Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy
This study re-examines what have been commonplace propositions for Blake criticism: that Los is Blake's chief symbol for the activity of imagination in the prophecies; that the theme of Los's labours, his attempt in Golgonooza to practise "the Science of the Elohim," serves as a focus for Blake's critique of, and alternative to, the science of "Bacon, Newton and Locke"; and that Blake's opposition to the latter stems from his rejection of its "Cartesian" foundation, its dualism of mind and body, subjective and objective realms. This study begins by attempting to show that, while we have agreed to place Los at the centre of Blake's anti-Cartesian argument, we have approached and expounded this argument with a critical discourse that is shaped by, and, however unwittingly, promulgates the dualism of mind or imagination and nature. Whether we say, with Northrop Frye, that nature for Blake is sub-moral, subhuman, sub-imaginative; or whether we say, with Tilottoma Rajan, that Blake is naive because he refuses to accept that imagination lacks the substantiality of things; we are attributing to Blake the idea of an imagination-nature opposition, and interpreting his argument in terms consistent with the assumptions of Cartesian discourse. The formal assumption of Los's Science of the Elohim, this study contends, is Blake's claim that "Nature is Imagination itself." As a critique of Descartes or Newton, this claim (I will attempt to show) is consistent with Werner Heisenberg's thesis that the nature itself or objective reality posited by Cartesian science is not an object of knowledge for contemporary physics. The theme of Los's Elohistic labours in Golgonooza to separate Ulro from Generation articulates Blake's distinction between the Cartesian concept of nature as a reality external to imagination (a reality unknown and unknowable, Blake argues, except as the product of the idolatrous act which posits it), and nature understood as a Vision of the Science of the Elohim, the World of Generation, which consists of the "mundane" order of things and appearances we perceive and know, and of the "vegetative" functions which express and sustain our capacity to "live upon Earth."
Smith, John Michael, "Los And The Science Of The Elohim" (1989). Digitized Theses. 1825.