William Blake and the Jewish Swedenborgians

  • Marsha Keith Schuchard


In 1820, the sixty-three-year-old William Blake drew a symbolic self-portrait, in which he sketched a menorah on his forehead. Raymond Lister observes that “This symbol, derived from the Jewish seven-branched candlestick modelled on the Tree of Life, expresses spiritual enlightenment, being in effect a third ‘spiritual’ eye.”2 Though Blake was attracted to the visionary theoso-phy of the Jewish Kabbalah, he—like other Christian “philo-Semites”— viewed it from a conversionist perspective.3 In his illuminated prophecy Jerusalem, he issued an “Address to the Jews,” in which he proclaimed: “You have a tradition, that Man anciently contain’d in his mighty limbs all things in Heaven & Earth,” but “now the Starry Heavens are fled from the mighty limbs of Albion” (E 171). While drawing on kabbalistic traditions of Adam Kadmon, the macrocosmic Grand Man, for his portrayal of Albion, Blake veered between praise and mockery of the Jews. At one time, he affirmed that “The Hebrew Nation did not write it / Avarice & Chastity did shite it”; at another, he scoffed that Jesus turned the devils into swine, “That he might tempt the Jews to Dine / Since which a Pig has got a look / That for a Jew may be mistook” (E516,8 77). In 1818, Blake scorned equally the Jewish and Christian upholders of repressive Mosaic laws:
  • The Vision of Christ that thou dost see

  • Is my Visions greatest Enemy:

  • Thine has a great hook nose like thine,

  • Mine has a snub nose like to mine. (E 524)


British Library Sexual Basis Reveal Knowledge Young Artist Conjugial Love 
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Copyright information

© Sheila A. Spector 2005

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  • Marsha Keith Schuchard

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