The Day the World Turned Upside Down: Galileo and Paradise Lost Essay

The Day the World Turned Upside Down: Galileo and Paradise Lost Essay

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After two-thousand years of Western science making excuses for the problems of a geocentric model of the universe, Galileo finally did the unthinkable; he declared that the sun did not orbit the earth. This not only invalidated almost everything astronomers of the time held true, but it threw into question humanity’s place in God’s plan. If he had not put us at the center of the universe, did that mean he did not value us as much as we had previously thought? This revelation of a heliocentric universe threw astronomers’ world out of the nice, orderly spheres of the Ptolemaic system, and into a random and chaotic existence, without as much clear proof of a divine plan. Milton picked up on this idea of a reversal of God’s plan when he wrote his epic, Paradise Lost. Milton’s Eve and Satan, two of the most vilified figures in Judaeo-Christian theology, represent freedom of thought, inquisitiveness, and a desire for equality, qualities that Milton himself espoused.
When Galileo tracked the sun and moon and found spots of imperfection on their faces, he rebuked the previously held idea that the superlunar spheres were perfect. Similarly, in letting Satan into the garden of Eden, Milton admits to the possibility of malities in a place of God’s design. Like Galileo's spots, Milton’s placement of Satan reflects an idea of corruption lurking in a supposedly innocent and unblemished place, and challenges the illusion of a perfect and divine sanctuary. If the garden of Eden had been a perfect divine garden, God would have made it impermeable to evil. Similarly, if a perfect space outside of the moon existed, Galileo would not have found spots on sun and moon. After Galileo’s proclamation of imperfections in a supposedly perfect spiritual ...


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...the existence of a perfect superlunar realm, and realized that the planets’ movements pointed to a heliocentric universe. Milton’s Paradise Lost lets the prime fiend of Western and Arab religion into God’s perfect playpen for His perfect creations, and does not condemn Eve for picking sensory knowledge and reason over God’s demands. After centuries of the church and God dictating thought, science, art, and moral, Galileo chose to ignore doctrine of the Church, and a few decades afterward, Milton picked up on these ideas in his great epic, both of them fearlessly challenging the iron grip of the Church on intellectualism and ushering in a new era of freedom, knowledge, and artistic expression.



Worked Cited
Milton, John, Paradise Lost. The Norton Anthology of World Literature, Volume C. 3rd ed. Martin Puchner et al. eds. New York: W. Nortan, 2012. 656-751. Print.

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