In the Land of Ulro
In Blake’s involved mythology, Ulro is his name for the spectral order, the realm of the senses ruled over by his mad Zoa and false god Urizen, who is called “Ancient of Days”. Ulro is the land of the living dead, the realm of the ghostly and the spectral. It is the land of idols, delusions, and abstractions mistaken as primary realities.
The Land of Ulro is the world we all live in — the present World Age that Hinduism also calls the “Kali Yuga“. Ulro is the realm into which Adam and Eve fell in the Genesis story — that part of the “Divine Humanity” that became trapped in the wheel of time and space — of birth, suffering, and death; but also of greed, malice, and delusion. Therefore is the Kali Yuga called “the age of vice” and of strife.
Ulro goes by other names in history — Hebrew Gehenna or Islamic Jahannam. Ulro is called “Samsara” in Buddhism — the realm of dukkha or suffering corresponding to the wheel of time and space, or the “mill-o’-the-gods”. Ulro, as the spectral world, therefore corresponds to Maya, the realm of the illusory. In Anglo-Saxon, Ulro is called “Hell”.
In Buddhist terms, Blake’s Urizen corresponds to the demon “Mara”, who is the “architect” of the sensual order, (and so Blake’s Urizen is likewise depicted as an architect). Urizen is the architect of the Ulro. Mara is also called “the Selfhood” in Blake and is the demon with whom Buddha engages in final combat on his way to liberation under the Bodhi Tree. Blake specifically calls Urizen — ruler of the Ulro — “Satan”, who is the Selfhood, for Urizen, as one of the four Zoas, is an aspect of the fallen or disintegrate fourfold human.
The Ulro is the land of the Prodigal Son, the land of separation-as-forgetfulness into which the Prodigal Son has journeyed. The Prodigal Son is the ego-nature which has lost remembrance of its roots. Ulro, as such, is a state of being and a condition of existence, a condition of dis-memberment. Blake’s “Albion” is the Prodigal Son, the first Adam, who with the fall into the Ulro was scattered to the four winds or directions — shattered into the four contradictory and mutually antagonistic Zoas in their dis-membered or dis-integrate state.
Seth, likewise, speaks of our world as a “camouflage universe”, and of the physical senses as the “lovely liars”. This description of our state of being is the same as the spectral order Blake calls “Ulro”. Urizen, whose reign corresponds with the Hindu’s kali yuga, is the ruler of the senses, and is the faculty of Reason become cut off and isolated from the other three Zoas of the Divine Humanity.
These legends and myths are, in effect, an autobiography of the human form and consciousness. The image of Jesus crucified is the image of the human form — the first Adam — dis-integrate and dis-membered into the four directions of space and time.
Blake’s “fourfold vision” is re-collection and re-membrance from the state of dis-memberment, when the “Humanity Divine” shattered and fractured on “the stems of vegetation”. This realm is also called by Blake “Generation”, which is the realm of time and all that is time-bound. “Generation” happens to be the meaning of “secular” (the words “sex” and “secular” being related terms, for sex is life’s strategy for overcoming the decay and entropy of the inorganic — of time as death).
Now I a fourfold vision see And a fourfold vision is given to me Tis fourfold in my supreme delight And three fold in soft Beulahs night And twofold Always. May God us keep From Single vision & Newtons sleep. (“Letter to Thomas Butts”)
Blake’s mythology of the tetrad or four Zoas in their original integrity (and subsequent dismemberment) is a precise map of the psychodynamics of the “soul” or “the Divine Human”. The Zoas correspond to Carl Jung’s four psychological functions — feeling, sensation, intuition, thinking. When these powers or faculties do not function together as a whole, this is the same as the “fall” into Ulro, and this fracture and dis-integration is repeated every day (the microcosm) as it is in human history (the macrocosm). Jean Gebser’s taxonomy of civilisations as “structures of consciousness” — the archaic, the magical, the mythical, and the mental-rational — reflect the over-specialisations of psychic functions in their rise and fall. Like Blake, Gebser anticipated the emergence of yet a “fifth” potentiality of consciousness he called “the integral consciousness”. The integral consciousness corresponds to Blake’s “fourfold vision” and Blake’s anticipation, even two hundred years ago, of a “New Age” in the making. Blake’s New Age is based on the recovery — or re-membrance — of the fourfold unity of the Divine Human.
