William Blake and the Poetic Genius


(McGee) #1

My older brother is a PHD English literature retired professor. He doesn’t seem to approve of my beliefs to say the least. He says he believes in the God of Spinoza and Einstein. Also he is convinced Jesus performed no miracles or resurrected from death. Don’t understand that either.
Once I posted a Ravi quote and comment on William Blake’s eyes… If you know Ravi you would know the one . He posted in a comment on it this and I really don’t understand it can anyone help? It’s Blake:
William Blake wrote this:

All Religions Are One
The Voice of one crying in the Wilderness

The Argument. As the true method of knowledge is experiment the true faculty of knowing must be the faculty which experiences. This faculty I treat of.

PRINCIPLE 1ST. That the Poetic Genius is the true Man, and that the body or outward form of Man is derived from the Poetic Genius. Likewise that the forms of all things are derived from their Genius, which by the Ancients was call’d an Angel & Spirit & Demon.

PRINCIPLE 2ND. As all men are alike in outward form, So (and with the same infinite variety) all are alike in the Poetic Genius.

PRINCIPLE 3RD. No man can think write or speak from his heart, but he must intend truth. Thus all sects of Philosophy are from the Poetic Genius, adapted to the weaknesses of every individual.

PRINCIPLE 4. As none by travelling over known lands can find out the unknown, So from already acquired knowledge Man could not acquire more. Therefore an universal Poetic Genius exists.

PRINCIPLE 5. The Religions of all Nations are derived from each Nation’s different reception of the Poetic Genius, which is every where call’d the Spirit of Prophecy.

PRINCIPLE 6. The Jewish & Christian Testaments are An original derivation from the Poetic Genius. This is necessary from the confined nature of bodily sensation.

PRINCIPLE 7TH. As all men are alike (tho’ infinitely various), So all Religions & as all similars have one source.

The true Man is the source, he being the Poetic Genius.


(SeanO) #2

@Tim10 Welcome! That is a poem from William Blake that suggests that all religions and philosophies are but a shadow of the ‘Poetic Genius’ that resides within the human spirit. In other words, this poem denies that religions are actually true. Rather, the greatest truth is the human spirit.

“Poetic Genius” is that spirit which binds all humans, the Platonic truth, of which every philosophy and religion is a noble but flawed shadow.

If he really is interested, the following books are great reads for the skeptic. Though he may not be interested at this point in his journey. May the Lord Jesus open his eyes and heart to the glory of God in the Gospel of Jesus Christ!


(McGee) #3

I would like to make clear I do believe in the resurrection. I don’t understand why he believes in Jesus but not his miracles or resurrection. He has explained it many times but non of it makes sense to me. He is very intelligent. I am only a GED graduate. He gets very intellectual when he talks of God. I am a good listener but not a good debater.


(SeanO) #4

@Tim10 I am sure the Lord is using your faithful witness in his life. May the Lord use that witness to make him thirsty to know Jesus.

It’s not really a debate. No matter how smart we are, we cannot debate someone into the Kingdom. Pray fervently and if you need answers to questions he asks, feel free to ask here on Connect. There are plenty of resources and people willing to help you bring him good answers.

This is a good book I red recently on the journey of people towards Christ. It has good advice on how to share Christ persuasively and the reality that a perspective shifting event needs to occur in a person’s life to change them from an obstinate unbeliever to a seeker.


(Kathleen) #5

Hi, @Tim10! I agree with @SeanO; ‘successful’ evangelism does not ultimately rest on our intellect, so don’t sell your presence in your brother’s like too short. If something he’s saying is not making sense, keep asking him questions until it does. Ask him to clarify…break it down into manageable chunks. That’s what I have to do a lot!

You may want to ask him what he means by believing IN Jesus? Maybe he just means that Jesus was a historical figure (which he was) but he would deny that He was God. He also sounds like he rejects miracles (including resurrection) wholesale, so his current philosophical foundation wouldn’t allow him to hold belief in the deity of Jesus even if he wanted to. Does he also deny the existence of God? Sounds like he may believe that God is a figment of the human imagination, evolved as a survival mechanism.

You may also like this thread that’s on the forum currently. May give you a bit more insight. :slight_smile:


(Kathleen) #6

PS I moved this thread to our Daily Evangelism category to give it more visibility. Maybe some others can chime in with their thoughts. Anyone in the @Interested_in_Arts group who may know something about William Blake’s notion of Poetic Genius? :slight_smile:


