Category: Christ and the Body (9/25)


   In Blake’s The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, “A Memorable Fancy,” is an eerie message in in which the Devil is basically tempting humanity to feel exaltation, even more so, by not just simply using our five senses, but finding a way to embody the same powers that God does to see, hear, touch, and smell the way that He can:
    “I saw a mighty Devil, folded in black clouds, hovering on the sides of the rock: with     corroding fires he wrote the following sentence now perceived by the minds of men, and read by them on earth:—
How do you know but ev’ry Bird that cuts the airy way,

Is an immense World of Delight, clos’d by your senses five?”

In the article by Martha Keith Schuchard, “Young William Blake and the    Moravian Tradition of Visionary Art,” she writes and cites: “Similarly, Moravian artists were Instructed to arouse and utilize all the senses, so the viewer would move beyond mere understanding and would fully participate in, fully sensate, Jesus’s experiences from crucifixion to resurrection [(Peucker, “Kreuzbilder” 169)]”(91).

As one can see, this would be exactly the process of which the Devil wanted everyone to approach life with.  To “experience,” so to speak, the senses to its fullest capacity, and to, therefore, become God.  The Devil is tempting us to fly and to feel a freedom that the “Bird” does.  By the Devil presenting it in a rhetorical form, it creates that Devil-on-your-shoulder curiosity to want to know the Everything that God does, and the Everything that nature does, as well.  Essentially, the Devil is saying that it is only by abandoning one’s imperfect human capacities, and channeling that of a greater power, however be it, that one will reach Genius.  In addition, Schuchard in citing Peucker, writes that “artists were instructed to arouse and utilize all the senses.”  Focusing on the word “arouse,” one can infer the connotation with that, which is to say that we our not only to go above and beyond our natural senses, but we are to gain such powers through sexual arousal.  Again, the message is: in order to reach a Genius (both passages are indicating that) we must deviate from Godly principles.

-Marcy Martinez


William Blake’s A Memorable Fancy has elements that speak to Moravian themes and ideas. Blake writes about a “Genius” that doesn’t necessarily align with the intellectual, academic, or conventional genius that’s taught at big universities. Blake’s is a different kind of genius, one Marsha Keith Schuchard writes about in her article titled “Young William Blake And the Moravian Tradition of Visionary Art”. Schuchard writes, “Zinzendorf advocated that parents and children—of every age, class, and background—should participate in a rich Renaissance-Baroque culture of painting, poetry, and music. Remembering his own unhappy childhood, when he was sent away to boarding school and instructed by puritanical pedants, he urged the Moravians to home-school their children” (89). These Moravian ideas are upheld by Blake’s focus on a different kind of genius, one that is anti-institution–or boarding school led by “puritanical pedants”– and that embraces the senses. Additionally, Blake continues to move towards a different kind of knowledge, one that is facilitated by the emblematical.

The speaker says he arrived home “on the abyss of the five senses.” And shortly after finds a the Devil writing on stone with “corroding fires.” This Moravian theme, which Schuchard explains as capable of rendering “ethical and religious truths accessible to all, even to the illiterate and to children, through the lure of pictures” is echoed in Blake’s A Memorable Fancy. Where engraving, visualizing, are key components of both Moravian tradition and Blake’s moral and creative style. Interpreting Blake’s work through a Moravian perspective offers great insight on his upbringing. It also humanizes Blake and his family and situates his work within a larger trajectory of successful attempts to challenge our notions of the hierarchies of knowledge and interrogates the very epistemic violence felt by believes of non-dominant religions and identities.

-Israel Alonso

Blake’s disagreements with the system of the Royal Academy was greatly influenced by his mother, who was before influenced by Zinzendorf, bishop of the Moravian Church. Zinzendorf strongly advocated a healthy mother-child relationship and Blake later incorporates themes of a mother-child relationship in many of his works. Zinzendorf’s childhood of being sent away to boarding school and instructed by puritanical pedants took part in this concept that “mother was the best teacher for a young child” (Schuchard 89).

The obsession with women dealt with their anatomical features, specifically, the breasts, which is symbolic of not only nursing a child, but also the passing of knowledge to child. The “Moravians advocated maternal breast feeding rather than farming infants out to wet nurses” because “the mother’s “school” for her infant took on a spiritualerotic connotation, which was vividly expressed in hymns for the embryo and suckling choirs” (89). This is the supposedly more natural form of education.

