Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Four-fold Man

'Four Mighty ones are in every Man;
a Perfect Unity
Cannot Exist but from the Universal      
Brotherhood of Eden                  
The Universal Man. To Whom be
Glory Evermore Amen.' The Four Zoas

These are the 'Four Zoas': Urizen, the rational, commanding power who is of the South; Tharmas, the generative, bodily impulse who dwells in the West; Luvah, the emotional, desirous aspect who arises from the East; and Urthona, the burning, creative energy who rules the North; together they comprise the 'Four-fold Man' in his properly integrated form.

'But when Luvah assumed the world of Urizen Southward
And Albion was slain upon his Mountains & in his Tent.
All fell towards the Center, sinking downwards in dire ruin,
In the South remains a burning fire: in the East a Void
In the West, a World of raging Waters: in the North, solid Darkness
Unfathomable without end: but in the midst of these
Is built eternally the sublime Universe of Los & Enitharmon.' Jerusalem

When the Fall takes place and Albion slumbers upon his lifeless rock, the human psychic whole is disintegrated, and all four parts engage in a hopeless struggle for dominance. What specifically happens is that, with the exception of Urthona (which we will come back to), each Zoa assumes the place of another, so that no psychic component is performing its natural function, resulting in the inevitable discord of the entire self. Furthermore, as each part is at war with every other part, the individual suffers more and more from the tyranny of reason, or emotion, or bodily impulse, whichever the most potent aspect may be at the time. This internal conflict is truly irreconcilable due to the fact that each Zoa is inseparable from every other Zoa, ensuring that this will indeed be a war without a real, permanent victor.

'Blake's myth is above all psychological. His cosmology, theology, even epistemology are all transpositions of the central inquiry into the self.' ~ Leopold Damrosch Jr.

In his great unfinished poem, The Four Zoas, Blake dispenses with traditional 'psychic hierarchy' in elaborating a dynamic vitality that includes every function working as an essential part of the whole individual. So instead of the scholastic Reason bearing the proverbial Crown, Blake notices the absence of any overriding function, asserting instead a unified collaboration of all the components. This ideal, of course, is only possible in the 'enlightened' state, which brings us back to Urthona, or Los, who is Urthona's laborious 'Spectre'.

In the later epic, Jerusalem, perhaps Blake's most complete and quintessential work of art, the prophet of London depicts the imaginative power, personified in the character of Los, as constantly at work and at watch, ever striving for the reconciliation of Albion's divided self. Psychologically speaking, Los represents the ceaseless creative energy that is the only real Messiah of fallen humanity (Albion); and thus the function of Urthona is the single function of consciousness that remains intact in the 'vegetated state', and is yet merely partially recognized. At the end of Jerusalem, not only do 'the Sons of Eden praise Urthona's Spectre in songs Because he kept the Divine Vision in time of trouble', but when Albion sees Jesus, the Good Shepherd, the Universal Humanity, he observes that he has taken the 'likeness & similitude of Los', which obviously implies the sublime divinity and Christian universality of artistic recreation. 

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