Satan Gathers His Troops: What Happens When We Neglect to Root Out the Evil Within Us

When Satan is cast out of heaven for competing with God, Satan and his army of rebellious angels find themselves suffering in hell.

However, Satan, despite the inevitability of his defeat by God, is quick to rally his troops to relaunch an attack on God and the angels in heaven.

From then on he stands out of the pond /with his mighty stature, 1866, by Gustav Doré for paradise lost by John Milton (Engraving Public domain)

“Let’s go
Far from the tumult of these fiery waves,
There, rest, if rest can be found there,
And gathering our afflicted forces,
Let’s explore how we can now offend as much as possible
Our enemy, our own loss, how to fix it,
How to overcome this terrible calamity,
What reinforcement we can draw from hope,
Otherwise, what resolution to take in the face of despair
Thus Satan speaking to his closest companion
The head raised above the wave, and the eyes
Which sparkled…”
(Book 1, lines 183-194)

It all starts again with just one

Gustav Doré interprets this passage in his second illustration of paradise lost of Milton. The dark and smoky scene shows two rebellious angels. The rebel angel closest to us sits on a jagged earth jutting out into a flaming lake, and fire illuminates the armor he wears.

This rebel angel looks over his shoulder at what pierces him: Satan, framed by wisps of smoke on both sides, stands on the shore of the flaming lake. He’s in the shadows, but his body language – standing above the rebel angel with his arms raised, tells us he’s communicating with the rebel angel from a position of authority. The long spear in his hand lets us know that he is not giving up his fight against God.

1668568335 65 Satan Gathers His Troops What Happens When We Neglect to
Satan addresses another fallen angel after being cast out of heaven, in a detail from From then on he stands out of the pond /with his mighty stature1866, by Gustav Doré for paradise lost by John Milton (Engraving Public domain)

Milton’s description and Doré’s illustration reveal that Satan will continue his fight. He will rest in hell, recover and compose his army, endure the onslaught of pain and continue to “offend” God, his enemy. The rebel angel listens attentively and receives the message from his leader.

One turns into many

“From this fiery sea he stood and called
His legions, angelic forms, who remained in thrall…
In amazement at their hideous change.
He called so loud, that all the deep hollows
From hell resounded. Princes, potentates,
Warriors, the stream of heaven, once yours now lost,
If such astonishment can seize
Eternal spirits, where did you choose this place?
After the toil of battle, to rest
Your tired virtue, for the ease you find
To doze here, as in the valleys of Heaven?
Or in that abject posture did you swear
To adore the Conqueror? who sees now
Cherub and Seraph rolling in the tide
With weapons and signs scattered, until one day
His swift pursuers, coming from the gates of Heaven, discern
The advantage, and descend trampling us.
So falling, or with thunderbolts bound together
Transfix us at the bottom of this abyss.
Awake, arise, or be forever fallen.
They heard, and were dumbfounded, and they rushed…”
(Book 1, lines 300-301, 313-331)

Here, Gustav Doré depicts Satan speaking to the entire rebel army instead of a single rebel angel. The army moved from the fiery lake to the arid land. The rebel angels are defeated: they are scattered throughout the composition in poses of anguish and resignation.

Doré again established the character hierarchy. As in the illustration above, Doré depicts Satan standing proud above the other rebellious angels. His pose hasn’t changed much: he raises his hands, holds his spear and communicates with his army. However, one thing that has changed is the number of rebel angels he addresses.

Milton continues:

1668568335 429 Satan Gathers His Troops What Happens When We Neglect to
They heard, and were dumbfounded, and they stood up1866, by Gustav Doré for paradise lost by John Milton (Engraving Public domain)

Satan shames the angels for their resignation and questions their perseverance. He is essentially asking: Are you with me or are you with God? The angels are ashamed of themselves and they prepare to continue their opposition to God.

The danger of a revitalized evil

Let’s continue to consider Milton’s and Doré’s ideas regarding our inner world and the battles that sometimes take place there. Satan, the example of evil, is cast out of paradise, for paradise cannot remain pure with him, and we too must cast out from ourselves any evil that might defile our divine natures.

However, this passage places us before a deeper concern. What if we don’t completely get rid of the evil that is in us? What if we missed something? Milton’s passage and Doré’s illustration suggest that evil is multiplying rapidly. It only takes one evil desire – however weakened – to multiply if it finds refuge within us, and before we know it, we may find ourselves waging a war we thought we had won.

How can we ensure that we examine ourselves thoroughly and protect ourselves against bad thoughts and actions?

Gustav Doré was a prolific 19th century illustrator. He created illustrations for some of the greatest classics of Western literature, including The Bible, paradise lost and The Divine Comedy. In this series, we’re going to delve into the thoughts that inspired Gustav Doré and the images those thoughts caused…

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Satan Gathers His Troops: What Happens When We Neglect to Root Out the Evil Within Us

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