Milton hates space

Given Milton’s commitment to lifelong learning and reputation for being a voracious reader,  I find it strange that he spends so much time writing in Book 8 about how Adam should not worry about space and the universe and only focus on Paradise. It seems to me that someone so intellectually curious would encourage contemplating the universe, but this does not seem to be the case.

Following his poetic description of celestial motions, Milton has Raphael say: “Solicit not thy thoughts with matters god, Leave them to God above, him serve and fear…”

Later, Milton even seems to condemn minds that “rove uncheck’d,” which appears even more anti-intellectual and entirely contrary to notions of expanding consciousness present in earlier works. Even stranger is the fact that the character in PL who speaks the most on the pleasure of thinking is Satan, who harps in the ideas of “the mind as its own place” and the glory of “thoughts that wander.

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  1. Keep in mind that angelic knowledge, like every other creature’s knowledge in Paradise Lost, is incomplete. It’s also good to remember that not everything Raphael says reflects Milton’s own belief–the argument between Adam and Raphael about Eve is a good example of the way Milton shows us Raphael’s limitations and, in this instance, Adam’s superior understanding. We see a similar situation between Adam and Eve in Book 9’s separation scene, where Adam’s limitations and Eve’s superior argument–an argument she ends up winning, as Adam does with Raphael in Book 8–are dramatized.

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