Blake in The Marriage of Heaven and Hell describes his experience in a printing house in Hell. He witnesses and describes the process of book printing through images of creatures molding rubble together. He says, “There they were reciev’d by Men who occupied the sixth chamber and took the forms of books & were arranged in libraries” (Blake 76). Both Blake and Zinzendorf saw institutional training as artificial and evil. There is no definitive answers to Blake’s Christianity because priesthood and the church are their own forms of institution. Blake, as a Moravian, sees the contradictions within Moravian itself. The Marriage of Heaven and Hell points to Zinzendorf and calls him out for this reason. Institutions such as the Royal Academy are:

The Giants who formed this world into its sensual existence and now seem to live in it in chains, are in truth, the causes of its life & the sources of all activity, but the chains are the cunning of the weak and tame minds, which have the power to resist energy, according to the proverb, the weak in courage is strong in cunning” (76).

Is the priest, the church, and/or religion members of these Giants that Blake has mentioned above?

-Van Vang

Moravian tradition features frequent sexual imagery, and this is comparable to Blake’s rather horrifying description of the Leviathan’s mouth. It is all incredibly strange. A large portion of Moravian theology focuses on the wounds of Christ. These include the wounds of circumcision and the wound of the spear in the rib. These wounds are highly sexualized, as Marsha Schuchard describes in the article “Young William Blake and the Moravian Tradition of Visual Art.” Schuchard asserts that Moravians “focus intently on the bloody wounds of the crucified Jesus, which he interpreted in highly eroticized language—i.e., as the centurion’s phallic spear penetrated the vaginal side-wound, new souls were birthed in the gushing blood from this mystical intercourse” (Schuchard). The emphasis on the strange juxtaposition of the wounding of Christ against the phallic sexual imagery of the spear is both curious and applicable to Blake’s writing. In The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, Blake describes the Leviathan that faces him, using the same semi-sexual imagery. The Leviathan approaches, and Blake sees its “mouth & red gills hang just above the raging foam tinging the black deep with beams of blood, advancing toward us with all the fury of a spiritual existence” (Blake 77). This passage uses the same semi-sexual imagery to describe the events that cause the growth of Blake’s narrator. The description of the Leviathan as a kind of reddish, bleeding, flesh-frilled, hole-centered maw is simultaneously horrifying, as well as reminiscent of the miracle of birth. The erotic imagery of Moravian biblical study is perfectly captured in Blakeian demonic study, showing William Blake’s influence by a possible Moravian childhood.


Hey, this is disgusting and I hate when William Blake makes me think about stuff.

Ross Koppel

In “Young William Blake and the Moravian Tradition of Visionary Art” by Marsha Keith Schuchard, the author explores the Moravian influences that motivate the art of William Blake.

To put into context, Blake is influenced by Moravian art due to his mother, Catherine Armitage Blake, who’s Moravian associations dawned on “ecumenical missionaries, an esoteric tradition of Christian Kabbalism, Hermetic alchemy, and Oriental theosophy, along with a European “high culture” of religious art, music, and poetry.” Zinzendorf’s leadership in the Moravian church developed “Herzensreligion (religion of the heart), which affirmed that Jesus’s Menschwerdung (“humanation”) made him experience the full range of human pain and pleasure”.

This is exemplified in The Marriage of Heaven and Hell in the verse:

Energy is the only life, and is from the Body; and Reason is the bound or outward circumference of Energy.

Energy is Eternal Delight

The energy in this passage comes from the body. In Christianity the body is the ultimate sense of shame. Even it’s nakedness is offensive to others, and provokes sin in other people if they lust for it (despite the body being but a biological consequence of existing). So, for Blake to say that Energy, which is “the only life” is from the body further reinscribes the idea that humanization (and the carnal factors that come with it) are perhaps not as sinful as one would think. This could be connected to the ultimate source of energy driving the New Testament: Jesus Christ. If energy is from the body, than perhaps Blake is drawing from Moravian influences by stating that “Energy [from the body] is eternal delight”, so in a sense Jesus experienced  a “full range of human pain and pleasure”. I also believe that this verse could relate to Jesus through a Moravian lens because of the “eternal delight” which in Moravian believe the sensating of Jesus is a joyous experience.

Moravian ideals were also marked by gender fluidity. Drawing on beliefs that the holy trinity is a “male-female” divinity in which the Holy Spirit is female, and that all human souls are female, both sexes then are able to have a “psychoerotic consummation with Jesus”. Energy in this passage is not marked by a gender or by even a specific species. Instead these ideas are marked by the erotic implications one can put on ‘the body’ and on ‘delight’. This forms connection with a divinity that is not gender specific, and because it is not confined and energy is coming from the soul (which is apparently always female) than the possibilities of having a psychoerotic consumation with Jesus is possible through energy which comes from the body. Thus putting a new perspective on the idea that eroticism can only come from the human body, and cannot manifest through other forms of divine power.

