ABSTRACT

Milton's depiction of the movement of mind in unfallen man is consistent with the universal ascent of all creation toward its perfect source described by Raphael in Book V of Paradise Lost. Although most critics interpret the prelapsarian action of the epic as a series of anticipations of the fall, Milton utilizes Eve's dream and Adam's comments on astronomy and the birth of his own consciousness, his search for a helpmeet, and his first experience of sexual attraction to demonstrate the mind's inherent buoyancy, in each episode rising further toward its angelic perfection by maintaining a willing dependence upon God's sustaining grace and exercising reason to discipline lesser faculties, particularly the imagination. The accessibility of the unfallen mind to material and spiritual evil does not imply inevitable acts of disobedience but instead provides opportunity for achieving self-mastery and participating in the continuing refinement of the divinely instituted order. The eventual reversal of this upward movement of mind occurs only after the intellectual sufficiency of mankind to prosper in Eden has been established. When it finally occurs, the fall (which originates in Adam's unwillingness to discipline his imagination and obey the dictates of his reason) happens abruptly and needlessly at the apex of a spiritual ascent, not gradually at die end of an inexorable descent into the world of matter.

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