Theodore Roszak


William Blake - image 


Unless the eye catch fire

The God Will not be seen

Unless the ear catch fire

The God will not be heard

Unless the tongue catch fire

The God will not be named  

Unless the heart catch fire

The God will not be loved

Unless the mind catch fire

The God will not be known

William Blake


Blake: The Fourfold Vision 

Blake against Newton. Fourfold against single vision. "Abstract Philosophy warring in enmity against Imagination (which is the Divine Body of the Lord Jesus, blessed for ever)." But Blake insists single vision is not to be rejected; it is to be embraced within the fourfold whole: the naturalistic within the sacred, Newton's science within Blake's Imagination.  

 The Atoms of Democritus

  And Newton's Particles of Light

Are sands upon the Red sea shore

Where Israel's tents do shine so bright.  

Newton's particles are there; so too the atoms of analytical science but as sand grains in the visionary landscape. Single vision dis-integrates the landscape, reduces it to bits and pieces, discovers bow it works, but not what it means. The action of the parts blocks out the meaning of the whole.

Again, in the letter to Thomas Butts (November 1802) Blake returns to Newton's "particles bright/the jewels of light," recounts a vision. In it he has seen "each was a Man/Human-form'd"; and how all the world's particles assumed the shape of One Man:

The Jewels of Light,

Heavenly Men beaming bright

Appear'd as One Man

Who Complacent began

My limbs to infold

In his beams of bright gold

One Man: Blake's "Divine Humanity": the cosmos human-shaped and human-faced. The cabbalistic Adam Kadmon. Man is nature as microcosm; nature is man as macrocosm. As above, so below. The secret of the universe lies in the alchemist's homunculus: bow the elemental stuff of nature shall be made magically alive and transmitted into a human meaning. "Everything is Human, mighty! sublime! / ln every bosom a Universe expands as wings. . ."

Blake (drawing on Boehme) makes the Hermetic wisdom his reply to Newton. Newton's study is true science, but exclusively the science of the fallen state: of "generation," of "vegetation," of the mythical realm called Ulro. Ulro is for Blake the death-in-life of the cosmos: "in Satan's bosom, a vast unfathomable Abyss"; "a self-devouring monstrous Human Death . . . a frozen bulk subject to decay and death." But Ulro is no more to be rejected than to be obsessively studied. It is to be redeemed from its fallenness, reclaimed for the spirit. How? By a revolution of perception; by the "Divine Arts of Imagination" which reveal "the real and eternal World of which this Vegetable Universe is but a faint shadow." 

Newton's universe is matter, motion, force, law: alien, "petrific," "a wondrous void.'' Blake's universe is a universe of Beings, mythic presences that merge, multiply, are fluidly transformed: a dramatis personae of dream-beings. (The prophetic books are presented as dreams; there is much of Blake's dream texture in Joyce's Finnegan's Wake the same symbolic plasticity and ambiguity.)

The principal Beings are the Zoas; they are the; key to Blake. Fourfold vision is peace and right order restored among the four Zoas: "four Mighty Ones are in every Man: a Perfect Unity / Cannot Exist but from the Universal Brotherhood of Eden, / The Universal Man. . . " The Zoas are Blake's peculiar psychology of mythic entities. In the prophetic books, they are bitterly at war; they torment, oppress, cheat, deceive.      

Their battlefield is ''Albion, the universal man, the human soul. Albion divided and at war is "generation," "vegetation" "Ulro." Albion integrated and risen is "Eternity," Jerusalem." "Beulah" is “the threshold of Eternity,” the locus of metaphysical harmony.''

There is a place where Contrarieties are equally True:

This place is called Beulah . . . Created around Eternity,


To the Inhabitants of Eden around them on all sides.


Who are the Zoas?

Urizen, “cold and scientific,” the Zoa of Reason.

Luvah, "pitying and weeping," the Zoa of Energy, Passion, Feeling.

