News: My thoughts are clouds I cannot fathom into pastries.

--1 June 2018--

Quote: Words are pale shadows of forgotten names. As names have power, words have power. Words can light fires in the minds of men. Words can wring tears from the hardest of hearts. --Patrick Rothfuss, The Name of the Wind

The Fellowship

December 14, 2010

“Areopagitica” by John Milton

John Milton was a highly esteemed poet/writer from the 1600s. He wrote the epic poem Paradise Lost (some of you may be familiar with it; a fair amount of our “concepts” about Hell and the Fall come from this poem). More likely than not, you’ve never heard of his beautiful piece “Areopagitica”. It is, as my text book (The Norton Anthology of English Literature, 8th edition, Volume A) says, a “passionate, trenchant defense of intellectual liberty”. It is a point of influence when it comes to our laws on freedom of speech, press, and thought.

Milton originally wrote “Areopagitica” to defend intellectual liberty. You see, at the time, the Catholic Church and the government had come down hard on publishing of all sorts of materials. If your book was not licensed, it could not be published. The problem was that those in charge of providing licenses were of the Roman Catholic Church and did not agree with secular books, therefore they would not give licenses to books they found inappropriate or contrary to the Word of God (or at least how they interpreted the Word).

As I read through the pages of “Areopagitica” I found myself really loving Milton’s way of expressing himself. Just listen to these quotes:

For books are not absolutely dead things, but do contain a potency of life in them to be as active as that soul was whose progeny they are…

And yet on the other hand unless wariness be used, as good almost kill a man as kill a good book; who kills a man kills a reasonable creature, God’s image; but he who destroys a good book, kills reason itself, kills the image of God, as it were in the eye. Many a man lives a burden to the earth; but a good book is the precious lifeblood of a master spirit, embalmed and treasured up on purpose to a life beyond life.

Truth indeed came once into the world with her Divine Master, and was a perfect shape most glorious to look on: but when he ascended, and his apostles after him were laid asleep, then straight arose a wicked race of deceivers, who, as that story goes of the Egyptian Typhon with his conspirators, how they dealt with the good Osiris, took the virgin Truth, hewed her lovely form into a thousand pieces, and scattered them to the four winds. From that time ever since, the sad friends of Truth, such as durst appear, imitating the careful search that Isis made for the mangled body of Osiris, went up and down gathering up limb by limb, still as they could find them.

{take a moment and re-read those quotes; I know you want to see what comes next, but there is some real treasure buried in the context of these phrases – if you haven’t crunched through them slowly, you won’t understand them}

Aren’t those quotes absolutely genius? I should very much have liked to know Milton. Just look at those first two quotes! Books hold the life of the master spirit who wrote them. That sounds so poetic (of course, Milton was a poet). Now see here, Milton was not talking about your average fairytale or fantasy novel (at the time such books were scarce); he was fighting for the release of free publication for books of reason and intellect.

Just reading through “Areopagitica” made my heart thrum and my fingers itch. I wanted to pick up the nearest reason-based book and devour it. I wanted to write my own book of reason. It was then that I realized, sadly, I personally do not have in my possession many books of reason (my dad does though). I also realized that my own beliefs are text-based. I read what others have come to conclude, thumb through the proofs given, and accept them as my own. Is there something wrong with that picture? I think there is; I want to write of my own beliefs and develop my own proofs, drawing from history and fact, yet I cannot think of anything worthwhile to say.

If a book is the progeny of the master spirit, the child of the author who bled into the pages their opinions and beliefs, then my books are phantoms and my tales are ghosts. They are not life-like and full-bodied as Milton’s works. They are not living and breathing, rather they are dead. They never really were birthed; they’re just clay models – I try to convince myself that they are real, living breathing organisms, but I fool myself by saying so.

What do I do? Must I quit my hobby of writing fantasy to follow my yearning for deep thinking and theology? Must I put down my feathered pen and pick up the pencil of an apprentice thinker? I don’t like to think that what I’ve given to this world is worth nothing; how pitiful. Yet it is so true. Has my writing made me think? Has it challenged me to step within a hair’s breadth of insanity? Have I grown at all during this journey of mine? Perhaps a centimeter, but certainly not more than that.

Again, I repeat, what do I do? Has my career as a writer really gone to waste? Think with me, for this is serious stuff, has your writing advanced society? Has it brought light upon issues that are considered untouchable? Have you challenged yourself and your reader? If so, in what ways? If not, why?
I know why I haven’t challenged myself. I see writing as a past-time. A hobby I can turn to when I’m an emotional wreck or simply in need of ranting my feelings. My books? They’re just big globs of characters trying to unstick themselves from situations that, really, are pointless.

Now this is not to say that one cannot (or should not) write fantasy. I think society has become more imaginative because of such genres (at least the authors have). What I am saying is that our writing is so lax. Let me explain.

