[Milton-L] Abdiel (thought-sins)

James Rovira jamesrovira at gmail.com
Sat Jul 5 22:01:55 EDT 2008

Jeffery -- thanks for posting those passages.  I think we need to
distinguish between prelapsarian and postlapsarian curiosity and among
different objects of curiosity before we can import various views of
curiosity distributed across Milton's writing into PL.

Michael -- thanks for the reply.  I finally reread Bk V and have a few
thoughts about "dream Eve's" ontological status:

First, Eve clearly identifies herself with dream Eve.

Next, Adam identifies the content of Eve's dream as "evil," and
probably in both senses of the word, but certainly in a moral sense.
This poses a problem, as

nor can I like
This uncouth dream, of evil sprung I fear;
Yet evil whence? in thee can harbour none,
Created pure.

(I'm using the Milton's reading room text, 1674. All of my books are
packed in boxes and in a truck right now.)

I don't think Adam and Eve know yet of the existence of an external
evil (Raphael had not yet come), and Eve herself is created pure, so
where can an evil dream come from?  Adam identifies what is perhaps
-the- problem with associating Dream Eve with Eve herself on any level
-- whatever part of Eve chose the fruit in the dream, that part
rendered itself the origin of an evil desire.  However, following
Adam's logic Eve, being a pure being, cannot give birth to an evil
desire -- this dovetails somewhat with your recent exchange with J.D.
Fleming, as Eve must choose the fruit in the end for morally good
reasons (hence, she is deceived).  If any part of Eve desired evil,
she has not been created pure, and God is responsible for evil.

So Adam has to explain how Eve can dream an evil thing -- as you point
out, Adam's explanation refers to fancy as a lesser faculty.  This
entire passage does justify your emphasis on reason as supporting our
moral faculties, at least so far as Adam is concerned at this point.
So far as I can tell, Adam believes Eve's dream was a random occurence
of some sort that just happened to be disturbing to her, only possible
because Eve's rational capacity was suspended in sleep.

But we readers of PL know that Adam is mistaken at this point, as we
read about Satan's approaching Eve in her sleep in Bk IV.  Eve's evil
dream really did come from an external source.  This leads me to
believe that dream Eve was purely the creation of Satan, and that
she's essentially watching a film of herself doing these things, but
associates her dream self with her real self only because she has done
so in all her other dreams.

So Eve's dream experience of evil is not really a subjective
experience of evil: it does not mimic or anticipate what she will feel
after she is fallen, because her dream experience of evil is that of
an innocent observing evil externally and mistakenly identifying it
with herself (a subjectivity described by Kierkegaard in Concept of
Anxiety, actually, if you'll forgive me for grinding that axe again),
not a former innocent who has chosen evil and has now become sinful.

I'm not saying some knowledge of evil hasn't been communicated to Eve,
however.  She now knows how it makes her feel when she sees it, and
that it is bad and contrary to her nature.  But this isn't the
subjective knowledge of evil she will have after she has fallen, when
it really is a part of who she is.

The introduction of Freud to this discussion is interesting, esp.
since the Milton Reading Room notes quotes Freud in this context.
However, the notes don't fully come to grips with how wrong Milton
makes Freud out to be -- Freud claimed, in the quotation provided by
the Milton Reading Room, that premoderns considered dreams to
originate from external, supernatural agents, but that modern science
has taught us that dreams come only from the mind.  However, Adam's
response to Eve demonstrates that their typical understanding of the
dream is that it comes from the human mind (produced by Fancy), and
that this evil dream originating from Satan is an exception to the
rule.  Eve had plenty of dreams before Satan came along, however, and
Milton's narrative assumes they were all the product of her own mind.
Freud's history isn't very good on this point.

Jim R

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