A broad glance at William Blake’s work seems not to yield the notion that Blake was overly concerned with depicting the physical body or appearance of Christ. But the influence of the Moravian beliefs of his parents and of his childhood is nevertheless present in Blake’s productions.

Lamentation Over the Body of Christ by John Valentine Haidt

Blake is focused on humanizing divinity and on emphasizing the easy access humans have to God. This is why Christ is such a prevalent figure in Blake’s art: apart from his perceiving Christ as the ultimate artist, one of Blake’s main beliefs was in the access to God Christ provided to man. Thus “God becomes as we are, that we may be as he is.” Christ’s assumption of the physical human body is what rendered his crucifixion meaningful: only the death of a perfect human could bring about salvation. Christ’s wounds thus encapsulate the message of Christianity: the body of Christ, to Blake, is one of his faith’s most important symbols, for in his death Christ provided access for all humanity to a direct relationship with God.

Communication with the divine lies at the heart of Blake’s work. In this most basic belief Blake is more of a Protestant Christian rather than a Catholic, for he chooses to focus on the ramifications of Christ’s death instead of that death’s eternal reality. Blake’s art becomes the method by which he takes advantage of  the open channel of communication between mankind and God: he contends that creative expression allows for an infinite variety of ways to seek and find the divine. Of course, this was an explicit rejection of the contemporary Catholic doctrine that man could only reach God through certain sacraments or through a mediator. Blake’s rejection of the Church was thus rooted in and closely aligned to Moravian spiritual belief. Despite that sect’s (and Blake’s) reputation for radicalism, such notions about the body of Christ have endured and seem to be far more in line with modern, common beliefs about Christianity than the traditional Catholic doctrine that Blake abhorred.

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