MILTON: Paradise Lost [Books VII-XII]


Book VII
• Adam asks Raphael to tell him how and why the world was created. Raphael states that God created the world to replace the number of Rebel Angels that were cast from Heaven, lest Satan mistakenly believe that he has harmed Heaven by decreasing its population.
• The world is created by Jesus and the Angels in six days by setting limits in the boundless infinity that is God. Therefore, Milton states that the universe was not created out of nothing, but out of God.

“How first began this Heav’n which we behold Distant so high, with moving Fires adornd Innumerable, and this which yeelds or fills All space, the ambient Aire, wide interfus’d Imbracing round this florid Earth, what cause Mov’d the Creator in his holy Rest Through all Eternitie so late to build In Chaos, and the work begun, how soon Absolv’d?”

“Knowledge is as food, and needs no less Her Temperance over Appetite, to know In measure what the mind may well contain, Oppresses else with Surfet, and soon turns Wisdom to Folly.”

I am very suspicious of Adam’s motivations for desiring to know how the Earth and Heavens were created. He states that he desires such knowledge in order to extol the creativity of God, but I think that he, like all mankind, is naturally curious, especially about matters concerning the origins of life and the universe.

Raphael asserts that it is impossible for him to full articulate the works of God, much less is it possible for mankind to understand the works of God. Nevertheless, he endeavors to reveal to Adam and Eve what he can, and what they can comprehend. This reliance on incomprehensibility to explain some of the unsolved mysteries of the universe is frustrating and destructive. It deters further inquiry into a subject because it definitively states that we cannot comprehend it. Even though some matters might truly be incomprehensible to us, we ought to believe and act as if everything in the universe is comprehensible, so that we will never stop seeking for knowledge. Furthermore, Raphael says that Knowledge is like food, and should be sought with the same kind of temperance. Too much knowledge turns wisdom to folly. This is a unique position that Milton holds with regards to knowledge. Aristotle expresses a contrary opinion in the Ethics: “But we do not speak of men as either temperate or profligate in relation to the pleasures of ambition and of learning. Nor similarly can these terms be applied to the enjoyment of any of the other pleasures that are not bodily pleasures.”

Without the rebellion of Satan, God would not have created mankind. A better race was made to replace the evil Angels. Good was created out of evil.

• Adam asks Raphael to explain the motions of the stars and planets. Raphael tells Adam that it is not important to know such matters. Instead Adam should focus on understanding what appears before him on a daily basis.
• Adam tells Raphael what he has remembered since being created by God. He praises the beauty of Eve. Raphael warns Adam that love consists in the refinement of intelligence and virtue, not carnal pleasure.

“Apt the Mind or Fancy is to roave Uncheckt, and of her roaving is no end; Till warn’d, or by experience taught, she learne, That not to know at large of things remote From use, obscure and suttle, but to know That which before us lies in daily life, Is the prime Wisdom.”

“Yet when I approach Her loveliness, so absolute she seems And in her self compleat, so well to know Her own, that what she wills to do or say, Seems wisest, vertuousest, discreetest, best; All higher knowledge in her presence falls Degraded, Wisdom in discourse with her Looses discount’nanc’t, and like folly shewes; Authority and Reason on her waite, As one intended first, not after made Occasionally; and to consummate all, Greatness of mind and nobleness thir seat Build in her loveliest, and create an awe About her, as a guard Angelic plac’t.”

“In loving thou dost well, in passion not, Wherein true Love consists not; love refines The thoughts, and heart enlarges, hath his seat In Reason, and is judicious, is the scale By which to heav’nly Love thou maist ascend, Not sunk in carnal pleasure, for which cause Among the Beasts no Mate for thee was found.”

Raphael describes love as something that refines the intelligence and virtue of an individual. Love is not carnal pleasure derived from the senses. He uses this description as an admonishment to Adam, who had just finished extoling the beauty of Eve. Adam’s speech indicates that he is subject to her rather than she to him as God intended. This foreshadows the Fall, in which Adam eats of the forbidden fruit because he refuses to live without Eve.

Book IX
• Satan enters into a sleeping serpent and finds Eve. She is alone. He beguiles her with tales of increased knowledge and divinity upon tasting the forbidden fruit. Persuaded, Eve eats of the fruit and becomes intoxicated with the feeling it arouses. She offers the fruit to Adam. Not desiring to live without Eve, Adam voluntarily sacrifices his own innocence and eats the fruit.
• After relishing in their newfound happiness, they fall asleep. Upon waking, they sense the full import of their transgression, and use fig trees to hide their nakedness in attempt to cover their shame and disgrace.

