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Abstract

The eruption of a certain mode of orgiastic or demonic consciousness that accompanies the unfolding mystery, the making public of the Father’s secret self, involves a return to a certain vision or image of the body. When Colebrook remarks on the sense, shared by Derrida and Blake, that ‘there is no ground, totality, community or consensus prior to figuration’ (p. 26), we can hear an echo of Moravian Christocentricism, of Christ as ‘the Ground and Foundation of the spiritual Building’.2 The figure of Christ, of his suffering and his death in the flesh, redeems religion and morality from the ‘Heathenish Manner’ that motions towards an invisible God and fails to ‘point out that God in the Face of Christ’ (ibid.). In this heathenish error we can perhaps perceive the spectre of Platonism against which Priestley also warns us, though to different effect,3 as we can in the belief in disembodied souls, of a spirit as ‘a breath of wind’, which Swedenborg likewise dismisses.4 This return to form, this becoming flesh of the absolute other, calls us towards a new understanding of responsibility and obedience to the law, which is not — as it is when the visor-effect comes into play — that ‘essentially blind submission’ of which Derrida speaks (Specters, p. 7). From this variant perspective, ‘the highest Art of Moralizing’ would therefore consist not in reasoning on the dictates of an invisible other, but in the recognition of a visible body:

In the Glorifying of the Wounds of Jesus, which got us the Privilege to be holy before the Eyes of the holy God; and to sympathize with his spiritual Law, or the Mind of Christ. (An Account, p. 53)

Keywords

Spiritual World Privy Council Visible Body Spiritual Form Revealed Knowledge 
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Notes

  1. 1.
    Richard Brothers, A Revealed Knowledge of the Prophecies & Times, 2 vols (London: [n. pub.], 1794), I, p. 45.Google Scholar
  2. 5.
    Marsha Keith Schuchard and Keri Davies, ‘Recovering the Lost Moravian History of William Blake’s Family: Part II’ (unpublished article, 2004), §55. This unpublished paper (hereafter referred to as Schuchard and Davies II) represents the second half of a two part piece, the first of which was published in Blake: An Illustrated Quarterly, 38 (2004) and is cited above. As the paper is in electronic form, I have opted to refer to paragraph numbers rather than page numbers; these begin at paragraph 25.Google Scholar
  3. 6.
    Schuchard and Davies are here drawing upon Craig Atwood, ‘Blood, Sex, and Death: Life and Liturgy in Zinzendorf’ (unpublished doctoral thesis, Princeton Theological Seminary, 1995), which unfortunately I have not had the opportunity to consult.Google Scholar
  4. 7.
    Emanuel Swedenborg, A Treatise Concerning Heaven and Hell, trans. [William Cookworth and Thomas Hartley], 2nd edn (London: R. Hindmarsh, 1784), §78. This is the edition annotated by Blake, although I have not had the opportunity to consult Blake’s copy.Google Scholar
  5. 8.
    The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, ed. F.L. Cross and E.A. Livingstone (London: Oxford University Press, 1988), p. 1327.Google Scholar
  6. 10.
    Marsha Keith Schuchard, ‘The Secret Masonic History of Blake’s Swedenborg Society’, Blake: An Illustrated Quarterly, 26 (1992), pp. 40–51 (p. 45).Google Scholar
  7. 11.
    Schuchard provides detailed accounts of the political allegiances and conflicts amongst London Swedenborgians, situating these within the historical context of late eighteenth-century Europe; see ‘Blake and the Grand Masters (1791–4): Architects of Repression or Revolution?’, in Blake in the Nineties, ed. Steve Clark and David Worrall (London: Macmillan, 1999), pp. 173–93; ‘The Secret Masonic History’ and ‘Why Mrs. Blake Cried’.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. 12.
    Emanuel, Swedenborg, The Wisdom of Angels Concerning the Divine Providence, trans. [N. Tucker] (London: Hindmarsh [1790]), p. xviii; E609. I have consulted the edition owned by Blake, though I have not been able to access his copy. Bentley lists 1790 as the probable date of Blake’s annotation (Blake Books, p. 697).Google Scholar
  9. 14.
    Gholam Reza Sabri-Tabrizi, The ‘Heaven’ and ‘Hell’ of William Blake (London: Lawrence & Wishart, 1973), pp. 1–24; for the political affiliations of different Masonic lodges, see Schuchard, ‘Blake and the Grand Masters’, pp. 174–6.Google Scholar
  10. 21.
    Joseph Priestley, The Present State of Europe Compared with the Antient Prophecies (London: J. Johnson, 1794), p. 2.Google Scholar
  11. 22.
    Jon Mee, ‘Is There an Antinomian in the House? William Blake and the After-Life of a Heresy’, in Historicizing Blake, ed. Steve Clark and David Worrall (London: Macmillan, 1994), pp. 43–58 (p. 48).Google Scholar

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© Matthew JA Green 2005

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  • Matthew J. A. Green

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