Los, "fierce prophetic boy," the Zoa of Prophetic Power.

Tharmas, "Parent power," the Zoa of Spirit,  

Take them one at a time.  


By far Blake's most compelling image, a masterful creation. Urizen, from the Greek: to limit, bound, restrict; also "Your Reason.'' Urizen is single vision: functional logicality, that which divides up, limits, draws lines the dominant Zoa of scientized culture, the Zoa that rules modern society. His sign is "the Starry Wheels": law, logic, inexorable order: the world-machine.              

Urizen embodies Blake's full horror of the scientific cosmos, which is a "soul-shudd'ring vacuum" fashioned conceptually by a demon intelligence:          

Lo, a shadow of horror is risen

In Eternity! Unknown, unprolific,

Self-enclos'd, all-repelling: what Demon

Hath form'd this abominable void,

This soul-shudd'ring vacuum? Some said "It is Urizen."

It is Your Reason.   

Yet Urizen is after all a Zoa, a god of the creation. As the rational power, he was in Eternity "the Prince of Light," a figure of majestic beauty. But in the fallen state, in isolation and stern dominion ("petrifying all the Human Imagination into rock & sand") he becomes Satan, "Newton's Pantocrator."

(Urizen, as Satan, is also the "tyger, tyger burning bright": the god of brute, unfeeling power, antithesis of the lamb of God.)

In the most famous of Blake's drawings, Urizen is the bearded demigod, the ancient of days, creator of the fallen world, reaching down to measure off space with giant calipers.        

            Time on times he divided & measur'd 

Space by space in his ninefold darkness,     

Unseen, unknown. . .

Here, Blake's nicely balanced ambiguity. The image is among his most dramatically impressive (certainly his most often reproduced). Yet it is (for Blake) also an image of horror, of force without vision, "the idiot Reasoner."

Again, Urizen is "the great Work master": the demiurgos: the God of wrath and jealousy: giver of moral laws. For Blake, this was the Biblical Elohim, the demon-god of fallen mankind: Newton's heavenly watchmaker, god of "natural religion" and of the churches: "Nobodaddy" — "my vision's greatest enemy." But, shrewdly, Blake sees: "Man must & will have Some Religion: if he has not the Religion of Jesus, he will have the Religion of Satan" — meaning the worship of science: idolatry.

Under the despotism of Urizen, the life of the senses decays, "vegetates." We fall to the empirical lie.

We are led to Believe a Lie     

When we see with, not through the Eye

Which was Born in a Night to perish in a Night

When the Soul Slept in Beams of Light".

Our infinite senses" shrink and grow opaque. The extreme limit of this opacity, this materialization and objectification of sense life, Blake calls "Satan." Psychically and morally, the shrinkage is experienced as "Selfhood": the alienated identity "shut in narrow doleful form." Philosophically, the shrinkage is experienced as the "truth", of the scientific worldview: the world as seen by a dead man's eyes.

The Visions of Eternity, by reason of narrowed perceptions,

Are become weak Visions of Time & Space, fix'd into furrows of death. . .

The Eye of Man, a little narrow orb, clos'd up & dark, 

Scarcely beholding the Great Light, conversing with the ground:

The Ear, a little shell, in small volutions shutting out

True Harmonies & comprehending great as very small. . .

To such diminished consciousness, nature becomes Blake's Vala, the "Shadowy Female" (the veil: the delusion: physically Out There but lacking moral and poetic significance: Maya, who deludes by claiming to be the totality).

No breaking Urizen's tyranny, then, but by cleansing "the doors of perception":                                  

Let the Human Organs be kept in their perfect integrity,

At will Contracting into Worms or Expanding into Gods,

And then, behold! what are these Ulro Visions.

"If the doors of perception were cleansed everything would appear to man as it is, infinite."

