Vol. 1 No. 1 (2021): Beginnings
Articles

“Eternity roll’d wide apart”: The Creation of the World and Man in William Blake’s The [First] Book of Urizen in Light of Emanuel Swedenborg’s The Last Judgment

Csaba József Spalovszky
ELTE, Budapest

Published 2021-05-29

Keywords

  • Blake,
  • Swedenborg,
  • Bible,
  • Genesis,
  • Urizen

Abstract

Beginnings are usually regarded as either hard or energizing times that set our inner world in motion. However, there is a beginning that is more important for humanity than any other: the origin of human life and of the world. The knowledge of our origin and the mystery concerning the beginning of the world have been the most intriguing and most engaging issues since man became aware of their own physical and spiritual existence. For many centuries, it was the duty of religion to provide humanity with a teaching about their origin and the foundation of human dignity. However, the 18th and 19th centuries were critical in the treatment of the biblical creation stories in Europe. The debate between misinterpreted creation myth accounts and scientific theories led to a sharpening confrontation between religion and science, but it also divided the believers and resulted in the birth of new theories. Emanuel Swedenborg, an influential theologist of the period, wrote detailed commentaries and genuine tractates related to the topic that influenced the ideology and art of William Blake, a versatile and ingenious artist and thinker of the era, whose influence is still significant today. The aim of this study is to highlight the parallels and contrasts between Blake’s Genesis myth and Swedenborg’s teachings, mainly through the unusual pairing of The [First] Book of Urizen and The Last Judgment, to show the connection between Swedenborg’s unorthodox views and Blake’s ideas about the creation of man and the world.