Tag Archive: Moravian Church


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

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For this particular post, I want to elaborate on Anna’s post from last week. In it, she discusses Blake’s use of Moravian themes in the last Memorable Fancy. Anna’s post can be found here: https://williamblakeandenlightenmentmedia.wordpress.com/2012/02/17/blake-zinzendorf-nuns-et-al/

Anna claims that in this Memorable Fancy, “we see a typical motif of Blake’s work by connecting obedience to restricting individual creativity. Living under the unquestioned law is blind obedience, but acting from impulse and displaying this physical devotion is closer to God” (Watt). I believe that this idea of obedience as a restriction of creativity can be expanded further to include restricted liberty, as is found in Paine’s “The Rights of Man.” Paine claims that “man under the monarchical and hereditary systems of government” is found in a “wretched state… dragged from his home by one power, or driven by another, and impoverished by taxes more than by enemies” (25). Much as Anna argues that the last Memorable Fancy demonstrates Blake’s belief that “traditional laws are oppression,” here we see Paine’s argument of traditional monarchy as oppressive. Paine’s comment that “every citizen is a member of the sovereignty, and as such can acknowledge no personal subjugation, and his obedience can be only to the laws” surely resonated with Blake, as it is a Poetic Genius-esque way of thinking about lawmaking (25).

However, just as Anna addresses in her post, we must also consider Blake’s tone and use of satire in all of his works. In his marginal comments, he claims that Paine’s writings are the work of “either a Devil or an inspired man,” and that “Paine is a better Christian than the Bishop” (456, 460). Can we really interpret this as praise for Paine? Blake’s use of satire in all of his works, including the last Memorable Fancy, makes it impossible for us to know exactly what he believes and champions. We can assume that Blake was influenced by the Moravian church based on the imagery found in the last Memorable Fancy, but we cannot begin to presume that Blake subscribed to the beliefs and ideals of the Moravian church because of his heavy use of satire. Likewise, we know that Paine influenced Blake’s thinking, but we are left to wonder if Blake really saw him as an “inspired man” or merely as a Devil.

For next Wednesday (2/21), students will write use the scholarly article linked below to support a specific interpretation of Blake’s The Marriage of Heaven and Hell:

http://bq.blakearchive.org/40.3.schuchard

Provide a close reading of ONE specific passage from Blake’s The Marriage of Heaven and Hell that, in your view, displays Moravian images, themes, and ideas.  Please cite the article using the MLA citation guide (you can access the guide electronically under the “Children of Los” tab in the course blog).  Please categorize your post under “Christ and the Body” and don’t forget to create specific and relevant tags.

Blake, Zinzendorf, Nuns, et al.

Though I missed class on Wednesday, I would like to talk a bit about Blake’s connections to the Moravian Church. While I’ll be avoiding the highly sexualized undertones of the “diminuitive terms of endearment” and all this business about “the last Kiss” and the Church as the “eternal Bridegroom,” I shall not fail to search for these kinds of references in my future engagement with Blake’s work (much the same as my habit of thinking of nun’s as being Christ’s earthly girlfriends… I once read a comic strip that conjectured that perhaps Jesus wouldn’t return to earth out of fear of his perhaps millions of sexually frustrated suitors who’ve been waiting patiently in their convents for centuries, but perhaps we can save that for another time…) No, I want to focus on those aspects of Moravian theology that can be easily found in his work, both in the the particular manifestations we find in a given piece, as well as the essence of his œuvre en générale.
In Zinzendorf’s (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nicolaus_Ludwig_Zinzendorf) reading of the Bible, the idea of Christ as the husband of his earthly Bridegroom, the Church (and by extension, presumably, the individual members therein) takes such a precedence that it thematizes the very way the Moravian Church refers to their Savior and their relation to him. This is where the sensual language (like the “last Kiss”) comes from. The Moravians, themselves, did all they could to maintain a childlike demeanor by “playing games and developing a secret language…” While their desire to appear childlike in the face of a sexualized savior seems quite troublesome, let it suffice to say that this search for youth and simplicity resonates strongly in Blake’s work. Recall “The Ecchoing Green” in which these very themes are explored. Now consider the whole of The Songs of Innocence and Experience. In Blake’s world of contraries, youth may have its appeal, innocence and the pastoral idyll are well characterized in Innocence, but age and experience provide an individual with a fuller understanding of the self and the world in which it resides.
I could go for longer, but I want to utilize the comments section to see where these ideas are leading you, dear reader. For now, I wait, as so many nuns before me.

Moravian Motherhood

I find it quite ironic that Moravian spirituality centralized sexual experimentation, most especially during the Sifting Time, while simultaneously placing much emphasis on female figures, principally the mother,and “aiming to become ever more childlike and simple” (Podmore, 132). While it is obvious that sexual desire and passion precede motherhood and that these two feelings enter the vein of childhood during the end stages of innocence, it baffles me that these wholly divergent facets are upheld and revered so equitably. Herein lies an intermingling of contraries that perhaps aims to reach followers at different stages of development, maturity, and, dare I say, corruption (i.e. experience). Perhaps this is the Moravian Church’s goal: to provide such a broad and accepting platform and appeal to a larger audience that otherwise may have been ousted or stigmatized by other churches whose dogmas were strict and were what we may in modern times deem “stringently conservative.” I’d like to focus for a moment more intently on the importance of female figures and the influence of the mother. Blake’s very upbringing echoes this aspect of the Moravian religion in that his mother, Catherine Wright Armitage, was a faithful Moravian along with her first husband, Thomas Armitage. Blake’s connection to the religion and its values is tied to the fact that a devout Moravian reared him. The mimetic quality of a child’s religious and moral beliefs during the period of innocence definitely exposed Blake to the sexually explicit and viscerally energetic Moravian religion. His transition to form his own religion or, arguably, a religion-less world in which each individual seeks his/ own Poetic Genius through artistic expression and self exploration, fastens Blake firmly in the world of Experience described in his “Songs.”