But . . .Urizen is also the Zoa of physical power. That is his trump card. Urizen is builder of the "dark Satanic mills," architect of vast geometric structures, imperial cities: master of the "Mundane Shell," genius of the machines: "The Loom of Locke. . .the Water wheels of Newton . . . cruel Works of many Wheels, wheel without wheel, with cogs tyrannic . . ." This is Urizen-Satan’s spell over mankind: "To Mortals thy Mills seem everything."

          Alienated Reason brings vast technical power — even though alienated Reason is

An Abstract objecting power that Negatives everything.

This is the Spectre of Man, the Holy Reason,

And in its Holiness is closed the Abomination of Desolation.

And yet Urizen dares to teach, can only teach that the Spectre ("the Reasoning Power") is the whole person:

"Lo, l am God," says Urizen. "The Spectre is the Man. The rest is only delusion & fancy."

But of course, "the Spectre is in every Man insane, brutish, deform'd . . ." That is why (here is Blake's great insight) Urizen's will to power is grounded wholly in despair! He sits among his vast works "folded in dark despair," knowing nothing of purpose, value, meaning . . . except to build more, subdue more; knowing nothing of Eternity, but only of time's bondage and the absurdity of mortality.

. . . he stood in the Human Brain, 

And all its golden porches grew pale with his sickening light,    

No more Exulting, for he saw Eternal Death beneath.

Pale, he beheld futurity: pale, he beheld the Abyss. . .

Stern Urizen beheld. . .

    if perchance with iron power

He might avert his own despair.    

No living motivation here: only the frenzy of desperation, the fever pitch of anxiety: the panicky flight from meaninglessness: keeping busy, conquering, achieving . . . on the brink of the void. As in Beckett's Godot: the only purpose left is to pass the time . . . any mad project will do . . . keep your mind off it . . . think up a game . . . make up a task . . . something spectacular . . . rockets to the moon. Camus missed a nice irony: Sisyphus finishes by inventing himself ingenious machines to roll the rock. "Progress": the mechanization of absurdity. 

The regime of Urizen-Satan is despair, despair, despair. Where Urizen appears in Blakes work, the word is on every page. Single vision is despair: clever-minded despair. Blake has the matter by the throat: what Marx and all the later ideologues failed to see: once endorse scientific-industrial values, and the struggle for justice is pitched on the edge of Urizen's wasteland.

2. Luvah.

Energy: love: the full, free emotive power of the soul: spontaneous vitality. But Luvah is the least well drawn of the Zoas, a poor and elusive sketch. Why? Because Urizen far overbears him. The age belongs to Urizen. Urizen has driven out Luvah: Reason has imprisoned feeling, made it unconscious, irrational, bad, black, guilty, the underdog, the outcast, the nigger, the female.     

Luvah was cast into the Furnaces of affliction & sealed.

He cries:

They have surrounded me with walls of iron & brass

. . . I suffer affliction                          

Because I love, for I was love, but hatred awakes in me. . .

The hand of Urizen is upon me. . .

0 Urizen, my enemy, I weep for thy stern ambition,

But weep in vain.

Even for Blake, the life of free, natural impulse must have been hard to conceive. "Jesus was all virtue, and acted from impulse, not from rules." But in Urizen's world, we all become strangers to our native vitality. Hence, the thin delineation of Luvah. Blake's best treatment of Energy is in The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, where we find: "Energy is the only life, and is from the Body; and Reason is the bound or outward circumference of Energy. Energy is Eternal Delight."

As in Blake's magnificent painting "Glad Day": the joy of innocent play: mortality, the body, and the earth freely enjoyed: the Great Affirmation. Adam before the fall. Luvah is that total, spontaneous knowledge which was Adam's "knowledge" of Eve: a knowing so complete it can be carnally savored.  

But this is what the ascetic work-master Urizen cannot tolerate: exuberance, the life of the free emotions. He appears at the end of the Marriage as the jealous, gloomy "starry king": the law-giver god who persecutes '"the sons of joy" and "promulgates his ten commands."

