[Milton-L] Re: The War in Heaven

Michael Gillum mgillum at unca.edu
Sat Jul 15 17:25:16 EDT 2006

Sorry if I misattributed a statement to Michael Bryson.

I think everyone agrees that there is a difference between GodR (real 
in the understanding of monotheists) and GodF (fictive character in 
PL), also that Milton knew his own conception of GodR would 
necessarily  be a partial representation of the metaphysical reality. 
In speaking of "God" in reference to PL, I would always intend to 
refer to GodF, the poem's Father, or the Father/Son complex, which PL 
sometimes calls "God."

Michael Bryson in his essays argues vigorously for a wide, 
deliberate, ironic gap between Milton's idea of GodR and GodF, and he 
also seeks to pry apart the Father and the Son.   It isn't necessary 
even to dispute that argument directly to see that the poem presents 
very clearly the ontological gap between God and Satan-- God created 
Heaven, created Satan, showered him with blessings, foresaw all his 
actions, etc.  Also the poem presents very clearly the relation 
between ontological status and legitimate power, in Adam's initial 
philosophizing, Abdiel's speech, and the condemnation of Nimrod, just 
to name a few spots. MB wrote in his last post:

"[H]ow is it possible that there can be any heavenly politics in 
Paradise Lost that are not drawn from the categories of earthly 

I'm not sure I understand the question.  It may well be that Biblical 
representations of God as kingly, Christ reigning, etc., originated 
as shadows of earthly kingship, rather than, as James I  and other 
absolutists claimed, the other way around. However, Milton 
represented kingship in Heaven because he found it in scripture. 
According to the doctrine of accommodation, kingship would be an 
appropriate way for us to think of GodR's power. Somewhere in the 
political prose, Milton denies the analogy between heavenly and 
earthly kingship that was used to support earthly monarchy. Likewise, 
I think it is wrong to make an analogy between heavenly and earthly 
kingship in order to discredit the heavenly kind. The two are 
differently grounded, in that the Stuarts have set themselves up in 
glory above their peers, whereas God has made everything he rules 
over. That is why I keep saying the ontological gap should be taken 
into account when talking about the political relationships among 
Father, Son, angels, and rebels.

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