-Beya Bautista

Renaming the Trinity

Blake’s “A Song of Liberty” in The Marriage of Heaven and Hell is indicative of Blake’s Moravian background in the imagery of his work, particularly in the symbolism of the Eternal Female. Moravian tradition proposed that the Trinity was composed not of an all-male cast, but rather, two males, and a female, as the Holy Spirit. Schuchard, in her article, “Young William Blake and the Moravian Tradition of Visionary Art” unpackages the reasoning behind the Moravian’s leader, Count Zinzendorf, who argued that “the Holy Spirit is the wife of God and mother of Jesus” (Schuchard 86). According to Schuchard, Zinzendorf took the sexualization of the religious even further, arguing that as Jesus was pierced by the centurion’s spear, a spiritual intercourse ensued, in which female new souls were birthed (Schuchard 86).

These two instances of symbolism in place of the literal make their own appearance in Blake’s work as well. Given his upbringing in a Moravian society that exalted controversial sexualized and violent images biblical images, and the encouragement from his mother perhaps bent on implanting “Zinzendorf’s peculiar but progressive notions of ‘infant education’” (Schuchard 87), it is no wonder in “A Song of Liberty” these symbols make their debut, albeit augmented. In the beginning of the song, Blake names an “Eternal Female” (Blake 81), who is in many ways a feminized Los (the deity of imagination and the Poetic Genius), and therefore a glorified version of Zinzendorf’s female Holy Spirit. Like the feminine Holy Spirit, the Eternal Female is mother to a “new born terror howling” (Blake 81), whereupon “the new born fire stood before the starry king” (Blake 81). Here the trinity is completed: the Eternal Female (The Holy Spirit), the new born terror (Jesus), and the starry king (God) make their appearance, and their roles are eerily similar. As the footnote points out, the starry king is an alias for Urizen, the logical rule setter that pushes out imagination. This sort of coincides with the Bible in that God has set out rules and expectations for the Israelites—a source of contention later in the New Testament. Although in class we haven’t talked about Enitharmon and Orc, the other two parts in the trinity, I suspect that they will have an uncanny resemblance to Jesus and the Holy Spirit.


– Sara Nuila-Chae

William Blake gets mixed up with the wrong crowd in The Marriage of Heaven and Hell. He summons demons that help to resurrect Aristotle’s Analytics in skeleton dream-form, and then proceeds to watch cannibal monkeys perform a religious sacrifice. He should have listened when his momma warned him to look out for guys like that, and even as Blake in “A Memorable Fancy” follows his Angel friend from the stable to the church, and down the vault, a vivid Moravian Christianity that celebrates infant stimulation relates how “Blake’s mother responded positively to the Moravians’ stress on the role of art and music in the development of visionary spirituality,” (Schuchard 88). Images of the body of christ, bloody and suffering from crucifixion, are suggested as being spiritual-creative forces, “to increase the congregation’s capacity to ‘see,’ ‘paint,’ and ‘engrave,’ Zinzendorf recruited and commissioned artists to create vivid portrayals of Christ’s life and sufferings for the Brothers and Sisters to study,” (Schuchard 88).

Blake similarly evokes Angels that help him “fling,” (Blake 78) to Saturn, and while he carries his copy of Emmanuel Swedenborg’s text, dressed in white, he follows the accompanying Angel who ironically is “sunk from the glorious clime,” (78). Most angels are exalted, but this one is earthly, takes him to concerts, “My friend the Angel climb’d up from his station into the mill […] I found myself sitting on a pleasant bank beside a river by moon light hearing a harper who sung to the harp,” (Blake 77). The epic language of Swift- who describes Gulliver’s promotion to Surgeon in Part III of Gulliver’s Travels accompanied by pirates and experiencing resurrections of historical tyrants like Alexander the Great- paralleled by Biblical allusion in Blake’s channeling of Angels is ultimately allowing a symbolic virtue instilled from Catherine’s approval of Moravian imagination in a young Blake to transform later into satire, “contrarian motto (beneath the serpent),” (78) as he encounters the supernatural.

