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Paradise Lost: Bk III 
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Post Paradise Lost: Bk III
Book III Discussion

Please use this thread to discuss Book III of Paradise Lost



Wed Jan 21, 2009 11:54 pm
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These comments are on the first approximately 350 lines of the book. Milton speaks as himself, of himself, for the first time in the first 55 lines. These are very beautiful lines and remind me why Milton is widely considered to be second, after Shakespeare, of writers of English. I might agree, despite the problems I have with his style. He speaks so movingly of his blindness here.

The council in Heaven has interesting parallels to Satan's council in Hell. Milton means for the comparison to be all in favor of God, but I wonder. God is a character who can be interpreted like any other, and the picture I get of him initially is not as the loving father figure we might want to see, but as legal-minded, self-justifying, and smug. He uses the first-person pronoun quite a lot, and in his me, me ,me talk he brings Satan to mind. He is not a tyrant, of course, but he does lord it over everybody, how fair and blameless he is. It should be no surprise that we would react negatively to him, in that we always do so here on earth with know-it-alls, and God is the prize know-it-all. He knows everything that Adam and Eve, and Satan, will do, but his foreknowledge implies no necessity for them to act this way. If they had acted some other way, his foreknowledge would have been of them acting this other way. It's hard to wrap the mind around this thinking. Free will is of course God's big emphasis as he talks about the angels' and man's ultimate responsibility for what they did.

The drama is slight in this section. God tells about his willingness to extend mercy to man because the sin is going to be one of weakness rather than of intended evil, as with Satan. But, darn, he says, whoever would volunteer for the job it will take to satisfy justice in the case against man? The son volunteers, of course, to God's great gratitude. At least he didn't say, "I knew you were going to say that." Somewhat mitigating the degree of God's sacrifice is that he will have the Son restored to him after he suffers on earth. When we think about God's justice, how strange it can seem that for the crime of tasting fruit, Adam and Eve as well as all their future progeny must die and be condemned to Hell forever;
and that to prevent this from happening the only answer is for someone to die in their place, to vicariously atone for their sin. It is almost as if God is responding to some mandate above him. What he proposes seems to me to make little sense. I don't recall that Pandora was condemned in the Greek myth, after loosing the evils of the world from the box, which roughly compares to what Eve did.

After all the theologizing that happens in this book, it's a relief to come back to Satan and see what the wily fellow is up to.



Sat Jan 24, 2009 1:49 pm
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Post Paradise lost Bk lll
Dwill I must chuckle at your comfort in sitting back to see what the 'wiley devil' is up to next. I'm a bit surprised I have managed to get this far this time around...reading this is even more difficult than reading the Bible itself.
Grindle



Sat Jan 24, 2009 2:30 pm
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Grindle, if you're into Book III yet, you're almost one-quarter of the way there! This is very densely packed writing, more so than the Bible, I think you're right. If it's any incentive, by getting through Book XII, by my unscientific estimate you will be in the elite .0001% of the population to have done so. And then you'll be more than justified in reading whatever trashy stuff you might have felt guilty about reading before.



Sat Jan 24, 2009 9:51 pm
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I hope it's not rushing things, but I'd like to say something briefly about the rest of Bk. III before we get to the action in Eden. (By the way, I'm always realizing how ignorant I am about many things. I didn't know that the garden is supposedly just a part of a much larger area called Eden. "East of Eden" may then mean in the eastern part of Eden.)

As Satan cruises around toward the "world" (all the planets, the sun, and some outer rings), he spots an area that God uses as a limbo of vanities. Milton invents this, apparently. He puts people here who were just way wrong about what they believed. The Catholic monks from the various orders are here, as well as pilgrims who thought they could find Jesus' presence in Palestine, not knowing he is in Heaven. Milton, of course, was above all anti-Catholic.

The detail with which Milton describes this Ptolemaic universe is very impressive. Think of dictating all of this. At line 586, Milton mentions Gallileo's 1609 discovery of sunspots, one of several references in PL to contemporary astronomy:

So wondrously was set his Station bright.
There lands the Fiend, a spot like which perhaps
Astronomer in the Sun's lucent Orbe
Through his glaz'd Optic Tube yet never saw.

When Satan spots Uriel standing guard at the entrance to the world, he assumes the first of several disguises. Satan fools Uriel because "neither Man nor angel can discern/Hypocrisy, the only evil that walks/Invisible, except to God alone,/By his permissive will, through heav'n and earth." (683-685). The note to these lines says that "permissive will" contrasts with "active will." Apparently, angels and humans just came out this way, and God didn't feel compelled to do anything about it. But maybe this is a clever way of Milton's to explain how Satan gets by security.



Mon Jan 26, 2009 7:55 am
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DWill wrote:
When Satan spots Uriel standing guard at the entrance to the world, he assumes the first of several disguises. Satan fools Uriel because "neither Man nor angel can discern/Hypocrisy, the only evil that walks/Invisible, except to God alone,/By his permissive will, through heav'n and earth." (683-685). The note to these lines says that "permissive will" contrasts with "active will." Apparently, angels and humans just came out this way, and God didn't feel compelled to do anything about it. But maybe this is a clever way of Milton's to explain how Satan gets by security.
You know, this got me thinking about a parallel with 911. How extraordinarily amazing it was that the hijackers got past all the defences of the USA, and managed to destroy the biggest and most iconic buildings in the world. It is a bit like Satan conning Uriel - o I am just a sweet innocent cherub, and by the way where is the earth? :whistle: Like Atta saying, yes keen to learn to fly, not worried about landing though. :whistle: The naive angel Uriel twigs to the nefarious plot and hotfoots it to Paradise, but alas the evil snake is already whispering sweet nothings in Eve's ear, a tiny memetic virus that is enough to produce our catastrophic fall from grace.