See how shrewdly Blake links Biblical law with Newton's Universal laws of nature. He sees the psychic continuity: God as moral policeman carries over into God as cosmic technocrat: order, control, discipline, system, ascetic rigor: the maniacal asceticism of "intellectual respectability."

Luvah is weakly drawn. But not so his negative alter ego, Orc, "the demon red": (from Orcus: hell; from the Greek: testicles). As Satan is to Urizen, so Orc is to Luvah: the fallen aspect of once-divine beauty. Orc is Energy turned hideous with restriction: the chained beast of thwarted desire, howling, howling. (Hence the terrible saying: "Sooner, murder an infant in its cradle than nurse unacted desires.") Set free, Orc is mayhem, devastation, the blood-bath of revolutionary terror. He is the "lover of wild rebellion" . . .

The firey joy that Urizen perverted to ten commands . . .

That stony law I stamp to dust . . .

(Even so, Blake puts into his mouth the great line:

For everything that lives is holy, life delights in life;

          Because the soul of sweet delight can never be defil’d.

But this was in 1793 in the poem America, before the revolution in France had run to mass butchery. In the later poems Orc grows more ferocious, remains bound and raging in the deeps.)  

Blake, foreshadows both Nietzsche and Freud: cool head outlaws hot blood; Urizen drives the passions into dungeons of unreason. Science increases the pressure upon sensual joy: empiricism becomes empiricide, the murder of experience. Science uses the senses but does not enjoy them; finally buries them under theory, abstraction, mathematical generalization. At the foundations of Urizen's palace, Luvah-Orc lies writhing, burning for vengeance.  

"Damn braces: Bless relaxes." "He who desires but acts not, breeds pestilence." Blake saw: there is no cure for civilization’s discontents by way of repression. So the image of wild Orc enchained is Blake's symbol of war: "Energy enslav'd." The last resort of embattled vitality is blind, indiscriminate destruction.     

Easy at this point to mistake Blake for Wilhelm Reich or D.H. Lawrence. But Energy, while "from the body," participates in Eternity. With Blake, everything moves toward Eternity. Heaven and Hell, Reason and Impulse are to be married, but within the fourfold vision of the prophetic books. There are two Zoas more, and they take us well beyond sexual liberation. Blake could strike the Rabelaisian note . . . but only in passing. Sex belongs to the garments of the soul.     

 3. Los.                                                           

The Eternal Prophet. From Sol, the alchemical sun; but also from "loss," for Los is the fallen alter ego of Urthona, the perfected prophetic genius. In Eternity, Los and his consort Enitharmon are united as the one figure Urthona, the androgyne. The secret meaning of prophecy lies, for Blake, in this androgynous origin.

It is when Los and Enitharmon part in bitterness ("She drave the Females all away from Los, And Los drave the Males from her away") that Urizen — masculine discipline and abstraction — rises triumphant over Ulro. His supremacy is the sign of "their divisions & shrinkings." As Los warns:  

    .  .  . for One must be All

And comprehend within himself all things both small & great.

Yet the rupture takes place: the masculine and feminine souls part company in dominance and submission. This is Blake's version of yin and yang falling out of harmonious balance. Thus Los, wounded and diminished, is Prophesy reduced in power — but nonetheless struggling on heroically against single vision. He is the embattled poet in this world of generation. Los's cry, Blake's own:

I must Create a System or be enslav'd by another Man's, 

I will not Reason & Compare:

my business is to Create.

Los is ever the strenuous workman. Creation is a sweaty labor for him; hammer and anvil, looms and furnaces. Like Blake, his genius is born of the fiery forge with bellows and tongs. Los and Enitharmon are, though divided and weakened, nonetheless the enduring creative forces of human culture. Between them, they raise up the strange city called Golgonooza, the fallen paradise: the best of civilization under conditions of alienation. Golgonooza holds out against Urizen and Orc, between Eden and Ulro, between Beulah and Generation. Blake acknowledged: though we are fallen, yet there is Milton, Shakespeare, Michelangelo...the saving remnant that reminds and draws us on.