“O Earth, how like to Heav’n, if not preferr’d More justly, Seat worthier of Gods, as built With second thoughts, reforming what was old! For what God after better worse would build?”

“O foul descent! that I who erst contended With Gods to sit the highest, am now constraind Into a Beast, and mixt with bestial slime, This essence to incarnate and imbrute, That to the hight of Deitie aspir’d; But what will not Ambition and Revenge Descend to? who aspires must down as low As high he soard”

“I from the influence of thy looks receave Access in every Vertue, in thy sight More wise, more watchful, stronger, if need were Of outward strength; while shame, thou looking on, Shame to be overcome or over-reacht Would utmost vigor raise, and rais’d unite.”

“Why then was this forbid? Why but to awe, Why but to keep ye low and ignorant, His worshippers; he knows that in the day Ye Eate thereof, your Eyes that seem so cleere, Yet are but dim, shall perfetly be then Op’nd and cleerd, and ye shall be as Gods, Knowing both Good and Evil as they know. So ye shall die perhaps, by putting off Human, to put on Gods, death to be wisht, Though threat’nd, which no worse then this can bring.”

“I feel Farr otherwise th’ event, not Death, but Life Augmented, op’nd Eyes, new Hopes, new Joyes, Taste so Divine, that what of sweet before Hath toucht my sense, flat seems to this, and harsh.”

“Understanding rul’d not, and the Will Heard not her lore, both in subjection now To sensual Appetite, who from beneathe Usurping over sovran Reason claimd Superior sway”

Adam voluntarily sacrifices his life for the love of Eve. This act is symbolic of mankind turning away from Reason and allowing Passion to rule. In the context of this poem, Milton clearly expresses the folly of allowing Passion to override one’s better judgment. Indeed a character is often more admirable when he or she does not succumb to Passion, but not in all cases. I believe that this is one case in which the act of sacrificing one’s life for an emotion, despite the act being entirely illogical, is justified because that emotion is love. There are many exceptions and absurdities associated with love; this is one of those instances.

After eating the fruit of the forbidden tree of knowledge, Adam and Eve feel a kind of elevated happiness that they have never felt before. I believe that Milton might be alluding to the paradox of pleasure and pain – i.e. the more pleasure one experiences, the more pain one will experience in the future, and vice versa. Pain and pleasure are so interconnected that a person cannot possess one without the other. Milton clearly does not believe that the momentary euphoria is consummate to the everlasting loss of innocence. As a fellow member of the Fallen species of Man, I cannot judge whether the prelapsarian state is more desirable than the period after the Fall because I have never experienced that state of innocence. However, if the end of human life is to be happy, as Aristotle claims, then extraordinary pain and loss of innocence is necessary for the unsurpassable bliss of redemption.

Book X
• God sends Jesus to sit in judgment of Adam and Eve. Jesus clothes them, passes the sentence of Death on both of them, pain in childbirth for Eve, and hard physical labor for Adam. Jesus also foretells the ultimate destruction of Satan by Adam and Eve’s posterity.
• Sin and Death pave a road over the abyss of Chaos from Hell to Earth. They meet Satan all of them congratulate one another.
• Satan returns to Pandemonium and boasts of his victory. All of the fallen angels, including Satan, transform into serpents according to the sentence of God. The serpents are deceived into believing that a forbidden tree has sprung up in their midst. They greedily attempt to devour its fruit, but it turns to dust and ashes.
• God foretells of the final victory over Death and Sin, and of the renewal of Heaven and Earth.
• Alterations are made in the Heavens and on Earth. For example, seasons of harsh heat and freezing cold are introduced, as well as tempests and other destructive natural phenomena.
• Adam contemplates suicide. Eve finally assuages Adam’s woe, and proposes that they ought to die childless, so that their curse does not light upon the heads of their posterity. Adam disapproves of her plan, reminding her that their posterity will exact vengeance on Satan. Adam and Eve resolve to repent their transgression and supplicate God for peace.

“With delight he snuff’d the smell Of mortal change on Earth. As when a flock Of ravenous Fowl, though many a League remote, Against the day of Battel, to a Field, Where Armies lie encampt, come flying, lur’d With sent of living Carcasses design’d For death, the following day, in bloodie fight.”

“O Conscience, into what Abyss of fears And horrors hast thou driv’n me; out of which I find no way, from deep to deeper plung’d!”

