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Opening comments on Paradise Lost
https://www.booktalk.org/opening-comments-on-paradise-lost-t5849-30.html
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Author:  Raving Lunatic [ Tue Jan 20, 2009 8:48 am ]
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The reason why I am interested in this poem is because of my love for other creation "myths". I have followed both the traditional Christian beliefs, Shinto, Chinese, Buddhist, Hindu, Roman, and Greek beliefs. I have read this poem in college and when it was brought up as a possible read I was excited and elated that we all could discuss this. We have a very diverse group and this poem can be examined in so many different points of view. I relish that.

Author:  Robert Tulip [ Tue Jan 20, 2009 3:45 pm ]
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(Copying from The Secret Garden thread)

Thomas Hood wrote:
Penelope wrote:
Mary then went and infected Colin......love, I think, is just infectious.
Well, unfortunately anger, hatred, and depression are infectious too. Now, which spiritual force could be stronger? :) Milton seems to think they're almost balanced -- win some, lose some.
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.

Author:  Thomas Hood [ Tue Jan 20, 2009 9:28 pm ]
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Robert Tulip wrote:
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.


Robert, I wasn't thinking along those lines, but rather of the ambiguity of Paradise Lost. In terms of Milton's actual situation -- parlimentary Presbyterians versus divine-right-of-kings Royalists -- Who are the forces of good and who evil? Are the failed Presbyterians Satan's legion or is it the Royalists with their tyranny and corruption? Good seems offset by evil however you look.

Also, Milton knew the classical myths. Zeus lived in fear of his overthrow, and the Norse gods awaited Ragnarok. Cosmos eventually yields to Chaos. The death of God is implicit in the first bit of the Forbidden Fruit (equivalent to Promethean fire) because Providence will eventually be replaced by technology.

Tom

Author:  Robert Tulip [ Tue Jan 20, 2009 11:16 pm ]
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Thomas Hood wrote:
Cosmos eventually yields to Chaos. The death of God is implicit in the first bit of the Forbidden Fruit (equivalent to Promethean fire) because Providence will eventually be replaced by technology. Tom
But Christian doctrine is that good will eventually triumph, that crucifixion is followed by resurrection. The death of God, seen in the cross and in the fall, is a necessary cyclic precursor to the stronger rebirth of God. Could you explain your point about providence and technology? I would have thought that the internet is a part of providence.

Author:  Robert Tulip [ Wed Jan 21, 2009 4:08 am ]
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Tom suggested that love and hatred are balanced. When I suggested this was a Manichaean cosmology, Tom noted, if I can loosely paraphrase, that we cannot know who is good and who is evil in politics. The appearance is that rival cosmologies, in Milton's world the Presbyters and the Papists, are often equally matched, with evil to one appearing as good to the other.

Tom then suggested the idea that providence will be replaced by technology. To me this is an astounding evil, envisaging a Matrix world of iPods plugging us in to the machine fantasy and allowing imaginary escape from the decaying real world of nature. It seems to me that the vision of an escape from providence is itself flatly impossible, as if the eddy defeated the river. The cosmic battle of Paradise Lost presents Satan rather like a big eddy, a place where the current reverses from the dominant natural flow. Rather than accepting its real place as a countercyclical piece of complexity, the Satanic eddy imagines that it can control its fate, determining where the stream should flow.

Technology, understood as human control of fate, is precisely the ultimate human controlling pride which Milton sees as Satanic. His acolyte William Blake expanded on this in describing the dark Satanic mills blighting the green and pleasant land of the new Jerusalem of England.

I agree there is ambiguity in the identification of good and evil - for example I would dispute Milton's description of Osiris and Isis as devils. The problem of witchcraft is a case in point - what to some is an honest natural cosmic identity is to others a blasphemous denial of divinity.

The idea that love and hate are in balance lacks coherence. Hatred is a partial distortion while love is in tune with the whole. It is like saying the part can be greater than the whole - giving the lie to the false arrogance of Satan.

Author:  Thomas Hood [ Wed Jan 21, 2009 5:45 am ]
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Robert Tulip wrote:
But Christian doctrine is that good will eventually triumph, that crucifixion is followed by resurrection.


But Milton was more Liberal Humanist than Christian, and shouldn't -- in my opinion -- be painted with the Presbyterian brush.