The polarity of Urizen-Satan and Luvah-Orc is mirrored in the split between Los and Enitharmon. Los is "the Sublime," gravitating toward Urizen, Enitharmon is "the Pathos," gravitating toward Luvah.

. . . no more the Masculine mingles

With the Feminine, but the Sublime is shut out from the Pathos

In howling torment, to build stone walls of separation, compelling

The Pathos to weave curtains of hiding secresy from the torment

Los's weakness is suppression of the feminine. He ejects Enitharmon from himself and seeks to dominate her. Enitharmon resists ("be thou assured I never will be thy slave"). She goes into hiding ("I will Create secret places"). She grows furtive, devious, vengeful.   

Two Wills they had, Two lntellects, & not as in times of old.

From this follows the sexual delusion: masculine and feminine become sexual roles rather than attributes of the integrated soul. Sexual union becomes a corporeal counterfeit of psychic unity. Man and woman then seek to appropriate one another's psyche through sexual love, physically and externally: "terrified at each other's beauty, Envying each other, yet desiring in all-devouring Love." Blake can accept sex at that level, as a beginning. But he also sees the divine correspondence — as in the Tantric symbolism of Shakti and Shiva. (He realized too that the role playing can make a mess of sex relations. He is precociously good on the issue of women's liberation — as in his Daughters of Albion.)

So Los declares;

. . . Sexes must vanish & cease

To be when Albion arises from his dread repose. . .

Importantly, Los forges the chains of both Orc and Urizen. What does Blake mean by this? It is another image of the split between Los and Enitharmon. Prophesy ("poetic genius") is the struggle to integrate divided mind. For Blake, the integration is a constant labor, often failing. Los can never rest; the task of holding Urizen and Ore at bay goes on forever. Surely Los is autobiographical: Blake himself toiling fitfully at the marriage of heaven and hell, suffering within himself the great western dissociation:       

The laborer of ages in the Valleys of Despair. . .

He kept the Divine Vision in time of trouble. . .

So we have the Zoas Of Reason and Energy — and the Zoa of Prophesy, which is "the true man." And when Prophesy achieves masculine-feminine wholeness, if only for a moment . . . what then? Then the quality of perception alters, "Creating Space, Creating Time, according to the wonder Divine of Human Imagination . . ."

A new reality where the meanings of things predominate; where the transcendent correspondences shine through. It is the world turned inside out by visionary power: a world of bright symbolic presences.                        

Mental Things are alone Real; what is call’d Corporeal,

Nobody knows of its Dwelling Place: it is in Fallacy,

& its Existence an Imposture. . . I assert for My Self

that I do not behold the outward Creation that to me

it is hindrance & not Action; it is as the Dirt upon my

feet, No part of Me.. "What," it will be Question'd,

"When the Sun rises, do you not see a round disk of

fire somewhat like a Guinea?" 0 no, no, I see Innu-

merable company of the Heavenly host crying "Holy,

Holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty." I question not

my Corporeal or Vegetative Eye any more than I would

Question a Window concerning a Sight. I look thro' it &

not with it.

And he means it. He means it!

Los: "the magician of perception" (Kathleen Raine)

As above, so below.  

4. Finally, Tharmas.

The most subtle image. He is the alchemist's deus absconditus, awaiting redemption: the spiritual essence of nature — the chrysosperm — trapped in matter. Matter is personified in his temptress-consort Enion, the watery principle in which spirit first contemplates its reflection, and then, Narcissus-like, falls.

The Neoplatonic-Hermetic myth: light fallen into darkness, the subtle and gross joined in forced marriage. But Enion is not for Blake a figure of evil and contempt; Blake could not be so world-denying. Rather, she is pitiful: a lonely and guilt-stricken woman bordering on non-entity, wanting Tharmas, loving him, yet afraid of his spiritual potency.

