Paradise Lost: III. It is Not Good for Man to be Alone

Creation of Eve
The Creation of Eve by William Blake @ The Metropolitan Museum of Art

In Book 8 of Paradise Lost, there is an interesting discourse between God and Man on the state of solitude and happiness. Adam expresses his desire for rational companionship, without which he cannot be happy or content. God then asks Adam whether he thinks God, who is alone for all eternity, is possessed of happiness.
Adam:

Thou hast provided all things: but with mee
I see not who partakes. In solitude
What happiness, who can enjoy alone,
Or all enjoying, what contentment find?

God:

What call’st thou solitude, is not the Earth
With various living creatures, and the Aire
Replenisht, and all these at thy command
To come and play before thee; know’st thou not
Thir language and thir wayes? They also know,
And reason not contemptibly; with these
Find pastime, and beare rule; thy Realm is large.

Adam:

Among unequals what societie
Can sort, what harmonie or true delight?
Which must be mutual, in proportion due
Giv’n and receiv’d; but in disparitie
The one intense, the other still remiss
Cannot well suite with either, but soon prove
Tedious alike: Of fellowship I speak
Such as I seek, fit to participate
All rational delight, wherein the brute
Cannot be human consort; they rejoyce
Each with thir kinde, Lion with Lioness;
So fitly them in pairs thou hast combin’d;

God:

What think’st thou then of mee, and this my State,
Seem I to thee sufficiently possest
Of happiness, or not? who am alone
From all Eternitie, for none I know
Second to mee or like, equal much less.
How have I then with whom to hold converse
Save with the Creatures which I made, and those
To me inferiour, infinite descents
Beneath what other Creatures are to thee?

Adam:

Thou in thy self art perfet, and in thee
Is no deficience found; not so is Man,
But in degree, the cause of his desire
By conversation with his like to help,
Or solace his defects. No need that thou
Shouldst propagat, already infinite;
And through all numbers absolute, though One;
But Man by number is to manifest
His single imperfection, and beget
Like of his like, his Image multipli’d,
In unitie defective, which requires
Collateral love, and deerest amitie.
Thou in thy secresie although alone,
Best with thy self accompanied, seek’st not
Social communication,

God:

I, ere thou spak’st,
Knew it not good for Man to be alone,
And no such companie as then thou saw’st
Intended thee, for trial onely brought,
To see how thou could’st judge of fit and meet:
What next I bring shall please thee, be assur’d,
Thy likeness, thy fit help, thy other self,
Thy wish, exactly to thy hearts desire.

Milton’s arguments here are not quite satisfactory. Solitude doesn’t necessarily engender feeling of loneliness. Adam is unique, the first of his kind. It is highly unlikely that he should desire rational companionship, which he has absolutely no experience or knowledge of. Moreover, why should a single man find contentment in numbers? Deficiency multiplied is deficiency magnified, not remedied. OTOH, if delight must be mutually given and received, why shouldn’t God be possessed of such delight?

In the Genesis 2 account, God’s proclamation that it is not good for man to be alone came immediately after He had forbidden Adam to eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. So presumably, Adam doesn’t have the knowledge that solitude is “not good”, but God knows, because He, who alone is Good, is not alone;

In Genesis 1, it is written, “So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. Then God blessed them, and God said to them. Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it;” If I may say so, the loving and fruitful communion between male and female is an imperfect image of God, who is Love, the Triune Love.

Considerations like the above led St. Augustine and C.S.Lewis, among others, to believe in the Doctrine of the Trinity. If Milton had believed in the Trinity, he depiction of the Fall would have been quite different.

Milton attributes the Fall of Man to Adam’s love for Eve, who was deceived by the Serpent. Although Adam was not deceived, he felt a strong bond between him and his wife, and would rather die with her than live without her. This might seem noble from a secular point of view, but, in light of the Christian Doctrine that God is Love, I think Milton’s depiction of love misses the mark. True love between Adam and Eve is possible only in and through God, “the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace”. When Adam succumbed to temptation and sinned against God, he forfeited Eve, in his futile attempt to keep her; By contrast, Christ, the second Adam, took upon Himself the human form, and through His death and resurrection, reconciled God and Man, and restored the unity between Man and his Wife.

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