[Milton-L] crucifixion- re Barton

Richard A. Strier rastrier at uchicago.edu
Sun Apr 6 15:20:47 EDT 2014

There might indeed be a significant difference between the fallen angels and fallen humanity, but it's not clear to me that it is morally unintelligible for the fallen angels to be forgiven.

I strongly disagree that "the arguments between them [A & E] in Book IX both before and after the Fall demonstrate, Adam and Eve are not mature in right reason, and certainly not in sophistry--any more than the masses in Milton's time were sophisticated in their thinking--and were therefore far more easily entrapped."

On the contrary, I think that the discussion between A & E before the fall shows them both to be intelligent, highly rational, and eloquent.  I do not subscribe to any version of the "fall before the fall" view.  I think the debate between A & E there is, as Addison beautifully put it, "such a Dispute as we may supposed might have happened in Paradise" (Spectator # 351).  If A & E before the fall were NOT "Sufficient to have stood," then God is lying about something VERY fundamental.

From: milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu [milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu] on behalf of Carol Barton, Ph.D., CPCM [cbartonphd1 at verizon.net]
Sent: Sunday, April 06, 2014 1:40 PM
To: John Milton Discussion List
Subject: Re: [Milton-L] crucifixion

The fallen angels knew the difference between good and evil, obedience and disobedience (as Satan himself makes obvious in soliloquy). They simply (like the Royalists during the Civil Wars, and Milton during the Interregnum) followed the wrong leader, deceiving themselves into believing he would be victorious (not, in their case, because he was "right" in a moral sense--give the Roundheads at least that much--but because they didn't like the way God was running heaven)--see particularly 100-105:

 If he Whom mutual league,
United thoughts and counsels, equal hope
And hazard in the Glorious Enterprize,
Joynd with me once, now misery hath joynd [ 90 ]
In equal ruin: into what Pit thou seest
>From what highth fall'n, so much the stronger prov'd
He with his Thunder: and till then who knew
The force of those dire Arms? yet not for those,
Nor what the Potent Victor in his rage [ 95 ]
Can else inflict, do I repent or change,
Though chang'd in outward lustre; that fixt mind
And high disdain, from sence of injur'd merit,
That with the mightiest rais'd me to contend,
And to the fierce contention brought along [ 100 ]
Innumerable force of Spirits arm'd
That durst dislike his reign, and me preferring,
His utmost power with adverse power oppos'd
In dubious Battel on the Plains of Heav'n,
And shook his throne.

The fallen angels were not moral babes in the woods, still trying to figure out where they were and how the world worked. They *chose* to follow Lucifer (just as the thousands of Royalists slain by the Roundheads, brethren and neighbors of those to whom they fell in battle, had *chosen* to follow Charles, and Milton, et al., had *chosen* to follow Cromwell: they knew full well the consequences of making the wrong choice, and chose their sides accordingly). As the arguments between them in Book IX both before and after the Fall demonstrate, Adam and Eve are not mature in right reason, and certainly not in sophistry--any more than the masses in Milton's time were sophisticated in their thinking--and were therefore far more easily entrapped. The until-now-mute Serpent convinces the too-gullible Eve that the Fruit has enabled him to be like Man, and might therefore have the power to make Man god-like--but he's lying. Never having encountered a lie, or a creature not nocent, Eve believes him, telling Adam after the Fall:

hadst thou been there,
Or here th' attempt, thou couldst not have discernd
Fraud in the Serpent, speaking as he spake; [ 1150 ]
No ground of enmitie between us known,
Why hee should mean me ill, or seek to harme.

Those last two lines are the key to "deceiv'd by the other first"--no matter what anyone (or any thing) tells her, Eve knows that God has said "don’t touch this," and that should be sufficient -- but the Serpent's sophistry confuses her, and she lacks the intellectual power (that Jesus demonstrates in PR) to pierce through the seduction's fog, just as most of us have at one time or another been betrayed by leaving ourselves wide open to someone we trusted who was not worthy of that trust. Being self-tempted, self-depraved necessarily involves a matter of conscious choice: for Adam and Eve's transgression to qualify, they'd have had to stroll past the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil on their own, and decided--without coercion, in full knowledge of what they were doing--to have some Fruit. Adam and Eve didn't **of their own volition** actively seek to transgress by **choosing** to follow the Adversary, as the fallen angels did; Eve was coerced by her own desire to be "more equal" to Adam--which apparently existed long before she reached for the Fruit--and the false logic presented to her by the Serpent, which played into that desire--into following the Adversary without being fully aware that that was what she was doing. She does resist at first--as Jesus does throughout PR--but she is no match for her opponent. The Son *is*.
Best to all,

Carol Barton
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