‘The human form divine’: Radicalism and Orthodoxy in William Blake

Rowan Williams

in Radical Christian Voices and Practice

Published in print January 2012 | ISBN: 9780199599776
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191738340 | DOI:
‘The human form divine’: Radicalism and Orthodoxy in William Blake

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For William Blake, a right understanding of the divine image in humanity involves denying any idea of goodness as passive or reactive. That is why he needs to insist that the good is inimical to boundaries or limits; and yet the good is only real in particulars—that is, in limited environments. Blake is not Nietzsche, glorifying an assertive will. Virtue is more and more clearly shown to be a matter of ‘foundational eros’, the energy of desire. The evils of imperialism and industrialism which he so castigates are enemies of desire because they seek to overcome or absorb the otherness of the human and the natural world. The basic challenge of Blake’s imaginative ethics is to conceive a non-violent goodness that acts and initiates. Despite his scepticism about ecclesiastical views of Christ, he still utilizes the structure of a self-dispossessing God to ground and anchor such an ethic.

Keywords: William Blake; divine image; Nietzsche; desire; non-violent goodness; Christ

Chapter.  6563 words. 

Subjects: Biblical Studies

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