(McGee) #7

Hi KMac
I sent him a response to a private email he sent were he tried to explain his non transcendent god of Spinoza & Einstein.
It was a short 9min YouTube of Ravi on the 4 questions to answer in life. I put a text of “this is a taste of what I believe.”
He sent me all this:
Tim, I watched it. It’s not for me. All I care about is that someone is a decent human being and that they accept the freedom of everyone to believe what they want as long as they do not interfere with the physical and intellectual freedom of others. For me, a truth is a proposition without an exclusion clause. If you want to provide adequate healthcare to everyone on earth, you are pursuing a truth even if you have to compromise along the way. If you believe in white supremacy, then you are not since you have excluded all other races, the multitude, from the exercise of power. You can believe that your religion expresses fundamental truths without believing that all other religions are false. You can even believe that your faith is best expression of a truth, as long as you recognize that the truth itself is universal and not the property of one religion. Logic is much more complicated than Mr. Zacharias says, especially after the revolution in mathematical logic since the 19th century. I don’t think it’s illogical to have faith in the existence of something you cannot see. Nor is it illogical not to have faith. The specific moral and political propositions that different religions promote can be analyzed for their truth value, but the ultimate meaning of truth is axiomatic. It has to be stipulated. Its principles have to be constructed and defined. To me, to say that a particular proposition is true is to recognize it as a moment in a truth process. However, because every truth process is infinite, no singular proposition expresses the whole truth. As a result, being faithful to a truth process means that you may have to alter a proposition or conviction when its limitations have been revealed by a new context or historical situation or new empirical data. I think you can apply to every person the rule Jesus applies to himself in John 10: 37-38: “If I do not do the works of my Father, do not have faith in me; But if I do, even if you do not have faith in me, have faith in the works, so that you may know and continue to know if the Father is in me and I am in the Father.” We can debate what Jesus may meant by the name “Father,” but we surely agree that he did not mean the equivalent of a human biological father, such as yours and mine. I believe one has to have faith in the works. It’s not whether you or I or anyone says the right words that someone in a particular religion wants to hear. It’s how you act and live. Of course, no one is perfect and so we all betray the truth at one time or another. But our works reveal our true thoughts and commitments, such as they are.

That’s enough. Tim, I’m telling you what I think, as well as I can express it in plain language. It’s not my goal to win you over to anything. There is evil in the world, which for me are the forces that seek to shut down the truth processes, which include not only ethical ideas but science, technology, philosophy, art and so forth. It wants to divide humanity into camps that work against each other instead of working together. I don’t believe there is any hell and there’s no one I would want to see go there. Evil is simply the betrayal of a truth process. I’m writing to you as I would write to anyone whose intellectual autonomy I respect. If anyone tried to take that away from you, I would try to defend you. But I would also do the same for anyone else. As I’ve written somewhere, we have to forgive each other for our differences of understanding and forgive ourselves for our failures to live up to our own principles and commitments.

I only responded with “Okay” because he gets irritated easily with questions and goes to name calling. Racist, bigot, anti intellectual etc…
I think that’s enough emailing for a while.
He lives 2k miles away. He is pleasant when we meet face to face if I just listen. He doesn’t respond well to opposing views except to go to name calling and cus words.

Yet on his use of John 10:37-38. It made no sense to me. It seemed to me his view was kind of Works worship. What do you think? I thought Jesus was telling the Jewish religious leaders if you don’t believe what I say look at my works. Only God could do these miracles.
I will continue to pray for him. I do love him. Sorry if I am so long. I have no one I can talk to on this. I’m a new 62 y/o Christians for 5 yrs. He is 70y/o retired professor. I don’t want him to go to hell, if that sounds like I think I’m better, I’m not but Jesus is my Lord and Salvation. I want the same for him. If you actually read this thanks for listening. I’m not going to make this a habit. I promise.
Friend In Christ, Tim


(Kathleen) #8

@Tim10!
First off, I am so incredibly sorry it has taken me this long to get back with you, but I do hope you had a wonderful Christmas and New Year. :slight_smile:

Now let’s see if we can sift through that email. Your main question was about his interpretation of John 10:37-38. He said…

I think you can apply to every person the rule Jesus applies to himself in John 10: 37-38: “If I do not do the works of my Father, do not have faith in me; But if I do, even if you do not have faith in me, have faith in the works, so that you may know and continue to know if the Father is in me and I am in the Father.” We can debate what Jesus may meant by the name “Father,” but we surely agree that he did not mean the equivalent of a human biological father, such as yours and mine. I believe one has to have faith in the works. It’s not whether you or I or anyone says the right words that someone in a particular religion wants to hear. It’s how you act and live. Of course, no one is perfect and so we all betray the truth at one time or another. But our works reveal our true thoughts and commitments, such as they are.

And your response was…

You’re spot on re. the context of the passage. The Jewish leaders had picked up stones execute Jesus for blasphemy ‘because you, being a man, make yourself God.’ They were more concerned with what Jesus was saying rather than what He was doing. Yet Jesus was seeking to prove what He said (I am the Son of God.) by what He did (the works of the Father).

