Tag Archive: Heaven and Hell

Brothers in Pen

So far, what we do know of Blake’s beliefs regarding Swedonborg and the Moravian Church in is that Swedonborg is a false proclaimer; that he claims to have realized certain beliefs before others have. “Now hear a plain fact: Swedonborg has not written one new truth:/ Now hear another: he has written all the old falsehoods” (79). Blake essentially claims that Swedonborg has not discovered anything new, but just regurgitated what has already been said. Now the ideals that Thomas Paine seems to have is that the world will never be under one person or one set of rules forever.

“There never did, there never will, and there never can, exist a parliament, or any description of men, or any generation of men, in any country, possessed of the right or power binding and controlling posterity to the ‘end of time’, or of commanding for ever how the world shall be governed, or who shall govern it” (24).

In “A Song of Liberty,” Blake makes multiple remarks that ring the same bell as Paine’s belief; that one government/person will never be forever set in stone. “Shadows of Prophecy shiver along by the lakes and the rivers and mutter across the ocean? France rend down thy dungeon” (81). According to the footnotes, the dungeon is the Bastille which was destroyed in 1789, which represented a political change right before the 1790s and represented Blake’s position towards the French Revolution. As if this was not enough, Blake chooses to outright profess his views with “Empire is no more! and now the lion & wolf shall cease” (82).


Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing

William Blake’s 8th proverb of Hell, in which he explores the acquisition of wisdom through an authority figure uses contrasting animal symbols of wisdom and meekness to show how information is controlled by those in power and backed by a false religious ideology. Although speaking in the voice of Satan, Blake brings up provoking and valid points about how those in power are deplorable and reaffirm their power in religion. In the beginning of the proverb, Blake uses animals as symbols of vices and equates them with being “of God”. This paradox suggests that God/religion has enabled the vice, which is reaffirmed in the first line “Prisons are built with stones of Law, Brothels with bricks of Religion” (line 21). These vices are then exalted in the next lines, as they “are too great for the eye of man” (line 29). Blake becomes somewhat allegorical here, as the peacock stands in for those that are flashy, the goat stands in for those that are have avarice, and the lion stands in for those that have wrath. It is worthwhile to mention that all of these types of people are in positions of power and use Religion to back them up. Their counterparts, the vermin amongst the animals: the rat, the mouse, the fox, and rabbet are meant to symbolize those that are considered to be worthless but are actually the fosters of “the roots” (line 33). In light of Blake’s history as an engraver, craftsman, and mechanic, he would have been a rat amongst lions who claimed all the fame and righteousness, and yet shunned Blake and his progressive thought. This is perhaps made stark by the concluding lines, “Always be ready to speak your mind, and a base man will avoid you” (37), the base man being the peacock, goat, and lion, or those in power. Blake’s final message of egalitarianism and progressive thought is echoed again in another animal metaphor: “the eagle never lost so much time, as when he submitted to learn of the crow” (line 39), meaning that one loses time when they submit to those in power. This ties back to the genre of “The Marriage of Heaven and Hell” because it suggests that Heaven and Hell are not so different and that we may be living under the false pretense that one is the other. While conventional thought might appear to be of God, it could in reality be of the Devil.


-Sara Nuila-Chae

Blakes touches on his idea of the poetic Genius again, in “Provers of Hell”; he claims that it is both a natural–not taught–kind of Genius, and that it isn’t necessarily the best looking process. Blake writes in lines 66-7: “Improvement makes strait roads, but the crooked roads without Improvement, are roads of Genius.” This goes back to the conversation with Blake and Reynolds wherein Blake argues that the kind of poetic Genius he is talking about cannot be taught in an institution; it is merely within us all and only within ourselves can we find that power.

So then, what Blake is restating in this proverb is the “naturalness” of that Genius, claiming that though it is not practiced and taught, it is the best path to walk on. In addition, he is also stating that through the Genius, improvement is futile because what is written through the Genius cannot be perfected nor improved; it is already perfect.

