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Paradise Lost: An Epic History of the World

Between William Shakespeare (1564-1616) and John Milton (1608-1674), I believe Milton is the greatest English poet of all time. His most famous work are the 12 books (10,000 lines) he wrote under the general title of "Paradise Lost." The concept is that before creation, there was Heaven occupied by God and his angels. God's main man (Lucifer), the most beautiful, charismatic, and ambitious of all His angels, ("equal to the highest in Heaven") but a seditious upstart, is hell bent to "subdue Th Omnipotent...dispossess God and himself to reign." So, he persuades a third of the angels to join him in his treachery against God Almighty.

The plot does not succeed. When Lucifer and his followers lose the Angelic wars, God confronts Lucifer and is prepared to throw him our of Heaven along with his fallen angels of death. "Faithful, now proved false! But think not here to trouble rest; Heaven casts thee our from all her confines...How hast thou disturbed Heaven's blessed peace, and into nature brought misery, uncreated till the crime of thy rebellion! How hast thou instilled thy malice into thousands who were once upright?"

This results in three worlds: Heaven, Earth (Paradise), and Hell - where "peace and rest can never dwell...condemned to waste eternal days in woe and pain... in perpetual agony." Before condemning them all to hell, God grants Lucifer one concession, that when he creates the world and propagates it, He would give humans "free will," affording Satan the opportunity to tempt mankind to sell their souls and turn against God.

On the one hand, Lucifer is convinced that he could be a powerful persuader, convincing humans to give in to selfish ambitions, seducing them with false promises to forfeit their souls, while God fully expect that mankind would not be ingrates but grateful for all the great and wonderful things He has done.

"This paradise I give thee. Count it thine to till and keep and of the fruit to eat: Of every tree that in the garden grows. Eat freely with glad heart... thy realm is large." Live in peace with each other, "reaping immortal fruits of joy and love, in blissful solitude." By worshiping in spirit and truth, "Man shall find grace."

Eve, "the mother of the human race," would become Lucifer's' first victim. While God gave mankind free will, God has programed them to strive to improve their condition and a passionate nature so they will populate the earth (be fruitful and multiply), risking the unintended consequences. Human beings are born free and free they will remain. They must want to serve me. So, the history of the world became a struggle between good and evil, with God and Satan fighting for our souls.

So, Lucifer (now Satan/Devil and the evil one) speaks:

"All is not lost - the unconquerable will, and study of revenge, immortal hate and courage never to submit or yield... our labor must be to pervert that end... Farewell, happy fields, where joy forever dwells! Hail, horrors, hail, infernal world! And thou, profoundest Hell, receive thy new possessor - one who brings a mind not to be changed by place or time. The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a Heaven of Hell, a Hell of Heaven... Woe to the inhabitants on earth... The Almighty hath not built here for His envy, will not drive us hence: Here we may reign secure; and, in my choice... live in hatred, enmity and strife... high passions, anger, hate, mistrust, suspicion, discord... guilt and shame, perturbation and despair, anger, obstinacy, hate and guile... havoc, spoil, and ruin are my gain... To reign is worth ambition, though in Hell: Better to reign in Hell than serve in Heaven... Heaven's fugitives... Awake, arise, or be forever fallen! What can be worse than to dwell here? All good to me is lost; Evil he thou my good... with revenge enlarged, by conquering this new world, compels me not to do what else, though dammed, I should abhor... to ruin all mankind."

The poem is long and arduously written in the old style of English by an epic on the nature of human beings. the preceding paragraph is but a few lines. I enjoy reading them aloud. Are you tempted to read all 12 books?

Finally, you may have heard the story of the passing of a gentleman of good will who had qualified to enter the pearly gates of heaven but he had second thoughts. "I am a party person. I don't want to spend eternity with boring people who thought a good time was going to church. I don't like either milk or honey!" So, St. Peter made him an offer: "Would you like to check out hell before finally deciding?"

On his arrival in hell, he was greeted most graciously by many of his old friends, given the most lavish banquet in his honor, as well as the freedom to do whatever he liked without consequences. This is not so bad, he thought, and informed St. Peter that he decided to stay in hell. "Is this your final answer?" "That is my final answer."

As soon as he made his decision, he was thrown into the fiery furnace and the hell's angels set about torturing his soul.

So, he inquired: "What about yesterday, you were so nice to me." To which the Devil answered: "Just good public relations! But now that you decided to spend eternity with us, you are mine. Ha ha ha."

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