The Poems of William Blake

Summary and Analysis of All Religions are One & There is No Natural Religion

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Summary

This juvenile work of Blake’s is an early statement of fundamental principles and views Blake would hold all of his life and would refer to often in his work. The argument Blake puts forward is that every religion, and all sects of philosophy, originated in God’s revelation but that that revelation is then filtered through our human consciousness. Therefore, each creed taken on by humankind adopts a human characteristic that is superimposed with a divine essence. At the center of each human lies a universal poetic genius, and it is this genius that is “God.” This “poetic genius” has the capability to procreate, and it is this God within us that gives birth to the body.

Analysis

The argument Blake makes is very Lockean in style, and was on key with the philosophical subject of debate at the time. That said, Blake opposed Locke’s beliefs and, unfortunately, his argument is no where near as fundamentally or philosophically sound as that of the English philosopher.

Locke posited that we “perceive” the outside world through our senses, therefore leading to the argument that we are only able to acquire knowledge from our sensual interpretation of the outside world. In other words, Locke argues that humans have no inborn moral sense or knowledge; Blake challenges that notion in his poem. While both Blake and Locke would agree that our moral concepts derive from education (that which involves experience attained through poetic or prophetic character) and time, Blake feels that the human spirit is more than just nature’s offspring. He alludes to our “impulses” that cannot be gained from experience, and our longing for the infinite, which goes against the laws of nature, as support for his thesis. Blake concludes that the universe within which we live is infinite and will become too vast to comprehend, which will lead us to a wearisome and mentally defeated state. The poet conceives God as a part of our “cosmic imagination” whose existence “within” our bodies is what allows us to see his existence and see the world through his eyes. There is an insistence here by Blake on the idea that spiritual knowledge comes from an ingrained, natural faculty that is beyond sense perception. Perception itself cannot uncover the infinite measure of all things in this universe.