[Milton-L] "Ontological superiority"

Horace Jeffery Hodges jefferyhodges at yahoo.com
Thu Jul 20 06:42:12 EDT 2006

James Rovira has presented some interesting ideas on
Gnosticism in connection with Milton in his most
recent post.

And just to tantilize us, Milton even leaves some
'clues' that one might take as Gnostic if one believed
in a Gnostic Milton ... but I'll be a-Gnostic on this

Anyway, I think that I posted this clue once before:


Milton is not averse to using even pagan myth to
illuminate a crucial point. Thus in his earlier
political tract Areopagitica, Milton likens the
distortion of Christian truth after the death of the
early apostles to the dismembering of the Egyptian god

"Truth indeed came once into the world with her divine
Master, and was a perfect shape most glorious to look
on: but when he ascended, and his Apostles after Him
were laid asleep, then strait arose a wicked race of
deceivers, who as that story goes of the ¨¡gyptian
Typhon with his conspirators, how they dealt with the
good Osiris, took the virgin Truth, hewd her lovely
form into a thousand peeces, and scatter'd them to the
four winds. From that time ever since, the sad friends
of Truth, such as durst appear, imitating the carefull
search that Isis made for the mangl'd body of Osiris,
went up and down gathering up limb by limb still as
they could find them. We have not yet found them all,
Lords and Commons, nor ever shall doe, till her
Masters second comming; he shall bring together every
joynt and member, and shall mould them into an
immortall feature of lovelines and perfection."

I'm not the first to notice the quasi-Gnostic
character of this story of how something from a divine
source was lost and divided in the world and will have
to be collected and reconstituted. Philip Beitchman
noticed it as well and commented upon it in his
article "Following Lucifer: Miltonic Evil as Gnostic
Cabala," in Esoterica, Volume 1 (1999): pp. 61-78

Make of this what you will. It's certainly intriguing
-- and might provide grist for Bryson's mill.

Jeffery Hodges

University Degrees:

Ph.D., History, U.C. Berkeley
(Doctoral Thesis: "Food as Synecdoche in John's Gospel and Gnostic Texts")
M.A., History of Science, U.C. Berkeley
B.A., English Language and Literature, Baylor University

Email Address:

jefferyhodges at yahoo.com



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Assistant Professor Horace Jeffery Hodges
Department of English Language and Literature
Korea University
136-701 Anam-dong, Seongbuk-gu
South Korea

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