Author:  Thomas Hood [ Wed Jan 21, 2009 6:10 am ]
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Robert Tulip wrote:
Tom then suggested the idea that providence will be replaced by technology. To me this is an astounding evil, . . .


No more evil, Robert, than your proposal to save us through sea technology :)

The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil is -- in my opinion -- the Tree of Technology. A technological orientation toward life is incompatible with the providential, and displaces it. Unfortunately, it also displaces aesthetic values preserved in tradition (antiques, Catholic art, the old buildings of Europe, the Bible as a work of beauty, . . .).

The second chorus of Antigone:

Quote:
Wonders are many, but none there be
So strange, so fell, as the Child of Man.
He rangeth over the whitening sea,
Of the winds of winter he makes his plan;
About his going the deeps unfold,
The crests o'erhang, but he passeth clear.
Oh, Earth is patient, and Earth is old,
And a mother of Gods, but he breaketh her,
To-ing, fro-ing, with his plough-teams going,
Tearing the soil of her, year by year.

Light are the birds and swift with wings,
But his hand is round them and drags them low;
He prisons the tribes of the wild-wood things,
And the salt sea-swimmers that dart and glow.
The nets of his weaving are cast afar,
And his Thought in the midst of them circleth full,
Till his engines master all beasts that are.
Where drink the horses at the desert pool,
That mane that shaketh for his slave he taketh,
And the tireless shoulder of the mountain Bull.

Speech he hath taught him and wind-swift thought
And the temper that buildeth a City's Wall,
Till the arrows of winter he sets at naught,
The sleepless cold and the long rainfall.
All-armed he: unarmed never
To meet new peril he journeyeth;
Yea, his craft assuageth each pest that rageth,
And help he hath gotten against all save Death.

The craft of his engines hath passed his dream,
In haste to the good or the evil goal.
One holdeth his City's Law supreme
And the Oath of God in his inmost soul;
High-citied he; citiless that other
Who striveth, grasping at things of naught,
On the road forbidden. From him be hidden
The fire that comforts and the light of thought!
http://davidderrick.wordpress.com/2007/03/02/antigone/


Tom

Author:  Robert Tulip [ Wed Jan 21, 2009 6:42 am ]
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Thomas Hood wrote:
Robert Tulip wrote:
Tom then suggested the idea that providence will be replaced by technology. To me this is an astounding evil, . . .
No more evil, Robert, than your proposal to save us through sea technology :)
I wondered if you might pick me up on this :oops: :whistle: :up: What I would say is that my ideas on sea technology, outlined in my blog, are entirely a realistic and possible way of mimicking nature, reconciling humanity with providence, unlike options such as nuclear power which fight against providence in what I see as an unnatural way.
Quote:
The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil is -- in my opinion -- the Tree of Technology. A technological orientation toward life is incompatible with the providential, and displaces it. Unfortunately, it also displaces aesthetic values preserved in tradition (antiques, Catholic art, the old buildings of Europe, the Bible as a work of beauty, . . .).
Tom, Your previous comment read as though you were supporting a technological outlook, whereas this comment indicates the reverse. This is quite a complex problem, linking in to Milton's discussion of freedom. The point is that we have divine freedom to create technology. Initially this is a mixed blessing, providing good and bad results. Adam and Eve were free to eat the forbidden fruit, whereby they gave rise to the human error of imagining a false control over nature. While this produced immense suffering, it also laid the basis for our astounding modern technological civilization, surely a wonder of the universe. Technology has become an idol - in your terms when it displaces providence - but this is an abuse of technology rather than something inherent in it. As in my example of growing biodiesel using oceanic algae, we have potential to use technology to redeem the earth rather than destroy it.

An underlying theme here, as Paul argued, is that suffering produces endurance, character and hope. Imagining a nirvanic paradise without suffering is simply disengaged from reality, whereas Milton, following Christ and Paul, looks at the real question of how humanity can freely choose God.

Author:  Thomas Hood [ Wed Jan 21, 2009 7:24 am ]
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Robert Tulip wrote:
Your previous comment read as though you were supporting a technological outlook, whereas this comment indicates the reverse. This is quite a complex problem, linking in to Milton's discussion of freedom.


