Have you ever looked around and thought to yourself that there’s so much evil that it seems like there’s hell on earth? It seems like violence, lust, anger, dishonesty, and discord have become the norm. Or has it? Is there still positivity among us despite the steady stream of negativity?
Paradise Lost?Milton suggests that God knew all along that Satan would successfully tempt Adam and Eve. The divine beings in Heaven are all saddened by the human failure. Despite the sadness in Heaven, there must be consequences for Adam and Eve’s wrongdoing: They will reap what they have sown. So God goes to the Garden of Eden to give Adam and Eve their judgment.
Was she thy God, that her thou didst obey Before his voice, or was she made thy guide, Superior, or but equal, that to her Thou didst resign thy manhood, and the place Wherein God set thee above her made of thee, And for thee, whose perfection far excelled Hers in all real dignity: adorned She was indeed, and lovely to attract Thy love, not thy subjection, and her gifts Were such as under government well seemed, Unseemly to bear rule, which was thy part And person, hadst thou known thyself aright. (Book X, Lines 145–156).God lets Adam know that he isn't without blame. Adam was made to be the leader of Earth. Yet, he became weak and lost sight of his true purpose because of Eve’s beauty. He elevated Eve beyond himself, and in elevating her, he separated himself from his role as a man. The inversion of their proper relationship was the beginning of their fall.
First, they were separated from their proper roles as man and woman. However, that isn't the only separation that occurred. Arguably, on a deeper level, Satan’s successful temptation of Eve was nothing more than a separation of her from her proper orientation to things otherwise good.
The above isn't the only way separation occurs. Taking the forbidden fruit separated them from Paradise, as an angel led them from the Garden of Eden; it separated them from God’s commandment; and it ultimately separated them from life itself as they will both will die. Arguably, the tree itself is a tree of two contrasting—two separate—characteristics: good and evil. From this point forward, a choice must be made between these two contrasting extremes, and appropriate discernment must be exercised to regain God’s favor.
In “Nor only tears ...,” Doré depicts Adam and Eve with their naked bodies covered. Their bodies are contorted according to their inner turmoil. Adam throws his head back and puts his hand on his head as if he is distraught. Eve resigns herself in sadness on a hard rock; the green foliage that accompanied them before is now gone and is replaced by gnarled trees.
It’s easy to think of Paradise as a mere place from which they were expelled. Doré’s image, however, suggests that the paradise they were separated from may have also been within themselves, hence their inner discord upon losing it.
Hell GainedThe separation from Paradise doesn't occur in isolation; it brings with it the union with something horrid. Back at the gates of Hell, Satan’s children, Sin and Death, are suddenly full of strength and begin to consider ways of helping Satan’s mission on Earth:
let us try Advent’rous work, yet to thy power and mine Not unagreeable, to found a path Over this main from Hell to that new world Where Satan now prevails, a monument Of merit high to all th’ infernal host, Easing their passage hence, for intercourse, Or transmigration, as their lot shall lead.” (Book X, Lines 254–261).Sin and Death’s plan is to create something like a highway from Hell to Earth as a monument to Satan. On this highway, all of Satan’s followers will easily find their way to Earth where they can continue to wreak havoc on God’s creation by permeating it with their evil presence. Paradise lost becomes Hell gained.
Therefore while I Descend through darkness, on your road with ease To my associate Powers, them to acquaint With these successes, and with them rejoice, You two this way, among these numerous orbs All yours, right down to Paradise descend; There dwell and reign in bliss; thence on the earth Dominion exercise and in the air, Chiefly on man, sole lord of all declared; Him first make sure your thrall, and lastly kill. (Book X, Lines 393–402).Not only are they to go to Earth and reign, but they are to also kill human beings. Separated from immortality, humans are consumed by death; separated from God’s law, humans are reigned over by sin.
Back on Earth, Adam is saddened by his disobedience and prays to God. The archangel Michael appears to him to show him the future unfolding of events as later told in the Bible. The creatures from Hell bring with them violence, sickness, and lust, which deeply saddens Adam and fills him with regret.
Their Maker’s image ... then Forsook them, when themselves they vilified To serve ungoverned appetite ... themselves defaced While they pervert pure Nature’s healthful rules To loathsome sickness, worthily, since they God’s image did not reverence in themselves ... So all shall turn degenerate, all depraved, Justice and temperance, truth and faith forgot. (Book XI, Lines 515–517, 522–525, 805–806)In his conversations with Adam, Michael suggests that human beings bring about their own hardships when they ignore that they are creations of God and go against nature as God ordained it. Sins have to be paid for, and during this time, they are paid for by way of the hardships brought about by war, violence, sickness, and disasters.
Far less I now lament for one whole world Of wicked sons destroyed, than I rejoice for one man found so perfect and so just, That God vouchsafes to raise another world From him, and all his anger to forget … Such grace shall one just man find in his sight, That he relents, not to blot our mankind. (Book XI, Lines 873–877, 889–890)In a world occupied by evil, a world reigned over by the darkness of hellish thoroughfare, it's justice, goodness, temperance, truth, and faith that shine like a light to capture God’s attention. This light shines so brightly that it takes only one person with these qualities to prevent destruction.
Can we practice the discernment now required to be this shining light for our loved ones? For ourselves? For our fellow human beings? For the world?