However, all that your brother seems to take away from that passage is that even Jesus, like himself, believes that what we do is important. His words: ‘It’s how you act and live…our works reveal our true thoughts and commitments.’ So, it seems to him that what you say isn’t that important, but what you do reveals what you truly believe. And I do agree with him to an extent, however, he is missing the greater point that Jesus is trying to make, which is in vrs. 30: ‘I and the Father are one.’ Jesus was making a claim and backing it up with action. His works do reveal who He is.

Do you know if your brother thinks that the Bible is a reliable source of information? I ask because I would want to tell him to read and study for himself and see that Jesus is exactly who He said He was (the second person of the Triune Godhead) and He did exactly what He said He would (open the way for the reconciliation of creation to the Creator).

Also I wanted to make a few comments on some other things he wrote…

  1. I don’t know if he realises it, but even his definition of truth is exclusionary, therefore his propositions are absurd. As much as he wants to say,

Those two statements are made to the exclusion of their opposites. In statement 1, propositions with exclusion clauses are excluded. In statement 2, the truth he just stated is the property of his individual “religion” to the exclusion of all the others. Truth, by nature, is exclusionary. But, I would agree with him that truth is universal in the sense that there exists some truth in most (if not all) religions, but I would contend that Christianity (to the exclusion of the others) is the best explanation for what we see and experience.

  1. I also agree with him here:

I would just be curious to know if he has any historical or empirical data which makes him reject the claims of Jesus?

I pray that you will have more opportunities to ask him questions! And I pray that he will be open to your curiosity about what he believes and why he believes it. May Holy Spirit guide you and fill you with all wisdom and courage! :slight_smile:


(Matt Western) #9

I’m really enjoying reading Kathleen’s response to this - in particular that a truth claim is by definition to the exclusion of the alternative.

I did find it interesting that this is a direct quote from John the Baptist, who was in turn quoting Isaiah’s 700 year old prophecy of his own coming as a forerunner to Jesus.

John 1:23 He said: “I am ‘The voice of one crying in the wilderness: “Make straight the way of the Lord,” ’ as the prophet Isaiah said.”
Isaiah 40:3 The voice of one crying in the wilderness: “Prepare the way of the Lord;
Make straight in the desert a highway for our God.

This is an interesting statement. One could ask ‘Why does he care?’ - I’m wondering if this is what CS Lewis in the book ‘Mere Christianity’ talks about that we all have this ‘ought’ inbuilt (our conscience which is God given). We know we ought to do good, but we can’t even live up to our own standards, let alone God’s standard of perfection - as your brother says ‘Of course, no one is perfect and so we all betray the truth at one time or another.’.
The other question to this is ‘What happens when my truth (sense of right and wrong?) collides with your truth and we disagree?’ - the video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0218GkAGbnU is more about relative morality, but raises the question how does this theoretical idea play out in real life when there are disagreements if there is no source of truth higher than you or I ? Can there be a moral law without a law-giver?

When he gets angry and insults (motivated by insecurity at your questions??), is he violating any of his own inbuilt standards that he ought to behave better? If there is no God, then why bother with any sense of morality at all? - and then do you get fairly close to nihilism, a very depressing place to be.

It seems all very theoretical - it’s hard to know where the rubber meets the road. What exactly does this belief system play out like in real life? What happens to a person after death - if it simply ceasing to exist, then why bother with any of it?

I was talking to an atheist (exCatholic) on a forum, and was asking questions to understand more. I had a fair bit of response at this video discussion on the meaning of life with William Lane Craig, Jordan Peterson, and Rebecca Goldstein. Maybe this will be of interest to him if he’s very intellectual, and if nothing else will provoke further thought and reflection? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pDDQOCXBrAw (and there is a a followup post on this page if that’s of any interest: https://www.reasonablefaith.org/media/reasonable-faith-podcast/is-there-meaning-to-life/)

As Sean and Kathleen said, I hope and pray that you will be able to show Christ’s unconditional love in response to any insults and continue to show him what a difference it has made in your life. I hope this is helpful, I feel a bit inadequate with how I’ve worded a lot of this - so feel free to disregard if it’s a bit simplistic :slight_smile:

I hope as an encouragement, the passage from 1 Corinthians 1:18-31 comes to mind. God will use the foolish things of the world to confound the wise, and the weak things to bring down the strong. And in Isiah 55:10-11, God has promised that his Word will not return void, but will accomplish that which it has gone forth to do.

19 For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.

20 Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?

21 For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.

22 For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom:

23 But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness;

24 But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.

25 Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

26 For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called:

27 But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty;

28 And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are:

29 That no flesh should glory in his presence.

30 But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption:

31 That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.

A Christian may not be the highest intellect, but the power of Jesus’ love can shine through into the darkest heart.


(Kathleen) #10

Thanks for your thoughts, and many thanks for the youtube video to the conversation between WL Craig, J Peterson, and R Goldstein. Very fascinating! I’ve listened to the first 40 minutes and look forward to getting through it all at some point. :slight_smile: