Structural Conceptions of the Spiritual Hierarchy in Paradise Lost
In Milton's Paradise Lost, angels and men are arranged in a divinely established hierarchy based on their relative proximity to God. Through the course of the epic, characters develop different and often conflicting conceptions of the spiritual hierarchy, based on differing interpretations of the underlying principles that govern action within the hierarchy. Such principles include the relationship between merit and rank, how freedom is defined within the hierarchy, and the reasons that one is promoted or demoted. Milton takes great care to illustrate the basis of each character's understanding of the spiritual hierarchy, and demonstrates for the reader the implications of each character's individual interpretation. The reader is thus able to struggle along with the main characters in making conclusions that will shape their personal approach to spirituality. In addition, the reader is able to draw comparisons between the spiritual hierarchy that exists in Paradise Lost and hierarchies that exist in the human world. In this way, Milton uses the spiritual hierarchy as an avenue towards an intellectual foundation for theology, asking the reader to struggle along with the main characters in understanding principles...
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