I think it may be more common for this image of the 'hero' wending through various defences and achieving their goal against tremendous odds to be the other way around - good triumphing over evil rather than the reverse. Think Frodo and Mount Doom in Lord of the Rings, Neo v the Machine in The Matrix, or Luke Skywalker v the Death Star in Star Wars. Maybe I just don't like movies where evil triumphs.



Tue Jan 27, 2009 5:26 am
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DWill wrote:
When Satan spots Uriel standing guard at the entrance to the world, he assumes the first of several disguises. Satan fools Uriel because "neither Man nor angel can discern/Hypocrisy, the only evil that walks/Invisible, except to God alone, . . .


All warfare is based on deception. --Sun Tzu in The Art of War
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Art_of_War

Milton is wrong about us not being able to spot deception. We spot it easy enough once we suspect it.

Tom



Tue Jan 27, 2009 8:13 am
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Robert Tulip wrote:
DWill wrote:
When Satan spots Uriel standing guard at the entrance to the world, he assumes the first of several disguises. Satan fools Uriel because "neither Man nor angel can discern/Hypocrisy, the only evil that walks/Invisible, except to God alone,/By his permissive will, through heav'n and earth." (683-685). The note to these lines says that "permissive will" contrasts with "active will." Apparently, angels and humans just came out this way, and God didn't feel compelled to do anything about it. But maybe this is a clever way of Milton's to explain how Satan gets by security.
You know, this got me thinking about a parallel with 911. How extraordinarily amazing it was that the hijackers got past all the defences of the USA, and managed to destroy the biggest and most iconic buildings in the world. It is a bit like Satan conning Uriel - o I am just a sweet innocent cherub, and by the way where is the earth? :whistle: Like Atta saying, yes keen to learn to fly, not worried about landing though. :whistle: The naive angel Uriel twigs to the nefarious plot and hotfoots it to Paradise, but alas the evil snake is already whispering sweet nothings in Eve's ear, a tiny memetic virus that is enough to produce our catastrophic fall from grace.

A fascinating parallel.



Tue Jan 27, 2009 10:32 am
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Thomas Hood wrote:
DWill wrote:
When Satan spots Uriel standing guard at the entrance to the world, he assumes the first of several disguises. Satan fools Uriel because "neither Man nor angel can discern/Hypocrisy, the only evil that walks/Invisible, except to God alone, . . .


All warfare is based on deception. --Sun Tzu in The Art of War
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Art_of_War

Milton is wrong about us not being able to spot deception. We spot it easy enough once we suspect it.Tom

It does seem that perhaps Milton made the statement more to justify Satan's being able to evade detection, not because it is an accurate observation. The key ingredient in detection is "once we suspect it." The window of opportunity, where we are naive about others' intending harm to us, can be exploited by Satan and the 911 highjackers both. After we find we've been fooled, we're then likely to overcompensate by seeing threats everywhere, a tendency which manifested in the post-911 response.



Tue Jan 27, 2009 10:39 am
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I suppose the main subject of this book is really free will. Milton has also introduced the idea of predestination as it applies to god's omniscience.
Its interesting that when you go and read critques of PL there is a lot of confusion regarding the inclusion of both of these beliefs (freewill/predest).
The fact that god knows how all events will turn out does not mean that predestination rules, rather within each event all characters have the free will to make any choice, god just knows what those choices will be before they are made.



Tue Jan 27, 2009 11:05 am
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Ibid wrote:
I suppose the main subject of this book is really free will. Milton has also introduced the idea of predestination as it applies to god's omniscience.
Its interesting that when you go and read critques of PL there is a lot of confusion regarding the inclusion of both of these beliefs (freewill/predest).
The fact that god knows how all events will turn out does not mean that predestination rules, rather within each event all characters have the free will to make any choice, god just knows what those choices will be before they are made.


Through all of this, I find myself thinking about C.G. Jung's Answer to Job and the fact that after 911, even though you may now be paranoid, it doesn't mean no one is after you...I only hope that there is, after all, a terriffic sense of humor out there to match the minds that seem to be impelled to question...



Tue Jan 27, 2009 1:12 pm
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Ibid wrote:
Its interesting that when you go and read critques of PL there is a lot of confusion regarding the inclusion of both of these beliefs (freewill/predest).
The fact that god knows how all events will turn out does not mean that predestination rules, rather within each event all characters have the free will to make any choice, god just knows what those choices will be before they are made.

Milton seems to have accepted the existence of predestination but also believed that the rest could earn their salvation. Maybe to repudiate presestination altogether was too radical a step for him.

Some I have chosen of peculiar grace
Elect above the rest; so is my will:
The rest shall hear me call, and oft be warnd [ 185 ]
Thir sinful state, and to appease betimes
Th' incensed Deitie while offerd grace
Invites; for I will cleer thir senses dark,
What may suffice, and soft'n stonie hearts
To pray, repent, and bring obedience due

God works really hard on the argument that his foreknowledge doesn't imply determinism of individual actions. But the point that should be argued is whether this forekowledge of a truly free action could ever exist in any being, no matter how supernaturally powerful. Without being able to explain myself well on this point, it seems to me that the result of this supposedly free choice has to be absolutely unpredictable and unforeknowable if it is indeed free. God insisting that he knew which way they would choose is not just unattractively know-it-all, but outside of logic.



Tue Jan 27, 2009 9:22 pm
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