[Milton-L] The War in Heaven

srevard at siue.edu srevard at siue.edu
Tue Jul 11 05:20:02 EDT 2006

I wish to second Harold Skulsky’s comments on the Son’s Chariot as a vision
drawn from Ezekie1 and intimately involved with Milton’s interest in rabbinical
commentary and kabbalistic studies.  To regard the chariot as simply as superior
war machine is a mistake. Adamson had an article on the merkabah (Ezekiel’s
chariot) in Bright Essence (1971), but surely the current expert is Michael
Lieb.  A good deal of his work deals with the chariot, but I
would especially recommend the articles in the Journal of Religion and Milton
I would also point out that Henry More’s Divine Dialogues (1668)(especially the
fifth book)interprets Ezekiel’s chariot as a vision of the coming millennium and
the Son’s assumption on earth of the kingship he held in heaven.   A forthcoming
article of mine on More will appear in a festschrift for Stanley Fish (now in
See Michael Lieb, Poetics of the Holy (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina
Press, 1981); “Milton’s Chariot of Paternal Deity as a Reformation Conceit,”
Journal of Religion 65 (l985): 359–77; Lieb, The Visionary Mode: Biblical
Prophecy, Hermeneutics, and Cultural Change (Ithaca and London: Cornell
University Press, 1991); Lieb, Children of Ezekiel: Aliens, UFOs, the Crisis of
Race, and the Advent of the End Time (Durham and London: Duke University Press,
1998); “Encoding the Occult: Milton and the Traditions of Merkabah Speculation
in the Renaissance,” Milton Studies 37 (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh
Press, 1999), 42–88.

Stella Revard

Quoting Harold Skulsky <hskulsky at email.smith.edu>:

> A hint: thanks partly to the Ezekiel tradition, in Rabbinical and
> Cabbalistic literature some of which may have been known to Milton
> through intermediaries, mercavah [ = "chariot"] (or ma'aseh mercavah [ =
> "lore of the chariot"]) becomes a term of art meaning "mystical or
> esoteric wisdom." Relevant hermetic and neoplatonic associations with
> "chariot" have also accumulated by the time Milton comes on the  scene.
> In short, a naively literalistic  reading of the spectacle of the Logos
> in a chariot is not on, whether Milton likes it or not; and there is no
> reason to believe he likes it.
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