Tag Archive: Religion


Blake’s Mythology- Is it in you?

This post responds to the first question, “Why does Blake deviate from the Biblical account in making Adam and Noah contemporaries?” In “The Song of Los,” Blake depicts several scenes of his mythological characters delivering gospel and religion to various important religious figures. This image of Blake’s characters as the root of all common religions reminds us of “All Religions are One,” in which Blake posits that all religions come from the same source, and therefore are no different at their core.

It is also important to note that “All Religions are One” claims that religion comes from the poetic genius, which resides within man. Since he depicts his mythological characters as delivering these religious principles to each of the creators of religion, Blake is saying that each of his mythological characters actually resides within these religious leaders, and it is the work of each character that influences each religious leader’s doctrine. For example, Theotormon—the representation of desire that becomes jealousy when repressed—delivers the gospel to Jesus. The decision to have Theotorman deliver Christianity was a conscious one, as Blake is making a comment on the sexual repression perpetuated by the Christian leaders of his time.

The decision to have Urizen deliver his “Laws” to both Noah and Adam together (as contemporaries) was also a conscious one (109). As Urizen delivers the laws to both men, we can assume that both men are crippled by mankind’s reason. Blake undermines the Bible by pointing out the utter uselessness of time—to Blake, Noah and Adam may as well be the same person, as they are crippled by the same thing—man’s logical reason, represented by Urizen’s laws.

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In his marginal comments to Watson’s An Apology for the Bible, Blake considers Paine’s secular enlightenment assault on revealed religion to be the work of “either a Devil or an Inspired Man” (456).  He also notes that “Paine is a better Christian than the Bishop” (460).  For next Wednesday (10/2), write a post that reflects on Blake’s engagement with the French revolutionary debates of the turbulent 1790s.  How do any of the Blake works we’ve read thus far realign the radical ideals proposed by Paine with the poet-artist’s antinomian-Moravian view of Christianity?  Focus on a particular Blake work/image and please feel free to elaborate on your or other students’ previous posts.  Categorize under “Empire vs. Revolution” and don’t forget to create specific and relevant tags.

 

I’ve included below pictures of the idea map we created collaboratively in class today (the markings are color coded: yellow for Richard Price, blue for Edmund Burke, and red for Thomas Paine).  Use this map as a rough guide to help you position Blake’s political views in preparation for this week’s blog question prompt.

 

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The Decay of Innocence

A prominent sinister undertone runs through Blake’s “The Chimney Sweeper” in Songs of Innocence as the reader sees the Sweep’s exploitation.  Though he is forced to work, Tom Dacre remains in a state of innocence, and his imagination allows him to find hope.  Without a known identity from his parents, the idea of a heavenly father easily diverts Tom’s eyes from the hardship before him to the alternative reality he longs.  Innocence is then a state of the mind when dreams hold more power than reality.

The Chimney Sweeper of Songs of Experience is not so easily distracted.  Experience has chipped away at his readiness to believe the religious rhetoric.  Instead, religion has become a cause of neglect and pain as his parents abandon him to go to prayers.  While his outward behavior corresponds with what is expected of a child, his experience as a Sweep has brought his imaginative innocence to a premature end.  He now sees religion and hope as hollow and cannot see past the immediate reality of his circumstances.  Experience exposes false hope.

By connecting the two stories of the Chimney Sweep, Blake creates a continuous narrative of the decay of innocence.  These accounts then present complementary attacks on religion as an institution exploiting the innocent and bringing suffering to the experienced.  While at first religion and imagination can distract the sweep, experience makes him aware of harsher reality.

I felt like this might help our understanding of the poem “And did those feet in ancient time…”. The references made in the poem to particular instruments of war (the bow, arrows, spear, and chariot) were reminiscent of Ephesians 6:10-18, and I can’t help but believe this was the allusion Blake was trying to make in the poem. It’s interesting that the tenets of Christianity are laid out in such a militant fashion when there’s so much talk of the violent aspects of other religions (read: Islam) by politically-minded Christians these days. I wonder how Blake would feel about the religious and political rhetoric in America concerning religions other than Christianity, especially after having read “All Religions are One”. In his own time, Blake was a radical. With the current political discourse in mind, I’d say he’d still be considered one, even centuries later. Blake seems to occupy an ostensibly incomprehensible middle-ground between religious zealot, broad-minded philosopher, and prophetic artist. Can we ever allow such contradictory attributes exist simultaneously in a single individual? Our own prejudices tend to subconsciously categorize both subjects and objects to help ourselves understand the world around us. Blake offers one of those glorious exceptions that, in his defiance of categorization, teaches us a lesson about our own propensity towards judgment.

Blake’s new religion

By claiming All Religions Are One, Blake created a new religion himself, with utilizing Poetic Genius to present Prophecy and Art as its major practice. In this religion, he integrated all Gods, from whatever religions, as one. Therefore by assimilating all religions, he denied these religions’ original principles and recreated his own. True Men recorded their vision and imagination, through their own Poetic Genius, and delivered their understanding of this only and ultimate existence. All religions on this planet served as reflections of this highest existence. However, I would like to make no assumption about what this ultimate existence, the origin of all religion and the source of all Gods, exactly is. Unlike many other religions, Blake created a practice without a clear goal. His definition of divine and infinite, the highest goals of this religion, emphasize on the practice itself, not a practice of scientific analysis or logical deduction, but a practice of seeing vision. The practice of Poetic Genius in the form of Prophecy and Art enables one to see infinite. Nevertheless, as a Christian himself, where is the position of Christian religion in this interpretation when all religions are intrinsically the same? And what is the point to rebuild Jerusalem in the land of England if the goal is just to see the infinite?