[Milton-L] Hell, Satan, Forgiveness, Origen, etc.

Michael Bryson michael.bryson at csun.edu
Thu Jul 20 22:28:12 EDT 2006


To follow up on Richard Strier's recommendation of Walker's *The Decline of Hell*, it does seem that the seventeenth century brought a revival in Origen's critical fortunes. Two examples stick in my memory: 1661 saw *A letter of resolution concerning Origen and the chief of his opinions* (George Rust?), while 1662 saw *Lux orientalis; or, An enquiry into the opinion of the eastern sages, concerning the preexistence of souls* (Joseph Glanvill). Each of these texts takes a positive view of Origen's notion of reincarnation, employed as a theodical device, with Glanvill cautiously considering, and seemingly quite reluctant about finally rejecting, Origen's notion of apocatastasis. 

Origen was definitely not off the table or out of the question for all thinkers/writers of the period. Whether or not he was so for Milton is another question, but I can't help but wonder if, in using the Pauline phrase "All in All," Milton is deliberately putting both orthodox and heterodox ideas in play. To reject retribution as the highest and final expression of justice, to create a physical hell while somehow undermining that space by even more powerfully imagining hell as a psychological reality...well, those would be radical moves worthy of an Origen, and all helped along nicely by offering up the Pauline phrase of 1 Corinthians 15:28 as if it meant what it said (θεος τα παντα εν πασιν--God the all in all). A final return of all to its source in good Neoplatonist/Origen style? I think Milton is considering the idea (like Glanvill), and though I am not sure that he finally adopts it, neither am I certain that he ultimately rejects it, though I am certain that others are certain. 

Michael Bryson



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