[Milton-L] The War in Heaven

Michael Gillum mgillum at unca.edu
Wed Jul 12 16:18:01 EDT 2006


Michael Bryson,

Thanks for your immensely useful web page on Milton's prose.

I think readers are certainly entitled to judge Milton's God. My only 
point was that Milton thought otherwise because of the ontological 
gap. (Of course there is also a huge gap between the character God 
and the "real" God, but Milton, as we all know, had the character God 
speak as the "real" God represents himself in scripture.)

About Milton's effort to justify, you may be right, but I think this 
is an interesting remark by Helen Gardner:

"I cannot believe that Milton dedicated himself to the writing of his 
epic in the hope that he might in the writing of it convince himself 
and his readers of the "reasonableness of Christianity." Instead I 
believe that he chose this subject as allowing him the greatest 
possible scope for imagination and invention on the basis of known 
and accepted truths." (26)

About the Aristotelian theory of authority, it seems quite 
insistently present in PL. Nimrod "Will arrogate dominion undeserved 
/ Over his brethren" (12.27-28), that is, over his approximate 
equals.  The passage quoted by Alan Horn repeats the idea: "aspire / 
Above his brethren" (12.65). In the story, Lucifer is not God's 
brother, but rather his (lower case) son. Lucifer was not the father 
of the rebel angels, but rather their brother. In Satan's defense, 
although the ground of his authority is tyrannical (in the 
Aristotelian sense), he does not rule coercively, but gains assent 
through his rhetorical brilliance and personal charisma. It is also 
true that God issues fiats rather than general laws with 
explanations, and this behavior is unattractive to modern readers. I 
think Milton would say that laws and consultations are ways that 
brethren, or essentially equal humans, should arrange collectively to 
govern themselves. Another thought: one meaning of Logos is "law."

Michael Gillum




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