FRACTAL AESTHETICS

Fusion in Paradise Lost

Fractal logic is commited to deterritorilize the dichotomous structure of language. Thereby, it does not attempt to resolve ambiguities or paradoxes inherent in aesthetic works as this would incorporate a deterministic agenda. In affirming one reading from an ambiguity, the other/s must be negated. Fractal logic enables us to access the aesthetic function of ambiguity and paradox in a text without polarizing their terms. I have chosen an application to Paradise Lost (1667) because, steeped in biblical discourse, it appears to offer a rigid logocentric dichotomous structure and meaning. Such a logocentric intepretation of the poem, I believe, does not compensate for the ambiguities and paradoxes inherent in the text. For example the dialectic of God's will and 'free will'.

'ride forth, and bid the Deep
Within appointed 9bounds be Heav'n and Earth.'
(VII. 166-67)

'He took the golden Compasses ...
Thus far extend, thus far thy bounds,
This be thy just Circumference, O World.'
(VII. 225-31)

Milton portrays creation as an act of setting physical and moral boundaries that cannot be over run. However, during 'the fall', moral boundaries are fractured - hence the 'Fools of Paradise' dwell in a 'boundless continent'. 10Fractured but not crossed. This is because the potential infinity of the sinners' action, 'unbound' from a saintly code, still exists within the physical and moral boundaries of creation. They can never escape from God's will, the biological basis of the homo sapien confines them to his 'Circumference'. Indeed, Milton tells us that only Satan can 'bound high overleap'd 11all bound' (IV. 181). The omnipresence of God's will (the finite) in a 'boundless continent' (the infinite) is actualised in each sinner's inevitable damnation, 12differed. The sinners lifestyle is a fusion of 'boundlessness' and 'damnation' - a deterritorialization of the God's-will/free-will dichotomy. It is only in death that this dichotomy is reterritorialized as God releases his wrath upon them.

                      
strange attractor' 
Fig. 4 Strange attractor

The fractal structure of Paradise Lost's complexity has a 'perpetual' affect on the brain. Neuropsychologists, for example Paul Rapp, assert that a healthy brain works on a 13'strange attractor' (Fig. 4) which can modify itself into a simpler order when encountering a familiar stimuli. If an unfamiliar stimulus is introduced the strange attractor becomes even more complex, before returning to normal, 'habituated' to it. John Briggs suggests that:

'A great work of art seems to evoke a new wild strange attractor
every time the human brain encounters it ... somehow [it]
resists the brain's tendency towards habituation.'
(Fractals: Patterns of Chaos, p.172, 1992)'

I believe that Paradise Lost resists habituation. The poem's complexity is ordered by scaling self-similarity; for example, the dialectic of God's will and liberty affects the 'finite' world, the 'boundless' continent and each earthy character with exactly the same significance to the reader. However, when reading, this self-similarity not only reflects itself through these different scales, it also exposes inconsistencies by doing so; for example, will God judge the 'boundless continent' or the individual? Both is implied. Briggs' calls this inconsistency 'reflectaphoric tension'. It is so dynamic that the brain cannot become habituated to the perceived object. He believes an artist must find the right balance between harmony and dissonance to create 'tension' where 'illuminating ambiguities can flow'.

The role of Satan in the poem appears inconsistent. How can the dichotomy of God's-will/free-will apply to Satan when he can 'overleap'd all bound'? The role of Satan in Paradise Lost is further paradoxical because such a portrayal is uncongenial to scripture:

'God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down
to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness'
(II Peter 2:4, Holy Bible, 1976)

The chains represent a limitation of Satan's power to commit evil, but biblical doctrine also proclaims that the evil of man is derived from its 'ruler Beelzebul' (Matthew 12: 24, Good News Bible, 1986). Surely Satanic power cannot be entirely impotent. I believe these 'eternal chains in the darkness' (Jude 1:6, Good News Bible) are not maintained by divine physical restriction. God merely 'delivers' them into chains, it is Satan himself that immortalises them. This is because these 'chains' are a metaphor for his 'unconquerable will' for revenge.

'[The] study of revenge, immortal hate,
And courage never to submit or yield.'
(Paradise Lost, I. 105)'

Such revenge can never achieve satisfaction. Unable to undo the past, the subject is forced seek fulfilment through substitution. Satan wishes to match 'torment with torment' (I. 214). A 14substitution from 'sufferer' to 'tormentor' is an attempt to erode this former perception of self. Yet, the role of tormentor is actualised by repressed impotence. This substitute expression of power cannot satisfy his original desire to rule in heaven. As superhuman, Satan is able to 'leap'd 15all bound' but this free will is curtailed by his own endless quest for revenge. Reflectaphoric tension is created by a deterritorialization of the free-will/God's-will dichotomy which leads to other self-similar deterritorializations in the text.

Satan's vengeance is manifested in 16reiterated crimes' (I. 214) heightening the stasis of his existence. Although the plural in 'crimes' here reveals a diversity in which this stasis is brought about - it suggests his space-time is not static but engaging in a repetitive state of flux. Therefore, Satan's predicament is also a fusion of the temporal progress/stasis dichotomy. A fusion that undermines past logocentric readings of Paradise Lost. Unable to resolve such ambiguity, critics have polarised the dichotomy to propound a linear narrative. But the poem's structure is composed of both progression and stasis, and the ambiguity between these conflicting effects determines reflectaphoric tension in the text. A tension which, I believe, cannot be reproduced through linear or dichotomous form.

|| Next Page || Previous Page || INDEX || Email Steven Mason fracta1@hotmail.com ||

Whatrain Internet Philosophy Journal






Visit
What Rain Home port
This site designed and maintained by
WhatRain WWW Services

Contact Us

Copyright © 1998 Steven Mason

Valid HTML 4.0!