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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

In the complex mythology of William Blake, Urizen is the embodiment of conventional reason and law. He is usually depicted as a bearded old man; he sometimes bears architect's tools, to create and constrain the universe; or nets, with which he ensnares people in webs of law and conventional culture.


As a Zoa

Urizen is one of the four Zoas that result from the division of the primordial man, Albion. He has an 'emanation', or paired female equivalent, Ahania. According to S. Foster Damon, Ahania stands for Pleasure.


Three of his daughters are Eleth, Uveth and Ona. His sons are differently organised, in different poems: as Thiriel, Utha, Grodna, Fuzon, aligned with the four classical elements; or as twelve, aligned with the signs of the Zodiac, and builders of the Mundane Shell.


He receives much of his characterization from popular conceptions of Yahweh, the god of the Old Testament. The name may come from "You Reason" or "Your Reason", i.e., the accepted wisdom of the age; or from the Greek horizein, "to set limits"; or, conceivably, from both equally. Not a benevolent character, Urizen oppresses Orc, who embodies revolutionary passion and creativity, and who serves as a suffering saviour figure. He is also an enemy of Luvah, the spirit of love.


Urizen has clear similarities with the creature called the Demiurge by Gnostic sects, who is likewise largely derived of the Old Testament god (more specifically, like Blake's Urizen, the demiurge is a radical remodelling of that figure achieved by expanding that figure's original contextual setting, or by removing him to one that is almost completely new). Speculative Freemasonry is another possible source of Blake's imagery for Urizen; Blake was attracted to the Masonic and Druidic speculations of William Stukeley. The compass and other drafting symbols that Blake associates with Urizen borrow from Masonic symbolism for God as the "Great Architect of the Universe".

See also

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Urizen" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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