Everyday epiphanies from Milton's Eden and beyond

Matter Matters: Insight From Milton the Material Monist

I find it extremely interesting that the fallen angels’ expulsion from heaven where “headlong themselves they threw” can be compared to defecation in which “disburdened Heaven rejoiced.” I did not pick that up during my first read of Book VI by myself but looking at it now through the lens of Milton as a material monist makes a lot of sense; if Milton believes both spirit and manner stem from one first matter or corporeal substance, then spirit and matter to him are going to differ in degree but not necessarily of kind or quality. Therefore, in this light, heaven “defecating” out the fallen angels which can no longer be “digested” by Heaven appears much less like a toilet joke and more like the exemplification of a greater theme: spirit and matter are linked to some capacity, and no material process is arbitrary but actually has spiritual implications.

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2 Comments

  1. This is an interesting concept of Milton’s. It is interesting that he associates them with waste/something wasted, yet it does not seem that God creates things/makes objects for them to be wasted, rather they seem to have a spiritual purpose. It is also interesting how he does not make them cease to exist.

  2. I think this is really interesting! I agree with you. I feel like Milton had a higher purpose in choosing this to be a quality of the angels- as if to demonstrate a universal equality among all the is created of God? I feel like Milton strongly believed that human actions like defecation and digestion and sex were not “dirty” as many believed, but instead were evidence of a master plan by a creator? I think it’s really interesting. That said, I wonder if Milton still kinda intended the toilet joke too? I feel like he was probably a funny guy.

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