The Doors of Perception: Heaven and Hell

The song “End of the Night” by The Doors was directly inspired by Blake’s “Auguries of Innocence” especially the lines “Realms of bliss, realms of light, some are borne to sweet delight, some are borne to sweet delight, some are borne to the endless night.” Listen to the Doors singing “End of the Night” here.


William Blake takes us with him into a journey into a new consciousness, a new state of mind, one in which -as he describes it- is a cleansing of the “Doors of Perception”. For Blake this state of mind was the birthright of all human beings, but by and large we have lost the capacity to enter into this state. Blake’s mission, within the difficult confines of his own time, was in fact to point us in the direction, maybe even to lead us close to the experience that he had found and that he wished us to find also. The Marriage of Heaven and Hell can in fact be seen as his mystical text-book, enabling us to see the negative forces in the world anew and to open our hearts, bodies and minds to the possibility of a new perception of the universe:

How do you know but ev’ry Bird that cuts the airy way,

Is an immense world of delight, clos’d by your senses five?

Indeed how can we know this unless our senses are opened? And the force that pushes towards this opening may in fact be Blake’s mythic Rintrah, roaring his way through the heavy burdend air of deceit, misconception, illusion that inhabits all our minds and is stimulated by almost everything we hear from the media around us:

Rintrah roars and shakes his fires in the burdend air;

Hungry clouds swag on the deep….

So what force do we need to find the way through to this new perception that Blake advocates? Maybe it is in fact not violence, but disengagement from all the rubbish of the “burdend air”. Blake writes:

If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is, infinite.

For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things thro’ narrow chinks of the cavern.

So seeing beyond the “narrow chinks” is an act of Awakening to the mystery and majesty of existence in the context of the universe:

“What !” it will be questioned, “when the sun rises, do you not see a round disc of fire somewhat like a guinea !” Oh ! no, no ! I see an innumerable company of the heavenly host crying “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty !” I question not my corporeal eye any more than I would question a window concerning a sight. I look through it, and not with it. A Vision of the Last Judgement (page 439)

Here is a further list of songs inspired by William Blake:

And here is a great “virtual” exhibition of Blake’s works that we could have seen had we been in England earlier this year- take a geeze: Ashmolean

And here finally are a few Blog Topics for Week 4:

1.  Write a paragraph in which you express what sense you make of Blake’s idea of opening “The Doors of Perception”. Is there anything in your experience that comes close to being an example of what you think he might mean. Perhaps you could imagine yourself sitting down with Mr Blake and telling him what you have experienced and asking him “Is this what you mean?”

2. Take any three of the listed Blake-inspired songs and give a summary of what themes seem to attract contemporary song writers or bands.

3. Take any one of Blake’s “Proverbs of Hell” and write a short paragraph explaining what you think it is that Blake’s devil is advocating through this proverb.

4. See if you can shed more light on the mysterious line in Plate 3 of The Marriage of Heaven and Hell: Now is the dominion of Edom, & the return of Adam into Paradise.

5. Remember that you are always permitted to create your own Blog Topic basing it on some aspect of the work we have been doing in class and including – where appropriate- aspects of your own experience.


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