Hell and paradise for Milton: physical places and states of mind
In Genesis 3 the Fall is both spatial and temporal. On the one hand Adam and Eve get evicted from Eden and must settle outside it. On the other hand the shift is from a time before the Fall to the time thereafter. Modern interpreters of the Bible focus more on the Fall in time and less on the Fall in space, which seems hopelessly literal and hopelessly unscientific. A spatial Fall locates Eden in a place on Earth, at the meeting point of four rivers, two of them known. But even today Eden has yet to be discovered. By contrast, a temporal Fall allows for a nonphysical event. The Fall can be mental – for example, a Fall ‘into’ consciousness. And it can occur anytime and any place. It can more readily be taken symbolically, as a depiction of the transformation that everyone undergoes. In this essay I will consider the Fall both spatially and temporally. John Milton’s own characterisation of hell and paradise is itself at once spatial and temporal.