The Tyranny of Heaven: Milton's Rejection of God as King

By Michael Bryson | Go to book overview

5
“Tempt not the Lord thy God”:
The End of Kingship and the
Awareness of Divine Similitude
in Paradise Regained

Yet he who reigns within himself, and rules

Passions, Desires, and Fears, is more a King;

Which every wise and virtuous man attains.

—John Milton, Paradise Regained


MILTON EIKONOKLASTES

FOR THE MYSTICS OF EAST AND WEST, FROM THE SAGES OF THE Upanishads and Lao Tzu to Meister Eckhart and the Martin Luther who discovered the nature of the divine in a water closet, God is not to be found in the external rites and rituals of any established church, sect, or creed. At best, such rites and rituals serve merely as signposts or guides along the way, pointing to that which cannot be fully expressed or realized in external terms. In this way, the various mysticisms which have appeared across times and cultures (Hindu, Buddhist, Taoist, Gnostic, Kabbalist, Alchemist, and Christian—to name only a few) are all forms of iconoclasm, attempts either to break images of the divine that serve merely to distance worshippers of such images from the divine itself, or to proliferate divine representations to the point that their constructed and metaphorical nature becomes clear. Milton is an iconoclast in both senses. In his poetic work, he is at pains to create, reject, and re-create images of

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