Friday, October 18, 2013

Knowledge: Boon or Bane of Mankind?

The Creation of Adam, by Michelangelo 
Creative Commons
Carmen made a really interesting post that touched on the idea of ignorance and knowledge and how the two go together toward our happiness or misery. I wanted to expand on this briefly with some quotes from this weekend's readings of Books 7 and 8 of Milton's Paradise Lost. I'll start I guess with a couple of quotes:
Solicit not thy thoughts with matters hid,
Leave them to God above, him serve and fear
. . .                                        joy thou
In what he gives to thee, this Paradise
And thy fair Eve; heav'n is for thee too high
To know what passes there; be lowly wise:
Think only what concerns thee and thy being;
Dream not of other worlds, what creatures there
Live, in what state, condition or degree,
Contented that thus far hath been revealed
Not of Earth only but of highest Heav'n. (167-68, 170-77)
The problem that I have with these lines is that the God I praise is one who asks me to question, one who has instilled within mankind the faculty of reason that thereby he might come to understand both the heavens and the earth. At the same time, however, I am forced to confess that as a child--in my state of ignorance--I really was a whole lot calmer and generally cheerier than I am now. Though I hate to admit it, "the easiest way" I think really is in simplicity, living without "perplexing thoughts to interrupt the sweet of life" (183). I guess in the end, it really comes back to that first question of knowledge and sorrow: to partake of the fruit and at long last see, or to abstain and remain in perfect, unchanging bliss but without the chance to move forward.

I see that in the end, it really is, in some some, necessary that we endure sorrow to come to know good and evil (and, as Milton would suggest, to truly choose good over evil), but at the same time, I still have to wonder if there would have been a chance for knowledge had Adam and Eve not transgressed God's commandment. We know that God instructed Adam and Eve in the Garden; is it possible, then, that they could have eventually learned all the things that they needed to move forward in terms of their eternal progression?

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