William Blake's the Human Abstract and the Divine Image

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In William Blake’s The Human Abstract, Blake describes the world in a contrary state to that which he presented in The Divine Image. The virtues of Mercy, Pity, Peace and Love, are explored in The Human Abstract to reveal how the good virtues of The Divine Image can be distorted and exploited for man’s power and gain. The virtues of Mercy, Pity, Peace and Love in The Human Abstract are shown to be a hypocritical means to a corrupt end.

Since it is known that Blake was critical of organized religion it stands to reason that Blake is illustrating the extreme hypocrisy of the Church and how organized religion and man espouses virtues such as Mercy, Pity, Peace, and Love, but does not follow them. In Norton’s Introduction to Blake’s works it reads, “ …He veiled the radical religious, moral, and political opinions that he expressed in his poems.” It goes on to state that, “Blake’s mythical premise…is not a transcendent God but the “Universal Man” who is God and who incorporates the cosmos as well.” (Norton 76, 78) Blake disagreed with fundamental teachings of the Church and openly challenges the rigidity of the Church that excludes many from an institutionally sanctioned salvation in The Divine Image, when he states, “…In heathen, Turk, or Jew. Where Mercy, Love, & Pity dwell, There God is dwelling too.”

The text that mirrors the world of Innocence shown in The Divine Image reveals the evil and corruption created by man within the world of Experience in The Human Abstract. The Speaker in The Human Abstract says, “Pity would be no more, If we did not make somebody Poor…” This is not the voice of Blake, who believed in the prophetic poet and the “Universal Man” that can imaginatively create a beautiful world. Blake is not advocating for pity as a justification for poverty, nor is he stating that we need unhappiness in order to feel mercy. However, the Speaker is saying just that. The Speaker is making excuses for the suffering and hardship that exists...
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