiac, by Rod Tweedy

Here Comes the Sun King: Forging the Template of Solar Consciousness

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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.

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Mysterium Coniunctionis: Jung, Blake and the alchemy of the Brain, by Rod Tweedy

The Philosopher’s Stone and the integration of the Brain

Introduction

Mysterium Coniunctionis was Jung’s last great work. He was engaged on it for more than a decade, from 1941-1954, and finished it in his eightieth year. The book therefore occupies, as one critic observed, “the culminating position in his writings” (The Collected Works of C.G. Jung). In it he compellingly links the practices of alchemy and psychology through a profound analysis of symbolism and an examination of their shared ideas of the integration and ‘union of opposites’. As he notes, “Not only does this modern psychological discipline give us the key to the secrets of alchemy, but, conversely, alchemy provides the psychology of the unconscious with a meaningful historical basis.”

It’s a fascinating, illuminating, and at times breath-taking study, which draws not only on a wide number of alchemical texts but also on Kabbalistic ideas and symbols such as Adam Kadmon (Primordial Man), the Sefirot, and the union of the ‘Holy One’ and his bride. According to Jung, humankind has historically moved from a condition in which it projects the contents of its unconscious onto the world and heavens to one in which, as a result of a total identification with the rational powers of the ego, it has not only withdrawn its vivifying projections from the world but also fails to recognize or understand the archetypes of the unconscious mind.

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