There exists for me an amusing connection and chiasmus between Milton’s Satan, Stygian Council and the remainder of his infernal crew and the malignant forces in twentieth century America which have propelled us off a precipice into this drastic recession. What light Lucifer carries with him into Chaos and beneath renders him, perhaps, still one third angel; thus, the efficacy of his rhetoric and its subtle variations, stratagem, and twists. What Satans twentieth century America produced were bimbos in comparison, sans “angelic third,” also producing rhetoric and strategies but in so crass, reductive, and barbaric a fashion that we in the twenty-first century could laugh, if not forced to bear the weight of the collective forgeries and mutilations. Since we have not lost Paradise but the simulacrum of Paradise, our task is to begin the construction of an Edenic space for ourselves (as artists, as dialecticians) from the ruins of a now-revealed, quite totalized charnel ground; whatever Angelic Third now remains in America’s inhabitants needs to find a manner and means of developing, extending, and exercising itself; a tall order, and the work of several decades, at least.
That both Milton’s Heaven and his Hell are overrun with bureaucrats and red-tape protocols is also a source of wry amusement to me. As is not often pointed out, God develops his own strategies in the tasks he delegates in different directions; and his omniscience must be balanced by the imperative to exist in the same time/space coordinates that everyone else does. This impossible existence-within-omniscience makes of Milton’s God as beleaguered a presence, in some ways, as his Satan. Milton’s God is a suffering God, an immaculate artist forced into reckoning the free will and imperfections of his creations. Undercurrents in Paradise Lost suggest that God is cognizant almost upon his creation that Man must fall, and thus Satan partially triumph over him; and God, with the help of his son, scrambles to make plans accordingly. Procedures with bureaucracy and red tape shield him from the direct, painful glare of his own failure as creator, ruler, and sustainer.
One wonders: what culmination would attend the spectacle of Adam refusing to taste the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge once Eve eats, and falls? Would God “take Eve out,” and replace her with a new Eve? Would he create a palimpsest over Woman generally? Perhaps, Eve remaining, God would be forced to configure a plan of action around half-fallen Man; a race then granted partial access to Eden, requiring the half-intervention of God’s Son, and mired in the half-life of the half-disobedient. A story with this resolution (the Choose Your Own Adventure of Milton, as it were) would make for an interesting half-epic; less sturm und drang, less pathos, more banality and even a hinge to the drollery and insouciance of Swift and Swiftean satire.