[Milton-L] tree of life

Michael Gillum mgillum at unca.edu
Sat Apr 5 15:03:40 EDT 2014


Jim, regarding "dream at least"-- in another post I opined that PL's God is
revising a somewhat embarrassing statement by the Bible's God about the
need to protect the fruit from humans lest they become as gods. PL's God
implies that eating the fruit would not actually make fallen people
immortal. Milton may be suggesting that the Bible's God was speaking
ironically about the danger,  as when PL's God pretends to be afraid that
Satan will overthrow him (6.719-32).

What interested me about your previous post was the thought that, had A&E
eaten of the Tree of Life before the fall, they would be fixed in the state
they were in. This, I think, would be a bad thing, because they were
supposed to evolve through obedience and become higher beings. PL doesn't
say whether they ate the ToL fruit, before the fall, but apparently they
didn't. As I said in the other post, that tree seems to be a static symbol
that doesn't impinge on the narrative.


On Sat, Apr 5, 2014 at 2:29 PM, James Rovira <jamesrovira at gmail.com> wrote:

> Michael:
>
> I meant to read Milton as standing somewhat apart from those assumptions:
>
>
> "Milton's language does seem to be deliberately ambiguous on this point,
> so he seems to have had some difficulty with the issue himself."
>
> But I provide text from PL that supports them below.
>
> I was at that time thinking of the lines that another listmember (Carol I
> think) posted earlier:
>
> "Least therefore his now bolder hand
> Reach also of the Tree of Life, and eat,
> And live for ever, dream at least to live
> Forever..."
>
> "and eat, / And live forever" by itself might support my assumptions, but
> "dream at least to live / Forever..." indicates some ambiguity. It seems
> odd to me that God himself would be equivocating on this point (doesn't he
> know?). And the following lines seem interesting too. Michael is instructed
> to
>
> "...guard all passage to the Tree of Life:
> Least Paradise a receptacle prove
> To Spirits foule, and all my Trees thir prey,
> With whose stol'n Fruit Man once more to delude."
>
> "All passage to the Tree of Life" may just reference, generically, "any
> entrance into the Garden," but the Tree of Life seems to be singled out
> here, as if the foul spirits would delude fallen humanity into eating from
> the Tree of Life.
>
> I would support my assumptions from these words, though:
>
> "I at first with two fair gifts
> Created him endowd, with Happiness
> And Immortalitie: that fondly lost,
> This other serv'd but to eternize woe;"
>
> Note that the Father is concerned that immortality would just "eternize
> woe," or eternalize Adam and Eve's unhappiness.
>
> "Till I provided Death; so Death becomes
> His final remedie,"
>
> To keep that from happening, God now views death as a remedy.
>
> "and after Life
> Tri'd in sharp tribulation, and refin'd
> By Faith and faithful works, to second Life,
> Wak't in the renovation of the just,
> Resignes him up with Heav'n and Earth renewd."
>
> So that eternity is now reserved for the period after the final redemption
> of humanity.
>
> What I still can't quite understand is the phrase "dream at least to live
> forever." Why just a dream, then?
>
> Jim
>
>
> On Sat, Apr 5, 2014 at 2:10 PM, Michael Gillum <mgillum at unca.edu> wrote:
>
>> Jim Rovira--
>>
>> Is there anything in Milton to support the idea that eating the fruit of
>> the Tree of Life would freeze people eternally in the state that they are
>> in? --as opposed, I guess, to PL-God's plan that humans would evolve and
>> become angelic or god-like?
>>
>> Michael
>>
>>
>> On Sat, Apr 5, 2014 at 1:29 PM, James Rovira <jamesrovira at gmail.com>wrote:
>>
>>> Here are another series of assumptions of mine, this time about the Tree
>>> of Life:
>>>
>>> The Tree of Life does not grant redemption or regeneration: it merely
>>> grants eternal -existence- to whoever eats it, eternalizing their current
>>> state of being (so working like ambrosia). God restricting Adam and Eve
>>> from eating of the fruit of the tree after the fall, then, was an act of
>>> mercy: it kept them from entering an eternally fallen state.
>>> Redemption/regeneration in the Christian sense is effected not by a magical
>>> fruit but through Christ's work and the Holy Spirit. What Christians eat
>>> for their redemption is the body and blood of Christ. The tree of life,
>>> therefore, is not made available again until after humanity has been
>>> finally redeemed and the New Jerusalem has been revealed, so that saved
>>> humanity can partake and live forever in a redeemed state.
>>>
>>> So had Adam and Eve eaten the fruit of the tree of life before the fall,
>>> they would have acquired an eternal existence in an unfallen, innocent
>>> state with bodies something like our own, which would have been interesting.
>>>
>>> My other assumption was that this state was incorruptible, but the
>>> Medieval reading mentioned earlier makes sense too. The phrase in Genesis,
>>> though, sounds as if a single instance of partaking of the fruit of the
>>> tree of life grants eternal existence the first time the fruit is eaten,
>>> which in this case would be parallel with the forbidden tree as well, which
>>> has its effects the single time a fruit is eaten.
>>>
>>> Milton's language does seem to be deliberately ambiguous on this point,
>>> so he seems to have had some difficulty with the issue himself. Carol's
>>> reading is a way out, existentializing the eating of the fruit of the tree