Their troubled love affair is the alchemical master myth of Blake's prophetic books, leading at last to their reconciliation and apotheosis — and to some of Blake's loveliest lyric passages.

Thus Enion:

"The clouds fall off from my wet brow, the dust from my cold limbs

Into the sea of Tharmas. Soon renew'd, a Golden Moth,

I shall cast off my death clothes & Embrace Tharmas again."

Joy thrill'd thro' all the Furious forms Of Tharmas humanizing.

  Mild he embrac'd her whom he sought; he rais'd her thro' the heavens,

Sounding his trumpet to awake the dead, on high he soar'd

Over the ruin'd worlds, the smoking tomb of the Eternal Prophet.

The Eternal Man arose.

The love feast and "chemical marriage" of Tharmas-Enion: this is what imagination, at its highest power, perceives. The Zoas unify in this master symbol. Blake is talking about more than psychic transformations. Jung would not do justice here. For with Blake, perception makes reality. At the heart of the fourfold vision we have the universe as the stage on which the sacrificial drama is eternally played out: "Visionary forms dramatic" — amid which the human soul performs its peculiar role as Witness and celebrant.

Here was what Newton's science could not, would not see behind the veil of appearances: the descent, passion, and resurrection of spirit, the redemption of inert nature, nature sanctified. For the whole meaning of science is to "vegetate the Divine Vision," to block out the transcendent correspondences in favor of power-knowledge.

The science of Ulro is — uniquely and willfully — love-drunk on the "delusions of Vala": necrophilia.

Against Newton's sleep, the conclusion of Jerusalem raises up its Hermetic paean of joy: the ancient science for which everything, everything was live and holy. "And every Man stood Fourfold; each Four Faces had." And. the vision was of unity:                                  

All Human Forms identified, even Tree, Metal; Earth & Stone: all 

Human Forms identified, living, going forth & returning wearied

Into the Planetary lives of Years, Months, Days & Hours; reposing,

And then Awaking into his Bosom, in the Life of Immortality. 

What at last, is the "sickness of Albion," our sickness? That we cannot perceive the sacrificial drama which we are in spirit participants. Albion cannot see that natural history is the projection at large of his own spiritual history. "He has lost part of his soul; and conversely, the phenomenal world, emptied of spiritual life, has become a desert." (Kathleen Raine)                              

Blake's prophetic epics are a troubling literature. For all their power — and there are passages as great as anything in the shorter lyrics — they are too often impossibly bookish. (Here again Blake reminds of Joyce.) Blake takes his symbolic vocabulary from formidable sources: the Gnostic and Hermetic philosophers, Boehme, Paracelsus, Thomas Taylor, Swedenborg, the Bible, and all this overlaid with the Christianity of the English "Everlasting Gospel" tradition — an intoxicating brew, but often murky in the extreme. There is a deadening amount of haze and allusive congestion — and much that is bound always to hide in the obscurity of the initial inspiration.

Blake says he took the poems down from "immediate dictation . . . without premeditation & even against my will." "Spiritual Mystery and Real Vision" was what he wanted, not well-wrought allegory — the obvious vice of this type of literature. A watertight system would have been a surrender to Urizen, prophetic power yielding to neat intellectual equations. But often still he gropes his way out of the mythological density by resorting to flat prosaic Statements of abstract metaphysics:

What is Above is Within, for everything in Eternity is translucent:

The Circumference is Within, Without is formed the Selfish Center,

And the Circumference still expands going forward to Eternity. . .  

These are deep sayings; but it is not Blake at his poetic best. And there is much of this. 

