[Milton-L] The Gnostic Milton

Horace Jeffery Hodges jefferyhodges at yahoo.com
Tue Jan 6 15:52:27 EST 2009


John Rumrich posted an interesting review of A.D. Nuttall's book The Alternative Trinity: Gnostic Heresy in Marlowe, Milton, and Blake, and I've finally had a chance to blog on it:
 
http://gypsyscholarship.blogspot.com/2009/01/gnostic-milton-john-rumrich-on-ad.html
 
I'll post my central question here on the Milton List. John writes of Nuttall:
 

Nuttall's . . . thesis [is] that gnosticism provided Marlowe, Milton, and Blake with a refuge from oppressive Christian orthodoxies. Perhaps no critic is so gifted as to make a coherent, consistent argument out of gnosticism, a notorious thicket of philosophical doctrine and theological attitude. To make matters worse, until 1945, much of what was known about gnostic thinking derived from hostile, fragmentary accounts written by orthodox Chrisian writers. Nuttall, however, isolates a relatively simple structure basic to the gnostic religious tangle -- that of the alternative Trinity, "in which the Father is a tyrant, not complemented but opposed by the Son" (p. 3). Informing this antagonistic family relation, moreover, is the gnostic insistence on the goodness of knowledge, an ethical-epistemological premise that makes a villain of the forbidding Father portrayed in Genesis. It is he who prohibits tasting of the tree of knowledge, while the unfairly
 maligned serpent recommends disobedience in a noble cause and may even be seen as an ally or alter-ego of the Son.
 
While this is an interesting take on Gnosticism, the identification of the "Father" with the ignorant 'god' derided in Gnostic myth might be problematic, depending upon what Nuttall means by this. I haven't read the book, but if he means that Gnosticism itself depicted the "Father" as "a tyrant," then he would seem to have misconstrued Gnosticism, for the ignorant 'god' of the Gnostic genealogies is no Father to the Son. Perhaps, however, Nuttall means that the Father as portrayed in Milton (as well as in Marlowe and Blake) is portrayed as the equivalent to Gnosticism's ignorant 'god'.
 
>From John's review, I'm not sure what Nuttall was suggesting about Gnosticism, but perhaps John could clarify this point for me.
 
Jeffery Hodges
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