Now I a fourfold vision see,
And a fourfold vision is given to me:
‘Tis fourfold in my supreme delight
And threefold in soft Beulah’s night
And twofold always, may God us keep
From single vision and Newton’s sleep! – William Blake
William Blake constructed an elaborate artificial mythology full of original concepts, gods, places and terms. One of these concepts is Ulro, an utterly fallen state divorced from all abstraction and transcendence; he imagined four states of being, with Eternity (also called Eden) being the highest and Ulro being the lowest. Beings in Ulro have “single vision”; they see only mundane physical reality uncolored by imagination, inspiration or even fully developed eroticism. Ulro is the state occupied by the dullest sort of human, who is unable to see any of the complexities of the world around them; it is a kind of spiritual sleep, dominated by the stomach and intestines, and people who exist this way can be visualized as going through the world with one eye closed, seeing everything flat and without proper perspective. The second state, Generation, is the one in which more intellectually & spiritually aware humans exist; it is dominated by the genitals and can be imagined as seeing with both eyes. The third state, Beulah, occurs when the individual is open to the spiritual or imaginative dimension; it is dominated by the heart and characterized by “threefold vision”, which one might think of as the “third eye” of mysticism, the “altered consciousness” experienced by psychedelic drug users, an ecstatic religious state or even a transcendent erotic experience. Finally, Eternity, dominated by the head and characterized by “fourfold vision”, allows connection to the entire universe; it is a condition of total bliss which few humans can reach, and even then only for very short periods of time while existing in this plane.
I’ve been fascinated by Blake’s mysticism ever since I first studied it while working on my bachelor’s degree in English; my major concentration was on the Romantic Period, and Blake was the subject of at least one major term paper and a number of lesser ones. I wove many of his concepts into the D&D universe I created, and I often find myself looking at the world through a Blakean lens, especially when thinking about the incredible, half-blind ignorance with which so many people view the world, especially when the topic is sex. Traditional religions, authoritarian governments, power-hungry collective entities and the popular media all work – separately and in conjunction – to immerse the population in a dense fog of obfuscation, a Veil of Ulro which allows them to be just awake enough to serve their masters, but not awake enough to actually penetrate that fog and see the world around them as it is. They believe in the most ridiculous nonsense about sex, imagining men to be such eunuchs that they can simply be ordered to be celibate by churches, military officials, prison officials or prudish wives, and women to be so asexual that the only possible reason they might engage in pragmatic sex is because some evil man forced them to. They are “shocked” when government actors behave exactly like other men would under the same conditions, and refuse to understand that interesting costumes don’t magically make men into paragons, but rather make them much worse. They actually think that the leaders they have chosen to follow are better and more noble than those on the evil Other Team, and obediently close their one open eye whenever those leaders order them to ignore spying, brutality, looting, racism and even mass murder. And they’re willing to believe in grandiose fantasies utterly divorced from all known facts about statistics, economics, psychology, sexuality, anthropology and plain common sense rather than accept that some women can have pragmatic sex, that most men are willing to pay them for it, and that many people are happy to strive for truly Pinocchian levels of dishonesty in order to make a profit, seize power, get rid of people they’re bigoted against or even seek petty vengeance. Even Blake himself only claimed to have fourfold vision in moments of “supreme delight”, and most of us need drugs, meditation or superlative sexual experiences to get our “third eyes” open. But is it really too much to ask that people just wake the hell up and open the second eye that’s waiting and ready right there on the fronts of their heads?