This “Divine Human” is, by the way, the issue of the legend of the Buddha’s enlightenment. It is said that, upon his enlightenment and liberation, the Guardians of the Four Directions gifted the Buddha with their own begging bowls, but that the Buddha “for the sake of his dharma” united them with his own. This integration forms “the fifth”, and is called “quint-essence” for that reason.
The legend of the Fall — of Genesis — is not a record of an historical event, but of a spiritual one that is repeated every day. These things should not be confused, and it is a trick of Ulro and of “single vision” to confuse them. “Single Vision” is as much a deficiency of religious fundamentalism as it is of scientific reductionism, for which Blake’s “Newton” stands as symbol. They both arise from the same root in the mental-rational consciousness and the bias of the modern mind. Religious fundamentalism was an attempt to rationalise religious belief on the basis of a few religious “principles” or fundamentals just as Newtonianism was the attempt to rationalise the world on the basis of a few physical laws. For this reason, Blake attacked both “Natural Religion” and “Natural Reason” as belonging to the Ulro — the realm of delusion.
In the legend of the Fall, Adam and Eve (whose names mean “earth” and “life” respectively, and whose union or marriage is the human form) ate of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, or duality. “Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.” This awakening to self-consciousness is the fall into the Ulro and the spectral world. The awakening of the selfhood is the concern with self-image, and the confusion of self with self-image and self-representation. Thus, Blake also calls the Ulro “the vegetative mirror” — this “mirroring” being, in effect, the significance of the words “reflection” and “speculation” (from Latin “speculum” or “mirror”).
Ulro, therefore, is the “spectral” land because it is the land of images — a land of shadows. It is a reflection or mirror of the real but not the source of the real. Thus Ulro has the same meaning as Omar Khayyam’s warning about the false: “only a hair separates the false from the true”. Ulro is a shadow mistaken for the light.
Yesterday’s “fig leaf” is today’s “brand”, and the present obsession with “brand management” is the same obsession with self-image and self-representation as caused Adam and Eve to “sew fig leaves together” to cover their “nakedness”. The serpent in Eden was, in effect, the first “perception manager”. For Blake, the Serpent was Urizen, architect of the spectral order in which human beings came to live within their spectres or self-images — their shadows, in other words. Ulro thus became the realm of the living dead.
Some people actually speak of a “second fall of man” today for that very reason. I don’t think we can speak in such terms, really. Other factors are in play. But when Jane Jacobs, for example, warns in her book Dark Age Ahead that “credentialism” has come to replace real education, we recognise in such “credentialism” (or self-branding) the old fig-leaf. Credentials and titles are not proof of anything, yet they are often advanced as proof of a superior wisdom and authority.
But more often than not, like the fig-leaf, they disguise the diseased pudenda dangling limply behind a cloak of moral rectitude or superior “principle”. I’ve had occasion to witness the truth of Jane Jacobs’ observations and how it is part of the “culture of narcissism” of our time, too. “Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel,” Samuel Johnson once remarked, presumably in defiance of someone claiming “patriotism” as a final justification for unreasonable behaviour or failed argument. One can say the same today about “credentialism”. When the going gets tough, someone will always drag out their “credentials” as conclusive and definitive — “I’ve got a doctorate in engineering” or “I’ve got a PhD in physics”. That is supposed to settle the argument (both were made during debate on the Northern Gateway pipeline in online threads recently or for nuclear power). Superior knowledge, wisdom, enlightenment, and authority are assumed to be magically invested in the credentials and titles, like a talisman or charm. More often than not, they are simply fig-leaves to disguise an all-too self-conscious nakedness.
“Brand management” (or perception management) is a big part of the Ulro, and of immersion in Ulro — Blake’s term, finally, for what we call the land of “smoke and mirrors” or “land of Oz”.