UBC Theses and Dissertations
Milton’s God and the Sacred imagination Keim, Charles Andrew
The poetic effectiveness of Milton's God is a fundamental critical issue in Paradise Lost, and the thesis addresses this concern by first surveying the various representations of God contained in the Hebrew scriptures. To speak of the biblical God, one must first understand the tremendous diversity o f his portrayals: he meets with some people in human form, and with others as a voice, a light, or an awesome presence. Milton's God shares less with the God o f Genesis than he does with the God of the prophets; yet Milton's representation demonstrates that though Eden will be lost, God will continue to manifest himself to those who seek his face. The cosmology of the epic reveals both the immensity o f creation and the intimacy o f its Creator, since the entire world is filled with the glory o f God, and yet the garden where Adam and Eve live is an archetypal sanctuary and their bower a type of Inner Temple. Milton's justification o f God's ways rests upon the timelessness of God; events that appear anachronistic at first are used to establish a context that looks beyond the strict limits of human time. On the one hand, the Incarnation, Resurrection, and Apocalypse are separate events that have not yet come to pass; but on the other hand, Milton shows how these events are simultaneously present and completed in God's presence. From God's throne, we participate in a cosmic perspective where the categories of past, present, and future are compressed into one time: we are before and beyond time. Such a transcendent perspective engenders a powerful truth: before Adam and Eve have been tempted, God's grace and mercy have found them out and they have been restored. Though Eden must be lost, the paradise of God's presence will remain. Adam and Eve will fall and the legacy of their rash act will be paradoxically for all time, but not forever. God will restore his people and wipe away their tears, and, in the context of Milton's depiction of God, that time of redemption is now.