John Milton – “Areopagitica” (ctd.)

Milton uses the following metaphor to describe Truth (with capital T): it came to the world with Jesus, perfect and beautiful, but after Jesus and apostles were gone, some wicked deceivers chopped her up into a thousand pieces and scattered them all to the winds, like Typhon did with the body of Osiris. The job of Christians is to try to re-assemble the pieces the best they can, all the while being aware that they can only approximate the original shape, and the perfect Truth will be put together only after the Second Coming. When we look directly into the sunlight, it can blind us, and the planets which rise and set together with the Sun (like Venus) are invisible except the days when they appear a bit earlier or later in the sky. The perfect Protestant state cannot be built on just getting rid of the church hierarchy; if we stop at that, Milton argues, it means we looked for so long at the blazing light of Calvin and Zwingli we became blind to some other important things. Then he does some major buttering-up of the English, arguing how they are the smartest, already the ancient Romans said so (which is, by the way, kind of true) , and if ithad not been for the tyranny of the Church, they would have started the Reformation with Wycliffe, two centuries before Luther. Now it seems, Milton says optimistically, that the second Reformation is coming, but letting the people to discuss theology freely is the most important thing to make it possible. People who want to forbid all “schisms” are as unreasonable as those who think that the temple of God can be created from one piece of stone or timber, not many different pieces put together. Using a rather ingenious image, Milton explains how the stones of different shapes and sizes cannot become continuous but only contiguous, forming together the spiritual symmetry. In the world Milton dreams of, all the people can and should become prophets.

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