Wednesday, 17 August 2016

Precosmic Chaos

In Paradise Lost by John Milton, Chaos and Hell are different places whereas Operation Chaos by Poul Anderson equates them.

In the myths and doctrines about divine creation of the universe, does God create something from nothing or impose order on chaos? Did nothing or chaos precede creation?

In Genesis, chaos came first: shapeless, empty, dark and deep. The deep was water. God, in the Genesis account, did not create the water but did impose order on it. He separated the water above from the water below and moved the water below to one side so that the dry land appeared. Thus, he created a world with a sky, sea and land which he could then populate. The Flood was the temporary undoing of creation. The Norse imagined a Void but then hypothesized dialectical opposites located at the poles interacting to generate life at the center.

When Milton's Satan looked through the Gate of Hell, he saw:

"The secrets of the hoarie deep, a dark
"Illimitable Ocean without bound,
"Without dimension, where length, breadth, and highth,
"And time and place are lost; where eldest Night
"And Chaos, Ancestors of Nature, hold
"Eternal Anarchie, amidst the noise
"Of endless warrs, and by confusion stand,
"For hot, cold, moist, and dry, four Champions fierce
"Strive here for Maistrie, and to Battel bring
"Their embryon Atoms; they around the flag
"Of each his faction, in thir several Clanns,
"Light-arm'd or heavy, sharp, smooth, swift or slow,
"Swarm populous, unnumber'd as the Sands
"Of Barca or Cyrene's torrid soil,
"Levied to side with warring Winds, and poise
"Thir lighter wings. To whom these most adhere,
"Hee rules a moment, Chaos Umpire sits,
"And by decision more imbroiles the fray
"By which he Reigns; next him high Arbiter
"Chance governs all. Into this wilde Abyss,
"The Womb of nature and perhaps her Grave,
"Of neither Sea, nor Shore, nor Air, nor Fire,
"But all these in their pregnant causes mixt
"Confus'dly, and which thus must ever fight,
"Unless the Almighty Maker them ordain
"His dark materials to create more Worlds,
"Into this wilde Abyss the warie fiend
"Stood on the brink of Hell and look'd a while,
"Pondering his Voyage; for no narrow frith
"He had to cross. Nor was his eare less peal'd
"With noises loud and ruinous (to compare
"Great things with small) then when Bellona storms,
"With all her battering Engines bent to rase
"Some Capital City, or less then if this frame
"Of Heav'n were falling, and these Elements
"In mutinie had from her Axle torn
"The stedfast Earth. At last his Sail-broad Vannes
"He spreads for flight, and in the surging smoak
"uplifted spurns the ground, thence many a League
"As in a cloudy Chair ascending rides
"Audacious, but that seat soon failing, meets
"A vast vacuitie: all unawares
"Fluttring his pennons vain plumb down he drops
"Ten thousand fadom deep, and to this hour
"Down had been falling, had not by ill chance
"The strong rebuff of som tumultuous cloud
"Instinct with Fire and Nitre hurried him
"As many miles aloft: that furie stay'd,
"Quencht in a Boggie Syrtis, neither Sea,
"Nor good dry Land: nigh foundered on he fares,
"Treading the crude consistence, half on foot,
"Half flying; behoves him now both Oare and Saile.
"As when a Gryphon through the Wilderness
"With winged course ore Hill or moarie Dale,
"Pursues the Arimaspian, who by stelth
"Had from his wakeful custody purloind
"The guarded Gold: So eagerly the fiend
"Ore bog or steep, through strait, rough, dense, or rare,
"With head, hands, wings, or feet pursues his way,
"And swims or sinks, or wades, or creeps, or flyes:
"At length a universal hubbub wilde
"Of stunning sounds and voices all confus'd
"Born through the hollow dark assaults his eare
"With loudest vehemence: thither he plyes,
"Undaunted to meet there what ever power
"Or spirit of the nethermost Abyss
"Might in that noise reside, of whom to ask
"Which way the neeresr coast of darkness lyes
"Bordering on light; when strait behold the Throne
"Of Chaos, and his dark Pavilion spread
"Wide on the wasteful Deep; with him Enthron'd
"Sat Sable-vested Night, eldest of things,
"The Consort of his Reign; and by them stood
"Orcus and Ades, and the dreaded name
"Of Demogorgon; Rumour next and Chance,
"And Tumult and Confusion all imbroild,
"And Discord with a thousand various mouths."
-John Milton, Paradise Lost, Book II, lines 891-967.

Compare Milton's account of Chaos with Anderson's account of Hell:

"I'd lose contact with Ginny and wander off again; or a lurch would nearly make us collide; or the intense gravitational field where space was sharply warped hurled our sticks groundward and tried to yank out guts and eyeballs; or a quick drop in weight sent us spinning; or we shot through folds in space instead of going around and were immediately elsewhere; or we passed into volumes where hyperspace was so flat that our broomspells didn't work and we must go through on momentum and aerodynamics - I don't recall every incident. I was too busy to notice a lot of them.
"We traveled, though, and faster than we'd hoped, once Bolyai discovered what tricks we could play when the time dimension was buckled. The deafening racket and disgusting illusions plagued us less as we got the hang of passing smoothly from metric to metric." (Operation Chaos, pp. 257-258)

Alan Moore follows Milton:

the endless seething chaoplasm is beyond Hell;
the Original Darkness, when conjured, arises from Chaos, advances through Hell, fomenting demonic civil war, and approaches the Light...

1 comment:

  1. Kaor, Paul!

    Two lines in this quote from Milton's PARADISE LOST puzzles me: "As in a cloudy Chair ascending rides/Audacious, but that seat soon failing..." What I thought was how it reminded me of BALLOONS--which of course reminded me of how we see balloons in Anderson's A MIDSUMMER TEMPEST.

    It was interesting to think there were some faint gropings in Milton's time towards some means of flying. Of course we both know balloons were invented in France by the Montgolfier brothers in the early 1780's.