Adam and Eve resolve not to commit suicide, despite the knowledge that their posterity will be cursed. They choose to live and propagate because they desire to avenge themselves upon Satan. I believe that their motivation reveals a startling insight about human nature – people are willing to sacrifice everything for the sake of revenge. This theme is prevalent in many of the Great Books that I have read thus far: Hamlet, Macbeth, Paradise Lost, Prometheus Bound, the Oresteia, the Iliad, etc. Is revenge Plato’s greatest good?

Book XI
• God accepts Adam and Eve’s prayers of repentance, but commands the arch angel Michael to expel them from Eden nevertheless. He also orders Michael to revel the future to Adam.
• Michael shows Adam a vision of the future that accords with the Biblical account of the Old Testament.

“Death thou hast seen In his first shape on man; but many shapes Of Death, and many are the wayes that lead To his grim Cave, all dismal; yet to sense More terrible at th’ entrance then within.”

“Over them triumphant Death his Dart Shook, but delaid to strike, though oft invokt With vows, as thir chief good, and final hope.”

“O miserable Mankind, to what fall Degraded, to what wretched state reserv’d! Better end heer unborn. Why is life giv’n To be thus wrested from us? rather why Obtruded on us thus? who if we knew What we receive, would either not accept Life offer’d, or soon beg to lay it down, Glad to be so dismist in peace. Can thus Th’ Image of God in man created once So goodly and erect, though faultie since, To such unsightly sufferings be debas’t Under inhuman pains? Why should not Man, Retaining still Divine similitude In part, from such deformities be free, And for his Makers Image sake exempt?”

“Let no man seek Henceforth to be foretold what shall befall Him or his Childern, evil he may be sure.”

“Day and Night, Seed time and Harvest, Heat and hoary Frost Shall hold thir course, till fire purge all things new, Both Heav’n and Earth, wherein the just shall dwell.”

Mankind desires to know the future. We seek patterns in an effort to determine the future with better accuracy. Discerning particular causal relationships are crucial to survival in many cases. If animals die after drinking from a particular water source, then men will conclude that there is a high probability of dying after drinking from that same water source. Although knowledge of the future is beneficial in many instances, it can also be a cause of great grief and suffering. Adam laments that he is shown the future of mankind because he recognizes the inescapable suffering that will be endured by his posterity. Milton compares Adam to a parent who beholds the suffering and death of his children.

Book XII
• The Angel Michael continues from the Flood to relate what shall succeed; then, in the mention of Abraham, comes by degrees to explain, who that Seed of the Woman shall be, which was promised Adam and Eve in the Fall; his Incarnation, Death, Resurrection, and Ascention; the state of the Church till his second Coming. Adam greatly satisfied and recomforted by these Relations and Promises descends the Hill with Michael; wakens Eve, who all this while had slept, but with gentle dreams compos’d to quietness of mind and submission. Michael in either hand leads them out of Paradise, the fiery Sword waving behind them, and the Cherubim taking thir Stations to guard the Place.

“Henceforth I learne, that to obey is best, And love with feare the onely God, to walk As in his presence, ever to observe His providence, and on him sole depend, Merciful over all his works, with good Still overcoming evil, and by small Accomplishing great things, by things deemd weak Subverting worldly strong, and worldly wise By simply meek; that suffering for Truths sake Is fortitude to highest victorie, And to the faithful Death the Gate of Life.”

“Onely add Deeds to thy knowledge answerable, add Faith, Add vertue, Patience, Temperance, add Love, By name to come call’d Charitie, the soul Of all the rest: then wilt thou not be loath To leave this Paradise, but shalt possess A Paradise within thee, happier farr.”

“The World was all before them, where to choose Thir place of rest, and Providence thir guide: They hand in hand with wandring steps and slow, Through Eden took thir solitarie way.”

1. Does fate really exist, or is it all just a matter of luck? I believe that we have free will. We can make independent decisions concerning certain actions. Although we have free will, I also believe that the omniscient foreknowledge represented by Milton’s God exists; there is no contradiction between free will and perfect foreknowledge of the future because the perspective of a God-like entity is not within the dimension of time. That perspective can essentially view all of time at a moment. From such a perspective, it is as if the future has already occurred. The free decisions that humans make can be known by an entity that is removed from the dimension of time. I believe that our physical bodies move through the three dimensions of space, and our consciousness moves through the dimension of time. If one considers the dimension of time as having length like space, a person could view the entire length of time, and all that occurs, at once as if he was viewing an entire tree, or stick, or ball.