The weakness relates to Blake's greatest problem. He worked from esoteric tradition because he could nowhere else entrust his vision. The world he lived in — both human and natural — had become for him a void, an unreality: too fallen and corrupted to take into his art. He could take nothing for what it simply and immediately was. He was like a man with X-ray eyesight. He never saw the world before his eyes. He never wanted to. His gaze burned right through the "Mundane Shell" to the visionary dimension beyond it; as he put it, "melting apparent surfaces away, and displaying the infinite which was hid." Blake's vision was only for "the Permanent Realities of Every Thing which we see reflected in the Vegetable Glass of Nature."

There is not a single piece of autonomous, physical nature in Blake: no poetic still lives, or landscapes. Everything natural and social is subordinated to its transcendent correspondence. The tyger is not for a moment nature's tyger, but a symbol. The sunflower is not nature's sunflower, but a symbol. The London Blake walked through was, though not wholly, a symbolic London — and the chimney sweeps he Writes of have more metaphysical echoes than flesh and blood to them. Even the stars could not be for Blake the beautiful sight they simply are to the eyes, but became (uniquely for him of all poets) a negative image: they belong to Urizen as the symbol of frigid, regimented Rationality.

Sad to say: Blake did not love nature. It remained for him the Shadowy Female, the seductive Vala. "Satan's Wife. The Goddess Nature." "Natural Objects, he confesses in his notes on Wordsworth, "always did & now do weaken, deaden & obliterate Imagination in me." And elsewhere: "Nature Teaches nothing of Spiritual Life but only Natural Life." Love of nature, Blake felt, "had to be purchased at the cost of divine love: "Everything is atheism which assumes the reality of the natural and spiritual world." Finally, at his Gnostic darkest: "Nature is the work of the Devil."

Blake's anti-naturalism cuts him off sharply from the other Romantics. But why the hostility? Because nature had become, since Newton, the province of the single-visioned scientists. They laid claim to "saving the appearances" Blake (mistakenly) surrendered to the claim — then reacted against the loss by bitterly abandoning all poetic interest in "natural objects." They survive as symbols to him, but as nothing in their own right.

Blake was too naively, too crudely the disciple of Berkeley. "Mental Things are alone Real." Accepting that the world was "really" in the mind, he could not then make much of the fact that it is also "really" in the senses and there to be enjoyed.                     

To be sure, in the Marriage, Blake pleads for "an improvement of sensual enjoyment." The notion is there; Blake is nothing if not rich and various. But the idea never makes its way into his poetry. He discusses it, but does not express it. 

What he failed to grasp is that the scientist's sense-world (Ulro) is not the sense-world as it really is. It claims to be "empirical," but is in fact a materialist-theoretical model designed for the sake of power-knowledge. It corresponds to nature as a map does to a landscape: as a useful reduction of reality. It is painters and poets who really look at the world — and look at it, and look at it, until they lovingly gaze it into their art; no explaining, no theorizing, no generalizing, no analyzing . . . only the pure pleasure of seeing (or hearing, or smelling, or feeling). The "Newtonian Phantasm" is exactly that: a phantasm, a gray ghost of the immediate sensory environment.

So to grow drunk on the sensory delights of nature — birdsong, flowersmell, skycolor, herbtaste — is as much a way of undermining "Satan's Mathematic Holiness" as to pierce through to the visionary correspondences. Here was an element of Hermeticism which Blake lost along the way. For alchemy is a science of just those "secondary qualities" that Galileo, Descartes, Locke had banished: the feel and odor, hue and texture of the world's sensible stuff.

But then, Blake could not do the whole job. His task was to save the other aspect of Hermetic science: the transcendent symbolism.

I rest not from my great task!

To open the Eternal Worlds, to open the immortal Eyes 

Of man inwards into the Worlds of thought, into Eternity

Ever expanding in the Bosom of God, the Human Imagination.


From Chapter 9 of Theodore Roszak’s book,  

Where The Wasteland Ends:

Politics and Transcendence in Postindustrial Society


The Voice of the Earth