I’m not just a fantasy lover; I’ve also delved into several other genres as well, including: mystery, historical fiction, historical, biographies, and Christian romance. I’ve noticed, particularly in the Christian romance genre, that the point of the book is utterly pointless. I don’t learn anything from those books; they’re nice to read (especially since the Christian romance is so cute) but they have no point. In fact, I’d even go so far as to say that they make society duller instead of sharper. What we need in our world is reading material that will force us to think. Even historical fiction and history can dull a person. Do they force you to think about life and what you believe? No; they' recount facts and half-facts from the past.

People today live by hand-me-down religion. They believe what their parents believe, or what their friends believe. I imagine many people have not taken the time to really think about what they believe. Perhaps it just “makes sense” and they accept that. Let me ask you a question: have you really taken the time to wonder about what you believe in? Have you taken the time to research and ponder the reason things work? And I don’t mean just giving a couple hours or a day, but really study and push your brain to the limit.

I’ve looked through my old journals and such, including the spiral notebooks I used in grade 5 and I’ve found something quite intriguing. When I was 9 and under (in age) I had a great knack for researching my beliefs and studying things. I look at those old notebooks and shake my head in wonder. Upon those tattered pages lie recipes for how to work with people, how to get along well in the world, and why people do certain things. I was a thinker. Now, I’m a copy-cat. I take the beliefs of others and apply them to my life. How sad.

As a nine-year-old, I was thinking upon things such as: why do Christians act the way they do? How do I love my parents efficiently? What can I do to keep from getting in trouble? How does body language affect conversation? What is sin? How does sin work? What is guilt? Why is the tongue considered a device of destruction? How does one make the best of their day?

Honestly, I believe I was far wiser when I was nine than now. Sure, I might know about the suprachiasmatic nuclei and the cycle of life for ferns; I may have dissected rats and hearts; I may have been exposed to dead things and experienced the pain of loosing family members. What does that amount to, though? Simply experience. I have learned something, but how does it apply to life? Do I understand life any better now than when I was 12? In some ways, yes, but when I think of the big picture, the answer is no. I don’t know much more than when I was 12. I might be a bit wiser and understand things and how they work better, but I’m no closer to answering my big “questions” than when I was a child. Tell me if you think that is pitiful or not.

So, now that I’ve covered this grand topic, how do I fix myself? How do I become a thinker once again? Perhaps the first, most important step, is to realize the error. That is something I have done in writing this. The next step is to set goals. This I have done (and will discuss in one moment). The final step, is to think. To uncover, discover, and become a philosopher of my time. To step out of my fantasy world and start musing upon the things God has given us. He did not create us to simply sit and learn what others have discovered, He wants us to dig up the cans of worms, open them, and start asking question. Start honing ourselves in what we believe.

My goals, therefore, include: dusting off my old theology books and scanning the pages, writing down the simplest questions that come to mind and trying to find legitimate answers for them, picking up the history books and learning of the past. I also intend to read more of Milton’s works – if even one is so grand as “Areopagitica”, I shall be quite pleased.

Now one question remains. What will you do?



  1. O_o Excellent post, Squeaks. Very, very thought-provoking. I shall delve into this post more when I have the time to think. :)

  2. To challenge society, you must first challenge yourself. Once you challenge yourself, since you are part of society, then you can challenge society as a whole. You can't challenge society without challenging yourself, or challenge yourself without challenging society.

  3. Hi there. I stumbled across your blog and it looks great. I'm also a young Christian Fiction writer (19 years old.) Tim Downs, Ted Dekker, Bryan Davis, and Tolkien are my favorite authors. I've written two novels (93,000 words and 113,000 words), six novellas, and two collections of short stories over 50,000 words each. And I'm currently working on eight more novels....I write around 3,000 words a day and everyone agrees that I'm just a little crazy. :)
    Have you heard of One Year Adventure Novel, by Daniel Schwabauer? That curriculum is what really helped me get my writing in shape. Now I'm just hoping to get published.
    I'll be watching your blog. It looks cool.

    -Luke Alistar

  4. @Jake, thanks! I'll be looking forward to your comments :)

    @Kaleb, that's very intriguing. Thank you for your thoughts :)

    @Matthew -- wow! You sound very accomplished. I'm glad you'll be following my blog :) I hope you enjoy it! God bless you on your endeavor to publish your books!


  5. Thanks. :)

    I just read through this post, and I have to say it is absolutely excellent. This is the sort of thing I think about all the time. I want to affect people with my writing, like Dekker did to me. (His book When Heaven Weeps gave me a much deeper understanding of real love.)

    I wrote a little post a while back about dealing with tough issues, because my longest finished novel touches on sex trafficking...okay, it more than touches on it. But anyway, I don't want to write books that will just be entertaining fluff for the mind. I want to write books that go deeper and make the reader think. Shock them.

    Besides, as I wrote in today's post, a story that doesn't go deep like that won't stick around in someone's memory very well. To put it in a short quote from the post: "Memories of the mind are prone to forget, but the recollections of a heart are not easily broken."

    -Luke Alistar

    P.S. Yes, my name is Matthew. Luke Alistar is my pen name. ;) Just to clear up any possible confusion.

  6. @ Matthew, I agree. We definitely need more thought-provoking material rather than the fluff that makes us forget about the major issues that need to be dealt with in our world :) Thanks for your comment ;)



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