How nice to mix Paradise Lost
with The Secret Garden
. Tom, I disagree with you here on Milton. There is the tradition via Blake which sees Satan as like a secret hero, but this is superficial and wrong. Milton presents a seductive and fascinating portrayal of the power of evil, as part of a broader deep cosmology that says this wicked temptation is hollow and can never provide a sustainable basis for life. Hence at the moment of Satan's announcement of triumph to the demons in hell, Satan and his minions are turned into hissing snakes and left with ash in their mouths to illustrate that God has all the real power. The question gets back to the ancient debate between Christianity and the Manichean religion
, which held that there are two equal cosmic principals at war with each other, good versus evil. However, as Augustine noted in his conversion from Manichaeism to Christianity, evil is not itself a sustainable original cosmic principle, but only exists as a corruption of something already existing that is naturally good. Evil can amass immense power, but is always pointed towards a path to destruction, whereas good is pointed towards a path to creation. So, it may appear that good and evil are almost balanced, or even that evil is triumphant, but the real final triumph can only be with a principle that is in harmony with the universe, ie good. The problem for humanity is that evil may well have the power to cause our extinction, in which case the triumph of good would occur in the silence of the graveyard. Christianity holds out the hope that the material world is good and can be redeemed and transformed into unity with the divine spirit of love. This sense of redemption through nature is perhaps the most beautiful lesson of The Secret Garden.
It does though open a problem for Milton, in that the snake as a good natural creature is badly slandered by his use of it, pace Genesis, as a symbol for evil. Theosophy departed from Christianity on this score, seeing the church tradition as infected by fallen false consciousness and recognising that dominion over nature requires humble love of nature.