Paradise Lost

The other shape,

If shape it might be call`d, that shape had none,

Distinguishable in member, joint, or limb;

Or substance might be call`d that shadow seem`d;

For each seem`d either; black it stood as night,

Fierce as ten furies, terrible as Hell,

And shook a dreadful dart; what seem`d his head

The likeness of a kingly crown had on.

Satan was now at hand; and from his seat

The monster, moving onward, came as fast

With horrid strides; Hell trembled as he strode.

~~ John Milton ~~

Demon did not always have the negative meaning it now has in western culture. The use of the word “demon” was interchangeable with “gods” in Homer`s day, and could mean a connotation of the spirit, or an intermediary with the gods. But by John Milton`s day, demons were a force of darkness, lost souls cast out, or denied entry into Heaven because of incipient evil intent and action. Christianity had refined it`s interpretation of demonology down to a fine art of spiritual abomination by Milton`s century; anybody could be accused of being possessed by an agent of Beelzebub and cast into the flames. Demons were a real and present danger for a pre-Enlightenment society without the beacon of scientific investigation to illuminate the forest of ignorance. They still linger deep within the recesses of the most intellectually certain mind though; lurking with intent in the shadows, waiting for civilisation to regress and return to the old superstitions to explain, and give meaning to a chaotic world beyond humanity`s control. Milton was at that great crossing point of history; one foot in a primeval world, frightened and cowered by ignorance; the other about to plant itself on the ground of intellectual modernity. Questions; investigations; correlation and summaries; final explanation written down and published for all to read and discuss. The modern world is full of questions openly debated and scientifically burrowed into to find an answer. John Milton and his contemporaries still peered through a glass darkly at shapes, out of focus, murky and elusive. In such a place demons thrive and prosper. We should try and keep them there for as long as possible; but every dog has it`s day, but you also cannot keep a good dog down. Or, in this case, a bad demon down.

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