The same idea comes in form of another proverb: “All wholesom food is caught without a net or a trap”, which alludes to the unnecessary use of extra tools. Relating back to my argument, those tools would be practices of exploiting the Genius out of the body by way of force through an institution. The way of the Genius, the natural & crooked, is more wholesome than using the aid of others.

I suppose the first part of the proverb, the institutionalized aspect of learning, belongs to hell; Blake sees this way of thinking as an infernal belief. The reason for this is because the narrator of the Marriage texts reflects Blake’s character and artistry, through the fact that he is self-educated and discusses his teaching of the proverbs he’s found. The parallel then shifts the poetic Genius to the divine image of heaven. In the marriage between himself and society, he is the prophet.

–Daniel Lizaola Lopez

The Garden of Earthly Delights

Blake opposes Swedenborg’s belief that Heaven and Hell balance each other out in a stable equilibrium.  For Blake,  Heaven and Hell can never be equal, and the whole concept of contraries is that they are the “never-ending clash of ideas.” (67).

“Without Contraries there is no progression.  Attraction and Repulsion, Reason and Energy, Love and Hate, are necessary to Human existence.” (69).

When Blake quotes the Voice of the Devil, one of the sacred codes is that “Energy is Eternal Delight,” and energy=evil, so in the voice of the Devil, the entirety of human existence is in a sense evil, that love and passion (of the body, and of the sexual kind) is, well, evil.

We think of love as this good, multiplying force in the world, but it can also “multiply” the human race, but to do so requires sexual love, condemned as “bad.”  So…is it good or bad?  Let’s go back to the beginning of the  16th century in Northern European Art.  (This is before the Reformation).

Hieronymous Bosch created some pretty “Blakean” triptychs–triptychs are three paneled pieces of art meant to go in a church, usually over the altar piece.  Triptychs can be closed, and the outer panels usually display art that juxtaposes the interior scenes.  Right now we are going to focus on The Garden of Earthly Delights (1504), now in the Prado Museum in Madrid.

Bosch depicts the Creation of the World, from the creation of Adam and Eve in the Terrestrial Paradise aka The Garden of Eden (on the left), to what their fall created (the center piece, meant to be Earth), and then on the right is Hell.

There is some pretty crazy stuff going on if we look closely.

The left wing shows the institution of marriage (Adam and Eve) as approved by God, but we all know that that innocent state didn’t last long.  The fact that Bosch names the piece The Garden of Earthly Delights (despite the fact that we cannot be sure who named this triptych…the idea of artists “naming” their own art is a modern concept), it plays on the name the Garden of Eden, suggesting that Earth is a type of paradise as well.  This is the kind of thinking that the Devil (and probably even Blake), would encourage.  Yet the church teaches that humans live in a state of sin–so is constant sex a sin, or is it living out God’s message to go forth into the world and procreate, and in procreation, create more poetic-geniuses?

I thought this passage from Oxford Art Online summed it up nicely: The ambiguity is, in fact, intended and is fundamental to a proper understanding of the triptych. Its ‘message’ is approximately as follows: sexuality can become an end in itself, owing to an unchaste interpretation of the paradisiacal state of marriage instituted by God, with the command to increase and multiply. Thus men and women believe they are living in a lovers’ paradise (the grail), but it is really false and pernicious.”

Earth is the very combination of Heaven and Hell–a sexual paradise is the Marriage of Heaven and Hell.  In the central panel, all the possible forms of copulation remind me of  the cover page for Blake’s the Marriage of Heaven and Hell. One of the most powerful statements in the entire Marriage book for me is that “if the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is, infinite.”  (75).

Love is infinite, as we discussed in class, and perhaps by clearing our perceptions of what love is, from Blake’s point of view, infinite love is the union of both spiritual and bodily love.  The opposite of Heaven is Hell, but what is the contrary to Earth?  Progression is made by contraries–progression of the human race with sexual relations (man vs woman), and in the collision of Heaven and Hell is Earth.