[Milton-L] Antinomian Occupations. musical platonist it might be argued.

carl bellinger bcarlb at comcast.net
Mon Mar 5 14:27:44 EST 2007


Carter Kaplan asks:
> By this internalization, do we mean that we "automatically" follow the 
> law, or, instead, do we follow the law because it is internalized as a 
> passive reference we can, as it were, consult as part of the larger 
> process of making an appropriate decision about our conduct?
>
> A science fiction analogy is apt:  is the new law "chip" the 
> angels/God/Jesus inserts into out heads meant to control our character and 
> behavior, or is it a legal reference library that merely provides 
> information, and we act upon that information at our personal discretion?
> ....


What is apt about the "chip" analogy is that initially the active agent is 
outside the body/mind and by some operation that agent eventually becomes 
lodged on the inside. Beyond that it isn't apt I think; Milton's conception, 
surely, is far less cold,  clinical, rationalistic than the model Mr. Kaplan 
has proposed where an embedded micro-chip either forcibly controls behavior 
and character, or acts merely as a "legal reference library."
     I would have liked to offer, instead,  a "music" analogy: music starts 
outside the body/mind, it penetrates, and eventually transforms thought, 
emotion, behavior; this would be the Orphic analogy.  (And by "music," I 
mean _everything_ Milton calls music, including for instance the 
recitational rhythms of the blank verse of Paradise Lost, which he calls the 
"true musical delight," and also for instance the cadences of Adam & Eve's 
spontaneous rhetorical eloquence, their pre-lapsarian hymnody "more tuneable 
than needed lute or harp to add more sweetness.")  I would have liked to 
suggest this analogy; big problem however; for Milton, this is not an 
analogy at all!  His salvation theology --it might be argued-- IS a 
genuinely practical, musical gnosis of enlightenment clearly visible beneath 
the elaborate surface of Protestant notions and Biblical narratives.  The 
ethos and method is thoroughly neoPlatonic and it is clothed (I don't say 
"cloaked"), it is clothed in a bright, gorgeously woven brocade of 
Reformation language, narrative, invective.
     Such an argument would appeal to such texts as that near the 
culmination of Milton's education of young christian men where they must 
first read, and then "get by memory" [here comes that microchip!], and 
finally recite "out loud" the great Greek and roman texts.   And such stuff 
as in Church Govenment, at that prominent place where M specifically is 
talking about the function and process of Law. There M develops the force of 
his argument entirely in Plato and only at the end does he point out that 
the Bible is the first and best text of them all when it comes to the 
effective power of language to infiltrate, and to "in a sense CHARM the 
multitude."  We might want to ferret out M's use of the word "charm" various 
places in his works. Milton is careful not overtly to play the Magus, 
Christians don't, but the intense vigor of his rhetorical ethos "in prose or 
numerous verse" lies in the music of it. How musical is divine philosophy!

-Carl


would be better than the micro-chip one for Milton's conception of the 
transformative process we are discussing




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