Ka’s presentation was very interesting in its comparison of the work of William Blake to that of Laotse. I found it to be an incredibly interesting cultural amalgamation and it was striking that she detected a similitude between them that suggested a literary analog of each in the other. I was disheartened during her presentation when she said that little scholarly research, if at all, had really made this connection. It seemed like a novel concept but I thought such a point of comparison necessitated further study and it surprised me that the centuries that have passed since William Blake’s literary moment had not engaged in a dialogue surrounding this rather distinct point of similarity. Irving Babbitt, in his book Rousseau and Romanticism describes the new morality of the Romantic era and, to my great delight, also suggests a linkage between the themes of the Romantic genre with those of Taoism! Babbitt contends:

 

“A study of Buddha and Confucius suggests, as does a study of the great teachers of the Occident, that under its bewildering surface variety human experience falls after all into a few main categories. I myself am fond of distinguishing three levels on which man may experience life—the naturalistic, the humanistic, and the religious. Tested by its fruits Buddhism at its best confirms Christianity. Submitted to the same test Confucianism falls in with the teaching of Aristotle and in general with that of all those who from the Greeks down have proclaimed decorum and the law of measure. This is so obviously true that Confucius has been called the Aristotle of the East. Not only has the Far East had in Buddhism a great religious movement and in Confucianism a great humanistic movement, it has also had in early Taoism a movement in its attempts to work out naturalistic equivalents of humanistic or religious insight, offers almost startling analogies to the movement I am here studying” (xviii-xix)

 

Babbitt, though referencing the Romantic period writers more generally, hones in on central themes that Blake addresses in his works: namely the three levels of human experience. Herein lies the evidentiary support, or at least evidence of a shared supposition on the part of a scholar, that Ka lacked in her presentation. The fact that such a connection has been conjectured previously lends credence to her argument.

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