I think, Robert, that we are free only when we are free to create -- like Milton did. If the Good is the imitation of God, then "In the beginning God created . . . . "

Tom

Author:  Thomas Hood [ Wed Jan 21, 2009 9:21 pm ]
Post subject:  The Zodiac Design

I believe that Milton may have based Paradise on the signs of the zodiac. Here are correspondences:

1. Aries (ruled by Mars) -- soldiers, war. In PL, war's aftermath.

2. Taurus -- wealth. In PL, the new world.

3. Gemini -- intelligence. In PL, Satan reconnoiters Paradise.

4. Cancer --oppression by parents. In PL, Eve's oppressive dream, God's demand for obedience.

5. Leo -- children. In PL, Eve is declared the Mother of Mankind:

Haile Mother of Mankind, whose fruitful Womb
Shall fill the World more numerous with thy Sons
Then with these various fruits the Trees of God [ 390 ]
Have heap'd this Table.

6. Virgo -- health/healing. In PL, details of Satan's bodily injuries:

there they him laid
Gnashing for anguish and despite and shame [ 340 ]
To find himself not matchless, and his pride
Humbl'd by such rebuke, so farr beneath
His confidence to equal God in power.
Yet soon he heal'd; for Spirits that live throughout
Vital in every part, not as frail man [ 345 ]
In Entrailes, Heart or Head, Liver or Reines;
Cannot but by annihilating die;
Nor in thir liquid texture mortal wound
Receive, no more then can the fluid Aire

7. Libra -- pair/balance. In Pl, God is restoring the cosmic balance by creating new allies to replace the fallen angels. In this seventh book, Raphael describes the seven days of creation.

8. Scorpio-- secrets. In PL, nuptuals and other secrets:

From Man or Angel the great Architect
Did wisely to conceal, and not divulge
His secrets to be scann'd by them who ought
Rather admire; or if they list to try [ 75 ]

9. Sagittarius -- the sign of religion ( blood sacrifice). In PL, Adam and Eve eat the fruit and begin death.

10. Capricorn -- authority. In PL, Who's in charge?

11. Aquarius -- sign of the Water Carrier signifying friendship. In PL, the divine Friend:

By thir great Intercessor, came in sight
Before the Fathers Throne: Them the glad Son [ 20 ]
Presenting, thus to intercede began.

And Raphael tells the story of the Flood.

12. Pisces -- loss/ageing. In PL, Adam and Eve lose Paradise and move into time.

Tom

Author:  Saffron [ Sat Jan 24, 2009 10:04 am ]
Post subject:  A Tale of Paradise Lost -- a version for children!

Who would have guessed, a children's book version of PL!

Here is a description and review for A Tale of Paradise Lost

Image

Author:  DWill [ Sat Jan 24, 2009 11:14 am ]
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You should get a hold of this book, Safrron, and post a review on that site. I like the idea of color illustrations. That's about as far towards making the poem visually literal as I'd want to go, though. On the site that Robert posted for the movie project, a PL novel is mentioned, written in plain modern prose. I hope that doesn't cause a third of the readers participating here to jump over to it, like the rebel angels!

Author:  Saffron [ Sat Jan 24, 2009 11:21 am ]
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DWill wrote:
You should get a hold of this book, Safrron, and post a review on that site.


I was thinking in the same vein. I've already put a library hold on the book.

Author:  Thomas Hood [ Sat Jan 24, 2009 12:13 pm ]
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http://www.paradiselost.org/
-- a super Paradise Lost website

Especially the witty 301 Questions and Answers:

http://www.paradiselost.org/7-archive.html

Disadvantages: the Intro is slow to load and comes in with epic music that scares the cat :)

To skip the Intro start here:
http://www.paradiselost.org/novel.html

Author:  Thomas Hood [ Sat Jan 24, 2009 6:16 pm ]
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http://www.forbes.com/2008/12/08/john-m ... corns.html
John Milton And His Money

"His great poem is studied in colleges all over the English-speaking world, and his ideals have become deeply rooted, not least in America. Milton argued for the separation of church and state, for freedom of worship and for the abolition of government censorship. He also contended the best kind of government was republican, an argument that has prevailed not in his native land, but in America.

Indeed, statesmen such as Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams drew on their wide reading of Milton both to shape their republicanism and to address specific issues such as British taxation in America, the case for ecclesiastical disestablishment in Virginia and the wickedness of British rulers (whose arrogance Adams compared to that of Milton's Satan). . . ."

Gives details of Milton's finances. An article by Gordon Campbell and Thomas N. Corns, authors of John Milton: Life, Work and Thought (Oxford University Press, 2008).

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