[Milton-L] Milton and the intellectus agens

James Rovira jamesrovira at gmail.com
Sun Nov 16 13:54:07 EST 2014

"Light" as a metaphor for the Divine or for Divine illumination is found in
Plato, the Hebrew Scriptures, the Christian scriptures, and a number of
other sources prior to the Koran. It's a very common and widely
disseminated trope. Milton's language, as Joel pointed out, seems to most
closely resemble the NT, but he certainly isn't limited to being influenced
by that source.

Jim R

On Sun, Nov 16, 2014 at 1:23 AM, Horace Jeffery Hodges <
horacejeffery at gmail.com> wrote:

> Feisal, thanks for the interesting article.
> The *Qur'an* verse that serves as a source on divine illumination is
> lovely:
> *The Qur’an* 24.35: "God is the Light of the heavens and the earth. The
> parable of His light is, as it were, that of a niche containing a lamp; the
> lamp is enclosed in glass, the glass shining like a radiant star: a lamp
> lit from a blessed tree - an olive-tree that is neither of the east nor of
> the west - the oil whereof is so bright that it would well-nigh give light
> of itself even though fire had not touched it: light upon light!"
> If I understand your article well, you intend to show that Milton, despite
> his disdain for Islam, may have been working within the tradition of
> Al-Farabi and the Qur'anic verse, either consciously or unconsciously, in
> composing his invocation to light in *Paradise Lost* 3.1-6:
> Hail holy light, ofspring of Heav'n first-born,
> Or of th' Eternal Coeternal beam
> May I express thee unblam'd? since *God is light*,
> And never but* in unapproached light*
> *Dwelt from Eternitie*, dwelt then in thee,
> Bright effluence of bright essence increate. (Milton Reading Room,
> Dartmouth)
> But you also cite Psalm 36:9:
> “For with thee is the fountain of life: in thy light shall we see light.”
> I suggest two more verses that also correspond to Milton's invocation:
> 1 John 1:5 "This then is the message which we have heard of him, and
> declare unto you, that *God is light*, and in him is no darkness at all."
> 1 Timothy 6:16: "Who only hath immortality, *dwelling in the light which
> no man can approach* unto; whom no man hath seen, nor can see: to whom be
> honour and power everlasting. Amen."
> Some of the wording corresponds rather closely and might be of interest to
> you. Of course, these are merely verses and must be interpreted to fit into
> a tradition by which Milton would call upon God for enlightenment.
> Thanks again for an interesting article.
> Jeffery Hodges
> On Sat, Nov 15, 2014 at 9:23 AM, Horace Jeffery Hodges <
> horacejeffery at gmail.com> wrote:
>> I'm also among the fifty!
>> Jeffery
>> On Sat, Nov 15, 2014 at 8:21 AM, David Urban <dvu2 at calvin.edu> wrote:
>>>   Thank you, Feisal.  Count me among the privileged 50!
>>>  Sincerely,
>>>  David
>>>   David V. Urban, Ph.D.
>>>  Associate Professor of English
>>> Calvin College
>>> 1795 Knollcrest Circle SE
>>> Grand Rapids, MI 49546-4404
>>> Office Phone: (616) 526-8646
>>>   From: Feisal Mohamed <f.mohamed00 at gmail.com>
>>> Reply-To: John Milton Discussion List <milton-l at lists.richmond.edu>
>>> Date: Friday, November 14, 2014 6:17 PM
>>> To: John Milton Discussion List <milton-l at lists.richmond.edu>
>>> Subject: [Milton-L] Milton and the intellectus agens
>>>   Dear Milton-L
>>>  Fort those interested, Taylor and Francis informs me that the first 50
>>> people to use the link below may access the online version of my article
>>> "Milton's Enmity toward Islam and the *Intellectus Agens." * This will
>>> appear in a 2015 special issue of *English Studies *on Milton and
>>> Islam, co-edited by Francois-Xavier Gleyzon and David Currell. The link and
>>> an abstract are below
>>>  This is not exactly a foretaste of door-crashing Black Friday offers,
>>> but I hope it will be of some benefit to Milton-L subscribers with no
>>> institutional access to *English Studies*.
>>>  Best to all,
>>> Feisal Mohamed
>>>  http://www.tandfonline.com/eprint/FvkDHTYFSYEv9muWfWuQ/full
>>>    Abstract
>>>   “The specific political distinction to which political actions and
>>> motives can be reduced”, Carl Schmitt famously pronounced, “is that between
>>> friend and enemy.” Milton's politics are often premised on a distinction
>>> between the amity of the enlightened few and a benighted global majority
>>> often associated with the East, and specifically with Islam. The
>>> distinction is articulated most clearly in The Tenure of Kings and
>>> Magistrates, which declares that an “Englishman forgetting all laws, human,
>>> civil and religious … is no better than a Turk, a Sarasin, a Heathen”; it
>>> also informs the sustained association of Satan with barbarous Middle
>>> Eastern rule in Paradise Lost. The animosities reflect in many ways growing
>>> contact with the Islamic world arising with the expansion of English
>>> trade—at times rapid, at times halting, always contested—contact that also
>>> pressed home the awareness, expressed by Milton's friend Roger Williams
>>> in The Hireling Ministrie None of Christs, that Muslims significantly
>>> outnumbered Christians in the period. Over his career, Milton's
>>> cosmopolitanism, like his nationalism, becomes characterized by an ever
>>> more pronounced sense of the worldly power of the benighted majority,
>>> occasioning an emphasis on the inward turn of the enlightened few. But in a
>>> way that is most visible in the invocation to light in Paradise Lost, the
>>> language of Milton's inward turn draws on the intellectus agens tradition
>>> with its roots in Islamic philosophy. This article explores these roots and
>>> examines their potential influence on Milton's poetry. Is Milton
>>> consciously drawing on al-Farabi and Ibn Sina, or is his engagement of this
>>> category only a response to such contemporaries as John Smith? Has he
>>> distinguished himself from falsafa, or has he developed an idea of the
>>> enlightened subject that has admitted an enemy within? Exploring these
>>> questions might reorient the intellectual history informing Milton's
>>> anthropology, and also complicate the Islamophobic language in which he
>>> indulges with unsettling frequency.
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Dr. James Rovira
Associate Professor of English
Tiffin University
Blake and Kierkegaard: Creation and Anxiety
Continuum 2010
Text, Identity, Subjectivity
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