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FEW details on the history of this book will, I
think, help the reader to come to his own conclu
sions about the questions which it raises.
In 1920, I presented for the degree of Docteur ès lettres at the Sorbonne what constitutes now the first three parts of this work, under the title La pensée de Milton. That book was favorably reviewed, but the upper strata of the "scholarly" critics refused to admit the originality of Milton's thought—without, however, suggesting any adequate sources. Indeed, I had been led into insisting upon the absolute originality of the poet's ideas (the relative originality I shall always insist upon) by that very absence of sources. Neo-Platonism offered much too easy, and much too loose, an explanation: it accounted for none of the traits that seemed to me peculiarly Miltonic. Professor S. B. Liljegren, of Lund, Sweden, whom I feel honored to count among my friends, has since investigated the Italian Renaissance, and particularly the works of Giordano Bruno (see Revue de littérature comparée, October-December, 1923), with equally negative results.
That perspicuous critic, A. R. Orage, came nearest to a solution, in his review of my Blake and Milton, by asking: Was it possible after all that the "Puritan " Milton and the "Swedenborgian " Blake belonged to the same school? I am now in a position to answer that they did, that they were both kabbalists, and that this fact explains their common stock of ideas.
I state all this in order to plead "not guilty." I did not start on the hypothesis that Milton used the Kabbalah, and then try to find kabbalistic notions in Milton. My analysis of Milton's thought was done first, at a time when I believed it to be original; consequently without any presuppositions as to its origins. I cannot but feel that this gives a sort of objective scientific value to the results obtained later.
Further study of the relationship between Milton and Blake brought me to the conclusion that a common influence had necessarily been at work. I had already singled out in 1920 the passage on "retraction " in Paradise Lost (VII, 170-73) as holding the kernel of Milton's thought; and therefore when, in 1921, while studying the Zohar for sources of Blake's ideas,' I came upon a similar passage in the Tikunē, I felt that I held the solution. There remained the task of locating the influence in Milton's intellectual surroundings: Fludd then became inevitable, as well as the Mortalists, who ought long ago to have attracted the attention of all who knew that Milton did not believe in the survival of the soul.
One lesson comes obviously from this adventure in scholarship: perhaps the biggest gap in our scientific equipment for research in the history of literature and philosophy is the lack of a thorough study of Arabic and Jewish philosophy and its influence in Europe, not only in the Middle Ages, but well on into the modern period.
May I point out also that my work has been done independently—indeed, in ignorance, till 1920- of the results obtained since 1918 in Sweden by Professor Liljegren, and in America by Professors Greenlaw, Hanford,
1 A fruitful search, as is shown by the independent studies of Professor Fehr, of Zurich (Englische Studien, 1920).
and others. That the conclusions arrived at in three separate lines of research should be, on the whole, harmonious, is, it seems to me, a fair proof of their soundness.
This book is in part a translation or adaptation of the following books or papers:
La pensée de Milton. Paris, Alcan, 1920.
"Les sources anglaises de la pensée de Milton " [on the Mortalists]. (In Revue germanique, October, 1921.) "Milton et le Zohar." (In Revue germanique, January, 1922; in English, in The Quest, January, 1922, and in Studies in Philology, April, 1922.)
"La Cabale et la philosophie de Milton." (In Revue des études juives, September, 1921.)
The chapter on Fludd is entirely new; and of the rest, much is revised, particularly the section on the Mortalists.
I therefore give here, besides the analysis of Milton's thought contained in my previous book, the results of my subsequent attempt to solve the problem of the origin of this thought.