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The Book of Urizen

William Blake - The Book of Urizen

This is the web version of my MA Thesis

Plate 1.

William Blake - The Book of Urizen

Table of Contents

Introduction & Acknowledgement

» I. Introducing William Blake

» II. Major Influences

The Romantic period

» III. The Book of Urizen

The Chapters

Preludium

Chapter I. - Urizen
Chapter II. - Prior to Existence
Chapter III. - Grasping Subsistence
Chapter IV. - Taking form
Chapter V. - Foundations of Life
Chapter VI. - Generation
Chapter VII. - Chains of Being
Chapter VIII. - The Material World
Chapter IX. - The Human Race

» Appendix: W.B. - The Book of Urizen

» Bibliography

» List of Plates

+ MS Word verison [« read it ]

 

 

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Summary

In my thesis I carry out a close-reading of William Blake's The Book of Urizen. My analysis observes the accordance between Blake's work and the hermetic traditions, especially on the philosophical side. In my analyses I draw immediate parallels between Blake's visionary work and the teachings of various mystic and hermetic traditions and outline the obvious correspondences of the two. My aim is not to find immediate historical or referential links between the poem and the mystic teachings, but to reveal the possible meaning of the visionary epic. I wish to show the connections between Blake's visionary poetry as art and formulated philosophies both depicting the same universal truths. My point is to show the universality of the ideas expressed.

Therefore I draw immediate analogies from the traditions and teachings of Gnosticism, Neoplatonism and Greek mythology, the Sumerian and Persian mythology, Hermetic philosophy, Alchemy and Occultism, the Kabbalah and Jewish mysticism, and some Eastern examples from Hindu, Buddhist and Chinese philosophy. I also draw parallels with the Bible and John Milton's Paradise Lost.

Furthermore, I don't only give a complex analyses of Blake's The Book of Urizen, but also William Blake the visionary mystic. That is why chapters I & II are included. Altogether my work is a tribute to the great master of poetry, William Blake himself - the seer of universal truths.

The Book of Urizen is Blake's Genesis, and the core of his Bible of Hell, re-shaping the Fall and the Creation of the physical universe. It is also the locus for his mythology in 'A Song of Liberty', America, Europe, The Song of Los, The Book of Ahania and The Book of Los, all of which rest on the ideas presented in this poem. Urizen, like Milton's Satan, was an angel enjoying the immoral life, though among democracy of immortals. He is not cast out for rebellion against law, but separates himself by demanding that Law be established. Los, the immortal artist, emerges to define, clarify and make sense of the disaster, by the power of imagination. Blake works in many more allusions. Los becomes Adam, and Enitharmon his Eve. Orc is born to her, like Cain, but also the Serpent.

The storyline of the poem is as follows: Urizen - a god of Reason who separates himself from other Eternals, demands obedience to his self-proclaimed principles, and falls into Chaos - is an abstract, vain and punitive deity. A body is created for him by , 'the eternal prophet' or Divine Imagination. But Los, exhausted, divides into male (Los) and female (Enitharmon). Their child Orc - who represents Rebellious Energy - is born but immediately chained to a rock. Urizen then explores his deadly world, and mankind shrinks up from Eternity. Finally, some of Urizen's children begin an exodus.

Introduction

We should all be aware, that the poetry of William Blake is of unparalleled scope and complexity. Despite all the care and thought devoted to its preparation, this paper may still fall short of some readers' expectations stemming from the enormity and complexity of the subject, incurring the dual risk of making seemingly unrelated and distorted statements while leaving aside historical or cultural factors that some feel should be included.

In my thesis I carry out a close-reading of William Blake’s The Book of Urizen. My analysis observes the accordance between Blake’s work and the hermetic traditions, especially on the philosophical side. In my analyses I draw immediate parallels between Blake’s visionary work and the teachings of various mystic and hermetic traditions and outline the obvious correspondences of the two. My aim is not to find immediate historical or referential links between the poem and the mystic teachings, but to reveal the possible meaning of the visionary epic. I wish to show the connections between Blake's visionary poetry as art and formulated philosophies both depicting the same universal truths. My point is to show the universality of the ideas expressed.

Therefore I draw immediate analogies from the traditions and teachings of Gnosticism, Neoplatonism and Greek mythology, the Sumerian and Persian mythology, Hermetic philosophy, Alchemy and Occultism, the Kabbalah and Jewish mysticism, and some Eastern examples from Hindu, Buddhist and Chinese philosophy. I also draw parallels with the Bible and John Milton's Paradise Lost.

Furthermore, I not only wish to give a complex analyses of Blake's The Book of Urizen, but also William Blake the visionary mystic. That is why chapters I & II are included. Altogether my work is a tribute to the great master of poetry, William Blake himself – the seer of universal truths.

"And those who have insight will shine brightly like the brightness of the expanse of Heaven, and those who lead the many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.

But for you, Daniel, conceal these words and seal up the book until the end of time. Many will go back and forth, and knowledge will increase."

[Daniel 12:3-4]

Acknowledgment

I wish to thank Ágnes Peter for her undivided support and interest, John Drew who has inspired me and encouraged me to go my own way, and Ádám Nádasdy without whom I would have never become a true scholar.

 

 

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Last updated: 20-10-2013