-Bradley Dexter Christian

According to Moravian beliefs, the only way individuals can fully have a successful relationship with God is through their senses and the spiritual experiences they encounter with these senses. In Marsha Keith Schuchard’s article, Young William Blake and the Moravian Tradition of Visionary Art, she points out several Moravian images, themes, and element that actually appear in William Blake’s work. For instance, one of the elements that’s mentioned in the article, is this idea of Moravian artists to “arouse and utilize all the senses, so the viewer would move beyond mere understanding and would fully participate, fully sensate” (Peucker, “Kreuzbilder” 169). This proposal of arousal and utilization of the senses is clearly demonstrated through the grotesque – and heavily detailed – imagery William Blake uses in a passage called “A Memorable Fancy.” In this passage, the speaker visits two distinct lots, which, despite being different from one another, both worlds have one another’s intertwining elements. The speaker goes on to say, “In it were a number of monkeys, baboons, and all of that species… and with a grinning aspect, first coupled with and then devoured by plucking off first one limb and then another till the body was left a helpless trunk; this after grinning and kissing it with seeming fondness” (Blake, “A Memorable Fancy). In this passage, the speaker encounters different types of animals. However, these animals are enacting a form of gore-eroticism through their animalistic behavior. Despite tearing the flesh off one another and leaving nothing but the core, they seem to enjoy it; smiling and showing it affection. They seem to take pleasure and enjoy the graphic enactment. The detailed imagery Blake uses forces the reader to clench – and essentially – evoke a sense of queasiness through its description.

How can one take pleasure in torture? This idea of torture can also be tied to the crucifixion of Christ where his crucifiers seemed to enjoy the pain and agony Christ encountered on the cross. His crucifiers failed to demonstrate remorse – just like the monkeys and baboons. The only ones left feeling some type of emotion are the readers themselves – despite not physically encountering such grotesque of a situation.

Religion stifles the expression of man as it contributes to a more logical way of thinking and keeps them from looking deeper into the depths of one’s imagination. With imagination, one opens to a world where creativity guides the mind without the need to overthink it. In the article Young William Blake and the Moravian Tradition of Visionary Art by Marsha Keith Schuchard, they take a look at the Moravian tradition and speak about the arts in the way that take the logic from them. She states that “the hymns of the Moravians are full of ardent expressions, tender complaints, and animated prayers; these were my delight. As soon as I could write and spell, I imitated them, and before I was thirteen I had filled a little volume with sacred poems.” There is this emotional invocation from the “expressions” and “complaints” having of a more subjective approach to the arts. These arts become “sacred poems” that continuously interlock with one’s life hence making this a more personal connection with the reader than that of the act of logic. It is here that William Blake makes a separation between imagination and reason or how he likes to call them Los and Urizen. The two serve to be more of the classifications of humanity and their split in them from being truthful. As seen in the Marriage of Heaven and Hell, he states “The Giants who formed this world into its sensual existence and now seem to live in it in chains; are in truth the causes of its life and the sources of all activity, but the chains are, the cunning of weak and tame minds which have power to resist energy”(). It is here that Blake mentions again the split of logic and imagination and one of them tends to restrict man from their truths. They are like two opposite ends of a rope and there is always someone tugging at them trying to sway them one way or another. It is possible that maybe having these two forces pull at them that they could learn to use both in order to expose further realistic themes in life. It again reflects the ideas that Reynolds presented in my past blog post about duality and the need to understand two sides.

-Alexis Blanco

Count Nikolaus Ludwig von Zinzendorf was a religious reformer better known for as a bishop of the Moravian church. He along with other Moravian followers believed in the the importance of our five senses, and the idea that attaining a relationship with God lies not in following order and practices, but through more of a spiritual experience, body and soul can we truly get closer to god. Marsha Keith Schuchard’s article focuses on the potential Moravian beliefs Blake may have had by close reading some of his work. Schuchard describes that “…pious and self-righteous standards of behavior, which led to hypocrisy and joylessness, were not proper expressions of Christian worship” according to Moravian beliefs (Schuchard, 85). She further explains that Moravians instead beileved in the concept of Herzensreligion (religion of the heart) in order to help us “sensate Jesus’s love and to identify with his wounds…” (86).

From what we already know of Blake, he believed that in order to achieve the true poetic genius, we must stray from Urizen, which thus leads us closer to Los. By looking at Blake’s The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, we can observe certain passages which not only emphasize the idea of Urizen and Los, but portray Blake as a Moravian believer. Specifically in the passage where he tells us of a conversation he has with the prophet Isaiah, he says “Isaiah answer’d “I saw no God, nor heard any, in a finite organical perception; but my senses discover’d the infinite in everything…” (Blake, 74). The idea of the senses is emphasized here, by Isaiah denying that God exists in a solid, bodily form, which most people make him out to be. We can see this by the many religious depictions of God himself through art such as paintings, sculptures, etc. Blake here illuminates the idea that God exists in an “infinite” form. In order to truly be one with God or the “infinite”, we must be spiritually connected to our five senses. By embracing what we see, hear, feel, taste, and smell, we will not only discover God’s true form, but we would finally have achieved Los in which Blake highly stresses us to reach . 

Although there are other passages within The Marriage of Heaven and Hell which leads us to believe Blake was a Moravian believer, this specific passage truly captures that essence because Blake portrays a biblical prophet as his own infernal opposite.

-Kimberly Martinez-Melchor