1. How bad was Adam and Eve’s sin, really? The sin is not bad if one only considers the mere act itself – i.e. eating fruit. However, the sin becomes particularly egregious if one considers that eating the fruit was expressly forbidden. Furthermore, God and Raphael warned Adam and Eve more than once of the dire consequences of eating from the forbidden tree, which only serves to increase the severity of their transgression.
2. What about Satan’s? Satan’s sin is as bad as Adam and Eve. All sin is disobedience. I do not think there is room for degrees of evil as there are in the criminal justice system established by man. Murder is distinguished from petty crimes such as minor theft and public intoxication, but to commit a sin in the religious sense is one and the same no matter the circumstances.
3. Do only people with some type of religious belief use the word sin? What word do you use? I believe that sin is a term that is uniquely associated with religion. An act can be either both a sin and a crime as defined by a society’s justice system, a crime but not a sin, or a sin but not a crime. For example, murder is both a sin and a crime. Blasphemy is a sin but not a crime. At the moment, I am having difficulty determining an act that is a crime but not a sin. I am fairly certain that there is such an act. Hopefully someone will be able to remind me of such an act.
4. Was it fair for the whole world to be punished for Adam and Eve’s one screw up? No, it isn’t fair because I believe that one must have some share of responsibility in a crime or sin in order to be punished. It is absurd to punish the innocent infant of a drug dealer. We ought to provide care and protection to the infant rather than punish it as a consequence of its parent’s actions.

1. Why does it seem like we’re always talking about pride? Is it some kind of primal human problem? According to Rousseau, pride developed along with society. When men gathered together at communal dances and festivals, men gazed upon others and wished to be gazed upon by others. They esteemed those people who were the strongest, fastest, and best at particular activities. In turn, they wished to be esteemed by others.
2. When is pride a good thing and when is it a bad thing? Pride is a good thing when it motivates a person to virtuous action. A person’s pride can compel him to exercise daily so that he will become a great athlete. Pride is a bad thing when it motivates a person to vicious action. A person’s pride can compel him to murder someone who has offended his pride, or someone who poses a threat to his pride.
3. What other famous characters and/or people are (in)famous for their pride? Macbeth, Prometheus, Hamlet, Achilles, Odysseus, any ancient Greek hero, Julius Caesar, Alexander the Great, Napoleon, etc.
4. How proud are Adam and Eve when they sin? Eve is very proud when she sins. Satan flatters her. She desires to become a god.

1. What would a perfect world look like? A perfect world would be like Plato’s Realm of Ideas – immutable, perfect, and eternal.

1. Are lying and deception slightly different or are they the same thing? Lying is slightly different from deception. While both lying and deception are actions that mislead another person as to the truth, lying is a deliberate action and deception can either be deliberate or done unknowingly. For example, Eve does not deliberately lie to Adam about the efficacy of the fruit when she tells him that it will make them god-like. She genuinely believes that she is becoming a god after eating the fruit. Thus, we must conclude that Eve unknowingly deceived Adam about the truth of the fruit.

1. Is revenge ever justified? Revenge is always justified according to the person seeking revenge.
2. What would you do if you were in Satan’s position? I believe that Western culture has cultivated a strong sense of pride, justice, and liberty. A Western person desires these three things above everything else. When a person’s pride or liberty has been injured or stolen, he will seek justice in the form of what he regards as “fair.” For many people, “fair” is determined by weighing the injury done to one’s pride and liberty. The greater a man’s pride, the greater he will deem the injury done to his pride. The greater desire for freedom one possesses, the greater one will deem the injury committed by the theft of that liberty.

1. What effects does the Fall have on Adam and Eve’s ability to communicate? Their communication is tainted by the newly developed passions that arise within them after their fall. For example, Adam resents Eve for leading him into temptation, and ‘forcing’ his hand. He blames Eve for their Fall, and loses the awe he once possessed for her beauty.

1. Are sex and love the same thing? No, love is everything that leads to sex, and everything that makes a couple remain with one another after having sex.
2. Is there anything sexual about Satan’s temptation of Eve? Yes, Satan appears to Eve in the form of a serpent, which is a phallic symbol. He also seduces Eve by praising her beauty.
3. How would you characterize Adam and Eve’s sex scene after the Fall? It is tainted by carnal lust. Sex after the Fall will never attain the same purity and innocence of sex before the Fall.

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