>>> of life.
>>>
>>> Jim R
>>>
>>>
>>> On Sat, Apr 5, 2014 at 1:16 PM, Michael Gillum <mgillum at unca.edu> wrote:
>>>
>>>> Milton seems to have adopted a rule for his poem that everything in
>>>> Gen. 1-3 would be included and, insofar as possible, explained in a
>>>> sort-of-rational way. The Biblical God's apparent fear that fallen humans
>>>> should eat of the tree of life is unseemly. Milton deals with that by
>>>> quoting the Bible but having PL's God add the OR, "or dream at least to
>>>> live / Forever." PL's God thus implies that the fruit of the Tree of Life
>>>> would not confer immortality on the fallen humans, so the setting of a
>>>> guard on the tree is merely symbolic--a sign that humans cannot regain
>>>> eternal life through their own actions. Perhaps setting the guard is one of
>>>> the Father's "ghastly jokes" (Empson's phrase).
>>>>
>>>> Since the fruit is not needed before the fall, and would not work after
>>>> the fall, why is the Tree of Life there at all? Milton seems to strip it of
>>>> any function in the literal narrative and reduce it to a symbol prefiguring
>>>> Christian salvation. Does this get us any closer to establishing a
>>>> symmetrical relation between the Tree of Knowledge and the Tree of Life?
>>>>
>>>>
>>>> On Sat, Apr 5, 2014 at 12:42 PM, Matthew Jordan <matthewjorda at gmail.com
>>>> > wrote:
>>>>
>>>>> Containerization, surely? (And propagation, of course.)
>>>>>
>>>>>
>>>>> On 5 April 2014 17:41, JD Fleming <jfleming at sfu.ca> wrote:
>>>>>
>>>>>> One tradition held that A+E were immortal through constant noshing on
>>>>>> the tree of life. Thus a troubling medieval counter-factual: Had they not
>>>>>> fallen, but procreated, their descendants populating the globe, how wd the
>>>>>> immortalizing fruit have been transported the necessary distances without
>>>>>> rotting? Anyway, this would seem to be the thought Milton is thinking
>>>>>> here--though it doesn't necessarily fit with those he thinks elsewhere. jdf
>>>>>>
>>>>>> ------------------------------
>>>>>> *From: *"Dave LTC MIL USA USMA Harper" <Dave.Harper at usma.edu>
>>>>>> *To: *milton-l at lists.richmond.edu
>>>>>> *Sent: *Saturday, 5 April, 2014 08:29:28
>>>>>>
>>>>>> *Subject: *Re: [Milton-L] tree of life
>>>>>>
>>>>>> The arbitrariness of the injunction against the forbidden fruit (in
>>>>>> parallel
>>>>>> with the perhaps equally arbitrary exaltation of the Son) has never
>>>>>> bothered
>>>>>> me as much as the Tree of Life. I appreciate the bringing of
>>>>>> knowledge of
>>>>>> good and evil into the world through the act of disobedience, the
>>>>>> same way
>>>>>> that I sense that the parallel exaltation of the Son brings both the
>>>>>> potential for disobedience along with a revelation of angelic history
>>>>>> (I
>>>>>> suspect Abdiel probably didn't know he was created by secondary hands
>>>>>> prior
>>>>>> to the exaltation).
>>>>>>
>>>>>> The tree of Life bothers me not only because it seems to have an
>>>>>> inherent
>>>>>> immortality-granting quality, but because (1) there was no injunction
>>>>>> against eating of it and (2) it would serve no purpose in an
>>>>>> prelapsarian
>>>>>> world where apparently everything was immortal anyway. And yet, we
>>>>>> know it
>>>>>> was there, and the narrator names it such when Satan alights on it as
>>>>>> a
>>>>>> cormorant.
>>>>>>
>>>>>> God seems to have hedged his bets by placing an immortality-granting
>>>>>> tree in
>>>>>> an immortal garden, but then he takes it away when it is most needed.
>>>>>> Any
>>>>>> allegorical reference to salvation seems strained at best.
>>>>>>
>>>>>> Dave
>>>>>>
>>>>>>
>>>>>>
>>>>>> -----Original Message-----
>>>>>> From: milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu
>>>>>> [mailto:milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu] On Behalf Of
>>>>>> milton-l-request at lists.richmond.edu
>>>>>> Sent: Saturday, April 05, 2014 7:37 AM
>>>>>> To: milton-l at lists.richmond.edu
>>>>>> Subject: Milton-L Digest, Vol 89, Issue 19
>>>>>>
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>>>>>>
>>>>>>
>>>>>> --
>>>>>> James Dougal Fleming
>>>>>> Associate Professor
>>>>>> Department of English
>>>>>> Simon Fraser University
>>>>>> 778-782-4713
>>>>>>
>>>>>> Burnaby -- British Columbia -- Canada.
>>>>>>
>>>>>> *Upstairs was a room for travelers. 'You know, I shall take it for
>>>>>> the rest of my life,' Vasili Ivanovich is reported to have said as soon as
>>>>>> he had entered it. *
>>>>>> -- Vladimir Naboko*v*,* "Cloud, Castle, Lake'*
>>>>>>
>>>>>>
>>>>>>
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>>>>>
>>>>>
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>>>
>>>
>>> --
>>> Dr. James Rovira
>>> Associate Professor of English
>>> Tiffin University
>>> http://www.jamesrovira.com
>>> Blake and Kierkegaard: Creation and Anxiety
>>> Continuum 2010
>>> http://jamesrovira.com/blake-and-kierkegaard-creation-and-anxiety/
>>> Text, Identity, Subjectivity
>>> http://scalar.usc.edu/works/text-identity-subjectivity/index
>>>
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>>
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>
>
>
> --
> Dr. James Rovira
> Associate Professor of English
> Tiffin University
> http://www.jamesrovira.com
> Blake and Kierkegaard: Creation and Anxiety
> Continuum 2010
> http://jamesrovira.com/blake-and-kierkegaard-creation-and-anxiety/
> Text, Identity, Subjectivity
> http://scalar.usc.edu/works/text-identity-subjectivity/index
>
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