[Milton-L] symbols and culture

Richard A. Strier rastrier at uchicago.edu
Sun Nov 16 14:44:12 EST 2014


Oddly enough, my first and strangest publication is relevant to this issue.  In 1967, I published an article on the Persian poet Rumi (though I know no Persian) in a journal called Literature East and West.  The article was called "Alternative Descriptions of the Ultimate:  The Mirror and the Sea in Rumi's Poetry."  Its basis was/is the observation that Rumi used both of these descriptions for the ultimate mystical experience -- that of mirrors mirroring mirrors, and that of absorption in the sea.  The argument of the thing was/is that one of these metaphors (that of the mirror[s]) was tied to Sufi metaphysics, and that the other (the sea) was a transcultural phenomenological account.  I think that this is a helpful way to think about a lot of things along these lines (but please don't take me to be claiming any knowledge of Persian poetry!).  Light is clearly the same sort of image as the sea.  Of course it can be inflected in various ways, but the image remains the same.

RS
________________________________________
From: milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu [milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu] on behalf of Bush, Glen [Glen.Bush at heartland.edu]
Sent: Sunday, November 16, 2014 11:36 AM
To: milton-l at lists.richmond.edu
Subject: Re: [Milton-L] Milton-L Digest, Vol 96, Issue 16

Jeffery and Feisal,

Extremely interesting.  However, instead of trying to show the conscious or unconscious connection between Milton and the Qu'ran, I suggest this offers additional evidence for the root connection between Islam and Christianity.  Both religions are founded on holy texts that are the Word of God.  This is the same God that spoke to Jews, Christians, and Muslims.  So, why should the scriptures or the symbolism embedded within the scriptures be different?  Obviously, culture will play into the interpretations and meanings of the Word, but the essence of the Word will be the same.  Thus, it stands to reason that the concept of the Light goes beyond one religion's usage. In other words, neither Islam nor Christianity has sole territorial rights to Light as the symbol of God or God's Word.  Perhaps the argument can be made that Milton and all Christians and all Muslims are unconsciously or unknowingly following the Word of God, the same God, and are thus part of the same religious body?

For what it's worth,
Glen




Glen Bush, PhD
Distinguished Professor of Literature and Humanities
Heartland Community College
1500 W. Raab Road
Normal, IL 61761
(309) 268-8621
(309) 824-1591

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Subject: Milton-L Digest, Vol 96, Issue 16

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Today's Topics:

   1. Re: Milton and the intellectus agens (Horace Jeffery Hodges)


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Message: 1
Date: Sun, 16 Nov 2014 15:23:29 +0900
From: Horace Jeffery Hodges <horacejeffery at gmail.com>
To: John Milton Discussion List <milton-l at lists.richmond.edu>
Subject: Re: [Milton-L] Milton and the intellectus agens
Message-ID:
        <CAN6x1Bq4rm266Lf1nhFhs9yT8hvZ6Ymy5F5zHNO=ikJ3Y_PGJg at mail.gmail.com>
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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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>>
>
>
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