A true poet and of the devil's party: a study of the mythic symbols in the prophetic books of Blake



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In his prophetic books, William Blake set up a myth system comprising four worlds or states: Eternity, Beulah, Generation, and Ulro. These worlds are peopled by gigantic characters called Zoas, and their mates, known as Emanations. The four worlds and their characters exist within the being of the archetypal Man, whom Blake names Albion. The four Zoas and their Emanations represent the four basic functions within man, of Imagination, Reason, Sensation, and Emotion. In structure and operation, Blake's system is remarkably similar to the older Graeco-Roman, Judaeo-Christian, and Norse myth systems. Blake's characters occupy similar positions in his myth to those occupied by characters in the older myth systems, and perform similar actions. All four systems begin in a timeless world, which emerges into a lower world of time, space, and matter with the Fall of Man. The archetypal Man in each system is the founder or parent of the race, and he contains or supports their world in his fallen or sleeping form. In each system there is death and resurrection, and a new awakening to a perfect world. A sky-god is the ruler of the fallen universe, and he sets up a repressive moral code which restricts the functions of the fallen race. The man of inspiration or divine vision is sacrificed for the redemption of the race. Blake inferred that all myth, all religion, and indeed all reality are drawn from a common source, viz., the internal being of man himself. [...]