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In the Anteroom of Divinity

In the Anteroom of Divinity: The Reformation of the Angels from Colet to Milton

  • Book Info
    In the Anteroom of Divinity
    Book Description:

    In the Anteroom of Divinityfocuses on the persistence of Pseudo-Dionysian angelology in England's early modern period.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-8832-2
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Table and Plates
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. Abbreviations
    (pp. xiii-2)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. 3-14)

    Plato’s heavenly city is a strain pervasive in idealization of human society.¹ Unlike a fictive utopia, this city exists in the realm of Idea and can be seen through contemplation; such a journey simultaneously justifies the beholder’s status as ‘wise man’ and authorizes him to bear witness to perfect political order. Christian ontology confirms the existence of this celestial society with a realm inhabited by creatures more immediately in God’s presence than we can be in our fallen condition. From Paul’s ascent to the third heaven to Redcrosse’s vision of the New Jerusalem, the Christian tradition, and especially the mystical...

  7. 1 John Colet’s Ecclesiology and Dionysian Thought
    (pp. 15-32)

    John Colet is the last English thinker to write a full commentary on the Pseudo-Areopagite’s twin hierarchies. Despite the doubts of William Grocyn, his friend and mentor, regarding the authenticity of theCorpus Dionysiacum, Colet values the works in the spirit of the Florentine Platonists he clearly admired, and consistently shows sympathy with Ficino’s statement in theEpistolaethat ‘Paul and Dionysius [are] the wisest of Christian theologians.’¹ Like Ficino and the French humanist Jacques Lefèvre d’Étaples, he does not challenge the Areopagite’s status as a disciple of Paul and views theCorpusas a direct expression of the teachings...

  8. 2 Hooker and Spenser on the Celestial Hierarchy: The Decline of a Tradition?
    (pp. 33-54)

    It has been some forty years now since C.A. Patrides first argued that English Renaissance views on the celestial hierarchy constitute ‘the decline of a tradition,’ an argument made so convincing by his encyclopaedic articles on the subject that scholars have been content to accept it.¹ Indeed several events did conspire to damage the Pseudo- Areopagite’s reputation in the period. The rediscovery of the works of Proclus suggested that theCorpus Dionysiacumhad been written centuries later than its author pretended. Both Catholics and Protestants sought in the period to return the church to its early purity, bringing under scrutiny...

  9. 3 Donne’s Ideated Angels
    (pp. 55-86)

    Many of the difficulties, frustrations, and rewards of Donne’s poetry are exemplified in an encounter withAire and Angels. The poem develops a great deal of artistic and intellectual elegance in its two conceits on celestial messengers only to have supple contemplation of the spiritual and physical dynamics of human love undermined by epigrammatic salinity in its masculinist final lines: ‘Just such disparitie / As is twixt Aire and Angells puritie, / T’wixt womens love, and mens will ever bee.’¹ As elsewhere, angels in this poem seem to bring out the best and the worst in Donne. In TheDreame...

  10. 4 Angelic Hierarchy in Milton and His Contemporaries
    (pp. 87-114)

    Though the episcopacy debate returns with a vengeance at mid-seventeenth century,jure divinoarguments for retention of the bishops tend to avoid even Hooker’s implicit nod to the Dionysian tradition. As was the case to a lesser extent with Whitgift, Archbishop William Laud’s heavy-handed attempts at high-church uniformity only stoked the flames of puritan desire for reform.¹ Hooker does remain important throughout the seventeenth century, but defenders of episcopacy in the 1640s tend to rehearse the arguments forjure divinoepiscopacy associated with Saravia. Thus James Ussher, who revises from manuscript Hooker’sContinuation of These Contentionsfor inclusion in his...

  11. 5 Raphael, the Celestial Physician
    (pp. 115-140)

    Milton’s Raphael is unique among his major angelic characters in the ambiguity of his hierarchical status. Although he is usually described inParadiseLost as a Seraph (5.277 and 7.113), he is also referred to once as ‘The affable Arch-angel’ (7.41). This single reference may represent what West describes as Milton’s tendency to use the term as ‘a title of high command or special mission,’ rather than the designation of an order: ‘Milton names only Satan, Uriel, Raphael, and Michael as Archangels. The three good angels on the list all have special worldly missions – Uriel to be regent of the...

  12. 6 Michael of Celestial Armies Prince
    (pp. 141-164)

    Gabriel might announce the Bible’s most significant events, but Michael has unparalleled importance in the progress of history – he is so significant that Saint Ambrose is reluctant to think of him as an angel at all, stating that ‘Christ was that angel,’ a position echoed by Donne, Wollebius, and Dingley but eschewed by Milton in bothParadiseLost andDe doctrina Christiana(CPW, 6: 347).¹ Both Daniel and Revelation present this angel, whose name means ‘he who is like God,’ as leading the war against the ungodly as the world rushes toward apocalypse. There is a significant difference, however, between...

  13. Epilogue
    (pp. 165-168)

    In an illuminating essay, Alexandra Walsham examines reaction to angelic iconography in England’s long Reformation – much in the spirit of Eamon Duffy’sStripping of the Altars– looking especially at the controversy surrounding Henrietta Maria’s private chapel, Richard Culmer’s removal of images of angels from Canterbury in 1643, and the 1644 parliamentary order banishing these icons from all churches and open places.¹ Resistance to these images is often a barometer of the mood of English reform: during the 1681 Exclusion Crisis, Edmund Sherman, a churchwarden of All Hallows, Barking, dismantled and set fire to a gilded carving of Michael the Archangel....

  14. Notes
    (pp. 169-210)
  15. Bibliography
    (pp. 211-228)
  16. Index
    (pp. 229-240)
  17. Index of Biblical Passages
    (pp. 241-242)